This short was inspired by a random conversation between myself and @farfromsarah about a very eyebrow-raising internet ‘article’, and why aliens will never visit Earth.
“And why shouldn’t we consider it a planet?”
Scarllion fought the urge to roll their eyes as the argument crossed over into the sixth hour, a ceaseless shouting match that was currently headlining the end of a three-orbit-long debate between the rival scientific groups. The Captain wouldn’t have minded so much if the discussion was actually going somewhere, but by the ancient gods, it was just a bunch of sweaty nerds on one side, and a slightly more well-groomed but equally sweaty bunch of nerds on the other, and neither was willing to budge on their stance.
“We have very clear definitions of exoplanets and their classifications,” rumbled Tarivis, the eldest member on the Exoplanetary Discovery Committee. Their comment was backed up by a general murmuring and nodding from their colleagues, who quickly manipulated the large screen behind them to reveal supporting documentation. Bullet-points appeared on the screen in quick succession as Tarivis continued, “Exoplanets must be capable of supporting or promoting the development lifeforms with clear and rational consciousness and intelligence.”
Scarllion winced, bracing themselves for the retort from their own side – and sure enough, up stood Camben, dressed as usual in a weird tribute to the sixth century fashion of the Angillans, which essentially involved lots of ringing bells so that somebody could hear Camben coming through the hallways from somewhere across the other side of the gods-damned galaxy. Scarllion rubbed their forehead as Camben angrily shook themselves, bells ringing like the warning sirens on a battleship.
“Once again, Ensign Tarivis,” Camben spat, earning themselves a spattering of chuckles from the Supporters of Terran Recognition, “you fail to accept or acknowledge the virtue of all lifeforms, regardless of their supposed level of intelligence. Not,” they added, “that there’s much of a gap between their intelligence and your own.”
A collective gasp rippled through the room at Camben’s burn, and they sat down smugly, giving an extra wiggle of their bell-equipped tunic while the Committee hollered and demanded Camben be removed for ‘inflammatory comments’ and ‘biased statements you Terran-loving piece of Baastian excrement’ and also ‘take those gods-damned bells off I can’t hear myself think’.
Scarllion sighed and stood up, instantly hushing the gathering. They were, after all, the most senior ranking of them all in the room, and regardless of whatever the Committee thought about them throwing their weight behind the Recognizers, at least they all had the decency to respect the Captain’s opinion.
“Camben is right,” they said, gesturing to the screen behind their own group. Images flashed upon the black glass: small versions of the Terran species interacting with electronics, sprawling cities with towering buildings, spaceships burning through the atmosphere; gatherings of the creatures together, enjoying what researchers claimed was something called ‘music’, a concept they were still trying to translate into Centauri-relevant terms.
“Regardless of your own personal feelings about Terran’s current dominant species,” Scarllion continued, with a pointed look at Tarivis, “undeniably, these creatures possess intelligence and the ability to dominate their own planet. They may be inexperienced and young, but we must grant them recognition – and we must acknowledge that their home, that Terra, is most definitely a planet because of that.”
Heads nodded all around the room, including from the Committee – but Tarivis only chuckled, their double-row of lips spreading apart in a wicked, smug, grin. They stood, rotating their shoulder joints, and gave a nod to one of their colleagues, who put another image on the screen.
“Intelligence, you say?” Tarivis asked, looking around the room, meeting everybody’s eyes individually until they had undivided attention. “Our metric for deciding the status of a planet is clear, Captain. We are here today, debating whether these ‘Terrans’ deserve that title at all. Pretty imagery your drones have recorded, but even Baastis can sculpt castles out of silica.”
Another ripple of laughter from their colleagues. Scarllion frowned, their rigid eyebrows of cartilage knotting together uncomfortably. Their hopes sank when they read the translated text beneath the image, and a sickening sense of realization dawned upon them.
This whole debate had been lost from the start.
Behind the Committee, the screen showed an image taken from a prominent website that most Terrans seemed quite interested in perusing most of their strangely-short days.
“15 Hedgehogs With Things That Look Like Hedgehogs,” declared the title of the website, followed by inane drivel that was clearly written by a Terran who was either drunk or high or possibly both at the same time while attempting to balance the desire to cry while simultaneously drowning their sorrows in medication.
A few people from the Recognition group snickered before falling silent at Scarllion’s pointed glare – but even they couldn’t find a silver lining to that piece of woeful trash.
“It’s entertainment,” they offered meekly, an unspoken question-mark hanging at the end of their sentence. “Surely no Terran actually takes that content seriously.”
Tarivis snapped their long fingers and the image was replaced.
“8 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Hitler’s Taste in Interior Design,” was the title of this piece. The Recognizers groaned loudly and even Scarllion wiped a hand over their face – the infamous dictator had been one of the first things the researchers learned about Terran society, and the fact that some brain-dead so-called ‘journalist’ would even consider writing a piece about somebody so foul…
“Intelligent my armpits,” Tarivis roared with laughter, a statement made more impactful by the presence of their four different arms. The Committee laughed and pointed and name-called, but Scarllion stood their ground. They had studied Terrans for decades, spent countless rotations learning and researching, reviewing the data that Centauri probes had collected and streamed back to the orbital research station hidden just behind the Terran moon.
They had to believe humanity was capable of – of something, of some modicum of intelligence that would permit an actual mission to meet and discuss a potential future with this other species.
Tarivis waited until the laughter had died down, and Scarllion realized the Ensign was waiting for the opportune moment to deliver their final blow. They sent a knowing glance in Scarllion’s direction and clicked the button, revealing the final image.
“Woman In England Hopes To Breastfeed Daughter Until She Is 10 Years Old.”
Shocked silence gripped the room for several moments, then the Committee and Recognizers roared in a mixture of anger and outrage, throwing down their arguments with eachother and storming out of the room in unified disgust.
Scarllion groaned and finally slumped back into their chair.
“Yeah,” they muttered, sighing through their nostrils. “Fuck that place.”
Yes, all three articles are definitely real. I weep for humanity.