Saturday, May 17, 2014

Beyond The Skies - A Short Story

"....and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution -- but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist," Matthew felt goosebumps as he watched the president gave the speech. It felt surreal, as if he was standing there in the midst of the crowd, seeing the president live in person.

"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" the president shouted, to the cheer of everyone there. Matthew wanted to cheer along to, because he knew what it was like to have your existence threatened. 

He watched in excitement how the humans managed to defeat the invading aliens, and how everything ended up happily ever after. It was no wonder his buddy asked him to watch the show. The storyline and the theme of the movie differed so much from what he used to watch growing up, where humans were usually pictured as the superior race, spreading knowledge and order throughout the galaxy, rather than the ones who were threatened. 

But the change in the direction of the films was understandable though, Matthew felt. Back when he was studying in university, he grudgingly took a subject called history of film as part of his requirement to graduate. It was one of the most boring subject that he took, talking about the history of film evolution, but looking at how movies used to be so different centuries ago, the lessons from the subject were beginning to pop up again in his mind.
In the last few hundred years, humanity has grown from a species stuck on a planet to a species that has mastered interstellar travel, conquering different star systems and establishing its foothold across the galaxy. Initially, the thought of interstellar travel raised much caution and doubt among those who were more conservative, fearing that we may encounter an alien race much more advanced and malevolent than humanity, which may inevitably spark off a inter-species war which humanity was on the losing side.

The fears however soon gave way to arrogance, when humanity discovered that contrary to what we feared, we were the most advanced civilization in the galaxy among the different races that were discovered. The first contact were made with a species called the Tceptu, a reptilian based species who were still in the industrial age. Subsequent alien contacts with three other species revealed that humanity was the first species to master interstellar travel. The closest species in terms of technological advancement were only able to colonize the few planets in their system, far from the already dozen of uninhabited worlds already claimed by humans.

With that knowledge that humanity was superior, the whole culture and mindset of our species began to change. Where initial inter-species relationship was governed by rules and diplomacy, it soon evolved to one where humanity acted like a bully. Knowing that no species would be able to resist humanity's might, corporations began to exploit the alien races that we were in contact with. The fact that valuable minerals and resources were found on other species home planet, exacerbated the process. Humans begin settling more aggressively into the aliens home planets, eager to gain hold of the resources that other planets have to offer.

When initially rights were secured through negotiations and joint-collaborations with the native species, those soon were replaced by assisted coups, armed takeovers and threats. Private corporations and nations began to fight over each other in terms of colonization rights, and often used underhand tactics to secure their place, such as meddling with the native species's power struggles.

It was during this time when the mindset of the civilization began to change, reflective of the aggressive campaign that humanity has been waging over the dozen or so star systems that was discovered during those time. The idea of humanity being tiny and weak was replaced by the propaganda that we were strong, and that the colonization of other species should be viewed as a noble cause, where humanity attempts to uplift the rest of the galaxy to reach greater heights.

Films, art and stories begin to depict more of humans conquering rather than being conquered. Alien species were increasingly being viewed as inferior, requiring human intervention to ensure that their society progresses. One most used reasons was how many of the alien races still depended on religion, believing in deities rather than science, and humanity argued that only by subjecting them to the wonders of technology and science only will they accept humanity's way of thinking. 

Things only got worse from there. Before long, some aliens were being captured in the name of scientific study, many of which used barbaric methods dating back to the pre-space travel time. Many were used in hard labour jobs, and there was even one species which was used as sex slaves due to their physiology. Humanity became brutal, a tyrant, ruling the known galaxy with an iron fist and exploitative methods. Many ventures were funded by giant private corporations, who valued profit above everything else.

In the early days, they were proponents who argued against humanity's colonization methods. One of them included a famous Nobel laureate, hailing from the university where Matthew studied in. Dr Prosky, was his name. Matthew remembered reading about his papers, claiming that humanity was regressing back into the pre-industrial colonial stage, arguing passionately that there should be an all blanket ban on native planet colonization. He argued that colonization and the race to acquire new resources has caused humanity to fall from the golden age of rights and civility, regressing back to "less" desirable values, such as exploitation, discrimination and prejudice. He warned that humanity may lose its soul, and the rapid disregard of the fundamental rights of all may have tragic and unforeseen circumstances. 

But Dr Prosky's argument fell on deaf ears, amidst the wealth and progress that the colonization was bringing in. The range of things that were brought in were endless, from plant life that has miraculous health properties, to minerals that propelled technological progress a few years forward. The fact that the aliens that we encountered look markedly different allowed for discrimination views to flourish easier too, and it was not difficult to see why it was easier to hate than to accept the different alien races. No effort was given to understand the aliens too given how space travel were monopolized by those who has a stake against the aliens. So eventually the voices like Dr Prosky was drown out.

How ironic, Matthew taught, that it was exactly what Dr Prosky warned that was coming to bite humanity in the face. Dr Prosky died before he was able to see his predictions came true, but Matthew doubted that anyone would even notice.

"Ten minutes to lights out, soldiers! This may be the last sleep you'll be getting in a very long time!" Matthew's captain shouted as he passed their rooms. Matthew thought about the inevitable fight that laid ahead for humanity. After centuries of shamelessly winning one sided conflicts, humanity was finally being tested again in war, just like what the movie Independence Day portrayed. Against a force that was much more advanced and superior. The funny thing is, this enemy that humanity was fighting against was not evil or power hungry to begin with.

The lights in their camp were turned off, as Matthew tossed around in an attempt to sleep. His thoughts kept drifting back to what they will be facing tomorrow, in addition to the events preceeding the final battle for earth tomorrow.

It was in the last few decades when humanity suffered its first but devastating blow since it first started the space race. Explorers who were keen on expanding their wealth jumped into a completely explored new quadrant and were surprised to be greeted with a spacefaring race as well. More like races to be exact, as the encounter marked the beginning of the First War between humanity and the United Federation of Star Systems (UFSS). Bolstered by the centuries of human hegemony, the explorers thought that they could easily overpower the patrol ships when they were asked to identify themselves, which they did initially. The UFSS, which was built on the idea of diplomacy, demanded an explanation on the attack, but humanity, emboldened by the centuries of unchallenged rule, promptly declared war on the UFSS by launching fleets against the star systems controlled by the UFSS.

Humanity by that time had forgotten the art of diplomacy, and relied mainly on the use of force to get what it wanted and at some times, to send a message. While the early campaigns were met with several successes, the human fleets soon realize that they were no match for the diversified armies of the UFSS. Space battles became increasingly difficult, and as the losses mount, the UFSS decided to capitalize on the one weakness of humanity to further destabilize humanity's power. Sending covert agents to human controlled colonies of other species, the UFSS helped instigate uprising against human planet forces, which was not difficult to begin with given the animosity that has already been felt after generations against humanity.

With external threats and implosion from within, it was no surprise that the human empire eventually crumbled, and the fight was finally pushed to earth. A last stand in which Matthew will be participating in. The funny thing is, even with the imminent destruction that was about to greet humanity right in front of their doorstep, the so called leaders refused to accept any offers at negotiation by the UFSS. They wanted to fight to the last drop of blood, loudly declaring that humanity will not go down.

"Arrogance," Matthew mumbled to himself, as he drifted off to sleep. He wondered whether having too much power could really corrupt, and there always need to be balance and checks to ensure that power is not abused. He pondered about what makes the UFSS different than humanity, on why they managed to build on each others strengths, instead on merely relying on one. Maybe it's human nature, Matthew thought, and humanity needed to take this beating to put them back in place. To achieve their past glory. 

Before he drifted off, Matthew pictured again the scene where the president mentioned about everyone working together, and noticed the irony at how humans only work together when they are faced with a bigger threat. Perhaps that is what fear is for. Matthew just hoped that humanity is not too far gone when the time does come.


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