Until Death

Professor Malkin was sitting in his office pondering what species to use to try and stump his students in today’s lecture. In thirty years of teaching final level Xenoanthropology, he has never failed at bringing up a sentient species that none of his students was familiar with. But this year, this class took it as a challenge to learn every species out there. They split up the entire galactic database among all three hundred and sixty one students, each memorizing a section so at least one of them had knowledge of each species. He was stumped himself, he had already tried every obscure species that he could think of, the Fajinop which only has three surviving individuals, all male and they have not done anything of note in millions of years. He tried the ‘~|’’{ (squishy noises and clicks) who have never emerged from underground and have not been contacted in millenia, but one student is obsessed with slug like species and knew all about them. One hundred and sixteen lectures this year, bringing up as many as four species in each one, and so far he has failed. Well not really failed, this does seem to be the best class he has ever teached. No, to stump this class he was going to have to cheat a little, think outside the box, or more accurately think outside the galaxy.

When the time came, Professor Malkin entered into the auditorium his customary two minutes early to see all the students checked in and ready for him, just as they have been at every other lecture this year. He looked up to see the Sismis and the Knuppel hanging from the bars on the ceiling, the Selkapo and Gegne roosting in the rafters, and in the far back on the top level were the Fil and Haina, large species that have to stay in the back to not block the view of anyone. Below them was the rest sitting, laying, coiled up, or just being motionless in their natural resting state throughout the different levels of seating.

He walked to the podium and set down his data tablet and bottle of water before looking at the clock in the back of the room. It was an antique grandfather clock that had been passed down for generations in his family and he kept his class schedule based on it much to the students dismay. As it was old, it was highly inaccurate, or at least enough to cause issues and it didn’t help that the professor kept adjusting it every few days and not by any specific amount, just eyeballing it. He waited until the second hand was nearly at twelve before turning around to face his students just as the clock struck once. As much as he likes this clock, he is not so much a fan of the chimes, and as such he schedules all lectures in this room at one so he only has to listen to it a single time. (For the other professors that use this room, well… let’s say that seniority has its privileges.)

“Who can tell me about the Grazzix?” the professor starts as he scans the audience. He watches as they all start looking around trying to figure out who had the section that would contain that name. Eventually their gaze would all fall on a diminutive Zeka, a large rabbit like creature with permanently sad puppy dog eyes.

“Th.. th.. th.. that was not listed in my section.” he meekly stammered out trying to suppress his urge to run from all the eyes upon him.

“He is right.” stated the human girl sitting next to him. “There is no entry for that species in the database.” she said holding up her datapad to show the empty results.

“Is that the Galactic Standard database?” asks the professor smugly knowing the answer.

“Yes.” was the reply.

“That compendium only lists species from this galaxy. The Grazzix are from the Triangulum galaxy.”

“But, I thought that there was no contact with any species from outside our galaxy!” one of the large Fil interjected, its voice reverberating throughout the hall, followed by several voices of agreement.

“That is correct.” the professor counters. “We do not have open communications with them and likely never will.”

“Then how do we know about them?” asked a student from above.

“We do not know much about them but what we know is they were the first species in the Triangulum galaxy to develop FTL travel and they are a very aggressive species. They conquered their galaxy killing every other species that would evolve enough to ever challenge them. Afterward they set their sights on our galaxy and sent a gate across the void. It took hundreds of years to make the journey, partially due to the distance and the type of warp field generators they used but also due to the size and weight of the gate itself.”

“A gate?” asked a Ooosmia from the front.

“Yes. A wormhole gate.” the professor replied.

“I thought that it was impossible to create a wormhole.” stated another student from the middle rows.

“Scientist knew it was possible but the forces created would destroy anything we could build. The Grazzix figured out how to build a gate from a single piece of neutron star material.”

Chatter erupted from the students. It was well known that figuring out how to obtain and work with neutron star material was one of the few remaining challenges for scientists.

“The gate arrived at the edge of our galaxy in the outer arm near a small system containing a mining colony. There is no information as to what happened to the ship that brought it, nor do we know how long the gate was there before it was activated. Once activated, three battlecruiser class and fifteen corvette class ships emerged and immediately attacked the mining colony. There was only a few cargo ships and a couple of civilian transportation ships in orbit and they were minimally armed, weapons only intended to scare off pirates not fight battles. The Grazzix easily destroyed the ships in orbit and wiped out the colony soon after, but not before the miners sent out a distress signal. Once he colony was destroyed and without setting down on the planet, the Grazzix left and headed for the next system.”

“When did this happen?” asked one student followed with “Why have we not heard about this?” by another.

“This occurred about three hundred years ago and as I finish the story you will understand why you have not heard about it.” the professor answered and then got a drink of water. The students were talking amongst themselves trying to guess why it would not be talked about until the professor continued.

“As the Grazzix fleet approached the next system, a service garage and trading post, there happened to be a Federation battleship and two corvette class ships in the area and they were prepared having been warned by the miners distress call. They tried to contact the Grazzix but the only message they got back was…” He looks at his data pad again to get the right words. “Bragguh carblah”.

“What does that mean?” asks a quadruped from the middle rows.

“They did not know at the time, but once a translator was created, it translated to Until Death. The Federation ships were outgunned but was able to destroy one of the battle cruisers and five of the corvettes before being destroyed themselves. The Grazzix destroyed the outpost and continued on.”

“How many were killed in the attacks?” asks a Sismi from above.

“The mining colony’s population was nearly one million and there was several hundred at the trading post and on the Federation ships. When the Grazzix arrived at the next system, they were greeted with a fleet of Federation vessels, two destroyers, nearly a dozen battleships and two dozen corvettes. The battle did not last long as a single destroyer took out most of their fleet by itself. They were able to rescue a few Grazzix survivors and some data that allowed them to create the translators. This was also about this time that the first wave of rescue ships arrived at the mining colony.”

“Were there any survivors? asks a small insectoid student in the front row.

“There were a few who were in the underground mines during the attack. As they were finishing the search and rescue mission, at exactly..” he pauses to look at his datapad for the exact numbers, “thirty four hours twenty seven minutes and thirteen seconds after the first wave of Grazzix arrived, the next wave appeared. Only a couple of the rescue ships had significant weapons and they engaged immediately knowing they would not win, but they knew that help was not far. They were able to maneuver around and get the Grazzix to turn their backs to the second wave of incoming Federation ships. They kept them busy while the unarmed ships could escape and the reinforcements arrived.” He pauses to get a drink of water again before continuing. “The reinforcements arrived just in time to save the other ships from complete destruction and quickly destroyed the Grazzix ships.”

“How do we know it was that specific time?” asked the eight Halpoo individuals, a shared conscience species that all spoke as one.

“Because that is the interval that their ships would arrive. Every thirty four hours twenty seven minutes and thirteen seconds, eighteen ships would come through. The federation ships would try to talk to them to no avail, it always ended in their destruction. The Federation tried sending probes back through the wormhole, but they were always destroyed. They tried sending captured Grazzix ships back transmitting messages, but they were also destroyed immediately. Eventually they were able to capture a leader from one of the battlecruisers and after a bit of coercion, they were able to get it to answer some questions.”

“Coercion or torture?” asked a Bungel smugly as her species felt war was barbaric and surrendering or even dying was preferable.

“Actually it did not take much coercion. Once it understood we only wanted to know about them and not their tactics and plans, it was willing to talk. It boasted about their history and explained how they were hive like in that every individual was born for one role in society. It also told of their one goal, to expand and conquer and how every Grazzix sent to this galaxy is expected to fight until their death or until there is no one left to fight.”

“Did the Federation destroy the gate?” asked a Vaslisa who was coiled around a human.

“No. Scientist were afraid that if they destroyed it while it was open, it would destroy half of both galaxies. Plus they were not sure they could destroy it being made from neutron star material. For six years a fleet stayed stationed at the entrance to the gate to first try to negotiate with the Grazzix and then fight them, though the negotiation attempts reduced in later years. Eventually the council got tired of occasionally losing ships and lives and decided something had to be done. Scientist determined that they could not close the wormhole from this side, but a large enough explosion at the other gate should disrupt it. The largest bomb ever was created and two large transport ships was prepared to be remote controlled. One ship to take the bomb through the gate and one to move the gate when the wormhole was closed.”

The professor paused and got another sip of water giving a few seconds for the students to ask a question, but they were all too enthralled in the story and wanted to know how it ends without further delay. “Once everything was ready the bomb was sent through and detonated which did close the wormhole. As soon as it did the second ship was positioned inside and attached to the gate and had its warp field generator engaged. The wormhole could not be opened while the warp field was surrounding it, so they were able to move the gate. Because of the weight, it took twenty days to get it into position, which took precise timing because as soon as the warp field was dropped the ship was pulled into the black hole the gate was now orbiting. The gate was positioned in a stable orbit just outside the event horizon of the black hole, but close enough that anything that emerged was captured and pulled to their death.”

“Why not send the gate into the black hole itself?” asked a Gegne from the rafters.

“Two reasons, the first being scientist were not sure what would happen if the Grazzix tried to open the gate while it was entering into the black hole. The second reason was the Grazzix leader said that if the gate was destroyed, they would just send more gates. The council decided that pushing the problem to a future generation was not acceptable and that if the Grazzix thought the gate was still working and their invasion was still being advanced, things would just continue without escalating their attack.”

The students started talking among themselves discussing the moral implications of this solution. Professor Malkin did not bring up the Grazzix often, but the result was always the same, arguing about if it is morally right to condemn the Grazzix to such a death. Before everything got out of hand, he reaserted his control with a loud cough. “I know this is a contentious issue which is why you have never heard about it, and to help you with your reflection of the moral implications I want a thousand words on why it was the right thing to do, a thousand words on why it was the wrong thing to do, and at least five hundred words on your opinion and what you would do,  due in three days.” Groans, moans and all means of displeasure sounds emanated from the students as the professor grabbed his data pad and water bottle and headed out the door before he had to listen to the next chime of his grandfather clock.

Categories: HFY

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