Author’s note: This is a short story that pairs with a song by the same name:
Lana screamed as loud as she could possibly scream. Lights flickered on through out the house. Her older brother was the first in the room with a sword at the draw. Her older sister, Maia, was right behind him. Maia was more sensible and possessed a firearm.
“What is it?” Brother snapped, ready for action.
“There’s an alien outside my window.” Lana pointed to the window near her bed. Her brother, Tarn, peered out the window with the sword useless at his side.
“That’s why you bring a gun,” Maia quipped snidely.
“A sword is an honorable weapon,” Tarn said, unfazed by her remark. There was an empty field with a single tree visible outside her window. The bark of the tree was cracked and old. The branches were twisted.
“There is nothing out there,” Tarn pronounced.
“You are useless Lana. I stopped having bad dreams when I was five,” Maia teased.
“A warrior respects fear with dignity,” Tarn interjected.
“Fear is a part of life… I’ve heard it before,” Maia said.
“I saw it! It’s not a dream!” Lana screamed.
Father’s bodyguards entered the room first. Father pushed past them.
“Patriarch of Bellicus,” The bodyguards objected. “We must protest-“
Father was icy and quick, “I will face any threat to my family with the dignity of a warrior.”
The Patriarch turned to his children, “Explain.”
“There is nothing to report. Lana had a nightmare,” Tarn offered his insight.
Lana interjected, “I wasn’t asleep.”
Maia scorned, “You saw the tree.”
“Enough,” The Patriarch commanded the room. The children tensed while the bodyguards relaxed. Their earlier indiscretion would at least be forgotten. “What did you see?”
“I saw it father. Its eyes were… big… empty… like it could see the whole world. I swear father. It was standing in the field, a little ahead of the tree. It was looking at me… like it knew me.”
“Warriors of the ancient saw the same creatures. They would appear on the eve of a great battle to bless the warriors with strength and prowess. I think you bring us a good omen for we are about to embark on the greatest battle of our species.”
“You fill her head with myth and legends. I was learning to wield the dagger at eight!” Tarn scoffed.
“If you were a lesser man, I’d have your head, but as you are my only heir, you will not sleep anymore and proceed directly to physical training.”
Tarn stormed from the room. Maia smirked. Her brother was about to have a shitty morning.
“You too, Maia.”
Maia knew better than to argue with her father. He dismissed the bodyguards. Relived that his wrath didn’t extend to them, they scrambled into the hallway and closed the doors.
“I’m afraid, father,” she hugged him. He felt cold, but she knew that was the body armor.
He patted her, “Fear is natural. Only a fool would deny it. A true warrior learns to control their fear.”
But Lana didn’t want to control it. In fact, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to be a warrior, but she didn’t dare tell father that or anyone for that matter.
142 fucked up. The fuck up wasn’t a small fuck up. It was big. The kind that could get him shipped to another star system, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to see the denizens of Bellicus in the flesh. Usually, they watched from the smaller of the two moons. But 142 knew an important decision was being made for Bellicus. He wouldn’t have another chance.
He would have gotten away with his trips if his personal cloaking device didn’t malfunction. The device had a glitch. The light bending matrix got out of sync. As an inexperienced researcher, he didn’t know how to fix it. So he just froze. That’s when the girl saw him.
She was just a little girl. In the scheme of the entire planet, that shouldn’t matter. She would just be a girl telling stories, but she was the leader’s daughter. So she was a little girl connected to a lot of power. Still, he knew what 141 would say, “The most insignificant person can change history.”
That’s why the researchers were under a strict non-interference policy. They possessed technology eons ahead of the planets they studied. Even using the technology to heal a sick puppy could create a world religion. Researchers were strictly forbidden to interact, could only go to the surface when necessary, and must always be accompanied by another researcher.
“Researcher 142. Stay right there.141 out.” Researcher 141’s voice bellowed over the intercom. Here it comes.
“Yes.” 142 tried sound as neutral as possible. He loved early civilization cultural studies, but he’d probably be shipped off to some far off station to study white dwarves. His new name would be Researcher Ten Million on the white dwarf project which had not changed in a billion years. Every thousand years, researchers switched jobs, even names.
141 would be slowly coming down the hallway by now. He was named 141 because he was the 141st researcher at the Bellicus Prime station, research that started more than 141,000 years ago. 142 began 300 or so years ago when 140 left. It was a peculiar pairing. 141 was a humorless old being. 142 learned to enjoy his job.
141 entered and inched his way into the room. 141 was a different species. He was more of a spider than a bipedal species. Each leg cracked with age as he moved. 142 used to make jokes about how 141 was as old as the amount of cracks in his bones. Those jokes stopped 10 years in as 141 was never amused. 141 needed to train 142 to be the senior researcher of the two person post, so for 500 years 142 could lead 143, just as 141 would lead 142 for 500 years. But there would be no 143, the research project was about to come to an abrupt end.
All the council species had exceptionally long lives. Natural age limits seemed to not be as important when species shared life extending technology. There was more than just a mere 500 year age gap between 141 and 142. 141 was set to retire after countless postings like this one whereas this was 142’s first post out of his education. 141 often treated 142 like a child. Today would be no different.
“You made an unauthorized trip,” 141 folded his several arms.
“Yes. I will admit to that.”
“And a resident saw you.”
“I cannot deny that.”
141 paused. It’s over. White dwarves in boring lifeless solar systems. 142’s work was too important to give up now. He needed this posting at this planet.
“I guess sooner than later, the Bellicus residents will know about us,” 141 said dryly and began to type on a terminal.
“So can I get back to study?” 142 said sheepishly.
“I don’t see why not.”
In a state of disbelief and relief, 142 slinked over to his terminal and began to type. 142 was barely coming to terms with what happened when 141 spoke again.
“It happened before.”
“Oh?” 142 tried to act nonchalant.
“On Bellicus. It happened before.”
“What happened before?”
“A researcher revealed himself to the population. You know the myth of the war spirits that appear before battle. That really happened. A researcher revealed himself to an army of the warrior king Bellicus. The army that saw the researcher won the battle the next day.”
“Unwise if you ask me. Now is Bellicus a warlike culture because of that incident? Or were they always warlike and just integrated our existence into their culture. Why is the smaller moon the war god?”
“The researcher told them about our observation station?”
“We don’t know what he said to them. He cut all the recording feeds. He claims he was trying to convince them about the value of peace. Now did he give the army an unfair advantage? Nope. They fought with indigenous weapons. But he did give them hope. The gods visited them that day. Who knows, maybe that army should have lost.”
“So we become gods. What’s the problem? The cultures will make their own decisions. And by the time they are ready to meet us as equals, they’ll know we aren’t gods.”
“Only if we don’t interfere. Our culture fought wars. We had a massive part of the population work for the luxury of the lucky few, but we figured it out. If someone were to try and steer us there too early, what would happen if we misinterpreted the knowledge?”
“We send teachers with the researchers.”
“What happens if the cultures never learn? How long do we teach?”
“We are willing to observe until they reach out to the stars.”
“You have much to learn 142. The system protects us as much as them.”
“Until the final decision.”
“Not all cultures will end up like Bellicus.”
They fell into silence as they worked.
“What happened to the researcher who interfered with their culture?” 142 mused after a moment.
“He spent the rest of his days in a lifeless white dwarf system.”