Bewildering Stories

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The Vegans are Coming!

by David Marshall

Black starships the size of small asteroids darkened the skies as they massed above the cities of the Earth. The only indication that they were even aware of the human race was their constant presence above the major population centres; none of the great vessels graced the skies above the oceans or the deserts or the icecaps.

For five days, they ignored every attempt humanity made to communicate with them. On the sixth day, a shuttlecraft launched from the orbital armada and descended upon the old United Nations building in New York.

The Terran Defence Force rushed to the scene, but the soldiers were uncertain whether their task was to protect humanity from the aliens, or to protect the aliens from humanity. They decided that the best course of action was simply to keep the two as far apart as possible.

The shuttlecraft landed, and three deer-like humanoids in flowing white robes disembarked. With a grace beyond the dreams of any human dancer, the aliens approached the former UN building. Once inside, they made their way to the chamber reserved for the newly-formed World Legislature.

Under the scrutiny of every communication channel on Earth, one of the aliens glided to the podium. “People of Earth, I am Ambassador Yarol,” said the alien in a soft, feminine voice. Unlike her companions, she had a strip of ornate red script around the edge of her robe; obviously a sign of her ambassadorial rank. “On behalf of my people, the Tanchin, we would like to welcome you into Galactic civilisation.”

The human race relaxed. The long pause while the ships had hovered menacingly over the cities had not been a prelude to war, as many had feared. The Tanchin had used that time to study human systems and languages, so that the two species could communicate.

“We would like to welcome you,” said Yarol, “but we cannot.”

The human race tensed right back up again. Voices stained with anger and fear erupted throughout the chamber. They died out as Yarol spoke one word: “Yet.”

The President of Earth recognised an opportunity when he saw it. “What would be necessary before Earth could achieve Galactic citizenship?” he asked.

Humanity held its collective breath as Yarol paused. “No species may be admitted into Galactic citizenship until and unless the ethical system of said species equals, or exceeds, the standards agreed to at the Conclave of Anthori.”

Many of the representatives of humanity shifted uncomfortably. They were politicians, and they often felt that ethics were something that should only happen to other people.

“What exactly are these standards?” asked the President.

“There are various details,” replied Yarol dismissively, “but the most important part is this: you must not kill."

“That is already one of our oldest laws," the President replied, clearly confused by the Tanchin edict.

“No, no, you misunderstand," said Yarol. "You must not kill."

“We already know this," sighed the President, as he realised that enlightened Tanchin morality was no more advanced than the human version.

But Tanchin technology was so much more advanced than their morality, and that was what interested the President. He could pray for Galactic Peace if that was the price the human race must pay to reach for the stars.

Yarol tapped at a symbol on the breast of her robe. “Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? Is it working? Why don't they understand?"

“They are a simple, planetbound species," whispered the alien on Yarol's right. “Their understanding is limited. Perhaps if we explain it in very simple terms?"

Yarol turned to the President and spoke slowly, as if she were talking to a child. “You kill other creatures, and eat their flesh. You must not do this. You must eat only plants.”

“Vegetarianism?” asked the stunned President.

“And you said they were simple,” Yarol whispered to her right.

“I stand corrected. They are very complicated creatures."

“Your people have developed alternatives to flesh," Yarol told the President. "You can make your pretend-flesh from soy and algae and phytoplankton. Is it truly moral to consume your fellow creatures when you have so many vegetarian alternatives?”

“How could we give Galactic technology to a species that looks at us as food?” interrupted the smaller alien standing on Yarol’s left.

“That will do, Ranifer,” said Yarol in a firm tone. “I am sure that these people don’t intend to eat us.”

“Of course not!” declared the President.

“Prove it!” cried Ranifer.

Yarol angrily waved Ranifer to silence. “Please forgive my young colleague,” she said. “My people have very vivid racial memories of the time when we were helpless prey to the carnivores of our homeworld. It makes us...cautious when dealing with any sentient species that can eat flesh.”

“I understand,” said the President. He had an insight into the Tanchin’s thoughts that many members of the Legislature lacked. He knew the terror of the hunted; as a child, the man who would become President had been attacked by his next-door neighbour’s rottweiler.

Man’s best friend? Ha!

And how much worse would it be to face a *sentient* hunter? And if such a creature treated all other intelligent life as nothing more than a walking buffet...

The President was sold. Now he just had to sell the rest of the world on the wonders of vegetarianism. He began tallying the votes he would lose among farmers and meat-processors, and weighing those against the votes he would gain from Animal Rights and Buddhists and Galactic technophiles.

He decided he was looking at a comfortable majority and a secure place in the history books.

* * *

The Tanchin ships left Earth to take humanity’s Anthoric pledge to the stars. At the edge of the Solar System, the High Priestess of the Death Goddess turned to her Acolyte with a smile.

“You played your part perfectly, Ranifer. They would have reached the stars on their own in another century or two. If they had been unleashed upon the galaxy without being properly bound...” she shuddered, remembering the legends of the time before the Conclave of Anthori.

“Now that they are bound, they cannot renounce their pledge without losing their status as citizens,” mused Ranifer. And the rights and protections of Galactic law did not extend themselves to cover non-citizen species.

“Precisely,” replied Yarol. “Now, to your studies. Recite for me the First Tanchin Codicil to the Conclave.”

“Three million years ago, in the aftermath of the Third Galactic War, we Tanchin were a pre-sentient species bound to our homeworld. Other herbivores fought and died across the stars, slaying the carnivores and turning the omnivores onto the Path of Right. We cannot risk becoming prey again, as we once were. A sentient species is capable of choice; if they cannot or will not choose to be bound by Anthoric Law, then that species must be purged!”

Each and every sigil of the ornate red script on Yarol’s robe named a species that the Tanchin race had failed to bind to Anthoric Law. Whether the failure was an obstinate choice or the blind dictates of biology did not matter, for the end result was the same. The name-sigil was the only trace that remained of those non-Anthoric species.

The Tanchin had always believed that the only good carnivore was a dead carnivore.

* * *

Golden starships the size of small moons darkened the skies as they massed above the cities of the Earth. But this time it was different. This time, the human race expected the Tanchin.

But this time, it was not the Tanchin.

“People of Earth, I am Praetorian Tolok,” said the first alien, her green tendrils waving as if stirred by a gentle breeze. “And we are the Krylth. And we formally declare a crusade of genocide against your kind, as we do against all species that follow the evils of the Conclave of Anthori. For your unspeakable crimes against all plant species such as the Krylth.”

Copyright © 2005 by David Marshall

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