Inspired by the “Humans Are Songbirds” post by @damdesi which you can find here.
“Are the rumors true?” She turned in her chair to see who spoke. Behind her he stands, a male of the species whose name she’s never learned to pronounce right, tall and brilliantly colored. “What rumors?” she asks, desperately trying to remember his name. Something with a P or maybe a Dgh sound?
“Your kind,” he says, moving closer. “Some say they have an ability like no others do. They say the sounds you make can be almost… hypnotic.”
“Oh,” she says, smiling with closed lips. “You mean singing, don’t you?”
He extends his hands to her, long and thin fingers of which he had only three. “That is correct.”
“Well, I have heard that before. I’ve never seen it for myself though.”
He begins to say something, but seems to think better of it, and closes his mouth. Instead, he offers her a formal greeting, something like a curtsy. “I am B’Chn of QtSlr.”
She stands and offers her hand, which he shakes after a moment of confusion. “I am Rupa of Earth.”
B’Chn was kind, she discovers. Their work often overlapped, she a translator, he a diplomat. Charisma made him a great diplomat, and he could ease the tension in any situation, except with that one species from the desert planet, whose severity could rival a school nun’s.
The valley of stars hangs outside the giant window, arching over the hall in which they walk. There is no one else around, and nearly everyone, except for the bridge crew, is already fast asleep. She watches the stars while they walk. The closest glows red.
“Will you sing for me?” B’Chn asks.
She looks at him, but he stares straight ahead, still walking. “Will I sing for you?” she asks. He clarifies, “I have heard the songs of some humans. But not you.”
She smiles. “Count yourself lucky. I’m a bad singer. I sound like a donkey,” she laughs.
“I sincerely doubt that. Perhaps your song is dissimilar from your kind, but outside of your species, every song is-.” He stops, cuts himself off.
“What is a donkey?” he asks instead.
“It’s a load-bearing animal. What were you going to say?”
“I have never heard anything like the voices of your people. I am certain that any of your kind could sing, and it would be beautiful.”
Heat rises to her cheeks, and for a moment she thinks she might cry. “I’m still not singing for you,” she says, and he barks out his laughter.
There is music thrumming from four rooms over, and the floor seems to sway beneath her. She giggles at the patterns it makes, and when she looks up, B’Chn is there, looking torn between grabbing a medic and laughing at her.
The space station is huge, she doesn’t know how he found her. Or maybe, Rupa thinks, he came to the party with her? He doesn’t drink, she knows that. Maybe he’ll drive her home.
“Can you drive me home? I can’t find my keys,” she says, rifling through her pockets.
“What?” He’s laughing at this point.
“Will you drive me home? I think I lost my keys. Have you seen my keys?”
“I have no idea what you’re saying,” he tells her. She rolls her eyes, and suddenly she’s sitting on the ground.
“Oh, are you okay?” he asks, finally looking concerned.
“Sit down with me,” she says, patting the floor. “You’re too tall.”
He stares at her, but when she pats the ground again, he finally understands, and sits with her. “Is this normal for your species? Or are you sick?”
“‘M not sick I’m drunk,” she says, resting her head on her knuckles. “I don’t know that language,” he tells her, and she realized she had been speaking her native tongue, not Standard. “Oh. I’m drunk.” She thinks she said it in Standard, and he nods. “I can tell.”
“You want a drink?” she asks, suddenly feeling inconsiderate. He looks like he’d like fruity drinks. She stands to get him one, but her grasps her arm. “No thank you, I don’t want anything to drink.”
“Okie,” she says sitting back down gracelessly. She sighs, and lies on her back, closing her eyes. “Can you drive me home?”
“We don’t need to drive anywhere. We’re at a starbase.”
“Oh. Where’s my room?”
“I’m gonna sleep, ok?” she says, rolling over and curling up.
“Don’t sleep on the floor,” he laughs. “Why?” she mutters as he pulls her to her feet.
“Have you ever slept on the floor?” she asks, trying to figure out where he’s leading her. The hallway looks familiar.
“Once or twice. It’s not quite like a nest.”
She’s quiet for a minute, and in that minute, he finds her room. She sits on the bed, and he turns out all the lights but the bathroom’s. “Go to bed. I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning.” She nods, flopping facefirst onto the pillows, not bothering with a quilt. “I’ll be hungover,” she says.
“Maybe. Good night,” B’Chn says, headed for the door.
“B’Chn?” her voice is muffled.
“Thank you. I’ll pay you back.”
He barks out his laughter. “You don’t need to.”
“I’ll buy you breakfast or somethin’”
“Well, if you insist on repaying me, can I make a request?”
“Will you sing for me one day?” he asks.
She snores and he closes the door quietly.
The captain of their ship is a human, and when he marries, people from all over the ship band together and surprise the happy couple on their wedding day with a ragtag band.
The dancing’s been going for hours, and all but a few souls have left to nurse their tired feet. Rupa sits at a table and picks at the cake. A rare treat in the far reaches of space. She looks up when someone takes the seat across from her. B’Chn sits, skin unintentionally in tune with the color scheme. They sit quietly for a moment, Rupa finishing her cake and saving the icing for last, B’Chn staring in wonderment at the band. They play an old folk song. Rupa recognizes the tune and smiles, remembering when her grandfather would sing it to her grandmother when they danced in the kitchen. A swell of homesickness overtakes her and she sits back, listening to the song with closed eyes, letting the memory wash over her but not wash her away.
“Do you still call it a song if there are no words?” B’Chn asks, pulling her back to the present.
“Yes,” she says, taking the last bite of cake and pushing her plate away.
“I thought a song was the words associated with the sounds.”
“Those are the lyrics.”
“If there are no lyrics, then does the song still have a name?”
“This song has lyrics. They’re just playing the instrumental version.”
“Well then, what is this song’s name?”
“All I Want Is You”
“What are the lyrics?” he asks. She almost answers, but when she looks at him, he’s suppressing the flutter of his whiskers, and she grins at him. “Sneaky little- nice try. You can’t trick me,” she sing-songs, and he stares at her with wide eyes, the lyrical echo of her words hanging in the air. She blushes, and pushes a napkin around her empty cake plate. She came close there, and he curls slightly with disappointment. “If I ask you nicely will that help?” he asks, and the tension breaks.
“Maybe,” she says through a smile, showing all her teeth now that no one thinks she’s looking for a fight.
“Will you sing for me?”
“No,” she laughs.
“I didn’t think so. Is there any cake left?”
A brief year into their mission of diplomacy took them to the homes of many species, of many cultures, all ranging between kind to a fault and hostile just shy of violence. But never violence.
Not until today.
They welcomed the party into the hall of their capital building, an arching thing of emerald and silver.
They separated the party. A single sensor back on the ship sounded an alarm, and the team was pulled out within seconds. Not quick enough to stop the execution of the trade ambassador at point-blank range. Not soon enough to stop the fury of firepower that sliced through the bigger party in the lobby.
It was chaos when they were taken back aboard. Pure chaos, the kind where thoughts are impossible, and words spoken are ripped from the air by a passerby. Rupa cannot think, She can barely see, it is all a mass of bodies and multi-colored blood, her own showing red on her sleeve. The ship rocks as it flees from the solar system, the injuries of dozens not enough for this planet, who fires final shots at the retreating vessel.
Someone bandages her arm. She can’t remember who, and she wishes she had thanked them. Her clothes are soaked, though. A deep green stains the legs of her pants, and brick red of her own dried blood sticks her shirt to her like glue.
The chaos has lessened, and the ship is struck with a bone-deep sorrow. The vibration of the hull sounds like the ship itself is wailing. Rupa walks on shaky legs, brain on auto-pilot, headed to her room, a horrified need to shower rising in her gut.
Someone catches her arm, though, as she walks through the hall. “Rupa Virk?” the woman asks.
“Someone’s requested you.”
Rupa takes in the woman’s scrubs, the surgical mask pulled down around her neck, and icy dread trails like fingers down her back.
He’s bleeding through his bandages when she gets there. He slits his eyes, just glancing at her before closing them against the harsh light of the medic ward. He stretches out his hand though, and she tucks it in both of hers. It’s cold in a familiar way.
“Hi,” he gasps out. It’s not the bloody bandages. It’s not the dullness of his normally vibrant colors. Nothing about his horrid state fazes her. But that one word undoes her, and she has to speak around the lump in her throat. “I think we can do a little better than ‘hi,’“ she tells him.
“Are you okay?” B’Chn asks. She can’t help but laugh thought it sounds like a sob, and she clutches his hand tighter. She hopes she’s not hurting him. “Me? I’m fine, It’s-” she swallows. “It’s you who needs to be worried after.”
“Can I ask something of you?”
She nods, moving closer.
“Will you sing for me?”
He wouldn’t ask that, their little joke, now, right now at the worst possible time, unless- unless-
She blinks rapidly. She opens her mouth. She doesn’t know what to sing. Sudenly he blanches, the last of color bleeding from his skin, leaving him all but grey. An alarm sounds, and someone’s pulling her away. She hits them. She can’t leave. Not yet not yet not yet, she only needs a minute, but suddenly her arms are pinned behind her, and she’s taken away from him, how dare they take her away from him and all she can think is I never sang for him.
It’s dark. She can barely see her feet. She shuffles in anyway.
She stubs her toe once or twice, but it’s worth it. She needs to do this.
He’s breathing slow and deep. It’s a sight to see.
She takes his hand, the same hand as before, when everything was wrong, when he almost left them. When he did, for a moment. He stirs at the motion, and he opens his eyes. They catch the starlight and glimmer, blinking at her.
“Hi,” she says, sitting in the seat by his bed.
“Hi, says B’Chn, quiet and thick with sleep. They sit in silence for a time. It feels like hours. He dozes, but every so often the starlight glances off his eyes, staring at her through the dark.
She squeezes his hand, and he looks at her. He says nothing.
She sings. She sings until her throat is sore and the words crack in the air. He listens. He watches. He is struck by wonder, and he weeps. She wipes the tears, not clear like her own, and she sings until she cannot anymore, and when her voice stops and the hush returns to the air, he thanks her. She falls asleep in the chair by his bed, and he lies awake for hours, replaying the sound in his mind.
“In this new work, Thomas Richardson explores the 1st Australian Task Force’s (1ATF) implementation of pacification in Phuoc Tuy between 1966 and 1972. He argues that pacification, and Australian military history at large, remains a subject discussed only in the context of its impact on the Australian force rather than on its own merits.”
I remember the war with humanity. It was our first and last mistake, the last war of the Dryzal, the war that destroyed us.
I was barely a hatchling at the time the war started, barely old enough to understand what the politicians were saying never mind understand the intricacies of intergalactic politics. It was some dispute about colonization rights. Something trivial and unimportant. But something we foolishly thought was that destroying a human vessel was worth it.
I remember the first days of the war. The propaganda on the vid screens. The pictures of our soldiers on the front lines winning victory after victory. The comparison of the primitive human weapons to our advanced technology. They showed us bedraggled human prisoners after they surrendered. Made them read statements of aggression and war guilt for the news feeds. But those vids never told us that for every one human we killed they killed ten of us.
We took the world’s we wanted, then got greedy and took some more. The humans were professionals, but we had numbers. City after city fell beneath our guns, enslaved human populations churned out weapons for use on their own kind. But even as we broke their fleet at K'lizzan, sent their ships into that dying star, we realized we were loosing.
Every world we took, they made us pay in tenfold. They sent assassins behind our lines to kill our leaders, small units of soldiers to sabotage our factories. We learned that we had stretched ourselves too thin against an enemy that refused to loose.
We fell back with nowhere left to go. The only worlds left were ours. I watched as the humans scattered our fleets in the upper atmosphere, the burning husks of our ships filling the skies. The smell of ozone as an orbital Lance annihilated a military base not 10 kilometers from where I stood. The look of shame as the grand council transmitted our complete and utter surrender.
And I remember too, the first time I saw a human, tall and upright, a giant of muscle and bone, the eyes of a predator on the hunt. I remember him gesturing me over to him and the certainty of my death filling my mind. I was a child but I was prepared to die for the Dryzal. A sacrifice to allow the humans to take their fully justified revenge upon us.
And I remember my first taste of the chocolate bar he gave me.
The human revenge was total. From the ruins they built schools and roads. Hospitals and sanitation plants. The human engineer brought running water free of parasites to my family’s stack for the first time. They inoculated us against diseases the council had never bothered to cure. They wrought revenge with words we’d never heard. Democracy, Freedom, Brotherhood. They wrought it in the form of Human Rights, and most powerfully of all… forgiveness.
And their revenge was total. Within 10 years human children and Dryzal were playing together on the fields outside of school. In 15 they were fighting side by side against the Shuluman.
40 years from the day the humans landed on our worlds and the Dryzal no longer exist. Admitted to humanity, nominated by Terrans and approved by a unanimous decision of the human parliament, the 6th species to gain such an honor. The Dryzal no longer exist, but humanity grew stronger.
Yes I remember our war with humanity. Our last and best mistake.
-President Steven X'Lilli of the Dryzal, giving a speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Dryzal’s admittance to Humanity
This is my last week of uni contact time. So last week of classes and lectures. I then have a week to prepare for my 4 exams, which is going to be rough, but I am just so SO done with uni now. I’m ready for this to be over … I’m almost EXCITED for exams to be here because I know I am finally free.
All I have left to finish is one major assignment, two final module quizzes, present my group research project and finish watching lectures.