The Sneeze Heard Round the Universe
Daniel R. Jones
It’s hard to call any position in the Intergalactic Starforce a “cushy job,” but if there was an easier role, Colonel Scyruh couldn’t imagine it. 16 years of grunt work had finally earned him his seat at the head of the table, surrounded by Commanding Officers of inferior rank. All he had to do was delegate and make decisions accordingly. He tried to maintain an aura of professionalism, but he secretly reveled in the fact that 5,000 soldiers now waited on his beck and call.
“Status report!” the Colonel barked out, in a tone that managed to sound warm while simultaneously commanding respect.
“Yes sir,” Lieutenant Colonel Zolrhu answered, without missing a beat. “I’ve been commissioned to investigate a potentially habitable planet orbiting a yellow dwarf star. Its proximity to its sun is approximately 93 million miles. It is the only planet in its solar system that is analogous to our own. As has been discussed, the planet is lush with flora and fauna, including one sentient lifeform that refer to themselves as humans.”
“That’s already on-record.” Col. Scyruh answered, impatiently. “What of your latest diplomatic meeting?”
“The planet put forth a committee of roughly 200 diplomats, which they refer to as the ‘United Nations.’ We sent Envoy Jakori in accordance with our ‘One planet, one ambassador’ regulation.”
“And was Envoy Jakori’s report favorable?”
“Yes and no, sir.” Lt. Col. Zolrhu was visibly uncomfortable. “His report stated that the conversation insinuated that the human race was committed to peaceful negotiations, but the events that followed proved otherwise. In his preliminary report, he made mention of a small gesture that occurred toward the end of his proceedings. It seems that one of the members of the United Nations released airborne pathogens from an orifice protruding from her face. A couple days after their meeting, Envoy Jakori died.”
“Are we sure this was an act of aggression?” Col. Scyruh asked. “Surely, it could have been involuntary?”
“With all due respect, sir, it’s just not possible,” Lt. Col Zolrhu explained. “Envoy Jakori thought similar, as the expulsion of pathogens looked to be spasmodic in nature, and no member of the UN made mention of it. However, after reviewing the histories of this planet, we’ve discovered that nearly an entire race was eradicated by similar means. As the story goes, a race of men decided they wanted to create a ‘New World,’ and utilized their ability to expel pathogens from a pointed orifice that protrudes from the human face, commonly referred to as a ‘nose’ by men. The communicable diseases spread, killing about 90% of the indigenous people.”
Col. Scyruh paused, weighing the gravity of the situation.
“And the natives did not have this same ability?” he finally replied.
“It would appear not, sir.”
“And it took- what, two days to turn ill and die? What is your recommended course of action?”
“Seeing as the race of humans took this act of aggression, sir,” Lt. Col Zolrhu began, enunciating his words quickly with a calculated precision, “And because they attempted to subvert their intentions by masking their plans behind the facade of peace-talks, it seems wisest to me that we treat this development as an act of war.”
Col. Scyruh stopped again to consider. All eyes were fixed upon him as each member of the conference waited on his response with baited-breath. It was moments like this that he lived for. He allowed the tension to mount and become palpable before responding.
“No,” Scyruh said, at last. “A declaration of war requires approval by our legislature. The fact that politicians- a group of civilians with no military background- can meddle in our affairs is one of the few drawbacks of our planet’s constitution. Fortunately, that same constitution includes some loopholes.”
“If a species is in a state of medical emergency, we must take into consideration what the consequences might be on the overall biosphere. If these people are indeed contagious, it behooves us as a race to protect their ecosystem at all costs. And elimination of biohazards does not require congressional approval.”
There were murmurs of agreement as the Lieutenant Colonel stood in awe of his commanding officer. Col. Scyruh paused for effect, and to bask in the attention for a moment longer.
“Now that your reconnaissance mission is over, I don’t want to hear the word ‘war’ leave your mouth again. In your written report, you’re to refer to the species’ as a feeble, infectious type who should be put out of their misery. Rather than spread transmittable disease to the other life-forms on the planet, you thought it more humane to eradicate the species through mercy killing. Permit the other lifeforms on the planet to survive. As for the humans: euthanize and sanitize, Lieutenant.”
“Aye, sir.” Zolrhu responded. “It will be done today.”