The Slow Fall of the Boulder

The sun never sets on Sisyphus because its orbit is highly erratic. That’s why the Kryzlakians call it Budat, the Sky Demon. So far from home, though, even a sky demon is good company. Truth be told, I’m not sure why I took the job. But, when planet calls you to duty, you don’t ignore the call.
I stared out through the argon vapor at the horizon and caught a glimpse of Kryzlak. Right now, they’d be asleep, waiting for the sun to set for them.
“Whatcha thinkin’?”
I blinked to clear the memory of The Run from my mind, and focused on Darcy. “Just that I’m not sure how this is going to go.”
“What? The delegation?”
He put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze. “Look, the Runs stopped two centuries ago, and we’ve made great strides in relations since then. Plus, I bet they wouldn’t have elected Ret-Abel if he wasn’t a great negotiator.”
I patted his hand before checking the server for any updated messages. My hand hovered over the icon sent from Earth, the last transmission. The one I’d ever receive.
I packed up my travel case, kissed Darcy on my way out, and aimed the Lockheed toward Kryzlak.
The surface of the planet was covered in an intricate patchwork of farms and cities. Fields punctuated by light. For a nocturnal race, they were unconventionally gregarious and capriciously agricultural. They were also out of a storybook nightmare. Twilight followed me to the landing pad, and chased me into the Hall of Records. I felt the chill that came with it and tried to leave the screams and death of my brothers and sisters at the ornate doors. The Run may have been two centuries ago, but there are some Kryzlakian secrets that have been kept well-guarded.
The diplomats were seated in concentric arcs, a few hovering, and some misting and phasing in and out. I had always been fascinated by the Borralaxians and their shimmering exohulls. Their language was a song, and they exuded calmness. I had hoped to get a seat near it, but I was forced next to the Squabish, the foul-smelling, foul-mannered offspring of Quantex 10.
“Let the delegation begin,” announced Ret-Abel. “Today is the 4th of Delphin, Kryzlak, and I am Ret-Abel, delegate of Kryzlak. On the agenda today is the adoption of a new Intergalactic Treaty. If you please, sign in to your pads, and let’s begin our deliberations.”
We were separated into our subcommittees for the first three hours of the evening, so I found my way to the Hyperspace and Zone Traffic committee, then to the Etymological and Scholastic Development Association. Ret-Abel’s gaze was following me. His eyes burned into the back of my neck, and it wasn’t long before the members of my delegation groups stopped talking to me all together.
After a quick recess, we reconvened.
“Please turn your attention to the Treaty on your screens,” began Ret-Abel. “One Treaty has already been ratified, please place your votes for maintaining the old Treaty.”
The giant board recorded two votes, one from a Praxian and another from a Telestrian.
“All in favor of amending the current Treaty, please mark now.”
There were a dozen votes up. I was waiting for the UN’s Outer Space Treaty to appear.
“All in favor of abandoning the current Treaty in favor of the new Intergalactic Assurances and Methodologies Treaty, please mark now.”
“What?” I said out loud, and a few members turned to face me. I turned my focus back to the screen. In the lower left-hand corner was a link to the new treaty. A link that had not been present on my screen until now. I looked over to the Squabish and asked how long it had been there. He responded that we got it in our mailboxes three weeks ago.
I stood up and shouted down to Ret-Abel. “When did you decide to abandon the UN OST?”
All eyes, and other sensory organs, turned to me. My voice echoed back to me.
“Why, Ret-Abel, have I not received this resolution?”
He faced me from the podium, and flexed his shoulders. His pale face and shadowed eyes betrayed his anger, though his smile remained. “Human?”
“Yes,” I mustered.
“Hm,” he responded.
“How long have humans been in space?”
“Where are you going with this?”
“About, 1000 years?”
I paused. “Yes.”
“How long has the human race been travelling to other planets?”
“Since, I don’t know, the 2300s. Bonnie Glasick. Get to your point, Kryzlakian!”
“We’ve, all you see here,” he motioned around him, then, speeding up his speech, “all of us have been travelling for millennia, generations of generations, and you… you! have come here expecting to upend thousands of years of negotiations? What is the UN if not a decrepit and desultory collection of antiquity? No, you do not have the legs upon which to stand. You have no compunction.”
“Humans have been in the delegation since 2520!”
“And that was a mistake!” He hit the podium with his open palm.
I took a deep breath, clenched my jaw, and seethed, “You murdered thousands of humans in your sick games.”
“200 years ago,” he added.
“No, Ret-Abel, just last year. Last cargo shipment, last run of miners and mechanics, and you murdered them!”
There was a chorus of whispers.
“And you murdered an entire thriving ecosystem. I’d say turnabout is fair play.”
“That doesn’t compare to the death of a species,” I screamed before I realized what I was saying. The Hall fell silent, and my face burned hot.
Ret-Abel cleared his throat. “Well, that’s hardly our fault, isn’t it.” He inhaled sharply, allowing his two perfectly white fangs to flash in the incandescent light, before continuing. “You will not find a home here, Mr Reese. You will not find a home in the moons and planets you have destroyed. You cannot go back to Earth, and all I have to say is that we will not allow you, however few, to influence this congregation of sentient life. We will not permit you to destroy our planets as you did your own.”
My knees buckled, and I slumped into my chair. How Ret-Abel found out about the UN’s dismantling, I’ll never know. How he found out about the Moon’s slow hellfire rain on the Earth below, I’ll never know. How he found out about humanity’s annihilation will stay with him.
He was right. We weren’t able to keep ourselves from destruction.
I filled my lungs with the air in the delegation hall and pressed the choice to abolish the consideration of ratification.
There might be a human or two left in Andromeda, but it would take me three lifetimes to get there. I looked up to Sisyphus, and said a quick prayer that Darcy would understand if I didn’t come back.
-JR Simmang


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