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Trial of the God Star

Ian Rose writes, gardens, and develops database-driven web applications in Portland, OR. His work has previously appeared in New Myths, Cast of Wonders, and several anthologies. He blogs at ianwrites.com and can be found on Twitter at @ianrosewrites.

Ship's record of the Assembly colonial warship Eraedia, timestamp 2-18-5-8023. Recovered after the Slaughter of Pramis, 8023-25. Begin transcript:
1. The Judge
In the name of the Galactic Assembly, I now open the case of Pramis Colony vs. Unidentified Entity. I will remind all attendants, media representatives, and court officials that however unusual this case may be, however foreign the defendant, this is still a society of laws and a court of order. I will have the former upheld and the latter maintained.
I also remind the attendants that a silent court, without noise or distraction, is the right of every defendant tried under Assembly law. Any outbursts like the ones we have seen in preliminary hearings will be dealt with immediately and harshly.
We have before us a case of attempted genocide, a charge that no court such as ours has ever heard before. We will hear strange things today, and it is up to our gathered Assembly to decide which are true, which are false, and which are ambiguous beyond our ability to interpret. Once the prosecution has spoken and the defendant has been able to speak in its own defense, we will make our decision by simple majority, with myself as judge stepping in only to maintain order and, if necessary, to cast a tie-breaking vote. With a gathering of such prominent and honorable attendants, I have no doubt that the correct decision will be reached, and that my vote will not be necessary.
Record becomes unintelligible for sixteen seconds, due to damage from gluon pulse weapon. Resume transcript.
2. The Prosecutor
Gentlemen, ladies, and otherwise gendered attendants of the Assembly, we are brought together today to complete an incredible act of heroism. Field Admiral Agath Meers, commander of this vessel, is a hero above all precedent in our history. Last year, during a peaceful scientific mission, Admiral Meers and her crew discovered the being you have come to know as the God Star.
That is the one and only time we will use this false name to describe the defendant. It is no god that awaits our judgment. The defendant is an animal, like you or I, capable of the same jealousy, wrath, and inhumanity as any of us in our darkest moments. The difference between us is simply scale. This defendant is not on trial for murder, or mass murder. By attacking the Pramis Colony's sun, the beast attempted no less than genocide, and if not for Admiral Meers and the crew of Eraedia, millions would have surely perished.
Millions of lives. That is the scope of your task today, to decide the punishment for attempting to destroy an entire world and its people.
The facts have already been delivered to your consoles. They have been agreed upon between the prosecution and defense, and filtered for any inaccuracy or bias of language. There is no argument over what this creature attempted to do. The only point of controversy is whether a crime such as this is punishable by our Assembly. Will you take on this responsibility, as Admiral Meers did? Will you make a stand, as she did, in defense of life and order? Or will you dishonor this ship and her soldiers, and refuse to finish what they started?
The choice is yours. In your place, I know which button I would push.
3. The Beast
The prosecutor is correct. Like you, I am a living entity, and as such, I require energy to survive. You take it in the form of solid and liquid food. I require vastly more. By absorbing the energy of a small star into my vessel, I can sustain myself for hundreds of your years. Without it, I slowly die.
I regret that I cannot speak to you in a more natural way. I realize that this electronic voice, echoing over a crude set of speakers, must sound cold and lifeless to your ears. Also unfortunate is your well-intentioned law that bans all incoming transmissions from a courtroom in session. You should be allowed to hear what I can, the signals screaming in from all around your little empire.
Your people are leaving their homes, walking out of their workplaces, and rioting in their streets. They carry signs and scream the words, "Free the God Star," for they have seen what I am and all I can do to improve your lives. I have lived longer than your species has existed, and I have learned truths of this universe that may take you centuries or more to discover. I can give you more than technology, more than knowledge. I offer you the wisdom of a long life spent traveling farther than your telescopes can see.
You call yourself a Galactic Assembly, but what are you really? A dozen star systems, linked by slow and dangerous voyages aboard an aging fleet. You approach light speed, but your scientists tell you that to pass it is impossible, and so no one in your society has ever seen all of its worlds. Allow me to bring your best minds aboard my vessel, and I will show them the secrets of transport at hundreds of times the speed of light.
This is my offer. Allow me to leave. Free me, and bring me to a star of your choice, so that I might replenish my strength. Do this, and I will--
A pause is noted in ship's records, lasting six seconds. No sign of damage to record. Resume transcript:
Look outside, little ones. You have waited too long, keeping me captive in this rusting cage. I retract my offer. Watch the stars through that window above your judge, who sits with such regal confidence over this farce. Watch, as the stars themselves dim and go out. My kind is coming, gathering more strength than they will need. Press your buttons. Make your judgments. And when my people arrive, we will show you the meaning of justice.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Author Comments

I've always been fascinated by the idea of first contact between wildly asymmetric species, one being almost godlike to the other. I thought one interesting take on this fairly well explored idea would be if the less advanced species somehow caught the more advanced one. What would they do with it? When you catch a god in a bottle, what's the next move? Then that idea intersected with one about a law-obsessed society, and this story was basically the result.

- Ian Rose
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