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Still, Like Dust

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From ‘Modern History – A Student’s Guide’

Grade 10, Level A – Advanced

issued 09/01/2245 Standard Time, to J.T. Kirk, Riverside High

Chapter 4: Human-Alien Relations

… a prime example of human resourcefulness is the case of 40 Eridani A’s second planet, commonly called Vulcan.

In 2189, a broadband distress call reached the USS Salieri, which was patrolling the system at the time. After deciphering the message, a remarkable feat given that their Universal Translator was a mere prototype, the crew reported back to Central Command on Earth. When President Atout learned that Vulcan was threatened by a planetwide drought, he sent out a fleet of ships to aid the destitute aliens. It soon became clear that large parts of Vulcan were no longer inhabitable. The only way to save the indigenous population of these areas was to collect them and take them back to a safe haven on Earth. While relocated against their will, the Vulcans soon thrived under human tutelage and supervision.

A side note by the author: Any student of modern history will be aware that there have been voices clamoring for the Vulcans’ emancipation ever since they arrived on Earth. It is our human instinct to strive for universal freedom, yet we should be careful in judging a non-human species by our own standards. Studies have proven that the Vulcan mind, while capable of complex calculation and memorization, is rigid and inflexible compared to the human intellect. Much like a highly advanced computer or, indeed, a very clever animal, a Vulcan will never truly achieve sentience. Hence their immovable subordination to an ideology of logic, which is nothing but a very complicated set of rules to govern every conceivable situation. Vulcans cannot function without an external code of behavior, liberating them from the arduous task of making autonomous decisions – and who better to provide these rules than a more advanced and morally aware species? It is, in fact, our responsibility not to abandon these aliens to their fate, or, as certain groups postulate, return them to a homeworld where they would surely perish without our patronage.

Class Discussion : Analyze a scenario in which the Atout administration offered no aid to the Vulcans. What possible outcomes can be expected?

Essay Assignment : How did the rescued Vulcans benefit from human guidance? Your essay should be 1000-1200 words long, using a variety of sources to make your argument compelling.

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“What do I have to do to get through to you?”

Jim was leaning against the doorframe, hands in his pockets. He had no intention of answering the question; not, he knew, that his uncle expected an answer.

Frank sighed heavily. “You want them to expel you? Is that what you want?”

Yes, would have been an honest reply, but Jim kept silent. Frank was the grandmaster of rhetorical questions, and he didn’t respond well if Jim ‘got sassy’ with him.

“This is the third time you’ve skipped homeroom this week. What the fuck is so important that you can’t show your face at school?”

“What do they care? I do the assignments, I get the grades. Top five percent. Why do I have to be there every fucking day?”

“Because I say so!” Frank shouted. There were red patches on his neck, a sure sign that it was better to stay out of arm’s reach. “I’m sick of getting calls every week because my fucking nephew can’t get his shit together. I’ve got better things to do than talking to your teachers every other day!”

“What things?” Jim said before he could think. Frank got up from his chair, and although Jim ducked, he couldn’t quite escape the blow aimed at his face. His cheek stung.

“Watch your mouth, you little shit. You’re living in my house, eating my food, and you’ll do what I say. Now get the fuck out of here, and if you’re not at school tomorrow, I’ll whoop your ass!”

Jim left, biting down hard on his lip. He was fourteen years old, and he wasn’t going to cry because of stupid-ass Frank. As he went up the stairs, he heard the door of the stasis unit open and close. There would be a can of lager now, he knew, and then another, and then a shot of whiskey or three. At least when he was drunk, Frank no longer cared if Jim’s teachers whined about him not being at school.

Jim heard the faint hiss as the can was opened, and then his uncle’s voice drifted up the stairs. “And clean the goddamn bathroom like I told you! This place looks a mess.”

This was true. There were only two of them living here since Sam had left, and if Jim didn’t pick up a dust rag now and then, no one did. Frank was too busy maintaining the harvesting computers (and getting drunk), and Mom hadn’t been back for two and a half years now. If Frank was to be believed, she wouldn’t be back at all. “Which means I’m stuck with my idiot nephew for good. Just my luck.”

Jim went to his room to get his padd, stuffing it into the pocket of his jeans before he slipped the plugs into his ears. The Beast in the Street blasted full volume from the tiny speakers, loud enough to drown out everything else. He’d played it on his music player until Frank had smashed the old thing against the wall in a fit of rage. The padd’s sound wasn’t as good, but it had the added benefit of deafening him against his uncle’s voice.

Pushing aside his school padds, Jim sat down on his bed. If he went to school tomorrow, he’d better finish that stupid history essay Mr. Boyle had assigned them. He knew it was going to take him all of ten minutes, cobbling together the boring bullshit that was every damn history essay he’d ever written. Something about Vulcans for a change, Mr. Boyle’s favorite topic. Andy had drawn a cartoon of the man once – Boyle with pointy ears, slanted eyebrows and a speech bubble saying ‘Homework is logical’. Boyle had actually spit with anger when he’d seen it.

Jim dug through his bag until he came across a crumpled carton, which he’d hidden deep down under his school shit. He shook out one of the smokes, inserted it between his lips and lit the lighter. If Frank was drunk, he wasn’t going to smell anything. And he needed something to calm himself down before he started on Boyle’s essay. If he didn’t, he’d hand in another ‘childishly provocative’ paper, something about guerilla Vulcans with Che Guevara bandanas laying low in Iowa’s cornfields and waiting for the right moment to start a revolution. Then Boyle would call Frank. And Frank would whoop his ass. This, Jim didn’t doubt.

The Beast screamed into his ears, and the smoke filled his head and calmed his nerves, as he’d known it would. There had been times when he hadn’t slept for two nights in a row, feeling too tense, too wired to do so. Smoking had changed that. Now he could sleep if he wanted to. There were times when he didn’t.

‘I don’t give a shit if you don’t get it/ listen and I won’t tell you a fucking thing,’ The Beast roared and Jim felt himself gradually relax. Maybe he’d even clean the bathroom later. It could still be a good day.