The Value of Friendship – A Short Sci-Fi Story

Humanity defied categorization. They were frail until they weren’t. Weak until they decided not to be. Prey that mingled with the predators of their world and predators who championed the cause of those who would be their prey off-world.

All other ‘enlightened’ species would seek out unenlightened races and uplift them if they saw the potential for them to become powerful allies and supports in the future. Raising up a species was tedious, expensive, and never a short term benefit, so these choices were made after intense debate and consideration. but humanity seemed determined to buck every trend they came across, including this one. They looked at the races that had been overlooked and passed by and actively pursued those who had been determined to be too much work for too little value.

While their counterparts handed out technology and signed treaties to make sure the uplifted species developed in a direction that would directly benefit them down the line, humanity threw themselves into the task far more deeply, intermingling with the races and leading them by the hand through these various stages of accelerated development. They took note of the strengths and desired pursuits of their new charges and helped them expand their understanding in those areas.

This and the number of races they chose to uplift at the same time, sometimes up to 4-5 at once would have caused the complete economic collapse of other races who considered themselves on equal footing with humanity. But humanity had long since taken to the stars and the population boom that had accompanied their debut on the galactic stage showed no signs of stopping. Through the sheer number of taxpayers and their ability to seemingly adapt to just about anything given enough time making them borderline invaluable, it would actually be impressive if they managed to deal a significant financial blow. This was a far cry from even just several centuries ago when corruption and greed almost destroyed them several times over.

All this being the case, humanity had few true allies in the galaxy. Sure they had peace treaties and agreements allowing humans to travel and work among the various races, but they were considered too eccentric, too unpredictable to be considered a steady ally in the eyes of their fellow races. They could be spurred to anger and violence at the slightest provocation and be overcome merely by the ‘cuteness’ of another race almost within the same breath. This made them a target for the warmongers of society initially, but they soon found out that humanity’s wrath was not merely for show and individual races faced crushing defeats at the hands of a furious humanity.

These defeats left sour tastes in the would-be conqueror’s mouths and as the decades passed, they reached out to one another, forming bonds through resentment and the desire for revenge and building up their armies once more to finally defeat the hated humanity. But they were still fearful that something might go awry so they waited for an opportunity, watching for the perfect moment when a fatal hole could be seen in humanity’s defenses. and eventually, their patience paid off.

A series of brutal attacks across several far-flung outposts had stirred the beast in humanity’s heart and the bulk of their fleets had been sent out to obliterate the offending force, leaving behind not an insignificant force, but spread out to safeguard the numerous planets under humanity’s control. It was this moment the warmongers had been waiting for, the moment they had spent years painstakingly sneaking more and more ships to the edges of humanity’s heart, the Sol System.

Like black tendrils, lines of ships poured into the solar system, streaking towards Earth and smashing through humanity’s defensive lines with sheer numbers until they all converged around the green and blue jewel. They had finally done it and they couldn’t wait to see the human ambassador begging them to not destroy them. who knew, maybe if he groveled enough they would leave a few hundred thousand people alive, after all, survivors would spread the message better than statistics and reports.

Just as they were about to hail Earth’s capital, a message rang out in every single ship surrounding the planet and their holoscreens flickered as the images changed to the face of the human ambassador, his expression angry but far less concerned than the invaders were comfortable with.

“I won’t embarrass either of us by suggesting you don’t know exactly what you are doing so I’ll keep it brief, we are willing to accept your unconditional surrender. You have until my next meeting, so about…” The human checked his watch. “…47 minutes and 19 seconds. After that, none of the ships in orbit over our planet will be left intact and we will accept no responsibility for the lives of any crewmembers aboard the vessels. Make the correct decision.”

The warmongers were startled by the clear and apparently easy hack of all of their systems but they tried to comfort themselves by saying that if it was an actual threat, the humans wouldn’t have simply sent a warning, they had to be bluffing. But it still gave them pause and they decided to wait until the deadline to see exactly what humanity had in store, using that time to reinflate their egos and regain their shaken sense of superiority.

When the human appeared on their screens again, this time the leader of the warmongers didn’t let him speak first.

“We have you planet at our mercy, your fleets are on the other side of the galaxy, and the few allies you have cannot possibly make it here in time to be of any help. Give us your unconditional surrender and we might leave a fraction of your population alive.”

The human initially showed no interest in the alien’s words but looked up when he mentioned their lack of allies. He bared his teeth in that unsettling human smile and leaned back in his chair before responding. “Is that where this courage came from? Well I can’t call sneaking into our system when the bulk of our forces are away ‘courage’, but I’ll be kind and call it clever instead, though I use the word very loosely. It’s true that we don’t have many true allies, it’s mostly a network of partnerships and mutually beneficial relationships with no true comradery behind them. But if you did all of this thinking that we were alone, I’m afraid you are sorely mistaken. You see while we might not have many allies, we have made many friends, and I’ll leave it to you to decide which has more value. Do your worst, I have a meeting to get to.” And with that the screen went blank.

In a fit of rage at being belittled and insulted despite having the clear upper hand, the warmonger leader ordered all ships to open fire on Earth, a crazed look of anticipation in his eyes as he waited to see the smoking husk they would make out of humanity’s homeworld. Energy weapons powered up and fired, filling the skies around the Earth with blinding flashes of deadly light…

…but the imminent destruction never came.

The bolts of plasma struck a previously invisible barrier, the impacts rippling out like the surface of a lake during a heavy downpour, but none of the attacks managed to break through, seeming to simply dissipate after the initial strike, but the energy had to go somewhere, didn’t it?

That was when the warmongers noticed the shield was becoming increasingly vibrant, emitting a glow so bright that they could hardly see the planet’s surface clearly anymore. His heart dropping into his stomach, the leader desperately ordered a ceasefire, but it was too late. Earth’s barrier, which had absorbed all of the energy of the attacking fleet’s barrage, released it all back to them in the form of a blindingly bright wave that crashed against and shattered the countless vessels threatening her.

Smaller vessels were essentially obliterated by the wave, leaving naught but scrap in its wake as it barreled towards the mid-size cruisers, cracking and splintering their hulls as it passed through before reaching the flagship and dreadnoughts at the rear. To their credit none of the large vessels were destroyed, but their shields were immediately expended and the feedback of energy through their systems fried virtually everything, most importantly their engines and weapons. They were sitting ducks, waiting to be slaughtered. But by who? They had swept through Earth’s defense fleet on their way to the planet and there were no enemy vessels left to take advantage of their helplessness.

Grasping onto this tiny glimmer of hope, the leader and captains of the remaining operational ships ordered the engines to be repaired as quickly as possible, safety be damned. The only thing each and every one of them wanted was to get as far from these terrifying humans as possible. If they managed to scrape by with their lives this time around, they would never so much as darken the doorstep of a human colony ever again.

“Trying to leave? After all the effort you went through to get here? that seems like a bit of a waste, doesn’t it? You should see things through to the end, don’t you think?” The human ambassador’s voice taunted, ringing out across the surviving ships, their holoscreens were in no condition to display a visual but they could hear the smile in his voice. “A brilliant piece of technology, wasn’t it, the ability to turn the tide of a no-win situation in a flash of light. Honestly I wish we could claim credit for it, but it was a gift from a friend. You remember mentioning that we didn’t have many allies, and you seemed quite proud of yours, yes? Well the truth is you and everyone else were so busy looking for allies that you forgot to make friends. Not a single one of our ‘allies’ would have given away technology like this so selflessly, but a friend? Now that’s a special bond, it transcends treaties and agreements and pacts and all the legal and political bullshit.”

The sensors, which had only just barely been restored in the leader’s flagship, screamed out in warning as wormholes were ripped open all around Earth and several ragtag fleets of mostly mid-size cruisers and smaller fighters poured out, almost like a swarm of tiny piranhas before a group of great white sharks when compared to the dreadnoughts. But these sharks were toothless and the pirahnas smelled blood.

The fleets barreled through the debris field that used to be the warmonger’s fleets, their shields absorbing the impacts of smaller pieces of scrap and releasing blasts of energy to force larger ones out of their paths on their way to attack the disabled foes. The leader stood in front of the viewport of his ship in utter shock even as the floor beneath his feet was rocked by explosions and the small vessels took more and more bite-sized chunks out of his vessel. He recognized these insignias, these symbols emblazoned proudly on the sides of these otherwise unimpressive ships.

The unenlightened. The ones they left behind. The ones they saw no value in.

The ones no one had.

No one…except the humans.

The last words the leader heard before a final, massive explosion engulfed the bridge of his flagship and claimed his life were spoken with pride and disdain by the human ambassador.

“Friendship is worth its weight in palladium, and you couldn’t see its value. Shame on you.”

Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/IAmTheHypeTFS. Image created with the Nightcafe AI.

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