An Old Debt [Short Sci-Fi Story]

Calaxander marched through the halls of his ship with ease as men and women split to give him space like the sea splitting before Moses. Much of the crew was beyond his control but even the most disrespectful of subordinates did not dare stop a captain on his own ship.

After a few minutes of walking, he finally reached the bridge where the mutiny was taking place. The captain did not slow down or change his trajectory in the slightest even as his crew shouted and cried insults aimed at him, humanity, and the grey goo which they had been commanded to attack.

The man ordered the ship to raise the floor around him and soon he stood above the mass of men and women. He gave a silent command and soon his face and voice boomed through the entire ship in speakers and screens.

“What I am about to say is not meant to stop you from returning home, as far as I am concerned you may do whatever you wish; but I wish to tell you about what humanity has done and how it has shaped you all”. The crowd gazed upon him harder.

“I will start, as is right, with my people, the Desis. When humankind found us we were dying, chocking as the atmosphere of our planet thickened with pollution, we bled in senseless wars as the tyrants that ruled over us competed over scraps. When the humans entered our planet they came not as conquerors but as liberators. They gave us food and water, they cleaned our air and taught us concepts which we now take for granted: liberty, democracy, kinship.

Humanity saved our home and we, grateful and subservient, offered all we had in return of these gifts. We asked, no, begged, to become a part of their nation. Their response? No. Their reasoning? ‘To annex a species immediately after saving it would be preying on the weak’”. A quiet whisper could be heard among the crew.

“Humanity expanded and discovered other planet-bound species which, with the exception of the Dalari who had turned their planet uninhabitable, were all given aid but not annexed. Instead, their borders were closed so that human companies would not flood the local markets; then they declared all systems within 10 hyperjumps of an inhabited planet to be the property of the species of that planet.

Many of you, from the Desis to the Garlashs, owe your lives to humanity’s aid. Aid not fuelled by imperialism but by the simple wish to help others”. A low murmuring started.

“Two centuries after humankind saved my people they found the Imperium and, like many of you, were disgusted by its ideas. The humans could have stood silently as they watched other species being enslaved and exterminated, they could also have simply turned elsewhere for expansion and let us, the uplifted, deal with protecting ourselves. Doing any of these options would have already made them beacons of justice when compared to most other nations in the galaxy. But did they do this? No.

Humanity declared war on the imperium. They broke the chains that bound your ancestors at the cost of their own blood and instigated a revolution which created the base of our nations. From the Uriartir who decapitated their prince while chanting the French anthem to the Mercicans who stormed the imperial capital screaming ‘Viva la revolución!’. Almost all of you owe humanity for the fact that you can sleep easy knowing you are an equal to every other species”. The murmuring grew.

“Desina Prime, Cararck, Dianly, Mesotopamia, Oratio-1, all homeworlds which humanity left to their rightful owners without asking for a single credit in return. Their only request being that of democracy to the newly liberated people.

They did not ask for you to become servants or even allies. Humanity fought, died, and killed in the name of your liberty. Do you wish to show how many of your people died for others, then show! I will show you how many of them died to liberate you, a number which I am certain outdoes yours by a factor of ten!

And now, they have asked for your help. Humankind faces an enemy which does not rest or stop, an enemy which, as I speak, approaches Terra with the intent of destroying it. They ask us to stand with them as they fight this monstrosity so that they may evacuate, like how they have fought when we needed to evacuate our worlds under the threat of the empire“. Shouting could be heard throughout the ship.

“But it seems that you all wish to go with the civilian ships, well, then go!”. The shout of the captain silenced the entire ship.

“Go back to your families and friends and tell them that when the humankind, guardians of the Bornians, Garlashs, Crimsonians, Desis, Dalari and all other uplifted; the people that shielded you from the Red Swarm, the Roamers, and The Nanophage; destroyers of the Imperium of Carzi and liberators of all its enslaved species; founders of the galactic peace council and the biggest investors in foreign aid in known history!

You go and tell them that when humanity called you abandoned them under the protection of a single captain and the small fleet they could muster because you were too scared to stand and fight! Perhaps this report of yours will seem glorious in the eyes of your loved ones and worthy in the eyes of your ancestors.


The crew exploded in shouts and chants, men rushed back to their stations and soon the bridge was in full operation as people desperately tried to make up for the lost time.

The captain hid his smirk as he heard his staff singing old human battle chants from the old revolutions.

He called upon the scanners and soon the entire bridge could see the giant grey ships of what the humans named “grey goo” moving towards Terra.

His second-in-command approached. “Hell of a speech, what now, sir?”.

The captain chuckled. “Now we repay an old debt”.


Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/Mercury_the_dealer. Image created using Stable Diffusion.

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