Command Decision

by Leo Spitz


When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were
born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and
they took to wife such of them as they chose. Gen 6.1-6.2

She appeared aloof and uncaring as she sat upon the chair of command, the
light Mists of Auricon, the vapors of mourning, drifting about her. Only
someone who knew her well would have marked the softness in her eyes, the
slight soft smile that turned up the edges of her thin lips as she gazed
down into her lap. 'Isn't he beautiful?' she murmured, her fangs completely
covered as she cooed to the infant nestled comfortably in her lap. Although
she was dressed in the light yellow of mourning, her sensory tentacles still
and covered by a large square of the soft and muffling cloth, she allowed
herself to feel, at least for this moment, a bit of contentment

Temenapa looked upon the idyllic scene doubtfully, her head tentacles
weaving uncertainly as she replied, "It is rather. pale isn't it, Matriarch?
And without sensors, how will it be able to know what anything is?"

Jojamina looked up, her face going strangely wistful as she peered at the
younger Scranatay, "He will soon be darker, the pigments in the skin are one
of the last alterations. This world would not be for him or our other
children, if we did not alter them." Taking the end of her dangling necklace
between her manipulating talons she twirled it slowly before the face of the
small pink infant. With a delighted burble he stretched his short, blunt
fingered hands toward it. "We have been over this Tema. The are no seas of
ammonia here, the methane levels are too low and there is no real chloride
in the air to speak of. The oxygen and hydrogen dioxide that is in the
atmosphere corrodes our metals and poison us even within our ship." With a
free manipulator she waved around the open chamber at the row upon row of
smoldering memory braziers, the slow burning remains of expired crew members
flavoring the air. "This world kills us even now. Within a few dozen
turnings of this planet around it's Primary we will all be dead." She looked
gently down upon the small, pink, squirming baby upon her lap. "If we did
not change their essence to suit this world, our children would all perish
with us."

The young scientist tried again, "And would that be so terrible? We are a
research vessel, not a nursery, not an egg ship, our primary duty is not to
the nest. besides. the young." Here she paused and looked at the soft,
talon-less, tentacle lacking, pink creature in the Matriarch's arms, "It isn't
as if our genetics will be passed on. Those creatures you've caused us to
make of our young aren't Scranatay. They are. whatever those furless little
tree climbers call themselves. Assuming they are even sentient enough to
have a name for themselves." She frowned thoughtfully, "No one has yet
proved they have any real sense of self. Sure, they bury their dead, in a
way. And they do seem to grieve for them. Somewhat. But they don't really
make anything besides twigs to stick in logs to get insects out of them!"

The Matriarch just sat quietly through the diatribe. This argument had been
long rehearsed. It would not conclude until the ship, and all that remained
aboard it, committed the final act and destructed into small splinters of
material to be absorbed by the planet. "Then our young will have an
advantage upon them and will thrive." She pointed out. "We may not be a
nursery ship, nor an egg ship, yet I would not have Aedeum die with us if
there is still a way where he may survive. The genetic manipulation is
necessary, you know this. Without it, the younglings will all die. The few
that we have are not enough to breed a new species, so we had to use the
template of the creatures that are nearest to self realization. Without the

Tentacles weaving in frustration, Temenapa stalked out, her manipulator
talons clicking together in agitation as her feet slapped harshly upon the
floor plating. She muttered to herself, loud enough so the Matriarch could
not fail to hear, "Not much of a life! They'll be lucky if they live more
then a hundred cycles of the planet!"

It was true, by manipulating the genetic code so much, the younglings would
grow fast, and live a very short span. But wasn't that better then having
them all die? The youngest of them would have died already, suffocating in
the salt laden water, unable to live without the amniotic fluid they
required to grow to hatching. She sighed softly as she looked down upon the
little face that regarded her with such trust. Yet, it seemed to her that
the infant knew something was amiss, that there was a trace of fear in it's
large, strangely colored eyes.

Unlike the Scranatay, the infants now had eyes with many colors in them.
White to the outside of the orb, a small black dot in the center of it, and
many colors circling the dot. Aedeum's circles were a primarily brown hue,
although traces of green, yellow, black, and even a tiny amount of blue
could be seen. The eyes were even not shaped right, being more round then
they should be. The strange bump in the middle of his little face added to
the alien quality of her own child. Without sensing tentacles, the children
needed external entrances to sensing organs for smell, hearing, and taste.
The skin could be used for touch, the eyes for sight (although there was
much the modified eyes would not see), the other senses they would just have
to manage without.

The young would be cared for, for a short time, by more lightly modified
near adult Scranatay. But all too soon they would have to make their way to
the natives of this place and integrate with them. The Scranatay hatchlings
would manage, she sighed once again as she sent a silent wish to the Nest
Mother that she was as certain of that as she pretended to be.


What we do know is that with the arrival of modern people in Europe, the way
of life began to change dramatically. Homo sapiens brought with them a new
kind of hunting technology. They invented dozens of different types of
tools. Glue and a bit of animal hide were used to bind this spearhead to a
wooden shaft. It was a deadly and effective hunting weapon. Their
innovations went beyond the practical concerns of daily life. The secluded
river valleys of southern France reveal a people moving beyond the dull,
survival-oriented world of their ancestors and celebrating their existence
in new and exciting ways.A creative revolution was in the making.

-"In Search of Human Origins Part Three"-NOVA PBS Airdate: June 17, 1997

Raven's Comments:

A neat story concept, and generally well-executed. You have some trouble with typos and punctuation, but it's fairly solid from a technical standpoint.

I enjoyed the integration of mythology, religion and science fiction you have going here -- the idea of Adam-as-alien isn't a new one, but you've done a good job with it here. I also appreciate the way you've given us glimpses of a larger, deeper culture among the Scranatay without actually spelling everything out. I'm a big believer in the "show, don't tell" rule, and you've done a fine job of following it here. Your characters are distinctive -- or as distinctive as they can be, given how short the story is -- and you do a good job of conveying their emotions. Describing the aliens' appearance is tricky when the story is written from their own perspective, but you pulled it off pretty well by contrasting with the appearance of the human child; my only criticism here is that the Scranatay should have thought the child's eyes were unnaturally small compared to their own.

The only reason the story doesn't rate higher on the Creativity scale is that there really isn't all that much happening here; this is more of a vignette than a full short story. There's not quite enough plot here to merit a higher score -- but for what it is, it's well done.

Spelling/Grammar: B
Technique: B-
Artistry: A-
Applicability: B

Final Score: 40.5 out of 50

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