I will never forget the day of First Contact. None of my people will. It was the day of our subjugation.
They called themselves “Klingons”: brutal, cruel invaders from another world. We never even knew of other life in the heavens, for who needs to look upward when you have the deep tunnels and hills of our own world? And then one day, twenty years ago, they arrived. We were amazed at first as their dark, long-necked vessels sank through our clouds and floated above our city-mounds, their soldiers appearing across our hives as if by magic. Despite their strange bodies and oddly-shaped mouths, they somehow spoke our language, could duplicate the clicks and snaps of our words through the technology they wore. At first they assured us we would be part of something greater, and that they would make us greater in turn. We were curious, and we had no reason to doubt these visitors from another star. Their vessels looked much like we do, and some took that as an act of holy providence. With little deliberation or debate, we welcomed them with open arms.
But within weeks we learned that duplicity was the Klingon way. The greater ambition of the Klingons was war, endless battle, and we were to become just another cog in their military machine. Our world was rich with an element they called dilithium which powered their ships. Our people were hard-working and strong, well-accustomed to being underground, and made the perfect slaves to build their weapons, to mine their ore. The Klingons took our Queens, locked them away, and let our world grow fallow as we suffered under their yoke. They called us beasts, they called us bugs, they called us many terrible things…
And then, one day ten years ago, they arrived. At first we heard the loud booms, the high-pitched whine of energy piercing the skies above. When our captors ran Topside, weapons in hand, we didn’t know what to think; we had been starved and beaten and brutalized so much, we almost forgot how to think. And yet, as we began to realize our taskmasters weren’t returning, we gathered our wits and began to climb above, trying to understand what new terror was befalling our world.
I will never forget that night. I will never forget standing on the top of my city-mound, looking to the heavens, and watching the stars move across our sky – some flashing and going out, others getting smaller and smaller as they sped away from our world. Many of my people ran back below, afraid of what was to come, but not me: my world was ravaged, my Queen was gone, my people were ruined, what was there to be afraid of anymore? As the cacophony of battle began to subside and the night sky gave way to dawn, one of the stars slowly began to descend, drifting closer and closer, and before long that star took the shape of a vessel. Not dark and cruel like that of the Klingons, but bright and curved, with long-stemmed wings raised upon its back. It hovered above, and as previously strange figures appeared before us. As before, they spoke our language.
“I am Captain Thomas Abel, of the United Federation of Planets,” said one. I assumed he was their leader: despite not being as young or physically imposing as his companions, he wore a gold garment and spoke with an authority that the others seemed to respect. “The Klingons have been driven from your world, and your Queens have been freed from their prisons, soon to return. Your long nightmare is over.”
There were mutterings of confusion from those that had remained Topside, a slow dawning that things were about to change, but for me all I could feel was anger, slowly pouring out of me after being bottled within for so long. “Over??” I yelled. “We are destroyed! Our lands and people are diminished to nothing! We will fade away, is that what you mean by “over”?!”
I charged at this Captain Abel, my intent to loose this rage in my chest upon yet another invader who wanted to transpose himself as our new captor. I couldn’t let this happen again, I just couldn’t...
The guards that stood beside him, donned in red uniforms, pulled out weapons from their hips, ready to end me. And I hoped they would. Please, end this pain and truly extinguish this nightmare.
Without a word, Abel put up a hand and directed them back. He saw me coming, and he let me come.
My anger could only propel me so far. I was weak, starving, tired… I stumbled a few feet before him and fell to the ground in a tangled heap of legs and antennae. I waited, hopping they would just kill me and then all this could be over, and began to sob.
Abel kneeled before me, and showed me something I hadn’t expected: he reached out his odd, alien hand, and offered it to me. Through my tears, I looked into his strange eyes – I had often seen hardness in the eyes of my captors, formed by years of battle and challenges, and in some ways this Abel shared that hardness. But behind the small, soft eyes, so unlike my own, was a compassion and a kindness I had not seen before. He knew battle, and he knew how terrible it was. I could see: he fought because he had to, because if he didn’t then people like my own would only know suffering at the hands of others.
His strange, fleshy hand with its odd little digits awaited mine, patiently. I reached up and after a moment of consideration took it, and he helped me to my legs. Another alien in blue garments came to his side and tended to my wounds, then began to check the welfare of the others. Abel moved his mouth in an odd way, one that I could not recognize, but later learned it is what humans call a “smile”.
I saw many smiles after that day. Our Queens were indeed returned to us, and with the help of the Federation Abel was good to his word: we rebuilt, we repopulated, we renewed. The nightmare was indeed over. As the years passed, as we came back from the brink, my friendship with Abel grew, and he introduced me and my people to a whole new reality: many worlds, all linked together through a common philosophy of acceptance and unity. Over time, my world joined that unity and became a part of the Federation. And I followed my friend’s path to become the first of my people to join Starfleet.
My friend was lost in combat with the Klingons, during the battle for Caleb IV, but his ship was never found, no trace of him, his ship or his crew left. While others fear the worst, I hold out hope that somewhere in the vastness of space he still lives, and promise to follow the example he set before me.
I will never forget the day of Second Contact. None of my people will. It was the day of our liberation.