Ground Team Report
By David K Scholes
“The ground teams are late,” said my Deputy Commander “the first of them should have been back by now. Shall we break communications silence sir?”
“Not yet,” I responded. “Give them another half planetary axis rotation. We’ve seen enough to know this is an unusual world.”
Waiting up here heavily cloaked and in high orbit was always difficult. Yet none of the ground teams had breached communication silence. Suggesting there had been no emergencies.
Two hundred individuals had gone down. For an intended duration of 60 planetary axis rotations. Spread across twelve megalopolises and several major regional areas.
We were not idle while we waited. Quietly, unobtrusively we monitored just about everything there was to monitor. Though long experience taught us that this passive observation had to be supplemented by what we learned from the ground teams.
When they came back up it was in dribs and drabs rather than the normal highly coordinated flow.
Off hand I couldn’t remember such tired, dispirited, bedraggled and befuddled looking ground teams in all my space faring experience. It rather looked as though this world had gotten the better of them. Though thankfully no one had been killed and there were no major injuries. Also it didn’t look as though we had been discovered.
I pored over the collective written report first. Some of it we knew from our passive observations. Though there were other things. Things we had not gleaned from our observations on high. I guess there’s nothing like actually being on the spot rather than remote observation.
I digested the full report and only then met with the ground team leaders and others for a verbal briefing.
The verbal briefing revealed passions not entirely evident in the more clinical written reports. As they sometimes do.
“I’ve never seen a race so self obsessed,” offered one team leader.
“Every one is trying to be more famous than their neighbour,” said another.
"They are obsessed with self images, taking them at every opportunity,” added another team leader
“There’s also an unhealthy obsession with vacuous celebrity,” added another.
The comments went on.
One team leader described just transiting down a popular thoroughfare in a major megalopolis. “Almost every individual was self obsessed listening to unusual sound emitting devices or watching/listening to audio-visual devices. They were just oblivious of what was going on around them. Minor collisions between transiters were not uncommon but would have been much worse but for some crude form of body radar worn by most transiters.”
I realised that the group was only getting started.
“My team witnessed several major incidents involving loss of life. Many aliens congregated in large numbers about the incidents not to help but just to ghoulishly observe.”
“The general non responsiveness to individuals in distress was very high,” offered another team leader “granted some would help but many appeared to derive pleasure from the misfortune of others.”
“The extent of gratuitous violence is beyond anything in our past experience.”
“When they give the appearance of caring it seems to be just for show.”
The ground team leaders continued relentlessly.
“As revolting as all these things are to any who live under the universal moral code are they not just idiosyncratic traits peculiar to this world,” I interjected. “We’ve surely seen worse?”
The group fell briefly silent.
“It’s getting worse,” someone piped up. “We used time camera analysis to view attitudes of decades ago. The self obsession, the gratuitous violence, the lack of caring, the ghoulish observation. It’s getting harder and harder to find any residual goodness.”
“I suppose the really important thing is how these unusual values, inconsistent with the universal moral code, impact on this civilization. Are they or will they impede its development?”
“So far they haven’t,” said our Chief Research Officer “yet psycho/socio/economic projections show that on the current decline in moral values it will start to impact. Quite soon. They could even fall below minimum tier 3 levels!”
“Well no one wants that. Least of all the locals.” I was thinking hard hoping the ground teams had done something they shouldn’t.
“I take it there was no interference in the affairs of this world?” I asked. .
Things went very quiet.
“For the most part we complied with the non intervention protocols,” the overall leader of the ground teams replied.
“For the most part?" I asked
“Well, just one small thing,” the overall leader continued”we left a copy of the universal moral code where it could be found, by one of the local dignitaries. Actually the Secretary General of their United Nations.”
For the formal record I feigned outrage at the breach of protocol. Yet inwardly I felt relief. This was the best thing we could have done for them in all the circumstances. Yet would they be able to make anything of this great moral compass we had left them?
“We have sowed the seed,” I said. “We’ll have to come back to see if it bears any fruit,”
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The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These site. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently working on a new science fiction novella.