Challenge #02554-F364: Learning to See

in #fictionlast year


Just as there are xenophobes amongst the various races outside the Galactic Alliance, so, too, are there within. Even amongst races that are, normally, allies. They and their family, and many within their community, were such xenophobes. They chanted Earth First during the protests they ran to show their displeasure of alien races being allowed to visit their world. Some of the more radicalized ones even committed crimes to try to "prove their point". This group, however in the minority they were, were hateful, loud, obnoxious, and at times, dangerous. And no matter how people tried to explain what a boon for Earth joining the Galactic Alliance has been, there was no convincing them.
Then several of the xenophobes were being exiled to the lunar penal colony. They expected, due to the rhetoric and spite they'd heard throughout their entire childhoods, to be brutally treated and tortured by the aliens that made up some of the security staff, and subjected to hardship. However, the therapists intended to use this as a teaching moment, and try, once more, to help these young men and women that what they'd been taught of the alliance between humans and the G.A. was not accurate at all. -- DaniAndShali

Terra for the Terrans had finally been classified as a terrorist group. Bombing a spaceport will do that to a group. Even sending fake bombs to a spaceport will do that. So will loudly announcing on social media that you plan to spread diseases to any hospital that accepts alien life into its halls. As a clear and present danger to society, these aggressively xenophobic isolationists were calmly collected and sent to a therapy centre for re-education.

Tam knew what to expect. Everything she had been taught said that these outsiders were a million times worse than anything she and her family did to defend it. Therefore she expected them to plunge her into a tank of bugs that would eat their way into her brain and then eat her brain, replacing it with something the aliens could use to turn her into a shambling shell of humanity. It would be excruciating.

They recorded her. Their mistake. She stated her name, rank, membership number and that she will never consent to any surgical procedure done by a god-damned dirty alien. Whether or not that record would ever see the light of day didn't really matter. She and the people witnessing it knew that she'd said it. There were witnesses. They couldn't kill everyone who saw and heard things.

She expected grime. She expected horrible conditions in which she had to pay for the air she breathed. She expected stench. She did not expect a luxurious suite four times the dimensions of the trailer in which she and her family lived. Tastefully appointed like an interior decoration magazine spread. Everything soft. Everything non-harmful. She could even pick her preferred environmental settings. Heat, humidity, music or other entertainment. Tam knew it was a trick, and didn't touch anything. She knew they had needles in the toilet seat and the bugs were in the soft furnishings. Therefore she did all she could to avoid them.

Tam crouched on a stool rather than sitting on the provided toilet. She slept on the floor and refused to change her clothes until even she objected to the smell. She knew all the tricks. Microwave alien-made clothing with a small container of water to destroy any pathogens. They had given her a microwave, and a cook-top, and an oven to cook her own food with, and Tam used that weakness to her advantage. They wouldn't be able to drug her and she was glad of that. So drinking microwaved water was nasty, but they couldn't put anything into food that wouldn't wash away or boil off with cooking.

She didn't expect them to be friendly.

The therapist arrived in what looked like a glass livesuit. It was about the size of a well-built human male, but the colourful material showed that it was piloted by a small fuzzy thing the rough mass of a scottish terrier[1]. The servos and workings of it were clearly visible, and Tam had to wonder, "Why blue?"

If the alien had said, "I like blue," then Tam would have had a reason to hate the colour for the rest of her life. The creature didn't say that. It said, "Surveys amongst inmates shows blue to be a colour associated with both cleanliness and friendliness." This told Tam exactly nothing about its personal preferences or what aliens in mass liked or disliked.

"My name is Brikiefec," said the thing. "I am here to help."

"Horseshit," was Tam's instant response.

"What proof have you that I am lying?"

Tam ranted. The thing appeared to be listening. Tam found it easier to look it in its fake head than its actual beady little eyes. Any technique to keep true to herself was a good one. She told them everything she knew about filthy alien tactics and cheating at invading the earth. They had been trying this since pre-history, and they'd failed then. They were certainly failing now! Stealing all the jobs and the women and taking over everywhere, and mooching off the government that has a hard time controlling anything...

She talked until her mouth hurt from moving, but the alien still refused to act out against her. Why would they? They already had her locked up in a secure facility on the far side of the moon. She might as well be an alien, here, since she was so far removed from the real world.

"That is an interesting point, Miss Tam," said the alien. "Since you have gone off Earth, are you now an alien?"

"What? No! Of course not! I was born on pure Terran soil outta two Terran parents. I'm dyed-in-the-blood Terran!"

"Yet you also stated that..." the blue suit dialled up a screen with words on it. Tam's words. "Ah. Yes. You have stated that reptilian aliens have been replacing humans and interbreeding with them to -ah- dilute the true blood and make Terrans weak."

"Yeah? So?"

"How can you tell that your genetic line is actually pure?"

"My parents have been tested before I was conceived," said Tam. "There's certain things Humans can do that you aliens can't even begin to understand."

"Oh. I would very much like to take this test," said the thing. "To make certain it is fair."

The test was, Tam would learn later, a test for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some questions had been re-worded, but the results were the same. Those with social learning disabilities were apparently aliens or the descendants of aliens. Terra for Terrans only tested the parents and registered the line as pure after that. They didn't test members that were already in the system. Those like Tam who had been certified pure by the organisation.

It was a crushing blow to her identity when the test revealed that she was somehow fifteen percent alien. She spent weeks in a funk, not paying much attention to anything. How? How was it possible? Her parents had taken every precaution, including isolating themselves in a special bunker from conception to birth. They'd only ever been seen by pure members of Terra for Terrans. She was pure, she had to be pure...

She snapped out of it when she realised that they had been feeding her bland oatmeal. "What the heck is this?"

"Pure food," answered the alien. Brikiefec. "You want things to be pure. This is pure oats, cooked in pure water. Nothing else. You have been drinking pure water. We can also be sure you receive purified carrots, if that is what you desire."

"This is disgusting, haven't you heard of flavour?"

"Flavour is an impurity," said the alien. "You do not want anything to be impure."

The argument went around and around like that until Tam wanted to pull her hair out in frustration. Variety is the spice of life, but variety was impure. She wanted purity, she got purity. Only the purest of foods were allowed. Only pure clothes, too. Untouched by bleach or die.

Tam eventually threw a tantrum, screaming that purity was a bad thing. As always, Brikiefec supplied the calm counter-argument, "Even in yourself?"

It was the beginnings of a breakthrough. Through months of careful conversation, games, and simple social interactions, Tam eventually learned that everything she had been taught from birth was wrong. It was a hard lesson to learn, and only ever hurt on the inside.

[1] The estimated bottom mass limit for cogniscent life. The upper limit is guessed to be about Bear.

[Special thanks to Bridget for the Ko-Fi]

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / helenfield]

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Hail and well met :D

Because I'm not Tam I would be really, really struggling to not cuddle the absolute crap out of a fuzzy littleblue alien about the mass of a scottish terrier with beady eyes.

Teaching those who had learned nothing but hate their entire lives that hate is wrong is very difficult. Getting a bigot out of their own head and to see the ones they hate as not being the monsters they think the people are, takes a long, long time.