Cera fumbled with her keys as she attempted to unlock her front door in the dead of night. She cursed herself for staying out so late with Lane on a beautifully clear evening, but the ice cream was delicious and the company did lift Cera’s spirit. Finally entering her home, Cera strolled to her room where she was greeted by the blinking reminder of her computer monitor that she still hadn’t submitted all her images to The Milky Spiral. A grin spread from ear to ear on her face as she clicked the “Upload All” button. Her heart fluttered with excitement, but the late hour held a stronger hold as she slipped off to sleep.
The smell of honeysuckle and the tickle of grass on Cera’s legs caused her to stir from her rest. Cera sat up in a field of periwinkle-washed vegetation. The sky above her held three moons of varying sizes. The breeze was soft and warm. Cera drank in her surroundings, never once feeling a ping of anxiety or fear. Instead, she felt at home in this bizarre landscape that was so different from Earth.
She leaned back to gain a better view of the moons, pushing back she felt the warmth of another being’s shoulders against her own. Unflinching, she relaxed into the warmth and she could feel the movement of each breath the stranger took. Together, they sat in silence as they appreciated the sky above them. Cera, feeling bold, began to turn towards the stranger when her alarm woke her from her dream realm.
She stretched herself awake as she slowly came out of her sleep fog. She rubbed her shoulder that still felt as though it was pressed against the stranger and she felt a strong sense of deja vu.
Far beyond the atmosphere of Earth, on the outer reaches of the spiraling arms of the Milky Way, Az'ob disengaged from his neuro-integration mechanism (N.I.M.). His shoulder still radiated from the warmth of that strange being’s back. He wasn’t sure how the stranger had entered his own mindscape or why he didn’t cast the creature out. He rolled his shoulder and shrugged the thought from his mind.
The steady hum of Az'ob’s chamber was ruined by the intrusion of his subordinate, Sa’Jud. “Moderator, I have news on your recent report submitted to the Grand Council. They have accepted your evidence and your suggestion to eliminate the hostile planet of Wuq’lin. If you have further evidence, they request that you submit it post-haste. Do you wish to respond?”
Az'ob considered all that he had witnessed while investigating the citizens of Wuq’lins minds. He felt a heaviness bearing down upon his shoulders as he signaled that he had no further information to share. The weight of committing genocide to protect the peace of the universe never eased upon his shoulders. With each new elimination of a threat, Az'ob felt the burden increase. Sa’Jud bowed to his leader, then made his way to the communicator to relay the final decision to the Peacekeeper squadron.
“The destruction of Wuq’lin will be broadcast across the station so that all may witness the effort of maintaining equilibrium in Quadrant Milky Way Alpha, QMW-A. May the praise of our people ease your troubled mind, Galactic Moderator Az'ob. It is thanks to your guidance that our sector has remained without aggressors for nearly a full rotation of the Milky Way. The other Galactic Moderators are surely envious of your accomplishment.” Sa’Jud boasted to the uninterested ears of Az'ob, in a weak attempt to comfort the downtrodden leader.
“I appreciate your words, Sa’Jud. We’ll remain outside the blast radius to witness the elimination of the threat. Until then, I will re-engage N.I.M. to investigate neighboring sentient lifeforms before we jump to the next internal sector. Please notify me prior to the Peacekeepers cleansing.” Az'ob dismissed his subordinate to return to work.
Tapping his N.I.M. device, he wondered if he would come across that individual again. He regretted that he hadn’t turned to see what kind of lifeform had entered his personal oasis, though he likely would have recognized them. He is the Galactic Moderator of this sector and all the intelligent lifeforms capable of crossing over into his mindscape, as rare as it is, are ones that have been vetted as peaceful members of the Dux Moribus.
Az’ob wiped his brow and lifted the N.I.M. above his head. He paused before lowering it, looking one last time at Wuq’lin, and then he returned to his duty.
Cera just wanted to share her latest astrophotography with a small group of fellow night sky enthusiasts, but when her images go viral for exposing alien life she becomes the interest of both her government and the Judger of Worlds. Cera has spent her life hiding under the darkness of night skies and she absolutely does not like having the limelight shining on her. The light exposes too much and with it, she learns that the Galatic "Good Guys" maintain interstellar peace through the destruction of all advanced and aggressive civilizations. Earth will soon be advanced enough to join the rest of the universe, but are they peaceful enough to dodge the "Delete All" button of the Judger of Worlds? Probably not, but Cera might be able to convince the Judge to bend the rules. Well, maybe.