Interplanetary Assize: 102479
This in fact was my first attempt at competition writing - so long ago that I can't remember when it was written! I think it would've been around 1993. I didn't win.
As the courtroom clerk rose an eerie silence fell upon the overground public gallery. Bubbles rose to the surface of the underwater gallery and burst against the transparent floor.
"Interplanetary Assize, case one zero two four seven nine. High and Overarching Judge Borvech Taahn adjudicating in the civil war of Salgray, between the Senish and Trewls..."
So this is what it has come to, I thought as the clerk rattled through the opening remarks in his phlegmy voice. In the background I could hear the hum of the tanks pumping air into the underwater gallery. A thousand eyes stared up out of the murky water. It's funny how they all seemed to be looking at me. I guess everyone in the courtroom felt the same. Above me, the overground gallery circumferenced the courtroom and doubled the effect. This planet is Dalort, home of the Tegor and Goret species, the occupiers of the overground and underground galleries respectively. It had been just over fifty years ago since a bitter two hundred-year conflict between these two species ended, but the war of words still rumbled on. This made Dalort a damn fine backdrop for the judgement of latest war between the Senish and Trewls.
The amphibious Judge emerged from his pool as the clerk finished his speech. Borvech Taahn cared little for neither my race nor the Trewls because we were both types of humanoid species.
Hatred of other species was strong in our solar system and the Interplanetary Government moved sluggishly because of internal bickering. Our war was based on hatred within the species. I won't go into the politics of it all. Let’s just say we're both a little different in our appearances, and pray to different non-existent Gods and use this as an excuse every so often to attempt a spot of genocide. I know I sound cynical and I am making war out to be a game played by paranoid teams (it doesn't matter how many), but the pain of losing loved ones can occasionally bring home some truths. Yes I feel angry like everyone else, but I am also in a position where I have seen the atrocities that my own people have carried out.
All atrocities have ceased now. Salgray orbits it’s star, Kabalis, as an icy rock, frozen by cryogenic gases released into the atmosphere as Salgray reached the furthest distance Kabalis on an elliptical orbit. Every living organism captured in a motionless winter. This will last for seven months, which should be long enough for the hearing and Salgray will gradually thaw as it gets closer to Kabalis.
Judge Borvech Taahn, dousing himself occasionally with filthy water, has finally begun proceedings by instructing the Trewls to state their position. For a moment I observe Taahn and feel a surge of repulsion in me as secreted substances glimmer on his blubbery body under the unnatural courtroom light.
Hatred burns in the eyes of the Trewl delegates who are seated about five paces to my right. I can feel their glares burning the skin on my face like acid rain. To my left my fellow Senish delegates are aiming similar sentiments at the Trewls. Such feelings run so deep and seem impossible to remove, but I'm sure there is a solution. If it comes from another species (even one that hates our species as much as we hate another race within our species) then that is fine by me.
Reminding myself that Borvech Taahn will pass judgement on my people soon does not help to quell my distaste for the Trewls or for him. Thinking of my dead wife and children along with the impending judgement to be made on the Trewls is the only thing that I want to think about.
Every other word spoken by the Trewls spokeswoman carries an inflection that is intended to stab at Senish ears and sway sympathy with the Judge. I say words but that's not quite the case. The series of clicks snapped out by her forked tongue (the only substantial difference between our races) that form the Trewl version of sentences are audible to everyone in the courtroom chamber before a translation follows in our ear-pieces. Flashes of light distract my attention to the chamber below. The translation for the Gorets is being sent through the water in streams of light because of their poor hearing.
The lies our translator finds himself relaying bring grunts of seething fury from my colleagues. I remain impassive, almost relaxed. It would soon be my turn to approach the stand and say my piece. I knew I didn't have the answer but assured myself it was for my family. The battered photo clasped in my hands is my last view of them. The creases in the paper are a tenuous final intimacy. One last look at the photo and then I put it in my jacket, where the touch of the bomb strapped to my chest reinforces my comfort. I turn to smile at the Trewl delegates and the venomous expressions on their malevolent countenances make me feel perversely happy. Again I reach for the warm feel of the bomb.