For most of human history people thought of themselves as special. Both individual people and the whole collective of humanity thought that they were something unique, and thus superior, that the universe had coughed up. And while it is true that Earth’s humans are sort of unique, the fact that they thought they were superior is perhaps the cruelest joke the universe ever played on them.
Instead of cooperating, instead of treating each other with compassion, and approaching their own planet with respect, human beings operated on a largely base animal instinct: seeking pleasure – mere chemical reactions in the brain – over logical thinking time and again. Once they learned of human history and how their books and leaders had told them that they were special, and how that had led them to treat their own planet (and each other) as objects to be exploited, later generations of interstellar beings would look at humans with a mixture of revulsion and pity.
Despite an obvious track record to the contrary, human hubris knew almost no boundaries. In fact, famous humans loved to say things like “humanity must become a space-faring people, if we are to survive!” when just the opposite was true. What humanity had needed more than anything in that moment was to become a species that took care of the people and planet that they had. But instead, they used up their planet and then in a desperate bid to “save humanity” stumbled on interstellar travel. Which was exactly when everything went wrong.
It was a shock to humans when they first encountered intelligent life. Many humans didn’t believe that other intelligent life even existed. Now imagine that for a minute. With all the stars, all of the other galaxies, it’s a mathematical impossibility that intelligent life could only exist on one planet. Consider the hubris it took to think that they were the only ones. That’s the level of just absurdity we are dealing with here.
There were a few humans who didn’t suffer from humanity’s crippling pride and ignorance. These people understood that it would be a Herculean task to find another planet which was uninhabited, could support human life, and which would require little to no “terraforming” to convert it to something that humans could live on. These people pointed to the failed explorations of Mars – where multiple expeditions had been sent and where no human colony survived more than a few months – and suggested that instead of wasting resources on trying to turn another planet into Earth, that they ought to try to do the easier thing and make Earth into.. Earth.
These scientists also pointed to previous human migration and warned that even moving from one biome to another on the same planet, one which had the perfect conditions to give rise to humanity, had often resulted in massive human casualties. Disease, war, predation, shipwrecks, war, disease, predation (of humans on humans) were features of human migration. They said that if Humanity wanted to send people to the stars, they would have to send millions of ships full of thousands of people, and even then, only a few would survive.
But these people were denounced as “fake scientists” and laughed at as the “cult of science”. Politicians said that we couldn’t afford to fix the Earth and that this planet was all used up. And so it was that despite all of the evidence to the contrary, all of the most rational people telling them that it was a mistake, the first humans to strike out beyond their own solar system sincerely thought that they could just discover a planet where they could settle down and make a cozy life. Like they had seen on TV.
Now, in order to travel quickly between two places in the universe, you had to create a hole. Doing this was a lot like tunneling, except you’re poking through “normal” space time, into the 8th dimension, and then finding a way out the other side. Figuring out where you would end up on the other end of the tunnel was the real trick and one which humanity hadn’t mastered. If you came out at the wrong place, you could jump straight into a planet, asteroid belt, too close to a black hole, or pretty much any number of things that were not great for fragile spacecraft and the even more fragile humans inside.
It was much easier to start somewhere and then go back – because then you had a known destination on the other side of the 8th dimension – but that wasn’t a luxury that humanity had because it would take hundreds of years at sub light speed to get to a star system which had what they thought was a habitable planet. So, instead, humans started just firing craft into the 8th dimension and hoping that they would come out the other side alive, so that they could make their first reliable tunnel in space.
Of course, all of the long jumps they tried ended in lost spacecraft. Short jumps – extremely short, less than 1 second each – worked fine for the ships. And at first, humans were making progress – but after three or four short jumps the people inside showed signs of some kind of poisoning and usually died before the fifth jump. Meaning that the furthest humanity had managed to jump was just to the edge of their own solar system.
As usual, humans had discovered a technology and deployed it before they understood the repercussions. Humans called this “bravery”. Other species called it “irresponsibly stupid.”
One of the consequences of this type of space travel was that it alerted the authorities. Sending out dozens of ships from one destination to head off to random places in the galaxy was a lot like firing off a shotgun in random directions. Other spacefaring species nearby would be monitoring the fabric of normal space (like the human “air traffic control”) and would, of course, pick up a bunch of strange activity in one sector. And when they did, they sent in the universe’s police: the T’lac.
The T’lac were the first species humans encountered and they were, like most intelligent life, not at all like humans. Human media and fantasy proposed that most other interstellar beings would be bipedal, human-like, with only a few possible modifications like prominent cranial ridges, or weird hair. Also unlike most human media T’lac didn’t have big, clumsy, three-fingered hands that ended in thick claws. How would a species like that be able to manufacture the tools necessary to create the microprocessors to make space travel possible? No, the T’lac were six-legged creatures, who spent some time on all six legs, but who most often walked on 4 legs, and occasionally rose up on two legs. Each of their legs ended in very useful “hands” with 6 fingers, all of which were opposable. And to some humans, T’lacs most closely resembled brightly colored reptiles, whose entire body was covered in a thicket of what humans called “feathers”.
Bird-lizards with hands was, of course, the way that the first humans described T’lacs. Humans had this annoying way of interacting with everything new they encountered: anthropomorphizing it, classifying it, and relating it back to their very small experience on their home planet.
Ironically, by a quirk of evolution, the T’lac had encountered hominids before, most species had. Most planets throw up some type of mammals during one of their many evolutionary spurts. And wherever there are mammals a creature which is much like a chimp will also eventually evolve.
They are different on each planet, but ape-like creatures exist on so many planets that they are considered a bit of a nuisance. Most species called these creatures a name which sounds like the screeching sound that a male chimp makes when he’s in full rut – or when he’s arguing about football on the internet – but since that’s not an English-friendly word we will call them Homs. Throughout the known universe, in almost every galaxy, and on almost every planet, Homs are loud and obnoxious creatures which spend most of their time breeding, getting high/drunk, and killing each other. Homs were intergalactic rats, always popping up in some sewer somewhere, eating garbage, breeding indiscriminately, and bringing along their diseases.
Because of this most Homs were treated like vermin and exterminated. The Humans of Earth couldn’t really complain about this fact since that was how they treated “inferior” species on their planet.
Several species even hunted and ate Homs. Which again Humans had no right to complain about given the fact that Humans killed whales for food – food they didn’t need but ate because it stimulated their dopamine. And whales are creatures with much larger brains who are demonstrably smarter than Humans. Humans had this misbegotten belief that just because a whale never did calculus, they weren’t that smart. But most humans can’t do calculus. Most humans have been trained multiple times on basic geometry and can’t even properly calculate square footage much less the area of a triangle or a.. a circle. It was yet another blow to humanity’s ego when the Gonvo (a species of aquatic creatures) not only taught whales Calculus but proved that most whales excelled at combinatorics in dynamical systems.
A few interstellar species took pity on Homs and spent decades domesticating them through rigid obedience training until they could be relied on to perform simple tricks and generally not kill each other. These luckiest Homs were spayed and neutered and then kept as pets.
All Homs have similar characteristics but what made the humans of Earth unique was that they were bipedal, the dopamine receptors in their tiny brains were wired to send pleasure signals 100 times more powerful than all other Homs in the known universe, and somehow this dipshit of a species, which was addicted to its own brain soup, and had used up its own planet in a never-ending race to feed its own addiction to pleasure, had escaped its planet and was poking holes in the 8th dimension.
The T’lac were called in to investigate this disturbance and it was a stroke of pure luck that Humanity’s first contact with an alien species was the T’lac. The T’lac was one of the species which not only kept Homs as pets but were the leading proponents of treating Homs with dignity, claiming that they were in fact – despite all evidence – intelligent creatures. The T’lac were the biggest proponents of what Earth’s humans would later call “Human rights”.
And so it was that humanity’s first encounter with an alien race was a six-legged feathered reptile cop which kept something that looked remarkably like a human as pets and which didn’t want to kill us or eat us right away.