"I know." said Ferris with a strangely happy lit to his voice. "But at least the best part is coming up."
Darrian looked over quizzically at his friend. To his surprise, Ferris's expression matched his tone and he looked genuinely excited.
"I didn't know you were such a fan of the Celestial Commission reports."
"Really? You aren't?" Ferris looked almost offended. "They're great! We get to hear about all the new planets that are being considered."
"Yay? It's a bunch of pencil pushers talking about which ones will be colonized and mined and such."
"Yea, but who knows what they'll find out there!"
As if on cue, the old judge at the far end of the table banged his gavel several times to garner the group's attention.
"Alright, alright. Now before we start wrapping up, Cherryl, would you care to offer any new proposals to the counsel?"
Cherryl was a mousey, timid little thing a few seats away from Darrian. He saw her nervously look up at the old judge and nod a few times. Despite this, she spent a few more seconds flipping through notes and pictures on her datapad.
"Um, y-yes. Well, if you all remember, a little while ago the surveys team identified a planet in the AlphaVirgo Quadrant."
One of the survey team nodded.
"Right. AV32784." he said offhandedly flipping through his own datapad. "It was heavily aquatic, if I remember correctly. Something in the range of 70% water?"
"That's right." Cherryl agreed.
"Wasn't there talk of colonization?" Ferris asked excitedly.
"W-well...yes..." Cherryl trailed off, suddenly looking disconcerted by the question.
"They must of found something interesting." Ferris whispered to Darrian. Similar whispers were breaking out all around the table.
"And is that proposal still on the table?" the judge asked, ignoring the scattered gossip.
"No, sir. The results from the analysis suggest...well...quarantine."
The table went dead silent. The judge looked nonplussed.
"Quarantine?" someone finally asked. "That planet is mostly water! We can't just ignore a planet covered in water!"
Cherryl was hastily looking back and forth from her datapad and making little squeaks of despair. She was clearly trying to find an answer but was caught between the panic of being put on the spot and not knowing where to even start.
"I must agree." the judge said, having regained a bit of his composure. "Why would we avoid a planet that's 70% water?"
"It's not drinkable." Another voice spoke up from the far end of the table. Harris, the lead of the analytics team, stood up.
"The water is contaminated." he continued. "At least, the majority of it. There are some pockets here and there, but I'd argue that only 5% of the water on the planet is even usable."
"Contaminated?! With what?"
In the center of the table, lights flickered on and the holographic imager gave birth to a beautiful green and blue planet that hovered just over the table's surface. Harris motioned to the mostly blue sphere.
"The water is so saturated that consumption is impossible. We simply can't use it."
"Damnit." Groaned the guy from the survey team, clearly upset at their misstep.
"While I'm sure we all agree that's most unfortunate," replied the judge, "I'm not sure why that would make the planet up for quarantine."
"That's not all." Harris said, seemingly enjoying the build up.
"That's right!" Cherryl nearly shouted.
Harris gave her a dirty look, clearly having accepted that he simply needed to explain at this point. "There's more problems than just the water."
"Like?" Darrian asked, quickly becoming annoyed with the theatrics and still surprised at the fact that an entire planet's water source could be utterly useless.
"Weather, for one." Harris replied. He tapped a few buttons and the holographic imager display boiling black clouds with bolts of energy arcing in every direction. The table erupted in frightened whispering and talking.
"What the hell is that?"
"An energy storm. Coupled with heavy buffets of air currents, these storms wreak havoc across the landscape. We've seen them kill flora and fauna and even start fires."
"This place sounds like hell." Ferris whispered a little too loud.
"Oh, you think that's bad?" Harris chuckled. "How about the fact that the planet's surface is unstable."
"What? Are we talking tectonic tremors? That kind of thing?"
"Well, yes. They've got those too."
"This planet has MAGMA ON IT'S SURFACE!"
"Wait, wait, wait." said the judge. "Magma, by definition, is in a planet's core. The exception is when a planet is forming."
"I know! That's the craziest part!" Harris was clearly getting excited. "There are these great mountains that literally explode and spray molten rock everywhere!"
"This is insanity..."
"Are you ready for the final ringer?" Harris asked, looking even more excited.
"How much worse can you make this place?!"
"The planet's atmosphere..."
The occupants of the table were unconsciously leaning forward now.
The table went silent for several moments as they all considered what they'd heard. Energy storms, contaminated water, exploding mountains of molten rock, and, worst of all, an oxygen atmosphere. It was like someone had taken a nightmare and made it real.
The judge was the first person to break the silence.
"Fine. We get it. Oxygen atmosphere alone is enough to disqualify it for colonization. Why, then, do you feel the need to propose we quarantine this barren wasteland?"
"Because it's not barren."
"You're full of shit." Someone yelled. "Nothing can live in oxygen!"
"That's the thing." Harris said quietly. "The planet has a full ecosystem and even a species that is playing at being space faring."
"Alright. Stop." The judge had clearly heard enough. "If we're talking about a new space faring race, we need to get the Galactic Consortium involved."
There were a few accepting nods. Darrian couldn't help but feel sick to his stomach. How anything could breath that poison and live was beyond him, and here Harris was telling them that somehow a species that breathed oxygen was becoming space faring?
"We'll schedule a secondary hearing to discuss the implications of this species." The judge said curtly. "Does your team have a name for them?"
"Nothing official. We hadn't even realized they were there until the analysis. But it would seem that some of the creatures call themselves 'human', so that's as good a name as any to start."
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