“I don’t know why we’ve been summoned by the Monitor, but no, it’s never good when you’re summoned by the Monitor,” Greeblegrox snapped.

“I think I already know what this is about,” said Hardowan. His eyestalks were trembling.

Both Hardowan and Greeblegrox zoomed down to their home planet to the Monitor’s cave. They landed their spacecraft and digitized themselves into the cave.

The Monitor loomed before them, an enormous screen set into the cave rock.

“Greeblegrox and Hardowan,” the Monitor boomed at them. “Last year you took a detour to a small multi-biomed planet in the Vomisa sector on the way to a conference on Tidder. You passed through their solar system and observed the planet, which is home to a first phase species, without informing command.”

“Yes,” said the two Wydoobians. They knew it was best to not lie to the Monitor.

“You were only there a few minutes in our time, but in the planet’s time you were there for several months.”

“Fuck,” said Greeblegrox. Every inch of his skin had gone dry. Hardowan was turning purple.

“They saw us, didn’t they?” Hardowon said, quaking with fear.

“They did,” said the Monitor. “They detected you with everything from their primitive seeing-eye technology to their most advanced wave-detecting technology.”

“Oh, Onob,” said Hardowan. “Have mercy, high Monitor.”

The Monitor couldn’t show emotion, but the two could certainly tell it was displeased.

“Fortunately for you two snrubfots, the species was not capable of following you. They saw you, but since you did not linger too long they were unable to confirm the true identity of your craft. The only thing saving us is their ignorance and their own skepticism. They don’t understand the difference between artificial transfer and bio-transfer. They don’t understand warp-mentality and light speed triangulation. This is fortunate, because they are not anywhere near ready to become aware of lifeforms outside their own.”

Another Wydoobian stepped out of the shadows. Greeblegrox and Hardowan vomited from their lower eyestalks in surprise, then quickly slurped up the vomit in a show of humility and repentance.

“Gentlemen, this is Snaphglitch,” said the Monitor. “She’s been in charge of monitoring the planet’s carbon-based self-aware bipedals.”

“They call themselves humans,” said Snaphglitch. “They first spotted your ship from a small island in the middle of their biggest ocean. A simple reflective telescope on top of a volcano. There are some who believe what they detected was an alien craft, but even the believers don’t truly want to believe. As the Monitor said, they are not ready.”

Greeblegrox and Hardowan stayed silent and chastized. They felt awful. They didn’t want to be responsible for the preeminent destruction of an entire goddamn species.

“Will they be cleansed?” Hardowan asked sheepishly.

“No,” said the Monitor. “This is not their fault, and the damage is minimal.”

“Then what is our punishment?” Greeblegrox asked.

“I want you to go back and observe them,” said the Monitor. “This time using proper cloaking devices. They can tell your ship may have been artificial, but they don’t have any way of proving it.”

“How did they suspect it wasn’t just space debris or an asteroid?”

“They saw you accelerate out of the solar system,” said Snaphglitch. “You changed speed.”

Greeblegrox and Hardowan couldn’t believe how stupid they’d been. They ate their own eye-vomit again, hoping it would show how guilty they were.

“As we’ve mentioned, the humans are in first phase of development,” Snaphglitch explained. “…which means they’ve achieved planetary orbit and visited at least one extra-planetary body. They have sent probes into space, and they have achieved technology capable of destroying themselves and their planet. They have outlawed global war, but only through uneven stalemate. However, we believe that if they make it past the next century, they will pass the Nicien Bar and eventually evolve to take their place among the Galatian races. We want you two to hide out behind their sun and see if this happens, first-hand.”

Hardowan was delighted that they’d be spared any mind torture or physical pain, but Greeblegrox was suspicious.

“Why send us if we were nearly caught, and so carelessly?”

The Monitor answered.

“If you are caught again, it is almost certain they will try to engage you in some way. I imagine you will do everything in your power to prevent that from happening?”

The two Wydoobians waggled all four of their eyestalks and tentacles enthusiastically in agreement. There was no greater humiliation than being engaged by a first phase civilization. It wasn’t much better than pond slime asking to be your friend. Plus, first phase thought processes were so primitive they were contagious — who knew what sort of mental diseases and lack of self-awareness they’d carry?

“I suppose you two had better get going then,” said Snaphglitch. “You will report to me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Greeblegrox and Hardowan.

“Dismissed,” said the Monitor. “You will make for the Vomisa sector immediately.”

“Yes, Monitor.”

They turned tail and headed back to their ship, digitizing back into the cockpit and blasting off the surface without much fuss.

“Can you believe how we lucked out there?” Hardowan said giddily. “I thought for sure we’d have traumatic memories implanted at the very least!”

“Shut up,” said Greeblegrox, punching in the coordinates.

Everything is a work in progress.