by Jason Gibbs
Imagine a human observer, floating in space. This isn’t real, just imagining, as all the humans are still trapped by lack of technology on, or in a very few cases around, the third planet from the nearby star.
She sees a large rock approaching, a planet in fact. An exo-planet, a rogue planet, and realises, yes, can it be? Yes, it is artificial, a giant space ship. Did it start as a planet and was turned into a space ship? Or did it grow organically? We cannot know yet, or perhaps ever.
Our observer is not bound by physical laws, why would she be? So she can will herself nearer to the exo-planet, inside it.
It is hollow, or nearly, large chambers, with creatures everywhere. They are humanoid, we must accept some biases. They have horns, and eyes with slits for pupils, like goats. She looks at the horns and the eyes. Our human observer might think of them as devils. Or perhaps fauns. She doesn’t have time to observe them in detail, something is calling her to a control room, there is a decision to be made.
She enters a room, where two fauns are beginning a conversation, one which might be important to humanity. The two look identical.
“Jumelian greetings to you Captain,” said the first Faun, let us call him Pan.
“Yes Pan?” said the second, Captain Silenus.
“We have entered the new solar system, and recovered the first wave of survey bots.”
“Excellent, bring up the details on the display.”
The observer, who had drifted into the empty centre of the room, finds herself surrounded by stars, and then planets. She’s in a holograph, floating.
“Usual motley collection of objects, trapped in a solar gravity well,” grunts the Captain.
“Yes, with one potential source of interest, here, the third planet.”
“Hmm, blue, white, so liquid water?”
“Oh yes, and life too. Semi-intelligent it seems.”
The observer might be offended by this dismissal of her species, but she makes no sign.
“Water content figures please… hmm interesting, that is a decent quantity.”
“I thought you’d think that.”
“We need to restock our water supplies.”
“Right, then we have two options as I see it. Firstly, we fly to the middle planet, and park a circular ship above the most important centre of government…”
“A circle? Like a flying plate?”
“Like one of those side plates you put salsa on?”
“Yes…” says the Captain, with a hint of irritation.
“So a Salsa-Flyer,” says Pan with a twinkle.
“Ha, ha. What do you suggest? Something triangular I suspect.”
“A pyramid,” says the Captain, rolling his strange goat-like eyes.
“Yes. What’s wrong with a pyramid?”
“Nothing. Well, you seem a little obsessed with them to be honest.”
“Fine, let’s put those two, salsa-flyer or pyramid, as sub-options if this first option is chosen. Where was I?”
“Parking a ship above a major government centre?” answer Pan, excited that for the first time the pyramid idea has made it as far as the sub-option phase.
“Yes, all very awe-inspiring, then give them the whole ‘we come in peace’ line. You know, there’s no point in crossing light-years just to wage war, blah blah blah. Then we gently take control of the reigns of power…”
“We could cause some of the rasher ones to attack us. They’re a young species, they might fall for that,” adds Pan getting into the planning.
The observer nods in agreement, she knows too well that they will.
“Hmm yes, that’s true, make it faster. We then send more of our people down to the ground, they mix with the natives, some fall in love.”
“Have you seen them?” asked Pan with a moue of distaste as he brings up an image of a man, an actor known to the observer, who was once heard to describe him as ‘rather dishy’.
“Yes, I know, apes, but it takes all sorts you know. Maybe we can get them to wear some contact lenses to cover their freaky round pupils? Anyway, we get some cross species amity.”
“If that’s what you want to call it.”
The Captain continues, ignoring the sarcasm, “Perhaps they become close enough that they reveal our big secret.”
“What big secret?”
“That we’re stealing all their water!”
“I thought we told them we needed some as part of the we come in peace blather, we will give you the gift of some advance technology, all we ask in return is some water.”
“No Pan. We say we ask nothing in return. Seriously, they’re not going to fall for the tech for water line.”
“If you say so.”
“I’m Captain, and I do say so. Right, yes, and then they start to rebel against us. Find out our weakness, whip up the populace, in a crescendo, battle for the planet, exciting finale and boom…”
“Well it would entertain that lot,” said Pan waving vaguely at the centre of the ship planet.
“Yes. Yes it would.”
There was silence while the observer floated round a bit more wondering if she could warn somebody. She tries to move things which look like switches, anything, but she’s incorporeal. There’s nothing she can do.
“That’s the first option, now to the second,” says the Captain with a sigh.
“Yes. The second option.” Pan nods wisely.
The Captain waves and the view zooms out, and focuses on the edge of the solar system, out beyond Neptune. At first our observer sees nothing, but the view zooms in again, and soon she sees lots of objects. Balls of ice. Some dirty, some not, tens, thousands, millions of them. This is the Kuiper belt, and the view zooms further until it focuses on a particular ball. Pluto.
“This object will give us most of what we need. While we’re scooping it up we’ll probably be able to grab a few more of these chunks of ice. More than enough to refill our tanks.”
The observer is relieved, and then, as an astronomer, she sighs at the injustice of it all. Once posited as planet X, 7 times the size of Earth, poor Pluto had, once it had been officially discovered, had rather a downward path. Initially thought of as a planet the size of Earth, it had, under observation shrunk so much it had lost its status and become a dwarf planet, a diminished consolation prize. But even that ignominy was not to be its last humiliation, no, now it was going to be sucked into a rogue planet to be used as fuel, never to be seen again. It would cause a stir in some circles.
She of course assumed that this would be the option chosen.
“Shall we put it to the population? They’ve been bored recently. I wonder which option they’ll choose?”
The human observer, if she existed, might think it odd to see a wolfish smile on a goat.