|Back to Index||Written August, 1998|
The wormhole snapped open and the sleek starship slid into normal space. The wormhole slammed shut behind it, sending ripples through space-time.
On the bridge Captain Jenson looked down at his clipboard and then at the image on the viewscreen. According to his list the deep space probes had earmarked this as a possible colony sight. He sighed. Far too many possibles were actually impractical.
He turned to his first officer. "Begin the survey," he commanded tiredly, "and bring me the results when you're done."
The first officer, Commander Hobbins, saluted smartly and snapped out the relevant orders in a tone which exuded authority. The Captain retired to his cabin.
Underneath the great ship scanning radar beams and hideously complicated sensors began to probe the planet below.
The door slid open with a sound similar to that of metal brushes against solid metal. Commander Hobbins stepped inside and, seeing his Captain, saluted.
Jenson rose from his desk, returned the salute, motioned for his first officer to sit down and practically fell back into the chair. "Tell me the good news." He said.
Hobbins handed him a pad of papers nearly one hundred sheets thick. "This is the full report, sir. It includes resources, biosphere, lifeforms, all the usual stuff."
Jenson tried to be patient. "If I wanted to read the report I would have said so." He said pointedly. "Give me the summary."
Hobbins nodded. "Its very similar to most of our colony worlds, atmosphere nitrogen-oxygen, seas covering a large proportion of the surface, several major land masses."
"Yes, millions." That got the Captain's attention.
"A stable biosphere? One with no need for terraforming?"
Hobbins nodded, seeing the Captain's enthusiasm. Planets with no need for terraforming were one in a million.
"Any predators?" The Captain asked.
Once again Hobbins nodded. "Several, none of them pose a threat."
"Excellent. We can earmark this planet for colonization at once." It was then that he noticed the uneasy expression on Hobbin's face. "What is it?"
"Sir, there is a dominant species on the planet."
The Captain shrugged. "It's not unusual."
"This one is." The first officer remarked simply. "It appears to occupy vast proportions of the planet, where it does so it displaces many other species and then enforces its territories. It may not prove possible to establish colonies within the territories of this animal."
"Why not? We'll herd them into a smaller area. Cull them if necessary." Hobbins looked appalled. "The population crisis isn't going away you know."
"I know. It's just..." He broke off.
"They have a very complicated social structure. They appear to have the ability to use tools almost as well as we do. They build themselves structures."
"Like ants and termites and a large number of species we have encountered use tools."
"Yes, sir. But these animals seem to be different. They appear to have some sort of caste system, different animals performing separate tasks, allowing the hives to function. They also appear to communicate with each other."
"Once again, not unusual. Do they actually show any signs of technology?"
Hobbins shook his head. "Not really, but they do improve upon their tools."
"Intelligence?" Jenson's voice was highly disbelieving. "In the three hundred years since the founding of the confederation we have never encountered another species with intelligence."
"No. We don't think so, just highly evolved instincts."
Jenson looked almost relieved. "So what's the problem?"
"They will fight us if we try to colonize. They have tools and rudimentary weapons, along with what appears to be a warrior caste."
"Planetary bombardment..." Began the Captain.
"Would destroy the biosphere." Completed Hobbins. "We just have to leave this one."
"Isn't it worth fighting for?"
"Not when the only option would be their elimination. That would take a vast amount of resources and would probably leave the planet useless to us anyway."
Jenson swore. "It seems you may be right. And we were so close!" He hit the table with his hand and turned his eyes to the page describing this new species.
"Lucky for some." He murmured. Then louder. "Alright, jump us out of here."
The Captain sighed and picked up his clipboard and pencil. As the wormhole appeared and plunged the ship into hyperspace he reached out and crossed out planet number seven, Earth.