October 13, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 5

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Things are not what they seem this week, as our heroine realizes that a human enforced Pax Galactica has exacted a heavy and terrible price on the alien civilizations of the Outer Rim. Let’s jump right in the Chapter 5 for this week, and be sure to let us know what you think of these tales. And don’t forget to start back on chapter one,  and you can read A Standard of Deviation and other original tales of science fiction in their entirety.

 

A Standard of Deviation

by

David A. Dickinson

 

As the transport headed through the portal I told myself that I would lodge a formal complaint with the High Consul once I returned to New Seattle, maybe even document and protest the destruction of Humboldt’s Leviathans. But I knew deep down they were a doomed species, and that protests were only how some people justified the guilt they felt over what we call Civilization. Humanity would press on, selected to succeed by the cosmos, until we either ‘owned all the jellybeans’ as Lila would say, or we finally met our match…

We slid silently out of the portal into the Baklerian system. A dispatch from Lila was awaiting me, one that in retrospect I should have focused on immediately, but instead put off until I was settled in. I had never visited this system before on my update runs, which was not that unusual. Most of my stops were a mix of new and old locales. Again, the synchronization drop-off went without incident, although I felt that my minder was shadowing me a little closer than usual on this stop, probably due to my protest over the plight of the Humboldt’s Leviathans at the last station. I hoped that immersing myself in the strange and exotic culture of a new species might take my mind off of things a bit… in a sunnier frame of mind I can manage to be content imagining that all species, even intelligent ones, go extinct all the time, with each one thinking that they are privileged in some fashion.

I was met by Seth, a planetary archeology major, on the surface of the single world in this system that harbored life. Bakleros was only a bit larger than Earth and supported a carbon-based ecosystem even more diverse than Old Terra. I could walk about on the surface with a simple life pack and excursion skinsuit, something I can’t say for many worlds in the cosmos.

I also learned from Seth that the Baklerians — the single sentient species on the planet — had gone extinct.

“But how?” I asked him as we approached the black-green planet that had been their homeworld.

“Apparently, the Baklerians were still fragmented into various factions at the time of first contact,” he continued as the automatic landing sequence started.

“Everything we’ve found thus far points towards an epidemic preceding a huge fusion event. They were completely decimated decades ago by the time the first automated scouts arrived to set up a quantum portal.”

I looked out the view port as the world loomed large. In this tiny corner of the cosmos, an emerging species had failed its most crucial test, and had promptly self-destructed as a result. Hey, it happens. Humanity had barely escaped its own planetary cradle several millennia ago. It seemed that whenever we were on the brink of destruction, we managed to find a solution in the 11th hour. Whether it was enriched fertilizer to feed billions, quantum gates, or genetic modifications, we’re clever hairless apes… some races such as the Baklerians weren’t so lucky.

Still, as the days went by and we examined the ruins of this noble world, darker thoughts began to creep in. Terra never had formal laws against first contact. All new species discovered were open and welcome to join the protection of the Confederation, as our giant spaceborne observatories the size of small moons swept the cosmos for flickers of intelligence. I knew of several prominent exobiologists that felt that such an open door policy wasn’t a grand idea. Such contacts, they argued, often led to the kind of destruction seen here on Bakleros, where a race suddenly realizes that technology such as nukes or anti-matter or bio-weapons are possible and promptly annihilates itself in one swift stroke. Some, who are of a more conspiratorial bent, think that the Confederation does this deliberately. You only need to transmit the formula for a few good atmosphere-destroying chemicals and the species on the receiving end will do the work for you, no invading army needed. Certainly, mining companies from Orion Arm Inc. were making a wonderful profit off of rare earth metals in the Bakleros system, as Bakleros was in orbit about a metal-rich Technetium Star. Still, my gut feeling towards such policies has always been in the murky middle. While we may not deliberately design transmissions with the annihilation of a race in mind, we don’t discourage the practice, either… and if any race does go extinct, so be it. Dire warnings for humanity to do better next time by researchers such as me are always an afterthought.

Still, I could not help but feel a spasm of remorse as we picked through the rubble and cataloged the debris of this civilization. Here was a unique product of blind selection that had emerged into sentience, never to be seen again. Perhaps you find it strange that I sometimes lament the passage of such civilizations after their brief ‘moment in the Sun.’ Sure, it’s the way of the universe. But would it change your mind if I told you that the Baklerians were rare cryomorphs, with copper-sulfate for blood? Or that they had discovered the structure of triple helix DNA long before spaceflight? Or that their arithmetical form of poetry in its spoken form spanned 12 octaves? I know the agencies at the Confederation will dismiss most of this, simply auto-scanning whatever I publish when I get back to New Seattle for one thing: any hint of emergent quantum technology.  Why such a sophisticated race never hit on quantum teleportation is beyond me… maybe if they had survived a few more decades to see humans doing it on their own galactic doorstep, they would’ve figured it out.

To be continued…

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