My horoscope said that I should indulge my creative side and publish something today. Really! Like it was talking right at me. I’m in the mood for some science fiction. Enough with this depressing reality.
Jeb of the Goodnusians
The dim human mind looked up and saw heavenly bodies. Giving names to planets and star, they ignored the darkness and, unwisely, called it empty space. In the latter days, this nothingness would be renamed Black Matter, and the humans would calculate that it did have mass and weight and force. In fact, Black Matter was almost everything.
Inside this all important ebony lived another race, who called themselves the Goodnusians. The guardians of time loved only two things: beauty and eternity. They molded glittering balls of gas, roped these stars with gravitations threads and slowly fed their lovely creations to strategically placed furnaces, thus perpetuating time and their own exquisite empire.
In this endeavor, they saw themselves as efficient engineers with an artistic slant. Occasionally, a planet spontaneously sprouted life forms, but the Goodnusians, a cycloptic and farsighted species, seldom regarded these growths as little more than various forms of short-lived fungi. Most Goodnusians had no eye for detail, until…
Born with a unique visual deformity—two optical stems—Jeb had a distinct advantage over the other scientists working at the Planetarium of Corporeal Creation. Socially stymied by his unattractive physical attributes, Jeb had still obtained accolades from some of his superiors in a new art form called Microbiology. Many of his detractors questioned the value of studying the insignificant life forms that infested a few planetary surfaces, and Jeb struggled for many eons to bring his special projects to the attention of his Goodnusian leaders with little success, until he invented the optic refractor and Com—a computer with the ability to capture images of small creatures in their natural habitat, enlarge the photographic proof, and relay the data back to his lab. Com made it possible for the others to visualize his experiments, and a growing number of Goodnusians were beginning to patronize his lab/studio to view the most active planet, tiny, cool and nameless ball in Via Lactea. The photographs that Jeb’s equipment produced capture stunning stills of the live forms, but the planet itself and the experiment tended to have unexpected problems. Jeb had to keep a close eye on his work; indeed, he had to keep both eyes on the watery rock, captured in the precarious gravitations forces of its nearest star. Many things could go wrong in a very short period of time.
Most of his fellow Goodnusians were born with a single optic nerve that serviced one large, tubular eye. A normal eye ran from the center of the forehead to the back of the cranium, and the average Goodnusian could, therefore, see what was in front of them as well as what was behind them, simultaneously, in a farsighted kind of way. This single orb floated in a fluid sac, but could not rotate from side to side.
Some Goodnusians were born sans visual capacity, altogether. These individuals tended to be intellectually superior, since the missing eye left more room for the brain to grow and formulate expanding synapses across all quads. Because blind Goodnusians tended to be smarter and the most accurate mathematicians, they also dominated the leadership of his race, and they were his most virulent adversaries. It was one thing to show a photograph to a one-eyed scientist and quite another thing to convince a sightless leader about the value of microbiology and the beauty of living inhabitants on fertile planets. Politicians and equation-schemers had only one useful purpose for planets and solar systems: To provide fodder for Black Holes, and thus produce compact modules of energy that could be harvested and re-shaped for more fuel.
Jeb, of course, disagreed with these principles. Everything, he argued, could not be sacrifice to the Black Holes; some things were worth saving. Jeb could debate with the best of the ruling elite. Not only did Jeb have two eyes, but each orb swiveled on a separate stem that emanated from the center of his frontal sinus cavity. These exterior eyes left plenty of room for intellectual development. Despite being a social outcast, he thought himself very lucky. He could have been a politician or schemer, but he had chosen art as his profession.
Jeb could also see in color, a phenomena unknown to his people. For instance, Goodnusians had no idea that they were green. They saw themselves in varying shades of grey, and they oohed and ahhed at the spectacular bursts of light occurring within the galaxies, but they could not appreciated the full grandeur of a quasar or a shrinking nova—not like he could, anyway. Jeb often marveled at his talents and pitied his fellow Nusians; but, he supposed, one could not miss what one had never had. Being the discoverer of color and its only admirer, Jeb had christened the gift chromatics.
He could also see in mono-vision—another term he had coined himself. His right eye could see as far as any other Nusian, and his left eye could focus on details as small as ten astronomical units. His scholastic thesis, submitted to the council, had figured largely on his own, unsurpassed, ability to see details on tiny objects, thus making him uniquely qualified to work on miniature experiments. Miniature experiments, he argued, could save megatons of power, resources and untold treks of time—time that could, potentially, surpass the folds of space that were given to all young technicians.
Goodnusian rulers still classified him as a deformed individual; and, as yet, he had not received a license to procreate. Copulation was the least of his worries, since no female mates had offered themselves to him. He was gifted, functional and successfully employed, but he had no illusions about his own beauty, even to a blind and stupid girl. It was tough being a two-eyed freak in a circus of Cyclopes—a fact that was not lost on Jeb’s parents.
Deformed or not, someone in authority had read his paper—or, more likely, that someone had listened while an assistant read his thesis out loud—and he was now in charge of the micro-planetarium lab. Because of the nature of his work, his only assistant was Com. Locked inside the darkness of his lab for eons and in total isolation, Jeb fretted over his latest experiment, but he never gave up.
Jeb squatted on the moon and crossed his long green arms over his chest. While it was true he could see in detail, the experiment was so small that he needed the assistance of Com’s microscope to analysis some of the data.
The blue ball suspended by gravitational tethers and spinning slowly, floated before him. Surface water rippled rhythmically over the planet. Jeb smiled. The oceans were his favorite feature. The liquid expanses were so soothing and the creatures in the sea were spectacular and so very entertaining. Sol’s yellow glow cast the ball in cycles of darkness and light. As he watched the experiment spin, tiny dots began to glow on the edges of the orb’s solid surface. Conversely, the inner stratum developed a film that encased the ball. After multiple rotations, the ball became quite opaque. This incongruence gave him pause. Something had gone terribly wrong with the planet’s ozone. Above all things, he wanted clarity and beauty. He had labored for millions of years to bring the experiment to some form of stability and equilibrium. Only a vast expanse of natural splendor and indigenous life would continue to impress his comrades and fans.
“Computer,” Jeb said.
“Active,” Com replied.
“Give me an update on the ratio of species.”
“That information will take 3.6 quads to tabulate.”
“Begin.” Feigning relaxation, Jeb leaned back and waited with his eyes closed. He didn’t know why he felt the need to pretend indifference—there was only Com to witness his expressions—but he didn’t want to ju-ju his work.
A cylindrical disc, shaped much like a plate, slipped out of the anterior port of the computer. Jeb whimsically called the plate an information-poop-disc. Its flat, round shape did make it look a little bit like Nusian excrement. The disc circled around the ball, weaving in and out of the ozone, while surreptitiously collecting information. Every few sectors the disc emitted a jolt of solid energy back to Com. Reports uploaded into Com’s belly, as the disc download and cleared its own memory banks.
While he waited, Jeb pierced the thin layer near the top of the ball and took a sample of the air. He pushed the collection into a test tube, shook the bottle and inserted a chem-strip. When he pulled the test strip back out, he was astonished to find that deposits of black carbon freckled every square.
“Tabulations are complete,” Com said.
“Lay it on me,” Jeb said, impatiently
“Since the beginning, fifteen trillion, four hundred million, five hundred thousand, and sixty-eight species have become extinct. Another million—give or take, as you say—are in danger of extinction.”
“Is that due to natural evolution?”
“To some extent,” Com said. “One species dominates the planet.”
“Which species?” Jeb asked, but he already knew the answer. He had dealt with this dominate species before.
“Human population stands at nine billion, four hundred million—and counting. Increases of four hundred thousand and thirty-four occur at every cycle.
The numbers were astronomical, unsupportable, and insane— given the size of the ball. He released a long string of expletives, and pierced the balls ovum with his left eye, unintentionally exposing himself to the grit of carbon particles and the test subjects on the planet. During his brief peek, he saw black dots speckling the blue waters and the solid surfaces were stripped of all green vegetation. The land belched up huge clouds of sand. He pulled his eye away quickly and shook out a handkerchief to wipe away his tears.
“Ugly,” Jeb said and this was the worst word in the Goodnusian language. “The humans must be copulating like locus. They’ve gone viral.” The computer hummed but did not respond. “Well?” he asked, wanting confirmation but knowing full-well that Com only responded to questions. His hand slammed down, nipping the outer rim of Sol. Reverberations sent a shock wave over the ninety-three million miles between the sun and the planet. The orb wobbled and shifted three degrees on its axis.
“Congratulations,” Com said. “You have just eliminated seven billion humans from the experiment. That is, of course, an approximation. Another study would have to be launched to get exact numbers if you desire it.”
“I do not,” Jeb said. He folded his arms across his chest and patted the stems of his eyes. “What were those black dots in the oceans?”
“Raw crude,” Com said. “The humans use carbon for fuel, and their efforts to withdraw it from the ocean floors have not always been successful.”
“Why would they want to withdraw crude from the ground?” Jeb asked. “They have sun, wind, water and, most powerful all the every rapid tumble of time. Why would they burn carbon?”
“That answer would require and in depth study,” Com said. “Do you wish it?”
“No,” Jeb said, “but I am wondering if I should eliminated the rest of the human species—the, what, two and a half billion specimens left. I could do my composition on sea life, alone.
“It will not be possible to completely eliminated one specific species without eliminating all species,” Com said.
“I don’t want to do that,” Jeb whined. “The Council will not be impressed with a plain canvas of water and soil. What is your recommendation?”
“Two viable options,” Com said. “One: start the experiment from scratch. Two: Wait to see if the dominate species will go viral again.”
“Yes,” Jeb said. “I’ll do that. I’ll wait a bit longer.”
“However, there is no reason to believe that the human species will not become a plague again. They are very prolific.”
“I suppose that you are right.” Jeb sighed and rubbed the web of wrinkles between his eyes. “It’s time to start cycle two.”
He stood up, braced his hands against the exosphere and shook his head. His optical stems bounced against each other. Whenever he was tired or extremely tense, he had a hard time holding his stems apart. “That sure was a disappointment.”
“What?” Com asked. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I said,” Jeb began and then stopped. Suddenly his head felt a little too heavy for his neck. “I had hoped that the human species would… I had hoped they would enrich the natural esthetic qualities of the planet. I had hoped they would produce art and literature. I wanted them to husbandry the planet to a higher level. I mean… Well, I would think that it would be natural, innate, for a species to want to improve and decorated their home?”
Com hummed. “Unlike Goodnusians, humans are very myopic creatures.”
“So you don’t think that it’s possible for them to see the grandeur of their world or appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake?”
“Possible, yes,” Com said, “but unlikely.”
“Very well,” Jeb said. “Begin Cycle 2: Program 6.”
Com clattered and dinged as it executed Program 6. The experiment passed a dozen cycles with no visible change. Slowly, tiny white caps appeared at the poles again. Growing larger the white bonnets crept over the blue ball, until they began to meet in the middle. Long ribbons of ice from the south and the north merged.
“Com,” Jeb said. “Put everything on automatic. I’m going to take a short break. And be sure to calculate a cycle of 2000 decades before thawing. That should take care of the problem.”
“Computed,” Com said.