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Poetry

Pest Control – A Short Story

It came up on the screen, the beautiful blue green planet that had been his ultimate triumph in planetary architecture, before the idiot had speculated all the capital he needed to complete project. He had won awards yet he had been humiliated, but at least the idiot had been dealt with, the only delight he could take from the sorry affair.

It had all gone so well – he had secured the funding to terraform a planet around a viable sun, on the outskirts of the galaxy. The plan had been to create the ultimate holiday destination for those slogging in the centre – he was going to be so rich.

But he had a problem, bloody evolution. It was riddled with life and not the plant life he had put there for landscaping purposes. Nor the dumb lizards for the rich to enjoy hunting; no there was mammalian sentience, he had a pest problem of the highest order.

Universe knows how they had taken hold, there’s always some mammals on a build like this – you cant escape them, perennial problem – part of the terraforming process, but the reptiles should have dominated.  He expected the lizards to have developed some sentience; over the millennia it had taken to gain the funding he needed to complete the project. But cold blooded life was easily disposed of, just block out the sun for a few cycles and they tended to die off. Mammals were more resilient – damn it.

Also he couldn’t let the Council know about this – if they found out, an Intelligence Preservation Order could scupper the whole thing, cosmos damned building regulations. Thankfully it didn’t look from his initial scans like the infestation were much aware of the rest of the galaxy nor its rules and regulations, so he may just get away with it.

Nothing for it he would have to grab one of them – do some tests, perhaps there was some kind of pesticide he could develop that would wipe out this aberration and leave the overall project viable.

*

It had been a long day he was a sales executive selling BMW’s to people with more money than sense. One particular fool had given him no end of grief about a knocking noise, demanding a new car. He had spent an entire hour banging on about s.14 of the Sale of Goods Act, and how he knew his rights.

He slammed his car door, all thoughts filled with the cold bottle of beer awaiting him when a large blue tunnel of light pierced through the dark sky and before he knew it he was no longer outside his house – then he passed out.

*

Damn the universe it had gone wrong again bloody spot check from the Council. Now he had to make a case that the life on his building site was not worthy of an IPO. Well he did have some hope – the specimen he had gathered was border line intelligent, and it seemed pretty representative of the species – so he may still gain the all clear to wipe them out.

He had developed a superb little virus that would target only the humans with minimal cost to him and leave the rest of the life on the planet intact. The diversity that had developed would make the planet an even bigger draw for tourists than he had first envisioned – he would end up even richer, if he could win this irritating case.

*

“The language is fairly rudimentary so it shouldn’t be a problem – ah there you go he should now understand us.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“What’s hell?”

Adam was bemused he was sat on a block in a blue tinged room. He could see no people only hear a disembodied voice that had just asked him to explain what hell was.

“What do you mean what’s hell?”

“Ah an explanation is probably in order. You are representative of your species, we in the Galactic Council wish to assess you to see if your species”  there was a pause “hu-mans; deserve an Intelligence Preservation Order. Your world tenancy is under a planning dispute. The plaintiff wishes to complete his development but found your species had sprung up, the Council has to decide if your species is worthy of protection or if the plaintiff can exterminate you as pests and complete his project.”

“Again what the hell?”

“Clearly not very intelligent” said another voice.

Another said “put yourself in his place wouldn’t you be confused? The papers suggest this species is not space faring yet so wouldn’t be aware of the Council.” Then directed at Adam “Hu-Man I am your defence counsel this is a hearing.  Do answer the questions fully.”

“Okay I’ll play along – but if Alex is behind this I will reap my revenge in a painful way.”

“Ah violent  – so what is hell then?”

“Its a figure of speech but it is also a place, where some rather gullible people believe you go to after death, if you have lived a bad life that is. Sheesh this better not end up on the internet Alex.”

“He still doesn’t believe us – a demonstration is in order. Flip the viewer will you.”

He was rotated around as the entire wall behind him seemed to shutter back and there in front of him was a familiar globe, framed with stars and the black void of space. It was a beautiful sight and it was his home, you could see the intersection of night and day, one half of the planet bathed in sunlight and the other a web of twinkling lights – linking towns and cities. He could see Britain – small in land mass but green and fundamentally fair (usually) and he felt a pang for home.

Shit was this real, lets face it, it was a very elaborate prank if it wasn’t. His erstwhile friend was cunning but he couldn’t see him being this committed to a jape. So logic says this is either a vivid dream, a hallucination or…real. He recalled he still hadn’t had that bloody beer, and beer would help it always did, beer was his friend. A voice shook him from his hoppy reverie.

“We are currently cloaked and in orbit around the disputed planet.”

“Earth.”

“What?”

“Earth – that’s what we call the planet, and its ours – we didn’t ask to evolve on it – but we did and now its ours – how can there be a dispute – surely we have squatters rights or something?”

“Ah squatter rights – your planetary records say it means someone who has been in occupation for enough time to assert the property belongs to them.”  Said a new voice.

“Oh very good Nego you have tapped their archives.”

“Yes a ‘google’ – seems to have everything.”

“Yes yes – see you don’t need me to help you – just access our internet and you will learn everything about us – we use it as a huge archive of information and a communication tool. Can you send me home?  I really doubt you want me, pick on one of our leaders – actually on second thoughts don’t do that – although someone like the Dalai Llama – he would be good, but avoid a bloke called Mugabe; sheesh you would be wiping us out in a heart beat if you interview him.”

“No you were selected at random, this is far more representative. There are several tests we need to undertake; some physical, these have already been completed – this interview is more about your species’ ethical capacities.”

Another voice “We have some questions. Let’s start with why you pollute your own world – surely this is idiocy – currently you have no means to escape it, yet you persist in damaging it – what is the logic of this?”

“There is no logic to it – my world doesn’t work like that, some humans are greedy and shortsighted and this means things are done that are not in our long term interest – we don’t see ourselves as one species really – we see ourselves as individuals or nations, so we don’t always act in the best interest of the planet as a whole. There are people fighting for this but not sure how seriously I take them – its not in our nature to care about collective concerns only our own.”

“Selfish creatures then.”

“Individuals there’s a difference.”

“What is this difference?”

“Well we do come together when we have common aim – we have built cities together. We couldn’t have evolved to do this unless we worked together, but we all have to see the common aim. Some people have different aims that they work with others on. Those two groups probably don’t see eye to eye and a dispute happens with the strongest perspective winning, and then we move forward or backwards.”

“You seem to be quite primitive.”

“Well that’s not fair – as that description could be applied to what is happening in this room – there are two opposing views; so this Council must decide the strongest position. Anyway surely you were primitive once – this is an interference in our normal development – what if someone had come along without so much as a smile and wiped you out in the early stages of your development – just because of a planning dispute. How fair is that?”

“He does have a good point.”

“No he doesn’t – they are a pest – mammals are the scourge of the galaxy wherever they spring up they destroy, I say we nip this particular infestation in the bud before we have a future we will regret.”

“That’s not true there are some very peaceful mammalian’s which have enriched our galactic culture.”

“You would think that.”

“DO BE Quiet.”

It fell silent

Adam broke the silence “What is the nature of the planning dispute – what is Earth ear marked for then?”

“It was terraformed to provide a holiday destination.”

“Really! Surely you can see that a species is more important than that, intelligent or not?”

“There are examples of your own kind wiping out many species according to your google – I would like to meet him.”

“Google is a search engine – it isn’t a person – it allows you to find what you need in the vast information stores we have. We also have people who don’t eat meat and who try and protect the world. You would have to be very selective about who you killed. There are some people who I would smile to see wiped off the planet but there are others who are figuring it out and in several hundred years I have hope we will be a finer race.”

“Really – what about the likelihood that your middle east will end up at war with your west.”

“Yes that’s likely.”

“Also likely is that you will use atomic weapons again and your planet will be ruined – surely better for us to wipe you out before this happens. Thus preventing the remedial work to restore the planet to a viable development. There is the strong argument that my client would be a better custodian than these hu-mans.”

“But it’s our planet surely we can do with it as we please.”

“No it is not YOUR planet – my client has outlaid a substantial effort, terraforming a ball of rock – that action enabledyour life form could flourish.  You must concede that you would not exist without his efforts – I suggest to the Council that as this species did not form naturally, but as a direct result of my clients efforts – it is his right to exterminate them. He was here first.”

God is real then and he isn’t benevolent! Adam couldn’t help but smile at this thought. God is a property developer who considers us an inconvenience – doubt the Pope saw that coming.

“Interesting argument counsel but I am afraid flawed – if the species is found to be a; peaceful, worthy intelligence then the leasehold passes to them.  The regulations state certain forms of intelligence must be nurtured where it springs forth. Your case must prove Hu-Man’s are not within the dictates of worthy intelligence – then your client will be awarded the lease.

“I believe this life form is intelligent so the preliminary hearing finds in favour of the humans – however I have concerns – mainly regarding the species’ ethical worth – if the race is found to be an emerging danger to the wider cosmos we will have grounds to wipe it out to preserve and protect the overall harmony of the universe.

“Lets proceed to the ethical concerns.

“It would appear from our analysis you are a violent race – there are a number of conflicts currently taking place between your own species.”

“Look you are talking about exterminating my entire race because of some greater universal good. That’s how the people involved in these conflicts see it – that there is a greater good – only nutters want war and they are a minority – but sometimes its the only way – sometimes war is about handling the maniacs. One of our greatest conflicts, we call it World War II, was about ridding the world of a lunatic that was exterminating 40 million people just because of the religion they practiced. I cant say war is always right or even worth the loss of life, but the intentions are often meant well. Much as yours are now.”

“Interesting.”

“What about the disparity between poor and rich – you seem to not make equal provision for all your kind, allowing some to starve to death whilst others throw food stuffs away, or gorge themselves until they are quite frankly damaging themselves. Is this your selfishness again?”

“That’s lots of issues wrapped up in one.

“Disparity between poor and rich is because we aren’t all equal – some of us are lucky sperm – born to well off families in rich countries. Others are more intelligent and so they can earn more and provide for themselves. Nations don’t necessarily share as much as they could – although the richer nations are trying to help the really poor countries, and when there is a national disaster we often help as a world.

“On the waste that is a shame but you can’t base wiping out my race on a lack of good stock control. I am sure we could learn and are already doing so, but we need time to figure it out.

“Some people eat until they damage themselves because they are sad with the world and it is one of the many ways we can sooth ourselves as individuals.

“I suppose that’s what it all comes back to in the end. We are all individuals we like to think we are good at sharing – but our fundamental starting point is always the self.”

“You mean you don’t know that we are all parts of the universe?”

“We know we are all made of stars – that the reactions in stars created the fundamental chemicals and elements that make us, is that what you mean?”

“That is correct – but on a very base level. We are all the universe – there is no I really – we are but extensions of a higher consciousness. Vardor can you help he looks confused.”

“Not confused – just wasn’t expecting a load of new age bullshit from people who plan to wipe my species out.”

Another voice boomed “a metaphor may help you to understand this fundamental truth. Consider the universe to be like one of your trees. You are a leaf on that tree – you were born in your spring and grow and perceive the world, and  also provide a means for the universe to survive – but you have a finite lifecycle and the tree will shed you in the winter – this is your death. However you would not see the leaf as independent of the tree, even though a leaf could (if it were sentient) see itself as independent. All we are proposing is a little tree surgery to cut away elements of the universe (you) that could hamper the growth of the tree (the universe).”

“Really that’s the truth of it? What part do we play in the health of the universe then – we need to tell people this – if they understood it – no hang on, they wouldn’t believe it without you lot coming down in space ships. In fact that is a good idea rather than extermination why don’t you come and help us – guide us – if we knew we weren’t alone in the universe we may actually unite as a species and solve some of our more petty dilemmas.”

“It doesn’t work that way – you have to develop yourselves – we do not interfere in a pre space faring communities development.”

“Well then why are you considering wiping us out – if that’s not bloody interfering I don’t know what is. I still want to know what part life plays in the health of the universe.”

“We don’t really know exactly, and the universe doesn’t communicate with us in conventional ways.”

“How do you know for sure then? How do you know that all life isn’t some form of infestation – some mould on the universe tree – some mould or parasite that is actually damaging the universe?”

“The universe is expanding – your species is aware of that I believe. That is healthy growth – when a civilisation dies the universe grows weaker – the underlying strength of the forces in the universe dip out and the growth slows – the more life the more it grows.”

“Why wipe us out then we are surely adding to the health of the universe.”

“He has a point.”

“No he doesn’t Vardor – you know its more complicated than that.”

“Complicate it for me, see if I understand?”

“The growth is rooted in the amount of sentient life that is true – but the moral worth of that life is also relevant. We have registered stronger growth in the period post a cull of a brutal species. That is why the IPO is only interested in preserving intelligent moral life.”

“That’s mind blowing – we think the expansion will mean a sad and dark future as all the matter in the universe moves away from itself.”

“Very narrow minded position – yes it will mean that of course – but that is merely the universe’s death throes, everything dies, even the universe – what is more important is the quality and length of its life. This is directly relevant to the amount of sentient life within it that is moral.”

“I don’t know what more to say to convince you.” Adam’s mind was boggled and he still needed that beer.

“We seem to have reached an impasse – your species has potential to be both good and bad. The direction is unclear at this point in its development.”

“We could always ask the planet?”

“Yes Vardor that is a good idea – but a hard one to execute – you know planets hate being bothered.”

“What are you talking about – how can you ask the planet – the planet isn’t alive, someone said its a ball of rock.”

“Yes planet’s are balls of rock – but they are sentient. I could easily describe you as fleshy bag, but that would be rude as you are standing right there, so I wont – the plaintiff had to get the planet’s consent to terraform it.  So perhaps we should let it have the final say, does it want to be your home or a holiday destination. Yes that’s a great idea.”

“I’ve got to see this…”

“Unlikely even a short conversation will take at least 10 of your years – we have the means for you to take part – slow your experience down and translate – but you will have to commit at least a decade of your life to the conversation?”

“ A 10 year a conversation heavens, no thanks.”

“Very well we shall send you back and call on you again when we have secured the planet’s opinion of your species.”

A flash of blue enveloped him and he was back beside his car.  Only 4 hours had passed. He let himself in and grabbed his whiskey – beer was not going to cut it!

Back on the orbiting space ship the preparations to consult the planet were set in motion…

*

“Yes what do you want?”

“Greetings Earth.”

“That is not my name, that’s what the humans call me.”

“Do you have a name?”

“It would take too long for you to pronounce, unless you want this chat to take centuries – so Earth will suffice.”

“That’s good – Earth we wish to consult with you about a matter.”

“You afforded this developer the rights to terraform you?”

“Yes and he didn’t finish the job.”

“No we are aware of that.”

“The contract is not still active is it?”

“Well that is up for debate – you see you have sentience.”

“I know I do.”

“Not you – the humans.”

“Yes I quite like them, although they are itchy at times – quite a resilient bunch really – some of my other life forms like to have a pop at them – the microscopic ones generally; but so far so good, for them anyway!” The earth laughed… it took 4 weeks for him to stop.

“One of the council whispered – I hope no-one tells a good joke – we may need another decade.” His neighbour hushed him

The Earth stopped laughing “What’s this all about then?”

“The developer wishes to exterminate them as a pest, we are assessing if they have grounds to be saved under an Intelligence Preservation Order.”

“Oh really – why do you need me?”

“We cannot conclude – the evidence is inconclusive and so in matters such as these it falls to the host world to decide.”

“Sheesh do I have to – never enjoy this sort of thing.”

“Sir they have been mining you and polluting you for some time now. I could guarantee you a much more civilised and controlled group of surface dwellers, that would not decimate you.” The developer’s Counsel made his pitch.

“Really! When you found me I was unadorned with life; according to my kind that’s about as civilised and controlled as it gets in this universe.” Earth laughed again and the defence counsel wisely interjected, for fear of losing another month.

“Please forgive me Earth but I must turn you to the matter at hand.”

“Fair enough – I was busy too you know – compressing carbon – love a diamond deposit. Be nice to get back to it.”

“The human race is intelligent – we know this – but in your opinion are they a danger.”

“Yes – to themselves – they seem to think it wise to damage the atmosphere you put in place and have all manner of petty conflicts – some quite amusing, others not so much. Recently they discovered splitting the atom – always creates a nasty rash.

“Sometimes I need to help them keep their population in check, they can be painful if there’s too many of them and they do like to reproduce – tsunamis have been my interest of late. Typhoons and hurricanes are also useful. But I don’t want to wipe them out – if I had wanted that I could have destabilised a couple of my giant volcanoes and easily dealt with them. But if I am honest I like them.”

“Why?”

“They aren’t all war mongers and destroyers you know, some love to surf in my oceans, explore my mountains and they are fascinated by the planet and the universe. Yes they can be tiresome and they have a lot to learn, but extermination? Why do you deem them a threat? They haven’t left me yet; other than in orbit and to my satellite – they call the moon. They have managed to send my metals up and into the solar system – I think two left it recently, but their still in the void and they don’t have any weapons on them.”

“They obviously let violence lead them though – whose to say they will not achieve space faring capabilities and then become a scourge of this galaxy?”

The Earth had a short 6 hour chuckle.

“You all started off as war mongers – its primitive thinking that does it – for them to become a threat to the galaxy they will all have to work together – and if they figure out how to do that they will have learnt that compassion and decency necessitates such co-operation. They will have trained their minds to disregard the violent tendencies and ergo will not be a threat.”

“There have been space faring races who have been violent, the Ridiams and the Blogas.”

“Yes but very short lived space farers. If I recall correctly the Ridiams blew themselves up launching an assault on their neighbour the Blogas, before either could get into the wider Galaxy. No one saw those two races as a serious threat. You all know violence always brings up obstacles. Working in harmony with other races is always better for the longevity of a species, and longevity is what is needed to be a player on the galactic, let alone universal stage. This lot have begun to learn this already – they had a thing called the cold war – followed it closely, as was concerned about the potential for rashes. It petered out, as neither side wanted to assure their own destruction. That to me shows potential.”

“But they are polluting you!”

“Yes I know – but they didn’t know and now they do, they are stopping and I believe in a few thousand years I will be clean again.”

“They have no choice you see – they haven’t figured out how to go somewhere else and they know I’m the only planet they have any chance of living on in the solar system – there’s a couple of moons but still pretty inhospitable compared to me. Lets face it – this debate is ridiculous – if they don’t do something about the pollution and depleting resources, then they wont survive, and they are good at surviving. Why don’t you just wait and see?”

“Urgency of the claim, Earth.”

“Urgency my sink holes – there was no urgency when the job was left half done several millennia ago. I’ve had enough of this – my decision is it?”

“Yes.”

“Well then ask me – instead of wasting further time.”

“Do you wish to keep the Hu-Man race?”

“Yes I do – they will either wipe themselves out or they will not. Let the developer be patient, he can come to me and I will honor the contract if they do, until then leave them and me be.”

“Thank you Earth – Council concludes that the Developer concedes his claim to the planet’s discretion, I shall call these proceedings to an end.”

“What about the human should we inform him of the decision?”

“Oh he died when we were discussing the Ridiams”

“Really they don’t live long do they?”

“Well this one could have lived longer, if he hadn’t of embarked on a life of frivolous partying and extreme motor sports – convinced that he only had 10 years left to live before he & everyone else was annihilated.”

“Really – the planet had much more faith in his race than he did, then. Perhaps you will get your holiday development off the ground sooner than you think.”

THE END

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