The galaxy is a big place. The Banjung-Molovich modifications to inflation theory may have handed the human race a faster than light drive, but Yang Nabalto still spent fifty years hibernating in a cylinder a little wider than his shoulders while his ship crept toward the nearest reasonably Earth-like planet. He could have done it in ten years, at fifty times the speed of light, but speed eats up energy, and energy eats up money, even when you venture into the weirdness of faster than light travel. Yang and the other members of the Nabalto family settled for ten times light speed and accepted the disadvantages of extended unconsciousness. Two of the sixty-three immigrants hibernating on the ship arrived at their destination with impairments that would require years of tightly supervised therapeutic reconstruction. One of the casualties was the Nabalto fatherbond—the husband whose primary responsibilities centered on the cultivation of the Nabalto children. Yang and the other male bonds in the Nabalto family would have to assume more of that responsibility.
Rostoff Nabalto didn’t think he was a child. He had lived through fifty-six waking years and enjoyed full legal adult status for six. He had even brought a wife—one woman, only one, the bonded sharer of his dreams. They were going to find some beautiful place on this new world and shape it with all the tools they had brought—a private land they would rule as king and queen.
The Nabalto family had traveled on the second ship to carry colonists to the planet the astronomers had dubbed Kendavala. Five planetary days after the new immigrants landed, the immigrants from the first ship met them in the building the first immigrants called a cathedral. And Rostoff heard the decrees of the Custodian’s emissary.
The Emissary spoke to them from an imaging stage in front of an area the people from the first ship called the “altar”. Rostoff thought the Emissary looked like an image created by a marketing firm that was still working out its approach. It was a head taller than the largest humans in the audience and it was obviously modeled on the anthropomorphic robots most of the immigrants had included in their freight allowance. The Custodian had tried to find a balance between imposing and reassuring and it hadn’t quite succeeded. The brass-and-silver body looked too massive and gaudy. The fat head looked so smiley and big eyed it would remind most adult humans of the anthros and images that had jostled them through their first encounters with formal education.
The Emissary’s seven minute documentary had the same nursery school quality. The Custodian claimed he-she-it represented a species that had achieved faster than light travel over a million earth years before the human species had developed the Banjung-Molovich equations. The Custodian’s species had spread through “thousands of light years” (exact number unspecified) and colonized “thousands of planets” that had generated carbon-based life.
The Emissary beamed at them with its head superimposed on a background dominated by a massive star cluster. “We were a young species. Just like you. We saw this wonderful huge galaxy. We saw millions of uninhabited worlds.”
But then, of course, they grew older and wiser. They realized the worlds they had invaded weren’t really uninhabited. They were merely worlds in a certain stage of evolution. Conscious, intelligent life could have evolved on all of them, given time. Instead, the Custodian’s species had covered all those worlds with crops they could eat and animals they found tasty and/or attractive.
The Emissary reappeared in full body view, with an edge-on view of the galaxy hovering behind its bulky silver shoulder. “We were killing the life that might have been,” the image intoned. “We thought we were spreading intelligence through the galaxy. But we weren’t. We were killing it before....it could....be born.”
The humans from the first ship had settled into a peninsula that jutted out of a massive continent in the southern hemisphere. An image of the peninsula replaced the galaxy, with the northern half outlined in orange.
“The Custodian has decided you may occupy the area indicated on this map. You may do whatever you like there. You may visit and explore the rest of this world as much as you wish. Enjoy it. We think you will find parts of it strange and beautiful. We know some of you will be disappointed. We would have felt the same way when we were a young species. Think of these restrictions as a gift. A gift you give the future.”
Copyright 2016 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
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