Authors: David Beers
“Good, Hindran. There is one option that can work, that all the formulas say will allow our species to continue. We must colonize. There are approximately a hundred thousand other planets across the universe with dimensions similar to ours, and a radioactive core that provides heat. I’ve mapped them out as you’ll see. We’ve never had contact with any of these planets, and we don’t know if life already exists on them. It is possible.”
Another pause, but again no one spoke. It seemed that Chilras only spoke when she shouldn’t. Morena would speak to her after about showing respect, and if she didn’t want to hear it, then Morena would take other measures to ensure her husband never experienced embarrassment like this again.
“We need fifty to a hundred thousand ships, and we need to equip them with five Bynums each. From there, we send them to these other worlds, and once they arrive, they contact Bynimian, letting us know what they’ve found—whether or not life is there and if the place is habitable.”
“And if there is life?” Another Council member, Jiln asked.
“There are multiple options; Bynums can return home; they can eradicate the other life; they can wait for reinforcements to arrive; or, they can attempt to live with said life.”
“Eradicate it?” Chilras said.
“It is an option, Hindran.”
“Has Bynimian ever been in a war, Briten? Do you know?” The old hag said. Morena remained leaning back, not saying anything, outward appearance showing only dispassion.
“No, Bynimian has never been to war with another species. I’m only presenting options here, Hindran, not absolutes,” Briten said.
“But you come to us with only one option, the option to leave our home.”
“As I said, for the species to live, there are no other options. It is an impossibility to remain on this planet.”
“I’ve heard you say that, but your words don’t make it so. You are an outsider, no?” Chilras asked.
“Our ways are new to you?”
“Well let me educate you some, as the Var’s husband it is only right that you understand the culture you’ve adopted,” Chilras said. “Bynums are Bynimian, and Bynimian is us. To leave this planet, to sacrifice our home so that we may live, it’s unthinkable. You come to us with one solution, the one that will destroy our culture, the one that will send us out as refugees into the universe. We will become wanderers without a home.” She turned to look across the table at the others. “What are your thoughts? Should we send out citizens into the cold of space?”
The other Council members remained stoic, much like Morena. She knew Chilras didn’t mean for her to speak, that she wanted to hear from the other five, but Morena didn’t care at this point. The woman was acting on emotion and Morena couldn’t tell whether that emotion was based on her hatred for Briten or her genuine refusal to leave the planet. Either way, her words were acid attempting to destroy the idea that Briten had put forth. Morena had read all of his calculations; she looked at every piece of documentation Briten supplied, and Chilras could sit here with cold rage, but it didn’t change the fact that Briten was right.
“If we don’t send them out, they’ll die here in a hot explosion,” Morena answered.
Chilras found her eyes. “Says him. Our own have not had the chance to look at the numbers.”
“Hindran, you said that you did look at the numbers just a moment ago. I’ve looked at them, and am I not one of ‘our own’?”
Chilras said nothing.
“Given that I am probably considered a Bynum, despite your dislike of it, I say that the numbers add up perfectly. I find no flaws in them whatsoever. So I ask, what else can we do to keep our entire species from dying?”
“We will need to discuss the matter in private,” someone said to Morena’s left. She didn’t look over, but kept staring at Chilras, unwilling to release the look the two shared.
“There is no need to argue out here,” Jiln said. “Morena is right; we will discuss your findings and solution. We thank you for your effort, Briten.” The rest of The Council stood then, all of them obviously eager to avoid the power struggle between Chilras and Morena. Morena didn’t move, though Chilras slowly stood, most likely knowing what it would look like if she sat staring at the Var.
They walked off, heading to a private room, one even Morena could not enter.
should kill her
,” Morena said.
Briten laughed, his voice echoing out across the large hall.
Morena wasn’t laughing; she wasn’t joking either. She was seriously considering having her tried for the disrespect Chilras showed both of them. It was unheard of, for a Council member to speak to a Var or her husband in such a manner. It was a disrespect that the citizens would rip her apart for, if they had seen it. The Var kept the world safe, it moved the world forward, and for someone to show such contempt—it couldn’t be tolerated.
But that was only a piece of this, one that the Hindran could die for, but ultimately inconsequential.
Morena knew what was happening back in that room, the one that she couldn’t enter. No Var had ever entered that room, not even Morena’s mother, who The Council positively adored, even after her blessing on Morena’s marriage. Behind those doors, Chilras was railing against Briten’s plan, building an unholy union between emotion and logic that would cloud The Council’s judgment.
“They’re not going to let us do it,” she said, not looking at Briten, but pacing along the large hallway. The vaulted ceilings were transparent, allowing the artificial light that streamed down from the atmosphere to filter inside.
“I knew it was a long shot,” Briten said. “I knew the pushback I would get. I should have been more forceful, but…it wouldn't have mattered. They would claim I was an outsider trying to dominate their society.” He smiled, leaning back in his chair.
“You’re not the least bit angry?” Morena asked, the fury inside her abating slightly.
“I’m sad, Morena. They’re sentencing a few billion Bynums to death. There’s no anger at them for that stupidity, just sadness.”
“No anger? They’re murderers. They’re ending my bloodline. They’re sentencing a planet to death.” She couldn’t believe what he was saying, found herself actually turning her rage onto him, thinking that perhaps he deserved some of it too. Her planet was going to die and no one seemed to care, at all.
“What is my anger going to do? I can’t change their minds with it. I can’t fix the situation with it. Look at you, all of your anger and you’re still not able to get in their room and convince them I’m right.” He looked at her, holding his eyes the same as Chilras had. He wasn’t challenging her though; Briten never did that. He never had to. He looked at her as an equal, and yet as someone who would acquiesce if needed, because that was his position on this world. Guilt seeped in to her anger, dulling it. How much had he given up for her? How much had he sacrificed so they could be together?
His sacrifice had been greater, would always be greater. He would acquiesce because he lived on her world, with her people and her customs, instead of his own where he would have ruled. He sacrificed much of his own life for her.
“I’m sorry,” she said as she stopped pacing. “I just don’t know what to do. They’re going to come back and say we’re not moving forward with your plan. They’re going to search for other ways and there aren’t any. How long do we have Briten?”
“The rate of cooling will increase, so perhaps another million years or so.”
She looked down at the floor. It wasn’t that long, not if they were to find another home before then, not if they were to evacuate the entire planet. Morena might be dead by then, Briten too, but if they didn’t start now—start soon—it would be too late.
“What do I do?” She asked, looking back to her husband.
“You’re the Var. Not them. It is your role, your duty, to protect your people—it is their duty to make sure your decisions are the correct ones. There’s no one making sure their decisions are correct, though.” Briten stood up and walked to her, wrapping his arms around her, but not pulling close, keeping his distance and looking into her eyes. “You have to determine the best choice, Morena. Not me. Not them.”
hings were not
as good as they could be and Morena had no one to blame but herself. This world was different, and she hadn’t adequately tried to understand it before she acted. Their plan had been to send five people out, five Bynums to discover other planets. It wouldn’t have been enough. She needed more of her kind to back her up, because she felt the pressure growing around her. She thought Bryan did too, though he didn’t say anything. There was a sense of happiness permeating their shared mind when she got off the phone with Bryan’s girlfriend—this Julie. The happiness didn’t stem from Morena though; Bryan owned it. Morena hadn’t performed well, hadn’t convinced the girl that everything was fine, and she would most likely talk. Most likely tell the other people that had been causing the ‘phone’ to vibrate. The more people that thought Bryan wasn’t all right, the more likely it became that Morena would need to reveal herself before she was ready.
She couldn't mess this up. There wasn’t enough energy left to find another home for her and Briten. There wasn’t enough information either, from what she gathered from the library. This species knew virtually nothing of the universe and there had been no time to program her ship when they left Bynimian. If this world didn’t work, Morena could think of no other options. She couldn’t make it back out of this atmosphere, and even if she did, what would they do? Float in space again endlessly, hoping that by some miracle they might hit another planet.
No. This had to work. This planet had to be the one.
This species knew more about their own planet than they did the universe, but it still wasn’t much. The planet was unique in that it had both a star warming it, and the internal core seemed to give heat as well. The problem was, what she didn’t understand, was how much heat? No one knew, though they had guesses, but she couldn’t base the future of her species on a guess. Or rather, she didn’t want to.
The star’s warmth did nothing for her, nor would it do anything for any other Bynum. They evolved to rely on heat from below, not above.
“When will they be here?” she asked Bryan, not needing to say who she was talking about.
“A couple of hours.”
Morena had gone to school today, gleaning from Bryan through a little more arm twisting that if she didn’t, she would most definitely be noticed. Now she sat in his bedroom brooding over what came next. Over when his parents would get home and what they would say. Morena had managed to keep from talking too much, feigning illness last night, but she thought it wouldn’t work again. Tonight they would ask questions about the day at the library, and Bryan probably would have been able to explain it all away—but Morena was finding it hard to convey emotion with this body, finding it hard to converse naturally. So the conversation would lead to more suspicion which would lead to more conversation, and the cycle would continue until Morena had no choice but to reveal herself.
Which caused a whole host of problems.
“What are they going to want to know?” She asked.
“Where you were. Why you were there.”
“Can you teach me to talk to them?” Morena said.
The pause was long as she waited on his answer.
“I don’t think so,” he said finally. She listened to his words and felt his mind, trying to understand if she would need to hurt some part of his body again. She didn’t think so, though. She thought he was telling the truth, that the pause had been him really considering whether or not it was possible. “You’re too different. Your brain, or whatever, isn’t connecting fully with mine, so everything you say is coming off stilted. Robotic. I don’t know how to teach that.”
Morena fell back on the bed, spreading her arms out to the side. “Fuck,” she said, adapting the vulgarity of this language, feeling that the word just
If she went forward, there was no turning back. There would be no other chances. If she released the spawn here, flying again would be impossible, and revealing herself—at least for a time—would be impossible. She would be vulnerable to whatever attack these creatures mounted. Yet if she stayed, waiting, trying to gain more information, she would eventually be found out.
“What happens when they really start suspecting?” she asked, interrupting her own thought process.
“I don’t honestly know. They might commit me.”
“What does commit mean?”
“You go to an insane asylum. They put you behind bars with crazy people,” Bryan said.
Morena laughed out loud, the only time her voice ever sounded human. They would lock her up? Bars? It was lunacy, a thought which had never occurred to her, that this is how she—the Var—could end up. Locked in a cage on some foreign planet, with a species not even out of the second stage of development. Absurd, and yet, a possibility. Sooner or later, they would be too suspicious, they would think something was wrong with Bryan, and then they would act.
She had to act first. She would find no more information on the heat of this planet outside of what she learned yesterday.
Morena had made the choice to come here, even if she didn’t know it when she made it. She acted as Var, she made the choice that no one else would make. She made the choice that sent her to this place, and now she would need to deal with the consequences.
Morena looked to her right hand, opening it so that her palm faced the ceiling.
Tiny, white spores began to grow out of her skin, wiggling out like worms, except looking closer to tiny pieces of clouds once they exited. They coalesced in her palm, forming something akin to a dandelion. She felt herself growing weaker with each spore that rose out of her hand, felt herself dying some. It was normal, necessary—the pain of birth was to remind Bynums of life’s sanctity. That is why they never went to war.
The tiny cloud droplets finished escaping from her palm. She lifted her hand into the air, tossing the spawn up, and watched as it floated toward the window behind the bed. It floated through the glass in the same way the individual particles had left her hand.
he spawn knew focus
, knew it better than perhaps any other entity to ever live. It had only one purpose, and unlike, say, a sperm, it was conscious of that purpose. Aware and thinking, but unconcerned with anything besides its one goal.
Yet not just any warmth, a heat that would turn the spawn into what its final form should be. Very few things in this universe contained the heat it needed, indeed, the vast majority of the universe was far, far too cold for it to survive. It was on a timeline, and if it didn’t make the deadline, it would perish. That was another reason for the focus, its understanding of impending death. That knowledge would make anything work hard.
The spawn floated through the window and with a laziness that belied its underlying drive, slowly moved through the air, floating like a leaf blown by a soft wind. The air didn’t control it however, and while from a distance, it looked like a single entity—inside was a small mass of singular entities all struggling in one direction. Each one of the tiny eggs—for that’s what they were, but containing a group consciousness—pushed forward, all honing in on the place they had identified as the most likely to give them success. They needed,
needed, to get out of this populated area. What it needed to do was something that could’t be interrupted—if something interrupted the process, even minutely, death came next.
But it was more than death of itself. Even more than its offspring’s death.
Those eggs, that entity, carried a species inside it. Not a singular offspring, but millions. It carried a planet inside.
It took a few hours to make its way from the suburban mass it was born into, finally sensing fewer and fewer creatures around it. Not quite there yet, though. The whole area, really, wasn’t ideal—but if it went too far away from its mother, it would lose its ability to reproduce. Remaining close to its creator was imperative, so this place would have to suffice.
It floated out to a forest, not the same one its mother landed in, but another, more densely filled with vegetation. A place that would be unlikely to see intelligent creatures, due to aconsiderable overgrowth of the plants that sprung up so profusely. The spawn floated down through the tree tops, careful to miss the tiny pine leaves that would have easily damaged the eggs pushing the mass forward. Being careful, that was the need here. Making sure that nothing inside this wooded area could, or would, harm them.
The eggs didn’t have language, but they had…thoughts, or feelings. The classification didn’t matter, but what spawned from those feelings did. Giddiness. The eggs knew they were nearing ground, knew that the hours of floating were coming to an end. Pure happiness.
The dandelion mass landed on the ground, softly, the eggs on the bottom not moving into the dirt and the eggs above not pushing them down. Despite their giddiness, they had to wait. It had to be certain; there was no room for error. Its mother would not produce another spawn, and if it died here, then its mother died here too. Its mother’s offspring, the planet the spawn hoped to create, would all end.
There were creatures in these woods, a lot of them. Small things, not even an inch long, and larger things that moved quickly. Flying things. This forest was fully stocked with any number of beings that might accidentally damage the spores.
The spawn waited as the tiny eggs circled around inside, a tiny, white ball of moving parts. A small, yet expanding circle of transparent gas began moving from the spawn, spreading outward slowly, shaped like a dome. The gas floated through the small shrubs, moving both out and up, not harming any inanimate objects, nothing that consumed CO2. The gas first touched the smaller animals, the insects, and they turned on their backs immediately, their legs spasming in tiny little movements. It kept moving, not caring about the creatures lying dead in its wake, and the eggs kept their circular paths inside the spawn.
A bird fell from a tree as it breathed in the invisible poison, its wings twitching on the way down. It landed, bouncing slightly before lying still, its eyes glazed over.
A deer staggered a few feet, its eyes rolling back in its head, and foam spreading across its mouth. It collapsed with a final breath and then moved no more.
The gas continued growing, taking in all of the forest, the tiny spawn at its center. Animals died while plants lived, and an hour later, an unseen, odorless poison hovered throughout the entire area.
The spawn’s giddiness returned.