Colony Four

Retrieved from Colony Three Archives, from approximately 20 million years BP.  Partial translated record of a policy statement from System Government.

“It is hard to know where they came from.  Against all odds, in a hostile and corrosive environment, to not only come to be – but to thrive, to prosper, and…to spread.

This is where the peril lies, for us.  These organisms have survived such adverse environments, and multiplied in them, that they could probably live anywhere.  Including where we live – and that is part of the problem.

Their rise and development is the other, and possibly more important part.  In mere thousands of planetary revolutions, they have gone from being inconsequential animals to beings that influence an entire planetary biosphere – and adversely, from our viewpoint and from theirs.

We missed this development, until it obtruded itself upon us.  We were unaware of their insidious intrusion into our fourth colony’s ecosystems until the top predator numbers started catastrophically declining, and the heavy metals started pouring into the atmosphere.

Just in the fourth colony, though: the last-settled and most sparsely colonised; the one with the steepest gravity well, the highest radiation hazards and least abundant nutrients; the one we regard as a fringe habitat, albeit the one with possibly the greatest potential habitable volume of all.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we cannot identify with them in any way at all: they are physically far larger than us; they have also left the atmosphere of their world a mere few million years ago to live in what amounts to a soft vacuum – albeit one with enough corrosive oxidant to be highly toxic to any of us, and sufficiently highly damaging to any of our equipment as to make it almost impossible to spend long enough with them to attempt any contact.

We have indirect contact, however.  They have mastered enough technology to fill the space between planets with electronic noise, however unintelligible; they also fill the atmosphere of Colony Four with enough noise pollution as to make it almost uninhabitable – as a by-product of their transport mechanisms!

And now they start to try to leave the planet.  Oh, they only use primitive chemical propulsion, with tiny payloads on enormous chemical rockets that only get into low orbit, but they have still left the planet.  To what end, who knows: theirs is the only planet with surface conditions suitable for them; they cannot use our habitats without extensive modification or protective wear, just as we cannot use theirs – although our sort of habitat is far more common than theirs, in this, our planetary system as well as on their planet.

We cannot allow this to continue.  Simple prudence dictates that we, the dominant life form in this system, should not allow ourselves and our habitats to be threatened by what amounts to a fringe organism arising from an extreme environment – and that we should take measures to protect ourselves and our civilisation from it.  It is merely common sense, therefore, that we should accept a temporary loss of access to Colony Four’s ecosphere while we intervene at a planetary level to negate the potential threat these organisms pose to us.  They have never met us, they have never sought to communicate; they probably have no idea…[further material too garbled to interpret]”

Commentary prior to Third Intervention on Colony Four: Citizens Record Network

“This is a fascinating snippet from our early history, as it sets the stage not only for the huge First Intervention at Colony Four, but also the smaller Second that was deemed necessary for the same reason, just over 5 million years ago.  Changes in our governmental policies and ethics with time have set the threshold for intervention ever higher, until the proposed Third Intervention comes only after evidence of advanced planetary change that itself amounts to global consequences nearly as severe as the Second Intervention itself: this time, the emergent organisms have significantly changed the chemistry not only of the atmosphere, but also of the attenuated gases above it – and caused extinctions of atmospheric life forms rivalling any caused by us.  We will remember that our very recent Intervention in the atmosphere of Primary was triggered by the same observation – which extinguished an emergent threat very much closer to us, although technologically not as advanced.

However, the most important fact influencing a change in the non-interventionist policy for Colony Four that has prevailed for 5 million years is the fact that the new Colony Four emergents have achieved what amounts to interplanetary travel.  While initially this was limited to the Colony Four satellite and the adjacent planet, both barren beyond any hope of colonisation, as well as deep outer system probes, they have recently managed to explore the environment around Colonies Two and Three.  Although the ecosystem of Colony Three is securely hidden from them by the thick planetary crust, Colony Two’s atmosphere vents through the crust into the orbital plane of Second Primary – and has been sampled several times by the Colony Four emergents, using a surprisingly long-lived exploratory vehicle.  It is considered only a matter of time, given that Primary and Mother World and Colony One are closer to Colony Four than are Two and Three and Second Primary, that they also investigate these worlds.  As it is, it is becoming increasingly likely that they will detect – or may have even already detected – our shuttles as they arrive or leave the planet, given an increasing use of electromagnetic scanning and of near-surface flight craft.

The threshold has been passed, therefore – and action is imminent.  As twice before, a strike using a large outer system cometary body is being discussed, and will probably be mandated.  Given that the organisms inhabit only the near-vacuum region of Colony Four, albeit in a wide range of temperature zones, a severe global reduction in temperature over a period of several Mother World standard years should adversely affect the above-atmosphere ecosphere sufficiently to reduce their numbers and infrastructure so as to negate any threat, without rendering the habitable atmosphere overly unpleasant.  It may even return the atmosphere to conditions prevailing around 50 million years ago, with the atmosphere completely covered by a frozen crust, similar to Colony Four – which would be a most favourable outcome!

It is interesting that these emergences should have happened three times in recorded history on this, our most marginal colony world.  It is presumed that because the planet is the only one of the Colonies warm enough to expose the atmosphere directly to space without a protective crust, also allows faster evolution of organisms adapted to living in near vacuum, to achieve sufficient sentience as to pose a threat – three times in just 20 million years, and 250 million revolutions of the planet around the primary.  It is even more interesting that all of the organisms in question evolved in, and then came out of the atmosphere – and that their distant ancestors probably came from a source common to us and them, however repugnant the thought.  Indeed, while we see animals physically similar to us that live in their atmosphere, the truth is that our common ancestors were bacterioplankton, blasted from the atmospheres of worlds throughout the system by asteroid strikes over 300 million years ago, and distributed across the worlds through millennia by simple orbital mechanics. Indeed, it is possible that we have a closer genetic relationship to the now extinct and almost unimaginably diffuse cloud beings of Primary, than we do to Colony Four’s emergent beings.  Thus, they are as evolutionarily distant from us as we are from crust-hugging foodweed, or bottom-dwelling gusher spawn, and we should feel no more kinship to them than we do to our food.  The fact that they are so short-lived compared to us should similarly inspire pity.  Their paltry six or seven years compared to our eight-of-eights means no one individual can ever amass enough knowledge to be truly sentient; no grouping can last long enough or be stable enough to consolidate knowledge as we do.

If it were not for the good of The People, however, we could feel a general sense of regret at having to yet again cause the extinction of what appears to be intelligent life, however primitive.  However, the greater good of the greater number should be what guides us in this momentous decision – and in truth, we Citizens probably outnumber the emergents on their own planet, despite the sparseness of our settlement there, to say nothing of our far greater numbers throughout the rest of the system.  It is a sad fact of life that the fit out-compete the unfit, even at the level of entire species, and that we need to out-compete species that emerge to threaten our long-term well-being.  We have done it by simple biological competition on Mother World, in our own distant prehistory; we did it deliberately by atmospheric engineering on Colony Five, out around the blue and distant Primary Three.  And we have already done it twice to Colony Four, and an-eight-and-a-half times to Primary. 

As it is, if the strike is mandated, in a few eights of years our orbital telescopes will give an excellent view of the chosen body being guided from the fringes of the system, to impact our ill-fated Colony Four, on the third planet out from our companion star.  We are assured that it will be even more impressive than the most recent cometary sterilisation of the emerging cloud beings of Mother World’s Primary, given the much smaller size of the Colony Four planet.   Of course, colonists will shelter as deep in the atmosphere as is feasible, if they do not wish to be evacuated: they will still be safe, as the strike will be directed, as before, to impact rock above the atmosphere.  Until then – be safe, Citizens!”

Archivists note:

It is fascinating, from the viewpoint of a million Nest years later, to read such similar justifications of repeated genocide, of beings that were innocently unaware of the existence of what we know as The Inner Republic. A twelve of species eliminated on Planet Five alone; three on Planet Three; at least one around Planet Seven – and all in just a million years!  Indeed, their mark persists until now, with Three still crusted over, the atmosphere of Five so unstable and their own Mother World so polluted, that nothing but bacteria can live there.  It is scarcely credible that they could have risen, and then descended again, within the lifetime of one star.

It is also interesting to see that they were so blithely unaware of our existence, out in the region where the rocks and ice bodies that bombarded them came from: could they not see that the cells that made them and all other life in the system, came from here?  That in fact, they and all the other life in the Inner System descends from our prehistoric waste, carried between stars with us, and then in-system?  They, who used bodies from the Cloud as weapons to kill other species?

It is probably a feature of the overpoweringly hot environment in the planetary zone that results in such rapid evolution, that organisms come to sentience without the length of life that allows true reflection and understanding.  Out here on the system perimeter, all we have is stars – and the closest is merely the most recent to us, whereas to them it was their only one.  Such beings cannot take the time to gather information, to observe and eventually, to understand.  It has taken just a fraction of the life-of-a-six to gather all the information that they ever transmitted, through so many of their lifetimes.

It is fortunate, then, that their reach remained limited to the inner system, inside Planet Nine.   Only-a-twelve-could-compute what damage they could have done to us in the Mother Cloud, had they not turned on themselves and descended into mere beasts again. 

Truly, inner system organisms live fast and hot, and die young.

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