by Alessandro Cusimano
Derek had been circling the planet for several days. Now he was tired and eager to return home to Earth for a deserved holiday. His work in the distant star system was done, and his traveling companion was spending long periods in catalepsy:
“I take this opportunity to relax and become more beautiful!” she said. She had wasted her beauty in a life spent almost entirely in interstellar travel, away from her partner and her descendants.
“The quality of life is what counts, not quantity!” How many times had he heard that repeated?
But his long and exhausting journeys had shown him something else: species tended to accumulate resources, at least at the collective level. Even the observation of wild and very numerous species showed they had an instinct for accumulating alleged wealth.
The wealth was intangible; it was measured in abstract numbers, sometimes by pieces of colored paper, sometimes by metal chips that individuals often exchanged for objects or groceries.
The Azure led a busy life. Although their activities sometimes seemed unnecessary, they appeared to give pleasure and satisfaction.
Mass transit was not very popular, not even teleportation. They had a myth about fast metal cans into which they entered with difficulty, were bound and moved, often all at once, each in his jalopy, slow as snails, then at times at dangerous speeds. The more Derek watched them, the less he understood.
The leaders always used one or more armed gangs to be obeyed and to defend their power. There were various castes, which wore fancy uniforms and who arrogated to themselves privileges or powers over the spiritual life and liberty of the populace.
Widespread was the practice of killing or whipping one who was guilty of a crime more or less severe. In milder cases the alleged perpetrators were closed in the cage for a certain number of suns. Usually a privileged being in a robe decided the guilt and punishment after listening to two or three parishioners. The tears and protests of the unfortunates had no effect, while partial admissions were crafty, and wily defendants only made payments as penalties.
But the thing that had most surprised Derek was a kind of oracle that explained all truth. The oracle reported and interpreted events. It offered tools, oils and foods, particularly ones available in stores.
His companion Selena was surprised, shocked and dismayed at the large quantities of sugar, salt, vinegar and other mysterious additives needed to preserve food.
The Azure did not only eat the products of the land and water provided in the several seasons, they especially welcomed secretly processed foods, which were usually scrap,
The oracle reinforced beliefs and tastes with continuous warnings. And its many mouths explained how to manipulate these foods in small cartons or cans, or bottles, and how to obtain the hot or cold poultices that workers seemed fond of.
The most beautiful species that cohabited the planet were systematically exterminated by well organized technicians who left no escape for the unfortunate with no regard for the beauty of some specimens.
The Azure, being cruel and wicked, fed not on dangerous species but only on harmless ones. However the Azure were the least stupid species of the planet. They had multiplied to excess, and the oracle preached the goodness of eating little, of proliferating very little, and of killing the old and sick or letting them die.
The oracle persuaded the old to work for little or no compensation. The young, in their very little spare time, were tempted by sexuality, which was unbridled, often alternative and almost always infertile.
None questioned the truth of oracle; all dutifully accepted it. But it did not exist as a reality in itself; it was created by the powerful image of the moment, with respect to which the workers were only slaves drugged with false truths and false comfort.
Whenever those thoughts occurred to Derek, he felt nauseous and almost overwhelmed.
The blinding power of the big white button warned him that the Supreme wanted to hear. It asked, “What is this blue planet like, the one that revolves around the small star?”
“It’s a beautiful planet, Supreme, full of colors, sounds, water, oxygen and life.”
“Be not blasphemous, Derek. Our planet is the most beautiful in the universe.”
“Of course, Supreme, but this one is not to be disdained, if we exclude the poles and the maximum circumference.”
“The dominant species is peaceful?”
Derek felt a little sorry to take the responsibility for expressing an opinion that might bode of serious consequences. On the other hand, Selena, who was sleeping cataleptically, would have been even more severe than he.
“’No, Supreme, I wouldn’t say so. It is not even wise.”
“’Then we should sterilize the planet of at least that harmful species.”
“’They are ten billion individuals...”
“Does that mean it will take more time or that you fear them?”
“’Neither, although they have many nuclear bombs.”
The Supreme laughed. Derek winced inwardly. He never feared the great Supreme, except when it laughed.
“So. A dozen of these old neutron bombs that we do not know what to do with! I will gather the Star Council to decide. Meanwhile, you can return to your well-deserved vacation. See you soon, Derek. And say hello to little Selena.”
Copyright © 2012 by Alessandro Cusimano