A Doomed Planet

Some dreams seem to be like “radio” transmissions, or waves that reach you almost as alien messages, perceived at first as gibberish, then decoded unconsciously, some in pictures, others in keywords, or in a complicated concept, about which we remember only the conclusion, or vague impressions upon waking. Sometimes they leave you with a strange sense of anguish.

But then, who knows exactly what happens in our brains and why? What arouses in it certain responses over others?

I am not an expert in neuroscience, I lost more time on classical studies and philosophy, which argue unnecessarily about “human freedom”, the senses, the source of thought.

A limping interest in scientific knowledge, unfortunately not supported by adequate technical studies, has led me to only a superficial knowledge of experiments that, for now, seem to disprove the real presence of the so-called “freedom of choice” in man, that which was once called “free will”, the concept created and used mostly for religious purposes, to motivate and give meaning to the presence of other pillars of that impressive, but very confused, moral system, as responsibility, guilt, punishment.

To date, it appears that we are only subject to external stimuli, and we react to them without any real ability to interfere or direct anything; as the branches and leaves of a tree move in the wind, so the humans and other species react in life, they bite and they hunt, steal or give, work or rest, open a can of beer or discover penicillin, deceived by their conscious self that “they wanted to” do so.

The illusion of having “worked” or “decided”, or perhaps “resisted”, or “tried” such actions or behaviors would only be due to an almost instantaneous brain reaction, with which it only accepts and ratifies what is going on after the fact, without really influencing it.

The outside world acts on us, pushing us to create a task, and our brains, a few milliseconds after acting, organize perceptions to make it appear to ourselves that we “wanted to act”. …Or something like that, which I feel is quite convincing, or rather, that my psycho-physical structure is brought to interpret as ” quite convincing” or more convincing than other theories, just because it is fashioned to think so. We are a state of matter, perhaps: solid, liquid, gaseous, colloidal …conscious!

And what is intuition? Exactly what are “ideas”? Constructs of the mind, that, from the perspective of the thinking subject, suddenly arise and take a form. You will find them there, you do not even know where exactly, in the brain, it is said, where before they were not, here they are, now!

It is not the human brain that “gives birth” to ideas, but an external agent that triggers them, and that the agent should also be “thanked”, if appropriate, is an old concept, as old as the human race, not “modern” at all.

How do we dare claim credit for something that is born and flourishes without any effort? When it comes to art, and especially poetry, perhaps today we might think that a certain psycho-physical structure is more predisposed than others to repeat this strange “human miracle”, which can also be a source of fame, excellence, love, and all the rest.

At one time, however, the poet defended himself from complacency, as it was the “God” who gave him the verses, the Muses who chose him among all others as their vessel, receptacle. He only tried to refine the techniques. A myth that exists from Greece to Scandinavia, where in the Viking culture, as well, the poetic gift was granted by the Gods.

In the cult of the contemporary personality, there is no need of such artifacts. We will accept immediately, and willingly, every creative or scientific merit. But are things really this way? In addition to intelligence, do we have a greater or lesser “creativity”? Is this version of events true, or is it just a way to ignore what we still do not know? A mistake, as was the concept of Muses?

Perhaps, if there is a gift in someone, it might just be to translate cosmic signals from other worlds, figures and stories, put into words, incomprehensible to other similar beings who cannot decipher them as well.

And one must be careful, then, with the stories, because some of them could take place in an intermediate state between what is called “real” and what is thought to be only “fantasy.”

When still shone those stars from which our planets were born, and our atoms were not yet been shaped in their fusion forges, but their predecessors lit an indifferent void, millions and millions of years ago, the conditions already existed to support intelligent life in the universe; civilizations that have since disappeared, in some cases, came to be very technologically advanced, and flourished in different galaxies.

Some followed the same path as we have done in our understanding of what is “matter”, and had come to discover even more secrets, to fathom deeper its essence, in order to manipulate it even more intimately than we can for now, with only our nuclear fission.

One civilization, during its meteoric expansion, obviously brought about by many unlikely pairings of favorable circumstances, had managed to colonize various planets and satellites of its own solar system and neighboring ones, establishing settlements that, as also happens in our history, started to diverge once left isolated. They accentuated cultural characteristics, and specific traits, which, although they originated from the same species, gave to each of them a great sense of belonging and identity, and gave rise to quite different worlds that were in opposition regarding principles and visions of their role in the universe.

In an interplanetary expansion including about twenty worlds, all independent and self-governed, one among them proved to be particularly aggressive and eager to impose itself on the others.

With a culture that exalted the development of weapons through science, and the natural supremacy of the strongest, the idea of absolute imposition on the environment, from those who are able, through studies and experiments realized by its boldest and most intrepid scientists, it had begun to develop a secret weapon with which to threaten and, if necessary, completely destroy everyone else, in order to obtain the total and unconditional submission of any rational being.

The weapon was technologically very advanced, with unimaginable power, frightening, No one knew the precise technical features, how to reproduce it, or even how it worked exactly. It was a substance, organized in a sphere, which assimilated every type of material with which it was in direct contact. Without exceptions.

Its surface area, though tiny, was able to absorb whatever it touched and therefore, increased the contact area with which to prey upon other matter, it grew more and more rapidly, with greater capacity to incorporate more, in a pernicious and unstoppable vicious circle.

This substance could act on others at the subatomic level, dismembering nuclei and particles. What matter it came into contact with was irrelevant, hydrogen, carbon, iron, uranium, neon, zinc, oxygen, or any other element, it used up all their own material, destroying their core structure to make them exactly like what it was, and it exploited their own energy to do so.

Everything was reassembled into a new state of matter, though not as we understand it in a general sense, but something completely different and new, deeper in a way where the atom, the basic architecture of matter as we know it, no longer existed. It made it all the same as itself, part of itself.

Once activated, it was completely impossible to curb its growth. If launched onto a planet, it began to devour it, passing quickly the size of a marble, to that of a basketball, then a building, ever expanding, to sink into the crust, penetrating it to the core, and causing extremely destructive cataclysms on the whole surface.

The sphere, when it came to the center of the planet was, with respect to it, still small in size, although its diameter was already several kilometers, It had perforated it like a pin and continued its devastating ride through and around the celestial object, Propelled by its own weight, it grew exponentially along the way, until it established itself at the center, and completely assimilated it.

While active, it seemed visibly to be a substance similar to a brilliant soft rubber, with a sinister light green glow and glassy, vitreous surface, with a fairly constant temperature, regardless of the one of assimilated matter; it did not radiate any heat.

Once it stopped at the center of the planet, usually composed of incandescent and fluid metal, earthquakes, tsunamis that had shaken and had completely devastated it, seemed to have ceased. If the planet was inhabited by intelligent life and constructions of civilization, they were most probably already seriously compromised, if they had not been wiped out completely.

The renewed calm was only momentary, however. Hypothetical survivors would soon witness, at the cost of their own lives, that the green sphere had, at an ever-increasing pace, continued to act within the core, its silent voracity would finally reach the surface, devouring it, along with all beings who lived there.

The only conceivable survivors would have to be in orbit around the planet, or otherwise detached from the surface and its atmosphere, which, since it is also composed of atoms, could be devoured. An airplane pilot, in a terrified flight over a green ocean, would not escape. Perhaps galactic travelers, fleeing from their world, condemned to extinction on ships prepared for lengthy interplanetary journeys, would have been able to witness, powerless, that their “home” had undergone a complete, irreversible, metamorphosis. It would become, by the terrifying and black perspective of the exiled in outer space, a dark mass, entirely composed of that deadly substance with the sinister glow.

In order prevent actually having to use the strange chlorophyll-colored plasma, indeed so devastating, and manageable only with difficulty enough to terrorize even its own creators, they themselves had explained, in great detail, the extreme danger, warning anyone against underestimating the threat, trying to make them  understand how painful it was for a sentient being to be assimilated by it. Much better to already be inert bodies.

“There is nothing to do except to surrender unconditionally” they explained “once the mass comes into contact with the target, it is condemned; in a time varying only slightly, it will assimilate everything, making all material extremely dangerous, because no matter what it ends up touching, it will only increase it more, and sooner or later, depending on the events of the celestial body, it will spread through the universe, perhaps even devouring it completely. If, in fact, a large star was hit and exploded, a nebula of that substance could be an eternal and silent threat, expanding and awaiting new victims.”

A culture aggressive to the extreme, but with a high level of intelligence and technology, can be imagined to be quite aware of his own frailty and helplessness, so intensely that it might form of a kind of “universal resentment” that borders on the insane desire of wanting a blind revenge for the mere fact of being brought into existence. There are forms of knowledge which, whether we admit it openly or not, lead to absolute hatred.

To say that first creating, and then using an uncontrollable and irrepressible weapon  was an entirely senseless, irrational and self-defeating choice, is an easy criticism, close to truism, which does not consider all the circumstances and the situation of desperate frustration for those who cannot dominate what is around them, and are ultimately infuriated by the struggle to get there. They come to profoundly detest their own inability first, and then ,consequently, everything else.

Domain, or death! It was the motto in response to the most sensible and prudent objections of any other civilization.

By way of demonstration, a small moon was sacrificed, in orbit around the planet shown to be the most reluctant in believing the threat was credible, and that had been explicit in their suspicion and skepticism regarding the actual existence of such a weapon.

That sinister green moon shone in the sky forever, as a warning to anyone who did not believe in the all too real destructive power of the invention. It terrorized all who lived beneath it and saw it rise with every rotation.

Everything had been assimilated, completely sacrificing all mining operations. No lives were lost, since the demonstrative attack was announced in advance in order to give time for an evacuation, which had been decided for mere prudence, but had divided opinions, considering the high cost of transporting the moon’s inhabitants, and the monetary losses due to the destruction of the mines.

It was all true! The known universe had changed. There was now the possibility of being completely annihilated, and it was time to face it.

What had caused the greatest doubts about the existence of the deadly ball was about how it could be kept stable and harmless, and sent to a target without first devouring its creators or the rocket on which it had been mounted, and everything around it, as it was made to do.

The first response was not made public, because there was nothing to add to the “Green Moon”, the rest could remain a mystery for all. This was not the central point of the problem. The point was that it existed and was destroying, annihilating everything, just as it had been promised.

The civilization that had shown the most skeptical attitude toward the aggressors was a peaceful and cooperative one, and had the skills to find the answer and spread it quickly.

The material was stable and inert only to a temperature close to absolute zero.

While the heat did not affect it, the cold did, but only by a maximum of five degrees above the limit. Exceed that threshold, and the substance was activated and at a pace that cannot be slowed. From then on, it was impossible to change its structure and features, it became unstoppable.

The only way to prevent destruction, once it had reached the target, was, therefore, to isolate and cool it to the threshold of at least -268.16 ° C, then get rid of it as soon as possible, in the best way, launching it into the vacuum of space.

No idea had been formulated on how to destroy it, however; no one knew, not even its creators.

Being able to withstand an attack like this was possible only for a technologically advanced civilization. It would require hunting down the “green ball” as soon as possible, before it reached dimensions that made it impossible to cool it. Cooling the surface of it was enough, given that the “infection” was made by contact. This operation was, however, only within the reach of a few civilizations. The majority of others were not likely to be able to reach such cold temperatures, and even less likely to have systems that would be able to be handle and transport it wherever it was required.

To intervene on the substance effectively without freezing it was a remote hypothesis. It would require acting with extreme speed, capturing the sphere when still small in dimension, together with other matter around it as a “cushion”, so that it would be possible to maneuver it, load it on a special large rocket full of other “expendable” material that could resist its constant workings for the time needed to send far enough that the planet’s gravitational attraction would not pull it into orbit, or draw it down to the surface again.

It was next to impossible that this could be achieved before it would punch through the rocket and descend, larger and heavier, this time unstoppable, again on the planet. At that point, only an evacuation plan could be put into place, and with it the probable starvation, slow and inexorable, in a desperate search, statistically unlikely, of a new place to land and start again. Unless another planet agreed to welcome the refugees, an doubtful scenario.

The discovery of the “weakness” of the green sphere, after all, did not change the facts much, nor did it allow for any significant strategic implications. It remained a deadly weapon, probably uncontrollable, certainly so for those who did not have a system to capture it and bring it to the required temperature.

The most advanced and diligent civilizations started, however, the construction of orbital systems of protection, to stop the carriers with which the ball could be sent to the target, before they exceed the gravitational limit, and to precipitate from the surface an attack on their homeland.

They did this despite the warnings and threats not to proceed, at the risk of being completely annihilated in a preventive attack before they could finish their work.

All those efforts were to be considered as nothing more than temporary palliatives, and in view of this consideration, the reaction was not intransigent. No one was attacked.

All the other civilizations resigned themselves to submission and slavery; planets inhabited only by non intelligent animal life had the good fortune not to realize what was going on. They cannot be threatened, those who cannot understand the threat.

Who dominates the matter still has the easy advantage, regardless of the containment works implemented. This was the harsh reality that had to be accepted; you can succeed by any means or trick to get it to the target, activate it, and thereby condemn it to extinction. It can be delivered by a spy, perhaps a seemingly harmless traveler with a cryogenic case of modified organs, or it could be hidden in the heart of an immense commercial cargo, and so on.

The position of supremacy was so devastating that even a civilization prone to destruction like the one of its inventors did not feel the need to promptly enact the threats against the inane efforts of resistance of the other planets in their panic.

After some time, they did not stop their frantic and useless defensive activities, however, and diplomatic and commercial relationships were tenuous at best. Since there was a possibility that sooner or later the others would come to understand the secrets of the weapon, its origin and how to manufacture it, making it almost useless except as a deterrent, it was decided to strike, with demonstrative purposes, the peaceful planet that had first spread the news about how to contain or counter the threat.

It was decided to surreptitiously disrupt any kind of peace negotiations and prepare for war. With the declaration of war in hand, the first missile was finally launched, in front of a terrified and dazed interplanetary audience, with wide eyes glued to the screens that reported the attack operations. The green ball was stopped only when it had already reached the surface, landing in the desert, quickly, when it was still the size of a large glass marble, and was kept safe to be studied, if possible.

The attackers were enraged.

A second missile was launched shortly after, and this time it was deflected. It continued its mad race, deeper into the depths of the universe, while the entire planet, with bated breath, prepared itself for the arrival of who knows how many others.

A third missile was launched, and three more were prepared simultaneously, but this time the unthinkable happened. The third missile exploded in the air before leaving the atmosphere, and the ball fell onto the soil of its creators, as if the whole universe rebelled against their pride and arrogance.

That situation was foreseen, and against it, emergency operations were organized. The recovery units were activated promptly, meanwhile, everyone in that solar system, and those nearby, wished for their failure.

Everything that could go wrong did; with a probability estimated at one over one billion, four security filters consecutively failed. The ball had now reached a critical mass that might not be cooled in time by the powerful portable freezers arriving swiftly where necessary, at the bottom of a canyon where the ball had landed.

Between the hammer and the anvil, to avoid a failure to cool it, and contemplating their own horrific demise, it was decided to take the risk of a final attempt: to try and upload it to an emergency missile and launch it away. The most desperate remedy, put into action when the ball was already bigger than a baseball: too much. The rocket, with random coordinates that simply lead it off the ground, flew fast, streaking a curved line in the red sky. To the naked eye, it was now only a little dot, it was almost there, close to leaving orbit, when through the powerful telephoto lenses that followed the missile, a green phosphorescent object could clearly be seen plunging into the sea after its explosion.

There was nothing to do. All naval and air units in the area surveyed the place where under the now gurgling waters, a green glow became bigger and bigger. The ball was now the size of several meters, which then became kilometers. It could not be removed, and was drilling down to the thin seabed where it had fallen.

The ships could not approach it, nor could go back; they were all sucked into a huge maelstrom that would eventually drain the whole ocean. The destruction of the entire planet had begun under the astonished eyes of its inhabitants and those of all the other planets.

None of them evacuated, however, preferring death to the shame of seeking asylum from those who they had threatened with annihilation, and who, in all likelihood, would never have granted it, or who might have enslaved them as they had promised to do themselves.

Viewers from the rest of the planets passed from joy and triumphant celebration, to a sense of deep consternation. All, without exception, watched in silence the last hours of their villainous tyrant, feeling only sadness now for the many lives that would be lost, and the nonsense, the cruel futility with which they were sacrificed.

The inhabitants of the enlightened planet confirmed their reputation; always motivated by the best intentions, and although they were admiring their enemy helpless in the very same way that they would have been, in an instant referendum, promptly showed their almost unanimous willingness to welcome refugees and keep them in freedom with them, under the promise to never manifest any further hostility. The powerful landing craft, sent into orbit around the doomed planet to offer aid, waited for commands, but never received a response.

In the solar system shone not only a small green moon, but also a much more significant planet of the same color, that of the creators of the evil substance which had ultimately destroyed them.

Thousands of attempts were made to try and study it, to understand how it was created and if it would be possible to reverse its effects, to “kill”, or more correctly, render it inert, deactivate it.

Its secrets were buried within itself, in the greenish mass that contained the bodies and minds of those who had once been its wicked creators.

It took many centuries of study before the riddle was finally solved, and a way was found to crystallize it completely; no accident occurred, nor even the smallest amount of material was lost, all was isolated and neutralized. The solar system was left with two smooth, glass-like spheres, huge dark crystals that sparkled like emeralds struck by the light of a star. Now they spoke of death only to those who remember their story.

There remained, therefore, only a single piece of that evil substance that roamed the universe, from the missile that been deflected.

Attempts were made to track it down, but it was impossible to reach. Scientists estimated as precisely as possible its route, with all the likely developments of the universe in time, to try and establish what body it would eventually collide with, hoping to to prevent the death of another world, or the worst case scenario, the destruction of the entire universe. At best, it represented a silent never ending threat.

Unfortunately, the magnificent and accurate calculations made by that splendid civilization, so devoted to astronomy in theoretical studies, might lose their validity and accuracy after the predicted period of a billion years. The object might keep a trajectory immune to the gravitational attraction of large celestial bodies. Coming out of one galaxy, then getting lost on the way to others, alone and undisturbed.

The risk was not immediate, their civilization will have died long before any return approach of that dreadful, non-atomic “polymer”. But what of the risk to others in the distant future? Also self-aware, intelligent and technological? And if they are hit? Who would risk condemning sentient beings, no matter how distant their worlds, to that terrible end, without doing anything? Is indifference the proper attitude to such dangers? Are not all intelligent species joined by a bond of solidarity, for the mere fact of being such? And for the ability to share conscious existence and thoughts, despite division in space and time?

Or it would it be plausible that the existing universe could be consumed by a slow but inexorable “epidemic”? And what if the drifting missile was pulled into a black hole? No one could imagine what would happen, the substance was not of the same structure as ordinary matter. Would it, perhaps, jeopardize other universes? You could not risk it.

The scientists finally provided an approximate, though not entirely satisfactory, but still plausible impact point. Billions of years later, the body in constant motion, now in the form of a green meteor, having devoured its carrier, would descend upon a planet.

It was therefore decided to precede his arrival by sending out a signal that would warn any intelligent creatures about the immense danger, giving instructions on how contain and destroy the threat. That anyone with a sufficient technological level was listening was a very remote possibility, but it should not be overlooked.

The message was designed to follow the same exact course of the missile, but to precede it by a few hundred years, and to be repeated several times, so to provide more of a chance of being understood by someone, and allow those able to understand the content to prepare to intercept and destroy the green threat.

It was processed according to what was considered a language of pure logic, universal, which could manifest and materialize differently, adapting to the type of receptor to which it was directed, and its degree of experience, knowledge and intelligence. Whoever shared the gift of reasoning would be able to decipher its contents, according to general principles of rationality, so essential and straightforward as to be inherently understandable.

The first warning was manifested, according to the latest calculations, for the inhabitants of planet Earth, in orbit around the Sun star, in the Milky Way galaxy, in the form of fantasy tale appearing in the mind of an indeterminable local autochthon.

With a little luck, its receptor would have the technical knowledge to record and understand at least the basic minimum of necessary equations and physics to describe the danger and locate it in the sky.

The message itself, however, cannot give to the receptor a basic knowledge that he does not have. In the most unfortunate case, he might turn out to be an unaware, unintelligent specimen of a species with mediocre technology, someone able to perceive only a vague chattering, like a dream, a fictional story, with no real grasp of technical details.

In this story, the problem would still at least be presented for the first time, and with that, the story would be told.

This will put the Earth’s population on alert for a small green meteor on a collision course with them, created as a weapon. It is extremely dangerous. It will grow and spread. If the green ball touches the planet, it will be doomed to extinction.

The only way to contain the ball is its freezing within five degrees above absolute zero. The only way to destroy the small ball and to eliminate the problem is to follow, in detail, the complicated procedures that will be exhibited, and repeated step by step, during the century preceding its arrival, through dreams, or insights and ideas, implemented on human subjects, in the hope that sooner or later, one of them will be competent enough to understand the technical data in detail.

“Inhabitants of planet Earth, this message is a warning.”

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