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Very Short Fiction (1)

February 17, 2013

So, a while back, I took part in an exercise in micro-fiction.  Short science fiction stories.  Very short stories.  Under 750 words in fact.  Here is the first of the stories I contributed:

Rhyl looked over the latest readouts from terraforming unit 3.  Everything looked like it was running to spec.  He floated back a bit from the view screens and let a small smile slowly creep across his face.

If this all worked out Rhyl was sure he could retire from planetary engineering altogether and spend the rest of his life writing books and making the rounds on the talk show circuit.  At the very least, he thought, the Council would almost certainly rename this little blue world he sat in orbit around after him.

He was still amazed that the Council had green-lit his plan in the first place.  Maybe the extraterrestrial environmental lobby was growing stronger than he had thought.  Rhyl was not about to pass up the opportunity however it had come about.

If his Incremental Phase Terraforming experiment worked the way he hoped it would it would provide stunning opportunities for scientific study across so many fields; biology, planetary engineering, atmospheric chemistry, exobiological sociology, and geology to name only the most obvious.

Sure, it may not be the most efficient method, but that wasn’t the point.  This was so much more interesting than the typical, five year, process of sterilize, modify, colonize that the engineering units have been employing for generations on newfound, potentially livable worlds.  Efficient, sure, but it made for so many lost opportunities for scientific inquiry.  That loss was nearly enough to make Rhyl cry.

Rhyl’s proposal, especially in his eyes, was far more interesting and ambitious.  Rather than simply wiping the slate clean and starting fresh, Rhyl’s team would slowly adjust conditions on the target planet until they were perfect for supporting colonization.

Depending on the target world the process could potentially take anywhere from decades to centuries in local years.  In the end, the point was to create an ideal colony world while simultaneously giving pre-existing local flora and fauna a chance to evolve or adapt to the new conditions.  ‘The Galaxy’s First Environmentally Friendly Terraforming Project’ was the PR campaign slogan used leading up to the vote on funding the project.

When Rhyl learned which planet had been chosen as the proof of concept for his plan he could not have been more thrilled.  A moderate sized, largely silicate world with a molten iron core, one natural satellite, and enough liquid water to cover nearly 80% of it’s surface (and quite deeply in some places).  Atmospheric carbon levels were far too low and most of the upper-atmospheric ozone would have to go, among other smaller hurdles, but those were minor issues.

The world was also simply crawling with life; billions upon billions of species inhabiting nearly every possible location, only one of which had obtained full sentience.  Rhyl was sure at least some non-insignificant percentage of these species would evolve or adjust to the conditions, which was a simply thrilling prospect for him.

The sentient species could become a problem, but Rhyl doubted it.  They were still quite primitive.  While they had noticed the changes taking place on their planet, they were totally ignorant of the cause.  They had named the events Global Warming and had largely blamed themselves for it.

It didn’t matter, that species was terrestrial, not aquatic, even if they survived they were unlikely to interfere much with Rhyl’s people.  And seeing as the best weapons they had developed thus far were primitive thermonuclear explosives, they really posed no military threat either.

Rhyl’s World, he thought. Much nicer ring to it than the unimaginative name its current dominant species gave it: Dirt, Land… no, Earth that’s it.  No originality.

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