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A Matter of No Great Concern

His hands moved mechanically over the flashing console.   He had his orders.   There was no room for interpretation.   There never was.   But these rules were made by faceless bureaucrats who had none of his experience.   He knew this place was different.   While it fit none of the criteria for intelligent life or even the basic requirements for its future development, he had a gut feeling.

True, it was just a feeling, but it was a feeling based on years of experience in the field.   He had seen planets and solar systems and universes come and go, and he just knew this place was different.   There were readings, however slight, that he could not explain.   But he had his orders.   He had no choice.

Based on his preliminary reports, his people, in their ceaseless quest for new worlds to inhabit, had selected this place as ideal.   It had all the fundamental necessities required of a colonization planet, and even some luxuries.   The only mark on the negative side was the relatively short time it had before its sun died- only 14 sectons.   Even that relatively short life span did nothing to discourage the search team from labeling it a Prime A planet.   It was perfect, a real find, and it would result in the largest single bonus his account had ever received.

Actually, it had been quite accidental.   He had been flying aimlessly, relaxing after his last assignment.   It had been an interesting and rewarding adventure, but he was exhausted.   He had seen the solar system ahead and, instead of steering clear as he normally did at the sight of such low readings, he did not interfere as his vessel continued to drift.

The sun, even smaller than he expected, emitted a low power, although strong for its size.   The planets were smaller still and held no promise, but then he had found that special planet.   There was water, so much water, and it was very lightly populated.   Almost 3/4 of its surface was ideal for colonization.   What little indigenous life there was showed only small signs of communal intelligence and could prove no threat.

It was small and, therefore, perfect for use as a private residence.   That was why the bonus would be so large.   It was rare to find a planet that provided such a perfect environment that was still small enough to be classified as a single extended family colony.   He had only heard of seventeen others in all the long span of his career, and he never seen any of them.

He had catalogued everything that could even remotely be considered a life form.   He had grided the entire planet, including the barren patches of dry areas that were useless to his kind, but necessary for the existence of life on the planet.   He had completed the first of his initial preparations.

Next, he had set about releasing the scientific probe that would gather data on all the life forms he had so painstakingly identified and programmed.   His probe was ancient, even older than he was, and he had no way to monitor its progress or observations.   This was the most boring part of his assignment and would take a considerable amount of time.   He had tried to make himself comfortable in the water cushion, but it was old, too, and not as comfortable as it had once been.   His own expanding bulk did nothing to improve the situation.   That was one of the side effects of his way of life.   He had relaxed, as best he could, and endured the long wait.

As soon as the probe had completed its mission, he had transmitted the results.   Based on their reply he was preparing to begin the sterilization operation.   Then, every existing living entity larger than a cubic vara would be eliminated.   This was done to ensure the future safety of those who would eventually inhabit the planet.   It wouldn't look good on his record if someone was hurt by some native life form, acting by instinct, protecting itself from what it would obviously perceive to be an attack.   This process was also necessary to destroy any bacteria that might be harmful.

It wasn't that his kind were cruel, far from it.   They sought out every sign of intelligent life in an effort to avoid destroying any developing culture- no matter how primitive.   He had lost several promising discoveries to existing cultures most of which had been left to evolve independently because they were so far down on the evolutionary scale.   They were being monitored, even now, but it would be some time before they could take their place among those waiting patiently for their maturation.

What remained were creatures that lived and died without ever considering why.   They lived entirely on instinct and death now or later was the same for them.   It was done quickly and painlessly and left no residual chemicals to jeopardize other life forms on the planet or its future development.   Their life functions simply ceased and the remaining material was absorbed into the planet's ecosystem.   This would result in the enrichment of the planet's growth culture, very nearly like his own planets', and would make it a more fertile receiving ground.   It would be more beneficial for the preliminary colonization of the planet by the introduction of the preparation package.

The preparation packages included samples of every life form found on his planets, with the single exception of his own kind.   The packages were frozen until they were needed.   Once activated they bore heavenly fruits.   It would be much like his home.   These samples would find their place on the planet, root and soon, within the brief span of two to five yeen, the place would be habitable for the most discriminating client.

These new advances were possible because of the amazing scientific strides that had been made in the past few deen.   Once they had had to wait many yeen, but that was no longer necessary.   Now the time for seeding had been drastically reduced which resulted in, among other things, greater profits.   Having to wait until the planet was actually colonized before receiving the bulk of his bonus, the shortened time span made accounts easier to maintain and profits more quickly realized.

Soon the swarms and schools of creatures with which he was populating the planet would find more than ample food supplies among those tiny entities remaining on the planet.   They would breed and grown and, eventually, nothing would remain of what had once been there.   The natural food chain of his planet would have replaced it.   It would be an ideal place to live.

This was also the saddest time of his otherwise challenging assignment.   It was the only time he thought about his life and wondered what his fate might have been under other circumstances; in some other life path.   Once he had created this little bit of heaven, he was forever barred from setting foot on the planet.   Some arra clan would occupy it, and it would be off limits to all others, with rare exception.   It was certain he could not be among them.   It was considered proper for him to discover and prepare the planet, but it was not appropriate to allow those of his life path to occupy it once the work was complete.

He was tired, especially tired of that.   It was his one regret, that he would be unable to partake of the pleasures afforded by his ingenuity and skill.   He had not understood that when he had made his selection, but who does.   Decisions for the future are made, by necessity, in the ignorance of youth.   Without knowing, yungler make choices with which they will have to live for the rest of their lives.   There is no turning back.   There is no undoing.   But he was not unhappy.   The adventure was his.   The discovery was his.   But, in rare moments... he thought of what might have been.   Not knowing that much more about other life paths, he realized that he was probably no more capable of making a decision now than he had been as a yungler.

Every citizen, once of proper age, was given the opportunity of selecting what would eventually become home.   Their planet, among other things, housed the greatest masters of their chosen fields.   Complementary endeavors of study occupied the same planet.

At the time, the prospect of space exploration had appeared exciting, and he had jumped at the chance.   He had preferred solitude and, although the time was long, his choice had seemed to be the best at the time.   It had not occurred to him that he could ever by lonely or homesick for his home planets, but he was now.   Having prepared countless planets for others to inhabit, he yearned for his own home.   It was difficult to leave these places, so close to that which he loved, with no chance to enjoy them.

In his more objective moments he knew that the arra suffered too, whether they acknowledged it or not.   When their home had been prepared, they would be bundled aboard a ship with no chance to see the stars.   It was not possible to acclimate their water bound bodies to the rigors of space travel for such a short trip.   Suspended, they would travel until they arrived at their destination.   He felt sorry for them, never able to see the stars among which he lived, but now he understood. They felt sorry for him, too.   Now he realized that each path had its virtues,... and its price.   That was life.

Long ago his people had seen the wisdom of a lifetime devotion to a single purpose.   It had enabled great strides to be made because, naturally, the more time one spent doing one thing, the better one got at it.   He was an expert in his field.   The arra were experts in theirs.   They enjoyed the fruits of each others labors.   There, on the planet he was preparing for them, they would create great works of art.   Whatever their chosen medium, they would create.   To him it seemed a great pressure.   That was not a choice that would have been natural for him.   He enjoyed the results of their work immensely and had an extensive collection which he enjoyed.   But their life was not for him.   He stopped feeling so sorry for himself.

He had one other nagging doubt- that feeling.   It would not go away.   There was something there, on the planet, that he could not explain- something that cried out to him for justice.   It depended on his judgment for survival.   It was his responsibility.   He had been selected for this particular task because of his sensitivity and strength of will.   After all these years he knew to trust his instincts,... and when.   The scientific probe was signaling that a segment of its task had been completed.   It was now through the first phase of its assignment.   It still had a long way to go.

When the probe had completed its tasks and returned to the vessel, it would be time to begin the final planting preparations.   That was the time when all large life forms would be reduced to a fine, fertile powder.   It was a job he enjoyed. It excited him to see the budding life.   He felt reborn.   That time was supposed to be the beginning of advanced life for the planet but- that feeling.   Something was down there- something that would be destroyed.   He stared listlessly at the console.   He was tired and ready for a change of pace.

Perhaps part of his problem was the fact that it was coming up on time for suspension.   While he felt too aggravated to benefit from the peaceful inertia it offered, he realized that he needed the rest.   He couldn't seem to relax long enough to take advantage of the only luxury his ship offered.   He wanted company, and he wanted home.   These solo flights were becoming more and more lonely, and he was beginning to consider retirement in a more positive light.   However, he had many more deen to go before he had contributed his share and gained the expertise necessary for the instruction of those who would follow.

All citizens contributed a portion to the common pool, and that enabled them to complete their service.   He considered himself fortunate.   His line of work could be continuous.   He would complete his obligation long before many of his peers who had chosen other lines of endeavor.   Many had periods of idleness that resulted in a longer time being taken to complete their service obligations.   He would be finished quite soon according to average standards.   Right now, however, he was ready to go home.   But, even though he would return home relatively young, it was not soon enough for him.   He wondered if perhaps those who had periodic breaks were, in the long run, better off.   After all, they were able to enjoy families and friends.   But he had never spoken of the matter to them, and he did not know.   He was especially fortunate because even his rest times were counted toward his service because he could not get to his home planet.   He had not been there since he had begun service.   He ached to think of the beauty of his home, so like the planet below.   It made him very melancholy.   He felt so alone.

While it was true that an engineer accompanied him on his voyages, he had not seen her in a long time.   His loneliness made him introspective.   He considered that it was possible that she was as lonely as he was.   The last time they had met had been on shore leave a very long time ago.   She was not unattractive and had seemed nice enough, but what could you tell from such a short meeting?   It had been an especially brief layover, and he knew he was ready for some time off.   Things were beginning to get to him.   Perhaps that was at least part of the reason for this "feeling"of his.

This ship was old, among the oldest in the fleet.   It was a wonder to him that it still passed inspection, but it was safe and no less efficient than the newest ships.   It simply had none of the pleasant diversions the newer models had, but it did the same old job.   As he had a share in the profits of the endeavor, as did all who worked with him, he preferred the inadequacies and discomforts he was forced to endure to the loss of profit.   Besides, those of his generation looked down on those of younger generations who depended so heavily on what he had, until this point, perceived to be useless luxuries.   Now, he was not so sure.   It would have been nice to have been able to talk to someone else.

He was getting older, too.   There had been a time when the solitude was welcome.   Now he wondered if anyone else really existed beyond his memory, even the engineer.   He had no method of communicating with her except by emergency communication pod, and there were only three of those.   They needed to be kept in case they were needed for the purpose for which they were intended.   While he had never had occasion to use one, he was familiar with the horror stories of emergencies faced without them.   As much as he might want to use one, he would save it.   There was no critical need.

The craft was not designed to support the life of more than one individual in the observation/pilot area.   There was also only room for one in the engineering area.   While newer ships allowed for communication between the engineer and scientist, this ship was much older than that technology and had never been updated.   It was an expensive proposition for what appeared to be an unnecessary luxury.   Those of his kind only felt the need to be with others on a limited basis.   There were those, like himself, who needed even less company than most, or so it had seemed to him at one time.   In his youth he had been considered something of a maverick.   He had never produced any yungler and had felt no loss.   Now he was just approaching middle years but starting to feel the loneliness of those who were ancient.   It was long before his time for the melancholy to set in.   He felt that a rest and company would restore his spirit, and he considered his problem.

...a work in progress...