Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer (Concept by Moebius)

“You can’t abandon the project now,” protested Williamson, the Senior Planetary Engineer for the Chacopa Terraforming Project. “We created those life forms. They’ll die if we abandon them.”

“Perhaps,” replied Jürg von der Mittelholzer, the Director of Auditing for Nu-Worlds Inc. “But, that’s hardly relevant. According to your interim report, the planet will never support human habitation. Therefore, we’ve decided to cut our losses. I’m recommending that the terraforming project be terminated, effective immediately.”

“No,” pleaded Williamson. “We can still save the planet. Maybe not for our use, but we can save the indigenous life. It’s just a matter of resynthesizing the baseline polynucleotides. It can be done. I just need more time, and a little more money.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Williamson, but your job was to engineer a habitable planet, so Nu-Worlds could sell homesteads. Obviously, that’s not going to happen now. Come, Mr. Williamson, you’re letting your feelings for those little creatures impair your judgment. Try to put yourself in my position. Would you recommend that we allocate additional company resources if there’s no prospect of a return on our investment? As it is, Nu-Worlds will lose trillions.”

“That’s not what you said when we completed Phase I ahead of schedule and under budget.”

“Mr. Williamson, all of you’re Phase I successes were dutifully recorded in the ledger. But, Phase II wasn’t so successful, was it?”

“That depends on your definition of success. Chacopa was the first ever terraforming project to develop a semi-intelligent life form.”

“You neglected to add a ‘globally destructive’ semi-intelligent life form.”

“They’re not intrinsically destructive. In fact, they’re rather cute. Unfortunately, their bodies just happen to have neutral buoyancy. Since they can float, there are no boundaries to impede their population growth. Now, they’re reproduction exponentially. They’ll fill the entire troposphere in under a year. That’s over one trillion megatons of organic mass. After that, the ecosystem will irrevocably collapse. Unless we do something. Please, Jürg, you can’t just let the planet die without at least letting me try to save it. Life has value, you know. I insis…”


Von der Mittelholzer, who had been scanning a status report for another project while Williamson continued to drone on, suddenly snapped to attention. “What did you just say?”

Williamson was startled by the abrupt interruption. “Huh? What? You mean, ‘you can’t just let the planet die’?”

“No, no, no! After that!”

“I don’t remember. Uh, ‘life has value’?”

“That’s it! Why didn’t I think of that? Tell me Mr. Williamson, do these creatures have any nutritional value? Do you know if they taste good? Can they be burned as fuel? Come on man, think. They must be good for something, besides suffocating a perfectly good asset.”

“What are you talking about?” replied the bewildered engineer. Then Williamson realized where von der Mittelholzer was headed. “Now wait a minute,” he said as he pointed an accusatory finger at von der Mittelholzer’s chest. “You can’t mean…You’re not suggesting that we…”

“I’m an auditor, Mr. Williamson. I’m suggesting that we may have a viable product on Chacopa, and more importantly, an opportunity to make a profit. Maybe a huge profit. Computer,” he yelled, “contact Palmer in marketing, and Warner in research. Tell them to come to my office, pronto.”

As Williamson stood there dumbfounded, von der Mittelholzer began wringing his hands together in anticipation…

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