Author : Phill English

‘Gaeriy, I’ve got some bad news.’

‘What’s that Broux?’

‘Well, I’ve finished the calculations and it turns out that in order for us to co-habit this planet, we’re going to have to wipe out half of them.’

‘Oh, wow, that’s a bit of a bummer isn’t it? Don’t you think that we could just, y’know, “accidentally” wipe them all this time?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, it’s against the preservation laws to extinguish any more life than–‘

‘–is absolutely necessary to begin co-habitation. Yes, I know. In that case, how do you plan to split them up?’

‘That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. At first I thought gender, but then I remembered the trouble Mihrv had with Grabble-4.’

‘Yes, I can’t believe he managed to choose the one gender that was essential to reproduction. Out of fifty three! Got to feel for the poor guy, the preservationists weren’t happy.’

‘Exactly. As such, we need something completely arbitrary and inconsequential so those guys don’t drop a sanction on our planet fall.’

‘Okay, how about a physical feature? Ocular pigmentation?’

‘No, I’ve done some research on the matter and it appears there’s no clear divide on the pigmentation spectrum. The majority of their body features are similarly unsuitable due to mutations throughout their evolution.’

‘Oh. How inconvenient. Actually, have we mapped their neural networks yet?’

‘Yes, quite extensively. There weren’t a lot of variables to take into the equation to be honest.’

‘Right, so that would include their preferences for material possessions? Their ‘taste’ in products?’

‘That’s correct, I think I can see where you’re going with this line of questioning.’

‘Yes, I’ve definitely got it now. We can’t go forward on this for a decade or so of their time, right?’

‘Indeed. The paperwork has to be couriered to Splunk-1 and back, otherwise we’d be down there already.’

‘So in the meantime we’re stuck here twiddling our thumbs and taking in the myriad boring lives of the inhabitants. I reckon we can kill two bwarks with one thuk here. Say we create a product especially engineered to divide a particular cultural population in half. We beam it down into the heads of an ambitious entrepreneur and let the magic happen. When an inhabitant expresses their preference for or against the product, we record it. It’ll occupy our time until we’ve got the paperwork done, and once it arrives we’ll have essentially had them make the decision for us. Best of all, I’m pretty sure there’ll be no red tape to wade through with the ethics committee!’

‘Sounds good to me. Just one thing, which group would get vaporised?’

‘Oh I don’t know, let’s just say that those who enjoy the products are safe.’

‘And you don’t think they would be annoyed at what they might perceive as being a pretty random way of splitting a population in half?’

‘No, of course not. If they are we’ll just ask them if they could have thought of a better way. That’ll shut them up.’

‘I love it. We can get started straight away. Let’s start with this tiny island mass here. What do you think they’d go for?’

* * *

Brian pulled the shopping trolley over in the condiments aisle. His girlfriend stopped a little bit ahead of him, the shopping list in her hand raised in query.

‘I’m just getting something for my toast.’

‘That stuff? Yuck! How can you possibly stomach it?’

‘I don’t know. For some reason I’ve just always liked it.’

With a shrug, he placed the jar of Marmite into the trolley and pushed on.

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