Author : Bob Newbell, Featured Writer

“The corporeals have sent another machine to planet four,” said Wyvin to Lekvar. Of course, Wyvin had not really “said” anything. He, or more precisely “it,” had communicated its thoughts via short range radio frequency modulation to its companion as the two gaseous entities sailed through the atmosphere of Saturn.

Lekvar responded with a radio signal that in a human being would have been a look of astonishment coupled with a shake of the head. “It never ceases to amaze me. Devices are sometimes of solid construction, but lifeforms? The planet three aliens are as concrete as the robotic mechanism they send out into space. What would that be like, living as a small, indurated mass?”

Wyvin modulated a response: “Unable to fly or change shape, unable to expand or contract, and trapped on a tiny, dense rock world. The most confining magnetic prison would be preferable. When planet three first started broadcasting modulated radio signals a few years ago, the scientific community was perplexed how life could have arisen on such an inhospitable world. When it was discovered that the signals were generated by technology operated by non-plasmatic lifeforms, our very concept of biology had to be revised.”

Wyvin and Lekvar stopped transmitting to each other for some time. They floated together in radio silence, propelled by 1,600 kilometer per hour winds and contemplated what existence might be like for the odd, impossible, solid aliens of planet three. Finally, Lekvar signaled, “Is it true they landed a device on the Great Satellite?”

“Yes,” said Wyvin. “Our colonists were instructed not to signal the probe and not to go near it.”

“Why not make contact?” asked Lekvar. “They’re our neighbors. Shouldn’t we establish some sort of diplomatic relations like we have with the inhabitants of planet five? Shouldn’t we let them know there are tens of thousands of civilizations in the galaxy?”

“Tens of thousands of plasmatic civilizations,” said Wyvin. “Lekvar, we’ve managed to acquire and translate a lot of information from the corporeals, including their speculation on the future of their own expansion into space. They imagine a galaxy teeming with other corporeals. They’ve even made pitiful attempts to monitor the cosmos for signals from other civilizations they imagine to be like their own. You see the problem?”

“I believe I do,” responded Lekvar. “The third planet aliens are an oddity, the only documented case of non-plasmatic life in history. Is that why we’ve been forbidden from telling the other extrasolar civilizations about them?”

“Precisely,” said Wyvin. “If word got out that we have corporeal lifeforms, our solar system would be overrun. Half the scientists in the galaxy would descend on planet three. Can you imagine the experiments to which those corporeals would be subjected? That world and its inhabitants would be taken apart by every xenobiologist within 50,000 light-years to try to discover how something as paradoxical as solid life could even exist.”

“So,” said Lekvar, “we are effectively administrators of a nature preserve.”

“Effectively, yes,” replied Wyvin. “The corporeals are a unique form of life. They have as much right to exist as any plasmatic.”

“And when they expand out far enough into the solar system that they inevitably discover us or the sentients on planet five?”

“When that day comes,” Wyvin said, “we’ll have to tell them the truth. But I hope that day is long in coming. I hope they can persist in their silly, naïve worldview for a while longer. I think they’ll find the true nature of the cosmos a heavier burden than even their massy, compacted bodies.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows