Author: Richard Jordan

The truth is you can’t tell much about a world from orbit. You can scan as much as you like, you can send out probes and even scouts – and we do all these things – but unless you set foot on the surface yourself, you can never really understand a world. I am an explorer. I want to know what makes worlds tick, what makes them unique. That is what drives me through space, searching for new frontiers and strange planets. There is always something different and wonderful about a world – an organism, a quirk of the weather, maybe a geological formation. Some planets heave with life, some are desiccated husks, but they all have their own…style. Their own beauty. Take Earth, for example.

Billions upon billions of organisms, crammed onto a tiny blue-brown speck orbiting an unremarkable star. Unique cultures, a vivid history, bizarre creatures. My kind of world, bustling and confusing and so very alive. And the mineral wealth? Don’t even get me started. Huge concentrations of everything a civilisation needs. This is a wonderful planet. From orbit you can look into the eye of a hurricane as it sweeps silently across a vast ocean. You can track the migratory patterns of millions of animals, or focus on a single human struggling through a city crowd. Of course, none of the organisms below have any idea of how to use the planet properly. The dominant life-form (bipedal, close-minded, prone to violence,) spends much of its time engaged in bickering, politics and war, or in pointless ephemera – wasting the planet’s resources and their own time. Their defences are painfully inadequate. They are so concerned with killing one another that they have not considered any other threats. Their satellite system looks mostly in rather than out – a fitting metaphor for this myopia. I have been here for years, cruising amongst the orbital detritus and observing without their knowledge. I know them well, and I have even visited the surface. This isn’t strictly in line with protocol, of course, but I couldn’t help myself. The planet is so rich that I had to experience it for myself. I am an explorer, but I am just the first. The others are, shall we say, differently motivated. I have catalogued and collected. I have preserved what I can.

To my regret, my time is up.

My work is so often bittersweet. I come to love the places I discover – their creatures and their quirks – but this planet is too ripe a fruit to sit unmolested for long. I must depart ahead of their arrival. I cannot bear to watch.

I am an explorer, but my brothers and sisters are hungry. The Hive must feed.