Life Cycles

My understanding of a blog is that it needs semi-regular contributions to build a steady readership of new and repeat visitors.  I briefly toyed with the idea of documenting mundane events in my life, but that’s not what I am interested in reading when I visit blogs.  When I read stuff I’m looking for a quick side trip, a small detour in my path through life, and while I don’t presume my offerings will profoundly affect anyone, perhaps they will serve as a small respite from the routine of life . . . even if deemed a complete waste of time, a respite is still a respite.

With that in mind I’m offering this piece.  Written a few years ago, its inspiration was The Power of Ten. Visualized in many YouTube clips (click HERE for one of many interactive animations depicting the concept), The Power of Ten idea is simple; you start out looking at something small, and gradually increase your field of view by a factor of 10 for each subsequent step.  Some go the other way, beginning with an expansive view, and focusing in down to the sub-atomic level.

This piece also served as brainstorming regarding a possible future story (or stories).  Sadly, although slowly fermenting on the back of my mind, those stories remain unrealized.  Mere potential, they may someday grace this blog.  But not yet, not yet . . . and meanwhile . . .

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Life Cycles

The smaller male grasps the female scorpion’s pincers and they begin their tugging. It’s a mating dance; looking for the best place for the male to drop the sperm sack for transfer to the female. After some tugging and circling, the male drops his sperm sack. More tugging, circling, and the female picks it up. It is the first moments of a new generation. And a dangerous moment for the male. There is some additional tugging, and then the male releases the female and tries to scamper away. It’s a close call, but he makes his getaway. Most don’t.

High above, beyond the scorpion’s awareness, two jet fighters are engaged in a deadly dance of their own. Two well-trained young men, courageous, and with families back home, have met above this desert to execute their respective mission objective – to shoot the other down. The reason is lost in the moment. Their training, adrenalin, and survival instincts drive their actions. If reason were to rear its head, they would both decide to leave, return to their families, and raise their sons and daughters. After all, they don’t have a personal quarrel with each other. They can’t even see each other. But they continue. Both machines are closely matched; each designed to be able to handle the other. The skill, concentration, and daring of the individuals will determine the outcome. And the outcome is swift. One of the planes takes a direct hit and explodes. There is no parachute – some children have just lost half of their world.

Unseen in the empty space beyond the moon, the survey vessel registers the event. They are studying this young race on one of the many stops the vessel will make in its never-ending journey. Continually sending information back to their home world, this is a generation ship. A young couple, seventh generation, logs the final notes on the encounter between the jets, and prepares for the end of their shift. This is their special day. This is the day they seal their commitment to each other. They’ve known each other for 30 earth-years; they are young for their species. The commitment they are making will span 200 years, maybe more. Tonight, they will begin their time together by conceiving one of their two allotted offspring. They leave their posts as the next shift settles in, and they make their way to one of the gathering halls, where their parents and some friends await. There is no ceremony, just a celebration. Food is served, stories are shared, and plenty of advice is given. Everyone is having a good time, and soon the young couple slips away and heads to their new quarters. They are nervous, but anxious. They have spoken of this for many years. It is a big commitment, the raising of a child. It’s also a risk. Some children do not adjust to life in a generation ship. Some resent their parents for the choice that was made for them. But none of that really matters right now. The two share an embarrassed glance, and then slowly make their way toward each other.

The information that has been sent back to their home world will travel for many years. But their kind will not be there to receive it when it arrives. Their home world is losing a war to a vicious and brutal attacker. Theirs is not a warring race, and their defenses are pitiful next to the attacker’s sophisticated weaponry, developed over centuries of conquest. Attempts to negotiate with the attackers are fruitless, for they are not interested in negotiation; they are interested in the planet. Extermination is their goal, and they are very efficient at it. Radiation bursts, tailored pathogens released in the water supply and the air, energy weapons for fortified facilities, and hunting parties in fast-moving, low-flying weapon platforms. The attackers will rid this world of the inhabitants and seed it, reforming it for their own kind. There is no hate, no emotion. It’s a job, and the attackers treat it as such. In two hundred years, the planet will be ready for colonization. Virtually all traces of the prior inhabitants will be gone. The generation ships will be all that remains of the planet’s native race, and it will be years before the survivors learn of their home world’s fate.

In orbit above the planet, oblivious to the carnage below, an automated telescope is trained on a distant part of the galaxy. Soon it too will be destroyed, but for now it’s cataloging the late stages in the formation of a new solar system. It cannot resolve fine details, but it records and tracks the number of planets circling a relatively young sun. One of those planets is at the right distance from the sun. In it, its cooling atmosphere is being bombarded by micrometeorites containing organic molecules. Life is finding a new home. It will have a small chance of flourishing, but it is a chance. A chance to achieve awareness, to struggle for survival, and to reach glorious heights of culture and technology.

The galaxy has no awareness of these events as it heads toward the eventual collision with its neighbor. The two will become locked by gravitational force, tugging and circling as this same force rips and tears at them. The process will take 500 million years, and neither will survive. But eventually they will form a new core, and a new galaxy will take shape and continue on its journey.