Thursday, May 31, 2018


By Andrew Darlington

As the first Earthian sets foot on Mars, aching, it’s been a long hard journey, she finds the three Galaxiad delegates courteously waiting. A shiny octopus, a long-necked owl-faced bird, and a fish. It was not entirely unexpected. ‘We come in peace for all humankind’ she says, her visuals flashed back to watching Beijing and Baikonur.

‘We know all that.’ A fitting response. Although it appears to be Clarice – the bird, speaking, there’s an impression that the sentiment emanates from Amrita, the octopoid, which hovers suspended within a life-support sphere. The Intuitive Fish swims in a sapphire water-cube. Clarice seems to exist quite adequately on tenuous Mars-air.

‘Welcome, although we assumed you’d be here earlier’ says the bird. ‘Soon after you reached your Moon, in fact. We miscalculated, for I understand you had to have time to devote to your wars first.’
‘You’ve been waiting for us?’ enquires Zhi Ruo politely.

‘Like you wouldn’t believe. But now you’re here your species naturally qualifies for admission to the Galaxiad, as junior induction members.’

‘As in that Arthur C Clarke story? We have to prove our extraterrestrial credentials first?’

‘That was a cool movie. But no, not quite. Only yes, to an extent.’

As Zhi Ruo, Qing Shan and Tierney follow their hosts across the Valles Marineris floor, the sun a small bright coin in the twilight sky, the watchers in Beijing and Baikonur can begin to discern the form of the ruined Martian city they’re approaching.

‘Of course, it’s not Martian’ comments Clarice the bird. ‘There were never any Martians. Not even microbial ones in shallow pools. It’s just that we’ve been observing you from here for a long while, and maintaining these structures proved tedious.’

‘The three of you have been here hundreds of years?’

‘A million or so. We anticipated faster evolutionary growth on your part, I admit. But I retain a certain affection for some of your lapsed cultures, the Minoans in particular, and the Phoenicians were quite fascinating in a mercantile way. Originally there were five of us here. I regret our numbers were depleted by an unfortunate close-pass accident with your world some time ago.’ Although the slender towers and minarets are semi-derelict, resembling something from wild Barsoomian romance, the central court is hermetically sealed in sparkling crystal shells, allowing the travelers to relax without their protective suits. Fountains dance around a garden of softly humming blooms.

The three aliens face the three humans, feeding them visions. Countless millions of worlds, a cornucopia of species linked across the spiral arm in a million-year trading alliance of peace and prosperity, stars arranged into aesthetically-pleasing formations, glittering planetary-cities and sky-borne islands suspended in the streaming tides of gas giants, continents on piles sunk into blazing suns, a dance of captive black holes, gentle ocean worlds where leviathans bask in violet tides and idyllic rainforest planets of diversely beautiful avian life-forms, cascading nebulae choreographed to illuminate the night skies of golden cities, beings flitting in the harmony of ghosts across magical continuums, species pooling resources and expertise to resolve the fundamental mysteries of existence, to cure all ailments and share their benevolences freely across star systems. Lesser species helped and guided to achieve that perfect equilibrium.

‘I don’t see your starships’ says Qing Shan.

‘We still enjoy using contragrav ovoids to make local system hops’ says Clarice agreeably. ‘For galactic distances, think quantum symbiosis. It’s complicated for you to understand. The Intuitive Fish swims the tides of galactic space. Amrita acts as navigation input. That’s all we require. Simple for us, but it’ll be a long meticulous process for you, you’ll learn over the coming centuries through our measured tuition.’

‘So you function as a composite entity? That’s all we need to know.’ They draw stun pistols and freeze the Galaxiad comatose. There are three prepared chambers in their ship, the ‘Laozi’. Once back on Earth the aliens are scanned, analyzed, probed and dissected, their DNA transfused and replicated, injected and grafted, operating on sciences retro-engineered from the two previously captured specimens.

Ten years later human armies break out across the peaceful worlds of the Galaxiad, shimmering instantaneously through space-time tides, despoiling and annexing. Within a century Earth has become control-centre of a galactic empire stretching from star to shining star…

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