A New Home Found, A New Home Lost
A ship orbited a blue-green planet, the third from its host star. Of the numerous planets that were detected from the edge of the star’s heliopause, this was 1 of 2 with liquid water on its surface. The other with liquid water had an eccentric orbit and spent most of its time as an ice ball, or at least that is how the computer models showed.
Qikzu turned an eye stalk to the monitor showing the projected orbits of thousands of objects in this solar system. Short of the occasional small asteroid or comet, few objects crossed the path of this world. The gas giants further out and this planet’s satellite made sure of that.
A flash of a green light on the control panel distracted Qikzu momentarily, its lower mandibles twitching. A single maneuvering thruster showed a fault, then cleared. Twice, Qikzu ran diagnostics on the thruster and both times it showed good.
Turning another eye stalk to a different monitor, Qikzu operated the control panel with one of its 8 fore limbs. On the display, there were several measurements about the surface of the planet. Its temperature, humidity, the composition of its atmosphere and oceans all appeared to be within tolerable ranges. In addition, the levels of iridium were well within the safe zone.
This planet seemed like an ideal place for a colony for Qikzu’s people. Their homeworld was nearly dead due to tectonic activity. For generations, earthquakes and volcanoes had ravaged the planet. This planet was quite compared to the homeworld.
Some of Qikzu’s people had left for the stars before the earthquakes. More left when earthquakes started. Now, those 100’s of colonies were overcrowded and new worlds needed to be found.
The planet Qikzu orbited was a rare gem. Its people would not require environmental centers to live here. Nearly the entire land mass would be available to colonization, not just areas where environmental domes could be built.
It went back to examining the data that the scanners were showing on the planet. It contained life. There were organisms that were harvesting the starlight to produce food. In addition, there were quadrupeds and bipeds roaming the landscape. Many of the quadrupeds tended to cluster together, while the bipeds milled about in groups no larger than 4 or 5.
Qikzu studied the life forms of this world. The dominant, higher forms were, like all higher life forms on other planets, unique. It had never seen life forms as large as some of the quadrupeds. Stranger still was these creatures did not have an exoskeleton. Their entire mass seemed to be supported by an internal calcium structure.
“I will leave all the biology to the experts,” it thought to itself. “Even though there is no sign of myriapol intelligence down there, we might have relatives there. Just primitive.”
Qikzu set the computer to calculate the course home before leaving the bridge, its 40 legs clacking on the deck as it gripped it in the microgravity environment. It was not aware that the maneuvering thruster showed a fault again.
After a short while, the ship broke out of orbit and headed out of the system. Qikzu had finished preparations to hibernate for the FTL journey home when the ship crossed the orbit of the 5th planet, the largest gas giant in the system. It had 25 times that distance to go before it would accelerate to FTL.
As the ship passed an asteroid, the computer made a slight course correction. The thruster that had been intermittently showing a fault spit out a tiny chunk of frozen gas. Nothing about this registered on any of the sensors, so it went undetected.
The piece of frozen gas sped on in the general direction of the asteroid. Though the asteroid was tiny compared to a planet, it was massive compared to the frozen gas. The gravity of the asteroid was just enough to bend the path of the gas towards it. With incredible velocity, the gas slammed into the asteroid.
Seemingly unaffected, the asteroid continued its drift through the solar system. It crossed the orbit of the 5th planet where gravity tugged on it, bending its orbit slightly.
The asteroid continued to drift through the solar system until the 3rd planet and its satellite pulled on it again. The asteroid came incredibly close to the satellite, but now headed towards the blue green-planet.
When Qikzu returned with another myriapol ship, it looked in disbelief at what they found. They did not see a blue-green world, but one that was covered in a gray-black coat of clouds.
“I thought you said this planet was habitable,” Nida said. “Look at it. I don’t need sensors and probes to tell me it is a wasteland.” Its 4 eye stalks glaring at Qikzu on the monitor, both sets of its mandibles opening and closing in frustration.
“I assure you, when I left, the planet was green and full of life. I showed you the data capture. Even the iridium levels were well within safety limits. Nearly non-existent.”
“The iridium levels are beyond lethal levels. If we send anything down there, it will be stuck forever. That planet is a toxic dump. We’re leaving.”
Soon, Nida’s ship left orbit heading out of the system, never to return. A short while later, Qikzu’s ship also broke orbit. It checked the controls before it went to prepare for hibernation when it realized the course was locked. It was not heading out of the system, but deeper into it, through the photosphere of the star.
The formerly blue-green planet continued to orbit the star. Life survived on it. Many of the creatures that had once inhabited it were now gone forever, extinct, but a few smaller creatures made it through the devastation. As the planet continued to revolve around its star, they thrived and diversified.
Over the course of 63 million revolutions, new life forms emerged. A particular species of bipeds began to dominate the planet. These creatures, humans, never realized how close they came to never existing or how close Earth came to be a colony for an alien race.