Volla Nes was the fifth planet in the Sol system. It was also the only planet in the system known to contain sentient life. It had two orbiting moons: Brother and Sister. Brother, the larger of the two, was made of a material that was almost black, no matter the phase, and Sister was nearly white. The Vollans had evolved on their planet for millions of years, and had managed to build the near perfect society. Most crimes were a thing of the past, and what crimes did occur were crimes of passion. These were usually solved within the day. The entire Vollan police force consisted of ten people, chosen from the populace every five years. There was no poverty. No hunger. No problem with the homeless, because there were none. No unemployment. No war. Not even sickness. Death by anything but natural causes was rare, and when accidental death did occur, it made headlines.
The secret to the society that the people of Volla Nes had built was a special mineral named Megite. It had more uses than plastic, rubber, and steel, all rolled into one. The individual use depended on which process was used to refine it. In one form, it was used as a construction material. In another, it was the base for their technology. In yet another, it was a clean fuel that would last for as long as they needed it to. The best part was that it was abundant, and infinitely renewable. The people of Volla Nes had everything that they could ever want on their planet, so they decided to look to the stars.
Being the fifth planet in the system, naturally they looked first to the fourth and sixth planets. The sixth planet was a gas giant that the Vollans had very little use for, other than as a scientific curiosity. But the fourth planet proved to be a solid planet, so that was where they decided to spend their resources. This planet had three moons, none of which had been named with anything other than serial numbers when the first efforts were made to investigate them. The probes that were sent to investigate the planet, along with her moons, sent back information that the Vollans found intriguing. It appeared as though the planet teemed with life. It was all lower animals, mostly reptiles and such, but this was the first clue that the Vollans had that life could survive on other planets.
With this information, the Vollans decided to send an expedition to the more hospitable of the three moons, to set up a research station, and monitor the life of this planet. It was also decided that if they were going to focus time on this planet, it needed a better designation than some random serial number. Some Vollan historians dug out ancient books about long dead mythologies, and dubbed the planet Mars, and the moons Phobos, Deimos, and the one that would have the research station would be Discovery. Over the course of the next hundred years, the research station was expanded time and again, with frequent trips to the surface of Mars to gather flora and fauna of all different types. Even though many of the species mirrored those found on Volla Nes, there were vast differences. Scientists couldn’t figure out how completely different biospheres had evolved along similar lines with no real contact. It was a puzzle that they loved to spend their time on.
Even though the ecology of the planet was similar, there was one thing that was missing: Megite. There was no trace of it on the planet, or on the moons. The samples that were brought to the planet were rendered useless by the planet’s own magnetic field. It appeared as though the Vollan society would remain confined to their home planet if they wished their lives to continue in the same manner with which they were accustomed. Nothing on Mars could match the uses of Megite, and everything that they tried to use caused such pollution, either in its use or in its refining, that it was instantly banned.
Then came the news that changed Vollan history forever. There was an asteroid on its way through the system. This asteroid had been coming through the system on a regular course for as far back as the records were kept, but the trajectory of this trip was slightly different than previously noted. Something along the asteroid’s path had nudged it aside, probably a gravity variation in one of the stars that it passed, but that nudge had gotten worse over time, and as the asteroid traveled, those meters of divergence had become kilometers. Now, instead of giving Vollans a beautiful show in the night sky over the course of a week, it was going to slam into Volla Nes’ larger moon, Brother. Both moons were pock marked with craters from other strikes, but this asteroid was projected to be large enough to knock Brother out of its orbit, and into the planet itself.
The Vollans had less than two months to gather as many people as they could and flee to the only other place that they knew could sustain life: Mars. With limited time, they were unable to build more spacecraft to ferry the entire population of Volla Nes to Mars, so they took as many people as they could in the three shuttles that were already in use. The Vollans would disembark from the shuttles on Discovery, and they would be assigned living quarters there. The shuttles ran non-stop, but by the day the asteroid struck, only a quarter of the Vollans population had managed to evacuate the planet. Brother had been knocked out of orbit as predicted, but what couldn’t be predicted was that Brother’s decaying orbit brought it into direct contact with Sister. Now, both moons were falling towards the planet, and the conflicting gravity wells were tearing all three bodies apart.
Debris surrounded the planet from the asteroid impact on Brother, and more joined it when Brother met Sister, making shuttle travel off of the surface impossible. Two of the shuttles were near Volla Nes when the debris field spread. One shuttle was destroyed, while the other was grounded. The shuttle that was near Mars was told to stay where it was. There was nothing more that could be done for the Vollans that were left on their home planet.
It took less than a week for Brother and Sister to come in contact with Volla Nes, and the quakes that preceded the meeting were so violent that most of the population had already been killed before the moons slammed into the planet. On Mars, all the people could do was watch as the moons came in contact with the planet, tearing it apart. The satellites recorded every moment for history, so that every new generation to follow would know what had happened to their home planet.
Over time, the new generations did come, and the population of Discovery grew to the point where the colony had run out of room to expand. The decision was made to populate the planet. However, with Mars being their home now, people stopped referring to themselves as Vollans, and started referring to themselves as Martians. Once the new Martians had begun populating the planet, their numbers grew even further, along with a desire for the technology that their society had grown to depend on. With no Megite available, the old laws were repealed due to necessity, and the minerals found on Mars were used to rebuild their lost society. Even though the refining techniques had been improved, the process still polluted the planet much more than the ex-Vollans were used to. The rebuilding took generations. As soon as the population had built a rough semblance of the world that they had (according to the old stories) been forced to abandon, they turned their eyes to the heavens once more.
Discovery was converted back into a research station, and tasked with learning about their new celestial neighbor. The planet only had one moon, and seemed much larger than Mars, or even Volla Nes, which had been roughly the size of Mars. The planet showed up blue and green on the Martian’s scans, indicating water and some sort of plant life. New probes were sent out to learn about this planet, and the information that was received was very similar to the information that the Vollans had received from Mars. There was plant life, and lower animal life, but nothing that could be called sentient. This was cause for guarded celebration, as over the years, Mars was becoming too polluted for the Martian’s use. The materials that the Martians had been forced to use in making their new world were slowly choking them out of the world that they had created. An expedition was mounted for the new planet, Earth, in the hope that they would find either some Megite, or some substance that worked just as well.
As was the standard procedure, a research station was created on Earth’s one moon, with excursions to the planet’s surface launched from that location. The researchers examined the flora and fauna, finding a much more diverse ecosystem, which was attributed to the size of the planet. As with Mars and Volla, there were similar species, but nothing that fit quite right with either of the other planet’s biological specimens. There was also a much higher magnetic field than even Mars had had, so any hope of finding Megite was out. However, there were several other types of minerals that could prove promising, if the refining processes were improved.
As Earth was explored, Mars was slowly growing uninhabitable. Instead of risking further loss of life due to a global disaster on par with Volla Nes, the government in charge of Mars decreed that the population of Mars would be transplanted to Earth. However, instead of being allowed to spread across the face of the planet, there would have to be population control, to ensure that the planet did not grow over populated and draw too heavily on resources. Once a Martian colony was established on Earth, an assessment was made on the planet’s ability to sustain their population, and found that they could thrive in such an environment. Over the course of the next two years, the entire population of Mars, save for a small contingent left on Discovery, was transplanted to Earth. By the time the last shuttle left Mars, the planet was so polluted that the air was thick with toxins. The government swore that the mistakes made on Mars would not be repeated on Earth.
Time passed, and new generations rose up to take the place of older ones, calling themselves Earthlings, instead of Martians. The old population laws were upheld, while the refining methods were improved, giving the Earthlings better materials to build their societies. However, the materials still released pollution into the atmosphere, and it began to build as it had on Mars. Yet, given Earth’s size, it took longer for the population to really begin noticing the effects. Nearly a thousand years, actually. Since it had taken longer for the effects to be felt, it had given the pollution longer to do its damage to the environment and the population. During this time, Mars had been able to heal itself, allowing it’s ecosystem to once more be able to support a sustained population. The government came together once more and had the population abandon the planet that had been nearly destroyed, in order to return to the planet that had managed to repair itself. There was hope that Earth could repair itself as Mars had done.
The old patterns held true for the next hundred thousand years. When one planet began to become too polluted for use, the population would make the long travel to the other planet, which had had time to repair itself from the previous occupation. During this time, refining methods and recycling methods improved to the point where their stay on each planet was lasting much longer than on previous attempts. Other technologies were evolving, as well.
During one stay on Mars, scientists developed a technology that would allow organisms to be sent great distances as pure energy, and then be reconstructed back into its original form without the use of a machine at the receiving end. This process was called the Full Energy Transfer, or FET for short. After successful tests on plants and lab animals, it was decided to try a person. After an exhaustive search for a volunteer, one was finally found and sent through the machine. Aside from a minor energy feedback, the test was a full success. All of the medical and psychological tests matched the subject’s pre-FET tests. Now, the goal was distance. Over the next few years, scientists increased the range of the machine to cover the entire face of Mars. Scientists found that there was always a type of energy feedback when transporting people, and that it increased along with the increase of distance that the person was sent. The scientists then developed a regulator that allowed that feedback to be channeled back into the machine, helping it work much more efficiently.
By the time the Martians were nearing their exodus to Earth, the machine was being used all over Mars, as well as FETting people back and forth from Discovery. The scientists were so impressed with the abilities of the machine, that they proposed sending a large number of volunteers to Earth via the FET, to make sure the machine could handle the distance. This time, the FET was so well-known that finding volunteers was simple. It was decided that five hundred people would be the first group size. That was the size that the machine was estimated to be able to handle at once, while not overloading with feedback. The experiment was moved to Discovery for two reasons. Given the distances that they were going to push the FET, every kilometer counted, so they would reduce that number however they could. It was also suggested that if anything went wrong, the damage would not become known to the general population of Mars, as long as the small crew of the Discovery station kept their mouths shut.
The day for the trip arrived, and the five hundred volunteers watched as their supplies were sent to Earth with no problems. This gave everyone involved great hope for the success of the test. Even though they had shuttles that could make the trip between planets in months, it would still be better to spend that time on a planet, rather than stuck in the vast darkness between them. As the five hundred volunteers stepped onto the launch pad, the scientists made last minute adjustments to their equipment. Finally, the moment had arrived.
The scientists activated the machine, and the five hundred people disappeared. The scientists thought they heard screaming, when the machine started to crackle with electricity. The energy feedback had been too much for the machine, and it had triggered a cascading field that was growing with each moment. Every time the field came in contact with another electrical field, it would draw that energy and grow. Within a matter of minutes it was flooding outside of the Discovery station, still drawing power from every electrical system on the moon, as well as energy from the people there. As the field grew, it destabilized the moon enough that it started breaking apart, much as ancient Volla Nes was said to have done. The field grew as it reached Mars’ atmosphere, and fed off of the technology that the Martians had spread all across the planet. Within seconds, the field was large enough to encompass the entire planet, and was able to cause the magnetic field of the planet to fluctuate wildly enough that the entire atmosphere was vented into space.
Ten minutes after the five hundred volunteers were sent through the FET to Earth, Mars died.
Five hundred creatures lay stunned on the ground in a clearing on Earth. These were not the people that had been sent from far-off Discovery. These were small, furry creatures that were not quite monkeys. They were not quite people, either. Rather they seemed to be some hybrid of the two. The extended distance, along with the energy feedback, had altered the traveler’s personal energy enough to cause a massive de-evolution among the group. Looking about themselves, and seeing the others, most of these creatures ran for cover, hoping not to be followed.
Only one creature was left in the clearing. She stood, in her fashion, looking up at the sky, and wondering what might be up there.
© Copyright 2016 CharlesLeeMcCabe. All rights reserved.