Universal Quarantine - a Short Story
Short Story by Tamara Wilhite
Karlang the Mild reviewed its appearance in the hall of mirrors. Yet Karlang the Mild would have to face those doors – and the Master Planner – eventually.
The doors were opened by the guards inside. The ten strongest slugs pushed it, bringing them fully open. As they did, the deep gray shadowy depths of the Master Planner chamber became visible. The Master Planner sat in his seat, lit from behind and around by a hundred computer displays. He saw all, in time. He knew all, and if he did not know, he would question. And he had questions for Karlang the Mild.
Karlang approached the Master Planner at the slowest possible allowable pace. Karlang stopped at the indented section of floor where failed visitors had been squashed so often that it had permanently marked the nearly wear-proof floor.
“What is the purpose of sending three ships to this unknown region of space?” the Master Planner boomed.
“Sir, Great Planner, Master Planner, the first ship was a standard survey mission of the unknown.”
“Then what was the purpose of the second ship?”
“The first ship, Sir, Master, was lost.”
“Lost?!” the great voice boomed. The disbelief and shock was so great that the guards shook in their places. Several released protective slime. “How in Fargong’s universe can a ship be lost? We have not lost a ship in nearly one hundred thousand rotations!”
“That is why I sent the second ship – to find out why the first ship was lost.”
The Master Planner quivered in thought for a long moment. “Yes, that is reasonable.” Then the Master Planner drew up high and tall on its pedestal, all of its eyes pulled from the screens and turned to Karlang the Mild, who wished he could be mild at this moment. “What was the purpose of the third ship?”
“The second ship, too, sir, Great Master Planner, was lost.”
“Two! We lost two ships! And you send a third! Ships require years of planning and construction – and you throw them away into an unknown black abyss!”
“The third ship was more cautious than the predecessors, as it examined all that they left behind before approaching the destination. A world the natives call Earth –“ the thick syllable made Karlang the Mild shake “has bizarre properties. We do not understand it fully, but the third ship did find that the laws of physics are imperceptibly warped within the influence of its sun. This affects our interstellar drives.” Karlang quaked and felt an instinctive wave of protective slime. “The third ship was instructed to relay its findings as it approached. Its destruction was recorded by observing posts, whereas the others were not. The reality differential of that solar system causes an implosion of our interstellar drives.”
The Great Master Planner remained still in thought for a long time. It reviewed the files that Karlang the Mild had referenced in his report. He observed the destruction of the third ship, the first new such recording in eons. “This is disturbing,” the Master Planner finally uttered.
“Yes, great sir, it is,” Karlang the Mild agreed. “That is why I requested to send a fourth ship.”
“That is why you were called here.”
“We must understand what happened so that it does not happen again,” Karlang the Mild insisted.
“We understand what happened. It is clear from the sensor data of the third ship. There is a difference in the reality parameters for that solar system compared to the rest of the universe, making it impossible for us to enter and explore.”
“If we approached at sub-light instead –“
“A waste of time and resources on a useless solar system that has already destroyed three ships.”
“What shall we do so that this does not happen again?”
“We shall apply a universal quarantine on this world – Earth.” The Master Planner’s massive body shook as it said the strange word.
“What shall we do, Great One, if we find such an anomaly again? We should know how to prevent such a reoccurring loss of ships?”
“If we ever find such an anomaly in the universe again, we shall apply quarantine again.”
“That is an elegantly simple solution to the problem, Master Planner,” Karlang the Mild said as he bowed in agreement. He knew a dismissal when he heard it. Karlang the Mild swept backward and quickly exited the chamber.
He wanted to know how one small solar system could violate the laws of physics so, but he valued his life far more. And the loss of three ships was certainly better to leave alone than to be blamed for a fourth loss and be crushed. “The quarantine of this Earth from the rest of the universe shall be implemented, oh wise one.” Karlang the Mild restated before leaving. “It is the simplest and yet best solution to this anomaly.”
“And that is why you are a Planner and I am the Master.”