|Stort Stories : by Trisha Johnson|
“I Can See Clearly Now The HURAZ Have Been!”
There are many ancient races in the universe: ancient enough to have answered most of life's questions and found solutions to most of life's problems. Unfortunately, when they reach this point in their evolution, many decide to share their knowledge with other less advanced races, whether they want it, or have asked for it, or not. Maybe it’s intellectual arrogance, just showing off; maybe it's impatience - like, 'come on, you guys, do this and you'll save loads of mistakes and lots of suffering'; then again, it could just be a desire to hold out a helping hand to others less fortunate than yourself. Whatever the motivation, the result for the inhabitants of the planet, Poona, couldn't have been worse. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In every 'first contact' situation, the type of approach adopted by the ‘visitor’ will have a predictable effect on the ‘visitee’. For instance, if you descend in your spaceship, on a column of fire, and subject the first inhabitants you meet to a display of powerful weaponry, or force of some kind, there's a good chance they’ll think you're gods. Alternatively, you can land somewhere quiet - like in a desert - and avoid this problem. You'll have to lie when you do eventually meet them, of course. Perhaps you’ll say you’re from out of town, or from across the sea? You can't tell them where you really come from, because, you guessed it, they'll think you're gods. All you can really determine is whether they see you as gods to be feared or gods to be adored. The first option doesn’t work because constantly being cruel to them will only make them all the more determined to steal your stuff and use it on you. If you set out to be adored, by helping them, either you'll fail them once, or they'll eventually see you as weak. Either way, they'll wind up stealing your stuff and using it on you.
In both scenarios, the only way to defend yourselves will be to use overwhelming force against the very people you came to help and, the chances are, you'll end up vaporizing the entire planet. So, the golden rule is: when you've attained the highest level of technical, physical and/or mental development and self-awareness you can achieve as a species, do the other species in the universe a favor, and…
KEEP IT TO YOURSELVES!
This advice was not heeded by the Huraz, when they set out on their mission to bring enlightenment to those 'unfortunates' who lived, in astronomical terms, a 'couple of blocks away'. Having decided on the ‘sneaky is best’, approach, they landed one bright and sunny afternoon on Poona, somewhere near the equator. It's a bleak, dust-blown region, inhabited by reptiles and insects. Here, also live some of Poona’s humanoids - green-eyed, gray skinned, hairless, five feet tall and a hundred pounds, soaking wet - scraping in the dry earth with their bare hands for a crunchy tuber, or a stringy root, or picking at the carcasses of animals the scavengers have finally abandoned.
Into this scene of 'noble' savagery, we introduce the Huraz: six feet tall and athletic, with blue skin, blonde hair, red eyes, wearing silver colored, one piece, metallic fabric coveralls and heavy, plastic, hiking boots. Each carries enough personal artillery to annihilate every living thing on the planet, and each of them is consumed by the desire to bring 'understanding' to these poor unfortunates.
The Huraz arranged for supplies of concentrated rations to be transported to the planet, where the grateful Poonan fought over them. Six were killed before the Huraz stepped in and zapped a couple more in the name of establishing good order. Huraz food is highly spiced, and very high in protein, neither of which Poonan stomachs had evolved to process. They threw up. Then they threw up again. They were very ill, in fact, and while the four Huraz who had remained on the planet slept, they crept up on them and slaughtered every one. When the other Huraz returned, they found no sign of their colleagues. Not even a bone. The Poonan just shrugged and hoped the Huraz would stick around for a while - leastwise until they felt hungry again.
Considering how smart the Huraz were supposed to be, it was some time before it dawned on them that all was not going well with their mission. They decided to change tack, and try to teach these poor primitives about the interesting things they were missing out on - like, for instance, online shopping, the theory of credit ratings, how to improve the responsiveness of mass transit, oh, and of course, time-travel. But first they had to teach them to speak 'Huraz'.
The idea of a 'universal translator', as portrayed in 'Star Trek', is an alluring one. Sadly, there are few universally common concepts - apart from I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, and wanna hump? - so the Huraz had to work through every one of their sixty-eight vowels, four hundred and fifty-one consonants and forty-three pronouns before they started in on their highly complex vocabulary. It was slow going! They were growing ever more irritated because their evangelical schedule was slipping - they should have been on Rapura by now - while the Poonan were becoming clinically obese on the rich food, despite its effect on their stomachs, for which they took medication.
“I will allow six more passages of the moon across the sky for you to learn the correct use of the inactive past participle,” the Huraz leader, Gau-Zin-Faa, screamed, “and then I will start shooting volunteers.”
The Poonan stopped eating and sat rolling their eyes, which were the only muscles, apart from their mouths, that got any exercise these days, while Gau-Zin-Faa ranted.
Eventually, the Poonan finally got the hang of it. They wanted to know everything. Where the Huraz came from? How they'd traveled to Poona? Why they'd come? At length, while answering a question about sociological developmental theory, Gau-Zin-Faa let slip the fact that the Huraz could predict the future. The Poonan asked for clarification. The Huraz repeated their claim and offered a demonstration. Two of the Poonan were ‘volunteered’ to go with the Huraz to their ship.
After a short flight in an orbital shuttle, the volunteers found themselves on board the massive starship. They were escorted - wide-eyed and trembling - through miles of corridors, until finally being led into a small, spherical chamber, where they were strapped into deeply cushioned chairs and strange looking helmets were placed on their heads. They were terrified, but the Huraz assured them everything would be just fine, before walking out and locking the door. The Poonan started to panic, again. Then, without warning, the little chamber started to shake. A low hum rose until it was a loud whine that threatened to rupture their eardrums. Suddenly, the walls around them began to dissolve, until they fancied they could see the deserts, plains, and high mountain ranges of their homeland. As they watched, spellbound, small villages grew seamlessly into larger villages, then into small towns, larger towns, cities and finally into fifteen mega-cities, spread across the single continent. People moved around both on the ground and in the air, in strange flying machines. The population, which had stood at ten thousand when the Huraz had arrived, had, six thousand years later, reached eight hundred and forty-seven million. With Huraz technology, they had increased the average lifespan from 'twenty-two' to 'two hundred and five'. Most everyone on the planet was fed, clothed and housed. Life was no longer a struggle against nature, but a struggle against each other. As the cities grew, so the forests and the wildlife that inhabited them dwindled, until they eventually disappeared - except for those few small areas which had been preserved for 'posterity'.
After what seemed a long time, but was in truth a few minutes, the walls reappeared, the whining and humming stopped, and the Huraz returned to release them.
"You can always change things, if you know how they might turn out," Gau-Zin-Faa said. He smiled, knowingly. "Trust me, we can help."
When they asked how, the Poona were told the Huraz would build them a chamber of their very own, right there, on the planet’s surface. By routinely checking on how their society was developing, based on the values of certain sociological and environmental variables, they would be able to change the future for the better. The Huraz engineers would also build in a power generator, capable of running for ten thousand years, and back it up with a communications device that could be used to call on the Huraz for help should it ever be needed. Most of the Poonan leaders were delighted at the prospect. Some, however, were not. One, Grassy, was especially outspoken.
“Some things should remain a secret,” he cautioned. “Harm will befall us if we see what we are not meant to see.”
“Has any harm befallen them?” Kumar, the recently elected leader of the Poona demanded, as he pointed at Gau-Zin-Faa.
Gau-Zin-Faa smiled benignly. He was used to such outbursts. Most every race he had ever visited had an almost pathological resistance to change.
“Then how do we know the future we live will be our own?” Grassy demanded. “Tell me that, if you can.”
“Because it is our people who will operate the machine,” Kumar said quietly. “And our people who will interpret the information.”
“But it is still their machine,” Grassy persisted. “Designed and built by them.” He stabbed a finger in Gau-Zin-Faa’s direction. “Might it not be their future, instead? The one they have secretly planned for us to suit their purpose, and encoded in that…” He struggled to find a suitably offensive name for the chamber. “That…”
He was shouted down and stormed out. He went on to form a sect, which moved to the wastelands where it eked out a meager living for a few weeks, before most of its members snuck away one night and returned to the comforts of civilization. Grassy and two others stayed in the desert. Nothing more was heard of them.
Within two months, the chamber was up and running. Anxious to be on their way, the Huraz technicians rushed through the six-week training program in two days, and a thousand guests were entertained to a farewell meal the day the chamber was first successfully tested by two native volunteers. The starship moved out of orbit the following day, headed for Rapura.
For sixteen generations, all went well on Poona. Small adjustments to the overall strategy were made, taking into account the detailed social or environmental impact assessments derived from the observations made by the volunteers who manned the chamber. Another ‘look see’ would be made to validate the effects of these changes before they would be implemented in the field.
Then, one fateful day, the chamber was propelled into the distant future, when the planet's star was beginning its slow decline towards becoming a yellow dwarf. The two observers stared in disbelief at the devastation that lay before their eyes, before faithfully reporting their findings. At first, confusion reigned. How could this happen? What had changed since the last evaluation had taken place to bring about this new and totally unexpected consequence? After a three week closed session, the planning committee was set the task of working out how to deal with this new, and catastrophic, development. But try as they might, they could not stop the apparent destruction of their world. Eventually, the experts determined that some new temporal variable had emerged, for which the chamber could not compensate. The communications equipment the Huraz had left behind was brought out of storage and dusted off and an attempt was made to contact Huraz Tech. Support. Three weeks of hearing static did nothing to dent the optimism of the administrators – after all, life in the here and now was pretty good – but the decision was taken to man the equipment around the clock.
Eventually, their call was answered, and an engineer was dispatched from a passing Huraz ship to fix the problem. He interviewed everyone and eventually concluded that a janitor sent to clean out the chamber had accidentally moved the control that determined the chamber’s destination date and time. It had never been changed in all the years of the chamber's operation, so no one had ever bothered to record the symbols on the small display. When the two observers commenced the next ‘look see’ everything was as it should be.
Two years later, the planet was laid waste by ships from the planet Nona, a world the Huraz had also visited, but whose occupants, unlike the Poona, had stolen their stuff and used it on them. Ironically, the Nona were made aware of the existence of the Poona by their continuous broadcasts to the Huraz for assistance, and assumed Poona was an outpost of Huraz. They attacked it without even looking it over!
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