Enlanne était différente, peut-être. Ou peut-être était ce simplement son imagination. Peut-etre voulait-il qu’elle le soit. Ce n’est pas si évident après tout. Vous-même, sans doute vous flattez vous d’être differents, vous aussi. Et face à Joe, vous dites vous, vous ne vous seriez pas comportés de cette façon. Vous avez sans doute tort. N’ayez pas honte pourtant. Joe n’est pas une perle rare qu’il faut dégager de sa gangue. Il n’a pas besoin de gentillesse ou de compréhension. Joe est un étron comme les autres. Continue reading
Sains looked around slowly. This time, he was in no hurry. The Dog, obviously, would want to run, to rush, but it had a whole new planet on which to play, and it shouldn’t bother him for a while. Even at a Dog’s speed, a planet is a big place.
Sains loved the Dog, but sometimes its perpetual bounciness, its eagerness was too much for him.
No, he was going to take his time, he had a good record and wasn’t about to screw up now. Screwing up is dangerous and, while Dogs are pretty much immortal, human beings are altogether more fragile. He turned and looked again at the members of the welcoming committee who, at that very moment, strode up the hill toward him. He shuddered briefly before his training took over: their elongated, seesawing legs and carefully erect stance reminded him too much of the ancient Martian’s. Thankfully, the similarities ended there: for all their limbs, the Huylee were distinctly larval in appearance – fat worms atop a scaffold was usually the most popular and accurate description – while this lot were properly insectile. Slim and elegant, with their heads nearly reaching his shoulders, they looked for all the world like giant praying mantes
This did not scare him. He and the dog were alone, after all. Alone against a planet. Once you get used to these odds, the individual characteristics of your opponents do not matter that much anymore.
“ – Greetings,” he said, and raised his right hand, palm outward, in a typically Terran salute. He was aware that the sound of his voice was probably meaningless to them, little more than random noise, and that the gesture could be interpreted in many ways, all different from the lie it was supposed to convey: on this planet, it could be a sign denoting aggression, perhaps, or maybe the most abject surrender, or even sexual arousal for all he knew. He didn’t really care, no more than did his masters: he was here as an emissary of Earth, of Earth’s Empire and of Man’s arrogance. From now on, against such pride, their customs, their usages and languages didn’t mean anything anymore. And it was time they got used to it.
And, if it cared, it wouldn’t make that many blunders.
In all populations, even the ones that seems most stable, even the so-called “living fossils”, changes to the genome occur all the time. Because the environment changes continually: new competitors appear or are being introduced from afar; new threats and new opportunities surface and the next generations must slowly adapt to the changed situation.
And sometimes they become too good at what they do: they dominate the landscape for eons and suppress all opposition in its infancy. Let’s be clear here: we are not saying they are perfect now, that now other life form would fare best in this particular ecosystem, only that such is their dominance that no other alternative can develop. An oak tree can be better than a fir, but what good is that if a young sapling cannot grow in the dark of a pine forest?
This is why you need a catastrophe sometimes, a meteor say, a giant ball of fire sent from the heavens, to slam into the ground and make the earth shudder, to awaken the deep rumble of the volcanoes. To create a tabular Rasa, a world scoured anew by smoke and fire and on which a new diversity can rise. To get rid of the dinosaurs.
But on N’rett, the merciful asteroids never came.
Imagine the larva of some alien species of giant butterfly; a butterfly which discovered the advantages of neoteny early in its evolutionary history.
A giant caterpillar, then, bent in the middle and with its two extremities poised high above the ground like the twin heads of a weird cobra. And which managed somehow to graft to himself the eight limbs of a wolf-spider.
More of the same limbs, slim and mean and sharp, adorn its head, a crown of thorn around its mouth. On the side of that head, two eyes glitter, their pupils dark horseshoes lost on a turf of purple grass. They are situated at the end of two rows of light sensitive patches of skin which extend back and down to the neck.
This creature, up to four meters long, is a Martian at the third stage of its development. After that, it will change little in appearance, only becoming slowly larger and of shorter temper.
But appearances mean little, as your mother should have taught you, and it is the inside of this creature that you should truly dread.
It doesn’t matter, the limb will grow back and obviously he doesn’t feel the pain. He has people to do that.
He kills them all. Something in me thinks it wrong but I do not know which. The dog or me? It does not matter. It is far, far too late now to do anything about it.
When I wake up, I am back on Mars. I am lying on my back on the hard ground that I cannot feel. There is a dog nearby. My dog, now. I am alive and it is my turn to be happy. Continue reading
Be warned: the following sequence will only last seventeen and a half (17.5) seconds. “Only” is a slight misnomer, though. Seventeen and a half seconds is the longest time anybody ever spent on the surface of Mars.
Most missions end after 3 to 4 seconds and bring back very little data. No, scratch this. Here goes: most mission end in instantaneous death. Gory, messy death. It’s only the successful missions which mostly end after 3 to 4 seconds.
Honestly, I am not doing my best to confuse you. This is genuinely complicated. Continue reading
(Extraits du journal d’Hélène Rensherr)
15 Septembre 20XX.
Ils ont pris ma voiture hier, pendant la nuit. Ils ont forcé la porte d’entrée avec un pied-de-biche et ont pris les clefs que j’avais laissées sur la commode. Ce matin, je pouvais encore voir le pied-de-biche sur le trottoir. Je ne l’ai pas ramassé, bien sur.
C’est une voiture puissante, un modèle de sport, et je pense qu’ils l’ont pris pour s’amuser.
C’est ridicule, je le sais, mais je me sens coupable. Je n’aurais rien pu faire pour les en empêcher et il était bien sûr bien trop tard pour neutraliser la voiture. Retirer les roues ou le démarreur n’y aurait rien changé. Pas pour eux. Néanmoins je ne peux m’empêcher de penser que s’il leur arrive quelque chose, ce sera de ma faute. Continue reading
He was asleep during most of it, and the rest of the time he simply didn’t care.
Over thousands of years, a succession of thinking, inquiring minds had worked, slowly and deliberately, to understand the inner logic of a shy and reluctant universe. Only their patient determination, their dogged invention had made his journey possible.
His craft was full of splendours put together for the safe accomplishment of his mission: giant engines that would dwarf the biggest buildings of Earth, and intricate mechanisms, too small to be seen by the naked eye.
On his trip to this faraway destination, he had encountered some of the universe’s most breathtaking sights. Remnants of ancient novae, still lit somehow by their ageing fires; a sun locked in orbit around a neutron star, and slowly devoured by its invisible companion; a nebula, a cloud of cosmic dust, a nursery of stars, all aglow of the improbable births taking place in its innards.
Not once did he think or ponder, not once did he pause to give thanks, never did he stop to marvel.
Such a mind is not to be trusted.
(This is the end of A Walk in the Wood. We’ll let it rest for a few weeks before putting up a final version. It’s in need of some editing I think. Maybe a few para’s about the narrator’s past as a tree. I’ll see. Oh, and also change Adolf’s name to a simple A. No need to make things too obvious, now, is there?
Anyway, that day was the last time I saw old Adolf, something like well over 800 years ago. I hear about him, obviously, and he seems to be doing all right this days, but, I don’t know, I just don’t feel like bursting in on him for old times’ sake. He has other friends now, anyway, and from what I hear he keeps busy.
So do I, by the way. So do I. I am still cutting down the trees in Lehnsherr Woods, after all. So, in a way, you might say that day was a turning point for both of us. I also have a few people, now, working with me. Nothing as grandiose as what Adolf has put together, of course, but it helps. We do good work. Back on Earth, I would have said we do God’s work, but then back on Earth I was an ignorant and righteous little sod. Continue reading
…And here you have it, the insanity of this place in a nutshell.
Maybe I flatter myself but, when I see you all, when I see all that has been done, and old Adolf and his new friends and everything they have accomplished, I think sometimes that it was my question which started it all.
More probably though, he only arrived that day at the logical conclusion of a long reflection, as he sat there in the dark, listening to me felling those trees.
Whichever it was, you know the result. He did as he said he would and went north to the nearest Gate he knew of, and there he started tying people up. That wasn’t easy at first, he had to make ropes with hair and grass and whatever he could find, most of the time human skin. But soon enough other people understood what he was getting at and, far from being alone, he rapidly had to spent all his available time organizing them in teams, shifts and whatnots. He was always a good organizer, old Adolf. After a few months, he even started sending messengers to the other Gates, and from what I’ve heard the system is now pretty much universal. Continue reading