(A flash fiction challenge)
I had settled in for my tour of duty some cycles ago. It was not difficult work to watch the Monkey Planet. The job was mine because of my treatise on the characteristics of emerging species. Based on a statistical and cultural analysis of worlds whose populations had developed space travel, I had developed a framework to use to assess the likelihood of any newly-discovered sentient species developing the ability to interact with the rest of the space-faring civilizations.
It was an analytical system which had stood the test of time. Or it did, until the discovery of the Monkey Planet. They didn’t fit the framework. On the contrary, they seemed to be unsuitable for mastering the technology of fire, let alone space travel. But they had figured out how to make fusion weapons and use the radio spectrum for communications. Now they were venturing from their world to others in their system. They had robotic probes that had left their star system.
Their spacecrafts were exceedingly primitive. They had recently been developing magnetic-plasma rockets. Every other space faring species had developed far better forms of propulsion before they traveled into space. The Monkeys had gone to their nearest neighboring planet with chemical rockets that we regarded as little more than children’s toys.
What was worse, though, was that the Monkeys were a bloodthirsty species. While their machines were reaching into deep space and they had small settlements on their moon and a neighboring planet, the Monkey World was wracked by wars large and small. The Monkeys had developed a global computer network, which we had easily accessed. We learned that the written history of the Monkeys was soaked in blood. Indeed, their historical chronicles gave only short mention to their development of communications, science and technology. They seemed to mark their historical periods by conquest and war.
So far, the Monkeys had not taken their propensity for violence into space. I believed that was only because the number and size of their off-world colonies was too small. Once they had achieved a critical mass in that regard, the Monkeys would be fighting in space.
That was not acceptable.
I presented my findings at the largest conference of space-traveling civilizations that had ever been held. Everyone was concerned about what to do about the Monkey’s star system. One delegation proposed detonating a star forty monkey-light-years away in order to send a gamma-ray burst to wipe the Monkey World of all life. It would be a trivial calculation to properly aim the burst.
I demurred. The star was not in the plane of the planets of the Monkey’s star system. There was a chance that the Monkeys’ off-world settlements might be self-sufficient by then. Leaving some of them alive would only postpone the problem.
The decision was slow to be reached. An emerging civilization had never before been slaughtered. But the Monkeys were only a civilization when measured by their technology. Socially, they were beasts. Dangerous beasts.
The decision was reached. The archives were consulted, the design for a nova-bomb was bought out of the deepest and most secure libraries. One was built and tested on a star which was orbited by sterile worlds. The weapon worked, the star exploded. Our scientists calculated that an identical explosion of the Monkey’s star would vaporize all of that system’s worlds out to the second largest gas giant.
It took longer to decide how to use the nova-bomb. No one wanted the responsibility of issuing the command to launch the bomb. No one wanted to sail the ship that would carry the weapon. It was necessary for a system to be developed in which any one being involved had such a small role to play that even if many of them ultimately demurred, the ship would nevertheless be built, the bomb would be built and the ship would sail to launch the weapon.
It was done. The ship approached the Monkey’s star system from high above the plane of its planetary orbits. It sailed through the large cloud of ice that surrounded the star. Once well clear of the ice cloud, the ship launched its weapon and then sailed back out. The weapon itself was covered with a large shell of ice. It would look like just another object that had been jarred loose of the ice cloud to fall in towards the Monkey’s star. It would take quite a bit of time for it to reach its target.
We were patient.
The instruments detected a flash, an explosion, that was as far away from the Monkey’s star as the largest gas giant. The flash originated from the trajectory of the weapon.
Our engineers had not equipped the weapon with a datalink. There had been no provision to communicate with it. For communications implied that it could be recalled or disabled and not doing so meant that there would have to be a continuing consent to destroy the Monkeys. No one wanted that responsibility.
The scientists and engineers were analyzing the design and the deployment method. Something had to have gone wrong and it had to be understood. Simulation after simulation were run with no definitive result.
Observation awoke me early from my sleep cycle. A number of ships had launched from the moon of the Monkey world. The ships were moving at velocities far higher than any other known Monkey ship. Those ships were on a path to intercept our ship.
We intercepted a strong radio signal. It had been aimed towards us. It was in several of the languages that the Monkeys used. It simply said: “We are coming for you.”
I called the Captain and ordered him to get under way in the shortest possible time and at the greatest possible speed. The Captain wanted to know if we had a problem.
We did indeed.