Objects in Motion …

A Science-Fiction Short Story by Chris Spackman

Updated 2020-12-15

Cosmic Background Life Levels

Self-aware, intelligent life is common in the universe. All sorts of life — many more types than have been portrayed in all of the science fiction books, tv shows, or movies in any language on any planet. 0.031 m3: Imagine a cube about 31.416 cm on a side — of course, aside from the Xuupprryyggvv, very few species are truly cubical. Size seems to be the only requirement for intelligence; all intelligent, self-aware species are at least 0.031 cubic meters in volume. Height, weight, etc vary massively, but no intelligent species with a volume smaller than 0.031 cubic meters, on average, is known. The smallest are the Bae'vgg. Obviously their children are less than 0.031 m3. But, as with the children of most species, their intelligence is more of a potentiality.

The problem, though, is that the universe is really, really, big. Rarely do two intelligent species evolve near each other, and even when that does happen, there are a lot of forms of life, as we touched on above, and they don’t always recognize each other. Even if they recognize each other as intelligent life, they may not have anything in common and no need for anything the other has. The life flying (or floating, or hovering, etc. whatever the situation) around the atmosphere of a gas giant planet (gas-giant life, or GG life, the second most common form of intelligent life in the universe) does not care about the lives or needs of ground-based life on a rocky planet. (Rocky-planet-based life, or RPB life, is the third most common form of intelligent life in the universe.) Almost no communication, probably no trade, certainly no war. What are they going to do, create a federation and go searching for other intelligent life? Good luck with that — statistically, if two species grew up near each other, then the next intelligent species is even farther away than the galactic average, which is a pretty big number to start with.

There are at least three ways to travel faster than light. Travel in quotes because none of them actually involve traveling, in the strict sense. In theory, once a species has developed one or more of these technologies, they could go looking for other intelligent species. But, the situation is kind of like the Dyson conundrum. The Dyson conundrum — any species that could actually build a Dyson sphere does not actually need a Dyson sphere. None of the species (and there are only a few so far) that have developed the technology for faster than light travel has actually cared about using faster than light travel. Apparently, once you know everything, you aren’t too worried about going out to meet the neighbors, who almost certainly are extremely boring.

The Shuupcavog’s First Space Battle

Too many species, when they first make it into space in a meaningful way, put their local language’s equivalent of space in front of everything. Space ship, space battle, space convenience store. Not very imaginative, but to be fair, very accurate.

Space battles, of course, are like most battles in most everyone’s histories. Boring, and then terrifying, and then if you are lucky, merely traumatic for a few years. Most species like to commemorate their firsts even when the first is something bad, like a bunch of people (or whatever the local version of the supposedly intelligent life calls itself) killing each other.

The local intelligent life in this part of our story call themselves the Shuupcavog. In their written language, the name is only three letters, but their alphabet has between 172 and 213 letters, depending on the dialect and the time period — older alphabets had more letters; the government has been simplifying over time. Still, literacy is highly prized among the Shuupcavog because it takes so long to learn to read. And because the government strictly controls who gets to learn to read. But that is a different story.

This part of our story is about the Shuupcavog’s You don’t want to deal with how they make possessives, trust me. first space battle. Space battle because like most species, the Shuupcavog also just put space in front of battle to describe this new way of fighting. As is also usually the case for intelligent species, the first — and in fact all — of the Shuupcavog’s space battles were between groups of Shuupcavogs. They actually make the plural by adding an ‘s’ sound; it is surprisingly common among languages in the Milky Way galaxy. No one knows why.

The first space battle took place in the year that the Shuupcavog called 0 (yes, zero). They count all years from the year after a new emperor gains power. Not sexist because the Shuupcavog don’t have sexes — which is mildly unusual among RPB intelligent species) In this case, Tufeelahsoonaehaezzauo and Aittotuofaibaegaezzauo were fighting to become emperor. This was the first time two Shuupcavog had fought for supremacy since the species had developed space flight. They were still worried about external threats (little pink people), and so had produced some craft capable of flying and fighting in low Shudocaagof (the name of their planet) orbit.

Both contenders had space forces (yes, they also just put space in front of force — of course in the local language it sounds much longer than that) loyal to them around the planet, and of course, above the planet. The first space battle was between the confusingly named 1st Imperial Space Defense Division (for Tufeelahsoonaehaezzauo) and the 1st Imperial Space Defense Division (for Aittotuofaibaegaezzauo), because both of them, naturally, saw themselves as the rightful emperor, fighting a usurper. Normal people just took to calling them the Violets and the Indigos, based on the supposed similarity between the would-be emperors’ names and the words for those colors in a commonly spoken dialect. In fact, their names didn’t sound that similar to violet or indigo — it was just a convenient lie that later became established fact.

Perhaps surprisingly, the ships were not similar at all.

The Violets (for Tufeelahsoonaehaezzauo) were in a newer version of the Xeepoo’ngag space fighter (yes, they did) XPN Mark 1. The XPN 1 had two forward cannons. Quotes around forward because the XPN 1 was the first fighter where the designers realized forward in space just means the direction the pilot is facing. So, the XPN 1 looks less like an airplane and a bit more like a sphere. The ship could change direction more quickly than the pilot’s biology was actually okay with, which would require some design tweaks in the XPN Mark 2.

The cannons on the XPN 1 were huge, bordering on gigantic. Partly this is just a reflection of Shuupcavog culture, which is very much on the bigger is better end of that spectrum. They were huge, bordering on gigantic, also partly because the designers were in a hurry and so used some existing land-based large gun designs, slightly modified for use in space (that is, with no atmosphere), on a ship. This would also result in some major tweaking in the Mark 2. Many pilots in the Violets vs the Indigos first ever Shuupcavog space battle died because the recoil from their guns caused them to go spinning out of control — quite a feat in a lightly-spherical ship designed to spin around a lot. The pilots also wasted a lot of ammunition shooting at enemy ships as they (the Violet pilots) were spinning crazily around. The recoil from that shooting, of course, only made matters worse for them because it added to their spinning. There is such a thing as even more out of control.

Several pilots were executed after the battle for their copious waste of heavy slugs of metal during the first space battle.

The Indigos (for Aittotuofaibaegaezzauo) only had access to a slightly older design, the Kapoosiif Mark 3. The KPS 3 was still based on the idea of space fighters as airplanes in space and it looked the part. The KPS 3 looked very cool to most people, although scientists warned everyone who would listen that it was not really a great design for space. But, not having had any battles to test the design in, very few people listened. Those who did listen worked on the XPN 1.

The KPS 3 had relatively small guns, but they had explosive bullets, which added to their cool factor. Many people among the Shuupcavog thought the Indigos would win because they (the people, but also a lot of the Indigos themselves) thought the KPS 3 was so much cooler. Merits of either potential emperor aside, people thought the Indigos had to win because their ships would only need one shot to blow up each enemy ship. Never mind that getting hit with a bullet from an XPN 1 gun would mean total annihilation.

Of course, it turns out it is hard for anyone to hit anything — intentionally at least — when everyone are rocky-planet-based life forms and these everyone are flying around in space fighting in zero gravity. The battle may have looked slightly organized on display screens in headquarters buildings (ignore the shape-ism inherent in head quarters for the moment), but on the actual battlefield (oddly, they did not say space battlefield or battle spacefield”) total chaos was being far too kind. More pilots threw up from dizziness than hit anything.

In the end, the Violets won because they had bigger gas tanks. Aside from the Violet ships that crashed into Shudocaagof after going out of control, only a handful of ships on either side were even damaged. But, when the Indigos had to retreat to refuel, leaving the Violets in control, Tufeelahsoonaehaezzauo claimed victory. Most people shrugged and said sounds fair.

To be fair to the Shuupcavog, almost every RPB life form has a similar outcome the first time they try to fight in space. As time goes on, though, they do get better at it. The Shuupcavog did, too. But fortunately, most species also eventually realize that the little pink people don’t seem to be out there and certainly aren’t coming to destroy them anytime soon. As time goes on, most RPB species stop fighting in space. Or, they destroy themselves, which also, of course, means they aren’t fighting in space (or anywhere else) anymore.

Only the Aepukaohoojubaipa’Tephahb had more than 10 space battles. They hold the record at 53 battles over 200 years. They are also one of the few RPB species to never develop the ground-to-space rocket. That may have played a role in their streak of 53 space battles. But, eventually, even the Aepukaohoojubaipa’Tephahb gave up fighting in space.

The Oh Dojerebi and The Event

In many ways Oh Dojerebi civilization was fairly advanced. They had The merits of polytheism versus monotheism, and if either is any sort of advance is of interest only to the 43.9% of RPB intelligent species that are theistic. come to the idea of a single god far earlier than most civilizations do. They had agriculture almost as quickly. Agriculture: all intelligent RPB life gets that — it is practically part of the definition of intelligent RPB life. The surprise is that so many intelligent RPB species do not move on to civilization, even with agriculture. Further, the Oh Dojerebi were lucky enough to have co-evolved with several (non-intelligent) species that could be domesticated — always a great advantage on any planet, and actually fairly rare in the universe. It seems that life is more likely to either become intelligent — and thus become the primary life form on the planet, or remain wild and then, if unlucky enough to be on a planet with intelligent life, to go extinct. Fortunately, as much intelligent life as there is around the universe, there is exponentially more life that is not civilization-creating level intelligent. Being a wild life form on a planet with no intelligent life is actually pretty close to wild life-form heaven, which of course they don’t have the concept of, because they are wild.

The Oh Dojerebi were not advanced enough, unfortunately, to have developed astronomy (they were still working on astrology) in time to discover what was coming at them. To be fair, even if they had, they would not have had time (nor the tools) to do anything about it. When the meteors hit their planet,The Oh Dojerebi call their planet Oh Di’e Kgi the Oh Dojerebi were both ignorant (of the existence of the meteors) and defenseless. Slightly over 40% of life on the planet went extinct within a few years of the impacts. Some of the Oh Dojerebi, and their domesticated animals (for lack of a better term), and some of the other life (especially the small, abundant life) survived the meteors and the aftermath. But, thousands of years passed before the Oh Dojerebi rebuilt their civilization just to the point it had been at before what they called The Event. In Oh Doje’e!e — the Oh Dojerebi language — The Event is Oh Odi En.

Here again, the Oh Dojerebi were above average. Many RPB civilizations get hit with debris from space at some point. Eventually most of those that survive learn to deal with the threat — and they don't do it with space fighters. But, for every RPB intelligent species, there is thousands-of-years-long period where civilization is moving right along, but that civilization cannot do anything about impacts from space. These things happen all the time. Some civilizations survive (for various definitions of survive”), some do not.

RPB civilizations that survive one hit usually (97.232% of the time) do not get hit by space debris again — if there was that much stuff in their neighborhood, their planet probably would never had reached a condition that would allow for them to have evolved in the first place. Thus, if you get hit at all, you probably only get hit once before you develop the technology to defend yourself. The c,Tdheneqryre have the unfortunate distinction of having been hit by significantly large debris nine times during the early millennia of the development of their civilization. Luckily for them, none of the hits was a global extinction-level event. Unsurprisingly, it took them much longer than average to get to the point that they could defend themselves from further strikes. Surviving that one strike is the important part. And 100% of RPB intelligent life that survives a hit from space debris after first developing civilization make defense against space debris an important part of their cultures, going forward. Understandably. Interestingly, they also are much less likely to use planet-killer technology (big rocks, basically) against each other if they do end up colonizing other planets in their area. However, there is not much data on that because so few RPB civilizations go out and colonize. No colonization: It's a long and boring story. The short answer is there are no good planets nearby and terra-forming is a lot harder than it sounds. Even the species who could build a Dyson sphere (but wouldn't bother) don't remake planets.

The Oh Dojerebi bounced back even more quickly than average. After they got themselves settled a bit, they developed astronomy, and it quickly became one of the most important functions of government. Unusual (but not unheard of) was the fact that the Oh Dojerebi quickly developed global government — that is, they moved through the city state, empire, and nation-state phases pretty quickly and relatively soon had a world government, in name at least. No one wanted a repeat of The Event. Even thousands of years later, The Event was still an often commemorated and highly traumatic event. Better that one government marshal the resources to scan the skies and make sure that The Event is a one-time-only thing.

Geology and archaeology were other important sciences that were developed as an almost direct (though much later) result of The Event. The Oh Dojerebi wanted to scan the skies, but they also wanted to learn more about what hit them, and what their civilization had been like before they got hit.

Science was not the only beneficiary of post-The Event civilization. Almost immediately after The Event, religions tried to explain it — and, of course, priests (and astrologers, but most people didn’t really expect much from them) No fortune-teller foreseeing The Event was seen, unsurprisingly, as a cosmically disqualifying failure. No one claimed that ability ever again. tried to explain why they had not given warning of the coming of The Event. Certainly, if God (they were monotheistic, remember) was mad at you, He
He: sexist — the Oh Dojerebi do have sex; like many intelligent RPB life forms, they have seven.
would give you warning right? Stop misbehaving or I shall smite you or something like that, right? No one wanted to believe it was an oops, did I do that? accidental smiting. Not really a deity thing to do.

So, over time The Event took on serious religious overtones. This sometimes made archaeology and geology dangerous professions, and even thousands of years after The Event, Oh Dojerebi culture had not worked through the consequences.

Oh Ngi Che!ike’e

Oh Ngi Che!ike’e was a geological archaeologist. She was gifted — finished top 3% of her class in school — and quickly gained a reputation for her insightful theories and successful archaeological digs. She found artifacts in places no one had thought to look before. She took both fields in new directions. Intelligent RPB life being intelligent RPB life, there were people with hurt feelings and grudges, and there there was gossip and scandal.

That being the case, Oh Ngi Che!ike’e was not believed at first, or even at second, when she claimed to have discovered a piece of the actual space debris that had caused The Event. She was not believed during her life, which may have been shorter than it should have been, if the rumors were true. Spoiler: the rumors were true. In fact, it was not until another researcher, hundreds of years later, discovered another piece of the space debris that scientists accepted Oh Ngi Che!ike’e conclusions as accurate and irrefutable. In the physical sciences, this is as it should be: eventually, the physical proof cannot be ignored any longer and the best explanation is accepted. At least, that is how it usually works with RPB intelligent life. For some reason, GG intelligent life is much better at ignoring physical proof, perhaps because it is much easier to get rid of physical proof in the core of a gas giant.

The bigger, much bigger, reason that it took so long for Oh Ngi Che!ike’e’s conclusions to be accepted was the unmistakable corollary to those conclusions. Even with all their astronomy, even with all their looking up at the stars in fear, the Oh Dojerebi civilization was not ready, even later, for proof that they were not alone in the universe. In this they were close to unique in several ways.

Unique in the Worst Way Possible

First, unlike almost all other RPB intelligent life forms, the Oh Dojerebi never developed the idea of little pink people aliens coming to get them. They knew danger was out there in space, but as a civilization they never really explored the idea that other people might be out there. That is rare among RPB cultures.Interestingly, the c,Tdheneqryre were another species that never developed the idea of little pink people out there. The theory is that the focus on the inanimate dangers from space replaces the need for a much less plausible danger from "little pink people".

Second, because they developed world government so early in their civilization, they had fewer wars for control than most RPB civilizations. No one wanted to be the ruler who was fighting a war at the time The Next Event happened. Even if you survived, no one would follow any side that had been fighting when it happened. The result was that they never had a first space battle. The Oh Dojerebi developed all kinds of weapons to defend themselves against space debris, but they never bothered to go up to space to fight.

Third, science aside, The Event had acquired mystical and religious connections among many of the Oh Dojerebi. Even if they could fathom the idea of shooting giant pieces of metal at each other in space, they could not fathom any god, much less their own God, using one of those pieces of metal as a way to smite a planet unknown billions of miles away, totally unconnected to the civilization shooting those pieces of metal.

This is the way that the Oh Dojerebi were truly unique in the strictest sense of the word; they were the one and only planet accidentally hit by something created by another, unknown-to-them, RPB civilization.

Unintended Consequences

Most RPB civilizations had their first space battle (ironically not the Oh Dojerebi) but most used lasers (or similar energy weapons), which dissipate into harmlessness, or missiles (which could be remotely detonated). Very few (relatively speaking — the number is currently over 16.95 million) first space battles involved one or more sides shooting large pieces of metal at each other. If they weren’t already using lasers or missiles, civilizations, such as the Aepukaohoojubaipa’Tephahb (of the 53 space battles), who continue to fight in space for a while, fairly quickly switch to lasers or missiles. (Frequently, this switch comes only after a dizzy pilot accidentally gives a city on their planet a very, very bad day.)

Of course, as most RPB civilizations eventually discover, a body in motion will stay in motion. Interestingly, GG civilizations always discover this, and always earlier than RPB civilizations. All of those pieces of metal fired during those almost 17 million first space battles (and all second and third, etc. battles), just kept going, and going, and going. Most — almost all, in fact — are still going and will never hit anything. After millions or billions of years, a few will fall into the gravity well of whatever star the piece of metal ends up near.

Of the tens of thousands of bullets fired during the Shuupcavog’s first space battle, none of the bullets from the Indigo’s ships did anything noteworthy. They were too small. The explosive part only mattered to RPB life forms in fragile ships in space. The ones that fell into the gravity well of a planet somewhere burned up (possibly slightly, but meaninglessly, explosively) in the atmosphere. If they did not burn up, it was because there wasn’t enough of an atmosphere, so there was not much interesting happening on the planet, and it didn’t matter if a bullet did explode (again, meaninglessly) on the surface. Eighty-three did go through the atmosphere of various gas giant planets, but none of those hit anything and did not do any damage to any GG civilizations.

The bullets from the Violet’s XPN 1 ships, though, those were big enough to do some damage. Most, of course, did nothing interesting or tragic. A few — around 1% — were captured by a star’s gravity well and melted as they orbited closer and closer to the star. A few others — roughly another 1% (this seems to be a constant in the universe) — hit rocky planets with no life. A very small number — seven to be precise — hit rocky planets with life, but not civilization-creating intelligent life. All seven planets recovered (that is, were covered with life again) within a few hundred thousand years, although, if intelligent life does on day evolve on any of those seven, Spoiler: it will, on three of them. their geologists will have an interesting extinction event to study.

Finally, four Violet bullets, two from each forward facing gun, fired at an Indigo fighter by Foxuu’hgef The XPN 1 that Foxuu'hgef piloted crashed into Shudocaagof 9 minutes and 73 seconds later. They were killed by the out-of-control spinning of their ship well before that, however. as they were spinning out of control missed the Indigo KPS 3 fighter, missed Shudocaagof (luckily for the Shuupcavog), and kept staying in motion all the way to Oh Di’e Kgi. Those bullets lost a few grams of mass to micro-collisions during their millions and millions of years journey. One bullet was broken apart by an asteroid, Interestingly, Ax!gc-Rsucc'tt astronomers witnessed the collision through their orbiting telescopes approximately 931,448 years later. They were able to trace the paths of the bullet and the asteroid, but at that point lost interest because nothing seemed to indicate little pink people. which was an even more unlikely impact than hitting a rocky planet that had civilization-creating intelligent life on it (luckily for the Oh Dojerebi, in this case).

Many millions of years after the Shuupcavog had their first space battle, and many millions minus a couple thousands of years after the Shuupcavog had gone extinct (no connection to space battles or space debris in general), three of the bullets fired by Foxuu’hgef were caught in Oh Di’e Kgi’s gravity well and spiraled in and created what would later be known as Oh Odi En, The Event.

Several thousands of years later, Oh Ngi Che!ike’e discovered one of Foxuu’hgef’s XPN 1’s bullets. It was obviously not natural. It was obviously made by an intelligent species. It was not until, about 200 years later, a second bullet was discovered (Oh Dojerebi history does not record who discovered it), that the Oh Dojerebi could accept the truth of Oh Odi En. Or, more accurately, they could no longer reject the truth. They were not alone in the universe. But it was not the work of their God or even a god. Oh Odi En was just random bad luck, on a literally cosmic scale. This is obviously not something that a society built for thousands of years around the idea of The Event was well positioned to deal with.

The universe is big. Most intelligent life (96.3% actually) never finds or contacts another intelligent species. When they do, it is a usually a pretty big let down, even if culturally and religiously it is a huge event with massive, deep, and long-lasting impacts on the societies. No one else had ever found out that they were not alone through bombardment (unintentional, to be sure) by the debris of some other civilization's space battle (first or otherwise). In this the Oh Dojerebi were unique in the fullest sense of the word.

In the end, however, one way that the Oh Dojerebi were not unique was the length of their existence. Before another 1,738 years had passed, the Oh Dojerebi had joined the Shuupcavog, the Aepukaohoojubaipa’Tephahb, and untold numbers of other species (including RPB, GG, and all the other forms of life, intelligent and otherwise) in being extinct.Perhaps ironically, the c,Tdheneqryre are not extinct (as of this writing) and are, in fact, now one of the longest surviving RPB civilization-creating, intelligent, life forms.