I’ve often wondered that if aliens had the technological wherewithal to travel the stars, why they wouldn’t just terraform another planet in our solar system, rather they take the risk of tangling with a sentient species and its associated diseases. That wondering found its way into this very short story.
Rignof watched in unfeigned awe as data from the visual spectrum scanners brought the first images from the Destination up on the screen. Twenty generations of Aarnak had been born, lived and died on the Desolate Hope and finally the giant seed ship was about to reach the end of its long journey. Rignof’s fingers danced over the input device, trying to bring the picture into sharper relief.
There were eight planets in this solar system all told, as well as a vast array of smaller bodies. There was even a dwarf planet, a planetary phenomenon that had been theorised but never before seen. The best scientists on Aarn had determined that it was extremely likely that there would be worlds in the Regersek zone of this messy system, capable of sustaining Aarnak life. They had not been wrong. While gas giants dominated the outer solar system, there were four inner planets that were candidates for colonisation.
The innermost planet was little more than a molten rock – too close to the sun to be viable for any form of life.
The fourth planet was a dry, barren world, smaller than the remaining two inner planets and with gravity only a third of the Aarn home world. The aarnaforming technology contained in the lower reaches of the Desolate Hope combined with the resources to be found across this solar system would be able to convert the planet into an acceptable world, but it would be too chilly for the cold-blooded Aarn when there were other options.
The third planet teamed with life. It was closest in size and gravity to Aarn and would require a lot less modification than the other worlds, but the effort of subduing an entire planet, especially one with an intelligent species on it, was too high for their limited resources. The alien inhabitant’s technological level was not great, but they had split the atom and visited their moon. They may look like furry grozts, but a grozt with a bomb is still dangerous for all that it is stupid.
Besides, the germs! Who the hell would want to live with the ever-present risk of a deadly alien flu?
But the second planet – oh, the second planet was perfect. A little too close to this new sun, but nothing that a well placed array of solar mirrors couldn’t overcome. Completely barren, so the introduction of Aarn native species could go ahead unhindered by alien biology once the initial atmospheric modifications had been made, the surface cooled and the planet’s magnetic field jump-started. It even already had sulfuric acid in the air! This planet could be an Aarnian paradise.
Rignof turned off the display and sighed in satisfaction. Barring misadventure he would live to walk on the surface of this marvellous new world, although he himself would be old and scaleless by the time it happened. He wondered how their soon-to-be neighbours would react to sharing their solar system.
They shouldn’t complain. It wasn’t like they were using the planet.
‘The Regersek Zone’ was originally published in Antipodean SF, in issue 184 (October 2013). It is also available in the free collection of my published flash fiction and short stories A Flash in the Pan?. See my bibliography for more details about my published work.