Short Story: Our Benevolent Friend Part 2

2.

Return

When our friend, benevolent and kind as it was, returned from the stars; he was greeted by unanimous contemplation from the peoples of Earth. Many waited for him to speak with an aura of excitement and fealty, others with bated breath, suspicion. Some knew not what to make of its grayish-blue, leathery skin, or its elongated, oblong features. The foreign, extraterrestrial frightened most for unknown reasons. But for the Doctor’s part, he was not fearful nor suspicious, he readied himself to greet his extra-terrestrial compatriot as though he seeing an old friend after an eternal interlude. He donned his most formally-casual apparel, and embarked an all-terrain vehicle to race for the ship’s desert landing-zone.

On arrival, he was struck cautious; the land was hazy, wet, smelled of fluids and materials foreign to even his well-traveled olfactories. The putrescence of biology labs mixed with the desert’s natural odors and hinted the scent of fresh vegetation despite its absence. Perhaps, he thought, it was a by-product of the ship’s landing procedures, the mist the ship exuded seemed to do so from vents alongside the ship. The strange secretion was continuous, deliberate. The Doctor prepared himself for the worst, feared his friend as foe. He hurried up the Pyramidal structure’s doorway– the same one he’d seen his friend enter before it had blasted off for the unknown.

The door opened promptly for the Doctor as he approached. He hesitated a moment, giddy and curious as a child yet with a cautious, adult air about him. His mind remained consumed by the strange mist, but his curiosity, gained the upper hand, compelled him inward against his volition. A hallway led to an open domed structure, the bio-luminescent rocks he’d seen once within an ancient crypt all around him. They were dialed to full-strength, emitted a bright, greenish-white light that flooded the ship’s innards. Viscous, transparent membranes barred the inner room from the massive engine pods behind them. The Doctor could only fathom as to their function, craned his neck to scan their tops near the dome’s apex.

Every area of the ship appeared to have been utilized for one purpose or another. Even where he stood, though comfortably situated, was filled with crystalline stalagmites that glinted and gleamed brilliantly in the bright lights. He scanned the room, stepped forward. His friend emerged from behind a crystalline tower, donned in the same, ancient Egyptian garments it had left in. The Doctor, betraying his misgivings, hurried forward to greet his friend.

“Forgive me my friend, the door was open,” The Doctor said in greeting.

“Ah, opened for you though,” It replied.

The Doctor smiled, “I must admit, I feared you wouldn’t return. I thought, perhaps this world was no longer intriguing to your learned species. I meant no offense, but–”

It raised a hand to silence the Doctor, spoke with its uncanny smile, “I understand. It is perfectly within logic to assume as much, but it is also the reason that my return was delayed.”

The Being motioned for the Doctor to follow, led him around the stalagmites and toward a small area of rock-like chairs. It motioned to sit. The doctor sank against the stone that gave way with a peculiar softness. He ran his hands along another, viscous barrier, now visible beneath him.

“Interesting,” the Doctor remarked.

“It is but one of many things I will teach your people to build,” the Being intoned.

“Yes, about that,” He began cautiously. “Your ship seems to be emitting something– a mist. May I ask; what is it?”

“Ah, the purpose of that mist is rather exciting indeed!” The Being said in good humor. “I took the liberty of beginning a Terra-form of the desert around the ship. I will turn the barren area into useful land as a demonstration of my technology and peaceful intentions.” The Doctor’s face was open in alarm. The Being addressed it warmly, “In short, there is no need to fear, Friend. I’ve noticed a large portion of your planet goes unused for anything in particular. Reforming it can help to rectify several problems, most notably the starvation and hunger of your planet’s minority, and its dwindling atmosphere.”

“So it is yet another benevolent gesture!” The Doctor exclaimed, as if in triumph.

“Quite.” The Being replied in kind. It explained, “Though, I must say, this is not all I’ll do to correct these problems. I have, in fact, several types of enzymatic catalysts that can easily be bred into your crops to allow for faster, more efficient harvests. Agricultural land can then be put to continuous use without fear destabilizing it.”

“My word, that is quite amazing,” the Doctor said. “And as always, a most gracious gift.”

The Being gave a throat chuckle with another, uncanny resemblance to its alien friend, “It is hardly a difficult thing. My people long ago encountered and conquered that problem. As for the pollution of your land, we must convey the plans of non-polluting transport vehicles, and urge that they become the standard means. Then we can focus on cleaning the land and air. There are many ways industry can be carried out. Unfortunately, your peoples’ way is one of the most detrimental. As an outsider who’s seen many these destructive ways cripple many civilizations, I can impart what data has been collected from it. In essence, teach you of the non-polluting, highly productive alternatives.”

“My friend!” The Doctor exclaimed. “Does your kindness know no bounds?”

The Being gave a small tilt of its head, “Perhaps. But not quite so finally, I will help your people to scrub the land and air, remove the garbage from your fills to be broken down into fuels, and recycled into useful products for the future. Of course, all these means will be given to your people in the hopes that your people will aid ours in something we can not do it alone.”

“Friend,” the Doctor said candidly, stunned by the benevolence before him. “You intend to grant unimaginable kindnesses upon us all– even to those that will surely oppose you. I am afraid to have to ask again, but… why?”

The Being held sincerity above the notes of sadness in its voice, “As I said during our first meeting, I wish for a peaceful universe. I will not deceive you however, many of my people do not feel it fitting to bestow such gifts upon you. They think it unwise given your young age as a species. However I, as well as a several others, feel it is our duty to do so. To no offense, we are a technological superiority, see it as our purpose to help you join our majority. We will do this. It will take time– a few years perhaps, but by then the face of your planet will have changed. Your people will live healthier, less wasteful lives. We will tailor our immunological gifts to your physiology, increase your life spans a hundred fold, give each you the chance to do what I have done.”

“You mean live forever!? A million years! Glory be, what could we ever do to deserve or repay these gifts?” The Doctor asked, his words dampened by his amazement.

The Being explained, “Friend, you live and breathe. That is all you must do to deserve them. Forgive me that these gifts have not come sooner, but as you know I was in absentia for millennia. They would have come sooner, and I feel sorrow for all the lives I might have saved had I could. Fortunately, it only fuels my desires to impart these things now.”

“My friend,” the Doctor said, sensing the Being’s soulful unrest. “Those ancient peoples should not way so heavily on your mind. Though I understand your sentiments, had it not been for those war-minded peoples, we would not have our greatest feats of history. Much of the last ten thousand years has been fruitful for our kind, despite the bouts of darkness between. I fear, had you intervened, we would not have developed properly as a people. I thank you for your restraint, on behalf of all of my kind. But Please, do not blame yourself. If you feel there is a debt to be repaid, I assure you, your return has already fulfilled it. More importantly, your benevolent promises, if sincere, will leave us indebted to you. One I know we cannot repay for ten-hundreds-of-thousands of years!”

The Being, affected by the consolation, promptly rose with its awkward, “Come now, friend, we’ve a people to forward!”

In the days that followed the Being’s return, a strange and glorious sight overtook the desert around the ship. While the Being had stated a Terra-forming had begun, none dared dream the extravagance that appeared. In all directions, foliage and greenery crept out, ended abruptly. As if in moments, a dense rain-forest had sprung up.

Admittedly there was apprehension at this gift; despite it being touted as a token of kindness, the suspicious nature of Humanity questioned the assertion’s validity. Either from feeling undeserving, or as of yet unbelieving of their guest’s beneficent ways, there was extensive, public scrutiny and caution. Overlooking these concerns however, the scientific community feared for the indigenous desert life and the stability of the global climate from the sudden appearance of rain-forests in place of deserts. Some argued life could not adapt fast enough to the new conditions. Others said the significant change in climate would force an evolutionary adaptation, render desert life obsolete.

Despite the lack of visible, negative effects, questions arose about the desert’s necessity. Graciously, the Being met with world leaders and foremost scientists to discuss this subject and others. With its friend, the Doctor, at its side, the Being reached a consensus with the assembly to halt any further Terra-forming for a short time. If, in that time, no significant threat to the global climate appeared, it may proceed as planned, or else repeal the changes that had been made.

Among other things, this meeting marked the first time Humanity saw its guest speak for itself. There was not a single television channel or internet stream or post that was not devoted entirely to the Being during its meeting– as if, for once, the world collectively stopped to watch together. Many were humbled simply by its presence, others decried a hoax. Still more shied away, hid in the shadows to let come what may and re-emerge later on. Through it all, the Being remained cultured, mannered, ever-polite and warm. It was as if it saw Humanity as its kin, one it had not seen for far too long and had missed in the interim.

It was only days after the Terra-forming questions were first posed that others began to arise. What had become of their guest’s home-world? What would gift might come next? Was there truly no price to be paid in return?

These questions and more were asked, but only a few, broad answers could be given in reply. It was shortly after the first assembly that a second was formed to parrot the most pressing questions directly to the Being. It explained in short order, that its society had made many, great strides in technology during its hibernation. Though none so great as what would be measured between Humanity’s society and theirs, the advancements were important nonetheless.

Furthermore, it explained, to measure time as humans do was difficult. Given their long life-span and billion-year evolutionary path, to mark history the same would be misleading at best. Their star, billions of years older than earths, had already entered a white dwarf state, lost its mass and pull. Their planet therefore, revolved much slower than Earth, its years and thus their history much more complicated. Not only did this shifted star change the Being’s society, it also imbued them with their gray-blue skin over the eons from blue-spectrum light. The day their sun would die out in a supernova, was nearer than not, preparations were under way for a mass exodus.

These facts seemed of little significance to those whom wished their questions answered, but it was necessary in order to understand that the two civilizations nearly coincided in matters of formality. The only difference being the near three-to-one ratio of planetary time. Where a research grant on earth might take six months to process through formal channels, on the Being’s planet it might take eighteen months or more. Such was the languid pace of formal action upon the home planet.

These understanding led to a question on even the Doctor’s mind; what of the Being’s people, and their enemies? Again, time dilation factored into understanding. At length, the Being relayed That the governing council, once every year– or every three, depending on your perspective– was followed to a strict discipline. If council was held too often, it risked corruption; too infrequent and it risked discontent. The council leaders voted on matters of planetary importance accumulated over their previous, solar year, and decided the fate of their people.

However, in the previous council before The Being’s emigration, many controversial matters had been voted upon. Unrest was furthered by discontent mounting from previous years’ councils, and met a boiling point when a certain set of voices went unheard for too long. Many of that minority rose up, banded together to march on the council headquarters, and demanded an emergency session be held for the first time in their people’s history. When it was not, the unrest climaxed in violence that prompted a military response. Their enemy then, had not been one of another system or galaxy, but of their own people, was only rectified when the next, solar council had been held.

These recollections and explanations met the ears of the assembled parties whom listened with bated breath. Their fear was transparent– a fear that they had opened Pandora’s Box. The Being, either from instinct or telepathy, assuaged the fears: So long as we meant them no harm– which we could not have lest we lose everything promised to us– there would be peace between us.

With the fears put to rest, the Being told of what it had brought to this world: hyper-galactic transportation, teleportation, techniques and industries light years ahead of us. It was then that the Being, benevolent and kind as it was, told of the gene therapy that would soon be implemented to increase the human life-span, make then immune to near every form of disease and sickness known. Of these gifts, hyper-galactic transportation was relatively new to their race. As a result, they were only willing to allow its secrets to be revealed under certain terms: Because of Relativity, in which it is stated that nothing can travel faster than light, they had been forced to find a work around. This workaround came in the form of a specific type of ship engine, only capable of igniting in certain parts of space. In parlance, it was known as a wormhole acceleration drive.

“This,” the Being explained before the assembly, “Was the cause of my delay. Several requirements must be fulfilled before the drive can engage. Most notably, a certain, minimal amount of amount of particle-wave interference must be reached. In order to operate, the drive must generate what is known as a wormhole; easily explained in human physics as curved line beneath a straight-line of points A to B. The curved line effectively is shorter due to the curvature of space-time.”

“For all of this to begin,” it explained. “Massive amounts power are required in a stable point of space. This is difficult to place given the ever-changing, sub-atomic nature of the universe. You call this quantum physics. Unfortunately, any interference above a certain variable may translate through the open wormhole with the ship. This is troublesome because it may destabilize the wormhole, spitting the ship out before its intended destination, and possibly leaving it stranded.”

Though these things furthered already vocal concerns, The Being assured the humans given ships would be well-trained before taking the helm. It was then placed at humanity’s feet, the true compensation for this gift; “First and foremost, we need your help in finding permanently stable regions of space for wormhole jumps. This is the only… catch, as you would call it, to our gifts. Simply, the universe is an infinite place, and we graciously request your help in charting and exploring it.”

With humanity at their side, the Being’s people hoped to finally master their space-fairing pursuits.

It was after this assembly that an unexpected event occurred. The human population, hearing of the visitors return, and of the gifts its people wished to bestow, demanded a more public, informal appearance. The Being, gracious and hospitable as always, obliged. Until then, masses of skeptics and non-believers still shouted rumors of a hoax, or otherwise distrusted their alien guest. Furthermore, several activist groups had revealed a shocking divide in the population’s opinion of the Being and its gifts. Many wished counsel to help in solving the world’s problems, others condemned The Being as an incarnation of one of the apocalypse’s horsemen– the mythical beings that would bring about Humanity’s destruction.

The Being took it in stride, calmed The Doctor when angered by his own people. To it, the reaction was amusing– relieving even.

“Zealotry,” it said. “Is the sign of an intelligent people. There was once a similar demeanor in my own people millions of years ago.” These words comforted the Doctor. It continued, “The divide between the zealots and non-believers spurred us to seek the universe’s truths. This was the origin of our sciences, our research. It is comforting, as given our history, it means Humanity is indeed on the right path.”

It went on to explain that their own mythology had been rather amusing; they had believed the universe’s creation came from the sternutation of an omnipotent. By their own admission their people believed all of existence had been sneezed into being. This notion, though ludicrously held to heart for millions of year, was not entirely inaccurate of the human’s current picture of the beginning of the universe; the Big Bang. Similarly, the two theories stated an explosion of massive force propelled all of space outward. The Doctor and his friend agreed, in this way perhaps the big-bang did resembled a sneeze.

Whatever the strange machinations of zealotry might have been, it was clear that the two species showed striking similarities. Most importantly was their to deconstruct the workings of the universe. There was still much that The Being’s species had yet to learn such as the initial conditions of the universe of the Big Bang– a problem humanity shared. The completion of this research might finally provide a solution to their FTL travel problems. Even the Being’s less-educated people knew they could not hope to discover the answer alone.

The Being itself was fond of a vision it often spoke of to The Doctor; “Imagine if, for one, brief instant, every human dropped what they were doing, and turned their attention to the stairs. I believe we may achieve that here, once the others arrive. Every human is wondering one of two things: Are we to invade, or bring about a new, golden age that will send us across the universe together?”

The Being was fond of this thought, and his friend no less enamored by it.

“No doubt,” the Being once said. “When they realize we mean only peace, that event will take place. Petty land discrimination issues, and greed will dissolve into cosmic dreaming. Why kill or die in taking another’s land when you could have a free, bio-spherical dome upon mars, still visit Earth each day? The universe is a vast place, and there is no doubt somewhere in it for everyone.”

The true desire and will of its species seemed summed up in these words. Though there was hardly perfection in either species, their meeting was the bridging point that might eventually lead there.

As time crawled forward, and the others’ arrival drew nearer, Humanity’s fearful divide became more apparent. When the day finally came, and the first of the others stepped from their ship onto Terra-firma, Humanity paused all at once. Collectively, they held their breath; toed the lines between adulation and terror. The Being and Doctor, both present at the arrival, greeted them as old friends. The Beings exchanged a peculiar greeting; their hands, thumb out, over their cheeks with a bow, The Doctor attempted it in good nature. A tense silence ensued before the gesture was returned.

The Other spoke, its voice lower that the first, “My ship contains all the knowledge you seek. In time, it will be converted to a format accessible to you, duplicated and distributed freely for all that seek it.” It raised its arms high, bellowed over the crowd, “May our two races conquer the stars together!”

An uproar emitted from the crowd. The Doctor smiled with humble warmth, “Thank you, and welcome to our home.”

They bowed to one another, and the Being lead them to an awaiting vehicle.

What happened next is a matter for longer tales, best summed thusly; the two races, so different in ways, and similar in others, joined as one in search of cosmic truths. In the days and weeks that followed the second’s arrival, more of the Beings came to meet with world leaders, their kind, and other humans. In time, and as promised, they addressed the poverty, homelessness, and starvation rampant in the world. Once rampant, these things ceased almost abruptly, and just as Humanity questioned what might come next, the first, human-built ships went into production. In short order, the Terra-forming continued, the new industries and counter-measures rejuvenating the atmosphere while people zoomed back and forth in personal, electric aircraft.

In time, new technologies were devised, pollution all but eradicated. Certain, specific deserts of the world soon became lush jungles, saw Earth on its way to a new age of health and glory. Then, the first trials of the life-extending gene-therapy began. With its immediate success, Humanity finally exhaled, allowed itself to dream with the newcomers. Together, they envisioned star-systems full of Terra-formed planets of both species– and perhaps others– together in harmony.

Soon after the first ships were launched, their human captains now well-trained, Humanity took the helm to fulfill its promise to its benefactors: to map the stars for one and for all. When plans to Terra-form Mars began, it seemed the Doctor’s friend had finally seen its dream come to pass. Indeed, Humanity had largely turned away from pettiness. In admiration and longing, and with new hopes and dreams, the two species looked skyward to the stars.

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