At the very edge of the galaxy, on the planet Balor, deep in the confines of the main research facility, Dr. Ak sat in his office, which doubled as his living quarters, and contemplated.
Dr. Ak spent most of his time contemplating, as did most of his colleagues. Mostly he and his colleagues thought about the science of energy transfer. On Balor, they were always working up ways to get electrons to flow faster, more efficiently, and through mediums that previous generations had thought impossible. The scientists of Balor were known for these developments.
The Balorian scientists were encouraged to pursue side-projects, and most had one or more little hobbies. Some toyed with arboreal paleo-history, a few experimented with weather control (very cautiously, of course). One devoted an inordinate amount of time trying to train squargs, tiny rodent-like creatures that were quite plentiful on Balor, to try to think for themselves.
Dr. Ak didn’t talk much about his pursuits, as they touched on a very sensitive issue. But he knew, when he opened his eyes after an afternoon of contemplation, and saw the small form of Dr. Snikin looking up at him, that the visit had nothing to do with electromagnetism.
Dr. Snikin stepped back. “You recall, don’t you, that I do not follow the… traditions… of this facility.”
Dr. Ak nodded. Bearers of bad news on Balor tended to be treated somewhat harshly. And if Dr. Snikin was here, he likely brought bad news.
“They have struck again.”
Dr. Ak sighed. “Of course they have. It’s never a matter of if, it is always when. What can you tell me?”
Dr. Snikin paused. He opened his mouth a few times, but had trouble trying to explain what he had come all this distance to say. Finally he just said, “Argur.”
There was a long silence. “Argur,” Dr. Ak repeated.
Dr. Snikin just nodded.
“The Scourge has attacked Argur.”
Again, a nod.
“If I didn’t know how serious you take this… If I didn’t know that you know how serious I take this. How could the Scourge possibly have attacked Argur? They should have been completely outmatched!”
“How could the Scourge have overrun Kraglia, or Encho, or… or Vilalon? It’s what they do. They can’t be stopped.”
Dr. Snikin was from Vilalon. The destruction there had been total. Dr. Ak knew not to press the point. But it was clear. If the Scourge, the most destructive force in the universe, could take Argur, then even Balor was not safe.
For months, a thought had been forming, and now Dr. Ak, for the first time, spoke aloud what he had long been thinking. “It needs more study.”
“Dr. Ak, the best minds in the galaxy have been trying to find a solution for the Scourge for years. What more…”
Dr. Ak cut him off. “No, we’ve been studying defensive technology. We’ve been studying how to deflect the Scourge. But no one has ever tried to actually study the Scourge. What does it want? Why does it do what it does? What motivates it? What are its weaknesses?”
Dr. Snikin spoke slowly. “That’s because… anyone who gets within a light year of it is destroyed.”
“Everyone, except you.”
“Yes, I have studied the matter extensively, at great personal risk to myself. And my report on the matter was complete and unequivocal.”
“Your report was two words long.”
“I stand by my findings.”
“I need to know more. You have to tell me what you know.”
“It won’t help, it’s all in the report, that’s all you need to know.”
Dr. Ak stood up and stretched, and Dr. Snikin instinctively backed up. Dr. Ak was very large, and could be quite intimidating when he wanted to be. “I am going to capture a sample.”
Dr. Snikin thought about this. “To study it.”
“To study it.”
“You are going to intentionally bring the Scourge to Balor.”
“It was nice knowing you.”
“If I can bring the Scourge to Balor, place it in a controlled environment, and study it, then will you tell me what you know?”
Dr. Smikin smiled. “Sure, you manage to capture a sample of the Scourge, and I will tell you everything I can, which will be small comfort to you as it destroys this entire planet.”
Dr. Ak sat back down. “Well, someone has to do something.”
“I did do something, my analysis of the Scourge was the most extensive and thorough the Universe has ever seen. It’s not my fault you choose to ignore it.”
The Report and Recommendations on Addressing the Malevolence Known as The Scourge, by Dr. Snikin, based on a decade of research, was a very simple and straightforward work. Its contents were as follows:
© 2020 Ryan Kriger