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Mister 2 Per Cent: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

September 1, 2019 | By | Reply More

I looked down at the fallen landscape that once upon a time I would have called my home planet Earth. What was a few centuries compared to an invitation to an alien world? I’d gone with open arms. Relativity is was it was. I’d aged only a few years but several centuries on Earth. I was expecting to meet my actual relatives several generations removed, not to find no one at all. My species was extinct and it looked like the Earth was in pretty much the same way.

‘Didn’t you leave some sort of gadget to keep an eye watching Earth to get me up to speed when we returned?’ I asked Yarlow, my alien buddy. ‘What happened?’

He closed his eyes briefly, consulting the gadget in his head. ‘We are still processing the information. There is a lot of data to analyse.’

Yarlow was hesitating. He knew more than he was saying.

‘Mankind? What happened’ I prompted. ‘I’m a big boy, don’t hold anything back.’

‘Several centuries back. It wasn’t any nuclear war. Pollutants and over-heating world contamination mostly. It didn’t leave much alive. Mankind was also a casualty. We see that a lot with junior worlds. We’re checking to see if any of your people colonised other worlds and if we can get you to them.’

‘They were always slow with budgets that way. Always some other thing to spend the money on. We had a great start for a couple decades space travel but could never get the finance to go further. You saw that on your visit.’

‘Did that influence your decision to come with us?’

‘Some. Maybe but no. Who wouldn’t refuse a chance to meet an alien civilisation?’

‘You weren’t the first we asked.’

‘I was the only one who had no immediate family. I wouldn’t be missed.’

We continued along the dirt track.

‘How come there’s oxygen still?’

‘The vegetation is growing back. It is taking time. Insects survived and germinating plants. Hardier than your own species.’

‘We were supposed to be smarter and more adaptable. We were also terminally stupid. Always believing we could sort anything out if we had enough time. Looks like we didn’t have enough time at all.’

Very few buildings were standing. Civilisation was fading away. Another century and Man wouldn’t even be a myth. So much for us lasting forever. A blemish on the timeline.

‘I take it you aren’t going to maroon me here?’

‘Only if you wish to stay. You oohmans have some crazy behaviour.’

Oohmans. They never could get my species name right. Then again, I couldn’t even pronounce theirs properly. When it comes to languages, the Potari were polyglots, putting their tongues around anything. Just couldn’t say humans. Oohman. Only one now.

‘Didn’t any of them…my people survive? Underground bunker or something?’

Yarlow closed his eyes and consulted with his head gadget again. They offered one to me a few times but I declined. We tended to see bionics as repair work. A new arm or leg, maybe even an eye or ear. Not a gadget that could act like an internal telephone and data analyser. Visuals if you closed your eyes like Yarlow was doing right now.

‘No heat sources or sonar traces. Sorry. We are double-checking for the last sites.’

‘It was only a wild thought.’

‘We noted you oohmans could be resourceful.’

‘But not against extinction. Guess you’re going to classify my species…my entire world as a failed evolution experiment, like the others in your museum.’

That was an experience in itself. Some of our own scientists had drawn a similar conclusion that the reason why we never found any aliens was because they never got past their own shortcomings. They weren’t wrong. Just a shame that we were now on a similar list. The Potari said they’d only met about a dozen species who were as old or older than themselves. A shame I couldn’t tell them all I learnt. How to sort out pollution. How to resolve global warming. How not to put all our eggs in one basket and how not to stay on one planet. Too late now.

‘Jonh. Do you remember when you allowed us to gene sequence your dual strands of deoxyribonucleic acid and how little of it was used to build you?’

‘Yeah! We called the rest junk DNA. The remnants of evolution.’

‘We call it the history of your various animal life. With the atmosphere settling down, we could restart much of the animal kingdom. Evolution would do its own diversity.’

‘You would do that?’

‘Hospitable planets are rare. Better than museums. It’s so it is not all lost.’

Was that part of the reason you took me to your home planet? To keep a specimen alive?’

Yarlow shook his head. ‘We accommodate visitors. If we wanted to do that, we would have selected species for the purpose. We didn’t expect your species extinction to have been quite so sudden.’

I could never tell if Yarlow was lying or not. I only saw a fraction of the museums they kept. It would have taken several lifetimes to visit them all, let alone all the information they carried. They could easily have been called the curators of the galaxy. Even so, what an offer.

‘Can I say a reserved yes?’

‘Reserved yes?’

‘Humans are the last two per cent. Could you stop short of resurrecting them?’

‘Why? Do you not like your own species?’

‘Look around you. We’d have a repeat of this in a few centuries. If evolution wants a new sentient species, let it come naturally or not at all. Let Eden have its own freedom. No snakes or apples to get in the way?’

‘No snakes or apples?’

‘Sorry. A literary reference. They were seen as bad influences on the alleged first woman. A fiction.’

Yarlow closed his eyes. Briefly, this time. ‘The Bible?’

I nodded. ‘People spent years looking for Eden, just as much as Noah’s ark. Early Man was in awe of its stories not the reality. It held back science for a few centuries and bred a fear of change even against indisputable truths like the Earth orbiting the sun.’

‘We could create your own Eve. You have no companion of your own kind. You must surely miss that? We would ensure enough genetic differences to ensure no inbreeding.’

I found a rock and sat down. Yarlow had a habit of dropping surprises and this one was certainly a big one. Time-wise, it was only five years since my last relationship. Sarah was long gone. I hadn’t thought of a replacement when I was with the Potari. No doubt they would have their own ways to bring a woman to maturity and instil some sort of education. A perfect female companion.

‘It’s a nice offer and I’m sure you would instil diversification and for me to develop a colony and you’d have is populating again. We’d be back where we started.’

‘You could teach them otherwise. Make your life extended so you are there to guide them.’

‘Be Methuselah? Wouldn’t that be repeating history? You’ll be wanting to make me into the Messiah at this rate.’

‘It worked the last few times but we weren’t fortunate enough to work from a sentient descendant with them.’

Again, that made me pause. ‘A few times? That means you’ve been here before. How many times?’ Was I getting the full story now?

‘Not me personally but my people like to encourage and maintain ecologies when we can.’

‘How many times for Earth?’

‘This is the fifth time that we’ve recreated life on Earth. We could be, as you would say, sixth time lucky.’

‘So the 98% junk DNA was there to keep the animal kingdom safe? I presume there’s a literal root for plants as well.’

Yarlow nodded. ‘We try to improve it each time. 2% might not be enough. It needs proper guidance from within.’

‘So let it go at random this time. You might get a better choice of sentient species this time. Humans are obviously not up to the task.’

Yarlow closed his eyes but I got the feeling he had left the channel open.

‘It will slow evolution down a lot. Humans lasted less than a fraction of the span of the reptoids. They had plenty of diversity but no civilising intelligence.’

‘You mean dinosaurs? Well, that’s what natural evolution will do. How come you didn’t prevent the meteorites from ending them?’

‘We did. The meteorite destroyed the defence as well and we watched the evolution of mammals and realised there might be sentience with them instead.’

‘And self-destruction, too. Don’t forget that. We weren’t the perfect species we thought we were.’

‘You would have an advantage this time. You know the mistakes and things to avoid. Your species wouldn’t be led by ignorance but science.’

‘That could make our destruction earlier.’

‘It is an option we haven’t tried. Your randomness has been tried.’

‘That’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t like the idea of being a messiah, let alone a god.’

‘Then just guide when your species needs it. Think of them as being children to be led when needed.’

I looked down on the gulley beneath me. It would be so easy to jump and end it all. A quick way out. Would that stop Yarlow’s people? After all, they had my genes and the two per cent to make another generation of humanity. The only difference was I wouldn’t be in it.

‘Do you need help with your thinking, Jonh?’

‘Our mythology already had a Methuselah once. Why didn’t it work?’

‘He was taken from raw stock. The same as all of you from that time. This time would be different. You are the result mankind would become, not the other way around. You wouldn’t be making it up as you went along. You know the mistakes.’

‘Too bad the original Methuselah isn’t still around to tell that to and ask where he went wrong.’

Yarlow shrugged this time. ‘We can grant long life but not immortality.’

I looked into the distance. The Potari starship rested on a nearby hill like some fantastic ark offering revival of a dead planet. Well, dead as far as mankind was concerned. The onus was on me, Mr. Two Per Cent, or no one at all. Sixth time lucky? The Potari had a funny numbering system associated with luck but they didn’t give up.

Finally, ‘I can’t do it alone…just don’t call her Eve.’

 

© GF Willmetts 2019

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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