Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Star Builders

The creature growled, deep in its throat, attempting to ward off the similar creature on the other side of the door.

“Oh, stop it,” he scolded.  “I closed the door, it’s out there and you’re in here, what more do you want from me?”

The creature looked at him, inscrutable eyes showing just enough comprehension to be unnerving, then turned back to the door.  The growl persisted, but was quieter, at least.

“Fine,” he said, turning back to his work.  “You sit there.”

His partner approached, a spinning stone globe floating between her hands.  “Leave them be,” she said.  “They just miss the Outer Dark.”

“Well there isn’t going to be an Outer Dark for much longer,” he said, indicating a spot close to the star he’d just finished building.  When she put the globe in place, it began to orbit the star.  The globe became hot, and fire spilled out across its surface.  Similar globes revolved about the star, at varying orbits.

“How many more?” she asked.

“A few gas giants,” he said idly.  “Hang on,” he held up one finger.  “Watch this.”  He held another molten globe in one hand.  Without warning, he threw the globe into a similar orbit as the latest addition, albeit moving much faster.  It slingshot around the star, smashing into the first globe with a great explosion of fire and rock.

“What was that for?”

“I’m making a moon for the planet you brought,” he said, indicating a swiftly condensing ring of debris that orbited the surviving planet.

“There are other ways to do that,” she said.

“This way is more fun,” he said with a smile.

“Mm.”  She gathered up the remaining debris from the orbit of her planet and threw it toward a cold rocky planet further away from the star, shattering it into billions of pieces, which formed a massive stone ring in a distant orbit around the star.  She glanced over at him.  “You’re right,” she said.  “That was fun.”

“Yes, but you ended up obliterating the planet.”

“Nonsense,” she sniffed.  “I was making asteroids.”  She pointed.  “Here,” she said, “we can put the gas giants out beyond the ring.”

The gas giants took longer to make.  The first two were difficult, and the third was much smaller, with an icy planetoid as a partner in its orbit.

“I think that’s done,” she said.

“Agreed,” he said, spinning it out across the room toward the others.  He heard the creature playing with something and looked down.  It had gotten hold of one of the other solar systems, and was batting it across the floor, occasionally shaking it in its teeth.

“No no no!” he yelled, grabbing at the tattered system.  He righted the star a bit, and rearranged the planets back to the way they were, though one or two had to get chucked in the bin.  They’d make new ones out of what they could salvage.  Dimly, at the edge of his mind, he became aware of the sentient beings on the third planet. They prayed to some omnipotent savior to protect them from the ravenous demon who savaged their star system.

“Oh well that’s lovely!” he scolded the creature, who sat on a vacant chair, idly cleaning itself.  “You stupid..!”

“Oh, stop it,” she said to him.

He brandished the chewed-on solar system for her inspection.  “It’s become part of their religion now!” He said.  “They’ve started praying for salvation, and I think they’re praying to us.”

“Wait,” she said, “why has intelligent life evolved in that system?  It isn’t even part of a galaxy yet.”

“Well,” he said testily, “if someone had finished the black hole template on deadline, the planets wouldn’t have had time to grow smart animals.”

“Oh, no no no,” she said, waving her finger.  “YOU insisted on building the black hole yourself, remember?  Got the boss to make those of us on the actual project halt our work, just so you could get out of Stellar Formation.”

“I just want to move up,” he said.  “Do you really want to spend eternity making solar systems epoch after epoch?”

“Hey, I started out in the clerical pool sorting souls,” she said.  “Stellar Formation is a definite step up for me.”

“I guess,” he said.  “It’s not bad, it’s just...”

She smiled and shook her head, busying herself igniting nebular gases into a new star.  “You want Species Management?”

“At first,” he said, pumping hydrogen into the new star.  “Management track will definitely help me get where I want to go.”

“And where’s that?”  She pulled a large gas giant out of a satchel, adding more material to it until it was nearly one-third the size of the star.  “Been wanting to try this,” she said.

“Try what?”

“I’m making a brown dwarf for this system,” she said.

“Why?” he asked.  “That will make the orbits of the other planets highly unstable.”

She shrugged.  “Anyway,” she said, “where do you want to go, Mr. Promotion?”

“Top floor,” he said, pointing up.  “I want to be an Executive, maybe in the Architecture Division.”

“An Architect?” she blinked.  “You don’t have the pedigree for that promotion.”

“Not yet,” he said, grinning.  “I figure if I can crack this black hole project, creating an actual astronomical phenomenon should get me in with Species Management, or at least a slot on the Galactic Distribution team.”

“Yeah,” she said, giving her brown dwarf a spin as its orbit brought it past her.  “How’s that all coming along?”

“You know,” he said, “fine.  Should just need another day or two to work out the--”

The brown dwarf spun by her and she gave it a shove, sending it spiraling toward its parent star.  The two large bodies collided, their immense combined mass collapsing in on itself in a spectacular act of devastation, leaving a black hole behind.

“There we go,” she said, grabbing the singularity and tucking it into her satchel.  She made her way toward the door, on her way to their boss’ office.  As she opened the door, she turned to smile at him and say, “I’ll call you from the top floor.”

With a sigh, he went back to work, gathering up more nebular material to start a fresh build.