The Trap

Several hundred million years ago a large object drifted in to the solar system. Deep inside the object was a dormant intelligence. The object swirled by the sun hundreds of times on a fast hyperbolic trajectory before it had sufficiently slowed down. The slowing down process took thousands and thousands of years but the intelligence inside the metallic asteroid didn’t care about a few thousand years. It was one of millions that traveled endlessly through the galaxy on a mission.

It had zeroed in on Earth based on observations from a few thousand light years distant. It had concluded that the sun was to be regarded as a potential infection zone. The mission of the lonely traveler was to guard against infections and it had done so for the better part of a million years. In that million years it had visited a dozen or so problem systems, and in each system it had converted a large number of metallic asteroids to copies of itself. Each of these copies did the same — travel the interstellar gulf looking for planetary systems that would eventually become sources of infection.

The infection was always the same — a very specific form of life would eventually grow a sophisticated logistical management system — a neurology in human terms. It would do so in hot zones, where this particular form of life would evolve to operate very fast, and in doing so would be constantly compelled to “cut corners”. Hot life was common throughout the galaxy even billions of years ago, and it constantly ended up evolving in to a source of infection. Invariably it would get off a hot planet, would start settling the native system before laying it completely to waste. Most such life would experience states of self-imposed extinction more gruesome than the traveler would care to contemplate. About half of these hotlifers never even left the planet, and not longer after it evolved complex neurology such planets would be “highly entropic” grey cinders devoid of any life. That would be tragic, and lamentable from the perspective of the Traveler and its creators, over two billion years ago. The travelers was once created by a species that had evolved in far colder zones, and it didn’t operate by virtue of a “zero sum” evolutionary track. Life that evolved on the home world of the traveler evolved just a few billion years after the first starts had started radiating, and its process of spread through the galaxy was slow, organic and never took risks with itself or with any other potential lifeform. Traveller lifeforms were rare and subtle, and preferred to nestle deep in the bedrock of large planets billions of kilometers away from main sequence stars.

Hot life was an altogether different matter. Hot life didn’t plan. It was the result of a chain of evolutionary solutions that favored constant guaranteed extinctions. Once it evolved, it ended up never thinking ahead — it made assumptions and improvised, and it did so very fast. Whereas traveller life planned for industrial civilizations thousands of years ahead, speculating on all possible permutations and risks and potential pitfalls long before building even one solid structure, hotlife could have cycled through several cataclysmic and violent industrial civilizations, and would experience a domino chain of extinctions, ending with complete depletion of all planetary resources.

Rarely — occasionally — hotlife would leave its home planet, and that was invariably much worse. It would expand across moons and asteroids and it would have all these subjective states of evolved needs and wants and pains — and it would invariably overextend in a few thousand solar revolutions — a blink of an eye for traveler progenitors — and go extinct in a gruesome orgy of hot circulatory fluids. Then the systems where hotlife evolve would be left as toxic contamination zones, blistering with dormant and highly aggressive nanoid clouds and swarms of insane automated systems running in endless cycles until they finally too died.

Only a few times had hotlife left stellar systems, and the results were too horrible to contemplate. Dozens of stars systems emptied of natural resources, before the disease strain died out and the souls found peace in their cinder black sarcophagi, stars literally dimmed from all the desperate attempts to withdraw some last residual material substance.

Billions of years the traveler progenitors had send out their traveler ships on a gentle mission of mercy. The solution had long since proven failsafe. For a billion years there were no more incidents of hotlife leaving their planets, and in most cases the measure was effective in burning out hotlife progress completely. It was merciful and a loving form of planetary euthanasia, saving these poor creatures from unspeakable hardship and misery. It was like curing cancer.

The solution was simple, and this solution would become applicable to Earth soon enough, as hundreds of millions of years ago a traveler vessel had drifted close to Earth, and had released the seeds of gentle death, on a mission of mercy. The solution entailed a gift of sorts. The gift would prove irresistable to any emerging hotlife industrial intelligence. It was quite simple — spur on the formation of stratas and layers of deep cxarbohydrates. This normally didn’t occur on hotlife planets, but the alteration of the biological process was easy — it took only minor tinkering. The end result was the formation of condenses hydrocarbon laters — coal, gas, oil, in the bedrock of the planet.

Left with this bounty of concentrated energy, Hotlife would not be able to resist itself. Hotlife always took the easy and stupid route. Throw it some lure and it would rush in and eat itself to death. You didn’t even have to poison the lure — it always gorged itself and die. It rarely took long for Hotlife neurology to become extinct, and in many cases the planets didn’t even have to die in full … lower organic life would go on there, but these planets would have become permanently safe zones for the emergence of any new complex neurologies.

First posted here.