Freo begins to feel the gentle telltale tug that signals the imminent exit from a wormhole.
This is the umpteenth time, but it never fails to elicit a sense of excitement and anticipation. This time the Program has selected a relatively uncharted area of the Universe: a small group of galaxies within a large Supercluster of galaxies.
The mission, part of a Universal program of advanced intelligence, is to catalogue other forms of intelligence that have the potential to master intergalactic travel. Accomplishing this feat, usually signifies a stage of evolution where primitive urges to destroy and conquer, have become extinct. The planetary life forms that manage to reach this point are then welcomed into the wider advanced community of the universe.
The vessel exits in a pre-programmed area of space, midway between the two largest galaxies in this small group of 26 galaxies. Freo and the crew decide to first inspect the smaller of the two, before tackling the larger one. It is a typical barred spiral galaxy, roughly 120 000 (“earth”) Light Years (LY) across. From this vantage point of roughly 1.25 million LY’s from each galaxy, the blackness of space is overwhelming. Other than the two large galaxies, only a few dwarf galaxies are seen scattered around.
Promptly, a wormhole is created and the vessel exits within 100 000 LY’s from the chosen galaxy, viewing it face on. This position allows them to assess (and enjoy) the breathtaking view of the whole galaxy. It appears as if it is spread over a massive canvas, with two major arms spiraling away from its centre. After a detailed scan of the so-called habitable zone of the galaxy (a region midway between the center and edge), the Program selects a number of destinations that can be reached quickly via consecutive mini wormholes. After the 4th excursion, a spur branching off one of the main spiral arms is selected, and the vessel exits in an area of interstellar space.
Following a period of scanning, the vessel’s sensitive poly-sensors pick up the telltale signals of intelligent life. As far as communications signals go, it happens to be a fairly archaic part of the electromagnetic spectrum, known as radio waves. After a brief track and extrapolation, it is found that these waves have travelled no further than a mere 120 LY’s from their source.
The waves emanate from a smallish yellow star on the inner aspect of the chosen galactic spur.
A course is set for a safe distance from the star and the signal’s source planet. They settle in close to a red, desert-like planet, from where the source planet is visible as a small blue “star” in space. As per protocol, a multitude of stealth probes are deployed on the blue planet for clandestine monitoring, as well as to acquire historical data where possible.
After an earth month, the probes are retrieved and the data processed. The following summary gets presented to Freo and the crew: Amongst a myriad of plant and animal life, the expected intelligent life form was isolated and extensively studied. As what seems to be the norm for intelligent life within a star system of 4 to 5 billion (earth) years old, this specific one seems to be roughly halfway evolved towards advanced intelligence and excellence.
Many primitive rituals are observed, such as the speaking to, and worshipping of imagined creators and deities who appear to be somewhere removed from the planet. This has been noted, almost without exception, in evolving life forms elsewhere in the universe. It seems to be a necessary consequence of life forms that become self aware, and likely helps to address their early unanswerable questions. It thus indicates to the crew that this blue planet’s inhabitants are still in the early stages of discovering their natural world.
Seeing adult life forms in funny frocks and hats earnestly performing their religious rituals, can be quite amusing, but Freo and company only note this in passing. Of greater interest is the observation that this species has progressed to a critical point at which they are fully capable of destroying themselves. Weapons of mass destruction are identified in abundance. This places the inhabitants of this planet in an unenviable “Knife-Edge Category”.
They definitely possess the ability to advance to excellence, but this can be so easily terminated, either by their own doing, or by global natural disasters such as asteroid collisions. The Universal Monitoring Program has witnessed both these unfortunate scenarios unfold on many occasions elsewhere in the universe. Asteroids are ironically responsible for both spreading, as well as wiping out life in the cosmos.
In addition, the usual spectrum of primitive behaviour, which is typical of an emerging intelligence, is observed. With the cold indifference of weathered observers, they see how inhabitants of one area of the planet attacked and killed those from other areas. In some instances, purely because of disagreement over who’s imagined deity was the correct one or the greatest. Other clashing ideologies are also found to be a great source of fighting. On an individual level, a plethora of premeditated murder, rape and torture are observed. Adult life forms abusing and molesting helpless young life forms… This list of acts, virtually absent in sufficiently advanced life forms, seems to be never ending.
On the up side, a lot of promising acts are noted: Selfless caring for those in need, unconditional love, creativity, and some democratic and just societies. Very encouraging, is a pursuit of science by many. They are however still in the infancy of discovering the mysteries of their natural world and space. A few space probes that are sailing at a snail’s pace into their tiny solar system are testimony to this fact.
The verdict by Freo and his crew is that this planet’s intelligent life form should be catalogued as a potential candidate for joining the rest of the universe’s wanderers in the distant future. From past experience, and as verified by the Program’s calculations, their chances are judged to be roughly 50%.
The Universal community never interferes with emerging civilizations, which is one reason for keeping this exclusive catalogue. The degree of excellence required to share the universe in harmony with others, needs to be achieved independently. If they can survive the hurdles, all the primitive behavioral remnants will eventually be discarded during this painfully slow process.
As the familiar vibration of entering a main intergalactic wormhole is felt inside the vessel, Freo catches a final glimpse of the beautiful blue planet.
“Despite their primitive urges and shortcomings, they seem to be quite a likeable lot.
I hope they pull through…”