STOKING THE FIRES

They had drifted through the cosmos in a diffuse nebula of siblings for aeons. Time meant little to them, patience borne of a billion years of evolution their  firmest ally. At last, though, their mission was about to be fulfilled.

Several million years earlier, a star had ignited barely a light-year from the cloud of tiny, crystalline entities: a new sun, birthed from the swirling colours of interstellar gas that were now rapidly dissipating as matter fell towards this new gravitational monster, feeding its newly-stoked nuclear furnace and providing material for its foetal young.

The cloud had passed several gaseous giants, failed stars that circled their young parent, gobbling up huge masses of rock, ice and gas that would have bombarded the stony inner planets had they not been present. The entities, each less than ten centimetres in diameter, had scanned the system and calculated their destination with bio-mechanical precision and unity.

Only a few decades remained.

One of the tiny creatures, sunlight glinting across its smooth, faceted surface, rotated slightly to angle a sensor towards their goal. It viewed the third planet of the new-born star system. A body of rock, iron and other elements that so reminded it of a home long-since gone. Billions of years of searching and, at last, it could rest. Not that a further billion years of scanning the heavens would balk it, but it would be gratifying to finally sleep.

The third planet, as its home had been. A yellow star, as its race had evolved under. Evolution was the key to their existence, the very essence of their being and it would mark not only the climax of their mission, but the genesis of another.

Chemical – bio-chemical – biological – technological – bio-technological, their world had gone through many phases of life, many diverse transitions of being, before the end. Not an end of fire or ice from some great catastrophe, but a natural death when their star had finally consumed its last and exhaled a final, wheezing breath before fading into the shadows.

Before that time, the entity and its siblings had reached out into space, a vast cloud slowly drifting away from a crib that was about to become a tomb. The search for a new home had begun. Not a home for themselves, or even for their kind, their task was to find a new home for life itself.

And now they had succeeded.

Years passed and the third planet drew closer. Its cratered surface of browns and greys belied the potential that lay beneath. Volcanic ranges continuously spewed gasses into the sky, feeding a slight atmosphere that had begun to cling to the world’s surface like a sheen of perspiration and creating lightning storms across the whole planet. The air might have been thin, yet it enabled water to condense in large, shallow pools, muddy seas towards which the cloud descended.

Falling through a wispy cloud layer, the entities glowed as friction tried desperately to eat them alive, yet they had evolved to withstand such attacks. Their grand design was about to be fulfilled and a little heat would not halt them. The heat, in fact, was imperative to success. Within each crystalline orb, was an awakening, a rousing from an age of icy slumber.

The entities emerged from the cloud layer above one of the grey-brown lakes. Plumes of water and mud erupted as each drilled itself into the surface of their new home.

Soon they could sleep, but not yet.

Brackish water bubbled and hissed as it filled the deep holes formed from each impact. Then the entities opened, the final subroutine of their program engaging. A release of life from each, invisible, yet animate, combining with the warm waters of a new home. Immediately replicating, absorbing gasses and releasing new ones into the atmosphere of an infant world.

The entities, satisfied at last, slept. Evolution had resumed.

 

Steve Johnson - 2005

Updated 11th March 2012