Snowball

The planet would be doomed if they failed. The rocket was ready to launch. Countdown had begun. Cross fingers and pray.

Strange how it had all be so exciting at first. Many years ago the probe had landed on Europa and penetrated its icy surface. They had found what they were looking for. The human race had finally discovered that it was not alone in the Universe. Life outside of the Earth had been discovered in the form of a single cell that could multiply.

But how to analyse it further? It had taken so long for the probe to reach its destination. They had to find a way to bring the life form back next time. Everyone on the planet was excited.

Again, as is common throughout human history, religion had been called into question. How could the bible have omitted to make reference to alien life? What about God? Did this mean that a deity could in fact be an alien? Of course there was an answer. There was always an answer, but we needn’t get into it here. Suffice it to say that several, previously insignificant, references in the bible were discovered that clarified the whole situation through means of correct interpretation.

Technology progressed, but not fast enough. More probes were sent that could not return, but their equipment evolved so that the alien life could be analysed further. It turned out that the alien was very rare under the surface of Europa and it took many resources, including the cooperation of different countries to capture it with the machines. It was rare because it had been estimated that, under the conditions below the surface of the moon, the one-cell organism only multiplied approximately every ten thousand years. That fact that it could be found at all suggested that it had been around for many millions of years.

Eventually, a probe was constructed that could capture the alien and safely return it to Earth. There had been much debate about whether it was safe to bring the alien to Earth. Optimists were optimistic but the doomsayers cried in the negative. In the end, the risks were thought to be minimal.

On a hot summer’s day the alien landed on Earth, encased in a protective environment that resembled its home. Four of the cells had travelled across the solar system and they were to be treated very carefully.

Well, accidents happen. One of the cells was exposed to a slightly different atmosphere in error but it had survived. Confidence and overconfidence began to prevail. It was exposed to more and more of the Earth’s environment. It even multiplied once, so the ten thousand year cycle must have been nearer than they had estimated for this particular specimen. It was wondrous that it could survive in conditions that were very different to is home.

Finally, one of its secrets was revealed. It seemed to be able to survive in any conditions on Earth and no one could understand why. Then another secret became evident. In the Earth’s environment, the alien’s rate of multiplication began to increase exponentially. At first, it was surprising. Then it was amazing, until it became a disaster. The multiplication rate was too high. It went from ten thousand years to mere seconds. They had to stop it.

The protectionists cried foul. What were the scientists going to do? Did they intend to kill it? How could they possibly think of killing an alien being? Do we play god to aliens too? Did we even know whether it had any intelligence or felt any pain? What ethics were involved? What did the law have to say?

The ruling of a court was sought and then another. The courts in different countries had a divergence of opinions. All through this process it was noticed by only a few that the days were getting ever so slightly colder.

Before the courts even had time to consolidate their judgements into a unifying principle, things had become worse for the population of Earth. The aliens were now multiplying at an unstoppable pace. Scientists had taken matters into their own hands and tried to kill them. It was of no use. Nothing known on Earth could kill them. They were impervious to mass, gravity, heat, cold, dark and light.

Even worse still the temperature on Earth began to fall. There were so many alien cells that the mass of alien life form had become visible to the naked eye. It was a mass of ice. Strange, that when they had explored Europa they had completely forgotten to test its icy surface and only focussed on the substance beneath. If they had been more thorough they would have discovered that the cell that was rare beneath the surface was abundant on the surface. On Europa, at some point the alien’s rate of multiplication had slowed a planetary scale for reasons that they did not yet understand. Even more intriguing was that the rate of cell division was not a constant. It varied depending on the conditions and was most prevalent on the surface.

So what is one to do with an alien that refuses to perish? Send it into space of course. They gathered up the mass of alien cells, sealed them in a vacuum and placed them in a rocket. The rocket had been constructed rather quickly because it was calculated that they only had a small window of time before the alien would spread beyond their control.

A small error in line five million one hundred thousand two hundred and twenty five of the software code caused a slight bug in the rocket’s propulsion program. It was small enough to go unnoticed but significant enough to change the course of human history if a bird was to collide with a small but important area of the rocket during the fifth second after take off. So, the human race was doomed because the cells were spread uncontrollably throughout the Earth’s atmosphere.

A planet not dissimilar to Europa now orbits closer to the sun, with only one life form present, and is waiting to be discovered.

 

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