June 2022 story

Look Over Your Shoulder

News:  Musk presses ahead with his dream of travel to Mars.  He speculates that eventually one million humans could be sent to colonize the Red Planet.  Scientists have commented that even if it were possible  to transport that number of people to Mars, the number would be too low to be self-sustaining in today’s technologic society.

In the meantime, Bezos has announced full bookings for his suborbital rocket tours for the next year.


In their undetectable undersea station, two alien beings are communicating.  One, #&%, the station senior, has been orienting the newly arrived observer, #&#%@.  

As #&% finishes, #&#%@ says, “I did receive the standard briefing when I was selected to come, but there are some questions that remain.  May I ask them of you?”

“Of course,” said #&%.

“The first is of a personal nature.  If I am being too intrusive, please tell me to stop.  We have to work together and I don’t want to be viewed by you as obnoxious.”

“I’ll certainly not hesitate to tell you if you are being too rude, replied #&%.

“All right.  Would you please tell me the reason you chose to remain on this orb for so long?  You are almost a legend in the Observer Corp to have volunteered to remain here for tours that cover the span of the humans’ history for ten thousand of their years.”

“That’s true,” replied #&%.  “But not continuously, I do take home orb leave on schedule, and for my rejuvenations.”

“But then you always return to this station.  Do you find these humans that interesting?”

“The short answer is yes.  But let me explain.  When I first arrived, they were still barely more than the animals that they ate.  Still using stone implements.  Before I had completed my first tour, they had begun to settle into communities and had discovered the use of metal for tools.  Progressing more rapidly than most other beings we had observed.  As an exo-anthropologist, it was fascinating.  So I volunteered to return here to see what they would next do.”

“Well, according to my implanted human history, they soon discovered that metal could be used for more than cultivation and hunting instruments, and they began using it to kill one other,” commented #&#%@.  “And their aggression and intolerance of one other only became worse over their history.”

“But they do make progress, slowly as judged by their life spans, rapidly by ours.  For example, they no longer eat one another and they no longer do ritual sacrificial killings.”

“Their laws do permit judicial killings however,” countered #&#%@.  And their continued wars kill still far more of their fellows.  Isn’t this discouraging to see?  From what you’ve observed, do you believe that they will ever become less aggressive and warlike?”

“A good question that I ask myself.  Will the pace of their progress towards becoming civilized as we define it, overcome their seemingly innate tendency towards selfishness, aggression, and fighting?” replied #&%.  “That’s part of the fascination.”

“But their progress is so uneven.  Some humans are exploring their orb’s near space with crude rockets and orbiters, looking into deep space and time with orbiting long visioners, and some are still happy living in hunting-gathering groups like the ones you first encountered,” said #&#%@

“True, But at least the more technology-advance humans are no longer exterminating the non-technology ones as they used to do,” replied #&%.

“Granted.  That is progress.  Another question.  They seem so individualistic, pursuing their own desires without regard for others.  There seems to be a giant gap between those who have amassed great wealth as they define it and those who have not.  Their news reports that one man is planning travel to the fourth orb and is himself funding the means to do so.  And yet untold numbers of his own clan—I guess they call them nations—are wanting basic needs.  And that human is only one of many with wealth who lack any concern for doing something to help their others.  Do you worry that this lack of empathy will prevent them from ever becoming civilized?” 

“As long as they stay within their own solar system we will continue to just observe them.  As difficult as it is for us to watch what they do to one another, we do not intervene.  It is a basic principle of the Observer Corp, that each race must be allowed to pursue their own destiny.  As you know, some races have destroyed themselves and their orbs,” said #&%.

“And what of this one?”

“You and the rest of us are here at this station to see how they answer that question.  They are doing a bad job of maintaining the health of their orb.  It may soon become minimally habitable if they do not change their direction.  And of course there is ever the possibility that one of their wars might result in the use of nuclear arms which would be catastrophic for them.”

“I find it incredible that while they are doing little to nothing to maintain their home orb, they speak of colonizing their sole satellite and even the fourth orb,” said #&#%@.  “It’s as if they are looking for new worlds to despoil and that wrecking their own is not enough.”

#&% said nothing but nodded.  

“And a final question I have about them is about their guiding ethos,” said #&#%@.  “For the humans, these are most commonly expressed in their spiritual beliefs.  Two of their major belief systems do or have condoned the validity of wars and massacres to promote the spread of their beliefs.  To forcibly convert those who they see as non-believers.  If they continue to hold these types of beliefs, I cannot imagine them loose in the galaxy.” 

“And that is the one instance where we would intervene in their affairs,” answered #&%  “If through the use of supercomputers and a spark of genius, they discover the secret of how we manipulate the fabric of space-time to travel between the stars, while still at their current level of ethical thinking and behavior, we would have to show ourselves and stop them.  My hope is that they will mature before that happens and we could then welcome them as fellow galactic beings.”  

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