I had been on this planet for less than a single turn around its sun, when I knew that my predecessor had fallen to a temptation to which our species should have been immune.
Questions raised by his recent reports prompted The Council for Planetary Evolution to dispatch me so that I could evaluate and, if needed. replace him. It wasn’t until near the end of our extensive debriefing that the full extent of his psychological condition became apparent. He had allowed himself to become the subject of a local religion. Not only that, but in our conversations, he kept referring to himself as Zeus, a central figure in an earlier religious system–since replaced around the planet by varieties of ‘monotheism’.
The most horrifying aspect of his negligence is that he stopped monitoring the nuclear technology of the dominant species, who have not only developed technology capable of destroying their planet; they have accumulated vast arsenals, as if that could permanently be a deterrent to their ever being used.
Of course, I sent a message as soon as I became aware of this situation. But a supernova has picked this time to explode, scrambling the psychic broadband that connects me with other members of the Council.
In the past days, this situation has evolved so considerably and I can no longer wait for the supernova to disperse. The dominant species’ fantasy–that no leader will ever be insane enough to launch missiles armed with nuclear weapons—is about to be tested.
My ship is in stationary orbit over a country called “Russia”, where their “Premier” is at this moment conferring with three senior lieutenants. They look terrified. I had to learn their language quickly in order to listen to their communication. To my shock, the Russian leader has just issued an order to launch a “strategic nuclear weapon” as if this significantly distinguishes his action from the immediate annihilation of all living beings on the planet. My central consciousness remains rivetted to the spot, while I desperately bilocate around the globe.
Visiting the Situation Room in the USA Whitehouse, I confirm that any use of nuclear weapons will not be contained. I visit other species in their fields and cages as I try to assess the global situation. Seeing the plight of these other species, I ask myself whether I need further evidence to justify what I suspect may now be inevitable.
The Premier issues a command and his three lieutenants turn pale. I dare to hope that their recoil from the consequences of his order can leave the door open for another day.
The Prime Directive that guides planetary exploration keeps playing in my head like a mantra: “Never interfere with a culture’s natural evolution.” While the annihilation of an entire species constitutes a devastating interference, preventing that species from destroying all life on their planet, will always be a lesser one.
With nothing now to do but to let the next few moments play out, I check the psychic bandwidths and confirm that the supernova is still as thick as the despair I felt in a huge chicken complex I just visited, as part of my investigation and documentation.
The three lieutenants do not glance at each other, as I assume would have to happen if they are going to refuse to carry out this order to launch. They ride in the vehicle that is taking them to the launch site, each hidden inside themselves, abandoned to dissociation from sensation and feeling.
In the silo antechamber, they meet with two men who are armed with automatic pistols. They hand each of them an electronic device and the command is confirmed.
These two men do look at one another, and for a moment I wonder if a resistance still has time to form. Could it be that, in their hesitation, there exists one final chance for the five men to rise in defense of a future for their species and their planet.
However, the two men enter the inner chamber and type in the command sequences. They remain at the keyboards until a green light confirms that a launch has occurred.
I have, of course, disabled the missile. But that very fact–and the interference with the evolution of life on this planet that it represents—now gives me no choice but to carry out the action which the Prime Directive compels me to take.
I take a few moments, perhaps more than my documentation strictly requires, and walk among human communities. It is with a heavy heart that I witness the love of mothers for their children and the caring gestures being taken by strangers towards one another.
This touches me so deeply that—knowing that I am about to annihilate their species—I walk among the animals for a good while. I am relieved when I witness similar acts of kindness among the dogs and horses, the elephants and whales.
I make a note to visit this planet in another 10,000 turnings around their sun. The surviving beings deserve that much. Then I issue the command that eradicates all instances of the dominant species’ DNA (leaving their remains for the lions and crocodiles); I dissolve all fences and cages, all buildings and other structures; and then I set sail toward my next assignment: a planet in Alpha Centauri from which interesting microwaves have been detected radiating into space.