The Orphan Planemo

7 Jul

Commander Rajan Asan gazed through the observation window of his exploration cruiser and spoke to his second officer, Nehal Desai.

“It’s a beautiful sight to behold. The deep blue body is only a nomadic planemo, a wandering orphan that floats along without a star to rotate about, but it a place of promise in time to come. Because we of the Space Fleet of Greater India will have planted an important transit station upon that lost, abandoned planet. I must not forget to call it by its proper name, though. We are looking at a planemo with no guiding sun that directs and holds it. What we have ahead of us is a freely traveling, solitary orphan.”

“But the planemo is not completely autonomous and independent,” corrected the second-in-command, Nehal Desai. “This blue body is in tow behind the so-called Holiday Tree Cluster of unified stars. That system of forty separate stars moves as a consolidated system in the same direction through space. It is one of the smallest combinations in the Milky Way Galaxy, but it pulls along our orphan planemo in its wake, a considerable distance behind it, of course. This is an open cluster, made up of comparatively young stars. At the center, this system of stars has the so-called Snow Flake Nebula of young protostars, beginning to separate and evolve.

“The Chinese Space Empire has planted several mining colonies on conventional planets that possess precious metals and materials,” added Nehal with a frown.

“We will be far from the Chinese and what they are doing in this star cluster,” declared Commander Asan. “I do not expect to have any contact with their colonies or their space vessels.”

– –

The Chinese Space Empire had established settlements on selected planets orbiting various stars in the cluster. The name of the central capital was Zhonghua. Mining development occurred on the planets of Tianxia, Jiangshan, Sihai, Cahin, Jiuzhou, Shenzou, and Huaxia. Geological explorers working for export combines were endlessly searching for deposits to exploit on scores of other distant bodies within the Holiday Tree Cluster of stars.

Jiang Ying was the veteran administrator of all the Empire’s colonies in this small section of the total galaxy. He was in continue transit between these worlds and stations, but his home base was always Zhonghua. It was here that he conferred with the Fleet Admiral, Wang Song, about the arrival of a number of foreign vessels out on the distant tail region behind the Cluster, on a small, blue planema.

“These ships are discharging and unloading enormous quantities of building material,” reported the military chief of space forces. “It is clear that their purpose is to create a mining station and industry there.”

“What you tell me is alarming news,” moaned Jiang Ying. “But what can our government and defensive fleet do about this situation? It is terrible to say, but I have to say that we seem to be helpless before the situation that is unfolding out in our tail.”

Admiral Song, much shorter than the towering executive, seemed to be fuming with inner rage. “I do not think that the Galactic Hub of our empire wishes that we stay passive and inactive when challenged in this way. There has to be some way that we can expel these intruders from the entire Holiday Tree Cluster, including the many planemas that follow our stars through space.”

Jiang perked up and focused his dark eyes on the small senior officer. “I myself must go there and confront the leader of these interlopers on my own. It may be possible to warn the invaders away. A threatening attitude on my part could do the trick without having to resort to conflict or force.”

“That may prove to be not adequate,” said the Admiral in a troubled tone. “We could have to go much further before this matter is over.”

Both men in midnight blue uniform fell into deep, concentrated thought.

The Greater India exploratory cruiser had landed on an empty desert plain of the planemo and dispatched a small number of pods manned with geologists with instruments capable of mapping and describing the interior make-up of the orphaned body. Was it an ejected planet from a member star of the Holiday Tree Cluster, or was it only a nomad of the limitless void that had been picked up through gravitational attraction? The hope was that the series of probes in progress would provide answers to such questions of scientific interest.

“Radio soundings from a very far distance have brought us to this particular planemo,” said Rajan Asan, a towering giant with long black hair and large ebony eyes. “There were other possible orphaned bodies that could have been chosen for study and testing, but this particular one seemed the most promising to our exoplanet specialists.

“Now that we have come down here, we must make the most of what is available and possible. Our exploration must be painstakingly thorough, with nothing ignored or overlooked.”

“All our pods and surveying crews are out on the planemo surface, sir,” explained Nehal Desei, fat and pudgy. “If there are any deposits of value buried below the surface, I am certain that we shall find them.”

It was only a few hours after this conversation that the approaching vessel of the Chinese Empire from Zhonghua was detected on radarscopes. A message came from the ship announcing that the top executive of the entire cluster would soon be visiting the colony station being set up on the planemo’s desert.

Rajan Asan, at his headquarters on the cruiser at the moment, answered back that the approaching party was welcome to enter the domicile under construction on the until-then empty planetary body. Greater India and its thousands of galactic bases and colonies offered a hand of friendship and a hearty welcome to the Han people who resided within the Holiday Tree Cluster. The hope was to become a good neighbor to those already settled and working to develop the star system so close to this particular planemo.

Receiving this communication, Jiang Ying sensed the presumptuous nature of the Indian message. He expressed himself in angry words to the Fleet Admiral, Wang Song.

“Who do these interlopers think they are? They have come down on a planet tied to our cluster by the power of gravity, within our Empire’s legal jurisdiction, and they refer to themselves as neighbors of ours. The attitude is one of insolence. I do not intend to accept such provocative insults with ease.

“We shall have to teach these invaders a painful lesson.”

“But how, sir?” asked the perplexed space admiral.

Jiang Ying gave no answer, indicating that he had not yet conceived of a means of dealing with the problem.

The vessel carrying the officials of the China Empire landed a short distance from the protective dome of the exploring station. Once microwave frequency communication was established with Commander Asan of the newcomers, Jiang Ying requested to meet with the leader. The reply was that the chief officers of the expedition would come out onto the desert wasteland and meet to talk with the visitors inside the land-pod vehicle, in a neutral location, aboard neither group’s own space vessel.

Jiang agreed to these terms, boarding a small carrier on his ship and rolling out onto the blue planemo desert.

The two land-pod vehicles left their respective vessels and approached each other till they were close enough for an extension from the Indian carrier to be thrown out. This permitted Executive Jiang Ying, Admiral Wang Song, and a few aides and bodyguards to exit their ship and cross over through the connector and enter the land-pod of the explorers.

A long table with comfortable balloon chairs on both sides stood in the middle of the central area of the carrier.

Commander Rajan Asan and his main officers already sat on one side, facing a row of empty seats.

“Please be seated,” invited Rajan in a cool, confident voice, his large ebony eyes glowing with light.

Very ill at ease, the Chinese party located itself on the available space on their side of the silic-glass table.

Jiang decided he had to speak first in order to keep hold of the initiative.

“As all of you know, my administration centered on the planet Zhonghua has the responsibility to exercise its authority everywhere throughout the Holiday Tree Star Cluster. No other governing institution has ever been in charge of any star or planet anywhere within the boundaries of our cluster. There has never been, to our knowledge, and interference with our China Empire sovereignty. No one has ventured to enter this portion of the Milky Way Galaxy on their own authority. No one has ever asked for permission to do so.

“In the entire human history of this star cluster, with its forty suns, no one has dared do what your intruding cruiser has recently completed: a landing and activities on this planemo of ours.

“How do you explain this illegal, unjustified action of yours?”

Executive Jiang glared across the silic-glass table at the towering giant, the man in obvious command of the Greater India exploration and exploitation colony.

Rajan smiled and attempted to make a conciliatory reply to the challenge thrown at him.

“I have to admit that a glaring but natural mistake led to our arrival on this planema. Our belief was that any rogue planemo not attached to a star but trailing a star cluster in its gravitational wake was an independent entity, not a member of anything larger. And now we are witnesses to the claim of your capital planet of Zhonghua to be in possession of legal governing authority over this nomadic, orphan sphere. It is obvious that somehow a gigantic mistake has been made about the right to explore and utilize this body. But I can say this much: my associates and I are prepared to grant a major concession to your executive power over this addendum to the star cluster that you rule.

“We are willing to acknowledge that the China Empire has unspecified management rights on the planemo we are now on. Yes, although we are here without prior permission, we are willing to recognize that an error was made on our part. But in correction of that omission, we offer to provide your executive authority with half of the profitable proceeds that we foresee resulting from the completion of the enterprise we have started here. Indeed, should we succeed in finding the resources that we are hunting for, the returns to both you and to us will be of enormous dimensions. There will be enough to satisfy all sides to a partnership compact between Greater India and the China Empire on a 50-50 ratio of what each of us will be receiving.

“Is that arrangement clearly understood? Will your Zhonghua governing executive agree with us on the matter?”

Silence fell over the long silic-glass table, and throughout the room. Everyone waited to hear what Jiang was going to answer.

The powerful executive grinned slyly. “Yes, I think we can accept that proposition. And I hope that your people find something that we can divide and share between ourselves.”

Once they had returned to their vessel, Jiang at once turned his face and dark eyes on the Fleet Admiral, Wang Song and addressed him in his most authoritative tone of voice.

“I know that this ship is carrying a large number of tiny all-frequency transponders that are capable of monitoring the full electronic spectrum. A ring of them must be set up around the cruiser of these suspicious foreigners. I want us to learn what the results of their probes and tests turn out to be. Whatever they discover or fail to find, I must at once be informed of. Is that clear?”

“It shall be done as you say before we take off from this planemo, sir,” obediently said Wang Song, turned about and heading for the central control room of the ship to fulfill the command just given him.

Timing devices marked off the 24-hour days of Ancient Earth by which humans throughout the galaxy continued to live and work. Period followed period, probing and testing went forward, but no spectacular discoveries of any kind occurred anywhere on the orphaned planemo.

Reports of failure after failure accumulated at the dome built alongside the Indian space cruiser.

Commander Asan held frequent discussions on the situation with his main assistant, Nehal Desai.

“If we attempt mental calculation on a general scale,” finally concluded Rajan, “then the only logical conclusion left to us is that our surveys of this planemo will continue to be the same. The odds will be absolutely against our finding anything of commercial value anywhere on this wandering body.”

A grimace of discouragement covered his saddened face as his ebony eyes took on a distant, abstracted look.

“Are we going to have to abandon this particular project, sir?” asked Nehal.

The Commander suddenly smiled. “I believe I have a better idea for us. It is a certainty that the China Empire has placed micro-transponders around us in order to eavesdrop on our communications from out in the field. It is conceivable to me that we could utilize that fact to make our listeners think the way we wish them to concerning the outcomes that our explorations produce.”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“If we could give the impression of some sudden great discovery of mineral treasure, that might convince Executive Jiang Ying to make us a generous offer to surrender this plenemo to him and his authority. I believe that such a position would allow us to write our own ticket off this barren, valueless planetary body.

“Can you arrange to send out a lone messenger with a false report of a breakthrough that could then be broadcast on microwave back to this cruiser?”

Nehal nodded his head yes. “It will be an ingenious trick on the Chinese, sir,” he muttered.

Executive Jiang Ying looked up from where he sat in front of his documental monitor. He gazed at Admiral Wang Song, who had ordered the recorded Indian messages from the exploration team out on the planemo desert relayed into his chief’s office.

“This is an incredible find by their geological surveyors, no question of that. There are markets throughout the Milky Way Galaxy for pure diamond crystals and carbonado borts. Countless electronic industries create an unlimited demand for all forms of hard carbon formations. There will be eager buyers everywhere, I venture to predict.” Jiang paused a few seconds as his thoughts whirled with the prospects he foresaw. “Let’s get in touch with these squatters out on the planemo and see if we can work out some kind of bargain with them.”

“I’ll have a microwave channel activated at once, sir,” replied the fleet commander.

The financial negotiations were short, rapid, and easy to complete.

Executive Jiang Ying was surprised but not alarmed by how quickly the explorers from Greater India acceded to what he offered them in exchange for leaving the planemo and the entire system of the Holiday Tree Cluster.

Commander Rajan Asan was to abandon the project he had started. The China Empire, as represented by the government situated in Zhonghua, was to have full sovereignty and exclusive possession of the orphan, rogue planet with no star serving as its sun.

The exploration teams returned to their cruiser with all their gear and equipment and the vessel personnel prepared for take-off into the galaxy’s open void.

“We shall make for the Kerala Archipelago and see if we can find ourselves some new prospective project there,” said Commander Rajan Asan to his second officer, Nehal Desai. “We have the whole galaxy and the entire galaxy beyond waiting to be studied and developed. Surely, there are an unlimited number of planemos that have never undergone exploration.”


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