Reduction. A word Zantor knew too well. Reduction of the health of
the planet Kaldor. Reduction of species. Reduction of intelligent
life. Others cultures tended to use the balder, more direct words:
death, extinction, doom.
Some might have accused Zantor and his kind of not being able to face
the facts directly; that Zantor softened his words to avoid the ugly
truth, speaking half-truths instead. Yet that accusation would half
true at best. Zantor was soft-spoken, but far from afraid of
understanding some of the hard realities. In fact, acceptance of the
universe -- as it happened -- was the calm and deceptively simple
reality of their culture.
Zantor looked out over scenes that looked almost normal, scenes which
had that slight amount of tattering that indicated the fabric was, in
reality, close to complete breakdown. He saw Kaldor was damaged,
being reduced to nothing. They would never reveal what caused it.
Perhaps it was their own fault, or perhaps it was an tragic series of
unrelated events that lead up to disaster; but the whole world was
going sterile. Birds were laying eggs that didn't hatch. Ever
increasing numbers of entire species were suffering involuntary
reduction. Even the most intelligent form of life on the planet
couldn't prevent its own slide towards the precipice, as increased
sterility outraced even their best attempts to cope.
Yet, before they reached the edge, they instead decided to fly. They
were calmly reconciled to the simple -- however horrifying -- fact
that their world was dying; yet that did not mean they were powerless
to act. It was not difficult for Zantor or any other Kaldorian to
accept that there were steps they could undertake. Effort, hard
work, planning: all these and more were born without fuss.
Ships were to be built, and Zantor, having the necessary skills,
submitted himself to be captain of one. These were to be Kaldor's
most precious eggs, scattering themselves into the wide reaches of
space -- still-fertile people, sending themselves out, in hopes of
sustaining the Kaldorian race. Those who were sterile or sick simply
helped out in any way they could, even though they would be left
behind on a world that would be dead a short time after the ships left.
It was not in their nature to bemoan what fate had done to them.
Zantor accepted everyone's help with simple gratitude.
He knew astronomers searched the sky for every habitable planet they
could find, and Zantor eventually heard of the one found for his
ship: the third world of an unassuming yellow star. He could only
hope that it would be a welcoming place, in every way that counted.
He gave his nearly-completed ship its prime directive: not just the
coordinates of that star system, but an inviolate plan: approach the
large satellite of the world, orbit that moon while Zantor and his
crew were reanimated, linger briefly to observe, and then move to the
The voyage, like most of the others, would take far more than a
single generation or even lifetime, so one final technology was
designed into Zantor's ship: transparent, deceptively simple yet
incredible stasis chambers. Basic cryogenic freezing was not be good
enough for the long journey ahead of them: the "flavor" of life
itself would fade, and be lost, as Zantor himself would say. His
people, however had developed a process of suspension that reduced
all processes of life to a complete stasis so perfect it resembled
Zantor's crew was picked, both for diversity of experience and for
genetic diversity. A crew of six well-chosen people,
including the captain, had been the early determination -- the major
factor in construction of the egg-like ships the Kaldorians would
scatter themselves in. Four or five individuals was just enough
genetic diversity for the Kaldorian species, but left little safety:
one death would destroy the future of that crew. Eight would be a
very safe number, but would reduce the number of ships and
destinations. When so little was known about these worlds, when each
might hold its own dangers, they had to try to reach as many worlds
as possible. Groups of six would maximize the overall safety of the
By the time Zantor had his crew and a completed ship, almost every
species on the planet was reduced to complete sterility -- doomed to
their final generation. There was little left for the Kaldorian
people to take, except a few sad mementos of what had been.
Captain Zantor launched his ship and its crew into space, and the
ship began its prime directive. He and the others entered the
transparent stasis chamber, and his ship's systems soon lulled them
not into mere sleep -- but perfect, unchanging stasis. The journey --
long for the ship but short for the people -- began. Their next
sight, if the ship was not destroyed in transit, would be the dull
grey moon of their destination world.
Zantor did not dream. He did not age. His cells did not change one
iota. Not a single molecule moved, until he was awakened centuries later.
He opened his eyes, and discovered things were not all that well.
Three aliens in colorful, bulky suits of some type, were in his ship.
That was the first sign of trouble.
He rose out of the stasis chamber, his tall body smoothly gaining his
feet, and swept over to the second sign of trouble: one of his
crew, a woman, had been reduced to ashes. Her chamber had been
violated by these intruders, and in reaction, it suffered a drastic
The aliens appeared guilty and nervous, and Zantor decided they had not
intended to reduce Zantor's crew. The specifics could wait: there
was something more important to attend to. The rest of Zantor's
crew, awakened at the same time as him, silently approached what had
become a casket. The three aliens held back, so Zantor approached,
holding his hand out in a silent, universal invitation to approach.
They -- Kaldorians and the unknown aliens -- held silent vigil around
what little remained of Zantor's comrade. The aliens honored the
departed, even to politely mimicking the form of Kaldorian actions.
Zantor soon discovered some of the other signs of trouble --
including the ultimate cause. His ship had crashed, suffering some
minor damage. The reason was simple: this moon had launched itself
into deep space, away from the parent world which looked so promising
from Kaldor. Zantor did not concern himself with the reason for
this, and when later questioned by one of the aliens as to how his
ship had found the wandering Moon at all, told them his ship was "so
programmed. How could it do otherwise?" It is a fact to Captain
Zantor, plain and simple.
The captain cautiously moved his damaged ship to Moonbase Alpha, and
was welcomed by Commissioner Simmonds, who offered to prosecute those
responsible for the death of the Captain's crew member. The soft-spoken
Zantor gently rebuffed the idea, for he had listened to the
Commander and realized the Alphans' intentions had not been hostile:
they simply believed the Captain and his crew had perished from the
crash. Zantor understood, for their stasis was so perfect that all
signs of life were completely absent.
He accepted what circumstances the universe has offered him. How
could he do otherwise? What use was there in rejecting events that
had already happened -- that could not be truly rejected?
The captain needed to repair his ship and move on to Earth, for the
ship's prime directive, however circumstances altered the actual
details, could not be altered. He accepted the help of Alpha, and
offered up gifts that were sadly symbolic of their own dying world.
Zantor, in fact, wanted nothing more than a simple hospitable
welcome, not only from the Earth people stranded on a receding
satellite; but from the people on Earth itself. He told Koenig that
if, in fact, his people were not welcomed, they would simply submit
themselves to voluntary reduction -- to take their own lives. He
said it calmly, as a simple statement of fact, unknowingly reminding
everyone of something: that humans may be less than welcoming.
In fact, he went further, with a proposal that visibly excited the
Alphans. It was a simple statement in even words, an invitation for
one human to come with them to Earth, a seventy-five year journey
that would pass in less than a heartbeat to the person put in stasis.
It was the perfectly natural thing to do to him. There was an empty
stasis chamber. It was that simple.
In fact, a lot of things were totally natural to him. He was at
perfect ease with whatever happened, whether it is his own action,
that of the computer that drove the ship, or of the humans he had
found in an unexpected place.
That last form of calm acceptance was to eventually be put to the
In the meantime, however, the Captain's attention was on the repairs
being made to his ship, and on initial tests of the stasis process on
a human. Dr. Helena Russell had already stated that his people were
sufficiently human to be compatible with Earth life, clearing him to
proceed to Earth. Their similarities were greater than their
The attractive doctor was the test subject, and here, the differences
provided an unexpected difficulty. Instead of a smooth start and
finish to the stasis test, she was plunged into a coma. The
Captain's simple apologies did little to sooth the Commander; but
Zantor remained patient with the revival process and the Commander,
and Helena was soon restored. Zantor reported that it would take a
little more work than expected to use it on a human for the return journey:
the person eventually chosen needed to be scanned beforehand, to be
adapted into the matrix of the ship.
As repairs to his ship neared completion, Zantor patiently awaited
the decision of which of Koenig's people would return to Earth. That
is when another issue arose. Commissioner Simmonds had taken the
entire moonbase hostage, threatening to cut the power and allow the
cold of space to freeze the base. Simmonds demanded to be the one to
return to Earth.
Commander Koenig had done what came naturally to him: setting up an
unbiased selection process, which had not yet been completed. The
Commissioner, however wanted no part of a process he felt would deny
him a return to Earth.
The Captain volunteered himself as a hostage, and accepted the
Commissioner onto his ship, to take the vacant stasis cell on the
ship, again understanding and accepting another reality of his
situation and dealing with it the best way he could. His words
absolved Koenig of any fault, stating, very keenly, that Simmonds is
The soft-spoken Zantor held back only one thing at this moment,
something he had already informed the Alphans of, a fact which the
Commissioner remained, in his sick state, blind to.
The stasis chamber the Commissioner was taking by force would become
a deathbed once again, for Simmonds had not been scanned into the ship's
matrix, and would not enter stasis properly. The stubborn, sick human
was doomed by his own hand to a tragedy of his own making. Zantor could
do nothing, for he was not a violent man, not prone to sudden attempts
to attack. It was obviously completely alien to his nature.
Did Captain Zantor had a sense of irony? Maybe, before he fell into
stasis, he mused at the sad waste; or perhaps he wondered if Earth's
authorities would be like this high level representative he was
carrying back to Earth. Is it possible he worried what kind of
welcome he and his four friends would receive in seventy-five years,
when they reached Earth with a human corpse in one of their stasis
Far more likely, however, he didn't worry about any of these at all
-- for "worry" seemed to be an emotion far more alien to him than the
humans themselves were. Whatever happened would happen, and Captain
Zantor of Kaldor would simply deal with it then.
"Then" would not be much more than a few of his heartbeats later.