Observational Hazard


In the universal year 17/2516, the Inter-Planetary Ethics and Conduct Committee for the Federation Government passed an act of law that banned the visitation of under-developed planets by any resident of any world under the governmental umbrella. This essay seeks to examine the reason behind this decision, and to discuss the specific events involving the planet known as Ouusala 3 (known commonly to its indigenous population of the time as “Earth”) that prompted the realization of the need to adapt prior legislation.

A few Federation decades ago, a party of Iscorio 9 travelers chose Ouusala 3 as the destination for their holiday voyage. At the time, the planet was a ‘safari’ hot-spot, the diversity of its geography and the range of life flourishing there meaning that visitors could observe a near unique spectacle of natural phenomena. The fact that the most prevalent species on the planet were operating at a stage of near adaptation to interplanetary existence, (they had travelled to their own moon and had sent probes beyond the limits of their own solar system) yet still devoted a notable portion of their conceptualization of the universe to nonsensical matters such as deities and spirituality, meant that the “humans” of Earth were a point of interest to anyone with an understanding of biochemical life.

The party from Iscorio 9 (led by the now infamous Mulchiado Quathaldune) had spent several Earth months (a thirteenth of a Federation year) amongst the humans, their cloaking devices rendering them undetectable, and they were able to observe at leisure the activities of the native life-forms. They adhered to the visitation legislation of the time, and as far as they were aware, their safari had been a resounding success. They set out on their return journey buoyed and excited at the amount of observational material they had gathered that examined the inter-personal and political affairs of the humans. They collected a wealth of data on all aspects of natural life on the planet, and they had a grand old time doing it. They thought they would be lauded for their efforts upon their homecoming.

What the party was not aware of, however, was that they had unwittingly set into motion a chain of events that would have profound and ultimately devastating effects on the world they had visited. For one of the members of the party, whilst helping to pack their belongings for the return journey, had inadvertently left behind a device of Iscorian construction. The party went into stasis-hibernation and commenced warp-travel without realizing they had left a replication wand behind in the Earth nation named “Africa.” The mistake was not realised until the party set down on Iscorio 9, by which time it was too late. When they made the jump to warp-speed their cloaking technology had ceased in its disguise of the rod.

Africa was amongst the least developed of the nations on Earth. Millions of humans lived there in poverty, the land unsuitable to the wide-scale nurture of foodstuffs. Due to the divided international politics of humans, Africa was largely left to fend for itself by the rest of the planet. In fact, the notable contrast in lifestyle between African humans and those of the other nations was the very reason the Iscorian party had chosen to make their final observations there.

What happened next has largely been speculated upon, as the only evidence available is the testimony of scant subsequent visitation to Earth, but it is known that the replication rod was found, and that whoever found it discovered how to operate it. It must have been a baffling discovery to a species that had no understanding of advanced matter states, a device that will perfectly replicate any object that it touches, as many times as desired.
Later visitation by a Federation auditor, who was investigating the result of the Iscorian party’s mistake, found the nation of Africa to have become affluent and wealthy. It is assumed that the replication rod must have been used to create an abundance of the few materials that could be exported at a price from Africa to the rest of the planet. Such a shift in socio-economic power can barely be imagined, suddenly the poorest nation on the planet had riches at a whim, and inevitably this shift had irreversible consequences.

The sum result of the change was, of course, nuclear war. The other nations of Earth could not comprehend this rapid rise to wealth, each of them assuming their political rivals had sided with the leaders of Africa in secret in order to create a coalition that would take a dominant seat at the world table. A cold war of threat and deception very quickly became an actual war that burned with the heat of many atomic weapons.

Further audits found Earth to be nothing but charred rock, all evidence of intelligent life burned away by the nuclear fires of war. Nothing remained of Africa, or of any nation for that matter. The humans, having been sent into a spiral of destruction by the unintentional interference from outsiders, had wiped their world clean.

So it came to pass that the Interplanetary Government decreed this must not be allowed to happen again. A species on the cusp of true space-faring status had been led to oblivion by one simple mistake during a routine visitation. The potential snowball effects of even the tiniest outside interference were graphically and tragically outlined by these events. Billions of life forms were annihilated, and a planet that was potentially unique amongst all the worlds was no more.

The outlawing of visitation of underdeveloped worlds might have seemed a drastic move, but the events that unfurled on Ouusala 3 demonstrated that it was a necessary action. For with our elevated position as explorers and documenters of the universe comes an undeniable responsibility, after all, each of the Federation planets came through a stage that was at least partially analogous to that of Earth. It is no leap of deduction to conclude that interference of the kind that the Iscorian party initiated might have resulted in our own worlds being razed to nothing but cold, sterile rocks.

Never again must a tragedy of this magnitude be allowed to happen. We must not treat the home of species such as the humans as something we can take advantage of, else we risk the possibility that yet more life be snuffed out in the name of us having interesting places to go on holiday.


“Is it good enough?” Grythenk asks. “This carries enough marks to make or break my chances passing history class.”

It’s okay,” Drengythul, her school-friend, replies. “It’s a bit preachy, and to be honest I don’t think Africa was a single nation. A continent, mayhap. But that doesn’t really matter, you have certainly captured the key points. Considering that you wrote it the night before the deadline it’s not bad. Dalanthriq will be happy enough. I think you’ll scrape through.”

“I hope so, Grythenk says. ” I can’t stand the thought of writing another. Professor Dalanthriq is a bastard. I despise Federation history. Give me art class every time.

Martin Garrity is one half of the team behind Solarcide. This story is an excerpt from Corridors, a collection of short stories and flash fiction that will one day finally see the light of day (boo, hiss, kill the sun etc) we promise.