Invasion Aborted

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Invasion Aborted

She broke the surface and blew a plume of water and air through her blow hole. Her name, among her kind was Smells-Like-A-Squid. It was a scene that echoed many that had played out fifty million years before. Several species very similar to hers but unrelated had cruised the oceans, filter feeding small swimming animals and plants out of the water and singing to each other over great distances. Those species had died out, an event in which her ancestors had played a key role. Her ancestors had once counted in the billions; they had built great cities on the land, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Beijing, Cairo. But it had ended in war, plague, famine, and civil strife. When the back of that great civilization broke, its survivors had found that they knew nothing about keeping their technologies going. Within a few generations they had returned to the stone age. Environmental disasters, released by untended stock piles of chemicals and nuclear waste had driven them further into a dark age from which they never emerged.

But the epochs of deep time had been kind to them. First they had survived, which had been a feat in itself. Then they had adapted and, in the aftermath of the disasters they had wrought on the Earth, they had found many niches emptied; they radiated. Convergent evolution had worked its magic and now, Smells-Like-A-Squid and her kind swam the Atlantic, one of many species that formed just one branch of the no-longer-human family tree, an ironic echo of the species her kind had strained out of the seas to feed their insatiable appetites fifty million years before when the Atlantic was barely a river compared to the half a world it covered now.

Smells-Like-A-Squid rolled so that one eye emerged above her water line. She scanned the horizons of the calm ocean for the predator she knew as skaters but under the starry sky there were none to be seen. A bright streak appeared in the sky. She wondered what it was. Her kind had stories about spirits in the sky; perhaps it was one of these. The streak stretched across the sky further than most of its kind did. Then faded and disappeared into the darkness with one final flicker of light. She appreciated its beauty and then dove again in search of more plankton.

The streak had been something stranger than Smells-Like-A-Squid could have imagined. It had been a giant seed, ten meters long and weighing many tonnes. The seed belonged to a kind of being that was older than life on Earth but new to the solar system. They had arrived in the form of seeds just a million or so years before and begun spreading through the outer solar system. They had stuck to the icy worlds on the very edge for cold vacuum was their habitat of choice. From the surfaces of low gravity, tiny ice worlds they fed on star light and radioactive isotopes and flung their massive seeds to other worlds. They were not terribly accurate and so they flung many seeds at each passing world in order to increase their chances of landing a hit. The seed making the steak in the sky was a miss.

For ten thousand years, the seed had spiraled slowly in toward Sol and Earth. Some of its companions had found worlds along the way, the rest had slowly dispersed due to tidal effects and were even now following their own paths through the solar system. The seed had felt the warming of Sol growing closer as the centuries passed. Instinctively, it had used some of its stored energy to build a tough rind to protect it from the heat of the star. It had no way of controlling its course; its survival strategy was long life and low metabolism, waiting for its chance.

It had also ripened its emergency seed. Deep within the large seed was another smaller but much more complicated seed. The DNA of the seed’s species contained the plans of many species, each rolled up in a chromosome and kept unexpressed until needed. The main seed grew into a giant tree when it landed on an ice world, expressing only a tiny fraction of its DNA. But when it needed an ally, perhaps a predator to fend off a herbivore, it could produce one tailored to any herbivore that it detected. It just had to dig into its unused DNA. The emergency seed contained millions of tiny strands of cells each already expressing the DNA of a different species, adapted to different environments. It had readied these, just in case it’s orbit intersected with a planet, for the environments on the surfaces of inner worlds with their myriad temperatures and atmospheres required a million different adaptations.

Now the emergency seed was needed, for as the main seed tumbled through the atmosphere, its outer rind was burning away despite the toughness that had been added to it. The main seed was doomed to die but before it did, its deep seated instincts moved the emergency seed into position and as its speed dropped and the burning heat died away its split open its remaining rind and ejected the emergency seed. A moment later the emergency seed exploded spreading its million strands of cells through the atmosphere.

Most died instantly unable to handle the noxious oxygen that floated free in this atmosphere. Some were simply unable to start their metabolisms because it was too cold or too hot for them. Some were unable to open pores and exchange gases because the pressure was too high or too low and so remained dormant. But some found the environment acceptable and so began to interact with it, only to find a key resource was unavailable: no fluorine, no ammonia, the barest trace of methane. To all but a very few, these missing resources were as deadly as the temperature or pressure were to the majority. But a few drifted down to the sea and found the drop through the air encouraging.

Of those few, all but one drowned on contact with the sea; some had expected to find rock; some had expected fresh water; one had expected oil; another water much saltier than Earth’s. But one found the water inviting. It unfurled a leaf and waited for the sun. In the morning, it would begin the long trip back to the sky. It would grow into a great floating tree and reproduce creating a floating forest. It would try to grow great anchor roots. Then in would sift through its DNA for other ally-species that would be able to help it here. Eventually it would bring forth a creature with something called intelligence which would invent things that could carry its seeds back to space. It had great plans. It would spread over this world, stealing more DNA and eventually direct all the biologic energy of the planet to spreading its seeds.

The new leaf attracted a school of small fish, curious about its novel smell. They nibbled at it but it was not to their liking. They were about to leave when alarm spread through the school. Smells-Like-A-Squid surfaced nearby blowing another plume. She sensed the school via her sonar as an attractive cloud of food. She pumped her great tail a couple of times and sped forward, her great filter mouth wide open. She didn't even notice the single leaf she swallowed with the panicking school of fish. But it did give her a nasty case of gas.

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