There once was a settlement on Arizon’, 20 kliks from a ruined moonbase at the far edge of what the Space Cowboy Coalition called the 66th Quadrant. The planet to which Arizon’ had been attached is as long-gone and forgotten as its name. By all that’s natural and what we believe to be the laws of science, the tiny golden moon Arizon’ should have spun off and disappeared as well. But there she sits, spinning slowly, holding her place in the quadrant, wreathed in pearly-gray clouds.
A transformation is occurring…
The Coalition had abandoned the colony centuries ago, after the failure of the Martian Schmitty Relocation Program. The grand plan had been to gather what remained of the near-extinct species, for resettlement on Arizon’, an inhospitable moon that boasted only a thin layer of breathable atmosphere, and deep fields of gold that ran several layers deep under its surface. Free transport to Arizon’ was provided for those humanoids willing to train as Schmitty Boys. In return, they would receive first rights in what was promised as a rich strip-mining heaven.
That promise had turned out to have been poorly researched…In fact, little more than Fool’s Gold. The early, hungry miners discovered that what had looked from space to be glittering gold was nothing more than something akin to flaky earwax. Angry and disillusioned, they failed to dig deep enough to discover where the goo ran rich and smooth and golden. But the Schmitties knew, and they purred and rolled and bumped into one another as they celebrated their coming freedom.
The Galactic Alliance changed leadership, and funding for the Space Cowboy program was permanently cut. Supply ships were few and far between, and the settlement was soon forgotten. With no way to return to civilization, the citizens of Arizon’ created a new society around gun fights, rotgut saloons, and a particularly fierce tribe of women. With their battle cry “Use it, or lose it, Bosco!” men foolish enough to resist were…removed. With no gold for mining and no market for Schmitty ranching, the creatures were neglected and forgotten in their outdoor pens.
Schmitties may be small, furry and round, and awfully cute, but when they roll, they travel with amazing speed. The heady scent of the golden goo called to them. Breaking free of their poorly-maintained pens, they rolled over the distant plains to the far horizon, and discovered the underground hives and the pale, blind Blarves that created them.
And thus a beautiful relationship was born, for Blarve gold was manna for Schmitties, and steaming Schmitty scat was the foundation that awakened and nourished seeds that had lain underground, dormant for eons.
The citizens of Arizon’ discovered too late that a society based on bullying, greed and violence is not sustainable. The humanoid gene pool diminished in number and variety, and the populace disappeared after a few centuries.
In the end (which is really the beginning of this tale), Schmitties and Blarves flourished underground, creating a nurturing atmosphere. Flora twined out of the darker recesses of the hives, filling their pale and parched faces with the cool mist that floated over the moon’s surface. Soon rivers began to flow, and drifting clouds filled the sky. An occasional rain shower blessed what had previously been an arid planet.
Despite the best efforts of the Space Cowboy Coalition’s relocation program, the plan had succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.
Liz Husebye Hartmann (November 7, 2016)
(thanks again to Pam Brittain)