Where were we? An old mind wanders when it is full of a thousand years of memories. Let me look back at the log here a moment. Ah, just starting to get to the good part. Or the bad part, depending on how you look at it.
Clibben Sylvet, our young rakishly handsome student who chose to use Professor Yoeleb’s mystery planet theory as his thesis. Clibben was a handsome fellow too, very well liked by the young ladies. He also had a wonderful speaking voice, very deep and somewhat rough. The kind of voice that drew you in and kept you hooked, just waiting to see what he’d say next. He made reading the menu at dinner exciting. The deep voice was a bit of a surprise when it issued forth from his slim build; as if your mind expected the body to be as wide and deep as the voice that issued it. As he stood there at the podium reading his thesis to the assemblage of the highest ranked scientists in our country, did his captivating voice make a difference? Would the assemblage have laughed at him if his voice had been high and trembled? I don’t know, but I have always wondered.
Sylvet’s presentation of his thesis, along with the images and data he’d painstakingly pieced together, was all the more dramatic because it was clear to all that he’d accepted his findings as factual. In the normal process of things, a theory was let loose into the world for any other scientist to take up, test, and challenge before it was accepted as fact. Sylvet didn’t wait for that, oh no, he delivered his final line with thunder and furry. Our world was destined to die. Horribly, violently, and in the near future.
Sylvet had not only found the mystery planet, but he’d also used the decades of data to plot its orbit around our sun. That orbit, as projected by all the models, indicated that once every eight thousand years the mystery planet came into the inner regions of our solar system and smashed its way through the inner planets. It was large enough to disrupt the inner planets orbital tracts and, if a planet was unfortunate enough to be near the path, could destroy the planet entirely.
Sylvet had then taken this information and combined it with the information we had to reverse the path of the orbit to project the last several times this had happened. This was another bombshell moment. According to those models the spot in our system that we’d always wondered about, the one that was oddly devoid of a planet where it appeared a planet should have developed naturally, had once had a planet in it. Then the mystery planet had made a trip through and the unfortunate planet had been in its path. The impact of the two bodies was unequal, as the mystery planet was ten times the size of the smaller one it rammed into. The result, Sylvet speculated, was how we ended up with a ring of what we had called asteroids in that region of space. Those asteroids were actually what was left of the small planet and a hunk of the mystery planet, after the massive impact. Nothing but a ring of debris locked in a perpetual orbit along the path the planet had once taken.
The room had sat in stunned silence.
But Sylvet was not finished with them. In that devastating deep timbre, he continued on, he had projected the path forward as well and he tossed the image up onto the giant screen behind him. In roughly two hundred years, the planet would again enter into the inner ring of planets and again cause chaos and destruction. This time, this time it was our own planet that was in the path of this massive killer. It wouldn’t be a direct impact, as it had been for the other unfortunate victim, but rather a glancing blow. It would still destroy all life on the planet, if not cause the planet to break apart. It may not break down to asteroid size, he speculated, but merely break into several larger pieces. The sheer tidal forces in play would cause our volcanoes to erupt and the crust to rip apart. We were doomed to die in a horrific manner.
The auditorium had remained silent for only moments before it exploded in sound. There was shouting and arguing everywhere. Some discounted it as wildly inaccurate, impossible even. Some shouted demands for immediate access to his data, some wanted to prove him wrong, some to prove him right. Some embraced it wholeheartedly, finding his logic and data as presented fit in with their own too perfectly to not be correct. It was pandemonium.
It didn’t take long for his presentation to leak out of the academic community and into the larger public sphere. The military nearly lost their collective minds, proposing to try and blow up the massive planet before it came too near. The public split into factions, with one becoming an extremist group that threatened to kill everyone on the planet. For nearly a year there was massive civil unrest worldwide, with people rioting, looting, and waves of hysteria. Religions found a surge in new members as panicked people turned to the gods in prayer. Things eventually settled down.
With time, his data was found to be correct and was accepted by all. The planet was named, by Sylvet, after the man who had initially discovered it, Yoeleb. The real work began. Debates raged over what to do about the problem. We had roughly two hundred years before Yoeleb made the outer reaches of the inner system planetary orbits. From there, it would swing around the far side of the sun from us, then on the way back around cross our path. That loop gave us an additional year. One year for our planet was seven hundred sixty-two days long.
Studies were done on what effect Yoeleb’s intrusion would have on the other planets in the inner system and it was decided they would feel the effects, certainly, but nothing so drastic as to be devastating.
When that report came in, the idea was born to move. Yes, move. We had made probes that could reach Nahn and Plagen easily and with the new motors they did so in record time. Why not make ships that could move our people? Debates raged, some wanted to grow small commuter style vessels that would take people on quick round trips. Others wanted to grow larger ships that would carry not only people but specimens of plants and animals, articles of history, our entire civilization. Some argued for both. Build small ones and begin taking the population while working on the larger one to take other things.
The naturalists weighed in on if our plants and animals would survive on a new planet, after all, we didn’t even know if the conditions there already had plants we could eat. Or if introducing our species would devastate the ones already there? Too many questions without answers. The old argument of ownership returned, with the Conclave claiming Plagen as its own. The Council decided that Nahn looked to be a more habitable world, so a peace agreement was made. The Conclave would claim Plagen and take its followers there, while the Council claimed Nahn. The Council believed it had the better of the two choices and let the matter drop.
Thus began the space race in earnest. Both sides began growing new experimental vessels. Trips to and from the respective planets were made by small groups, taking samples, reading, observing, scouting. Both sides were on the clock, so to speak, and all eyes kept watch on planet Yoeleb.
My apologies, dear reader, I had to rest for a couple of days. This body is failing and without medical treatments, rest is all I have. I must confess that with each episode I question my decision to let this body die naturally and my mind along with it. The instinct to survive is strong. Then I remember it all and my resolve becomes firm again.
I know we are discussing the boring historical stuff, while I myself find history fascinating, I can appreciate it is an acquired taste. It is necessary, however, for you to have the context if you are to understand when the history catches up to the day I was born. It’s not far off and I promise I’m trying to keep it as short as I can.
We left off at the end of the war and the results of the two probes sent to Plagen and Nahn. We were entering a state of high robotic development, as I said before, nearly everyone had a personal robot by then. Most were boxes or cylinder shaped and they floated along behind their owners, performing various tasks. It was the development of those fields, the anti-gravity fields, that was to change everything for us. With them, we could leave the surface of our planet easily. No longer did we need high output engines to reach space! Our vehicles were quickly adapted, no more tires or wheels. The engines worked more efficiently with our organic ships and vehicles, meaning less room required for them. We could zip and zoom, stop and start, shoot up, drop down, slide backward in seconds. A trip on the ground that would have taken hours to make now took seconds. It was freeing in a way that our people had never experienced before. We could fly like the birds!
This new engine didn’t care about weight either. It could take massive loads into space for us, so we used it to do just that. We built a spaceport especially to genetically modify the plants we used to grow our craft and turn them into a whole new generation of ships. Ships large enough to hold dozens of people and scientific equipment. With the new engines, what had been a trip that took years, now took days. When at their closest in their orbits to our planet, we could make Plagen in three days, Nahn in seven! We could go, do experiments, and come back as it passed us by. Then we could spend the year awaiting its return to study all the things we’d collected. It was, to a scientist, like being handed a years worth of presents.
The war was over, only political spitting and clawing was left. Since the majority of our people were scientifically minded, we went back to our science with a vigor. All the areas that had been ignored because of the decade of war were picked back up but they were looked at with all new eyes. Eyes that hadn’t examined the problems, ears that hadn’t asked the questions in a full decade. Medical advances were made, plants, soil, weather, all of it. It was a golden age that lasted nearly another twenty years.
You know what that means, do you not?
All golden ages end.
This one ended after one of our scientists decided to reexamine an old theory. One that, at the time it was proposed some thirty years before, had gotten the scientist laughed out of the room. The man was named Professor Harkaren Yoeleb. He had been one of the leading researchers of astronomy and the developer of our very first satellite. The one that cleared our own atmosphere and revealed space as it really was, undistorted. His satellite had shown us stars and, more importantly, the other planets in our system in ways we’d never dreamed of. It charted their paths, discovered what they were made of with his revolutionary scanning equipment. He was responsible for sparking the fire that resulted in our first probe to Plagen.
What, you ask me, could a man so renown, so beloved, so respected do to get himself laughed out of the hall where he presented the paper of his new theory for the first time?
He said there were not ten planets in our system, but eleven.
This planet was on a totally different orbit than all the rest. An orbit so radical that it only ever approached our sun once every 24,512 years. It came in close, clipped its way through the inner planets and the slung itself out into the void, not to be seen again for thousands of years. It’s orbit also took it out in a different direction from all the other planets, slinging it way off, out by itself and so far off that for most of its orbit, we couldn’t see it. He had found it only by watching the way other planets and objects moved.
I’m assuming, here, that you realize there is a lot of things in a solar system besides the planets and their moons? There are. A lot of things. Mostly they are left over pieces of meteors that have crashed together and broken into small enough pieces that they just sort of drift in a loose orbit all their own. In fact, at the very edge of our system, out past the frozen little ball of planet Haar, there is a ring of things like this. Some the size of a very small moon, some so small you could play a game of ball with them. They don’t reflect light well, so until we developed highly sensitive telescopic equipment and tossed it into the void to have a look around, we didn’t even know they were there. Others roamed more freely, unbound by the orbit of a planet. Some of the very large ones, the meteors, we kept an eye on those. More than once in our planet’s history a stray had gotten caught in our gravity and plunged, screaming, into our atmosphere with enough left to actually make an impact. There are several very large impact craters on our planet and an entire branch of science that studies them.
Anyway, by finding these and tracking them for years using his telescope, he’d noticed that some of them wobbled a bit. Like something very large had passed by and caused it to be disrupted in its own orbit. Sort of like a boat on the water, if you’ve ever been in one you know that when another boat goes by, your boat will then rock. You won’t necessarily move far, but you will rock side to side, or up and down if it’s a much bigger boat, because the boat went by you. It’s a similar effect on a planet or other object when something much larger goes by, it makes the gravity wave, making the other object rock like your boat.
Professor Yoeleb had deduced, from piecing together several years of satellite images, that there was a huge object that went past these other, smaller objects and made them rock in the orbits. One of the problems was, you couldn’t actually SEE the huge object that was causing the rocking. Another problem was that the object in question if the path the Professor had charted was correct, would have an orbit of thousands of years. An orbit that would take it so far beyond the path of all the other planets that it would be without even a tiny trace of the sun’s warmth. Since he was unable to provide images of what was quickly dubbed the ‘mystery planet’, the other scientist laughed him out of the room.
The ridicule was so fierce, that Professor Yoeleb left public life altogether, although he never stopped his research. The funding dried up, as companies that had previously thrown work his way decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the disgraced man. When the war came, he hid away in his lab, too old for combat and too ridiculed for them to want him in a command position. He died in the eighth year of the war, unremarked, unnoticed by all but those who loved him. The matter was dropped, forgotten.
Until one young university astronomer, Clibben Sylvet, chanced across his paper while doing some research and decided to have a look for himself. He had a distinct advantage over Professor Yoeleb. Over a decade had gone by since Yoeleb’s first series of images and in that decade, the camera had never stopped recording. There were thousands of images and now, with the advancements in computing and robotics, it was a matter of stitching them together and writing a program to have the computer track changes. Clibben decided to make it the subject of his thesis, the paper required to graduate and receive his Ph.D. in astronomy. To prove, or disprove, the existence of Professor Yoeleb’s Mystery Planet. The entirety of his last four years of university was spent on his studies and on this massive project.
The result was devastating for his chosen field and for the population of our entire planet.