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.