Finally, an Absence Noted
"Your honor, the 17 billion humans on our planet need the resources Neris Seven will provide," said Barnett.
"How so?" asked the judge at the head of the table.
Barnett stared at Ms. Dharma, the plaintiff's attorney. Connect the dots. "Heavy metals exist in abundance in the sulfide deposits around these hydrothermal vents on the sea floor. Heavy metals required to produce solar panels. Solar panels we need to keep the lights on. Literally."
The judge nodded. "Ms. Dharma?"
Ms. Dharma scribbled on her legal pad, stirring foul patchouli into the air. Barnett hated the smell as much as he hated Ms. Dharma.
She said, "Mr. Barnett failed to mention that Neris Seven will destroy sea floor eco-systems and could destroy untold undiscovered species. He'll say their pumping practices bring ore to the surface before processing without mentioning the destruction caused by removal."
This was her argument?
He said, "Our responsibility is to our species, not one we hypothesize might exist."
"Your honor, there are other, more effective options--"
Perfect. "No. There are no other renewable energy sources with comparable efficiency or output capability."
Dharma ground her teeth. "Is a power source renewable when it destroys an eco-system?"
Barnett bristled. "Ms. Dharma, our solar cells are renewable-certified with a zero-waste output after production."
She shook her head, "After production. That designation omits the damage and waste created during production."
"Renewable-certified," said Barnett, smiling. "By your organization."
Dharma's cheeks turned red. "A designation awarded before Mr. Barnett's company began sourcing heavy metals from the sea floor. And currently under review."
"But still valid. Besides. Even if there is an undiscovered species thousands of feet below the ocean surface on the sea floor, it's unlikely we'll ever notice they're gone."
"Stop playback," said Hadeon. The replay hologram of Mr. Barnett and Ms. Dharma disappeared. "Given the cognitive limitations of your species, you offered a surprisingly prescient argument, Mr. Barnett."
Hadeon rubbed his prehensile fins together, his skin greased with viscous slime. His eyes extended up above his head on thin stalks. One watched Barnett, the other turned towards the long-necked android arbitrator at the head of the table. The android's bright blue eyes shone out of a graphite-gray metal skull, watching the proceedings without bias or prejudice.
Barnett sat opposite Hadeon, gazing out the window at the bright blue Earth spinning below. At the oceans he now argued for. The irony wasn't lost on him. "That was fifty years ago."
"The truth remains, Mr. Barnett. Our first responsibility should be to ourselves."
Barnett turned to the arbitrator. "One difference. Ms. Dharma argued on behalf of life forms that might have been. The Gorami propose the destruction of an eco-system they know is home to sentient life."
Barnett tapped his tablet. Earth's solar system appeared above the table. "The gravity containment wells will keep the planets in their orbits"--a globe of red dots pulsed around the star--"but without the sun's energy, all life in the system will die."
The arbitrator leaned in.
Hadeon keyed the misting ring around his neck, sending a cloud of moisture up around his face. The briny stink wafted across the table. Another foul-smelling opponent. Fitting.
Hadeon gulped air. "Cost, benefit. Collapsing this star will end life on these eight planets. But, within the black hole, in the new universe, innumerable new galaxies, planets, and sentient life will grow. When our universe contracts, we'll have a place to go. Cost? Humanity. Benefit? A new universe."
The arbitrator crossed its spindly arms. "Mr. Barnett?"
"Why not look elsewhere? In my three days up here, with only one of your processing clusters, I've found several viable alternatives. No recorded life exists in any of those systems."
Hadeon said, "We've already prepared the star in question. How will we recoup those resources?"
Barnett sighed. "We'll cede mining rights on our neighboring planet 227K.s84.4."
Hadeon squinted. "We will mine 227K.s84.4 after solar implosion."
Barnett rubbed his face, frustrated. "Then why are we negotiating?"
"Why, indeed." said Hadeon. He turned to the expressionless face of the arbitrator. "The species exists, but is of no value. They've barely left their own planet, and never their system. It is a destructive species destined for extinction." He paused.
Hadeon said, "Their absence will not be noted."
Barnett said, "How can you be so blasé ab--"
The arbitrator extended its hands. "Stop. Enough."
It bowed its head, then pointed at Hadeon. "Proceed."
The multifaceted prism of energy that called itself Os289 said, "End play."
The replay of Hadeon and Barnett's debate at the center of the featureless white room disappeared. Os289 pulsed, tiny lightning strikes extending from its core to its irregular edges. At least it didn't smell.
Barnett looked at Hadeon, then back to the glowing prism that represented a multi-dimensional being.
"So," said Barnett. "We didn't care about life on the sea floor and the Gorami didn't care about us. What now? You don't care about this dimension?"
Os289 shone bright blue. "No. This is one of Os289's favorite dimensions."
Barnett hesitated, waiting for it to continue. It didn't, so he did. "I don't know about the Gorami, but humanity has cert--"
Hadeon interrupted, "Humanity is irrelevant. The solar implosion you interrupted will create ne--"
"Os289 will end all destruction."
Barnett smiled. Os289 was wasn't buying Hadeon's argument. He asked, "So what, no more solar implosion?"
Hadeon waved his fins. "No, no, not destruction. Creation. And a fair trade for one"--he leaned his eye stalks towards Barnett--"insignificant species."
Os289 extended two fields towards them, like hands asking for their silence. "You misunderstand. Os289 will act to end destruction of Os289. To protect the outcroppings."
Barnett felt his stomach turn. "Outcroppings?"
"Ore," said Os289. It glowed a cheerful shade of green. "Ore deposits. Os289 extends into this dimension through ore deposits. Your species mine those deposits, destroying them and pieces of Os289. Os289 will end that destruction."
The words hung in the air. What did that mean?
It shifted colors to a deep purple. "Please, take comfort. Know that Os289 will miss both of your species. Indeed. Os289 will miss both very, very much."