The Universe is a big place. Take our word for it, it is. In fact, there’s not only a lot of space, what with the pasta and the anti-pasta, and a certain amount of fat, but there’s quite a bit of time, as well.
And the unfortunate thing about time is that it’s a bit messy. You have things like the ‘past’ and the ‘future’ snapping at the heels of the ‘present’, the only sane one amongst them. You see, you know where you are with the present: it’s right there beside you, pretty clear cut, and no nonsense. Yet even so, time keeps moving, anarchically keeping one on the hop, with the skill of a renegade military organisation.
And the past is made up of fragmented chunks of present that get stored in an unmarked warehouse, barely indexed, and for this reason is an eccentric historian’s delight: the past gets shunted around, mixed up, and, the worst of the worse, re-imagined.
The future is no less a saint. It’s full of possibilities, endless and endless possibilities! Do I walk to work today, or not? Do I take the bus, or the car, or the train? Should I be fit, and cycle in?! How messy is that?? And not only do all these options take up space, they’re impatient, too! Always in a rush, never enough time to decide, forcing us down a path of kismetrified destiny, before we’re ready.
Don’t even get me started on parallel universes: eeeurgh!
So one bright spark thought he’d try and arrange some order into this gods-forsaken mess. Einstein, along with his mum and dad and aunts and uncles and cousins, the whole damn family in fact, realized that the gods had indeed forsaken their responsibilities, and humbly set about configuring a set of practical laws that could be applied to the universe(s), thus ensuring everything ticked along just nicely. Good job for him that the universe(s) were all in one room, and the thirty-two fats flowed smoothly.
Einstein and his relatives were rightly pleased with themselves – and it must be said that the gods themselves were pretty grateful too – so much so, they were certain nothing could contradict their physics …
Not that long ago, in a very very distant galaxy a great planet circled a bright yellow sun…
The Great Empires of Rome, Byzantium, and the Incas, all paled into insignificance when compared to the Semaf that was the vast Empire of RARS.
A thousand planets, a trillion peoples, a zillion pampered pets. City spires that bisected the marbled clouds, information super highways that sprang between utopias, vast seas of azure that teemed with life, deep green forests that marched over rolling hills.
This was the RARS Empire. It had taken several millennia to reach such an advanced stage of civilization, and was rightly proud of its fleet of starships that were unrivaled.
But it’s Empress wanted more.
She wanted the strategic WebWorld9 space station out of action.
Sometime in the future, man – being very non-gender specific and referring to humanity as a whole (…phew, that was close, 50% of the universe breathes a collective sigh of relief) – will learn how to control spaceflight to the extent that going to Pluto will seem like a jog around the block, or at least a lesser drive to the local supermarket. It is in this future that we find a spacestation.
This station was rather like a spinning top, with a tubular ring about its equator, and an “Under Construction” sign permanently attached by thirty-two bars of scaffolding to the side of the station’s lower extremities. The central sphere was crowned with a variety of interesting-looking towers and masts. The station was also one of the major tourist points in the galaxy, being almost on a par with the famous Statue of Liberty, the Giant Corn Fritter of Vega 4 and the Incredibly Large Toenail of Grimsby.
This was the WebWorld9 spacestation and it orbited a small blue-green planet known as Jorbae. There was no doubt about this, having been on the Ordinary Survey StarCharts for almost two hundred years, or in other words, the point when the company actually reached that part of the galaxy. In fact WebWorld9 had been one of a string of ten climatology stations circling the planet but only the Ninth one had survived the downsizing, the reasons for which had been lost in the mists of time.
The WebWorld9’s interior looked as if someone had taken a shopping mall and put it into a submarine. The various stores stretched from the famous promenades to the main bridge, where the dust covered controls for the once fierce weapons and defensive shields could be found. The population that now inhabited the station were generally humanoid in appearance but there were the occasional variations which made things rather interesting, especially when the architects had to redesign the toilets to accommodate tentacles, pseudopods, and other such important extremities.
And if the design and habitation of the space station was regarded as a little peculiar, then a closer scrutiny of the central processing computer would reveal a teeming and vibrant life of files in folders, all going about their own business, blissfully oblivious to the goings-on in the greater world at large.