I thought it was long past time to add a new tidbit. So here's a story of intergalactic turtles:
Intergalactic turtles breed rarely. The eggs must survive
black holes, cosmic radiation, and boundless cold. Best strategy? Find a
The planet did not want to be found. It eschewed regular
orbits already, wandering rogue between galaxies. But the turtle knew, when she
saw it, that it would host her eggs. It had no atmosphere, no liquid water, no
magnetic sphere to protect them. But it had crystals, and those were all she
Intergalactic turtle eggs are sturdy, after all.
It spun to the left. She spun to the right and expelled air
from her flippers until she came just within distance. Gravity did what it
does, and while she orbited the rogue now orbiting her, she sought.
Then it was a but a exhalation of reserved gases, and she
was upon it, cracking the crystals with a diamond beak, laying her eggs,
reassembling the nest.
And then she was gone, for intergalactic turtles have better
things to do than to wait for eggs to hatch.
Millennia later, the planet dropped into the range of a warm
sun’s gravitational field. It thrashed against the bonds, weaving in and out of
planet’s paths, dislodging an ancient orbit older than it, sending a moon into
the embrace of a gas giant, disrupting an asteroid field long enough that a new
moon grabbed onto a fourth planet. While volcanoes raged at the push-and-pull
of the new moon’s settling in, the rogue planet and its precious burden swerved
out to nearly the edge of the system, and then paused at a distance just on the
edge of the solar system, almost far enough, before the acceleration began the
Plunging closer and closer to the red sun, its crystals
turned to rods of destruction, hotter than hot. But the eggs knew, as somehow
eggs do, that this was their calling, their moment. And as the planet shot
itself past a flare, the eggs began to move, and rock, and hatch.
Creatures as vast as intergalactic turtles do not hatch with
the rise and fall of day, but rather the rise and fall of light-years. Only
when gravity barely claimed their grounds did they emerge, into a universe cold
and empty, light of their new sun nearly invisible at this distance. Their
kickoff gave the rogue the final push over the gravity edge, sending it back
into the freedom it craved; they, meanwhile, turned their noses toward their
star, their very own star, and began a long swim home.
They paused in the asteroids to break their fast, and
snacked up space rocks until their shells strained with weight. Then they found
the rings of a giant, and slurped up the rainbows that spun around now-moonless
gas planet, and thus most were content to continue the journey, except the largest.
She eyed the giant with consideration, and found it pleasing;
in the rings was food and in the gases below spun patterns and songs that would
light up her existence for eternity. This artist stayed, and the moonless
planet had again a moon, for she withdrew into her shell, until ice came around
her, and spinning and spinning and spinning she carved it into a sphere, which
would draw to her surface any further meals she might need through gravity and
Her siblings, meanwhile, swam inward farther. Two parked
themselves around the volcanic planet, and tore to shreds the new moon their
birthing had unleashed. This filled them enough that they took its place, and
so they, too, withdrew to watch, their weights pulling fire into the skies
One turtle, last, the smallest, drew herself inward still.
There she found a body of frozen water and dust and minerals, the corpse of a
planet that once could had been, until the volcano planet settled in to the
out, and a water planet settled in to the in. Their bodies pushed and pulled
the loosely cohered dust and rock and water until it decided to give up its own
existence; and thus the planet that had never been born was reduced to rubble,
gradually losing pieces to one or the other of its tormentors.
But the smallest sister devoured the pieces that remained,
until she grew fat and heavy in the sky, and then, no longer the smallest, she
moved upon the inward planet. This one, heavy with gases and rich with sloshing
waters, was too sedate in its orbit to dodge the now-giant. Unlike her sibs she
chose, not to watch, but to feast; and so, she drank up the atmosphere, and
then to break up her meal, she let herself fall.
The dance of gravity and the anger of acceleration threw the
rock into a molten orbit of devastation, splintering it into pieces. But laden
with the soul of an unborn planet, she called the pieces back upon her. And
gravity and time pulled and shaped and framed her meal around her, an endless
buffet that would feed her as she fed from it. When the forces settled she
pushed out her head and released her gases, a slow breath out that sent her
into a gentle spin.
Her gases did not flee, as she had expected, but instead
settled around her, warming and comforting, cradling her ices into melting and
running along the channels on her surface. And so she lay her head down to
sleep, the intergalactic turtle, munching ever contentedly on the plates that sunk
into her jaw, feeding in turn new rock to the lands around her.
There on the surface the shell bloomed a new life, not an
egg but a wish of space, a dream of eternity. And the dreamer, as she spun
through space, dreamed of the many lives dancing upon her, watched the many
songs roll over her, was transfixed by the changes they wrought. She spun a
field of magnetism around herself, so that the sun might not harm them; and as
they grew more varied and intricate, she stirred her waters and airs to keep
things fresh. Occasionally she shifted things around, just a bit, just slowly,
to see what they would do and where they go.
Eventually, a time would come for the intergalactic turtles
to breed. She might dislodge her entertainment to join them. She would--
She would wave goodbye as her shell-dwellers abandoned her,
and flew to find new shells to dance upon. She would delight in the tales they
brought back of her siblings and whatever sky cousins they found, as they
shared news of life brought forth from other shells across the universe, those
lucky turtles who had dared to find just the right spot at just the right
distance from just the right sun. She would hide those who remained from the
depredations of the spawn of other turtle shells, and hold precious her
children to her, for they were hers, and they were beautiful.
She would cherish what she had bourn already, for this was
her bounty, and intergalactic turtles did not bear fruit often, even when they
left their orbits to mingle among one another.
One day there would be none left upon her shell. If she
lived yet, she would mate then. For now, what she had was enough.