Friday, April 21, 2017

Intergalactic Turtles

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 planet.

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 needed, anyway.

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 other way.

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 time.

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 below.

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.

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