When Man went into space, he started close to home. First, he went to the moon. Then he traversed the black emptiness to Mars, Venus, and Saturn. Before the first hundred years of our expansion into the cosmos was finished, Humanity had found its way to over twenty new colony worlds. Our home star system, Sol, was packed to the brim. People, plain ordinary people, thrived in enclosed colonies and on the recently terraformed landscapes of what had once been our desolate neighbors. A lot of people spoke out against the geoengineering programs. They said we didn’t have the right to modify other planets to what we wanted. No one took them seriously.
During this time, new laws were enacted protecting the sanctity of Earth’s precious ecosystem. Much like the days of seafaring explorers and conquerors, Man took from the world he knew and tried to make it apart of the worlds he found. It became illegal to remove things from Earth, like trees and exotic animals. The concern was that in an environment completely alien to them, that these flora and fauna would damage the new worlds. Much like plants that choked the life from fields in the Americas which were under control in their home countries.
That doesn’t stop a lot of people. Even under strict controls, someone always finds a way to play the system. If someone wants a hundred year old redwood, and more importantly had the money to pay, then someone can be convinced to do the job. A lot of very rich people across several colony worlds wanted to transplant parts of Earth for their own enjoyment and status.
This lead to the practice of bio-poaching. In order for it to be profitable, entire acreages of land would be scooped up and placed in a ship. It would then be flown out of Sol, and buyers found for the various plants and animals in whatever star system they were headed for. It wasn’t unusual for someone like me to stumble upon the aftermath of such a theft.
I work in the forest of North America. What was once known as Park Rangers are now just called Rangers. We patrol the thriving forests and plains areas looking for such bio-poachers, as well as provide for the safety of the average person. It’s lonely work, perhaps one ranger per thousand acres of forest. We don’t catch a lot of bio-poachers honestly. As long as they don’t take more than an acre at a time, they can be in and out before one of us is even there.
Therein lies part of the problem. The higher-ups have more than once begged Vienna to increase our resources. It always gets caught up in committee, or the funding just isn’t there. Reminds me of why I took this job in the first place. Because I couldn’t stand people, and even here on Earth I could escape all of it in the trees.
My name is Marcus Wayne. I used to be a part of the greater world. I had a wife and a daughter. The bitch got most everything in the divorce. She even won a “No Influence” order against me. One of the few changes in the family court law over the years. Since we could provide everything for our children at almost no real cost, child support was no longer required. The downside however was that you were denied any contact or influence over your child. The penalties for such a breach of the law were severe. I lost everything I really cared about. Until she turns eighteen my daughter, Susan, will never get to know me. That’s if she even cares enough to.
That was what drove me here. Here I couldn’t be reminded of that separation. I was separated from everything.
As I kept up my patrol I came across an acre of land that had been hit. I wrote it down on the datapad and sent in the report. An entire acre of forest, ground and all, had been taken. There was nothing left but a square hole in the ground that had to go down thirty feet. They had to take that much so they were able to keep the root systems of the plants intact. A dead tree doesn’t sell as much on Alpha Centauri or in the Sparta sector as a live one.
I really hoped that one day we’d be able to stop these guys. If we didn’t then we’d lose the whole planet to the greed of others. Only this time not through pollution of the environment, but by slow patchwork transplanting. A few of the alien races we encountered were more than happy with the idea. A weak Earth was one less threat they didn’t have to worry about.
If that was the only thing these bio-poachers did I would still be angered. But that’s not the only thing they provide to their buyers. Several alien races value humans for certain tasks. Slavery is alive and well out in the depths of the galaxy. Miner colonies worked by sentient aliens evolved from insects and reptiles. Avian sentients used for cargo transport and working farm lands. And those are the lucky ones.
I’ve heard stories from some of my fellow Rangers who went off-world. Stories of red light districts on some alien world where children are bought and sold. Some cultures consider a girl a women the moment she can conceive a child. There aren’t many that hold to the human laws that link maturity to chronological age. Human females are especially valued. No scales, rocks, or any other appendages.
On Earth, women from developing countries trying to escape to a better life ended up forced into slavery as sex objects during the latter part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. It’s not much different now, only those looking for a better life find something worse than death. Drugs from other planets that subvert the conscious mind. Other drugs that enhance their senses, especially touch.
Then there are those that end up simply killed, valued not for what they are alive, but what they can be as spare parts. The genetic black market is another nightmare. DNA from every species known being traded and spliced together. Some even look back to the dormant genes of a million years ago, trying to find something interesting.
I hate to say it, but my taste for non-humans is as sour as it is for my own species. The only race we’ve encountered that fits the benevolent stereotype from old science fiction and fantasies are the Zancari. I’ve never met one, but their home world of Zancara Prime is said to be what Earth was only a hundred thousand years ago. Any sane sentient would call it a paradise. For now, they are the oldest space faring race we’ve encountered. The other races, older and younger, are not so benevolent in their ways.
I sometimes wonder if the miracle that is intelligence isn’t just a cosmic joke. For years people thought that anything that had mastered space travel had to be of high moral fiber. The other side of that were those who expected a full out invasion by an enslaving alien armada. Neither was true, but it was still a letdown to many. Finding out that the universe is for the most part untamed frontier and vast reaches filled with pirates and raiders hurt. Now we have people pillaging our world for the more impressive natural wonders in it.
I keep driving, damning whatever raider it was that just dumped a mountain of paperwork on my desk. There wasn’t much I could do about the acre that was gone. That didn’t mean I didn’t have to send in a supplementary report that indicated exactly how much was gone. Hopefully the department would get around to fixing that patch of ground in the near future. Where they would find tons of soil I didn’t know, didn’t frankly want to know.
Earth wasn’t the only planet that had this problem. You could find parts of various world scooped up and sold off part and parcel all over. There was even rumor that someone had taken a piece of most of the other worlds and created a patchwork planet. I’ll let the engineers figure that one out.
Frankly I don’t understand half of the technology behind the things we use in this world. I’m certain that scientists back only two hundred years ago would say everything here is virtually impossible. After all, the jeep I’m in has no wheels, just an anti-gravity field to keep it off the ground. Space ships and star fighters operate in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain. And don’t bother asking me to tell you how interstellar travel works. Like every other layman I just call it hyperspace and leave it at that.
It wasn’t always like this, I wasn’t always like this. I had always felt a need to serve my planet. Enlisted with the Marines when I had just finished high school. I believed in something more than just myself. I had faith in more than just myself. The part of the oath to defend against all threats foreign and domestic were more than words to me. I’m sad to say that the truth didn’t live up to the ideal. I didn’t live up to the ideal. Not really. I went and I killed the sentients I was ordered to kill. I tried to tell myself it was for the greater good. That I was a protector more than a butcher. It was a lie to help me sleep at night, even if it wasn’t as restful as I would like.
Maybe I deserved the life I’d ended up with. The loneliness, the cynicism, slowly fading away into eternity.
The sound of landing thrusters firing breaks me from this cycle of thought and forces me to look up. An atlas-class heavy cargo vessel slowly makes its way across the sky, the hull showing signs of heavy modification. The markings on its hull though are what tell me what I need to know. The picture of a snake eating the world. The mark of the Jormagard Pirates. One of the worst Bio-Poacher cartels. Scum of the universe, and they had to come to MY jurisdiction. Lucky me.
I pull out my radio, the real name being an Omni-purpose information pad or o-pip. Standard procedure in these cases is to call it in and provide enough information for a rapid deployment team to take care of the problem. They have the tools needed to take down a heavily armed pirate vessel. Theoretically at least.
A lot of us have been convinced that there are a few moles in the Defense Network. There really shouldn’t be a way for these thieves to get anywhere on the ground without It someone knowing about it. And all I could do was document it.
I took my o-pip and took images, documenting any identifying marks I could, and made sure to measure what was being taken. An acre when you think about it is pretty small after all. This one was mostly just a clearing and a couple of trees. Rather nice and picturesque all things considered. The pirates used laser cutters and energy field stabilizers to separate the segment of ground from the rest of the planet. It frankly would take over two hours to just cut through down to the base of the roots of the trees.
I doubt my report will be seen before tomorrow morning.
All I could do was observe them as they finished their work. I kept watch and out of sight for the better part of 6 hours. Then using an anti-gravity field and tether cables they pulled the segment from Earth and stored it in their cargo hold. I watched as yet another piece of our world was stolen from us. The hole would end up being filled with a combination of dirt from construction and organic waste material that had been composted. Some grass seed and some saplings, over time the damage could be repaired. Over time.
I just pack up my gear, get back in my jeep, and head along on my way. All I could do was shake my head, and hope that eventually we’d either get these poachers, or at least stop pretending it wasn’t happening. But what can I do? I’ve got my own problems.