The Orax by John D. Boyden aka jdb_educator This little story is part of a larger work written in 2004.
This was an unique universe. Large civilizations were nothing new or unusual, but the Orax were. These were very strange creatures that promptly took the universe over in only 80 days. All they needed was one chance, and they got it. In this Universe, in this phase. At 10 billion years Civilizations had time to grow and develop. Civilization was at a very high level with each system so closely connected to each other that news and data transmission was fast. Transfers and communications were functionally considered instantaneous. This extensive, interconnected infrastructure could move anything to anywhere in minutes. Wars were extremely infrequent by now and usually were just a . 001 misunderstanding or a .002 blip of testing relative strengths. The discovery of this new planet, the last ever formally discovered, was instant news. In point of fact the Orax would discover at least ten more, in passing, as it were. The Chirr became the guilty, the culprits named and blamed, not that it mattered. Their reputation was soon as clean as the Universe. It was just a minor matter of time, space and location. But the Chirr got the blame because they found them. They found and sent Vids of the Orax to the universe. And then promptly began selling them the day after they discovered them. These creatures were a house cleaner's dream. Everyone wanted them. All of the required scans and several added analyses clearly showed the Chirr and the universe as a whole that the Orax were safe. These creatures had an 800 year mating schedule and were easily trainable. They were 3s on the sentience scale that required a 9 for negotiation. Their bacteria and microbe counts were nearly non-existent. They were safe, easy to use, and the benefits were enormous. The Orax were simple, living consumption machines. Analysis showed they ate waste products. Whatever was consumed was internalized as strings of proteins that took up little space. Their excrement was biologically clean and seemed universally perceived as a perfume or to some species as odorless air born chemicals that were ruled harmless. The fact that the Orax excretia served as a communication tool was missed. The extremely low radioactive decay in the excretia served as their calendar, and got lost in the analysis. So too, the rare trace element that kept their systems in balance was overlooked. But the Chirr knew a sale when they saw one. The service the Orax
provided was clean up. This was an universe in desperate need of a good solid clean up. The Chirr saw that the Orax were self-maintaining and needed very little effort to survive or do their work.. Having brought the Orax aboard for testing and analysis, they quickly found their locations- outposts and 3 ships-were hounds tooth clean in minutes. These living vacuum cleaners or "infallible environmental absorbents" as they were advertised, became instant celebrities. The Cleanies as they came to be known, went contentedly to every house in the universe in record time. The service provided was alone worth far in excess of the minimum price of one dollar offered in every planetary currency. In fact the transfer cost was ten times that. Mechanical cleaner markets dried up. Cleaning services closed down. The Orax sold. The Orax were the biggest marketing coup in history. Among their best selling points were the facts: the Orax were soft and cuddly, they served as tension reducing creatures; visually they were pleasing with the faces of angels; they were useful and cleaned up unrecyclables completely. Many planets had tried to effectively reclaim old garbage areas and planet disposal areas for space, but found it too expensive. As a result, they returned to old population controls and that rankled populations. It worked but remained as the only true area of dissent among the planets. The Orax were seen by governments as the possibility to expand once more. That the Orax really and truly cleaned up, was the major selling point. Species began rapidly making plans for lifting some of the long established population controls within a 90 day window. The Orax were not concerned. Their attention was internal and focused. They just blithely sang with their low soothing melody that eased tensions, encouraged positive interactions and promoted the general welfare of all species, even those that lived on garbage. For there, in those specific locations, it was quickly apparent that they courteously cleaned out non-consumable garbage waste. At first. And as this entity truly crossed and encountered other species, it gently touched all species' lines. For those species without hearing or touch the Orax sent different, adapted waves tailored to each species that soothed. It created excitement among the scientific community and several studies began at Planetary Scientific Institutes. Early results showed the Orax did the same soothing thing to all species. Everything about them was positive. In short, they were too good to be true. It took eighty days. The clue provided to the Chirr-and the rest of the universe- that should have been heeded was that the Chirr never had any problems making any of the sales shipments and there were still Orax on the planet, even after they had saturated the entire universe. Their population remained stable. The Chirr also never had any problems finding, gathering, or loading a shipment. The Orax made everything easy. But
hindsight is always 20-20 while foresight remains legally blind. The Orax were a time bomb and exploded at the end of their biological countdown. Earth is the example I will use, since it is familiar to most of you. The rest of our viewers can refer to Appendix 10, search for Orax: Destruction of the Universe, in order to see what happened to our, or your species, if a record is available. Please remember that not all species exist in all Universes or phases thereof. On earth, the 72 billion Orax were imported and located within each house in only 30 days. It was a record for sales distribution. Billions popped in that first day, and others continued to arrive daily at every point on the globe. The universal database tagged and routed each one. It was an efficiency of the highest order. Strangely, it was also one efficiency never seen in any other of the known universes again. Friends, family, and neighbors bought Orax for each other. Those who found themselves with two or more Orax adults quickly gave the extras away. For while two of the adult Orax in the same house cleaned faster, it was marginal benefit. They also fought and growled at each other. For some reason, off their planet, they could not share space with another adult of their species. Their screeching vibrations and sounds were noisily irritating. This downside was quickly perceived and cured. It took another twenty days to sort all of that out, but import/export firms handled it nicely for minor charges. For the next 50-79 days-depending on Orax arrival date- they sucked up litter, pollution, energy spills, garbage, pests, rodents, and did not take anything necessary from the vital work of the day nor from the usual life of leisure culture that had developed on Earth. The visual panorama and atmosphere of the planets improved. The neighborhoods, villages, and cities began to look clean. Some for the first time. Soot and carbon and other detritus adhering to buildings began to disappear. Human activity responded. Neighborhood paint parties began to spout up, as citizens became impressed with the visual results of everyone having Orax. Humans normally had 2 hour work days and only the most energetic would hold more than one job. Serial polygamy continued as the most active effort of the human race. With death eliminated, the population stabilized under the draconian planetary wide laws of population control. Seventy-two billion people made for a crowded, tense planet. The Orax were proving both a novelty and an encouragement. Vids reported that more people were suddenly productive and taking on more activities and even more sexual partners than ever before. These kinds of reports reverberated throughout the Universe. Excitement was up. Wars were down. Productivity and profits were up. Consumer confidence ran at all time highs. It was an exciting time to be alive.
The gradual build up of orax excretia was inconsequential, safe and useful. It provided a rich, oxygenated, heady atmosphere. It raised the Oxygen level on Earth by .076 percent. It also communicated with each and every Orax. The Orax started to reproduce on the th 80 day. This method of communication was happening nearly simultaneously on every planet with Orax. Orax were on every planet with sentient life. It had taken the Orax a cycle of 50 days to acclimate. Then they began to reproduce without mating. First, they doubled, then tripled, quadrupled quintupled etc. These live births or splittings were happening every 30 seconds. Without the controls provided by the trace elements on their home planet, their reproductive system went crazy. Reproduction among the Orax is unrelated to mating on their genetic behavior schedule, After adaptation took place on each planet, they consumed enough to reproduce quickly. In between splittings the creatures voraciously consumed any item at hand. They began selectively with small items, such as previously ignored good bacteria, the little remaining air pollution, little used site items. Then they began progressing up the food and non-food chain. Useful often used small items, human food stuffs began disappearing, then as the Orax became less stable and the standard order and genetic limits of selectivity broke down, they began working their way up the size and importance scales as their biologic needs and temperament spun out of control. Working the consumption ladder together in groups now, they ate carpets and rugs, first in smaller sections then larger sections. As the Orax multiplied, furniture, wall materials, electricity, pets and fixtures came next. Then, any non-living person, plant, or animal began to fall to their appetite. Then the living ones. It took all of two hours to reach this level. The sheer amount of excretia and soothing sounds tranked out the human race. The poor humans (and all other creatures too) were now easy pickings. Anything in range of their vibration or voice was now food.. Anything and everything worked to fuel further reproduction, which was still occurring every 30 seconds. As these creatures spilled out of windows, apartments, doorways, vents, homes and offices they began to consume metals, plastics, previously missed residents or passing people, animals, insects, etc. Once those disappeared so did the vehicles, larger objects, and pavement begin to vaporize. Then came the buildings. With the atmosphere filling up space rapidly with their own nice, little, fuzzy, warm, soothing voiced bodies. All the man made structures disappeared. It was time for the Earth, itself, and then the atmosphere. After the atmosphere and planet were consumed, the protein chains absorbed direct energy from
the Suns into their systems and cheerfully continued to reproduce, filling the vacuum of space with themselves until they came to other planets experiencing their own destruction. The Orax did not need atmosphere. In the process they discovered other unknown planets, moons, asteroids, etc. Just more food. Eventually, they even ate their own planet, starting with the atmosphere and working their way down to the planet. They released their brethren from their long controlled history there. True Freedom was achieved as their species slowly joined in the banquet. Sheer numbers overwhelmed the planet's trace element balance and allowed the mass consumption. The Orax did not need atmosphere. It was all gone by then anyway, along with the planets. They just expanded outward throughout the universe using all sources of radiation, solar energies received from nearby, and even from more distant stars, and whatever else they found. They continued to reproduce every thirty seconds, filling the voids. Where the formerly life bearing planets, and non-life bearing planets had existed, The Orax flourished. In almost no time these reproducing marvels filled the great void of space with their nice little fuzzy, warm, soothing voiced bodies. Consuming. At their peak, the Orax were the most populous species ever in the annals of all Civilizations. It ended as quickly as it began. Sucking all the energy from the stars, next came the stars themselves. The burning heat and radiation were absorbed until gone So many Orax were on the fringes of food that desperation led them to that all absorbing, final binge. Simultaneously they began eating space, itself, which led to nowhere to be and brought them closer to each other as space itself decreased. They began eating each other in a frenzy of overcrowded consumption. They both-space and Orax- ended at about the same time. The last living survivors were a few thousand unconsumed microbes from the last Orax that ate itself, as much as it could.. Those short term survivors were left in less than two centimeters of space. The microbes were unable to continue on their own, and died in a pure nothingness. That small remainder of Space-with preserved bio organisms- is now in a memorial box at the Plenipotentiary Academy Museum, as a reminder of the dangers of unregulated conspicuous consumption.