By Robert Lynch
“Welcome to our new home, kids,” Jake said. Through the window, the whole planet laid out before them. Blue waters and green plains showcased just how beautiful this world was. Telescope pictures of the planet couldn’t see it with this kind of resolution. It was incredible.
The colony ship, the first of many, had travelled a long way to get here with its cargo mostly in hypersleep the whole way. Fifteen weeks ago, the crew woke the passengers and the work of building a colony began. Drills for landing, putting up temporary shelters, first aid simulations. But most of the work was in raising the seedlings that would be ready to plant at landing.
Jake’s eyes were two centimetres away from the glass as he took in the whole planet. Then he noticed something strange. On one of the more arid continents, there were a lot of fires. Natural bushfires could be huge, but they were often worse when managed and prevented from regular burn-backs.
“I’m just going to have a chat with the Captain.” He told the family as he headed for the command deck.
As the elevator door opened, the bridge was in chaos. Jake knew that fire pattern seemed unnatural. The din of yelling exasperated people hit Jake like a punch. He entered the bridge and headed over to the Captain. “Natives?”
The Captain looked at him for a split second, then his shoulders sagged. “Natives.”
“Well, that throws a wrench into things, doesn’t it?” Jake said. “What are the chances of finding an agreement with them?”
“Agreement, sir?” The Captain said. “The Law states that we cannot colonise land that is already owned and that the land is considered owned if natives exhibit even rudimentary sentience.”
“Actually, Captain,” Jake replied, “The Law states that we cannot acquire land owned by natives through eminent domain. We are not breaking any laws if we ask, or if we pay for it, so long as payment is considered to be equitable.”
“These people are still nomadic; there is no one to negotiate with.” The Captain said.
“It is my understanding that we don’t have enough fuel to go anywhere else,” Jake said, “And that we would have to build significant infrastructure to make a fuel plant. It seems like we are short on choices. Is there an uninhabited island we could land on? If they are nomadic they will not reach the island for many years; we can argue Urgent Need. So long as we don’t linger on the planet once we have the fuel, we should satisfy the Law.”
“What about the anti-interference laws?” The Captain asked.
“If we don’t make contact with the people then we haven’t interfered, Urgent Need would cover minimal impact to the people or the planet,” Jake said. “Of course, we don’t need land at all do we Captain? We could land the ship make everything we need and leave nothing behind.”
“A water landing could be done.” The Captain pondered. “All right!” he bellowed over the crew. “Prepare for a water landing; we’ll refuel then leave for a secondary site. Bring the Atlantis in to land.”