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(C) 2001 Martin Horton.

Part 2 - Life on Earth

Everyone?s attention is focussed on Earth. She holds her head in her hands, rubbing her temples. The chamber is in total silence. Even Mars is lost for words. Eventually she looks up, her eyes red with scabs and a stream of angry looking hurricanes storming across her oceans. Her continents are dotted with dirty grey spots and her clouds scurry about with unnatural confusion. She attempts a smile but collapses in a fit of coughing.

The planets stare in incredulity. What could be wrong with her? Last time they met she was the darling of the interplanetary ball, full of playful daring and smelling of the purest Oxygen. Everyone agreed she was a breath of fresh air. Now she stinks of something like rotting eggs mixed with methane. Jupiter glances at the Sun, who in turn glances at Venus who, ever so slowly, is edging his seat away from Earth.

?Well,? says the Sun.

All eyes, except those of Earth, which have started to weep a dark black fluid, swivel towards the Sun.

?Well,? he says again.

?She?s sick,? says Mercury, leaning forward for a better look.

Mars jerks out of his reverie. ?She?s more than bloody sick.?

Uproar! Calamity! The planets and indeed the asteroids and some of the less polite comets are shouting, questioning, roaring for an explanation. Earth stays silent amid the chaos. Her moon screams at the planets to be quiet. Mars snarls in contempt. Jupiter growls. Saturn lifts up her blouse like a maiden readying herself to run across a muddy lawn. Pluto and Charon are mouthing something that nobody can hear. Uranus vomits onto the table. Neptune falls off his chair, waving his legs in the air in torment and despair. Old man Halley scurries back and forth for no discernable reason.

?SILENCE,? bellows the Sun. ?Silence I said.?

Neptune picks himself up and starts to weep, but apart from this understandable misdemeanour the planets obey their master. They return to their seats and look at the Sun with both trepidation and expectation.

?Thank you. Now, to business. Mars, your agenda if you please.?

Mars curls his lip with relish. ?Certainly my lord.? He puffs out his little chest. ?It has recently come to my attention that,? he pauses for dramatic effect, ?LIFE has broken out on Earth.?

Silence. Uranus, of all planets, eventually lifts her dripping head and slurs; ?So what, there has always been life on Earth. What about those Dinosaurs.?

Jupiter nods in agreement. ?Yes, and they caused no trouble. And besides, didn?t a big bloody asteroid sort them out??

?Sire,? says Mars, ?This is no ordinary life. These are no peanut brained Dinosaurs. These are no harmless plankton.?

?Explain yourself. And this better be good.?

?She does look a little peaky,? says Saturn.

The Sun sighs. ?Yes, but what has this go to do with her, well, new strain of life??

Mars continues. He bristles with satisfaction now that he is the sole object of attention. ?There is a new breed of life on Earth my lord.?

The Sun frowns. ?Well, yes, I heard something about Lions, Crocodiles and Chimpanzees, but Earth seemed quite fond of them. Called them her little pets.?

?Not them. Another form of life. Human beings.?

?Human what?? asks Saturn.

?Human Beings. **** Sapiens.?

?Never heard of them,? snorts Venus.

?Me neither,? comes a chorus from the rest of the planets.

Mars puts on his cruellest expression. ?Really?? He turns to Venus. ?Think back a few years. Do you remember a strange metal craft landing on you?? He then looks towards Jupiter and Saturn. ?And you two. Do you recall some equally strange objects flying past you, taking photos perhaps??

Jupiter inspects his navel. ?Well, yes, come to think of it, yes, I do seem to remember something like that. Didn?t think much of it at the time.?

?Oh yes, now you mention it, I do remember some odd-looking vehicle things passing my way a little while ago,? says Saturn.

?Me too,? agrees Neptune. ?But I didn?t like to say anything.?

?Fine, but what has this got to do with Earth?? asks the Sun.

Mars ignores him. ?And YOU,? he shouts, pointing an accusing finger at Earth?s moon. ?Do you deny that you have been plagued not only by these strange metal ships, but have also been infested by the humans themselves??

The moon glares tight lipped at Mars.

?Do you deny it??

?It?s OK, tell them,? whispers the Earth. ?Maybe they can help.?

?Tell us what? Will someone make some sense?? says the Sun

The moon turns towards the Sun. ?Yes, it?s true. These humans have walked on my surface.?

?Aha,? screams Mars in triumph. ?The truth at last. And me, yes me, several of these human craft have come digging on my precious red dirt. The Earth has a disease and its spores are spreading! See what they?ve done to Earth and in only a few thousand years I might add. They have been spreading at an incredible rate. She?s dying, choking on their fumes and petty ignorance. They care for nothing except themselves. And now that they?ve buggered up Earth they have started looking for other places to infect. You and me my friends. You and me!?

?The Earth has, well, a cancer?? murmurs the Sun in disbelief.

?In a manner of speaking, yes Sire.? Mars nods. ?Yes, a very appropriate analogy.?

?And this cancer, what did you call them??

?Human Beings.?

?Human Beings,? repeats the Sun, thoughtfully.

?And the worst thing of all,? says Mars with quiet intensity, ?is that they have harboured the energy that powers your lordish, the Sun himself!?

?Good grief,? cries Saturn.

?I don?t believe it,? Venus says.

?It?s true, it?s all true. And there are BILLIONS of them. BILLIONS,? hollers Mars.

?Nuclear fission?? asks the Sun.

Mars nods brutally.


Venus bangs his fists against the table. ?Something must be done. Something must be done.?

?Well, I don?t know,? says the Sun, chewing his flaming lips. ?I don?t know. This is all so sudden.?

?Which is why we must act now Sire,? replies Mars. ?I call for a total extermination. A small comet should do it.?


?Seconded,? agrees Jupiter.


Mars stands up and dares to approach the Sun. ?Sire, it must be done.?

The Sun looks at Mars and then each of the planets in turn. Eventually he speaks. ?No. We cannot arbitrarily annihilate a whole species. Life is unique.?

?Yes, no, but..?

?I have made my decision. We will hold a trial.? He looks over at the Earth. ?My dear I call on you to pick one of your, er, human representatives to answer for the crimes perpetrated upon your good self.?

Earth nods. ?Yes, my lord.?

Part 3 ? Smoking seriously damages your health

Peter stands in the middle of dimly star-lit chamber. One minute he was in the pub with his friends, the next he finds himself in this peculiar building, naked as the day he was born, still nursing his pint of Guinness, and, most bizarrely ? considering the gloom, wearing a pair of sunglasses.
?Where am I?? he shouts into the gloom. His voice echoes off walls that feel thousands of miles away.

?You, Human, are in the Citadel of the Planets.?

Peter is speechless. He just gurgles something unintelligible. His terror is too macabre to describe here.

Slowly, one by one, he becomes aware of a number of different coloured glowing lights moving towards him. He takes a step back into nothingness. He can?t feel the ground beneath his feet.

?Where am I? Who are you?? he repeats.

The glowing orbs spread and circle around him. He goes to remove his sunglasses.

?I wouldn?t do that if I were you.?

With a shocking suddenness, a terrifically blinding yellow light illuminates the chamber. Peter replaces his sunglasses. Ahead of him is a blazing ball of light, which, if he hadn?t gone completely mad (so he thinks), looks decidedly like the Sun.

?Yes, you?ll need them,? says the Sun. ?It seems you, er, Humans can?t bare to look at me without them. It?s a bit of an insult, really, if you think about it.?

?You?re the Sun??


Peter looks around. ?And these are???

?The planets.?

?The planets,? repeats Peter.

?The planets.?

Peter laughs with a hint of impending madness. ?Right, great. Well, nice to meet you, I think I?d better be off.?

?You?re going nowhere until you have answered for your crimes.?

?My crimes??

?The crimes of your species.?

Peter reaches new heights of confusion. ?The crimes of my species? Is this about my parking ticket??

A red orb moves closer to him. Peter screams. The orb speaks; it?s voice full of malice and cunning. ?Don?t play the innocent with us human. Your species has, in the course of a mere four thousand years, spread and multiplied over the planet earth like a cancer, consuming all her resources, killing, maiming, with no regard for anything or anyone except for your pathetic selves. Do you deny it??

?You?re Mars aren?t you?? whimpers Peter.

?Answer him,? growls the Sun. ?The continuation of your species depends on it.?

?Well, I, well, erm.?

Mar laughs. ?See, pathetic.?

?But why me??

One of the larger orbs speaks; ?Are you not all equal??

?Well yes, in theory, but I?m just an ordinary man. Surely a politician, or someone important??

?It doesn?t matter. If all humans are equal then you are all equally responsible.?

?Can I have some clothes?? asks Peter.

The Sun and the Orbs sigh. ?But this is how the Earth created you.?

?The Earth??

?Your home.?

?I live in London.?

?I?ve had enough. I say let?s judge him,? asks Mars.

The Sun speaks; ?Not until we?ve heard what he?s got to say. Although, I must admit, my patience is wearing thin human. The charges are very serious. How do you plead??

Peter looks at his feet. He looks up at the galaxies slowing revolving above him. He thinks about his parents, his wife, his baby child. He looks up. ?Not guilty, Mr Sun.?

?You shall call me Sire, or Lord.?


The Sun sighs again. ?So be it. What are the reasons for your innocence??

Despite his slight inebriation, the Earth has chosen well. Peter is a clever man. He prides himself on his wit, his cunning, his knowledge of world-affairs. Peter has strongly held convictions and values, and he?ll be damned if this, albeit impressive looking, collective of planets will judge him. He addresses the Sun. ?Love Sire, beauty, honour, the quest for knowledge, valour, courage, optimism, art, literature, competitiveness fairness, gracefulness, awe in the face of the miracle of life and respect for each other and all other life.?

Jupiter nods sagely.

?I know nothing of these things, but this respect you speak of. Do you not kill or imprison your fellow man, your fellow beasts? You call that respect?? asks the Sun.

?Yes, we do. It?s a tragedy. But Sire, we are a young race. We are learning. That is the consequence of the capacity for self-awareness. We are trying. We are looking outwards, forwards. We know the damage we are doing to our planet, we recognise this, but, please give us time.? He thinks for a moment and decides to challenge like the best lawyer. ?What do you do, if I may ask??


?What do you do??

?We exist.?

?That?s all??

?We exist, that?s is enough. We are eternal. We are children of the sun.?

?So are we.?


?Do you contemplate the things we do? You?ve have four billion years and what have you done??

?We are not on trial here,? warns the Sun.

?But he has a point,? ventures Neptune.

The Sun considers for a moment. ?Very well Human, Peter, your point is well made.?

Mars makes a disbelieving noise. The planets ignore him.

?The decision is made. Planets, do you agree that we charge this human and his species with the responsibility of time??

The planets, except Mars, agree as one.

?You?re my best mate you are, Peter,? babbles Uranus drunkenly.

?But,? protests Peter.

?No buts. Now, return to Earth, my friend, and remember that time is eternal, but your time is limited. We only ask that you and your fellow man do your best.?

And with that Peter returns to Earth with her whispered thanks in his ears. And like the most sincere of angels, his place in the heavens is secure. In spite of whatever comes to be.
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