The Rotalins had used the Wheel of Time only rarely and always with caution. Given the sweeping changes it made in the timeline, even those few who had seen it in action might have no memory of it. Now the magnificent device was about to be used again to rectify a knotty ethical dilemma involving the Kalurans. Yet, as anyone who stood outside of the flow of time could attest, the task set to the powerful device was unusually comprehensive.
Such an atemporal being was Drolinak, sole denizen of a parallel universe that was directly adjacent to the one inhabited by the Rotalins. Typical of its species, Drolinak was self-sufficient, and reproduced once every ten thousand years by cloning itself moments before it perished. As an exact replica of itself with an intact memory, it could not be said to have experienced death, but merely renewal.
A truly gigantic creature, Drolinak’s chief activity was the observation of all aspects of Nature, and especially the mathematical principles underpinning every branch of Science. In Drolinak’s spare time, however, it enjoyed two hobbies. One was the tabulation of its Confusion Index, which tracked the ways that sentient beings in other universes failed to identify their own best interests. In this regard, Drolinak had found the drama unfolding on Kalura 3 particularly amusing.
“Arrogant fools,” it chuckled to itself. “And now the ‘Rotalins want to ‘set things right’ with a rickety old Causality-Extractor. Molecular weight of Helium, it’s always the same. They get all lathered up, but merely swap one set of problems for another.”
As it turned out, Drolinak’s other favorite hobby was dropping tiny hints about the true nature of the universe into the minds of lesser, time-bound species, just to watch them wriggle. But where to begin? A creature of infinite patience, Drolinak bided its time and turned its attention back to the office of Andrelex on Karula 3.
Look, he’s speaking to his ‘superior’ through a communications device, thought Drolinak. Oh, this should be delicious….
“Yes, Proconsul Joletry,” Andrelex was saying. “I believe the humans are interested in striking a fair deal for a share of our mineral deposits. What? Well for starters, they’ve also offered to upgrade our energy grid and … Oh, excuse me Proconsul, the humans have arrived. I’ll call you immediately afterward.”
Drolinak’s immense exoskeleton was suddenly suffused with a luminous blue glow of pure energy. The Kalurans’ conversation was so entertaining. And now here came the humans, looking serious and taxed by their journey. It was time to intervene with a tiny flicker of insight….
Just as before the Rotalins had engaged the Wheel of Time, Commander Jenkins walked into Andrelex’ office, accompanied by Lieutenant Latimer. But no sooner had he sat down, than he looked up at Andrelex and wept.
“I can’t do it,” he said.
Andrelex’ red reptilian eyes widened.
“Commander, what is it?” he asked.
“They … the folks back home,” said Jenkins. “They want me to trick you something awful. But I … I can’t!”
Lieutenant Latimer tried to comfort him by patting his back, but he stood up and paced the room.
“It hit me on the way over here,” he said. “The universe … it’s incredible … large, beautiful, true. I can’t defile it by cheating you. So here’s what we’re gonna do.”
Hours later, Proconsul Joletry received a detailed brief of the human plan to exploit the Kalurans. It revealed that, once the promised power grid was installed, the humans would shut it down and demand better terms as ransom for switching the power back on. As a consequence, when the time came for the final agreement between the two worlds, the human Ambassador was surprised to learn that the Kalurans had rejected their offer of a power upgrade.
“But, Proconsul,” said the ambassador, “we may have to terminate our negotiations,”
Joletry flashed her winningest smile.
“And why is that?” she asked. “What possible link could their be between our mineral wealth and our power grid?”
In the end, the humans, who desperately needed a new source of Kaluran rare minerals, drew up a new, simpler contract. Commander Jenkins was relieved, but issued a warning.
“Watch out for the next gift they offer and the next,” he said. “You’ll be tempted. I’ve seen this happen on too many worlds. That’s why I’m staying on. But my influence is limited.”
Outside of time, Drolinak smiled an adimensional smile. Keeping the humans honest would be a daunting challenge, but it had all the time in the universe to protect the adorable little Kalurans.
Still, it is rather a conundrum, Drolinak mused, why these time-bound species are so narrowly focused on petty power plays.
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