Primum Non Nocere
By Michael Paul Hurd
Blown off course by the shockwave from a passing asteroid, the craft carrying Kasmek and Bishma, life forms from Proxima Centauri B, crashed into the surface of Deko, the third planet orbiting a star that Proximans knew as Heliosolis. The mated Proximan pair were on a mission to explore the outer limits of their civilization’s knowledge of other planets that could be capable of sustaining life. They had been traveling at two times the speed of light for just over two Dekoan years before the uncharted galactic disturbance that caused their crash.
Neither Kashmek nor Bishma were injured, but their craft was almost totally destroyed except for the communications array and radiation-shielded storage cases of provisions. It was fortunate they had crashed in a remote area, largely unobserved by the inhabitants. The few uneducated Dekoans that did see the craft entering the atmosphere attributed it to a shooting star and thought nothing more of it. At the time, Dekoan knowledge of interstellar bodies was almost non-existent and space travel was centuries in their future.
“Kashmek, need we ourselves morph Dekoan form into?” asked Bishma in their native syntax.
“Affirmative, Bishma. Example without morph cannot. Darkness in can assume Dekoan body,” replied Kashmek.
The pair decided that they would wait until darkness and take over the first life forms they encountered. It was only about an hour after Dekoan sunset before the first life form made its presence known. However, it was not a Dekoan biped as they had hoped. Instead, it was a brown quadruped with a long, hairless tail, twitching whiskers, and a phenomenal ability to procreate. Dekoans knew this quadruped as the Brown Rat, eventually to be known as Rattus norvegicus.
The morphing process was easy for the Proximan pair. They simply reduced their size to submolecular particles and waited for the quadrupeds to inhale. Once inside the host bodies, the Proximans established neural connections that made the quadruped forms sentient and communicative; however, their basal instincts for survival and procreation remained intact and overpowering.
“Kashmek, food consume must,” stated Bishma. “Reproduce now urge strong. Wait consume food first.”
Unable to control his own host body’s response to the pheromones released by Bishma’s new form, Kasmek did not wait to eat as she had suggested. He immediately engaged in reproductive behavior that impregnated Bishma with a blended Dekoan-Proximan life form. After he had succumbed to the uncontrollable urges, Kashmek was able to eat.
The reduced size of their furry hosts made it difficult for the two Proximans to operate their communications array. It took most of a day for them to activate the equipment – when they could resist their hosts’ urge to gnaw through the insulation on the wires, that is. Almost immediately after establishing a connection on their lightwave communicator, they received a general alert from the Supreme Council. In that alert, the Council warned that another galactic disturbance was about to hit Deko. In the scientific report, Proximans were believed to be safe from the disturbance as long as they took over a host – something that Kashmek and Bishma had already done.
What the Proximan scientists didn’t know was that the disturbance would alter their hosts’ blood chemistry and render it infectious to Dekoan bipeds. The scientists were also unaware that the little dark creatures whose itchy bites annoyed Kashmek and Bishma would be the transmission vector to the biped life forms, who in turn would become infectious to those around them. In a matter of weeks, the illness spread throughout the bipeds and was generally fatal. Making matters worse was that over the next two three Dekoan centuries, the disease would resurface and wipe out entire segments of the biped population. By that time, Kashmek and Bishma, along with several thousand other Proximans, had been authorized by the Supreme Council to take bipeds as hosts, albeit with the admonition in an ancient Dekoan tongue, “Primum non nocere,” which was translated to mean “First, do no harm.”
After taking biped hosts, Proximans were allowed to share their superior intellect with other non-host bipeds. The sharing of Proximan knowledge was quite subtle and intentionally slow. Too much information too fast would definitely harm the emerging enlightenment. Instead, the Proximans spread out their contributions over the next three centuries and enabled Dekoans to acquire significant new knowledge, navigate uncharted waters, and question the longstanding tenets of their own religions. Kashmek and Bishma were, because of their seniority on Deko, always among the first sharers of Proximan knowledge.
T he preceeding short story is the intellectual property of the author, Michael Paul Hurd. It may be subject to copyright laws of the United States and other countries. No part of this story may be used without permission of the author, except for limited quotation in literary journals or reviews.