Seeing is Believing
‘Do you really think one of them will push the button this time?’
The multi-coloured lights on the control console winked cheerfully, their reflections in the viewing port hanging like festive baubles against the space-time darkness, through which the crystal-cold light of the stars flickered their way towards eternity.
The Borin extruded an appendage and agitated the scaly surface of his brain-case. ‘And you don’t? Have you ever seen such a display of irrationality? From the way they’re carrying on over those tiny lumps of coral in the China - Philippine Sea, you’d think this sector of the galaxy was awash with exoplanets fit for humanoid settlement.’
‘Even if they knew how to get there,’ replied Kalix, his features morphing to visible amusement. ‘Surely we’ve seen this behaviour before though, when the Russians placed missiles in Cuba, when the Persians captured Mecca. One of their leaders has always managed to make them see sense before they did the irreversible. And at least this time there’s a female in what they call the Oval Office.’
‘I never have been able to understand their obsession with that binary,’ thought the Borin, with a sardonic croak for emphasis. ‘A chance mutation with messy consequences.’
‘Useful for reproduction,’ replied Kalix.
‘And look where that’s got them.’
The observation station continued its lonely, remote orbit through the infinite darkness, until a tiny blue-hazed speck edged into the viewing port and crawled slowly across its surface, against the immensity of the stellar backdrop.
‘Do you ever feel the need to go home?’ asked Kalix.
‘Not sure I understand the question,’ replied the Borin. ‘I thought-travel there whenever I wish, off duty of course.’
‘No, I meant in the extension. Don’t you feel the need to let the olfactory organ enjoy the exhalation of the hesperrhodos of Galifray? Or extrude a lower digit and dip it into the tonic-red waters of Gliese Delta?’
The Borin’s electro-magnetic radiation sensors gazed wistfully into the distance. Then the orbs transformed to narrow, oval slits.
‘Duty Kalix, remember our duty. We’re here to keep watch over this sector of the galaxy. We can enjoy the pleasures of the physical extension, when the tour’s over.’
‘Not like those humanoids,’ thought Kalix. ‘That’s all they ever seem to do – and think about.’
‘You know the trouble with humanoids,’ thought the Borin, ‘is not that they spend too much time thinking about the pleasures of the extension, but that they believe in everything, and nothing.‘
‘Amplify,’ requested Kalix.
Creases appeared on the surface of the Borin’s brain-case. ‘From the time they evolved humanoids have invented many things to believe in. Gods, philosophies, heroes, religions, theories, political parties, and even celebrities like that gluteus maximised Cardassian female. Anything they think will help make sense of their little lives.’
‘It’s Kim Kardashian. She’s American-Armenian, not from the planet Cardassia.
‘They may as well all be from another planetary system,’ grumped the Borin. ‘But you do take my point?’
‘That here they are again, poised on the brink of extinction?’
‘Precisely, every humanoid seems to think that the truth is what it, alone, believes in. So many beliefs, so many truths. And yet they still haven’t found the essential truth of how to live together on their insignificant little planet. Perhaps they don’t believe in that truth. In which case they believe in nothing.’
‘Your detoxification gland seems under duress,’ intuited Kalix, ‘perhaps it was the amino proteins you ingested at siderial meridian.’
‘Possibly, or perhaps all this worry is irritating the lining of my digestive tract.’
‘About this business of the China - Philippine shoals, and what should be done about it.’
‘What can be done about it? The primary directive is to observe, and not to interfere.’
‘Yes, yes, we come in peace, and all that herbivore excrement. But actually the directive says we cannot interfere, directly.’
‘I perceive you have something in mind,’ understood Kalix.
‘Indeed. What these humanoids need is something to believe in.’
‘I thought we just agreed they already had too much to believe in,’ objected Kalix, the orbs of its sensors rolling back under their scaly shutters.
‘If you’d let me finish,’ interjected the Borin. ‘We need to find something they can believe in that will remind them that living in peace and harmony with each other, is more important than fighting over a bunch of coral atolls.’
‘Yes, but what?’ replied Kalix, his outer layer suffusing an iridescent pink. ‘Don’t keep me in suspense. I’m not a mind reader.’
‘Of course you are,’ snapped the Borin. Then, seeing a wide black crescent open up beneath Kalix’s sensors, ‘Ah, you will have your little joke, trying to forcibly extend the old Borin’s lower limb. Well come now, my loyal deputy, just think of the celestial occasion, and the solution should be obvious.’
Deep furrows appeared on the brow of Kalix’s brain-case. ‘Let me see, it’s just past the stellarversary of the explosion of Kepler’s Supernova.’
‘No, no. On the Blue Planet, where are they on the elliptic?’ asked the Borin.
‘Just coming up to the perihelion solstice.’
‘Great self-substantiating singularity, you surely don’t expect another child to be born in Bethlehem?’
The amorphous mass of the Borin heaved convulsively. ‘They seem to have stopped taking much notice of the last one. No, what they need is someone who gives them a regular and practical demonstration of what peace and goodwill means. Actually they already had one, but they stopped believing in him.’
Kalix’s brain-case slumped into his mass. ‘And are you going to let me in on the secret.’
‘All in good time. I need to think with the artificer about constructing a delivery vehicle. And we’re going to need a life form with skull extensions and a red proboscis.’
Several orbital revolutions later, and an open topped carriage mounted on runners sat in the cargo bay. Attached to it were four pairs of fur covered, animatronic quadrupeds, with what looked like slender tree branches growing out of their small, wedge shaped, brain-cases. They were headed by a single, similar quadruped whose proboscis glowed red and winked like a silent alarm. The rear of the vehicle was loaded with an assortment of various sized packages in brightly coloured wrappings and ribbons.
The artificer was making some final adjustments with a sonic screwdriver. ‘All done,’ it reported, clipping the screwdriver onto his belt and wiping its greasy hands on a piece of material. ‘Shall we see if it works?’
‘We need the pilot,’ replied the Borin, extruding a restraining hand and impatiently tapping the digits onto the metallic surface of the delivery vehicle. The tapping was interrupted by the arrival of a red coated figure walking on two extruded lower limbs encased in red leggings and black boots.
‘Ah, there you are, Kalix. Did you have any trouble finding out what to wear?’
‘It’s all on Wikipedia. The only thing I had any trouble with was this,’ Kalix replied, stroking the fluffy, white curls that hid the lower half of its brain-case. ‘My surface layer can’t extrude sufficiently fine filaments, so I had to replicate it with spun cellulose. But I can get the rest of the appearance right. Observe.’
Concentration lines furrowed the brain-case, then the scaly, grey features of the surface layer dissolved and re-fashioned into a smooth, shiny skin with rosy cheeks and a button shaped nose, above which a pair of oval shaped openings housed twinkling sensors.
‘Impressive, now climb up into the pilot’s seat and the artificer will do the rest.’
At a thought-sign from the Borin the artificer flicked several switches on a control panel, and carriage and quadrupeds rose, hovering above the floor of the cargo bay, the bodies and legs of the quadrupeds animating into a gallop. Kalix emitted audible croaks and hisses of exuberance as the artificer remotely piloted the carriage around the cargo bay, soaring and swooping, landing and taking off again. Finally bringing it back to rest in its original location, and flicking off the switches.
‘Excellent,’ thought the Borin. ‘We’ve digitally recorded that in four dimensions so we’ll be able to reproduce it holographically wherever we choose.’
‘I had wondered about that,’ thought Kalix. ‘How you were going to make it simultaneously appear all around the Blue Planet, without it looking like an alien invasion. But aren’t you also in danger of making it look too much like magic?’
‘Nothing wrong with that. Any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic to those primitive humanoids.’
‘One thing I still don’t understand, though, is how you’re going to deliver gifts to all the children with just one delivery vehicle?’
‘That’s the beauty of it Kalix, the parents will take care of that themselves. We just have to make it look as if the red-coated gift-giver did it. Several thousand good, clear sightings all around the planet and they’ll believe what they see, or what they believe they see reported on their audio-visual display screens.
Three earth revolutions past the solstice found the Borin and Kalix contentedly enjoying a post-amino protein Saurian brandy in the control room.
‘Well I think that went very well,’ thought the Borin. ‘Let’s take a look at what the Galaxy News Network has to say. Hey Siri, turn on the display screen.’
The screen flickered into life and the voice of the newscaster filled the control room.
This is GNN, live from the Proxima Centauri system, with the news headlines.
There are continuing reports from the Sol System confirming that Santa Claus has been sighted delivering solstice gifts to children all over the Blue Planet. Thought by many to have faded into the mythological past, the numerous and confirmed sightings of Santa delivering gifts from his sleigh, pulled by nine reindeer, have delighted young and old. The sudden reappearance of the traditional harbinger of festive cheer and good will, encouraging millions of humanoids to put aside their day to day differences, and join together in celebrations of friendship and unity.
The Borin’s scaly, bufonian features coalesced into a self-satisfied grin. ‘What did I tell you? Seeing is believing.’
It is also reported that many of the planet’s leaders, encouraged by the spontaneous acts of kindness and generosity, have exchanged gifts of fruit and flowers symbolising peace and harmony.
The Borin’s light sensors glowed warmly, and gazed amicably upon the brandy-flushed features of the deputy. ‘That was very kind of you too Kalix, to leave a basket of fruit and flowers in my quarters. Although how you managed it so quickly, and so discretely, I cannot imagine.’
‘I was going to thank you for the same thing.’ The flush faded, Kalix extruded a finger and scuffed it across the dome of its brain-case. ‘But I didn’t place anything in your quarters, and certainly not any fruit and flowers.’
Their sensors rotated wonderingly, and patches of discordant colours flashed and wheeled across their grey surface layers. Then Kalix extruded a limb and pointed towards the viewing port, where a red speck was moving rapidly away in the direction of the Blue Planet. Increasing their sensor magnifications they recognised the red-clad figure, his carriage towed by nine galloping life forms, the leading one with a glowing red proboscis. And penetrating their brain cases, thought transmitted across the dark void of space, they heard the jingling of bells, and an unfamiliar, but joyful cry.
Yo, Ho, Ho.