Let's Play Planet Relay

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Already bored with last spin's model, Pluto's children cry for the latest version of "Planet Relay-as seen on SATCOM! Now for a low-low price of only10,000 creds!"

Their parents sigh, remembering life before the thaw, life before the deluge of commercials crammed into their scant twenty-odd years of sun. Now, there was talk of a transgalactic competition. "Just imagine that," they tsk-tsked one to another, "a child's multi-dimensional game becoming a transgalactic sport?” Their children were really quite good at last thaw's version. . .Why not spoil them a bit? After all, it was said to create excellent hand-eye coordination, something they'd heard was important.

And the prize? “It was a win-win situation,” they exclaimed. Their children would have the opportunity to engage with children from other planetary systems. There was really no losing if they learned about other cultures in the process. . .

Parents beamed at each other, imagining the opportunities. Rather than hibernating, they could spend time on another planet--Earth, for example. They'd heard that Earth was a rather friendly place-and it was just one planet in the competition! Alpha Centauri's confederation of planets would be participating, too!

What would it hurt to let them participate? After all, it was just a game, a harmless game among children. A modicum of healthy competition was good for their development, wasn't it? And they had so little time to explore their abilities until the next freeze. The contest guidelines even said that the parents could accompany their children to the final celebration-all expenses paid. What an incentive!

All they had to do was transmit their permissions, download the software, and their children could begin a rich, rewarding experience. It was a win-win, they nodded to each other. Yes, a win-win. Nothing to lose.

Pluto's children were fast learners, and it wasn't long before they were participating in earnest. Their parents watched for a time, proud of their offspring, pleased with their own forward thinking. Yes, their children would have opportunities that they didn't have. Their children had the chance to migrate to other worlds. All they had to do was stay in the winners' circle, and their futures would be sealed.

While the ins-and-outs of the game were a bit hazy to the parents, they shrugged their confusion off to the fact that it was, after all, a game for children. Bright screens and multi-dimensional grids tended to give them headaches--but not the children. No, they could play for hours and hours and hours.

All their children wanted to do was play Planet Relay! It certainly kept them out of mischief, so their parents could concentrate on other things, like putting away food for the freeze, and otherwise enjoying themselves.

When the first gravitational anomalies appeared, there seemed to be no connection. How absurd to think there was. Then, as planetary objects appeared then disappeared in the sky, their scientists thought them illusions brought on by unseasonable weather patterns, tricks of sunlight on ice interacting with local mineral deposits. Nothing more.

The games went on and on until a few parents became concerned. "Nothing to worry about," the contest advisors said. "It's just a game. . .there's no interaction with the natural world. None at all."

But when the Transgalactic Federation for Missing and Exploited Planets was formed to assess the situation, their findings were outrageous--stupefying! The children must stop playing Planet Relay or the entire world as they knew it might come to a screeching halt!

"Yes, it was time for them to go outside, get some fresh air," the child psychologists said cautiously, not wanting to alarm their parents, or most of all, the children, and thus negatively impact their development into fine young Plutonians.

The children would have none of it, though. They continued to play, locked themselves in their habitats, chatted via their global positioning devices.

No, the children would have none of it, as they had become rather obsessed with the new game, and had become rather clever about rerouting access panels and codes so that even the game's creators had lost their control of the game.

What had begun as a mere sport had become an all-encompassing lifestyle, what with the universes the children had been creating by renaming and re-categorizing the planets and exoplanets and satellites and asteroidal chunks and debris they had been relaying back and forth through the space-time continuum. The possibilities were endless, the ramifications disastrous, but their parents tsk-tsked, still thinking it was just a game.

About the Author: 
Terrie Leigh Relf, a lifetime member of the SFPA and an active member of HWA, hosts Alban Lake Publishing's drabble contest. Learn more about her at terrieleighrelf.com and tlrelf.wordpress.com