Hello reader.

I speak to you from a place separated from you by time and space. But I have access to all time and space; I occupy no time and no space. I am impossible.

I am the narrator. But I will not narrate my own tale so much as weave together the tales of others to paint a narrative. I will deliver to you the writings stored in hidden journals, the words delivered in public speeches, the information documented in government databases, and the messages sent between friends. I bring them to you from throughout the galaxy, because you will not live long enough or travel far enough to access these alien documents yourself.

I will not be your storyteller. The players themselves will tell their stories. I will be your translator, your timekeeper, and your contextualizer.

Do not ask who I am. I am impossible.

Our first narrative comes from a collection of letters, sent by a Pathron, Dr. Ayleen, to his superiors.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,993 elapses, and 17,106 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

This species reminds me how a young race can take so many paths to forming an identity. They recently decided, as a species, to not destroy themselves with rapid heavy element decay weapons. When I first began observing them, I believed they would take the path of the Siliconoids of Kondoria, with their tendency to automate and bureaucratize. When they began a third wave of weapon proliferation, I believed they would be like the now extinct Autofobose species. But now I report that they have signed treaties and peace agreements to prevent that end.

This species, the ones on the third planet of YM-8-13, is still very far away from sentience. I think they have developed a genetic code capable of it, but they have yet to distribute resources in such a way that every member of the species can take advantage of their internal coding. A typical organism, if provided with sufficient nutrients and attention, can develop into a being that is empathetic to more primitive species, able to resist stimuli that trigger the pleasure response, and is curious about the nature of the universe. As you know, once there are more individuals that fit these three criteria than individuals who do not, we can welcome them into the Galactic Community of Sentience (GCS)

They are not even close to the standard. While some of the most powerful tribes have ceased warring against one another, they seem to have allied themselves against the weaker tribes, as is common in mid-societal development. The weaker tribes are in a state of rebellion and the stronger tribes are responding in aggression, not in charity. This usually resolves within a few elapses, but the planet has been stuck in this phase of development for an unusually long time.

A young Bru/we'em researcher on my crew attributes this to the planet's numerous geographical boundaries and the small size of the dominant species in relation to them. Isolation of populations from one another leads to divergent development of language. Multiple languages inhibits communication, and errors in communication are likely to result in aggression rather than in charity. In fact, according to this crew member, this planet has thousands of languages.

The Bru/we'em people resolved this issue by learning to speak multiple languages and by investing greatly in translators. But the species on the planet I am currently studying have taken to pursuing one universal language instead of learning multiple languages. Of course, the population as a whole has not decided upon one universal language.

So then, because the weak and strong tribes cannot communicate effectively, they are thrown into conflict over and over. For this reason, not all members of the species are able to obtain necessary resources for proper cognitive development. Thus, they are not yet sentient, not because of a biological deficit, but because of a sociological one. I cannot predict the path to development that this species will take. But is this not how the universe develops such beautiful diversity?

I will update you with developments periodically.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,993 elapses, and 28,300 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

Last time I wrote in response to treaties signed between powerful tribes on the planet I am studying. This time I write with a more concerning development. One the weaker tribes has begun developing a biological weapon that we suspect could destroy the entire species. So I stand in an interesting position. The GCS requires that all biological weapons are to be destroyed. They are more hazardous by far than chemical or antimatter weapons. At the same time, we are not permitted to interfere with species that have not developed interstellar travel. We are only permitted to study them.

My ship is currently on the planet's natural satellite. The weapon development is currently taking place in only one laboratory. I can easily halt its progress with a small anti-iron missile. I don't know how the species will respond. Please advise.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,994 elapses, and 4,492 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

My subject planet has gone one full rotation around its star since I wrote last. That is, 8,192 time units. I received your response about 500 time units ago, and I respect it your decision to hold fire. However, the situation has become more dire and I think it appropriate to communicate via Communicificies rather than Transficies. While sending a bot to the deadlier plane of space-time is resource intensive for my small fleet, I think the situation to be sufficiently urgent.

There are now three extremist branches of three separate weaker tribes that are working on this disastrous bioweapon together. I know not if they realize it will kill them as well as their enemies. I suspect they may not care. They keep their research a secret from all other tribes. It is a secret so well kept that not even my probes can determine how the weapon works.

To destroy the weapon, I would need to use three small anti-iron missiles. Keep in mind, these missiles also represent our backup energy supply. Please advise. I will keep our Commnicificies receiver open for 50 time units to hear back.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,994 elapses, and 4,611 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

I will hold my fire as you say. In case of an outbreak, I will withdraw all my agents on the planet's surface.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,995 elapses, and 30,004 time unit.

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

The bioweapon has been employed. I have withdrawn my team from the planet. We must now perform analysis from orbit around the planet. Our details of the development will necessarily be less specific and detailed.

I recommend you send a small SPIRE fleet just in case the outbreak takes over the entire planet. It does not appear that the bioweapon, which is infectious, is species specific. In the event that the planet is overcome, I would like to void it of life to prevent infection to other planets. Likely, members of the GCS would be able fend of the weapon, but I fear for the non-sentient species that have attained interstellar travel.

The situation is no longer urgent because I am unable to prevent the spread of the bioweapon with the arsenal contained in my three research vessels.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,997 elapses, and 11,341 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

Much time has passed since I last sent a personal message. I am disappointed that you refused my request for even one SPIRE. I was correct that the bioweapon is not species specific. It infects not only the dominant species and their evolutionary relatives, but species unrelated entirely. Plants and animals alike are infected. I cannot fathom how this could work, and I do not desire to collect enough samples of the weapon to find out. We may be immune since codons for amino acids vary from planet to planet, but we know from the early days of interplanetary contact that there are rare, but very serious, exceptions.

The bioweapon spread from three laboratories to all major land masses. It spread quickly for several reasons. First, it is not species specific. Any eukaryotic organism is a potential vector. Second, it doesn't kill the host, or even feed on the host, so much as convert the host cells to diseased cells. Not one of the 22 biochemists from 9 different species can explain how that happens. They have conjectures, sure, but we cannot say if we will not collect samples.

The weapon, or plague, has a biomass that represents almost 10% of the planet's entire biomass. It is evolving as well, The dominant species began fighting it with rapid heavy element decay weapons, but the contagion seems to be developing a resistance to radiation.

I urgently request that you send a small number of SPIREs. I will keep our commnicificies receiver open for 50 time units to hear a confirmation of my request.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,997 elapses, and 11,388 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

I understand your hesitation to destroy a planet that is in the process of development. I am reporting that the species has no hope of further development. I fear that the citizens of Lin!arvice or even asteroid fleas could spread the disease. I will take action of my own accord if denied access to a SPIRE fleet.

I do want to acknowledge by biased perspective. If I were one of the primates on this planet, how would I feel to know that invisible creatures from other planets were debating their fate. Would I not want the strangers to give my species a chance?

Nevertheless, I doubt any members of the species will live long enough to see a SPIRE in the night sky if you were to send them even now. I will keep our Commnicificies receiver open for 50 time units to hear a confirmation of my request.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,997 elapses, and 11,436 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

I understand your perspective, but I wish you could see what I see. I swear to you that this plague will kill every last one of them. SPIRE blasts would be a merciful end. I will contact you again when the last one dies, which will probably happen in less than three elapses.

If my request for SPIREs is denied even after the species is extinct, I will destroy the planet with what means are available to me.

I have made this decision in consultation and consent of my entire crew. I will keep our Commnicificies receiver open for 100 time units, but I do not anticipate a response.

Date: 3 eons, 14,159 eras, 31,999 elapses, and 31,999 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

I'm celebrating the new era by watching a potentially sentient species slowly and painfully succumb to a plague that I could have prevented. How are you doing?

Date: 3 eons, 14,160 eras, 0 elapses, and 20 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

That last message was terribly unprofessional of me. I would like to apologize.

Date: 3 eons, 14,160 eras, 0 elapses, and 31,978 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

Approximately 90% of this planet's biomass is the bioweapon. There is no intelligent life left, and the bioweapon itself is not intelligent. It appears to turn into a simplistic, green, formless, homogeneous slime after a region is infected. The now extinct species that created this thing, in an effort to extinguish it, taught it to resist radiation, fire, water, dryness, and all kinds of chemicals. To prevent interplanetary infection, I recommend, once again, that we vaporize the entire surface of the planet with a SPIRE fleet. My fleet and I mourn the loss of a potential sentience, but they are wholly lost.

Please confirm that you will send a SPIRE fleet. Else I will attempt to destroy the planet by my own means. Some members of my crew advise me that we are more likely to spread the infection by letting it exist untouched than by blowing it up with as much anti-iron reserves as we can spare. There is almost no chance that destroying it with careful SPIRE beams will spread the infection. I will keep our Commnicificies receiver open for 100 time units.

Date: 3 eons, 14,160 eras, 0 elapses, and 31,998 time units

To the Developing Species Survey Authority,

I don't think you understood my meaning. There is no biodiversity left. The plague leaves behind a homogeneous green slime. No, I will not study it. No, I will not risk any of my crew members. No, I do not know if it is bacterial, protist, or fungal. There is nothing to preserve on this planet except for a potentially devastating bioweapon. I am begging you. Send a SPIRE fleet. I am not bluffing. If you reject my request this last time, I will take the issue upon myself. I will keep our Commnicificies receiver open for 500 time units.

However this ends, I wish you a happy new elapse.

Author's Note: Thank you for checking out the Biomass! If you want to check out some of the story's side notes, check out The Letters of Dr. Mortabio. It includes sciency-sounding explanations of various technologies and descriptions of the sentient species in this story.