Completely ruined, Mishael thought as he looked over the planet below him. What a waste.
He had known for some time that something was wrong. As he slowed his ship to match the planet’s frame of reference, he’d watched from lightyears away, checking his scans every day as the aeons whipped by on the world he’d visited only a short while ago. A short while ago for him, but his travels near the speed of light had left it whirling at unimaginable speed in his absence. Since he’d last looked down at this planet, the land mass had split and drifted apart. The plant life he had seeded had flourished, grown…
..and then been cut back.
From far away, he had noticed the strange rise in carbon level. He had timed his arrival to be before the plant life reduced the free carbon in the atmosphere to the point that the plants began to have a hard time surviving. Instead, something had made the carbon rise again. He was worried, but he had never expected the devastation he saw when he reached the planet’s side.
Something had evolved. So very recently had it sprung up that the carbon spike had only appeared days ago for Mishael. Something had evolved that had discovered the vast reserves of organic residue Mishael’s plants had left beneath the surface of the planet. The organic residue that Mishael had come to claim and bring back to his home world.
They were using it! Not just to feed their crops, as Mishael’s race did, but they used it as fuel. The creatures had lit up the dark side of their planet with specks of light like stars, they moved about over the land and sea, and through the air, in strange metal vehicles that consumed it and burned into smoke. Their whole planet was rewinding, devolving back to the age where Mishael found it, hot and barren and rich with carbon, ready to be planted with life.
But there was no harvest. The whole thing had been spoiled. Mishael watched the creatures, watched their cities pass beneath him, watched the planet on which they had sprung up like a rot.
He wondered what to do. He could raze the planet and start over. Burn everything off. But still, it would be hard to kill all of these creatures. They were clever. Some might hide beneath the surface, some might find a way to survive. And then, even if Mishael seeded the planet again, he would return to find his harvest consumed once more.
He fingered the button on his control panel, the one that would cleanse the surface of the planet. Then he took his tentacle away without pressing it. He sighed and set his course for the next world on his route. These creatures would die off on their own, sooner or later, and then he could return and start again. Or maybe they wouldn’t, and the next time he came, this world would be home to another race of spacefarers.
Mishael sped away, watching the world behind him slow to a near stop as he approached the speed of light again.