By R. John Quisenberry
Alontheus was miserable. Confined to a protective suit and the small ship he had acquired on an obscure world in an out of the way universe, he continued his one hundred and flve year task. A hundred years of throwing stones. Not just any stones, these had to be big and hard enough to survive re-entry. The little, innocent, blue-green, third, planet was the target. There was no shortage of ammunition in the asteroid belt. The trick was to do only enough damage. Fear, not destruction was the goal.
Over the years, the people of the little world came up with different solutions. At first, they tried to migrate their population to areas that got fewer hits. Soon, they realized that the impacts were very evenly distributed over the entire planetary surface. Then came the primitive projectiles. The solid fuel for these weapons was scarce and expensive to produce. Alontheus had almost despaired of his goal when, sixty years into his task, the people of the little world started protecting their cities with massive energy projection weapons. They didn’t destroy all of his rocks, but it was a big improvement. As they made better defensive systems, the people began to hope for a true solution. On the ninety-fifth year, Alontheus saw what he had been looking for. A city in one of the equatorial areas started to not get hit. Slowly at first, the effect began to spread from city to city. By the ninety-eighth year, the protected areas had begun growing so fast that Alontheus knew the whole planet would soon be invulnerable. The rocks he sent towards the planet were either deflected before entry to the atmosphere, or crumbled into dust after being rerouted over the open seas. By year one hundred, nothing got through. Alontheus sent one, huge rock down. When that one was actually slowed, redirected, recovered, and used for construction materials, he knew that this phase of his plan was done. Over the next five years, he slowly tapered off the meteor hits until at last no more were sent.
That done, he destroyed all evidence that he had been in the asteroid belt and stepped through a dimensional gateway. He would come back when the time was right. ‘A few hundred thousand years should do’ he told himself.
When he got back, he found he had been overly optimistic. Now he was going to have to fix the damage as quickly as he could if he was going to finish his work on this world.