Professor Kessler had precious little patience for this new generation of young people. They were obsessed with their implants, obsessed with their ridiculous bio-augmentations. Those projector lenses were constantly shining in their eyes, and those little audio dots were always clipped to their ears. Who knew what they were actually looking at at any given moment? Who knew what they were actually listening to? Even in class, you could never be sure.
“Eh-hmm…” Kessler grumbled, standing in front of his blackboard. Kessler had refused—adamantly refused—to let them install holographics in his classroom.
“Hmm… eh-hmmm…” Kessler tried again. Finally, the last two students stopped talking and took their seats. But Kessler knew they’d probably keep pinging each other over Lin-Q or Alphazed or whatever the latest fad communications service happened to be.
Kessler turned, picking up a piece of chalk, and started writing on the board: Earth, Corillistrad, Delte Majoris…
“This is Galactic Political History 101,” Kessler said, continuing to write planet names on the blackboard. “As some of you must surely be aware, there are billions upon billions of planets out there. The galaxy is unimaginably vast. And yet at the same time, you will find that the galaxy is also quite small. Yes, quite small indeed.”
Kessler finished writing—there were only fourteen planets on his list—and turned his attention back to the room full of students.
“Write these names down. Memorize them. These are the only planets with oxygen atmospheres. These are the only planets where complex, intelligent life can exist. The entirety of galactic civilization lives on or near one of these fourteen planets, and thus out of the many billions of worlds in the cosmos, only these fourteen planets are of any real importance.”
To Professor Kessler’s surprise, a hand went up.
“Hmm… yes? Yes, what’s your question, young man?”
“What about chlorine?”
“Yes… what about it?”
The young man laughed awkwardly. “Well, I mean, there are planets with chlorine atmospheres too, aren’t there? And there’s life on those planets, and a lot of important stuff must be happening there, right? With the chlorine breathers, I mean. Wouldn’t that be part of galactic political history too?”
Kessler grimaced a smile. “Quite. Well, wouldn’t that make things interesting! There certainly are some… things on those chlorine worlds. Very strange things. The result of a peculiar form of inorganic chemistry, or so I’m told. But are those things truly alive? Does inorganic life truly qualify as life? Well, if you ask me…” Kessler chuckled “… I don’t think it does.”
There was an audible gasp from the whole class.
“Is it okay for him to say that?” someone whispered nervously.
Kessler shook his head and turned back to his blackboard. Young people. There must be some discussion thread going around—something on Nova-Net or Techu-Techu or one of the other activist platforms. This whole generation of young people gobbled up that sort of nonsense about alternative forms of life.
Fourteen planets. There were only fourteen planets in the whole galaxy that were worth talking about, and that was the lesson plan Professor Kessler intended to stick to.