Stories short story: intellectual property by greg mcwhorter

The earthman gawked in horror at the spectacle that he was witnessing from the observation deck of the Taletherian spaceship. Don Larson’s feet and wrists were bound and he was spread in an ‘x’ formation; electrodes had been attached to his head. He could not believe what he was seeing.

He thought that this must be some kind of illusion, or vision, created by the Taletherian’s and projected somehow into his mind through the electrodes.
Looking out the observation window, Don could see the planet earth being torn apart by a series of massive explosions that seemed to burst in a chain-reaction from one end of the planet to the other. After several hours of constant explosions, what was left of the earth was nothing more than what appeared to be a debris field in space. The explosions had ended and now only massive rocks and clumps of land littered Don’s vision.
How could this have happened? Am I really the only human left? These were just a few of the thoughts that Don had as he contemplated his position and what he perceived to have been the total annihilation of the planet earth. Don’s mind was reeling and his thoughts were jumbled. To keep his sanity, he played back the events as they happened to him, but all he could remember was that one minute he was out on a hike and the next he was on this ship. This must be a dream he thought feverishly.

“This is not one of your dreams, earthman.” came a hollow, echoing voice that seemed to be only heard within his mind.
Don called out, “Who are you? What is going on? What do you want with me?”
The voice came again, “We are the Taletherian. We have destroyed your planet. We want only your thoughts.”
“What! Wha…” was Don’s feeble reply before the voice interrupted, “Do not try to articulate your meanings into words. You are in what you call shock. You are coming to comprehension and it will be beyond you to understand everything that you may wish to know. I will quickly tell you that we have placed what you refer to as ‘electrodes’ on your head for two purposes. The first is to gain your thoughts so that we may record them along with the history of your planet. The second purpose is for communication. You can only understand me because I am projecting my thought patterns into your mind. I am not speaking. Now, think slowly and I will let you ask two questions. You may speak your questions aloud so I know exactly what you want answered.”
Don took his time. Several minutes passed as he pulled himself together mentally and thought about what he should ask. Of course the Taletherians were monitoring all his thoughts and therefore knew the different questions that he was formulating, but he knew that he must carefully fashion two complete questions to ask out loud. It did not take him long to realize what two questions he must ask.
“What was your reason for destroying the planet earth?”
“Your planet was no longer necessary.”
Don waited, but no further answer came. He was angry that the Taletherians did not elaborate.
“Earthman, we see by your thoughts that you are not pleased with our answer and that you do not feel that it is complete. Although I have answered your question, I will give you some details that may satisfy you. About five of your years back, we discovered a probe that your planet sent into space. Within this probe was the star location of where your planet was to be found and several discs containing all the planet’s information including DNA codes for all known species of life on your planet. With this information, your planet was no longer necessary. We Taletherians learned long ago that ‘Knowledge is Power’…to borrow one of your earth expressions…and that as we are the only beings that now know about your planet and its inhabitants, we control that knowledge. In the universe, knowledge on various life forms and the DNA codes for life forms is expensive knowledge. The benefit that we will reap from the knowledge of your planet will sustain the cost of our explorations for many of your earth years. Thus, your planet was no longer necessary since we know all about it and we don’t want others to find out what we know without paying for the right to know.”
This answer was bizarre to Don, but being a citizen of a capitalist society, he at once understood that the knowledge that scientists sent into space about the planet, to share that knowledge freely with others, was now being viewed solely as a commodity by these capitalist aliens. Don only had one other question to ask, so he asked it.
“Why have you saved only me?”
“As humans were the dominant species on your planet, we felt that a random representative should be at hand to witness the end of your planet. We wanted to record your thoughts to add to the sum of man’s knowledge. Now that we have them, you are also no longer necessary.”
Before Don could finish analyzing this information, his body was jettisoned into space and destroyed with a single cannon burst.
All the information about the planet, including Don Larson’s final thoughts, were transferred to a device that resembled a sugar cube in size and dimension. The Taletherians were pleased with the thought of how much wealth the earth’s information would yield for them. They already had several buyers lined up. The bidding would soon begin.