All planets have life. Somewhere…somehow…there is life. It may be in hibernation forever, created when there was heat, sleeping until moments before a final conflagration. It may be buried in sheltered ravines, or float in high clouds over burned–out lands, but there is life.

That exception is Marduk

Picture a T-type world, with an old red sun still close enough to maintain life, half-covered with oceans, and circled by three small moons.

The seas are crystal violet, and when the waves crash on the rocks, the droplets coating the stone sparkle with the shimmer of blood red diamonds in the sun.

The clouds are white, towering, with a hint of purple.

The sands are purpled silver, and bare, as bare as the dark brown-purple of the mud flats that stretch where there should be marshes.

Where there should be forest stretch only kilometres of purpled clay. Where there should be grass roll on kilometres of purpled bare hills that slowly ooze toward the depressions where rivers should run and do not.

No spires grace continental divides, but aimless heaps of weathered crimson and maroon stone, some buttressed from the bedrock, some lying loose.

The planet promised life, and there was none.

All the explorers found was death.

N'Doro—dying in his shuttle. Crenshaw—screaming for death for days in the Service wards at Bredick. The crews of the Copernick—found dead to the last soul in orbit. The list is long, longer than it should be because the planet should, by all rights, have supported life.

The deaths bolstered the argument that there had to be life, for what else besides unknown viruses or alien organisms could kill so many so terribly?

The answer, when it came, was disappointing. Chemicals—just chemicals. Every virulent chemical known to intelligence existed in the oceans and lands of Marduk. Every stable synthetic concocted by the late masters of Old Earth had been concocted earlier by the departed masters of Marduk. Concocted and left for the universe to find.

If it is violently mutagenic, teratogenic, carcinogenic, oncogenic, or toxic, Marduk has it.

And for some, Marduk held a certain promise…

The Silent Warrior - chapter:XXXV