The latter had been the biggest stone of contention and nearly didn't make it on board. They needed water to survive, which wasn't a given on a foreign world.
But somebody had put their foot down and here were the tadpoles, caught in cryo sleep like their companions, snugly hidden away in the core of the probe.
They all drifted through space for a long, long time. So much time that the powerful mini-batteries finally failed. The fuel had run out long ago, but that was to be expected and had, in fact, been planned for. The insulation and the cryo freeze would have kept the passengers going for a while longer.
Not that it was necessary.
For the probe had landed. Had splashed into the shallow waters of an emerald ocean light years away from its origin. The colour of that ocean was owed to microscopic algae cooking the primordial soup.
Life had already started on this foreign world.
Life had just pulled the card of doom.
The probe rolled in the shallows until a stronger wave pushed it against a gaggle of rocks and withdrew with the receding surf. Sunshine glittered on the metallic skin of the probe, found the hidden solar panels and caused electronic eruptions inside. Next came electricity, it flowed through the conduits and triggered a domino-wave of activity.
The probe flashed red and, with a screeching noise, the top panel opened, and the cargo got ejected.
The bacteria came first. They landed in the mud behind the rocks. There are no records of either their failure or success to take hold. For all that matters, they might still be bobbing in the tide pools.
The seeds got catapulted to the other side and landed in the water. For a moment, they were buoyant on the algae cover until they absorbed water, got too heavy and sank below the surface. The seeds were a spectacular non-success.
The lichen came next; they won the lottery ticket and landed on the rocks. It wouldn't take a year, and every single stone in the area would be covered in migrant lichen. From there, the foreign invader set out to conquer the world.
The termites, like the seeds, were biologically ill-adapted to cope with the layout of their landing site. They crawled around on the muddy surface, until, one by one, they succumbed and got sucked into the wet sands in an awakening that was as rude as it was brief.
It was the tadpoles who won the jackpot. Not only did they find themselves in an environment well suited to their needs--sweet water--but also a whole ocean full of it. Plus, there was something else. Perhaps it was that long-forgotten radiation from when an entire planet had blown up. Perhaps it was sun-storms, suction created by black holes during their journey. Whatever it was, something had happened to the tadpoles. And the tadpoles only.
Well, the termites might have been of a different opinion, but they were gone so quickly, they never got to comment.
The tadpoles had gone sentient. They were self-aware as soon as they came out of the cryo-freeze. It didn't strike them as odd. It just was. They also had a swarm-intelligence, all forty-six one of them.
Forty-five. One had just got washed too far onto the beach and found out, much to its terminal disgust, that the solar radiation of their new home was rather lethal.
The rest decided a shift towards deeper water was called for and acted on the motion. Chewing on the yummy algae, they swam and dived and explored their new environment. And they got bigger and bigger and started changing. Developed little legs, first at the back, then at the front. Their skin got tougher, darker and warty and, covered in a screen of algae it was no problem to promenade the shoreline anymore.
Nothing much happened for quite a long time. The forty five toads lived out their lives on the shores of the far-distant ocean. They lived much longer than any toad would have, back in their home world. Their progeny, of which there were many, lived even longer.
The toads were already into their seventh generation and had joined the non-sentient lichen in its conquest when the miracle happened.
A spaceship landed. Suited figures got out and waved all sorts of instruments around.
The toad colony watched from below the algae, only their eyes showing, staring at the newcomers.
A thought sparked through the toady web of brains.
We shall overcome!
Like one organism, the toads surged forwards and advanced on the space travellers in a wave of green slime and wildly paddling legs.
The suited visitors dropped their instruments and made for their vehicle, tinny sounds of distress emanating from the speakers in their suits.
They never made it. With a mighty croak from many toady throats, the amphibians swarmed the space travellers, ripped their space suits to shreds and covered their pale bodies until they wriggled no more.
The person in the shuttle, for that was what the vehicle was, tried an emergency take-off, but the toads were faster. A second group surged inside (note: always keep your spaceship locked when exploring) and overcame the third traveller in no time.
Now, the toads were in control of the command panel from where issued frantic squeaking and babbling.
The group of toad elders, the ones with the strongest legs, hopped forwards and pressed a button through their sheer weight.
Stop this, the toads thought.
The babbling ceased. Silence ensued.
We are divine. You shall serve us. If you do so well, you shall be rewarded. Fail, and you shall be punished.
More frantic babbling from the speaker, but it ceased once a brain wave burst from the toads, like a bubble in the mud.
We shall not repeat ourselves. You shall serve. Or die.
It would have to be assumed that the hapless crew of the unnamed spaceship valued their lives, for they took the toad commando on board and followed their instructions to the letter. From the planet of the emerald seas, the toads spread all across the multiverse. On many planets, they have since been openly worshipped. On some less so.
But believe me. No matter where you go. There's always a toad running the show.
YOU ARE READING
Lords & Ladies of the M'Verse: An Ooorah AnthologyScience Fiction
Each of the 100 stories featured herein will be set within a Universe of the writer's creation, all being a part of a larger, shared Multiverse. Writers have free reign to tell the story they wanna' tell and providing...