The Inescapable Experiment

One small civilization claims to have invented a stardrive that kills everyone who uses it. One moment the ship is here, with everyone alive and well, or as well as they ever were; the next moment, it is there, and carries only corpses. The records, transmitted over great expanses against the microwave hiss, are persuasive. Observers in differently equipped ships have sometimes accompanied these suicide vessels, and they corroborate the reports.

Most of their neighbors are mystified by their fixation with this morbid discovery. It would be one thing, they say, if these people were set upon finding a way to fix this terrible flaw, but that does not appear to be the case. A small but reliable number of them volunteers to test each new iteration of the deathdrive, and they are rarely under any illusions about their fate. For that matter, some of the neighbors, out of pity or curiosity, have offered this people some of their own old but reliable technology, asking only a token sum to allow them to preserve their pride, but they always decline politely. After all, they possess safe stardrive technology of their own; the barrier is not knowledge.

Occasionally, volunteers from other peoples come to test it themselves, on the premise that there has to exist some species that won’t be affected by the stardrive’s peculiar radiance. (The drive’s murderousness does not appear to have any lasting effect on the ship’s structure.) So far, the claim has stood. One imagines it will stand as long as there are people to test it.

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