This is another part of my story about Mostly Frank. I’ll be producing a couple of installments a week. I’ve mentioned Frank a couple of times previously, see below. My travels with Frank are not over yet, so these will be dispatches, rather than chapters. The whole tale will be assembled by forensic experts at some time in the future.
It turns out that most people call their home planet ‘Earth’ in whatever language they speak. It’s another way of saying ‘the ground I’m standing on’ or more simply ‘here’. This worked well until people began to travel between planets. The question ‘Where are you from?’ could end up in arguments worthy of an Abbott & Costello sketch. Don’t ever attempt the question ‘What do you people call yourselves?’ because the translator will always come back with ‘Us’.
After a lot of confusion and argument, it was decided that the planets should be numbered. You might think there’d be a bit of argy bargy about who was going to be called ‘Number One’…. there was quite a bit of argument in fact. However, it was eventually decided that the home planet of the current Empire should be number one. This decision was made by the Emperor. All the other planets were numbered according to their distance from Number One.
This was done back when wars were still possible. More on that later. Empires did rise and fall back then, but the number system eventually caught on. That was back when Empires were still possible.
The universe is relatively infinite, but the number of planets worth numbering isn’t. Places ended up with a name that looked like a phone number. The names were small enough to write down and the cleverer people could actually remember them.
Solar systems are not terribly crowded, so new outposts could be accommodated easily. The outlying colony of 789456123456 was called 789456123456a, for example. The natives of 789456123456 still called the place ‘Here’ and the new colony was called There’. On 789456123456a the planet 789456123456 was called ‘Home’, but after a century or two had passed it was Here and There, just like Everywhere Else, which was the local name for all the other planets out there.
It was useful for navigation. If you’re trying to go home after a night out on a small planet close by the Horsehead Nebula, words like ‘Home’, ‘Earth’ or ‘There’ are not terribly helpful. It’s much better to have the whole thing written down. As you can imagine, a wrong number could turn out to be expensive.
Newly franchised planets were usually happy to have been assigned a number at last, but tended to cling to their former names for a time. You could tell a newish place because you’d still see something a bit fruity like ‘Thhroggthar’ or ‘Eaardwéig’ printed on their money.
This planet here, where we’re standing, is neither named nor numbered. If pressed, the inhabitants will answer the ‘Where are you from’ question with something unhelpful, like ‘Newtown’, ‘Brussels’ or maybe even ‘Pennant Hills’. I’m quite happy with that myself, but Frank finds it a bit of a puzzle.
The universe is far less complex than you’d imagine. The bits of I’ve seen so far look vaguely familiar. It’s kind of like that thing where most of the aliens on television look like humans with funny bits sticking out of their heads. The aliens who can get Terrestrial TV find this entertaining. Mind you, the nearest relay station is about twenty light years from here, so they’re still waiting for series three of Star Trek TNG.
Frank thinks that the reason our tv shows are popular with the in-crowd beyond the Oort Cloud is because we Know Something. I’m not so sure about that, but I do know that things still happen on this planet. Most of the known universe is pretty impressed by that. Round their way, nothing happens at all.