— Now, that, right in front of your eyes, is a level 3 planet.
— What’s that then?
— Primitive life. They don’t know they are being observed. They don’t even know that there is any life form anywhere else.
— I didn’t know there were planets like that.
— There are very few left now.
— They might be happy, you know.
— Not for much longer. You see the big yellow star?
— They call it “Sun”.
— Well, very soon it’s going to explode.
— That’s partly why we’re here.
— I thought it was just a trip to see other cultures.
— Well, we are seeing them, aren’t we?
— Yeah, OK, if you mean seeing a few poor bipeds get blown to bits.
— They’ve had a good life.
— How do you know that?
— I guess they have.
— You certainly like your clichés.
— Just think about it. They’ve lived their whole lives thinking they were the center of the universe. That must make them feel rather proud, don’t you think?
— But they’re going to die!
— We can’t do anything about that.
— Are you sure? We could evacuate them.
— How do you imagine we do that? We have a vessel built for tourism, not evacuation. And then, even if we got some, they don’t breathe what we breathe and it would make them ill.
— Better ill than dead.
— That depends on the illness.
— You have to have the last word, don’t you?
— I’m just explaining that we can’t do anything.
— And when is this star going to explode?
— Er, in about fifteen minutes. Look how it’s starting to swell.
— But why is it exploding? And have they not seen it coming?
— They had the stupid idea of sending all their garbage to it. I heard that the planet had become a real dump. Then suddenly, a genius had this bright idea. And the star was apparently not too happy about it. That’s how come they don’t know they are living their last moments. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
— It’s very sad.
— But you could also say that they’ve dug their own grave.
— Oh, that’s too much, you and your clichés.
— They liven up a conversation.
— And what do you think they’re doing down there? Perhaps they can feel it.
— What difference does it make? In ten minutes, they won’t be thinking about anything anymore.
— You are such a cynic!
— It’s not for nothing that I teach stellar atheism.
— And was it your stellar atheism that drove you to organise this school trip? Do you really think the children want to see thousands of life forms get destroyed?
— You’d be surprised what children want.
— Well, in any case, it’s immoral.
— Maybe. But the show is beginning. Look, children, look carefully, it’s not every day that you see an apocalypse!
Translated by Wendy Cross