by Jörn Grote
Table of Contents|
Part 1 appeared
in issue 144.
I should had known it was a trap. After I had stolen a long-range spacecraft of the EDF, I entered the opening to the wormhole network; it was beyond the orbit of Pluto. On my way to the homeworld of the Grays I passed many wormholes and marveled at the time scale on which the network must have been built.
Each star system I passed showed me the same configuration of the Milky Way and the rest of the universe, which meant that the openings of the many wormholes opened to nearly the same time, which meant that from wherever the vanished race of its builders had spread, they had done it slowly enough that no relativistic effect had affected the wormholes.
When I left the opening to the supposed Gray homeworld I was attacked instantly by automated killer drones. Beams of intense energy were cutting into the shell of my ship. I returned the fire and destroyed the first attack wave, but others were descending upon me.
I tried to flee back through the wormhole opening, but the killer drones had closed that way already. More and more of them appeared, high energy beams bit deep into the structure of my ship. Important substructures began to fail. My ship was falling apart. When the ship’s drive and the weapons were destroyed, the killer drones stopped with their attack. I was stranded and drifting helplessly in space.
Full of despair I entered a hibernation capsule. The energy reserves I had would last some decades, but after that I would die, either by cold, hunger, thirst or lack of air. The only thing left was my irrational hope that someone would save me.
“You can open your eyes, Mr. Goonan. Everything is all right.”
I tried to remember what had happened last. The ship had been attacked. I sat up and looked at Xorotis. “Xorotis?” After a moment I realized who it was. “You’re the backup, aren’t you.”
He nodded. “Please call me Xorotis, Mr. Goonan.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re on my ship. I found you and your damaged spacecraft drifting far away from the opening of the last wormhole you passed.”
“How long have I been drifting?”
“For about 56 years. We suspected for a long time that Zoozeben had sent you into a trap. He escaped from the prison on Mars shortly after you went missing. But I had a rough idea where he could have sent you, and with a little patience and luck I found your ship.”
“Why did you follow me at all, not that I’m not grateful? It’s not as if we know each other.”
Xorotis sighed. “It’s a long story, and much has happened in the time of your absence. But first, tell me, where did you think Zoozeben would sent you?”
“But why our homeworld? Oh, Zoozeben again, or was it something the original Xorotis told you?”
“A little bit of all. I always thought something was missing from the big picture. Why did only the aliens in the EDF implant their minds into human bodies? Wouldn’t it have been easier for the other side to do the same? Why did most of the aliens in the EDF try so much to adapt to human culture? And then I heard the thing Zoozeben screamed when he killed my friend, our predecessor.”
“And you thought you would find the answer to all this on my homeworld.”
“Yes, but I must admit you have nasty security there.”
“Oh, that wasn’t our homeworld, it’s a star system known as the killing fields. An unknown entity controls vast armies of drones and ships that attack every outsider that enters through the wormhole. Only with the help of a fleet of ships I was able to find you and retreat safely.”
“And where are we going now?” I asked him.
“To my homeworld. Long ago my predecessor promised you the whole story, or he told me as much in a message left to his backup in case of his death. And maybe you can give me something in return.”
* * *
“Wow,” I said. Vast artificial structures were wrapped around the homeworld of the Grays, gigantic cables rose beyond the breathable atmosphere and were connected to other superstructures orbiting the world.
“Wow,” I said again. “What are these things?” I said to Xorotis.
“I don’t know, not really.”
I looked at him and then back to whatever I was seeing there. “How can you not know what this is? It’s your homeworld.”
“When a civilization progresses beyond a certain point, the rate of progression goes infinite. That is called a technological singularity. At this point all those that don’t participate in progress can’t and won’t understand much of what the other post-singularity beings do. That is what has happened on my world. That is what will happen in the next five to ten years on your world. That is why we all have come to Earth.”
“You’re joking.” I was still a little awed at the scale of the structures I was seeing. “I mean to build something like this you need at least hundreds of years.”
“You mean our world will look like that?”
“Not likely. Every civilization is unique, and what they create also. But one thing all the post-singularity civilizations have in common: sooner or later they will leave this universe, and left behind are those that refused to participate in the accelerated technological progress.”
I turned my head. “Say again, they do what?”
“They create a baby universe that is connected through a wormhole to our universe. At least that’s one of the theories of those that have been left behind. They have tried to make sense of the same thing happening to every civilization that has passed through a singularity. We don’t know exactly why they do it, but we suppose they create universes where the laws of physics are much more to their liking. We don’t know the details, because most of the technology they leave behind is so far advanced that we are lucky we can use it. Understanding it is far beyond our limits.”
“And why did you all came to Earth?”
“Every post-singularity civilization that vanishes from our universe leaves some people behind, mostly those who choose to remain. Most of those turn away from any technology, trying to recreate their romantic ideals of past civilizations. In the end most of them sink back into dark ages, and the remnants of the technological age are ascribed to elder gods. Laws forbid everyone to try to decipher their chaotic magic. But intelligent beings are curious throughout the universe. Sooner or later someone stumbles over a learning unit or another way to regain the old knowledge. That was what happened to me.”
In the next hours Xorotis told me of his upbringing in an society that seemed to me the equivalent of what I knew about the European Middle Ages on Earth. How he left as a young fellow to wander the world and found a magic cache. There he learned about the ancient history of his world and why the people of his world feared the magic of the elder gods. There he learned to use the old technology.
How he got angry and then sad when he looked upon his people and what they had become. How he came back to them and told his people of what he had learned. How some, curious as they were, followed him on the path of discovery. How others tried to repress this development, first with words, later with violence.
Then Xorotis told me of how he and his followers escaped. How they found a spacecraft and left their world, how they entered the wormhole network and met other intelligent beings who had met a similar fate. How they searched for a civilization ripe for a singularity, hoping to join them.
“Why didn’t the Grays and all the other alien races try to recreate their own civilizations?”
“Tony, I said that we learned to use the technology that was left behind. We don’t know anything about how it works. Most of the aliens on earth have come from barbaric civilizations that have somehow learned to push buttons. We can clone bodies, transfer minds and fly to other worlds because we have learned to use the technology that we found on our own worlds. But all the easy ways to learn basic knowledge have been long destroyed by those who had been left behind. And it was far beyond our abilities to access the computers that probably had all that knowledge stored away.”
“But didn’t you say you found a magic cache where you learned about the past.”
Xorotis laughed sadly. “It was a toy for children. I learned from it the basic symbols used in the ancient technology and a little bit about the past, but no more. When I came to Earth I knew how to operate a spacecraft, but I didn’t even knew what an atom was. And our number was much too small to recreate society, all aliens on Earth that want to participate in the singularity account for no more than half a million.”
“What about the group of invaders. Aliens like Zoozeben.”
“He’s my brother. And he hates me with a passion. That’s why he killed me when he had the chance.”
“Wow,” I said. “Why the family trouble?” I tried to be funny, but even to me the joke was lame.
“His two children followed me when I left our homeworld. That is his reason why he followed us. He wants to bring them back. The other aliens have mostly similar reasons. They want to bring back to their homeworld some of those who have left, but they have already lost. The human race has progressed far beyond their ability to stop the singularity from happening. We have freed those who were imprisoned on Mars, because they can’t do anything any more.”
“So all that is left for us is go back to Earth and wait for the singularity.”
“Yes. But before we arrive back in the solar system, I have one request.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Do you know why we always paired a human and an alien in the EDF? We wanted to adapt to the human culture, but to do that we needed to know and learn what it was like to be human. When I got the message from my deceased original he told me of you. How he had learned through you to be human. I never got warm with my new partner and never felt home on Earth. I always wanted to now how my predecessor felt. Tell me of your past.”
And so, on our way home to Earth with a fleet of ships in tow, I told him. How I had been depressed after I was isolated from my whole family and all my friends. How I had tried, quite consciously, to forget everything and showed the first Xorotis the joys of the 20th century. The movies, the food, the humans, the life. In our work for the EDF we had cruised the whole planet, lived big and small, fast and slow. It had been a good time.
Copyright © 2005 by Jörn Grote