Saturday, January 5, 2013

Second Hand Inheritance: Part Two

 (Author's note: Here is the link to part one which explains where the idea for this story came from. Hope this confusing jumble of words makes some sense, once again its just me having fun.)

The sun was up when I finally awoke and I quickly jumped out to see what damage there was to the valley. Because of the years of work and better than average success in seeding the area with terrestrial life, I had hoped the situation would not be a total disaster. Before the ground quake the valley was close to sixty-five kilometers long and forty kilometers wide with the river running down the middle all the way out past the gap marking its end. After the event, one of the mountains had collapsed covering over half of the eastern end of the valley in rubble with the river even changing its course to go around the obstructions. The result was devastating with many of the seeded ponds and most of the trees now covered under tons of boulders and gravel.  

After several minutes, I started scanning the collapsed mountain with my binoculars looking for signs of any pending landslides. Since I was not a geologist I could not tell for sure but it looked as if the mountain had been cleanly cleaved down an existing fault. Aside from loose boulders, it looked as if the worst was over even though what had already occurred was bad enough. Right when I was about to pull out my communicator it was then I noticed a strange shape on the side of the mountain about seven-hundred meters up from the base. For all the world it looked like a tunnel shaped like a perfect pentagon with its pitch black interior standing out in sharp contrast from the red-brown material  that made up the rest of the peak. Making matters more mysterious was that if I pushed the focus on my enhanced binoculars to the very limit I could see what looked to be a metal-like substance framing the tunnel.

From the day the Pathfinder arrived in the Tau Ceti system there had been fanciful talk about possibly finding alien artifacts, the idea being that at the start of the twenty-first century no sane person would have guessed of the upcoming events that would ultimately lead to the destruction of the Earth. So, it was grudgingly admitted by the skeptics that finding intelligent alien life or evidence of its existence was in no way a jump into fantasy. The trouble was that as the initial mapping of Haven and scans of the rest of the system proceeded after Pathfinder arrived, no signs of an alien civilization were ever found.

Still though, I was looking straight at something that I did not think could be a natural occurrence. I wanted to call New Jericho and send video but if I did and it turned out to be nothing I would never hear the end of it. That left only possible course of action, I had to cross down into the valley and over through all the debris field to examine the feature directly.

A well-worn path along the side of the mountain had me down in the valley in less than an hour. My spirits were greatly lifted as I passed a couple of the surviving fresh water ponds and saw not only living terrestrial vegetation but several adult bullfrogs and ample evidence of small fish and insects.  There was even indication that some of the life seeded directly in the river had survived the ground quake and the rerouting of the waterway. However, when I entered the debris field I abandoned the buggy and brought only the basic survival backpack, ropes, and since the pentagon-shaped mystery still looked like the entrance to a tunnel all the chemical light sticks and balls I could carry.

It took me hours to make my way up and because of loose boulders I actually had to climb above what I was now sure was an artificial tunnel. When I finally repelled down into the passageway, I could barely control both my curiosity and excitement. Not only was it clear the tunnel was lined with a refined metal after turning on my flashlight I saw patterns embedded in it that I guessed was some sort of writing.

With all doubt about the tunnel now removed, I stood on the edge of what had become the entrance since the ground quake and tried to reach someone at New Jericho with my communicator. As luck would have it, the relay tower was down at that moment and the lone satellite dedicated to Grounder communications was not in the proper position. The best I could do was leave an automated message that everyone would get when the tower came back online. With that done, I donned the small pair of night vision goggles from my backpack and started walking deeper into the unknown.

At what I guessed was two-hundred meter intervals, I dropped one of the chemical light sticks knowing that even after their light was no longer visible the night vision goggles would be able to pick up their faint glow. I began to get nervous after an hour of walking even with my precautions and despite the fact, the passageway was straight with only a slight but steady decline going deeper into the mountain. It seemed an easy assumption that whatever constructed this facility, they went to great lengths to protect it along the lines of the command bunkers the old nation-states on Earth built during the twentieth century Cold War.

The passageway ended rather anticlimactically at a featureless circular room about two-hundred meters in diameter. Unlike the walls of the tunnel, the room carried no embedded shapes almost as if the builders had gotten there and just said to hell with the whole project. After circling the entire room, right when I was about to head back out a huge door slammed shut at the entrance and a weak light at the center of the ceiling came on slowly increasing intensity allowing me to remove the night vision goggles I had been wearing.

Seconds after doors slammed shut I began hearing sounds from the floor below that reminded me of massive machinery coming to life. At the same time detailed holograms began appearing on the wall showing detailed scans of my skeletal structure, circulatory and nervous system and every other facet of my body down to the molecular level.

Considerable attention was spent on my brain with holograms that seemed to show experiments being performed on the floating simulations. As I stood trapped in that room subject to the whims of the entity or entities running these scans and tests I found considerable comfort in the fact that everything was completely painless. Truth be told, I had a strong suspicion the reason I was being shown the holograms in the first place was to reassure me no harm was meant, something that was very soon to be confirmed.

“Well, this is extremely fascinating,” I heard behind me. Taken by surprise at hearing those words , I turned to see another hologram forming but this time it had nothing to do with anything remotely human. What I saw taking shape before me looked like an octopus from Earth. It had the expected eight legs but four of the appendages were ridge and clearly served as legs while the other four looked more like something from a terrestrial cephalopod but ended in fine, finger-like digits.  

I stood transfixed for several minutes watching the hologram complete the process of forming; a procedure that was clearly taking far longer than the previous three-dimensional images I saw, which could instantly materialize in high-definition across the room’s circular walls. When the creature finally looked solid, I noticed it had four eyes located on a center point of the body I took to be its face. Underneath the eyes were slits that expanded and contracted on a regular basis and appeared to be used for breathing. The most remarkable thing of all was that the creature’s entire body pulsated in amazing patterns of color. “When this structure was constructed so many eons ago we had absolutely no idea that when it was finally found it would be by a strange looking alien from another star system.” The creature said with each word causing complex patterns of color to ripple across its body.

Feeling strangely calm and almost flippant I replied, “Good point, but I never expected to meet an alien creature that could speak English.”

The creature actually seemed to enjoy the verbal exchange with an explosion of color crisscrossing its body, which I instantly assumed was laughter. “Oh my dear boy,” it said,” that was a simple enough task.” Along the walls multiple images appeared of New Jericho and Pathfinder’s habitat sphere showing all manner of human activities as if we were right there walking among the people and buildings. “As soon as you entered this central room triggering the systems we scanned everything from you to your small settlement and the ship in orbit. As you can guess from the images we displayed of our scans of your body our abilities are exponentially  more advanced that your current technological level. It did not take long for us to understand your languages, recorded history, and your attempts to bring life back to this battered world.”

Gathering my thoughts, I finally came up with a semi-intelligent question. “What do you mean battered world and never expected an alien to find this structure? And you keep saying ‘us’ how many of your species live in this complex?”

“Well,” it said heavily tinged with overt human sadness, “since we know so much about you and your species it’s time we share some answers. As for how many of us are alive here, the simplest answer is none. The complicated answer is that there are forty-two surviving individual personalities existing in an artificial reality matrix. At the time of our civilization’s Great Death, there were thousands but as the eons passed, they went insane and were deleted or became so entangled with the matrix their sentience slipped away. What remains of such a distorted and dulled personality amalgamation with the system essentially becoming a character in what you would call a movie.

The creature then paused for several seconds as if it was gathering its thoughts. The pulses of color over its body nearly died away and I began to worry something had gone wrong. “As for our battered world, my civilization was ancient when dinosaurs ruled your planet and by the time the earliest human ancestors were beginning to climb down from the trees it had reached a level of development you would compare to magic. Our fall came when a large number of my species began to believe we had in actuality become what you would call gods.”

The holograms came alive again with images of what I took to be the planet Haven millions of years ago hanging in space. The images zoomed down to the surface showing graceful crystal-like cities and millions of creatures like my new friend walking among the streets. It was a beautiful world fitting seamlessly with dark colored native vegetation and the terrain creating a work of art.

“Unlike the crude and nonsensical political and religious divisions that plagued your species,” my friend said, “from the time my early ancestors crawled out of the mother ocean we were a unified species. There were divisions and events very much like wars but they never lasted long. Our physiological and philosophical makeup prevented deep divisions and as for religion, your history suggests a level of insanity that defies all reasonable explanation. From your own records, early humans had a habit of constructing polytheistic religions with a complicated series of gods all exhibiting your same base and irrational behavior. The monotheistic faiths that followed spoke of rising above such primitive instincts but quickly devolved and in fact behaved even worse in many cases. Instead of trying to create gods or god in our own image, my species viewed the universe as a living creature where various types of intelligence emerges and struggles to reach some sort of connection with the greater whole.”

“But yet with all your knowledge and wisdom you eventually found a way to destroy yourselves?” I said confused.

“Our downfall came from the desire to actively pursue perfection in an effort to force an early unity with the universe on our own terms. Unlike your species, we had no moral or ethical issue with modifying our basic genetic code. It was something we had been doing since our civilization began. The problem came with the very different and competing methods some were experimenting with that threatened to change our core nature. Various factions formed over the methods with the extremists doing their best to exacerbate the divide. The war that resulted sterilized our world so completely it took millions of years to come to the state you see now.”

The holographic images floating before us of an advanced civilization merged into a single picture that jumped back out to space showing Haven as a whole. Blotches or fire bloomed on the surface and grew until it encompassed the entire surface. Centuries then began to flash by in seconds now with the planet nothing but a burnt cider.   

“My own faction built this structure in the childish hope that something might be left for us to rebuild from the ashes but we eventually realized that would not be possible. After that we just continued our existence for no other reason than the fact that self termination was not an option that had been built into the system.”

I could tell my meeting with the creature was drawing to a close but I had one more question. “How does my species fit in all this? We do not have the ability to leave your world should you find our presence objectionable, we are orphans in every sense of the word.”

“My surviving compatriots and I could not force your species off the planet even if we wanted. We are limited to just the passive watching of the outside universe. No, we decided to meet with you because we feel your species presence could bring something back to this injured planet and us as well. Yes, you are very flawed creatures but you crossed the stars in an effort to preserve life and rebuild a civilization. They are goals worthy of the most noble of intelligent species we have every encountered. No, the fault is our own, we have little to give you but a wrecked world and maybe as the years go by wisdom in the hopes we can help you recreate something of your lost home here.”

Without any ceremony, the creature started to fade. “Wait a minute,” I yelled, “will we met again?”

“Most definitely we will talk again, although I have no idea when, my fellow survivors and I have much to discuss.”

“What can I call you when that happens?”

The patterns of light again flashed across the creature’s body indicating laughter. “My species language is incomprehensible to you humans, but just for simplicity sake I will take the human name of Sam.”

The huge doors to the room opened the same time Sam faded completely away. The tunnel back to the surface was lighted this time and when I emerged on the surface, it seemed the whole town of New Jericho had come to Apple Valley. It took a few hours for me to climb down as they were trying their best to climb up to the entrance.

“What the Hell did you find Aaron?” my boss Akemi and wife Ruth asked along with everyone else after I made it down to the base camp that had been set up.

“I stumbled upon the landlords and they officially gave us the planet. Said it was a fixer upper and that they will stay in touch.” Was my general answer, but as the days passed and news about Sam and his fellow survivors of a lost civilization was adsorbed it was clear that humanity’s view of the universe had changed again. I had no idea where this all would lead but I soon realized that for me personally I had completely accepted Haven as my home.


Windsmoke. said...

Wouldn't be surprised if there really is an underground complex some where on our planet housing beings from other worlds.

Pixel Peeper said...

Interesting message from another world's past!

Still fascinated with all the detail, like laughter being shown by bursts of color. It takes great imagination to come up with stuff like that.

Life As I Know It Now said...

This is not just a hobby for you. You are good at writing short stories and you ought to work on getting them published.

lime said...

so each race destroying itself rather than destroying each other.....i like this twist.

Randal Graves said...

At least fixer-uppers keep you busy, no?

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Way to go! I like the way you entertain yourself by indulging in what you call a writing "hobby"... because you entertain us, too. Great imagination.

Akelamalu said...

You really should be published Beach, I'm not kidding here!

Loved it.

John Gray said...

I have enjoyed my troll through some of your blog
Greetings from a small welsh villager