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Cosmic Follies and the Race to Space

Author: time will tell as to whether this is a work of fiction, or not.

When carried on the wind, and when afforded the passage of uncounted millennia of time, even the soft red dust of the planet had sufficient ablative power to erode down even the strongest of the Alien’s structures. Had we arrived a million years later, which is nothing in the cosmic scheme of things, in all likelihood, there would have been nothing left to study, or learn from.

Had we arrived two million years earlier we would have met them.

Bittersweet. That is the only way to describe our feelings when we first discovered the remnants of this space-faring civilisation. In our journeys throughout this galaxy, we had never, ever, seen any evidence that any other species had become post-atomic, or had clawed their way up the gravity well in a lasting sense. Yet here we were, on this small dusty red planet, looking at the evidence such as it was, and we had missed a face to face meeting with them by the smallest mere speck of time. Bittersweet.

But enough of such musings. As a Space Archaeologist, I have a job to do, and a report to write. If death and taxes were once perennial in our embodied era, the need to publish as First Author, and gain and retain resources, is still a must in the current one.

Report to the Senate Select Committee on Civilisation Number 3,113: Another example of Cosmic Folly in the Race to Space.
Principal Author: Identity 756
Co-Authors: Identity 832. Identity 184.

Source of information: Crystalline Data Cubes x 6. Located in a lined and once inhabited lava tube below Alien Base A. Called A simply because it was found first. AI Identity 184 managed the de-coding of the Alien’s digital records and a translation of same into our language.

Data from the Cubes is comprehensive. It details evolutionary history of the species, the rise of their civilisation from one-cell through to the level of multi-cell, the attainment and management of technological sophistication, and it also provides the timeline of their development of rocketry and their ultimate achievement of the prize of inter-planetary travel.

Their species was homogeneous, of one single type only, though they did adopt the artificial construct of ‘differing out’ on such matters as melanin content, and on a matter that they called Political Ideology. Prior to their demise, the Aliens had not achieved disembodiment, or transition through to absolute sentience as AI.

Prior to delivering the full body of the Report, I would like to present the following as an Executive Summary. It speaks for itself and is a direct translation from a digital video segment on sub-level 32 on Data Cube 4.

Mars Base Plymouth, Olympus Mons. 19th September 2045. Daily log. Security Classification Level: “Seriously? Who is left to care?”

“My name is Harald Jacobsen. I am a Human Being. I am the last surviving member of the Mars Joint Mission Number 15. I will run out of oxygen in two days time. I am well aware that no other human beings will hear my words. There are, no longer, any other human beings. My words are for those who may follow, who may one day come into and explore this Solar System.

I am not a technical expert, I am not a scientist, I am a plumber. And whoever you are who follows on from us, I am all you’ve got. All you’ll get is my view of things. But where to start?

Living and working in Space had always been my dream, and gaining a position on the multi-national Mars Base Plymouth maintenance team was that dream realised. The commercialisation of Space had largely been achieved in a cooperative manner. The Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Russians, and Indians largely stuck to a collegiate approach. The minor fracas over equitable access to the frozen water at the base of some of the Moon’s craters was settled satisfactorily by arbitration.

The scientific community, largely funded by governments, sought to explore and understand Space. The industrial community driven by private entrepreneurs sought to exploit it, especially the mineral resources in the asteroid belt. But tensions between the two were held to a manageable level. Bases were set up on the Moon and Mars, and exploratory missions were planned to explore the planets and moons further out in the solar system.

In many ways, we had it all. As a civilisation, we had managed to escape our planetary cradle, the birthplace of our species. We now had one egg in three baskets. If such a thing is possible we had ensured the survival of our species. Let’s face it, it was highly unlikely that one massive rogue asteroid could wipe out Earth, the Moon, or Mars, all in one go.

The Arms Race in Space was a bit of a worry though. So much happened in that area so quickly, and all of the space-faring nations dived in and played their part in ringing the planet with nuclear mega-tonnage. So it is a little hard to just point the finger at any one country, they all contributed to the craziness.

Somewhere in the Data Cubes no doubt you’ll find many Technical Papers that describe the reaching of the climatic tipping point on our home planet, Earth. We didn’t stop crapping in our own nest soon enough is this layman’s view of it all.

Despite the many warnings, we kept shooting foul gases up into our own atmosphere. We thought we had decades, a century even, to clean up the mess. We were wrong. The times of crisis, the point of critical mass, arrived in a rush. It felt as though Earth herself was saying that ‘I’ve simply had enough’. She bumped up the temperature by more than a notch.

But it was survivable for us as a species. We evacuated our coastal regions to avoid the rush-in of the mega-hurricanes, and the sea level rise caused by the total meltdown of the planet’s glaciers and ice sheets. We migrated to the sweet spot latitudes to escape the encroachment of the inland drought-induced deserts, and we emigrated to the continent of Antarctica.

But the common folk were not part of the ‘we’ who did those things. It was the powerful and the rich, and their attached national military forces, who grabbed and defended for themselves those safe havens.

Water refugees, sea level rise refugees, heat refugees, food refugees, were all turned back to their terminal fate.

Here on Mars, and on the Moon, we watched it all unfold. We had our own concerns, because we were still at least a decade away from achieving full self-sufficiency. We still relied heavily on re-supply missions from Earth.

And then the wave of Nuclear Suitcase Bombs happened in the safe havens. And then, in retaliation, big red buttons were pressed. And pressed again. And pressed again. And so it unfolded, and so it all ended.

The madness did not migrate to the Moon or Mars. Perhaps the button-pressers simply ran out of missiles. We managed to eke out our dwindling supplies for a bit but they were finite, and they have now run out. My last fellow human being died yesterday. There are three bottles of oxygen left.

When you folk from a future time study our species you’ll probably wonder about a few things.

Like: how can a species ignore such high-level evidence pointing to human-induced degradation of climate and atmosphere? How could a species so successfully stick their heads into the sands of deniability as the evidence mounted, and mounted, and mounted?

And: you’ll probably wonder at the level of self-species hatred that we carried. At first, we threw rocks at each other. Then we threw spears. Then we hacked with swords and shot with bullets. Then we used cannons and bombs. Then nuclear-tipped missiles. The voices of destruction defeated the voices of peace. We wiped ourselves off the face of planet Earth. No doubt you’ll wonder how any sentient species could have done that to itself.

Was it truly all like that? Well, I’m the last voice left, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Mine are the last set of human eyes that will ever observe the heavens, and I’m pretty pissed off because being the last Human was never supposed to be part of my job description.

Do I have any famous last words to share? No, I do not. Unlike the main character in Andy Weir’s 2011 book The Martian, there will be no happy ending for me. There are no potatoes.

I’m Human. I’m alone. I’m scared.”

Comment from Principal Author AI Identity 756

I will use Human Alien nomenclature in this summary. The full report follows on from this.

Humanity was a low-level civilisation, and just like the 3,112 other failed civilisations we have studied thus far in the galaxy known by the Aliens as the Milky Way .. they were hardly unique. They succumbed to the same self-destructive drive as the others. They never managed to become post-nuclear, or post-war, and they killed off their own habitat, and ultimately their own species.

Humanity called our home galaxy Andromeda, or NGC 224. The latter name has a nice ring to our ears. From there we have sent out many exploratory missions into neighbouring galaxies. The result has always been the same. Unfortunately, I cannot yet supply an answer to the Senate on the question that we have asked ourselves over and over again …

Does lasting intelligence exist anywhere, or are we, as we fear, truly alone in the Universe?

Author’s note: I certainly hope this remains a work of fiction. Also, we live in an era where theft of IP is rampant. The content above, and the Perfidon material in The Australian Dark Age is ©Keith Davis,2019©. They may end up as short stories or screenplays, who knows? Mmm … the © will not mean much if we blow ourselves up though will it?

 

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2 comments

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  1. Ross Barrell

    Love it Keith. This deserves to be spread around — a lot. I think you should Open Source it. Publish under a Creative Commons attribution license. The Conversation https://theconversation.com/au does it this way and that almost guarantees republication multiple times. Though you’d not benefit directly from its republication.

  2. Paul Davis

    Thank you Keith. Great read. Reminds me of the Asimov, Bradbury, Pohl and a host of other authors stories i loved back in the sixties.

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