Musings from the office of an exploration vessel's captain.
The PHALANX-32 refueling and supply station to which we are now docked orbits the planet Mu-7. The locals call the station the Backalley and for damn good reason. It’s an awful place to live, but an excellent place to do business.
Since I’m here for neither, and only want the fueling and the supplies, I certainly hope this stop can be without incident. I will bring my gun and some backup aboard with me, just in case.
The Mu system is on the outer reaches of known space. Far from Earth and other bastions of civilization, it is effectively a lawless system where all walks of criminal life duck down and make their shady deals. The Backalley is the de facto capital of the system, the most heavily populated and heavily visited of over a hundred stations strewn about. That way, any ship that passes through for fuel and supplies has to dock in the station where the big men of crime live. And they definitely monitor any ship that passes through.
You can never be too careful.
Though the population of non-religious or non-practitioners is an ever-widening majority in the galaxy, one should not discount the still very large number of religious individuals. There are quite a few aboard the ship. Though I do not intend to criticize another person for his or her beliefs, there are some rituals that I find… odd and archaic.
Some religions require the believer to pray in direction of a specific place or fixed object to show one’s reverence. These kinds of worshippers have, in their quarters, elaborate star charts and positioners so that they know, at the appropriate time, just what direction the planet with their holy relic lies. To point it into perspective: navigators are people specifically trained in academy to be able to read the complex computations performed by navigational computers. It is not as easy as it may seem.
Other pious people bring their relics with them. It’s simpler, but sometimes they can be quite cumbersome. Down in the loading/unloading section of the cargo department, there is the figurehead of some god. Apparently there’s quite a substantial community of people aboard this ship who visit regularly to pray to this idol for fortune and guidance. It is said that even if you are not a regular practitioner of the faith, you can ask the god for fortune and if he deems you worthy you may receive it.
I suppose I’m not worthy, despite my askings.
About six years ago I intimately knew the commander of a smaller vessel called the Reluctant Cooperation. He was known in his circle for being a bit rebellious and loudly contrarian and found any way he could to criticize the chain of command. I won’t deny a small part of that attitude might have rubbed off on me.
He told me he hated the phrase that was lovingly etched abreast the hull of exploration ships. The very phrase is on my own—and I am sure many of you have heard it, it’s quite famous. “For the universe to know itself.”
The phrase is fragmented from a larger thought, from which it derives its meaning: “We are a way for the universe to know itself,” an older turn of words by a twentieth century physicist. Basically, it rather poetically describes the universe as a living being that uses sentient species to explore and prod its own body like a child discovering its own motor functions. Because humanity is the only sentient species in the universe, it goes without saying that it is our duty to act as the thoughts and senses of the universe at whole. It is our duty to the universe itself to explore it.
Of course, the very same physicist often also emphasized the insignificance of the human race in the face of the vast cosmos. We are nothing but specks in the mud, our worlds meager dots on the expanse. Unlike the people who created the slogan slapped upon our ships, we explorers understand the concept of how very small and very unimportant we are. However, it should be recognized that, as far as we know, we truly are the only offspring and aspect of the universe capable of exploring the thing.
The commander of the Reluctant Cooperation and I haven’t spoken in a few years. He’s not an explorer like I am. He thinks that the only entity to which humanity owes a duty is itself. I have trouble determining what other entities in the galaxy there are to owe things to.
Lieutenant Quartlery down in engineering killed himself today. The Doctor had prescribed him a sleeping medication after he had had trouble sleeping. He had also prescribed an antidepressant medication. The poor kid overdosed on the pills. There was no question that it was intentional. He left a note. It was rather lengthy and I shall not reproduce it here out of respect to him, his family, as well as to you readers, but one line from his letter to the living stood out to me, a quote that was trite 800 years ago:
“God is dead, and we have killed him.”
I am reminded of my discussion with the first commander and subsequent entry about the death of the idea of God in humanity. This is a concept that Quarterly seems to agree on.
I would not say that he had lost faith in God, but rather that he had lost faith in human beings. I cannot blame him. There are plenty reasons to hate the human race. But maybe I am being too sympathetic of wallowing in pessimism.
I think that if there is a hereafter it shall be sparkling pristine palaces; Moorish tips and Grecian pillars. Paper lanterns hang from white Roman structures and effigies of beast-headed gods stand outside pyramid and Parthenon. Church bells ring and choirs chant in Hebrew and Latin. The enlightened wander freely in their nirvana. The angels and kami and Aesir and gods are men and women and wield weapons, use tools, play instruments designed for human hands. It will have been built for man, possibly by man. And somewhere in Hell or Tartaros, beyond the river of the dead, the embodiment of the human race will writhe about under the weight of its own misaimed pride. And every alien race we’ve never encountered will dwell in a paradise on the other side of a fence; a fantasy just out of reach.
This is something that I have to report… alas, ships with suicides in their records are generally considered diminished in some sort of nonexistent superstitious quality. I’ll hold off on the report and cite trauma and mourning. I’m still empathic enough to mourn the lieutenant, at least.
We have begun the month long voyage on reserve power to the nearest fueling station. It is my desperate hope that word of our blunder in discovery has not already reached them there. I achingly do not feel like explaining myself to whatever sort of backwater outskirt-dwelling fueldrinker would hang out around that empty expanse of uncharted pirate-space.
Pirates. Bandits. Brigands. Smugglers. Thieves, cutthroats, backstabbers. Murderers and rapists. The worst kind of despicable people. A testament to the human spirit. I hope my ill temper dies down by the time we reach our destination or I fear I’ll be looking for a fight with the animals. And I have fought many animals worse than they.
We have been orbiting this same planet for about two weeks, maybe. Neither I nor my crew has the drive to go anywhere. There has been a melancholic shadow over the entire ship. It’s probably me more than them. It’s hard to feel like doing my job when I feel like I’ve already failed it.
It’s a respectable idea, to restart civilization anew. Find an empty, unsettled planet, build from the earth, and look at history to guide you. It’s noble, romantic, and heroic to consider the idea of a human rebirth.
Does the ordinary person realize how reliant we have become on our technology? If I asked you to walk into the woods naked, would you be able to survive on your own?
I think the answer is no. To both of those. It’s a commendable effort to rebuild society from the ground up. It’s stupid and ignorant to do it the way these damnable people tried to do. Should I pay respects to folks so ignorant in their pride that they think they can build mud houses and draw pictures on a wall and that makes them an ancient civilization? That don’t even last 300 years before becoming a dead race? And to drag children away from their modern pampered lifestyles out into worlds alien and dangerous is something condemnable.
Aliens. There’s no such thing. Just stupid, awful, painful human beings. We are alone. Accept that.
life is a joke, isn’t it. a joke.
we’re put on earth so we can spend ten thousand years reaching for the stars so that when we finally get there and reach the door to discovery we’ll step through the door and a bucket full of indiscriminate disappointment will drop on our heads and we’ll all be part of some massive cosmic prank
only there’s no one else out here to see it. just rocks and dust and pitiful creatures. no one is laughing.
they are human
skeletons. skeletons i have seen before
The walls depict more humanoids. Other strange things. Perhaps this civilization’s idea of an afterlife.
One stands out to me: it looks as though they believed they were ferried here from some Eden-land in the heavens. There are certain ways you could interpret this…