My apologies, dear reader, I had to rest for a couple of days. This body is failing and without medical treatments, rest is all I have. I must confess that with each episode I question my decision to let this body die naturally and my mind along with it. The instinct to survive is strong. Then I remember it all and my resolve becomes firm again.
I know we are discussing the boring historical stuff, while I myself find history fascinating, I can appreciate it is an acquired taste. It is necessary, however, for you to have the context if you are to understand when the history catches up to the day I was born. It’s not far off and I promise I’m trying to keep it as short as I can.
We left off at the end of the war and the results of the two probes sent to Plagen and Nahn. We were entering a state of high robotic development, as I said before, nearly everyone had a personal robot by then. Most were boxes or cylinder shaped and they floated along behind their owners, performing various tasks. It was the development of those fields, the anti-gravity fields, that was to change everything for us. With them, we could leave the surface of our planet easily. No longer did we need high output engines to reach space! Our vehicles were quickly adapted, no more tires or wheels. The engines worked more efficiently with our organic ships and vehicles, meaning less room required for them. We could zip and zoom, stop and start, shoot up, drop down, slide backward in seconds. A trip on the ground that would have taken hours to make now took seconds. It was freeing in a way that our people had never experienced before. We could fly like the birds!
This new engine didn’t care about weight either. It could take massive loads into space for us, so we used it to do just that. We built a spaceport especially to genetically modify the plants we used to grow our craft and turn them into a whole new generation of ships. Ships large enough to hold dozens of people and scientific equipment. With the new engines, what had been a trip that took years, now took days. When at their closest in their orbits to our planet, we could make Plagen in three days, Nahn in seven! We could go, do experiments, and come back as it passed us by. Then we could spend the year awaiting its return to study all the things we’d collected. It was, to a scientist, like being handed a years worth of presents.
The war was over, only political spitting and clawing was left. Since the majority of our people were scientifically minded, we went back to our science with a vigor. All the areas that had been ignored because of the decade of war were picked back up but they were looked at with all new eyes. Eyes that hadn’t examined the problems, ears that hadn’t asked the questions in a full decade. Medical advances were made, plants, soil, weather, all of it. It was a golden age that lasted nearly another twenty years.
You know what that means, do you not?
All golden ages end.
This one ended after one of our scientists decided to reexamine an old theory. One that, at the time it was proposed some thirty years before, had gotten the scientist laughed out of the room. The man was named Professor Harkaren Yoeleb. He had been one of the leading researchers of astronomy and the developer of our very first satellite. The one that cleared our own atmosphere and revealed space as it really was, undistorted. His satellite had shown us stars and, more importantly, the other planets in our system in ways we’d never dreamed of. It charted their paths, discovered what they were made of with his revolutionary scanning equipment. He was responsible for sparking the fire that resulted in our first probe to Plagen.
What, you ask me, could a man so renown, so beloved, so respected do to get himself laughed out of the hall where he presented the paper of his new theory for the first time?
He said there were not ten planets in our system, but eleven.
This planet was on a totally different orbit than all the rest. An orbit so radical that it only ever approached our sun once every 24,512 years. It came in close, clipped its way through the inner planets and the slung itself out into the void, not to be seen again for thousands of years. It’s orbit also took it out in a different direction from all the other planets, slinging it way off, out by itself and so far off that for most of its orbit, we couldn’t see it. He had found it only by watching the way other planets and objects moved.
I’m assuming, here, that you realize there is a lot of things in a solar system besides the planets and their moons? There are. A lot of things. Mostly they are left over pieces of meteors that have crashed together and broken into small enough pieces that they just sort of drift in a loose orbit all their own. In fact, at the very edge of our system, out past the frozen little ball of planet Haar, there is a ring of things like this. Some the size of a very small moon, some so small you could play a game of ball with them. They don’t reflect light well, so until we developed highly sensitive telescopic equipment and tossed it into the void to have a look around, we didn’t even know they were there. Others roamed more freely, unbound by the orbit of a planet. Some of the very large ones, the meteors, we kept an eye on those. More than once in our planet’s history a stray had gotten caught in our gravity and plunged, screaming, into our atmosphere with enough left to actually make an impact. There are several very large impact craters on our planet and an entire branch of science that studies them.
Anyway, by finding these and tracking them for years using his telescope, he’d noticed that some of them wobbled a bit. Like something very large had passed by and caused it to be disrupted in its own orbit. Sort of like a boat on the water, if you’ve ever been in one you know that when another boat goes by, your boat will then rock. You won’t necessarily move far, but you will rock side to side, or up and down if it’s a much bigger boat, because the boat went by you. It’s a similar effect on a planet or other object when something much larger goes by, it makes the gravity wave, making the other object rock like your boat.
Professor Yoeleb had deduced, from piecing together several years of satellite images, that there was a huge object that went past these other, smaller objects and made them rock in the orbits. One of the problems was, you couldn’t actually SEE the huge object that was causing the rocking. Another problem was that the object in question if the path the Professor had charted was correct, would have an orbit of thousands of years. An orbit that would take it so far beyond the path of all the other planets that it would be without even a tiny trace of the sun’s warmth. Since he was unable to provide images of what was quickly dubbed the ‘mystery planet’, the other scientist laughed him out of the room.
The ridicule was so fierce, that Professor Yoeleb left public life altogether, although he never stopped his research. The funding dried up, as companies that had previously thrown work his way decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the disgraced man. When the war came, he hid away in his lab, too old for combat and too ridiculed for them to want him in a command position. He died in the eighth year of the war, unremarked, unnoticed by all but those who loved him. The matter was dropped, forgotten.
Until one young university astronomer, Clibben Sylvet, chanced across his paper while doing some research and decided to have a look for himself. He had a distinct advantage over Professor Yoeleb. Over a decade had gone by since Yoeleb’s first series of images and in that decade, the camera had never stopped recording. There were thousands of images and now, with the advancements in computing and robotics, it was a matter of stitching them together and writing a program to have the computer track changes. Clibben decided to make it the subject of his thesis, the paper required to graduate and receive his Ph.D. in astronomy. To prove, or disprove, the existence of Professor Yoeleb’s Mystery Planet. The entirety of his last four years of university was spent on his studies and on this massive project.
The result was devastating for his chosen field and for the population of our entire planet.
Where were we? Ah, yes. A young and curious species. Our people came from a solar system quite a way out on an arm of a spiral galaxy. The galaxy in question has gone by many names, as has the solar system. We didn’t have a name for either of them until far, far into our development as a species. The galaxy came first because our scientists had to call it something once they discovered it and others like it. It wasn’t until we left our solar system that we actually gave it a name. It was easier to explain that way than just referring to it as ‘home’. We had named our star Wex and our solar system the Wexing System. Our planet was the fifth from our sun and we thought we were the kings of the universe.
We developed advanced scientific methods, we grew our houses, our vehicles, and eventually our spacecraft from one unique indigenous plant. The spacefaring version was admittedly highly augmented genetically, but they were beautiful to behold. Living spacecraft that repaired themselves from minor damages, that created habitats inside themselves for us live. They were amazing works of science and art. They used the high levels of radiation in space as a food for themselves. As a result, they grew and once they reached a certain size, they reproduced by growing smaller versions of themselves. Those we used as transport craft and as war crafts when the times demanded it.
It was a symbiotic relationship that I have seen duplicated only in one other species. The plant that started it all was so highly augmented that eventually, it gained its own sort of awareness. We eventually developed a telepathic link to our ships. We could sense them and they us. The ship would modify itself based on what it sensed from our minds that we wanted. Additional room, not a problem. A doorway moved, sure. If it was damaged in a battle, it did what it could to save our lives, sealing off hull breaches, growing new veins to transport oxygen. They became part of our family, in a way, not just a utilitarian device we used to fly through space. It greatly saddens me that we lost those ships and that ability, for they truly were magnificent. Works of art, really. Losing one was like losing a family member as most of us had spent our entire lives on them.
But I digress….where were we? Ah, yes, the dark ages of our species. Long before my time but still, required learning as a child.
Once we became aware of the other planets in our system, we developed probes to study them. With self-righteous glee and excitement, we threw our creations out into the void of space and set them the task of studying the other planets. The planets we named after our Gods. There was Sume, the closest to the sun, then Glah, Nahn, Plagen, Wex, Mallen, Jolan, Uri, Bollan, and last was little Haar, so far out from the sun it was little more than a ball of ice. We discovered later it was frozen methane, but ice was ice to us at the time. We eventually discovered that Nahn, Plagen and our own world, Wex, were able to support life. Our probes went first to Plagen and sent back the most wonderful and foundation rocking images you could imagine.
Plagen’s little probe sent back images of cities, huge cities. Of roads and rivers, oceans and villages. They were all empty, though, which was confusing. Not an animal or anything that looked as if it could live in, much less have built the cities. Just plants. In one swoop our belief that we were the only intelligent life in the universe was blown away, in the backswing we learned those that had built the cities we saw were gone. But where? What happened to them? It was a mystery that captured the imagination of generations. This is where the first great split of our society happened.
There were two main camps.
One camp claimed the images sent back from the probe were lies, a campaign of false propaganda designed to tear down our Gods. This was, naturally, lead by the heads of the various religions. For the first time in our history, the various High Priests and Priestess gathered together and created a “Conclave of the Gods”, as they called it. They laid out an agenda that called for cessation of space exploration. They wanted total control of the government, the people, business, everything. All people were to focus solely on the Gods, their worship and their golden ticket to the afterlife. That was their dangle, their hook, to get people to stay and to recruit new members. You could only enter into the hallowed hallways of Heaven if you had the golden ticket required at the gate. That golden ticket could only be granted by a High Priest or Priestess. It had to be earned through servitude and blind obedience.
Their system of control was largely based on payment and reward, you know, money. They needed the people to be poor and themselves to be rich. This way when they decided to share their wealth it was seen as benevolence. A gift from their Gods. As when they fed the poor, who didn’t realize they were poor by design. They promoted certain people in the business sector so that those people received the custom of their poor followers and in return, those select few became very, very wealthy also. They then, in return for the favoritism, gave massive amounts of money back to the Priests and Priestess. This way the wealth stayed at the top and the poor were virtual slaves. Working for the wealthy businessmen for a small salary, part of which the temples demanded back from them. It was the greatest scam I have ever studied and I have studied many, on many different worlds. Ironically, this same scheme replays across the universe in one form or another. Over and over. I am still, to this very day, surprised at how many people join in the scheme with wholehearted conviction, no matter what species it is that presents it.
That, however, is probably because I’m biased. You see, I came from the second camp.
The second camp became known as Council of Reason because it was made up of the more scientific minds in our society. These minds didn’t really mind the Gods hanging around but they did believe that science was the key to understanding well, everything. Their experiments had shown time and again that the things once attributed to the Gods were actually scientific processes that could be understood, even changed. These individuals were the deeply curious sort, you know the kind, the ones that are forever poking under a rock or wondering how a plant changes sunlight into food. These leaders didn’t believe the people who followed the teachings of the Gods were a threat, really. They were far too arrogant in their belief that they could solve any problem with science. They wanted to care for all the people, to ensure that everyone had a home, food, clothing, doctors, medicine, and the freedom to learn as much as they wanted about any subject they wanted. For free. They wanted to end the way things had always worked, to stop making people work for small salaries and instead to give every single person a decent salary straight out. Then that person could work where they wanted, doing what they wanted. This increased productivity, creativity, and happiness. It was all funded by taxes paid by the businesses and the people themselves.
The Conclave denounced the idea as ludicrous and the campaign of hatred and anger began in earnest. Since our planet was divided into countries, it meant that some countries chose to follow one group or the other. This back and forth went on for centuries every growing in scope and scale. There were border skirmishes, meetings of world leaders, peace treaties, trade agreements, and the like going on and on. The science, though, never really stopped on either side. The Conclave had scientists dedicated to proving the Gods were the source of everything, the Council didn’t really care, they just went about their research. Every paper they published was refuted by the Conclave scientists and so on it went.
Looking back on it, it’s easy to see that a global war was inevitable. Or rather, one would have been had not the greatest discovery been made. The group of Council scientists that had never stopped wondering what could possibly happen to a planet that all animal life on it would just vanish had never given up trying to figure it out. A second probe had been sent, this one actually descending through the atmosphere to land near one of the cities. Our technology had advanced significantly during this time. We could learn much more than ever before while having the information sent back to us through space. The readings all indicated that it was an atmosphere very similar to our own.
We could live there.
This discovery set into motion in the Council countries a program to send people to Plagen as well as a probe to the more distant 3rd planet, Nahn. The Conclave screamed its rebuttal but no one was listening. Even their poor followers were captivated by the idea of leaving our own planet and going to another one. I suspect some of them saw it as a means to escape the Conclave, but that is just my belief. Plans began in earnest then, to make a true spaceship. One capable of leaving our planet, carrying people to Plagen, landing, then returning them home so they could share their discoveries with everyone. It was like a fire in the minds of all people, and the Priests couldn’t fight it. They screamed damnation at anyone who hoped it would succeed, but the fired had been lit.
While the research and development of a spaceship was in progress, a probe had made it to go on to the more distant Nahn. It returned even more intriguing data to us. There was life there, complex life. Not as developed as us, no villages, farms, factories, etc. But complex animals roamed the air, land, and waters. A new probe was developed and sent to land and take samples of air, soil, and water. We’d developed advanced robotics by this time, so this probe unfolded into a device that could roam a little. The results were promising. We could live on this planet, also, it seemed, based on the limited experiments that the probe could perform on its own. When these results were made known, it was as if they’d thrown gasoline on an already burning fire.
Something interesting happened at this point in our history. The Conclave of the Gods split into two factions. The original faction continued to decry that all the information released by the Council of Reason was false, lies spread to deliberately turn people away from the Gods, and therefore Heaven. The second faction decided it was their solemn duty to establish settlements on these worlds so that the God’s domain would expand. They wanted to claim Plagen as the sole property of the Conclave and of the Gods. They wanted to keep the Council from ever setting a foot on it. The result, naturally, was a war within the Conclave and with the Council.
The war encompassed the world, country against country and in some cases, brother against brother. It was brutal and it lasted nearly a decade. The Council of Reason won, in the end, if it can be called winning. The divide in the Conclave was their undoing. Winning was really just a peace agreement. An end to the brutal murder of people and destruction of our planet. All research into going to either planet had slammed into the brick wall of war and laid there, discarded in the rubble until the war ended. It was a sad and frankly, embarrassing time in my people’s history. But, there you have it. I won’t go into detail of the atrocities committed by both sides, or tell you personal stories of my own ancestors lives. It’s been my experience that every people has their own stories that are eerily similar and thus easy enough for you, the reader, to imagine.
A by product of the war, however, was advancements in many areas of science. Robotics, for example, had leaped forward in unexpected ways. We now had robots that could follow us around and do things for us. Most of them resembled a box and used a small anti-grav motor to float along. They had manipulation fields that they could use as arms or hands, or whatever the need required. They carried our luggage, made our dinners, cleaned our homes. They went on the next set of probes sent to Plagen and Nahn. They brought back samples of plants, rocks, fresh water, sea water, simple bacterias, and air samples. They were able to make the trip to and from in record time because of the advancements in engines, including the anti-grav motors, that happened as a result of the war. Really, the war brought about the exact opposite result that the Conclave had hoped for.
But that is enough for today. I am tired.