Casual Play Astrogation

Iota Brahe Null MSG011TCG (Xanthi)

When you exit between-space, you find yourself in the deep void between galaxies. In the endless, extra-galactic depths, there is nothing, or nearly nothing. Millions of light years of cold emptiness, with only the occasional chunk of rock or ice lost in the nothingness to provide a point of interest.

And so it comes as a surprise when you find yourself here, even moreso when you spot the reason, the anomaly in the void that the network has flagged as a point of interest. A lonely solar system, almost idyllic in its appearance, centered around a bright, hot, yellow-white sun. Three gas giants, each shining a different shade of blue, trail in the wake of the intrepid star, roaring in loose, eccentric orbits that pass in opposing directions to each other, chewing up stellar debris like the blades of a great blender. Protected by these outer planets, a dead and airless carbon world, tar black with polar caps of diamond ice spins in opposition to another world, a rocky, water-rich earth-analog that seems out of place in a system mostly carbon-composed. Even the innermost planets are dark and heavy, their jagged surfaces broken by graphite mountain ranges and tar-sludge seas– but this one world, this eden in the void, stands out, couldn't possibly have been formed here, by this star.

It is alien, surely, and that makes it all the more intriguing.

Curious, you transfer a part of your consciousness to one of your dust-speck-sized mote-probes, make the journey to the out-of-place world. Initial scans are promising– the atmosphere is largely nitrogen-oxygen, humid by human standards, with wide, warm oceans separating sterile, lifeless continents where not even a single twig or blade of grass grows in the rich, fecund soil. Sailing through the vaporous zephyrs coming up from the ocean, you note the total absence of bacteria, of any form of life, animal or otherwise. This world seems ripe for it, for something, anything, but still it sits silent, like a garden prepared, only awaiting a gardener.

And then, while you are cruising along the bends of a wide and steady-moving river, you spot something even more wondrous, something equally out of place in the endless void– a machine, the gardener, perhaps, quietly tilling soil, condensing the air, the dirt around it into printed seedlings which it seems to summon into existence, sews so carefully in each fertile furrow. The technology involved is amazing– each plant is spun into existence from copies stored in a library within the machine, spun from the basest elements in the soil and sky. Entranced, you watch the gardener work, note the subtle variances from seedling to seedling, the way they are printed with such care and attention that the genetic structure of each is its own work of art, its own masterpiece in an analog of variation through evolution. They are not clones, rather they are individuals synthesized and modified from the blueprints of a single digital clone.

And when you discover that the technology is not limited solely to crops, you find yourself even more amazed.

Beyond the fields, on a flat plain of packed dirt, you find the colony, the squat domes of machines with openings like doors that go nowhere. Sleek, angular-bodied tripeds, the people of a species of which there is yet no record in the database, cross into and out of a digitized existence within the domes as easily as if they were merely crossing a threshold separating rooms. Each is unique, their bodies pigmented with subtle identifying markings of indigo blue and deep crimson, their analog to facial features, perhaps.

You watch them go about their business for a long moment. Technologically, they are so advanced that you decide they must know you are there, they simply have no interest in you. Perhaps they have no interest in anyone, having established a colony so far outside of any star-crowded galaxy. Perhaps they prefer the isolation, the simplicity they seem to be cultivating despite their use of incredibly advanced technologies. Mired in your curiosity, you linger even as the day draws to a close, even as the gardening machines pack up, curling into armored, articulated balls for a night of rest. Only when the doors on the domes hiss shut and the last of the lights goes out do you turn your eyes back to the void, back to the starless darkness spread out over this little world. As the mote-probe returns on automatic, you sift through your experiences, send them on to the network for others to peruse, live, experience and consider. The isolation, the fact that these people seem to have sought it, translates to a note you append your observations with. It is a simple note, a call for other visitors to respect these creatures and their chosen way of life. A call for non-interference, for passive scans only and observation at a distance.

Another few moments, and you're back in between-space, darting for your next destination, the next point of interest in the wide and endless cosmos.


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