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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Museum: A Science Fiction Story

The Museum: A Science Fiction Story
  On the planet Seldauria all of culture revolved around the Museum.

   The Museum had started out 40,000 years ago as a single building storing artifacts from the history of the planet. But when the Seldaurians began to explore other stars, the scope and extent of the Museum expanded greatly. The Museum became an institution storing everything that the Seldaurians had been able to discover about the history and culture of other planets. The Museum became a repository for all the treasures the adventurous Seldaurians brought back from other star systems. After doubling and tripling in size several times, the Museum eventually became the size of a large city. The Museum now consisted of thousands of buildings in the same city, and some of the buildings were gigantic domes the size of mountains.

futuristic city

Art by M. Mahin

   As there was no institution so vast anywhere for hundreds of light years, the Museum became a place of pilgrimage to many other races on other planets. On many planets the highlight of someone's life would be to travel to Seldauria and see the endless treasures of the Museum. Most who came would spend at least a year exploring its exhibits. It was not uncommon for visitors to report that they had spent the past ten or twenty years visiting the Museum and its countless buildings. It was commonly said that it was better to see the Museum at Seldauria than to explore fifty planets.

   On Seldauria none had greater prestige than the uniformed priesthood known as the Curators. The Curators performed many roles. One of their roles was to negotiate with the captains of many starships that came to Seldauria. For thousands of years the Seldaurians had been broadcasting radio signals advertising that great treasure would be paid to any ship that visited Seldauria with historical and cultural artifacts. So every few years starships would arrive at Seldauria filled with items that the Curators paid richly to acquire.

   The Curators also designed the buildings of the Museum, making sure that space was allocated appropriately, and that the grandeur of the buildings was proportional to the grandeur of the galactic history they recorded. To store all the artifacts from the Dauryan Empire, the Curators erected a dome that was a thousand meters tall, which was a fitting scale to commemorate an empire that stood for 100,000 years. To store all the treasures obtained from the Ventic League of Planets, the Curators built a tower of 5,000 meters, with each meter representing one of the planets or moons that made up this enormous confederation.

   Also having great prestige on Seldauria were the brave adventurers known as the Gatherers. The Gatherers were sworn to the mission of exploring other planets for the sake of acquiring new artifacts for the Museum. The Gatherers left Seldauria in gleaming starships that were almost empty. They came back many years later with their ships crowded with artifacts that would be handed over to the Curators, who would assign the artifacts their proper place in the Museum.

  Three of the Gatherers were Yauri, Cyton, and Delnon. Aided by a large task force of robots, they arrived one day at a life-bearing planet that had seen better days.

   “I've completed the initial scan,” said Cyton. “I can see no sign of intelligent life. But this planet once had a civilization, many centuries ago.”

   “So let's go down and try to get some things for the Museum,” said Yauri.

   The three Gatherers and their robots went about exploring the planet. They were quickly able to find the shattered ruins of a city, which was buried under many centuries of plant growth. The hand of Time had felled what few buildings remained from the original catastrophe, and the ruins were covered with moss and vines.

   “Any idea of what caused their downfall?” asked Yauri.

   “I see trace readings of a particular radioactive isotope,” said Cyton. “It's not something you see naturally. My guess is that this is a remnant of a Class Seven Extinction Event. They probably blew themselves up not long after getting atomic weapons.”

   "I've seen some evidence of runaway nanobots,” said Delnon. “I've heard of this happening. A civilization will introduce self-reproducing nanobots into the environment, and be all excited about what progress it is making. Then the nanobots start reproducing out of control, leading to unimaginable global destruction.”

   “Do you think that happened before or after the nuclear war?” asked Cyton.

   “Who cares?” said Yauri. “We've got to find some decent artifacts for the Museum, or we've come here for nothing. We need something in better shape than all this mossy ruined junk we see around us.”

   Using a small communication device, Yauri queried a computer on his starship. The computer informed him of a promising lead. There were indications that an underground repository had been discovered outside of the ruined city. Yauri had some of his robots dig up the ground to find the repository.

   The robots came back with a steel chest retrieved from thirty meters underground. After some fiddling the three Gatherers were able to open the box.

   “I think this may be one of those preservation capsules,” said Cyton, “It may have been buried with the idea that some future generation would dig it up to find artifacts from an earlier age.”

   Inside the steel box were various small artifacts and some photographs. Yauri lifted up the largest of the artifacts.

   It was a rectangular piece of fabric attached to a bronze-colored spear-like pole. The fabric consisted mainly of alternating stripes of red and white. On the top left corner of the fabric was a blue rectangle, and within that blue rectangle were 50 white stars, neatly arranged in nine rows.

   “What do you think this is?” asked Yauri.

   “My guess is that it's some kind of weapon,” said Cyton. “This metallic pointy end is presumably a spear.”

   “At least we found something in good shape,” said Yauri. “Now let's get off this crummy little wreck of a planet.”

   After the Gatherers returned to Seldauria, these artifacts were eventually displayed in the Museum. But the Curators deemed that the obscure insignificant planet merited only a small place in the Museum. So only one small room in the vast Museum was allocated to hold the artifacts from the planet and its mysterious vanished civilization.