Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Project Update - Day One

So, I've gone and signed up for NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, for those who don't know. The point is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's a little bit crazy, but doable.

Today I wrote about 2,600 words (the goal is 1,667 per day, so I'm ahead of schedule). Since I won't be updating this blog much this month I thought keeping people updated on my NaNo project would be a suitable idea. With that note, this is the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo Project, "Legacy".

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I don't know why I'm writing this. It all seems so futile at times, and yet at other it seems like something I have to do. I... I don't know. I guess I'm writing it because... I'm hopeful. After what we found on that little blue planet, I just can't believe we're alone any more. And even if we are, I know that someday some other life will come along, far after we've faded away into memory, and they will find it. And then they will find this... Recording... I suppose long ago it would have been called a “book”, of what happened to that little blue planet. What we know at least. So perhaps that's why I'm writing this. To preserve the memory of the story. Or perhaps there's another reason, a more... Selfish reason. Perhaps I'm just documenting this so that when we have faded into obscurity, we won't be entirely forgotten. There will still be a small memory of my people, my race... Me.

Yes, although I hesitate to admit it, perhaps that is why I am writing this. Perhaps I'm... Afraid. I'm afraid that some day when what happens to the people of that planet happens to my people, I'll be... Nothing. Not even a memory. Not even a shadow. They left a planet, my people... We shall leave nothing. I won't even be a statistic. Perhaps some day, hundreds, thousands, millions of years from now even, this “book” shall be found, and someone will read it. And maybe, just maybe, for a brief moment of time, I will be remembered.

Yes. Being remembered. That is what I want. That is why I write this. So the planet we found, it's people, and I, shall be remembered. This is our legacy. This is perhaps the last chance of two species to ever be remembered.

And so it is with that purpose that I write this down. It is with that purpose that I record the final story of that little blue planet. It is with that purpose that I write down the last story of Earth.

Before I can tell the last tell of the planet, however, I feel it is necessary to explain who I am. My name is Tare'Sondre. My people are a nomadic race. For thousands of generations, we have scavenged the stars. We search system by system in our massive city ships built by our ancestors. There are hundreds. Thousands, even. They each hold a separate governing structure, ruled by themselves, and hold millions of my people. Together our ships interact together and travel the stars. So it has been for generations. Together we have searched, endlessly hoping, endlessly finding nothing.

And so is the destiny of my people, the “Pol'irion”, so we thought. To seek, and never find. To search endlessly, for intelligent life.

The stories of the Pol'irion say that our ancestors evolved, grew in size, and population, and became what we are today. They slowly built. They built cities, they built technology, and eventually, they had nothing left to build. Any technological advancements were minor conveniences, and there was, quite simply, nothing left to be desired. Quite simply, they got bored. They simply didn't see the point in building any more, with no one to share it with. As far back as anyone could remember, they had always wished for other life. To know that they weren't alone in the universe. But they were never contacted.

And so they built our city ships. They shot for the stars, and scoured the universe for life. And their children searched. And their children's children searched. And so it was for generations, the Pol'irion's one and only purpose in life became to find others like us.
And we never did. And we thought that we never would. And I could hardly even bear to hope that we would.

I still remember what it was like before, I was no one. I couldn't be less important if I had tried. I was just a lowly culture expert, not a commander of a ship, or a member of the government of the ship which I lived on. No one important even knew my name.

I was part of a team called a “Unit” which was composed of myself, a biologist, a linguistics expert, a computers expert, and a “leader” who was in charge of us. Together, our unit was meant to help understand whatever life we found out in the vast emptiness of space. Of course, we never found any, so we didn't have very much to do.

If we ever did find life, the linguistics expert would be the most important. His job would be to, as one might expect interact with the life we found, and understand their method of communication, whether it be verbal, physical, or mental. We would then be able to communicate with the life.

After that, the Biologist's job would be most important. He would be in charge of understanding how the life we found functioned, and perhaps finding ways to improve the life of both their people, and ours.

The job of a computers expert would be to understand how their computer systems work, and try to figure out ways of getting their systems with ours, assuming they even have computer systems.

My job as a culture expert would be an ambassador of sorts. Once the linguistics expert had learned the language, he would teach it to me, and I would be in charge of investigating the culture of the life.

The leader would be who we all reported to, who would distribute our discoveries to others.

My personal team was comprised of myself, as I already told you, a biologist named Weq'Re, A linguistics expert named Yu'Oir, and a computers expert named Trai'Muh. Our leader was named Yui'Req. Together we were quite good at doing absolutely nothing.

Until that day, that is. The day we found the blip.

The day we found Earth.

I still remember that day so very well. I was far from the first to hear about it, of course. But I was certainly one of the most excited. A blip. A blip on our sensors. A noise. A sound. A signal. A sign of life. But of course, I told myself, I shouldn't be too excited. We'd had blips before. Much bigger and more exciting blips than this one. Once we had thought we had discovered intelligently designed tunnels in an asteroid, and it turned out to be caused by a very rare phenomenon where the asteroid was very soft material. It came into contact with some meteors which, instead of shattering it, tore straight through it.

One time we thought we had discovered a planet with a lack of one gas, and a surplus of another, and we seemed to find evidence that there was a strange, abnormal pattern of the atmosphere being converted from one gas very quickly, then slowly back to the other. We thought it might be evidence of intelligent life, which was, for some unknown reason, converting the gases back and forth. It turned out that the atmosphere abnormalities there were caused by a rare kind of gas eating volcanoes, which would absorb one kind of gas, and then the other would be sent out into the atmosphere by eruptions which happened every few decades. The plant life on the planet was able to convert the gas back, but after several decade, the converted gas would become prominent, and the volcanoes would begin to erupt again.

And even if we had found life before, it was never intelligent. We found one planet inhabited by billions upon billions of different species of insect with no noticeable plant life, which ate each other, and seemed to convert gases which they could breath back and forth, via each others.

So, I told myself, I shouldn't get excited. Odds were that it was simply one of those things, nothing important. Nothing new. No intelligent life.

But secretly, I let myself hope. I let myself hope that this time would be different. That this time we would find a real civilization. That this time we would find real intelligent life, in some form or another. That this time I would get to actually investigate a new culture.

I got my wish.

After many days (for simplicity, I shall use what we were able to find to be Earth measurements of time. A “day” was one rotation of Earth, and a “year” was ~365.25 days.) we reached the blip. A small planet, the third one from the star which it orbited. It had a surface covered mostly by water. The first thing we did was send robotic drones down to the surface, to take various readings, and pictures.

What they sent us back would change my life forever.

The readings they took were released to the scientific community, myself included, being a part of a unit, almost immediately. And so I was able to see them with little to no delay. At first, they seemed to be nothing remarkable. The first readings they got back were about the atmosphere. The air was mostly Oxygen with various other gases mixed in. We would be able to breathe it. Then they got mineral scans back. Again, nothing especially remarkable. Then they got a video link with the drone.

It had landed in the middle of a city.

Nothing like our city ships, of course, but a city nonetheless. Large structures, which looked to be made of various materials stood on either side of the drone. As it looked around, what looked to be like large metal vehicles stood in the center of what looked to be a road. Thick green plant life had overgrown almost everything. Millions of cultural conclusions jumped into my head. They build their cities permanently in one spot. The cities can't move. They must consider plant life to be almost exalted, to incorporate it into their cities like this. Perhaps their stomachs are only suited to eat plant life, and not meat? Maybe this is their way of ensuring everyone has food. Or perhaps they can only eat meat, and thus, exalt plants as some sort of thing above being eaten? Or, perhaps they themselves were a kind of sentient plant life?

The drone continued to move through the still and silent city. I watched eagerly, hardly able to contain myself. I was seeing something... I can't even describe it. It was something I had searched for my entire life. My ancestors had been searching for this for generations. My people's sole purpose in the universe was about to be completed. We had finally found sentient life.

Or so I thought.

As the drone continued to move throughout the concrete city... There was nothing. No signs of life, aside from the monolithic structures lining the roads. It was day out, but there was no movement. There was an unnatural still. Perhaps the life forms there were nocturnal? Finally the drone approached one of the structures. The structure was large, and had what seemed to be large transparent barriers at the entrance, although it was hard to tell if it was a material I was familiar with, since it was completely overgrown. The drone managed to bash its way through the barrier.

It was about this time I heard a voice say “Tare, are you there?” (Tare was what many of my friends called me, I shall explain our naming system further at a later point in time.) I recognized the voice, it was Weq'Re, the Biologist from my unit, and close friend of mine.

“Yes Weq, I'm here.” I responded, begrudgingly looking away from the screen which displayed the Drone exploring the inside of the structure. “May I enter?” Weq responded. I responded that he could, and he entered the room through my circular entryway. Weq had hardly entered the room yet when he said “Did you see it? Of course you saw it! Structures! Plant life everywhere! Intelligently designed roads!” “Yes, yes, of course I saw it!” I replied. “But you realize what this means don't you?” Weq said excitedly. “Proof! Undeniable proof!” He continued.

“Yes! Proof! Proof of intelligent life! What I want to know is where they are!” I replied to him. He looked at the screen which sat behind me. It now appeared to be showing the Drone attempting to scale what appeared to be a pathway leading upward, with the ground raising slightly every foot or so. Weq responded to me, “Yes, it is quite odd. Very still, very calm. You'd think we would have at least run into some one... The structures seem quite permanent.” I looked at the screen again. “Yes, I noticed that. I don't think they even move at all.” Weq thought to himself for a moment, “But surely they must be able to move somehow.” I changed the subject for now. “That's not important for now. Why haven't we seen anyone yet. Why is it so completely overgrown? Those large metal things outside this structure, they appeared to be vehicles of some kind, and yet they don't look like they've moved in centuries.”

“Perhaps their a sort of sentient plant life? Or perhaps they evolved to the point that they don't need to use vehicles any more. Perhaps the plant life we saw are the life forms, and they form some sort of network? Like an insect's hive mind?” I responded. “I don't think so. If they had evolved to that point, why wouldn't they move the vehicles out of their city. And look at the structures. They have clear entry points, and there's no practical reason for plant life to build structures anything like this, not to mention the question of how they would build something like this. I don't think we've encou-” I was quickly cut off by noise coming from the screen behind me. I turned and looked at the screen.

There it stood. A fierce looking creature. It was covered in gray hair, and had four legs, and a small tail. Its head and face had two eyes, and a large snout of sorts, its mouth sticking out from its face, with sharp teeth lining either side of the snout. Its nose sat on the end of the snout. As it stared at us with a fiery look in its eyes it gave a strange noise. A sort of low rumbling.

“Do you think it's trying to communicate?” Weq asked me. I didn't respond, not wanting to miss a second of our first contact with the planet's life form. The creature continued to let out a low growl. The next noise I hear was in our own language. Whoever was controlling the drone must have patched his own voice through, to attempt to communicate with it in our language. “Hello. We are the Pol'irion. We have searched endlessly for life, and we have finally-” The creature was clearly stunned by the speech, as it stepped back for a moment. Now it was recovering from the shock though, and let out a loud short, deep noise. A moment later the voice patched through again and said “Sir, we are attempting to find a suitable linguistics expert to attempt to communicate with you in your own-” The creature obviously didn't like that, as it leaped onto the drone, knocking it over. And repeatedly attacking it with its jaw. The drone wasn't built to withstand that kind of beating, and a second later, we caught a glimpse of some wires coming loose and snapping, and instantly the picture went dark.

There was a long silence, finally broken as Weq said, “Well I think we found life.”

We had found life.

And it was hostile.

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