I, Reverand Genera lo’Motris of the Interplanetary Coalition, being of sound mind and body, do commit these collected records to the archive. Our star has mere days before its impending supernova consumes every planet, exterminating all life in this system. In hopes that our mistakes will not be made by others, we are launching the probe you now possess towards deep space. It contains the complete archives of our civilization. With these records, we hope that our legacy will survive and guide other peoples of the galaxy as they advance and grow. Various personal logs have been selected for this archive due to their poignant and relevant nature.
INTERVIEW WITH CAPTAIN PONTIUS OL’CLARIN, STANDARD INTERPLANETARY DATE 25144045
Do I just talk into this? Yes? Oh, this is audio-only? Oh, that’s fine. I was hoping there would be visual recording because— never mind, it’s fine. Hello, I am Captain Pontius Finneas Ol’Clarin, captain of the airship FA907, the Jewel of Sildar. A natural-born Sildarian, I am an expert on all things involving bravado, chivalry, and adventure. I’ve been called a leader, a lover, and, well, sometimes uglier things. But I persevere, as do all those called to greatness. Shall I just take it from the beginning then?
Let’s see now, this whole nasty business started a few years back when Keyes Bogron was my first mate. A stellar woman, if a tad forgetful. When I hired her, I was drawn to her skills as a telepath. She was a small woman, but incredibly sharp-witted. Having a telepath as a first mate was wonderful. Whenever I had fallen into an adventure too deep, I could signal her with a thought, and she’d have my back. Like magic.
Funny business about forgetful telepaths, though, they tend to be equal parts helpful and obstructive. The day in question, for instance, should have been a run-of-the-mill voyage between the capital and the Renet Peaks. Our passengers were sightseers, tourists, and a few researchers headed to the observation post at the Peaks. Not the most exciting lot, but those voyages do pay the bills that let me be the daring, exciting thrillseeker I am.
On this particular trip, we had been forced to reroute around a storm brewing over the jungle. Great billowing and broiling clouds for miles forced us near the mountain range itself. It was on that detour that our craft was struck by an object, which forced us to land prematurely. The rear of the airship had sustained damage and Keyes went to check it out and look for injured passengers. She joked with me before leaving about how she hoped we’d lost a few tourists. Just good-natured joking between companions, of course. We would have been distraught if we’d lost anyone.
When she returned, she was behaving strangely. But how was I to know what happened to her? We usually only check the emergency logs when aircraft are unrecoverable.
AIRSHIP FA907 EMERGENCY LOG, STANDARD INTERPLANETARY DATE 12044041
Keyes: Hello? This is first mate Keyes Bogron. I have medkits and emergency packs, are there any passengers trapped back there?
Keyes: I am advancing through the door of the compartment. If you require assistance, please try to call out, even in your mind. I’m a telepath, so I’ll be able to sense you.
sound of footsteps down a metal walkway, accompanied by increasing rhythmic thrumming
Keyes: What in the seven planets? What is that? Ow! I can sense you. But why are your thoughts so… sharp? It’s like daggers in my mind. Please, signal where you are, you feel like you’re in distress. There’s something wrong, I can tell. Just let me help!
thrumming sound fades into low, prolonged tone
Keyes: Woah! Whatever you are, do not take another step! I’m warning you, I have a weapon and I will discharge it on you.
the low tone ceases
Keyes: How did— who are you? No, stop it! Get back!
Also Keyes: Do not be afraid, it is time to sleep.
Keyes screams, followed by the sound of footsteps leaving the area
CONTINUATION OF INTERVIEW WITH CAPTAIN PONTIUS OL’CLARIN, STANDARD INTERPLANETARY DATE 25144045
When she came back from the damaged section of the ship, she was unusually quiet. I asked her what had happened, and she gave me some explanation about debris from the storm hitting us. Tree branches or some other nonsense. But it was Keyes, so who was I to doubt her? I tried joking with her about the tourists again, asking if any fell out by some good luck. She gave me this absent look and said in a monotone voice, “No one was lost. All are accounted for.”
It was really strange. I can see why now but at the time? I just assumed she had forgotten about our little joke. She is, or was, quite absent-minded. Later, once we were back in the air, I sent her a thought about checking the status of the landing apparatus, but she never reacted. That was so unlike her to ignore me. Sure, she would ignore my jokes and gags sometimes, but when it came to flying, she literally would read my mind. That was part of our rapport. Never in a million cycles could I have expected what had happened to her.
INTERVIEW WITH LELITA POLTACK, STANDARD INTERPLANETARY DATE 26144045
I am Lelita Poltack, a physicist specializing in the study of antimatter. I swear that this testimony is truthful and complete to the best of my knowledge.
On the date in question, I was in my laboratory in the Renet Peaks when the Bogron girl approached me with a series of questions. She was most curious about the current understanding of antimatter in the scientific community. Being a scientist, I of course was quite happy to talk at length on the subject. For someone who claimed to be an airship pilot or some such thing, she had quite a deal of knowledge on the subject. In fact, she shared several theories that I had not even thought possible in the field of producing antimatter. But she showed me the equations, and I had to admit that they checked out. Quite a brilliant mind, that one.
Later that evening, as I was locking up to go home, I noted a large number of materials had been taken from the lab, including some equipment. This of course was on the same date as the other thefts from research stations and universities across the system.
PERSONAL LOG OF THE REVERAND GENERA LO’MOTRIS, STANDARD INTERPLANETARY DATE 01014046
And so we come to the true purpose of these logs. To the best of my knowledge, alien entities, foreign to our star system, infiltrated various positions across the seven planets. These beings collected knowledge and supplies relating to antimatter production, rocketry, and heat-shielding. Three days ago, a rocket was fired from the closest planet to our star. That rocket carried a warhead of antimatter and was shielded from the heat of our star.
Our scientists estimate that in days, the antimatter warhead will reach the center of the star and trigger a supernova. The alien aggressors responsible have already fled the system. In a last effort to preserve our knowledge and culture, as well as protect any other civilizations among the stars from falling to this fate, we have launched this probe. Be warned, these creatures can be anyone, take any form. They have no care for the lives they take along their warpath. Whoever, whatever they are, they seem to seek only to destroy. May the Light of Creation have mercy on us all.
The Prime Minister stood up from her desk, mind spinning with the decoded and translated recordings she had just listened to. One of her advisors, a man who had been with her since her days in parliament, sat on the chair across from the desk. In the waiting silence, he cleared his throat and spoke.
“There is a theory about why we had not, until finding this device, found evidence of alien life. Some call it the ‘Dark Forest Theory.’ It posits that intelligent life has no way of knowing the intentions of another intelligent species. Seeking to preserve itself above all else, and lacking the ability to verify intent, civilizations must assume alien civilizations are dangerous. So a species must obliterate the other before they themselves can be obliterated.”
Her advisor had paused, most likely seeing that the Prime Minister was now staring thoughtfully out the window of her office. After a moment, he continued, “This alien artifact is clear proof of that theory. But the truth is, it is far too late to worry about this threat. They — we — are already here. Do not be afraid, Julia. It is time to sleep.”
Before she could grasp the admission that had just been uttered, she turned to see the skin of her dear friend ripple and change. He, or it, approached her with an inhuman smile, a syringe in its undulating hand. The last thing she saw was his face become her own, then everything went dark.
Originally posted as a response to the following story prompt on Reedsy.com: “Set your story beyond our own world.”