The Record

in story •  11 months ago  (edited)

Magnetosphere2 Marshall Space Flight Center  NASA public.jpg


The story was written for @calluna's Tell A Story to Me contest. The prompt was simple: create a story that somehow involves the Golden Record. The record was placed on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. The disc was meant to be an introduction to earth, for aliens. An interstellar map was even provided so that aliens could find their way to our planet.





earths core 3d paint.jpg

The Searchers descended upon the debris field in phalanx formation. Hunters took the lead. Along the sides and rear Defenders kept tight ranks. In the center huddled the Skoupidiápolists, technicians trained to identify and extract valuable space junk. Directing the expedition was Zititis, Senior Skoupidiápolist, certified Master of the Science.

Zititis was poised now to enter a vast crater.

"This pit must have formed in Early Days, before the Universal Dome was installed. Comets gouged craters like this regularly back then. Debris that pelted the earth often filled the craters, as seems to be the case here." There was excitement in her voice, because old piles like this sometimes yielded the richest hauls. The finds were raw, unsifted, untouched, and contained the earliest clues from space exploration. Engineers hoped to piece together these clues, along with other, less ancient finds, and get a working idea about space beyond the heliosphere. The goal was to construct a vessel that would carry voyagers to a more habitable planet, in a distant solar system.

"Hunters, hold your stations. Defenders, stay close, but be careful to place your feet only on bare ground." She regretted needing Defenders at her side, because there was a risk they would disturb the field unnecessarily. But she had seen a colleague attacked by a giant dung beetle once. By the time the Defender came to his rescue, the colleague had suffered fatal blows. So Zititis never ventured outside Domicile zones without a Defender at her side.

Their environment suits hampered mobility, but most on this crew were seasoned explorers and did not let the bulky outerwear, or globe headgear, diminish their effectiveness. Each team member believed in the importance of the mission. They had been groomed since late adolescence for this calling. It wasn't just training that gave them motivation. It was the landscape, the condition of the planet's surface. Flora was sparse, and peculiar adaptive vegetation had begun to appear. The world outside Domicile zones was increasingly bizarre and threatening.

Time was running out. Maybe it wouldn't run out in their lifetimes, but everyone understood that sustaining life artificially, under the Domes, could not be a permanent solution to the problem of a dying earth.

Zititis knelt on a bare patch of mottled soil. An oddly colored bit of metal was hidden under some vinyl tubing. She lifted the tube carefully, examined it for wear and noted that it was in relatively good condition. She deposited the find in one of her archive pouches. Then she leaned in closer to look at the glinting metal. Debris still covered part of that item. She cleared away those concealing fragments, and whistled.

"Well, I'll be."

She sat back on her heels, too stunned to lift the golden rectangle from the dirt.

"We've found it. Listen up, everyone. Get ready to go back. Now. We found it. The Golden Record."

Of course, there was no way to know for certain if the Record was inside the rectangular cover. But the package seemed to be undisturbed. And she'd been preparing for this moment her whole career. It was the Record.

She extracted the treasure with exquisite care, and didn't open it, or wipe off the surface dust. The find must be presented to Leadership exactly as she discovered it. Zititis wrapped the precious package in a soft cloth and placed it gently in an archive pouch.

"C'mon, guys. Carefully, let's get out of here. We're going home."

earths core 3d paint.jpg

Defenders at the South Gate to Domicile Dome 473 had opened a portal in the electric shield that surrounded the community. The expeditionary team had sent a radio signal ahead so they could make a smooth entry. This was the most perilous part of the journey. An open gate was an opportunity for penetration by hostile elements.

The expeditionary team slipped into the transition chamber, and changed from their environment suits into civilian clothes. They were then taken directly to Central Administration. High priority classification had been granted so they could be cleared for immediate access.

Zititis entered the Inner Sanctum alone, while the other members of her team were separated for debriefing. She had never been allowed into this fortified bunker. The area was reserved for the elite, those who worked closely on transport development and community enhancement. It was the function of these Leaders to define the mission of the community and plan for its survival.

"Commander Zititis."

The small figure behind an over-sized silicon desk rose and lowered his head almost imperceptibly in respect. Zititis lowered hers further, in deference.

"Sir."

Zititis ordinarily would have been intimidated by such an austere personage, but the object she carried in her pouch dwarfed any social significance the Leader might have.

"I have it. The Golden Record! There can be no doubt. It's still in its cover. Everything seems intact. If we can trace the journey of the record from deep space, if there might be a message, perhaps..."

She realized she was out of line. All of these speculations were inappropriate. She had no way of truly assessing what the Record might mean. Not only did she have no way of assessing it, but she had no right to try. It was reserved for Leaders to contemplate and plan. She was merely a functionary, a tool they used to accumulate evidence and information. The slight scowl on Leader's face reflected her thoughts.

"I apologize, Sir. My eagerness has interfered with my professionalism. Here is the pouch with the Record."

He reached his pale hand across the narrow space that separated them. He made certain not to touch her. Touch was a luxury the community had long eschewed. There was danger in touch, in physical contact, the danger of contagion in a small community. That would be a potentially catastrophic development.

"Thank you, Zititis, for your service."

She realized that nothing more would pass between them. She bowed low and backed out of the room. Protocol required she remain facing him as she departed. She closed the large silicon door behind her and wondered if she'd ever learn what was on the record, if her discovery had advanced in any way the chance that earth's life forms would survive.



The Leader's scowl disappeared as soon as Zititis left. The display of displeasure had been for show, a sign that she had breached protocol. Personally, it bothered him not at all that she spoke up. It was likely her spunk had led to the discovery of the Record, if what he held in his hand was indeed the Golden Record.

This wasn't the first time someone had brought him 'the Record.' Never did these finds prove valid. Always they were counterfeits, either deliberately false, or novelty items that had been produced en masse to commemorate the original.

Whatever was in the pouch needed to be handled carefully. The item was likely covered with radioactive dust, so he had to control his enthusiasm until he was in a laboratory where structural precautions were in place.

He picked up the radio transmitter.

"Send an engineer and Leadership team, stat, to the priority lab."

When the group was assembled in the lab, each person wore protective gloves and respirators. As the item was removed from the pouch there was a collective gasp. Carefully, the engineer removed the cover and extracted the metal disc.

The disc seemed to be genuine. Silence fell upon the room as the engineer deployed the stylus. All waited to hear what might come from the artifact.

The voice emitted from the Golden Record was almost painful to the ears. It was commanding, contemptuous, and pitched somewhere above a high C.

"Greetings, people of earth. We address you in English, because it seems that your pattern of economic and military conquest has made this the dominant language on your planet. Heed the warning in the message. It is the only warning you will receive.

"Do not venture into space. Do not attempt to engage with an intelligence outside your solar system. All that awaits you there is grief. To us, you are too contemptible even for our consumption. You would be suitable for pet nutrition.

"Your primitive attempts to expand your horizon are misguided. Stay home. Protect your habitat. It is the only habitat you will ever occupy.

"A final word of caution. Do not send more missives. Especially, do not send maps. There are rogue entities, bandits, who would exploit this information and make short shrift of you.

"Remember, be modest in your ambition. Protect your home. We will not molest you if you respect your limitations."

The room was tomb-like as the last words echoed in the laboratory. Not one person sought the gaze of another. The significance of the Record's message was clear. There was no possibility of escape from earth. And yet, earth would not support life for much longer.

The human race was doomed.

The source of earth's demise had gradually become evident many centuries before. Geologists noticed a decline in tectonic activity. The frequency of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions decreased.

The truth, when it became clear, was grim. Earth's core had begun to cool. As the core cooled, it's electromagnetic energy diminished and the magnetosphere, the powerful barrier between earth and cosmic elements, was weakening.

Astronomers estimated that if the cooling trend continued, the planet might support life for another 300 years. But the last of those 300 years would be nightmarish.

The time line laid down by geologists and astronomers could be extended if drastic measures were taken. All peoples of the earth would have to unite in a single purpose. The path to survival for the human race, and for other forms of life on earth, would be accomplished in two stages, if scientists could work it out.

The first stage would be to construct a Universal Dome, over the entire planet. Sectors would be assigned to separate global authorities, and the sectors would be sewn together at Universal Junctures.

The Universal Dome would not suffice for long. Eventually, further degradation of the magnetosphere would require construction of smaller, Domicile Domes. These would house major population centers, and those individuals considered vital to the community's existence.

Scientists were in a race against time.

On an ever-cooling planet, even enclosures would not support life indefinitely. The only lasting, true solution would be escape. That's where the trash sifters came into the picture. They hunted old space debris for clues about the mysterious territory that lay beyond the earth's solar system.

What scientists really hoped for, was that the trash sifters would find a message, much like the one earthlings had sent on the Golden Record. It would be a communication from an alien intelligence that would provide an introduction, and a map to a place of refuge.

And now... earth had received its message. The long-awaited instructions for space travel had come on the Golden Record.

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There was so much more to write in this story--enough for a book. The chapters are already taking shape in my imagination. I hope to publish them here as they are written. It was hard to stop at this point, but I recognize that people don't have the patience for long blogs. So...to be continued.

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Meh - those that don't have patience for long posts are missing out. This is amazing and I offer up a strong, "Please do!" for the story to continue.

Can I tell you that I had to stop reading and take a minute to try to properly pronounce Skoupidiápolist? Also, please pat yourself on the back for this is my first time reading of a death by dung beetle. 😨

This is overly simplified but please take it as the compliment that it is meant to be, great story!!

One of the many things that I thought was an inspired idea was your emphasis on the need to refrain from touching another. (Have you ever seen 'The Last Mimzy'? I don't want to spoil this children's movie if you haven't but it has a couple of scenes that focus on how devastating the loss of being able to touch another person can be to humans.)

I think it is highly arrogant of those that sent the reply to assume that humans lack the ability to learn from mistakes and change. Especially considering that they did following the devastation wrought by the cooling of the planet. Maybe this reply was sent prior to the cooling of the core? I'd lay money on their species having a period in their history and exploration which they aren't proud of. (Though, I suppose it was nice of them to give fair warning that, had the message been intercepted by a different species/group, Earth would have been the victim of beings more than capable of doing whatever they pleased and taking whatever they wished.)

Perhaps the scientists could calculate the age of the given reply, examine the radiation from the disc and then eliminate those found in our local systems to find something that stood out? If there are still satellites above the Universal dome, a search for that "type" of radiation could reveal the direction the reply came from. (I realize that I'm playing extremely loose with science here.) Then an vessel/station could be built with self sustaining systems for the remnants of Earth's creatures to either live above the planet and come up with a way to live on the moon, make the station a viable forever home (incorporate seed banks, ways to create water, and about a bazillion other things) or take a chance and high-tail it in the opposite direction from the radioactive signature in the desperate hope that they will find a planet to start over on that will be accepting of them... Ok, I need to stop.

Again, please write more! Do you see what you've done to me?! 😂

My dear @brisby, you have single-handedly persuaded me to let my characters live. I think it was your appreciation of Skoupidiápolists that did it. I spent a lot of time coming up with just the right word for trash hunter in Greek. Also, your appreciation of the dung beetle--this was a touch that amused me. Isn't that the joy of writing...we get to create our own universe in service of our ideas.
Many of the directions you suggest will be part of the evolving story. There was a plan in my head, not all of it worked out, but the conflicts and issues open before me.
Thank you so much for your encouragement. I'm going to have a lot of fun fleshing out these characters, both earthbound and otherwise.

You're welcome and I'm so happy and touched to hear that! 😍 (I get that maybe not all of them will survive whatever is coming next in your story.)

Isn't it funny which details take the longest to suss out when writing sometimes? I'll admit that I've occasionally entered some keywords to a name generator tool and used the lists that populate as inspiration. But it feels so much more satisfying when you find just the right term to fit.

World building and character creation are as much fun as the research!

P.S.

My shoulder devil says that this is me when writing. 😁

😂

Steemit is a great place to serialize a novel. You can test audience reaction and then publish on your own later as a complete narrative. Good stuff. I'm proud to have you as a member of the Speculative Fiction Writers of Steemit.

Thank you! I've written and published books (nonfiction) that no one bought. But I've never lacked determination, so I just keep going. The books are good, still out there.
Thanks for the encouragement :)

{Once again, le le le le error of not posting comments. Thx RC.}


Anyways, I am not going to put that much analysis into the text but into the implications (and byproducts) of the text. The text enough is clear of its message: the fear of smaller species getting annihilated by less friendlier forces.

Here I want to say that this is actually the conscious message, for which the unconscious reflection is the fear of the unknown (the great trope). This implication is rather amusing that they, who wants them to be isolationist, would not include them into their dominion in spite of cracking the language, speaking it perfectly, being able to send it back somehow safely and not even telling them how to be technologically advanced. While they may have factored for curiosity, they didn't factor in the possibility of future-proofing - a mistake they made and will learn to not do so again when they see Earth.

Yet maybe, their reason for not doing so maybe due to the fear of seeing their past being reflected back on the Terrans. For which, the narcissistic self-help to their other is clear, but, withal with that unconscious quality, the conscious quality truly is sincere. And this narcissism could've came from somewhere else, where they were told to not do these dangerous messages and where in similar climes. So much we could know, but only can speculate on.

I shall however keep quiet on the hierarchy part, I will only blurb this: their space economy enforced their current Superstructure.

Upvot'd and resteem'd.
Hexin'.GIF

I think your analysis of social organization is wonderful. You think in systematic terms.

This implication is rather amusing that they, who wants them to be isolationist, would not include them into their dominion in spite of cracking the language, speaking it perfectly, being able to send it back somehow safely and not even telling them how to be technologically advanced.

My plan for this story was a little more diabolical: in my original version (which my son talked me out of) Leader 1 incinerates the record and has the trash teams going out endlessly looking for another, although he knows they will never find one--or at least he believes they never will.

If I develop the story it will be a commentary on hierarchy, power, ideology and competition. So.... you really did get the drift of where I wanted to take it.

I can't wait to see what happens next. Since space travel has existed and since we began to scan and evaluate our planet and its environment for possible dangers and terrestrial changes, people have been worried about whether and how they will ever escape from the planet.

What appeals to me is what names you have found for the respective protagonists and their functions. A simple but all the more important universal use of language. It is a real challenge to describe human coexistence. Which form of hierarchy - if one installs one - one chooses, which conditions justify the action etc.?

The dome existence in your narrative reflects a little the already prevailing fear and attitude of people not to come into contact with each other, the danger of infection and the like.

The considerable efforts that the human race has to make to escape from the dying planet or to make life possible for as long as possible is the old question of consensus and the setting of priorities, which, as long as there is no danger of such an extent, are always put on the back burner.

The content of the golden record does not give much cause for hope because of the many warnings and dangers it reveals.

Personally, I hope for surprising twists and turns and a further deepening, which I will almost certainly get from you.

Glad that you are following your imagination and striving to create a story. I look forward to the follow-up.

Thank you for reading my story and for your insightful comment. Amazing that at my age I can be excited by these ideas and the prospect of writing them down!

All the points you mention are good areas to explore. The danger of contagion, priorities, the risk of remaining vs. leaving--all of these have potential for conflict.

I think the charm of science fiction is that it blends reality with imagination. Fantasy (which I also like) doesn't require the writer to tether the material. Science fiction demands a little more.

The second chapter is already begun... actually, it was part of this story but my son advised me to leave it, and he was right.

Thank you, again, for your encouragement. I think I will write this and publish it here even if people don't read it.

Don't let yourself stop. Your son was a good adviser. Unfortunately this environment for a strange reason makes people not reading long passages. I notice it myself though I do not like it. Maybe it is also a design thing ... I don't know.

What writing does to me - if I think a story through and through until it's very end - is that it teaches me something about myself. That is the great process of writing, isn't it?

It's also inventing language in a personal way.

I hope more people will come to read. Looking forward which further characters you are going to install.
Sincerely,
Erika

Thank you for your encouragement!! You are a good friend, Erika. If people here don't like the story, I will write and publish it on my website, and then possibly rewrite it in book form. 😁
This is my website (one of them!) if you want to take a peak. I neglected the website when I started blogging on Steemit, but recently have returned to it.
My philosophy: just keep plugging and don't look back :)

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Thank you for the upvote!

Very interesting. Thanks for a story to read.

Thanks for reading!

What I like the most about this story is how you express an environmental disaster and humanity needs to join together to solve it. This theme can never tire in our current situation.

Thank you! Perhaps it is a theme that has been worked thoroughly, but I do have ideas for expanding it and making it relevant to contemporary geopolitical issues.

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This is astounding, the clear establishment of high scifi from the outset sets up it beautifully. Your premise is well established and you use it to create this sense on intrigue, that triggers the impulse to skim through to find answers, yet it is so well written, it flows through, and it would be impossibly to tear eyes away to do that. The who and where are these people, who know about the golden record, and are looking at it, is a really strong hook to pull into the story. I never saw leading to it having been sent back, with message of it's own. I would love to see the future instalments (if i've already missed any please let me know, if not, please tag me in them when they are out <3)

The results and next round are out, a very well deserved first place <3 and very much hope you'll have chance for the next round!