Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Four

Their buildings were….different. Because they weren’t bipeds, the Squids apparently had different ideas about directions and construction. He had Bob bring him down in what had been one of the largest cities on the planet. It still was, Tucker supposed, but it had been covered in a velvety red something. He thought of it as moss, although it clearly wasn’t.

They hadn’t been dead long, as these things went. Bob said that the last of them would have died around a century before arrival, although general civilizational collapse had taken place quite a lot before that. It takes time for an entire species to die.

If you could compare things like that, Tucker would have said they’d made it to about early twentieth century earth levels of technology. Like their buildings, their mastery of tools had gone in different ways than Earth’s had. They had never developed spaceflight. never set foot or, rather, pod on any of the three moons that orbited their home. There were no man made satellites, no debris in space. They had lived and died on this one small world, alone in space.

The Squidworld was a particularly rich find for the Fermi survey, Bob told him. The way that the Squids had utilized data storage technology meant that vast chunks of it were able to be scanned and interrupted by Bob. None of the machines themselves worked, but the data endured. This was rarely the case with these worlds. Mostly they had to interpret the civilization from what remained after, educated guess from the manner of their lives and, quite often, the means of their deaths.

Tucker felt strange, walking through that city. Part of that was strictly physical; the planet had a different gravity and a different atmosphere than Earth standard and while it was subtle, he could feel it even with the encounter suit on. But the bigger part of it was the same feeling he’d had every time he’d visited a world like this. The sense that he was walking across someone’s grave. A sense of trespass.

He made his way to and up the tallest building. Eventually. The Squids didn’t believe in stairs, so he needed some assistance from Bob in getting to the top of it. He looked out across the city, which stretched as fat as the eye could see. He looked out at it and if he squinted, ignored the red moss and the encroachment of nature, what he saw looked very human.

The Squids were far, far removed from homo sapiens, but as Tucker looked at their works, trying not to despair, he couldn’t help but feel a kinship. They were Squids, but they were people. They’d lived, they’d worked. They’d even loved, Tucker was willing to bet. They were like us. And now they were gone.

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