The History & State of Civilization In Space (As Pertinent To Humans)

The people of Earth are not at all alone in the universe; there are many other people out there, too - and many of them are even human. Here's a general overview of how it all came to be, and how it currently works.

How The Kemti Brought Humans To Space

Eons ago, the inhabitants of an alien world peered through telescopes and checked every sort of scanner and sensor they could devise for any sign of intelligent life out there. The first hoped to find it on one of their neighboring planets, or perhaps one of their moons. Then they hoped to find it orbiting a nearby star. Then they hoped, perhaps, that it would be out there far away. But there was no sign to be found, and this lead to a number of questions. Why wasn't it out there? Were they really all alone? Were the odds of life arising just so infinitesimally low? Did something bad happen to the other life out there?

These questions persisted over the years, and as the people grew closer and closer to exploring space personally, a philosophy emerged: if they found other intelligent life out there, they would help them get into space, too. To simply leave them on a planet, where a cataclysm could wipe them out even before they had invented writing, let alone even simple engines, just seemed unfair.

Centuries after the initial search for life began, they (or rather, their descendants) made it to space, living in comfortable space stations with all of the features and amenities they could ever need. And with a long list of planets that were good candidates for hosting life and specialized spacecraft designed for travel, they were ready to begin their mission of helping others join them in the comfort and safety of life in space.

The kemti studied many planets. Most of them didn't have any life on them at all, and among the few that did, most didn't have any sort of organism that would be capable of taking care of itself on a space station. But after years of searching, they found one: a terrestrial bipedal pack animal. They didn't have many notable achievements to their name beyond some very creatively stacked and shaped rocks, but there was no doubt that they had all the brains they needed to handle space.

The kemti spent many years carefully studying these creatures and their ways, learning how they communicated and how their social structures operated. Finally they felt ready to make contact with them and to extend their offer. And so they built a few androids to look just like these people in order to speak to them. The main reason was that the humans probably wouldn't mistake it for food (some of them were fond of eating an aquatic exoskeletal creature that resembled the kemti quite a bit). Plus, the androids wouldn't need to bring their own air supply to survive the planet's surface.

Thus the kemti made contact with humans all over the world. It didn't always go well - sometimes they'd react with hostility, or sometimes the kemti would make a social faux pas somewhere along the way. But eventually they got their message across to a few humans, and some of these humans agreed to come and live in space stations.

The kemti quickly set up space stations for these new people (the first ones were small and simple), and once they were brought aboard they taught them (through AIs and androids) everything they needed to know. They were taught how to read, they were educated in science and the history of the universe, they were taught how to treat people from other worlds fairly should they ever encounter them themselves, and most importantly, they were taught how to manage and maintain the space station for themselves and how to build anything else they might need. Just as the kemti hoped, they all caught on quite well (especially the younger ones). Soon they were able to look after themselves. Satisfied that they'd done their job, the kemti withdrew to let them be and thrive (though of course, they agreed to stay in touch).

Thus around 8000BC, humanity became spacefaring people. In just a few generations they had gone from speculating whether the stars controlled their destinies to parking their entire civilizations outside of a red dwarf and mining the asteroids for materials. As the ages passed, these human colonies grew and diversified.

The Nickel Eyes

The kemti didn't wish to leave the rest of humanity with no way to leave Earth if they really wanted to, so they devised a plan to allow the humans to contact them. Supposing that magic would be the universal science (as magic took no tools or equipment to practice), they magically embedded information that would help the humans contact them again onto a number of objects and left them hundreds of them scattered across the world.

These objects were each approximately the size of a volleyball (large enough not to lose easily, but small enough for humans to carry), and each one had a large design of a human eye on one side (they supposed that since humans emoted with their eyes so much, eyes would grab their attention). These objects would also float in the water so they wouldn't end up lost to the depths, and each side aside from the eye was flattened somewhat so that they wouldn't be able to roll helter-skelter. The outer casing was made of a nickel alloy that included mysteranium. The hope was that humans who were magically skilled would find them and extract the embedded information from them, which would enable them to contact the kemti with magical techniques they could easily use themselves.

Yet despite the kemti's efforts to make sure humans would be able to contact them, things didn't quite work out as planned. First, the kemti were somewhat off in their estimations of how quickly humans would become truly proficient with magic and what they would do with it. Although humans came upon the notion of creating objects enchanted to protect themselves from harm and suchlike, the notion of magically embedding information into objects never quite occurred to them, so they never supposed that these objects might contain such. (Though some came close; they supposed that they housed spirits and attempted to bargain or communicate with them as they would with any other being of that sort. Though they never got any information out of them that way, some inadvertently succeeded in leaving their own psychic imprints upon them.)

In some places, humans came to believe that they were responsible for various misfortunes that befell them and so buried them far underground or carried them into deep caves. Sometimes rulers would hoard them, believing that they gave them extra power. Sometimes they passed them onto their children; sometimes they were buried with them. One Egyptian prince was informed by a priest that the gods had accidentally dropped these things on Earth and that they'd really like to have them back, so the prince offered rewards to anyone who could find and bring them to him. His offer caught the attention of one mysteranium-enhanced person with the ability to see the location of anything he concentrated on long enough (whether he'd seen it before or not) and to sense the direction of its location. The first thing this MEP did was use his power to seek out someone who could travel across the world in the blink of an eye. It lead him to a Nubian mage skilled in teleportation, and the two of them teamed up to collect eyes from across the globe. Thus the pair became very wealthy, and ultimately retired to live a very comfortable life together. The eyes themselves were buried with the prince when he died, where they remained for thousands of years.

Ultimately, very few of them remained out where anyone could find them. In the modern era, scholars studying ancient writings about them were often left at a loss to determine just what these people were talking about. Some proposed that certain ancient cultures really had a thing for collecting human eyeballs. Some believed that ancient people's references to metal eyes was some kind of metaphor and that they had never actually been physical objects. One fringe writer suggested that "metal eyes" was some sort of code for ancient spy planes.

In 1967, a few eyes were discovered in a natural Roman grotto believed to have been used in the 3rd century BC. The announcement of the discovery caused a sensation among the public and in academia, prompting speculation and another look at every ancient reference to metallic eyes. Research on the eyes themselves showed that they could not have been by human hands at the time. Some people supposed that the eyes were clever forgeries created by people who had heard of the ancient references to metallic eyes; some guessed that they had been made by techniques lost to us, and others supposed they had been brought by extraterrestrials. Studies done on the objects could reveal nothing resembling actual machinery inside of them.

In 1975, a US government official who had taken an interest in the eyes suggested having some of the military people who had been training in magical techniques try to see if they could get any kind of magical or psychic readings off of them. It was arranged for the US government to borrow the eyes from Italy, and several people practiced in magic were brought in to see what they could sense from them. A few of them reported seeing visions of crab-like people (decapodal and all) and receiving instructions to contact them. (It was later discovered that the ones who had succeeded had all supposed that some very advanced alien species might have left an actual psychic message in the objects.)

This caused no small amount of concern among government officials. One question that was immediately raised was whether these aliens would be friendly if contacted. Even though the ones who had left the eyes here probably meant no harm, they couldn't simply assume that their descendants would have benevolent intentions. Furthermore, what if someone made contact with the aliens and ended up offending them, or made them think that Earth was a threat to them? Ultimately the US decided that the best course of action would be to leave the true nature of the eyes undisclosed from everyone else.

As time went on, more eyes were discovered around the world, and there was no small concern that someone else might think to try to retrieve information from them in the same way they had done. And so the US government put out a report that some tests on the eyes had found them very high in radiation, and that the metals they were made from seemed to be toxic. All US citizens were encouraged to contact someone to come and safely collect any eyes that were found, instead of trying to handle the eyes themselves. There were also a few incidents of CIA agents being sent out to forcibly retrieve eyes found in countries that lacked the ability to retaliate a few time. The US government also decided to try to explain the true nature of the eyes to its allies, and to try to work out a plan of of action regarding contacting the aliens. They surmised that if they didn't do it first, their enemies might beat them to it, and tell the aliens some unflattering things. And so they created a program to contact the aliens as soon as they could. In 1976, they sent out their first messages; and from thereon sent a new, updated message out every year.

In the meantime, people naturally grew suspicious of claims that the eyes were dangerous, and some even suspected that there was some sinister motive behind keeping them away from the public. A few governments did their own investigations and found that none of the eyes they had were dangerous, and ultimately some of them even realized their true natures, and sent out messages of their own. Some individuals who located eyes kept them to themselves, doing whatever they could to try to figure out what they were for. Several eyes ultimately fell into the hands of the mystically inclined, many of whom were able to work out their true natures for themselves - and like the others, sent out messages of their own.

The Return to Earth

The kemti received these messages soon enough. By carefully examining them, they were able to determine that humans had grown to be a populous and varied bunch indeed. Some of them even seemed to be in conflict with each other. They decided that they would need to learn quite a lot about this world again before taking any major action, so they sent probes to observe them from space, disguising them as natural space objects. The kemti also contacted some of their human allies, informing them that the Earth humans had finally made contact and that they ought to be prepared for humans who might want to come and visit them in space.

Naturally, word that the humans of Earth, the Mother World, had finally decided that they were ready to make contact with interstellar civilizations again got around and made major news. So of course many human governments and scientists became curious to learn more about the state of Earthling humanity at this point, and many of them came together to form an exploration program of their own.

And so around the Earth year of 1978, kemti and humans alike were studying Earth through satellites collecting visual data, as well as their radio and television broadcasts. Once enough language data had been collected, the kemti once again made android probes to send to Earth to interact with them on a personal level, to try and learn the finer nuances that couldn't be learned otherwise.

As for the humans, some of them were content to send probes down to Earth, but some of them wanted to experience the Mother World first-hand, to commune with it and its creatures directly. Of course, actually doing this was far more complicated than just popping down to the planet's surface. Earth had its own set of dangerous pathogens, which meant that they had to collect samples so they could immunize themselves. To do this, they created and sent down some of their own androids. Many germs were collected simply by sending them into public spaces and having them surreptitiously wipe things like shopping cart handles or escalator handrails. The androids, who were basically walking analysis labs themselves, were thus able to sequence the DNA of the assorted pathogens they collected and send the data back to a local probe. Once retrieved via portal, the DNA data was used to synthesize the pathogens so that they could create vaccines and thus immunize themselves.

There were many, many humans curious to learn about the Mother World, many of them younger people who supposed that the secrets to living an authentic, fulfilling life had been left behind with the Earthlings. By 1984, everything was ready; humans could now visit the home of their ancestors. All of the humans ultimately sent to Earth were researchers in some way - perhaps they were there to study the philosophy, perhaps they were there to study the plant life or animals, or perhaps they were there to take note of how Earth humans behaved compared to the humans of other worlds. (They went to Earth with small computers equipped with programs to help them actually speak the local languages, but for the most part, they relied on translation magics provided through enchanted objects.)

Reactions varied when they arrived. Some became immediately infatuated with the culture. (One of them wrote enthusiastically about the deep, spiritual messages in The Care Bears). Some were deeply distressed to find out that Earth still had serious societal issues to contend with and hadn't yet seemed to have figured out what they considered to be common sense concepts. (Many of them ended up annoying quite a few people with their condescending attitudes and remarks.) A few of them were so determined to have an "authentic Earth experience" that they discarded most of the supplies they'd been given and attempted to live off the kindness of the Earth humans. (One of these ones fell prey to a serial killer looking for transients.)

But many of them did fairly all right in keeping a cool and level head during their investigations of Earth, and vital data was collected. It was ultimately concluded that the best way to reestablish contact with humanity was not to talk to governmental leaders, but to meet ordinary people individually and learn everything about them first-hand, and in return, teach them about life in space on an interpersonal basis. And so for the last few decades, this practice had been maintained, with humans at every level of society all around the globe being made aware of what's out there.

The General State of Space & Its Inhabitants

Humans, kemti, and a few other species live across the galaxy, each one numbering in the trillions. Most people live in space stations, but some live on planets that have been deliberately altered so as to be habitable. Conflicts between worlds and stations are rare; space is vast and full of basic materials, so there's ultimately very little reason for them to fight with each other. Of important note is that few species live in the same habitats or worlds together, as they are all adapted for environments with different atmospheres, gravity pulls, etc. But this doesn't prevent them from interacting, of course - they trade with each other and often communicate with each other through computers across the cosmos. Many popular MMOs even create worlds where it's possible to play as a member of any species, and these games are enjoyed by individuals from each one. It's very common for people of different species to form parties together. (Such long-distance systems are facilitated magically.)

Few aliens have any interest in personally interacting with Earth; most consider the data collected by the kemti thousands of years ago sufficient to satisfy their scientific curiosity. Overall, Earth is simply irrelevant to them; they have their own lives and problems to worry about. But as a precaution, the kemti maintained a policy of protecting Earth from any outside interference until the people there contacted them and asked for them to return. This only had to be enforced a few times over thousands of years.

Those most curious about Earth are typically the humans. Though most of them don't think about it very far past school, some were naturally very curious about the world they came from and what was happening on it. For some, Earth took on a sort of mythic status, a "lost paradise." Some people supposed that life on Earth might be happier than wherever they were - they reasoned that because it was the world that had given birth to them, they would feel more at home there than anywhere else. (One can naturally imagine their shock, dismay, or disbelief as reports came in that the humans of Earth weren't really any happier or healthier than they were.)

How Interstellar Travel & Colonization Works

Nothing can go faster than the speed of light, that much is absolute. Instead, vast distances are crossed by using portals, which route outside of three-dimensional space-time and thus create shortcuts through the cosmos. A spaceship will be piloted to a rift in the universe (usually naturally occurring), where a team of mages who specialize in creating and controlling portals will use their power to open the rift and guide the ship through to its destination. They will usually be accompanied by a few mages whose skills lie in probability manipulation; they will use their power to ensure that the ship safely reaches its destination and doesn't, say, come out someplace where it will immediately collide with someone's moon.

Rifts can open and close on their own, but rifts that are used tend to stay open unless they fall into disuse for a long time. Worth noting is that an "open" rift does not resemble a gaping hole in spacetime; it's simply a space that can be magically wedged open and traveled through easily. They are completely imperceptible except to those who have the ability to sense them.

Most space stations are spinning cylinders, allowing them to generate artificial gravity via centrifugal force. They can range in size and complexity. Some of them (especially those built quickly) tend to be primarily artificial, resembling perhaps most spaceships and space stations one might be familiar with from fiction. Some have entire ecosystems set up inside of them, though of course these take much longer to build up and get established. (Just getting all of the raw materials there can take decades, and getting the ecosystems established can take lifetimes.)

Terraforming can also be a tricky and lengthy process, easily taking many lifetimes to complete. Worlds that closely resemble one's own homeworld are hard to find - factors such as temperature, chemical composition of the atmosphere and ground, gravity, year length, day length, magnetospheres, and more are all highly variable. (Terraforming in some cases might involve building domes or underground habitats rather than trying to change the entire planet.)

Around 6300 years ago, humanity did get very, very lucky: they discovered a world that was very nearly identical to Earth - not in the sense of already having Earthlike lifeforms on it, of course, but in the sense that it was of the same size and general chemical makeup, had close to the same temperature, and so forth. This world was named Leshk. The first step to making Leshk inhabitable was to turn its vast quantities of carbon dioxide into oxygen. First they seeded the planet with cyanobacteria to begin the process. Then they built immense machines to process the planet's atmosphere and change it into something more breathable, as well as produce the ozone necessary to protect them from the harsh radiation of the sun. In addition, mages whose abilities lay in manipulating probabilities used their power to help ensure that everything went as smoothly as possible. Over the centuries, more organisms were introduced until the planet had thriving ecosystems built up.

In a few thousand years, the planet of Leshk was fully inhabitable, and many people moved there for a number of reasons. Some wanted to experience life as their ancestors did, some just wanted to make a fresh start in a new place, and some people had something or other they wished to escape from. In any case, humans from many space stations came to Leshk, bringing with them their myriads of cultures and ideals.

Contact & Assistance Policies

The kemti originally set out on their mission with the belief that nothing should be forced or imposed on anyone. Because of this, they and their allies make a habit of monitoring any worlds that hadn't elected to speak to them yet (once given the ability to do so) for interference, and making sure that others do not interfere with them. It's rare that anyone does try to interfere with other worlds; the idea of them is usually a far-off, abstract thought in most people's minds, and most people have more than enough of their own problems to worry about. Around four thousand years ago, one group of humans living in the Mitinal Station came to believe it was their duty to bring everyone on Earth into space and to teach them their particular philosophical ways and set off in ships to do so. However, the sensors (disguised as natural space objects) placed around Earth by the kemti quickly picked up the ships' presence and alerted the proper authorities, who sent people out to apprehend the would-be intruders.

They also established a policy of being careful not to play favorites with other cultures; this has lead to being cautious about sharing technology with others. Furthermore, experience has taught them how easy it is to develop a savior complex and that one generation's resistance can become the next generation's fascist regime, so they established a policy about being cautious helping even underdogs. This is not to say that any and all interference is strictly prohibited, but rather that they should try to get as much information as possible to help them understand the full depth and context of a situation.

However, should Earth ever be in such peril that humanity itself is at risk as a whole, any sort of assistance deemed necessary may be lent. Furthermore, although their policies do not prohibit sharing their technologies in some instances, it would likely be decades before the average person saw any of it due to issues of economics and lack of supporting infrastructure. Furthermore, there's less incentive to lend us their technologies as some might think; many of Earth's problems don't stem from a lack of ability, but from a lack of desire to help. Greed, animosity, and apathy must all be remedied from the ground up; no alien intervention can fix it.

Related SoulMettle content:

Magic: An Overview

Other pages of interest:

Tips To Create Richer & More Realistic Fantasy & Science Fiction Cultures & Civilizations
Tips to Create Better & More Believable Fantasy & Science Fiction Species
Tips To Create Fictional Philosophies & Value Systems
Spaceships, Airships, & Other Fantastic Crafts: Things To Think Out & Consider

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