Type 2 Civilization

[on the Kardashev scale]

A red square flashed and the buzzing of a concerned computer stopped.

“Dr. Greene, there is a small object of interest, 40,000 km port of our flight path.” said a British and somewhat motherly voice.

Nathan R. Greene rubbed his chin and tried to make heads or tails out of it. “We haven’t passed anything since that debris field fifteen years ago. What do you mean an object of interest?”

“At first, it appeared to be a solid carbon asteroid, but since we’ve got closer it began broadcasting a signal.”

“What kind of signal?”

Greene sat down next to the long-broken pilot robot and tuned in. It was too weak to be a space marker. He cut the engines, drifted towards it, and locked his vast sensor array on the tiny thing. The computer spouted off details.

“Diamond nanofiber surface. One meter in diameter. Unknown internal mechanisms. Broadcasting a data stream in what appears to be over 70 thousand different languages. No apparent defense protocol nor known contaminants.”

Greene ran it through his translation matrix and scanned for an option his computer might comprehend.

“There’s an interface uplink. Let’s bring it in.”

“Dr. Greene, I suggest you try the neural transmitter.”

Greene took a metal headset out of a drawer and placed it across his forehead like a crown.

The small research vessel slowed to a stop. Its mechanical arm reached out, gently grabbed the round object, and placed it in an open cargo bay. The door closed and the arm retracted.

Greene walked to the back of the ship. As he passed the empty cryo-tubes, he felt the scientists he outlived might be missing out on yet another potential discovery. When he was the last he decided he would keep going. The computer kept him company as he continued the mission of charting the rare find of a new stellar nursery.

He opened the bay door. Sitting on the floor was an angled sphere made of hexagons and squares, a kind of truncated octahedron. His scanner told him nothing new besides the name of the geometric shape. Its outer surface was clear like milky plastic with an inner pink glow that pulsed with dancing light.

Greene moved the object into his research lab. He was an exobiologist by training but he’d have a go at this alien technology.

“I’m going to try to connect.” He made a habit of telling the computer everything he did before he did it.

He closed his eyes, lightning zipped through his cortex, and he could see an interface. Endless scrollable lines in languages he didn’t understand. He opened his eyes back up after scrolling for ten minutes straight.

“I’d like to upload our language matrix.”

“I’ve sent it to your headset, Doctor,” replied the computer.

He closed his eyes again and his language was at the top of the list. The thing learned quick. He selected his language and began scanning down the matrix of files. His eyes settled on something familiar, a complete humanoid DNA code. It was titled #EE71A7. The sequence came with instructions to replicate it that began with an RNA strand. He’d never seen such details. It was like reading the language of an exobiologist god.

He kept digging and discovered the EE71A7 had a manifesto:

Eternal Life. (through)
Scientific discovery.
Exploration. (via)
Symbiotic enlightenment.
Harness the power of the Galaxy. (and)
Become Type 3.

He opened his eyes. “I’d like to connect this device to the ship.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that, Dr. Greene,” warned the computer.

“Are you kidding, it’s a treasure trove of knowledge. This EE71 species were a type two civilization. I need your help digging through the data.”

“Doctor, I’ve analyzed the sphere. It appears to be some sort of self-contained quantum computer. I can’t even determine its power source. If it is what I think it is, it would have no trouble countering our security protocols.”

“Protocols? I’m talking about the greatest discovery of all time. Not only life expansion but harnessing the power of stars! And possibly beyond that.”

“Doctor, I cannot allow you to connect that alien hardware to the ship. You are endangering yourself and the mission.”

“This is the mission!”

Greene walked over to the wall of his lab and activated the medical android.

“I am the Medbot Surgical Unit, how can I help?”

“I want you to connect to this terminal and extract the specific data related to replicating RNA.”

“Doctor, this is ill-advised,” scolded the computer.

“Look, I want to run some experiments and I need help, if you won’t, then the medbot can.”

He took the ship’s silence as acceptance.

The medbot connected to the sphere, stuttered, shook, and said, “memory insufficient. Initializing data stream. The Hexagon Memorizer would like access to all my functions.”

“Grant it.” Greene repeated the name, “Hexagon Memorizer.”

The medbot left the room.

“Hey!”

The medbot ignored him and walked to the ship’s storage area. To his astonishment, it pulled components out of other systems and began to work on itself. Fifteen minutes later it had a third arm and new eyes. It walked to the flight deck and grabbed the pilot droid, carried it back to its makeshift workshop, and went to work on that robot as well. Greene watched the medical unit rebuild the pilot’s memory core and reactivate it.

“Now we can proceed, Doctor.” The medbot led the doctor and the reprogrammed pilot droid back to the lab.

Two sleepless days later the medbot injected the #EE71A7 RNA directly into Greene. Where they couldn’t synthesize, they used Greene’s own genetic material. He collapsed and when he came to he understood how to use the Memorizer.

He put his interface headset back on, went deep into the machine, and found the last entries. In his mind, he saw the image of a hairless silver skinned young man with black eyes. He wore soft pink trousers and no shirt. Insects, like little white and blue striped bees, crawled on his body. He spoke in a language Greene now understood.

“Greetings. It seems you’ve found our Memorizer and that can only mean the worst. Our star has gone supernova, our sphere has been destroyed, and with it all of us.” The slim man looked truly saddened. “I will show you.”

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An image of an enormous space structure filled Greene’s mind. It was constructed by using every resource in their home system. There were billions upon billions of them and they all looked exactly like the young silvery man. They were clones that built a vessel around their sun, used it for fuel, and set out across the galaxy in a true starship.

Greene was awestruck. Theoretically, it was possible. The RNA he injected gave him the memories of a clone. He knew everything he was seeing was real and watched more.

The clones traveled the galaxy for five galactic rotations, driving towards the center. Their star began to change and they assumed it would condense into a brown dwarf or a black hole. They thought they could control it.

Greene now understood the stellar nursery and nebula he had been traveling through for half his life was the result of their star exploding. They were an extinct people. This quantum storage device was all that remained of the most advanced species ever discovered.

He took off his headset, walked to the front of the ship, and looked out into the nebula. He knew what he had to do. He would go beyond a god, beyond an Adam. He would be the rebirth, the new beginning, the second chance.

With the help of the droids, he connected the Hexagon to the ship’s computer. It popped the hatches trying to defend itself, but Greene wore a spacesuit. It verbally protested the whole time.

“Doctor, you are making a terrible mistake.”

After its last warning, the pessimistic computer voice was gone, never to return. Greene was left alone with his bank of knowledge. He scanned nearby stars and planets for the materials he needed and parked on the edge of an abundant asteroid belt.

They scrapped everything but the ships engines and scanning equipment. The pilot droid was sent to mine the asteroids for supplies. The medbot stayed on the ship and they expanded the lab with the addition of two cloning bays. Greene stayed mentally connected to the Hexagon at all times. It was an interactive reference library with all the instructions he would ever need.

The only thing he lacked was raw genetic materials and for this Greene used himself. He extracted cells, blood, and tissue until he was weak. He began the process of growing new bodies. He learned the art of genetic programming and though he stuck to the EE71A7 playbook, he had no choice but to fuse their DNA sequence with parts of his own. The result of many months of accelerated growth were the first two #71EEB8 clones.

The day the two fulling grown clones stepped out of their chambers was monumental. They were silvery skinned hairless males just like the EE71A7s Greene had seen in the image files, but they were older, middle-aged men with faces identical in shape and contour to his own. It was like looking into a double silvery mirror. He cried and was beside himself, literally.

Greene surgically added digital enhancements in the clone’s brains and they were able to communicate with him telepathically using implanted neural transmitters. They were also able to connect directly with the Hexagon and through it with each other, with Greene, and with the droids. They were born knowing everything Greene knew and a thousand times more. They immediately went to work on creating new clones, expanding the ship, and cultivating new forms of advanced technologies based on plans held in the Memorizer.

They set up a base on the nearest hospitable planet. Not that it was very hospitable, but by the time Greene was on his deathbed, 200 of his years later, they had terraformed it enough to go outside without a helmet. He lay in bed looking out a tinted window at an ever-growing city that expanded in all directions around him.

His caretakers came in to be with him when he passed. The clones took to wearing matching seafoam green flight suits of their own design and his caretakers were no exception. Greene couldn’t help but think it was for him and his name, the only name in the whole society. The clones didn’t have individual identities, but he knew them all just the same. He felt personally connected, they were family. He smiled as his caretakers entered in silence.

“We have reached the end of what we can do to extend your life, Doctor.”

Greene looked at his two silvery twins with love in his heart. They were frozen in time, back at the moment when he decided to clone himself, but he had grown into a wrinkled old man.

“I know you did your best. I’m so proud of you. All of you.” He sent these words to the stack of Hexagon Memorizers in the base of his tower, which in turn sent it out to all the clones on the planet.

“I’ve been watching the shipyard. The crafts you’re working on are astounding.”

The population reached ten million and with that milestone, Greene felt he had done it all.

“Out of the ashes of your lost world grows a new. We’re all truly stardust.” Greene coughed and blood came up. “When I die, place me in one of the small ships and set me adrift near the nebula where I first found the Memorizer. Maybe someone will find me one day?”

When their creator passed, the clones mummified him and placed him in a one-man tetrahedron scout ship. The sparkling pyramid floats to this day on the very spot where he found the Hexagon that marked the end of one civilization and the birth of another.

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Sci-fi short stories to inspire your inner rocket building, planet-hopping, astrophysicist space pirate. 🚀

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