I am Sorry, Dear Earthlings

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     There were those that had called the dedicated monitors worse than unnecessary. They thought the monitor program was a gross sign of paranoia. They worried that if and when other intelligences were found, our cosmic neighbors would be offended by our distrust.
     Does our distrust offend you? I hope not. I believe that you understand that it has been justified.
     By our laws, no one could stop the monitors from doing their work. The program did no outright harm, and the eight of my people that dedicated themselves to tracing the basics of reality did so freely and passionately. They monitored the universe closely, feeling, as it were, for snags in the fabric that could become full blow holes. Natural law wouldn't cause holes of any catastrophic power, but we ourselves had the ability to do such harm. While we had realized the terrible potential and never tested it, there was the fear that other intelligences might not have our foresight.
     For some sixteen million years, the monitors were still. They sat, minds merged with our ever-growing network of space probes, silent in their modest temple on the planet of our origin. Few program dissidents changed their opinions of the monitor's mission in all that time, but it did fade out of conversation.
     However, when the eight monitors started mumbling through their long meditation, no one was unconcerned.
Some panicked. There were calls across the network for the waking of at least one monitor so that they could be asked what troubled their silence. Some, mostly long-standing program dissidents, suggested that the silence itself was the trouble. Indeed, in all our immortal experimentation, the dedicated monitors were engaged in the longest bout of unbroken meditation on record. Who could be sure that the monitors hadn't simply gone mad? Even those that made such suggestions did so with fear in their hearts. If the monitors' mission was proving necessary, the source of their distress would be a source of chaos for us all.
     I was among another minority of opinion. While some wished to believe the mumbling was nothing, and most discussed grand solutions to a problem only hinted at, my little forum found joy in our fear. We considered ourselves the last spiritually youthful individuals of our people.
     You've shown me that we merely possessed a faint glimmer of what it means to be young.
     The mumbling inspired a sense of urgency long thought impossible in a society of immortal masters of physical law. Our understanding of the universe at its most basic was complete. Our bodies lived as long as we wanted them to, and there was always another waiting in a vat. We had cut out the desire to breed early in our first steps towards immortality, and with it all the troubles of children. We had all the energy of stars, and all the raw material of the mostly barren galaxies. The only hope for need was a change in the fabric of reality itself.
     And now the monitors were mumbling. If they were disturbed, not by personal madness, but by insanity in the composition of the universe, there would be a need for explorers, adventurers, even soldiers for the first time in eons.
Until the mumbling, deep-space exploration was a systematic pastime. We had breached the borders of our home galaxy and set about exploring others. Working largely by remote, we mapped solar systems and noted particularly rich sources of the rarest materials, but our focus was the search for life. The occasional discovery of a life-bearing planet was the only source of news outside our own navel-gazing. However, intelligent life, usually defined by curiosity unnecessary to survival, had eluded us.
     Life in general isn't all that rare. It springs up often enough. Bacteria forms are relatively abundant. If it's the most complex form on a planet, immobile plant life is common enough to be a slight disappointment. Animal life is an ecosystem's best hope for diversity. Just the sheer number of reproductive methods inspires awe. Each animal-bearing planet has found its own method of producing children, and no two methods are exactly alike. Many older ecosphere have only a few symbiotic species and lack the diversity of our own planet of origin. However, fossil records of such apparently simple ecosystems often revealed a history of diversity collapsing into stability.
     The Evolution of Intelligence philosophers found a great deal of meaning in this. The possible biological and cultural evolutionary paths of intelligence was a well established branch of philosophy long before the monitors began to mumble, but it was all untested. The experts in the field saw the evolution of 'primitive' intelligence, or that of animals that do nothing but breed and survive, as the deciding factor in a planet's diversity. Simply put, even the most basic intelligence creates as many problems as it solves. With a wealth of new challenges for every species in the area, not just the first to develop intelligence, an explosion of diverse forms tends to immediately follow the emergence of animal intelligence. If intelligence never pops up, the strongest plant and bacteria species only get stronger. If two species have similar survival methods, one eventually wipes the other out. This pattern leads to simple ecosystems of symbiotic forms, theoretically capable of persisting till the entire planet is upset by a change in its orbit, its star, or an incoming meteor.
     Equipped with simulations perfectly capable of satisfying our curiosity and desire to intrude, interference with a planet's natural evolution was forbidden by law long ago. I am sorry, dear Earthlings, that we have been forced to break this honorable law. The shame is intensified by the fact that we purposefully broke our word almost immediately upon meeting the first intelligence we could hope to call peers.
     And I do consider you peers. Young, mad for knowledge and contemptuous of consequences, but equal to my people in potential.
     The monitors felt the ripples of your experimentation, and they began to mumble. While the rest of us debated what their mumbling meant, they worked together to locate you. It only took a few of your years for them to go from mumbling to shouting. One of them shouted himself awake and demanded an army be sent to stop you. Most of my people were afraid of going near you, as if you were diseased, as if distance could protect any of us. I volunteered. A few others were driven by the need for adventure and joined me.
     While traveling towards your galaxy, we fantasized about first contact. We adopted forms we thought you would find appealing. As we got very near, we monitored your decades of unfettered broadcasting to learn your languages. But in the time it took us to reach you, you only got closer to ripping holes in reality.
     It was by chance that we arrived in time. It is that chance that makes me understand your bizarre love of god-myths that explains the workings of the universe. If not for that twist of chance, we could have arrived a mere Earth-day later and found, not a planet, but a hole that would have eaten away your galaxy, then its neighbors, and eventually our own. Perhaps you can still find comfort in the thought of a divine plan.
     My small team of adventurers made a decision to save ourselves, and at least the essence of your kind. We took away the tools that almost enabled the ultimate destruction. Yes, in the process, we had to take away most cities and most of your history. We needed to be sure that you would be generations away from achieving such destructive powers again. We needed, and need, time to guide you away from the universal kill-switch.
     Those of you that remain are tasked, not with rebuilding, but with walking a path entirely separate from your ancestors. While their daily lives never came close to the stability of my people, they did almost achieve a complete understanding of the laws of our shared universe. They had no idea how close they were. Perhaps their only sin was underestimating their own power. In their experimentation, they came close to disrupting the entire fabric on which we all dwell.
     I'm forbidden from telling you the specifics. It was difficult enough to prevent our courts from voting to completely exterminate you. If you ever even approach the knowledge your ancestors attained, without displaying the wisdom necessary to retrain yourselves, I don't think I can protect you again. Some of my people say I have been seduced by your youthful unpredictability. This may be true. But you need an advocate. You certainly couldn't defend yourselves in the courts of my people. Your smiling pride alone, which I so admire, would damn you.
     Some of my people wish to blame you for an apocalypse that never actually came, but you must ignore them. They are the same ones that once thought our society could never be threatened. They were wrong before the mumbling, and they are wrong now that the mumbling has been stopped. I can't believe that it's your fault that you came close to comprehending the basics of the universe without grasping the the repercussions of your few, significant misunderstandings. Whether victims of leaps of logic, or victims of your unlucky evolutionary path, please don't let go of your pride.
     We have set you back. We have set you back terribly far. But we are here to guide you forward again, and this time, you will not be allowed to unravel the tapestry as you explore it.

Created: Feb 28, 2014

Tags: alien, story, scifi, fiction, first contact, aliens, science fiction, space, prose

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