Monday, July 31, 2006

The Three Sentinels of the Alpha Centauri Outpost

Throughout the universe, there is no greater pejorative than the word "human", those self-deceived, maniacally self-devouring creatures made infamous with the sorrow and outrage of the Alpha Centauri planet. A play from Seti Alpha V has a famous moment where a character begins sawing off his own arm but his chastened not to by another. When the sawing man insists the saw will not cut off his arm, he is asked, "What are you? Human?" After his arm falls off, he replies, "Guess I am!" And the audience laughs.

That is what it means to be called human.

Occasionally a traveler will visit the human's outpost gone mad. For some, the story is so unbelievable, they must bear witness with their own eyes.


The minute your foot hits the ground you can feel the "wrongness" of the planet, as if some sort of current is running through the earth and into your being. "A sickening fear mixed with an inexplicable ancient human dread combined with a hypnotic fascination with death," as one previous traveler had described it. The legends surrounding this dead planet were no match for the actual experience. It was a living morality play forever standing as one race's abomination.

No one comes here anymore; too dangerous. Who wants to risk exposure to the insanity of the humans upon themselves? Better just to let things be. But I had to come, to see for myself. Standing outside my ship, a creeping doubt challenged my previously cocksure wisdom. The sky was a magnificent horror. An endless, swirling brown mass of clouds bubbling like a boiling pot of coffee left unattended - forever. Only on the tip of the horizon did the golden rays of the sun star break through, casting an eerie golden hue on all things it touched. Most of all, on the famous Three Sentinels.

Again, no book or legend or myth could substitute for the real thing. Three massive masterworks of machinery glinting mutely for whomever's eyes still chose to look. Time may come and time may go, but change they did not. The picture of the Three Sentinels was one known throughout the galaxy. What I hadn't counted on was the shear breadth behind them, disappearing into the murky horizon. These were the beasts used to suck the planet dry. Monuments of mania.

You could see it in the details; the intricate, unfathomable twisting and curving tubes feeding and winding their way in and out for processes long since forgotten. Such determination! To spend the years and the lives crafting these engines of industry into life required a fanatical drive; a religious zealotry. It's almost as if they resented this world and its riches and sought revenge by draining every last ounce of preciousness it had to offer. What had possessed them so?

They had sucked their future into the present in an orgy of greed. In a thousand years or a thousand thousand years, this planet could not be reclaimed. Walking past the rusting rot and faded words, you almost feel a pity for the machinery. It was the humans who'd done it; a race despised across the galaxy. They never overcame their own inner discord until finally it just ate them up. The wreckage here reflecting the wreckage of their souls. Goodbye human destroyers and may the universe never see the likes of you again.

Read the diary written during the outpost's final days

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