Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The grey ghost of no-longer-used subway tunnels echoed with heavy footsteps. Eyes the colour of brake lights swept the halls for any signs of intelligent life. The civilization that lived here was long gone.

The metal creature walking through the tunnel had to reconfigure to fit inside. It walked softly on seventeen legs. It had no name for itself. It was an extension of the star dwellers that fell through this atmosphere and found a richness of data to fill memory banks. The only thing better than a living civilization is a dead civilization, thought the creature. With a dead civilization one can take one’s time.

Not just cataloguing, not just recording. Cross-referencing. Extrapolating. That’s what the creature was doing. At its core was a neutronium half-dwarf star tightly wound around a pinprick of a black hole. The creature had thousands of this planets’s orbits to investigate the fallen buildings. It was left behind along with several others to record. One per continent.

It looked as if the indigenous life had tried to divorce itself from its origins on this planet. Structures that were at odds with their surroundings yet made from them. Rock cut into pieces and then stacked into square shapes to provide shelter. Everything changed. Everything translated.

Whatever destroyed them didn’t destroy the plant life and the insects or even the mammals. In the wake of whatever cataclysm claimed them, the natural order of this planet surged back.

Green moss covered everything on the surface. From space, the planet was two colours. Blue oceans and green continents. The creature has taken aerial surveillance of all of it before moving down to the surface.

Here, underground, in the old tunnels that must have been used for transportation, the life remains untouched like a tomb. Whatever functioning electrical conduits the creature walks close to light up like spirits at a séance. Video cameras, control panels, track-light switches, and security lights all glow and spark as the creature walks past.

Still no bodies indicating intelligent life. By the creature’s estimation, nothing recorded so far could have built this civilization. It’s found scattered bipedal life down here in the dark amongst the skittering, screeching quadrupeds, like they all gathered here at the end, as if there was a chance of safety underground. These bipedals have only the most rudimentary physical upgrades and none of the intelligence enhancers other races needed to create complex societal systems. They could not have built these buildings, vehicles or tunnels. They have no language. They only scream and hide when they see the creature.

The creature will walk and record and presume for millennia until its memory banks fill and it needs to head back into space and rendezvous with its central library. There is no rush. There is silence here broken only by dripping water and wind blowing through cracks.

It wants to find the creators. It wants to find the ones responsible.

So far nothing.


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