Author : Charles Paul Wallace

Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, I wish to explain my actions before I am sentenced.

It was me who named the alien civilization the Aeolians, yes. It’s a type of harp which sounds when wind blows through it. I thought it was quite fitting, given the delicacy of the objects we found. They had lain there beneath the surface of the asteroid for, at a very rough guess, 30,000 years.

No, they were fully intact upon discovery. Our survey instruments showed sub-surface caverns, so the Captain sent a team down to investigate whether there might be additional mineral deposits to mine. No, there weren’t. What was there were the artefacts; around 15,000 of them, give or take.

Yes, we informed the Captain at once. You have, I assume, seen the footage we shot? So did he. I also made a written report, which I would like to read from now; the extract contains some initial impressions of the artefacts.

– Sculpture #17: Seven arms, or possibly tentacles, emanating outwards from an indeterminately-defined centre, topped by an arrangement of ovoid chrysalides containing miniaturised copies of their parent structure.

– Sculpture #22: A meshed, circular shell surrounding a series of concentric honeycombed levels of infinitely-reflexive complexity and colour.

– Sculpture #23: A flower-shaped disc, petals arranged so as to form a precise astronomical representation of the solar system. I believe that methodical study of this particular artefact could have dated the contents of the caverns to within one or two years of their conception.

Those were just the ones we had the chance to examine in any great depth. Soon afterward I discovered that the Captain had, supposedly under orders from some CEO or other, directed the crew to annihilate the caves along with their contents. I received the impression the command was given in order to ‘stop that Musk bastard from getting his paws on them’, yes.

I attempted to argue the case for further study, of course. That I was subsequently locked in my cabin until the destruction was completed is a matter of record, I believe. I know I am not an archaeologist; I never claimed to be. And after my release I did my job extracting the deposits to the best of my ability, as per the terms of my contract.

I will take whatever punishment I am given. Before judgement is passed, however, I wish to state my point of view. These artefacts represented possibly the deepest enigma, the greatest philosophical paradigm shift mankind has ever had to contend with. That they were destroyed is a tragedy beyond imagining. I only wish I had been able to lead a full-scale mutiny. Regrettably, none of my fellow engineers seemed interested; indeed, one of them (who shall remain nameless) informed me that ‘money talks, asshole’, to the assent of the crew. As a result, my subsequent attempts at sabotage were largely symbolic, rather than the danger to life and limb they have been painted as in the popular press.

Therefore, I shall accept my fate with equanimity. However: I wish to sound a note of warning. Close examination of the film we took will show you that Sculpture #23 is, in fact, an astronomical clock of great ingenuity and complexity. Superficial analysis of said astrolabe led me to an interesting conclusion, one that you may or may not agree with as you see fit.

I posit that whoever placed the artefacts – eggs? – within the asteroid may, very soon, be returning. Are you, ladies and gentlemen, prepared for what may then occur?

I thank you for your time.

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