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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2264556
An ancient exploration ship, from Earth, makes it home to find everything has changed
"What strange planet is this? Are we at the right coordinates?" asked Captain Enoch. He was in the control room of his spaceship, Explorer 1, in orbit around Earth, looking through the main viewing window.

         His crew also looked confused and double-checked their instruments.,

         "These are the right coordinates but everything has changed, I recommend we stay in stealth mode, for the time being, there are scans coming up from the surface but I do not believe they have seen us yet. I will give you a proper report when we know better," said the First-Mate.

         Sometime later the Captain and the First-Mate met again in the Captain's briefing room.

         "OK start with the facts. What has changed?" asked Enoch.

         The First-Mate glanced at the reports on his tablet, collected his thoughts, and said,

         "This is Earth, we are at the right coordinates. According to the star charts, we are 5500 years into the future."

         "We were only gone fifty years, how can it be 5500 years?"

         "Well, some physicists have suggested that the traveler's experience of time itself slows down the closer you are to the speed of light relative to the universe. I guess this means the colonies we left behind are now also several thousand years older."

         "Oh wow...we can discuss that one later. Continue."

         "The topography of the planet below us has changed radically. There was only one continent when we left and now there are five. It has only been five millennia but it looks like the rocks on the planet have aged billions of years. We did an Eden scale planetary classification, where Eden was a ten, and the Earth that we left was a seven. The colony worlds are between five and eight. The Earth, as it is now, is only measured at three. It is still livable but the quality of life has been massively degraded and continues to decline. There are toxins now in the atmosphere, oceans, and soil. Viruses have become unhinged from their created purpose, have mutated, and now ravage the people below. When we left, there was a water vapor canopy in the atmosphere that provided radiation shielding and insulated the whole planet. It has all been stripped away. The result is that the planet's surface has higher ocean cover, ice caps at the poles, deserts, massively reduced lifespans, and its vegetation is less rich, less vigorous, and reduced in size and diversity."

         "How can the rocks say the planet has aged billions of years, is that even possible?"

         "It looks like some kind of catastrophe but there is no adequate scientific explanation. Maybe it was some kind of supernatural judgment? We are reading an indiscreet digital technical culture below and they seem to have large amounts of information in their shared data infrastructure. The languages have all changed and every place below seems to speak a different language. Maybe they have some answers in their histories of the planet. To do the analysis we will need to examine the linguistics and work out what they mean, then we can trawl through the historical records."

         "OK that sounds like a plan but first have a look at where the most intense activity is and what the dominant culture below is. Then concentrate on deciphering that language first," ordered Enoch.


A week later the Captain and the First Mate met again.

         "Technological activity on the planet is concentrated in three locales." The First-Mate pointed to the new map of the earth on the console screen. "This place is called North America and they speak English there. This is Europe and they speak a lot of languages there but use English as a second language. These islands on the edge of Europe speak English as a first language and English is in common use around the planet. This last place is China. Their language is not spoken that widely across the globe. So we focused our attention on North America for our analysis and chose English as the language we would use."

         "What did you find?"

         "Once the computers had figured out a translation matrix for the language we trawled through the data that we found down there and tried to sift and sort the sources. We established which sources were quoted most widely and regarded as most authoritative by the inhabitants below. We found two main encyclopedias called Wikipedia and Brittanica and a religious book called the bible. Wikipedia seems to be informed by a consensus of whoever wants to write into it while the Brittanica refers to directly trained experts. The religious book had a direct match and overlap with our own history in its first section, called Genesis. So using this, applying what we know about the actual timescales, and revaluating the encyclopedia evidence in that framework, we can speculate on a history of the world since we left with, we estimate, a 90% probability of accuracy."

         "90% is fine, proceed."

         "We left about 1500 years after we were cast out of Eden. Our mission was given to us by God and was a secret one in the world of our time. There is no mention of it in any texts below. A key component of our secret mission was the development of digital computing and space technologies that would allow us to go forth and multiple across God's universe according to the original mandate. There was no corresponding development of such technologies until the last hundred years on Earth. So it seems there was no leak of our blueprints or research. They put a man on the moon about fifty years ago and then did very little for a long time, but now it seems things are starting to move again. Their technology remains well below our levels."

         "So they cannot see us right now and do not know we ever existed, good," said Enoch.

         "Shortly after we left it seems that people started to drift away from God and civilization degenerated. There is talk of angels falling and breeding with mankind and developing all sorts of wickedness on the planet. Then there was a massive supernatural judgment that stripped away the water vapor canopy of the sky and disturbed the waters beneath the earth with some major seismic activity, we also suspect that several large asteroids may have struck the earth at this time as the atmospheric defenses were weakened by the loss of the canopy. The result was a deluge that covered the old world and completely reconfigured it into broadly the form we see it today."

         "So that explains why we cannot see any of our old settlements? They were all swept away?"

         "Yes, also the planet's climate has changed. Now people need buildings to insulate themselves from the extremes of hot and cold. They would never just lie out in the open when they sleep, as we used to, nor just weave plants together for privacy. They have concentrations of buildings made with concrete, which is like stone, in what they call cities. They stack their dwellings in what they call skyscrapers also."

         "They behave very differently and the planetary reconfiguration must be a part of that."

         "Following this, there were ice ages where much of the earth was covered in ice. The world stabilized over the last 4000 years and mankind began to flourish again. Things became more dangerous in the last 200 years with the development of global travel and communication. They developed powerful new fission-based weaponry and saw a surge of technical development. The population rose from one to eight billion. The main planetary powers today are the USA, Europe which is allied to the Americans, and China which is growing strongly but appears to have no friends. In recent weeks a space telescope has been launched which has the ability to view the Adam and Eve planets. It is called the James Webb telescope but is not yet functional."

         "So they would be able to see the seven colonies, how can we prevent that?" inquired the Captain.

         "Well we cannot notify the colonies in time as the light is already in transit but we could hack the telescope and give it blind spots when it comes to the seven new planets."

         "Have they identified any of them yet?"

         "No, previously the most successful exoplanet search project was called Keplar and run by the USA. It looked for variations in light patterns from stars to determine if there were planets orbiting them. It discovered a lot of planets, could measure the size and orbital location to a limited extent but was not really equipped to work out which ones were habitable or not. It surveyed several of our systems and picked up gas giants in them but gave no hard evidence about earth-like possibilities. The last star-gazing telescope, Hubble, could not see our worlds either."

         "But this new telescope might actually be able to see the planets?"

         "Yes, its magnification is considerably larger though its focus is on the extreme distance galaxies and it is using the infrared more than the visible spectrum to view things. It is designed to affirm and investigate a theory about the origins of the universe in a giant explosion called the Big Bang. By looking at the stars furthest away it assumes that it will be able to look back in time."

         "Interesting, we never really questioned how God did creation, maybe we should get a tap on their results. So this telescope would not be used to count planets?" said the Captain.

         "It could pick up the infrared signatures of planets around stars more precisely and work out atmospheric conditions. It is really only a matter of time before they start seeing our worlds."

         "So should we talk to them, let them know we exist?"

         "That is a tough one. Who do we talk to? Who shares our values? Who are God's people here and who are opposed to Him?"

         "Yes, all valid questions, and also there is the lifespan issue. We live a little less than a thousand years whereas, though they look like us, they seem to max out at about eighty. We could not take them to one of our new worlds in less than ten years and given the time effect they would only be able to return in the distant future. Could they infect us with whatever diseases have been spawned over the last 5500 years? Would our superior immune systems shrug those off or be ravaged by them? Can we even go down to the planet's surface as it is today without being irradiated or poisoned by all the changes that have occurred? Is this even our home anymore?"

         "We should send messages to our colleagues on the seven colonies, which are now probably full-grown civilizations themselves, and wait for their feedback. I think we should wait here and monitor what we see below in the meantime. If we travel back then it would be 5000 years before we returned by which time this civilization may already be well past our own technological levels."

         "Yes the next hundred years are the crucial ones and we need to be here for that. Let us develop weapons to destroy this civilization if it comes to that. We need research done on our own ability to walk among them so that we can move to the surface if possible. We should identify and support allies on the surface. There is both good and evil in the mix down there. I would like to understand more about how God has clarified His relationship with this world. Their bible sounds like a good place to start and then we need to find His people. We will do our best to hide all electronic signatures and the seven worlds from their sensors," said Enoch.

         "OK, sir we can do that."

         "I do hope we will not have to destroy them," said Captain Enoch.

         "Time will tell sir," replied the First-Mate.

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