SCP-7999

rating: +547+x



“A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth.”
― Christopher Wren



Item#: SCP-7999
Level3
Containment Class:
euclid
Secondary Class:
integrated
Disruption Class:
dark
Risk Class:
notice

KeradidScience.png

Sketch of the SCP-7999-3 species from the notes of Agent Basil Sias.

Special Containment Procedures: As SCP-7999 has already resulted in a partial Lifted Veil Scenario, Foundation efforts are to focus on declassifying the phenomenon and integrating SCP-7999-3 individuals into general society. These integration efforts are under the purview of Site-120's Integration Committee1. Likewise, Foundation diplomatic and communications groups are to maintain positive relations between SCP-7999's society and humanity.

No personnel are permitted to approach SCP-7999-1 without express approval from the O5 Council. All SCP-7999-3 individuals passing through SCP-7999-1 must be catalogued in an official record of arrivals and departures.

Description: SCP-7999 refers to the following interconnected anomalies:

SCP-7999-1: A wormhole that manifested approximately 405,000 km from Earth on March 6th, 2027. This wormhole links the solar system to GN-z11, a galaxy within the Ursa Major constellation located approximately 32 billion light years from Earth. Thus far, all attempts to pass through this wormhole have failed.

7kportalv2.png
Still of a security video taken at the time of SCP-7999-1's opening.

SCP-7999-2: The exoplanet GN 667Cc,2 visible on the other side of SCP-7999-1. SCP-7999-2 is approximately 250,000 km from the wormhole as it appears within its local system.

SCP-7999-2 is approximately the same size as the planet Mars, with a gravitational force 0.364 that of Earth's. SCP-7999-2 maintains an atmospheric composition comparable to Earth's during the Carboniferous period.3 SCP-7999-2 is largely aquatic, with approximately 85% of the planet's surface covered in liquid water. Details regarding the planet's surface are undergoing further research.

SCP-7999-3: The local intelligent civilization of SCP-7999-2, known locally as "Keradids". SCP-7999-3 individuals are hexapedal arthropods superficially similar to Mantodea4 with enlarged craniums. Their front limbs are capable of serving as both legs and arms, with a three-fingered structure at the end analogous to the human hand. SCP-7999-3 individuals range in size from 1-1.3 meters tall.

SCP-7999-3 are intelligent, with their civilization categorized as a Type II on the Kardashev Scale.5 It is believed that it would take humanity over 10,000 years to reach a comparable level of technology at its current rate of development.


Current distance: Approximately 655,000 km


"We truly were not alone!"

"Are they like us?"


"No, not at all. Fascinatingly, we bear few, if any, similarities. But such a thing does not matter. This discovery is a culmination of a lifetime… no, several lifetimes of work. And now we finally see. Now we finally know we truly were not alone in this universe."

"So what do we do next? Do we send them a message? Or do we wait for them to speak first?"


"Too many questions. Permit me to work."

"Wait… that is…"


Addendum 7999.1: SCP-7999 Briefing


SCP-7999-1 initially manifested approximately 405,000km from Earth, between the orbits of Earth and Venus. Due to its proximity to Earth, SCP-7999-1 was immediately visible to the naked eye across the northern hemisphere and parts of the southern hemisphere. The Foundation immediately began attempting to control the spread of SCP-7999-1 information via media control, the deployment of aerosolized amnestics, and the deployment of targeted memetics to remove humanity's ability to view SCP-7999-1 entirely. Investigation into SCP-7999-1 followed.

Within 12 hours of SCP-7999-1's initial manifestation, a series of 5 messages were rapidly broadcast across global radio networks. The Foundation employed Rosetta.aic6 to translate the messages. After 22 days of analysis by Rosetta.aic, the messages were successfully translated. All messages received translated to the following:

"Hello? Are we heard? Does this world think?"


Addendum 7999.2: March 28th, 2027


Site-120


We had been staring at the message on Rosetta's screen for nearly half an hour in complete silence. It had become a repetitive practice at this point, visiting this room to see if Rosetta had finally cracked the code. We knew she had the ability to, we knew such a thing was possible in theory, but neither I nor Asheworth really expected it to come through. A message, in plain English, from an alien civilization.

Asheworth was the first to finally speak.

Dr. Daniel Asheworth: …and that's all they said?

Agent Basil Sias:7 I've run all of these messages through Rosetta more times than I can count, and this is all I'm getting back. Rosetta has a 99% confidence rating, and the only reason it isn't perfect is because of some errors made back when she first went online. I'm pretty confident in this translation.

Asheworth: That's a lot of characters for such a short statement. What did the O5s have to say about it?

Sias: Initially? Flipped their shit about the fact that suddenly the entire planet's population could see an anomaly just sitting there in the sky. It's good it took a few hours for the messages to come in, because from what I heard they spent the time arguing over whether to knock out everyone on the planet and throw an antimemetic shield over the planet to keep pretending it wasn't there.

Asheworth: Yeah, but what about now?

Sias: Well, it's why they came to me, and why I'm talking to you. We spoke for a bit. Er, well, I guess it was less speaking and more "talking them off the ledge". I reminded them about Site-120's efforts and that seemed to convince most of them to try something different. They want us to talk to them, and maybe even integrate them into our world.

Asheworth: That's… surprisingly magnanimous of them.

Sias: I'd regale you with the entire conversation but honestly it really wasn't that interesting. You know as well as I do that times are changing, Asheworth. The work you've all done here at 120 is proof that we can actually start taking those steps to lift the Veil, bit by bit. We're hitting the point where maybe, just maybe, humanity can stand to know the anomalous exists.

Asheworth cracked a smile.

Asheworth: If O5 has approved it, then I'm all for it. Let's draft a response.


After some discussion, the Foundation returned the following message:

Hello. Let's talk.


Addendum 7999.3: April 3rd, 2027


After a series of messages transmitted and received through Rosetta.aic, the native civilization of SCP-7999-2 agreed to send a representative to meet with Foundation representatives. Due to humanity's inability to cross through SCP-7999-1, the SCP-7999-2 representatives agreed to meet at a Foundation Site on Earth. To ease the process of integration in advance of receiving representatives, the Foundation Integration Committee began declassifying initial SCP-7999 findings to world governments and the general public.

On April 3rd, 2027, two representatives from SCP-7999-2 arrived at Foundation Site-120. Each individual came equipped with specialized suits that allowed them to survive under Earth's environmental conditions. With their express consent, Foundation personnel installed Rosetta.aic into each suit to facilitate communication efforts. A record of interactions between Foundation agent Basil Sias and SCP-7999-3 is transcribed below.


Site-120


For several days we sent messages back and forth across the wormhole to one another with Rosetta as our translator. They were eager to talk—after receiving our initial response they sent "hello" back seven times in rapid succession. The conversations were extremely basic, relatively speaking. They wanted to know what we called ourselves, what our world was, what kind of life we were, and we asked the same in kind. Only so much can be accomplished through messages, however, so eventually we agreed to meet one another.

They sent an envoy, two members of their species they held in high regard. We met them with a hazmat team at first to ensure they were properly decontaminated before our meeting could start. They had arrived wearing specialized suits that allowed them to survive in Earth's atmosphere, and we took the opportunity to install a copy of Rosetta.aic into both to facilitate communication.

I was worried the meeting would be tense, or that we wouldn't know where to start. As soon as I entered, however, I was immediately rushed by one of their envoys who immediately began grabbing and tugging at my face. It kneaded at my cheeks and brushed its fingers through my beard, all with this sense of abject wonder and fascination.

SCP-7999-3-B: Look! They are soft and malleable, what a wonder! And upon their face, a chitinous material like our furred animals!

Sias: Woah, uh, hello! Nice to meet you as well—

The other joined, tugging at my hair. They vocalized to one another with chittering, clattering sounds accompanied by them stomping their front legs. I mouthed a quiet "save me" to Asheworth, who simply smiled in response.

SCP-7999-3-A: Truly fascinating, to think a furred animal could be capable of thought. And only four limbs!

Asheworth: On behalf of the SCP Foundation, I would like to formally welcome you both to planet Earth. We do have a lot to discuss, so I ask that you two go ahead and join us at the table and let go of Agent Sias. Don't worry, you can start tugging at his face again in a minute.

Asheworth shot me a slightly uncomfortable smirk as the two continued their poking and prodding, now focused on my arms. I flipped him the bird.

Asheworth: Before we begin anything, what should we refer to you both as? Right now our documentation refers to you all as SCP-7999-3-A and -B respectively, but honestly that's excessive.

SCP-7999-3-A: They ask for names? Very well. I am called Ketadanka8.

SCP-7999-3-B: I am called Carteckan! Oh, Ketadanka, look! The limb is firm with some solid internal skeletal structure!

They continued chittering back and forth to one another as Asheworth attempted to maintain control.

Asheworth: Thank you both. Now then, you were the ones who sent out those messages, correct?

Ketadanka: That was myself, to be particular. While Carteckan was part of the team involved, I sent the message. Us… we are filled with joy that your species were able to respond.

Rosetta struggled to translate tone, even between familiar human languages. Even with that limitation I could tell Ketadanka was uncomfortable to some degree. It seemed stiff, overly formal. Despite that discomfort and formality, it was still more than willing to analyze me like a science experiment. In the moment I couldn't help but imagine a board meeting full of these guys talking business, rubbing their hands over one another.

Sias: This is an amazing opportunity for us as well! Though, we do have to ask what the goal of that message was.

Carteckan: The portal was opened between our worlds, and our opportunity to speak was presented. We have sent our message to many planets over the ages, but this was the first to respond. We wish to meet. The species here is the first one like us we have ever seen! I have been looking at this world from a distance since the portal opened, and wish to see what this planet holds, what the people here have created!

Asheworth: So, are you hoping for a cultural exchange then?

Ketadanka: Whatever it is that can be shown to us. We want to learn, and share in return, while we still have time.

Sias: With the wormhole where it is, we can't really hide you guys from the world, nor should we. I think this is something we could both benefit from.

Asheworth: We've been working towards pulling back the Veil bit by bit, but—

Ketadanka: Veil?

Asheworth: A technical term. It's what we call the separation between humanity, our species, and that we can't explain with science.

Ketadanka: We are not sure we understand.

Asheworth: I'm sure our representative can explain once we start. As I was saying, though, that wormhole effectively tore the Veil down in a night. While we could hide you away from the world, there's no real benefit to that for either of us. A cultural exchange is probably the best way for us to start understanding and introducing your society to our own. I'm all for it.

Ketadanka: This is news that fills us with joy. We have already chosen Carteckan as the one who will represent us, if that is acceptable?

Asheworth: That's perfectly acceptable! We're more than willing to show Carteckan around. Basil?

Sias: Yep, I can take point there.

I reached out a hand to Carteckan. It gazed back. Though it didn't emote the same way we did, I could tell it was confused. I reached its own hand out after a moment, and I grasped it in my own. Carteckan recoiled, yanking me into the table. I paused for a moment to catch my breath before laughing.

Sias: Here, we can use this as our first cultural exchange. This is a handshake.

I held my hand out once more.

Sias: We use it to say hello.

Carteckan once again reached out its hand with hesitation, and I took it in my own. Carteckan flinched as I began to shake, before returning the gesture with equal vigor.



Current distance: Approximately 550,000km


"Yes? Is there a problem?"

"Those coordinates are in a fairly compromising spot, no?"


"Yes, I am aware of the risks involved here. That being said, is this truly an opportunity we can pass by? After all this time?"

"I… suppose it is not."


"We need to understand. This is not about pure scientific curiosity. It is a culmination of millions of lifetimes of work. Something that can finally allow us to die peacefully knowing that life lives on out there on the other end of the universe. To know that something will live on after we are gone."

"I want to know them as much as anyone else here does, but is this course of action truly worth the risk?"


"It has to be."


Site-120


Carteckan: What is it we are to see first?

Sias: To be completely honest, it's difficult to really decide where to begin. Humanity is not a monolithic species—there's a myriad of cultures and societies to potentially show you, and each would be different. I've got approval to take you offsite, so the world's our oyster.

Carteckan chittered in response, rubbing its forelegs together. Forearms? I hadn't really figured out what to call the upper limbs where their hands were. At this point I had seen Carteckan walking using all six appendages, and trying to figure out analogous biology was proving to be a struggle.

Sias: Hm? Is something wrong?

Carteckan: The voice that translates the words, I do not understand what it spoke. I understood "world" and "our", but what is "oyster"? And what does such a statement mean?

I chuckled.

Sias: Right, right. Sorry, I probably should avoid using idioms. "The world is our oyster" just means that we're in a position to take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer us. Humans have a lot of little expressions like that.

Carteckan: Oh! So this oyster means great opportunity! I could say that communications between our worlds is our oyster!

Carteckan chittered again, this time bobbing its whole body up and down. I laughed.

Sias: Ketadanka was asking about the Veil earlier, right?

Carteckan: This is correct. We were not understanding what was being described by Asheworth. Science can explain anything with enough time, can it not? For example, science can explain why humans have a skeleton inside their bodies instead of outside. Certainly there is nothing here that cannot be explained with study?

Sias: I have something to show you first, that might help a bit.



Current distance: Approximately 480,000km


"It is done."

"…it is done. There they are. It is… beautiful."


Addendum 7999.4: April 4, 2027


Site-120


Carteckan: So what does this word "Veil" mean?

Sias: By that we mean the Veil of secrecy. What we at the Foundation hide from the world.

Carteckan once again made that chittering sound, rubbing its appendages together.

Sias: …did you people never hide away the things you couldn't understand?

Carteckan: This is correct. What is being hidden away?

Sias: Well, there're certain rules to how the universe operates, right? Certain immutable truths that never change. Take this apple, for instance.

I grabbed an apple off of someone's desk as we walked by.

Sias: It could be here, or it could be on your planet… what did you call it?

Carteckan: Nest is our home's name.

Sias: Right, it could be here or on Nest, but if I do this—

I dropped the apple, and we watched as it hit the ground and rolled away.

Sias: It will fall. It'll fall slower on your world, sure, but it will still fall. Gravity is one of those constants, right? But what if something broke that rule, something that should be following it? What if I dropped the apple, and it floated away?

Carteckan: We would need to catch it, so it would not leave.

Sias: While that's true, that's not all there is to it. We would step in, and we would hide it away. That's what the Veil is for, to keep the things that break the rules of the world away from the public eye.

Carteckan: Why?

Sias: I wish I had an answer for that. The Foundation's mission is Secure, Contain, and Protect. There's plenty of things here that are here for a good reason, things that would hurt a lot of people if we let them out. There's also a lot of things here that I… we wish we didn't keep secret to begin with. That's part of why Site-120 has been working on the Integration Project.

I stopped as we arrived at our destination. It was one of Site-120's classrooms, a school for the younger anomalous humanoids on Site. There were about 23 students in the room of varying shapes and sizes. Some could pass as your average 13-year-old, while others were barely recognizable as human. Each paid close attention to the Foundation agent at the front of the room, giving a lecture on global history.

Sias: This is what I wanted to show you. This is a classroom, and there are places like this all over the world. They're where we take our young and teach them almost everything they need to know about being human. This one is different, though. Can you guess why?

Carteckan: They are all what is referred to as anomalous, yes?

Sias: Right. Most of these kids have never left Site-120. Those that have were only outside as little kids and barely remember it. They're all here for different reasons, too. That one there? She's here because she can light fires with her mind. That boy over there? Only here because he can summon a monster with a storybook.

Carteckan: What is it that they all have on their tables?

Sias: Those are books. Please tell me that you guys have at least had books at some point in your history.

Carteckan: Books… yes, I believe so. Many many years ago, long before I was born. Things with words inscribed in them, yes? Though I don't recall them looking like that.

Sias: Well, no matter what they look like, the same basic idea is there. These are things with words in them to pass on knowledge to the next generation.

We both sat in silence, watching the class. At one point the teacher seemed to direct the students to work on some group activity, with each student getting up and moving tables together. One student was left alone in the corner of the room for a moment, until they were motioned to join another group of kids. Carteckan hung its head, its wings vibrating.

Sias: Is something wrong?

Carteckan: …no. I am merely thinking. I was going to ask if all humans had such wondrous abilities, but the truth that some are kept here while others are not answers the question. Why have we come here first?

Sias: These kids are like you guys over on Nest. Part of the first anomalies that get to go past the Veil and join society at large. They're wonders, and wonders that finally get to see the rest of the world now that you all are here.

Carteckan tapped its front two legs rhythmically.

Carteckan: I see! I see! What are we to see together next?

Sias: There's a lot of world out there, but let's start with something simple.


Addendum 7999.5: April 5th, 2027


Barcelona, Spain


Carteckan: Your flying machine was exceptional! Such a strange design, simplistic yet effective. What did the people call it again?

Sias: An airplane.

Carteckan: Oh, the word does not translate, so I cannot pronounce it. I will simply call it the flying machine. Tell me more about it!

I smiled. Carteckan had been like this all night. Every little thing seemed to amaze it, from the intricate machinery of the plane itself to the fabric on the seats. I honestly felt like I was with a kid. It was hard to believe that the being in front of me was from a civilization nearly 10,000 years our senior.

Carteckan: When did the people of this world create these machines? It must have taken such a long time!

Sias: Well, the first successful flight was in 1903, a little over 120 years ago, though it wasn't until 1914 that the first commercial flights happened. Does that help?

Carteckan: It is… challenging to understand the timeline. Our worlds do not have the same metrics. From our understanding, this planet is very slow to orbit its star. Nest is not; Nest orbits quickly but does not rotate as this world does.

Sias: Well, we define a day here as a 24-hour cycle. So… take that flight we had for example. That flight was about 3 hours, give or take a few minutes. A day is 24 hours, so we could repeat that flight 8 times exactly and we'd have a full day. Following so far?

It chittered in response and wiggled its fingers. I had to assume that meant yes.

Sias: A year is about 365 days. If we had that flight… 2,920 times, it would be a full year.

Carteckan stopped in place, twitching its head back and forth with its arms held up. After a moment, it dropped its arms and opened its mouth.

Carteckan: 120 years is…

Sias: Yeah, it's a long time!

Carteckan: No! That is no time at all! The species here was able to master flight in such a short period of time? That period is so short that Sias must have hardly aged since then!

Sias: Oh, I, uh, wasn't alive yet. I'm only 30 years old.

Carteckan stopped walking once more and flailed its arms about wildly, chittering.

Carteckan: Then Sias is but an infant! A child! So this is how Sias knew so much about the school!

Sias: Carteckan… if we translated your age to Earth years, how old would you be?

Carteckan: 1,743 years. I am aware I am very young, but please do not see me as unfit to be the envoy of my people.

We had finally left the airport at this point, about to take our first steps into public for the first time. I shielded my eyes against the sun as I looked out across the city. It was still early, so the streets were still fairly empty. While we weren't trying to keep Carteckan secret, it was best for us to start with a lower profile.

Sias: Carteckan, see that group of people over there?

Carteckan: Yes. I see five people.

Sias: If you added up the ages of everyone in that group, they wouldn't even equal to half your age.

Carteckan: You lie! Certainly they are not all so young? Is the species composed of nothing but children and infants?

Sias: You know, you figure out all the math questions and esoteric hypotheticals I give you pretty quick, so I'm surprised you haven't figured it out yet. Carteckan, those are adults. I'm an adult. Humans don't live much past 80 years on average.

By this point I was starting to understand its physical mannerisms. The reaction Carteckan gave to this information could be best described emotionally as "visceral disbelief" and physically as "I told my 3 year old that Elmo wasn't real". It was a flailing of nearly every limb it had, with each appendage moving about in what to a casual observer would appear to be haphazard motions. Those who were paying attention, however, would notice the specificity to each motion. Each arm and leg moving very intentionally to convey a meaning to a silent observer. Carteckan's people were as nonverbal as they were verbal, communicating with a language that no translator would ever catch.

Sias: It's true, by the way. I'm not here to lie to you or trick you. You all are clearly long-lived, which isn't too shocking considering you orbit a red dwarf. Humans, however, are fleeting. We're here and gone in an instant.

Carteckan: That moving vehicle there. How long ago did this species create it?

Sias: 1886. About 141 years ago.

Carteckan: The lights powered by electricity?

Sias: 1879. 148 years ago.

Carteckan: The species, how long has it existed?

Sias: Ooh, now that's a good question! We don't really know for certain, but our rough estimates say about 200,000 years ago.

Carteckan was silent once more, body completely still. When it did finally move, it was to glance over the city and watch the sunrise. Carteckan's eyes followed the cars as they passed, watching people as they crossed the streets.

Carteckan: There are so many of you.

Sias: And it's early. Most are still asleep.

Carteckan: I must see more. Show me more.



Current distance: Approximately 460,000km


"How long do you think they've existed?"


"Can we not just ask?"

"Yes, but I wanted to speculate with someone else first. Consider it scientific inquiry."


"I would suppose based on their level of development… at least one million or so years? It is hard to tell for sure since we are at such different levels of development, but I think that is a safe guess based on what we know."

"Impressive."


"Like what was said prior, we can simply ask. They have been speaking with us for some time now. Should I send them a message?"

"Actually, that is not the question I wish to ask. Can we ask them to meet? I wish to know them better; I want to see what wonders they've created with my own eyes."


Barcelona, Spain


Carteckan: What is this place?

640px-Parc_de_la_Ciutadella%2C_Julio_2020.png
Parc de la Ciutadella.

Sias: "Parc de la Ciutadella". It's one of the larger green spaces in the city. I used to take my daughter here all the time, so I figured you might enjoy seeing it as well. There's a zoo to see some native Earth life, some architecture—

I was cut off by Carteckan rushing off towards a nearby tree. It was a young palm, likely recently planted based on how easily Carteckan could reach its fronds. It took a frond in its hand and gently ran a finger over it, before turning back to me. Carteckan's eyes remained fixed on me for a moment, before it looked back to the frond. I walked over.

Carteckan: This vegetation. It is similar to something we have on Nest.

Sias: Really?

Carteckan: Yes. Though not the same color, and it does not hurt my hands when I touch it.

Carteckan raised its eyes, skittering over to another tree.

Carteckan: Yet this one is completely different. I have never seen structures like this on vegetation.

Sias: That's a maple tree, I think. Those things you're rubbing at there are leaves.

Carteckan fell silent there. At first I thought something was wrong, until I noticed that a praying mantis had crawled from the tree to its hand. Its eyes fixated on the small bug.

Carteckan: Things here are so similar yet so vastly different at the same time. How can it be? A planet on the other side of the universe with such similarities.

Sias: Who can say? Pure chance?

Carteckan: A wonder of existence. A creature like any other Keradid of our world, and yet…

Carteckan moved the mantis to its other hand.

Carteckan: Do you think, creature? Are you like us?

Sias: Sorry, but you probably won't get anything from it. There are a few things that can speak on Earth, but the only ones you're likely to meet out here are other humans.

Carteckan placed the mantis back onto the leaf.

Carteckan: Even if there are others here who can think, how lonely it must have been.

Sias: Hm? What do you mean by that?

Carteckan: How lonely it must have been to be stuck to this planet, alone in your galaxy.

I wasn't entirely sure how to respond to Carteckan here. We stood in silence, watching the mantis walk across the leaf. This tree was one I'd walked by all the time before, not something I ever paid much mind to. By all means it's a standard tree, the kind that most of the population couldn't even name if you asked. In our silence, however, I put myself in Carteckan's place. I looked at the leaves on the tree, taking in the fact that each wasn't a uniform shade of green. Some were paler, almost yellow, while others were vibrant dark green. Some leaves held small insects, while others were still unfurling out, having only grown recently.

I plucked off a leaf and handed it to Carteckan. Carteckan took it, and held it up to its eyes. It was a strange sight—an advanced species marveling over a leaf like a kid. I smiled as we left for our next location.



Current distance: Approximately 450,000km


"How have things been so far?"

"Honestly? Words cannot describe it. They really are like us in many ways, but at the same time they're almost like children. I appreciate the things they seem so easily impressed by, but they don't seem to realize the true wonders of this world. I'm trying to show them, but they seem preoccupied with the simple things."


"Different perspectives. Just remember where we come from and where they come from. Our experiences shape what is important to each of us."

"While I am speaking, I need to ask. We have noticed, yes?"


"…yes, I've been monitoring the distance between both planets."

"How much longer?"


"Unsure as of right now. We still have time, but not as much as I would like. Just… be ready."

"How cruel the universe can be, to present us this opportunity and then rip it away in an instant."


Addendum 7999.6 April 6th, 2027


Barcelona, Spain


Carteckan: What is that strange structure?

Sias: "Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família", or simply "La Sagrada Familia". It's a holy site.

LaSagradaFamilia.png
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.

Carteckan: A place of worship, then?

Sias: It's nontraditional, but yes. It was under construction for over 100 years… though I guess that's not really impressive to you guys, is it?

Carteckan: Why is it shaped that way? It is very different from the other buildings I have seen so far.

Carteckan traced the outline of the structure with a finger.

Sias: Oh, well… the only way to really explain that would involve explaining the history of church architecture. Let's just say it's for artistic reasons.

It paused, listening to Rosetta translate my words. A familiar clicking of confusion followed.

Carteckan: That word did not translate.

Sias: Which word? Artistic?

Carteckan: Yes, that is the word. What does it mean?

Sias: Well, it's… shit, how do I explain the concept of art? Do you all not have art on Nest or something?

Carteckan: I do not know.

Sias: I guess you wouldn't, right. Art is… remember that leaf you stared at yesterday? The one with the mantis on it?

Carteckan: Yes! I remember it very well!

Sias: Would you say that leaf was beautiful?

Carteckan: Beautiful? I suppose, yes, it was.

Sias: Art is when you create something beautiful for other people to see. But art can also be creating something ugly for people to see. It's like a commentary on something in the world, or society. God, I'm not sure how to explain this… take a look at the cathedral again. It's a work of art not just because it's pretty, but because of the history it represents. It's the work of dozens of architects combining their design in one massive collaboration, and it's a work that survived a civil war and disease. It's art because of what it represents, I guess.

Carteckan: Oh.

It was subtle, but Carteckan's body stiffened up ever so slightly at the mention of war and disease.

Sias: Here, follow me. I've got a better place to show you, and we can talk religion while we walk.

I lead Carteckan away from the cathedral. A crowd had begun to gather anyway, and I wasn't ready to start fielding questions about Keradids to a group of tourists.

After a few minutes of walking in silence, Carteckan started asking questions again. We spoke about religion—how humans believed different things, and that there were no universal beliefs about God or the divine.

Carteckan: Would it not be easier to believe in the same thing? Do these fundamental differences in thought not lead to conflict?

I told it that unfortunately, yes, it does lead to conflict. Considering its reaction to the last mention of war, I didn't elaborate further than that. I simply reminded it that humanity is not monolithic.

Sias: Everything I've shown you here so far? It would be completely different even just a few kilometers away in this same country. The further around the globe you move, the more different it is. Honestly, if I had to say, that's the greatest wonder of humanity. How different we all are.

We arrived at our destination at this point. A small art studio/cafe combo in the Raval neighborhood. I got us both a canvas and a set of paints, and set up in the plaza outside.

Carteckan: What is it I should do here?

Sias: Simple. I'm going to paint you, and I want you to paint me. …Right, that word probably doesn't translate.

Carteckan: No, that word is understood.

Carteckan grabbed a brush and dipped it in paint. Next thing I knew I had a stripe of blue down my arm.

Carteckan: There. I have painted Sias. Is this what was called "art"?

Sias: I suppose it could be, depending on who you asked!

Cartekcan: I feel as if I am understanding art less and less the more we discuss it.

Sias: Here, let me show you. Hold still, I'll be quick.

Carteckan froze in place as I began sketching and painting on my canvas. When it was finished, I showed it the final product.

CarackanPainting.png
Painting of Carteckan by Agent Basil Sias. Hover to enlarge.

Carteckan: Oh! It is me!

Sias: It is! This is what I meant before by "paint you". I recreated your image on the canvas. How does this make you feel?

Carteckan: I feel joy. My hearts are beating with joy. This makes me feel… significant.

Sias: Good! That's what art is. Art is something that makes people feel something, or gets them talking.

Carteckan: Could I make art? Or are only certain humans capable?

Sias: Like I said earlier, depending on who you asked you've already created art by putting that blue paint on me. Real answer, though— anyone can be an artist. Give it a shot, try painting me on your canvas.

Carteckan grabbed the brush and paint once more. I sat still as it furiously painted with an intense expression on its face. Its arms were uncoordinated, and at many points it looked more like Carteckan was slapping the canvas with a brush rather than painting, but when it showed me the final product it beamed with pride. You could hardly tell what the painting was supposed to represent, looking like a haphazard splashing of colors that would make even the most abstract of contemporary artists blush, but Carteckan was pleased.

SiasPainting.png
Painting of Agent Basil Sias by Carackan. Hover to enlarge.

Carteckan: Is this art? Am I an artist?

Sias: Of course you are. This is wonderful work, Carteckan.

Carteckan removed the canvas from its easel and handed it to me.

Carteckan: Sias should keep this. A present from me, as a thanks for what it has done.

I took the canvas, and handed Carteckan mine in return.

Sias: And you keep this, so you can remember when you started your art journey.

We got up to leave, but Carteckan immediately became distracted by a group of people in the streets.

Carteckan: What is this?

Sias: Oh, right! I forgot that they were doing a tango demonstration today.

Someone turned on the music, and people began pairing up. We watched the groups dance, moving about the plaza with coordinated steps and dips.

Carteckan: This makes me feel excitement. Is this art?

Sias: It's dancing, which is a form of art, yeah.

Carteckan: May we try as well?

Sias: We?

Carteckan: Those humans are paired in groups of two.

Sias: Oh, right right. Sure, I'll dance with you, but just a heads up, it has been a while since I last did this.

We set our canvases aside and stepped out to the plaza. I moved Carteckan in front of me, placing one of its hands on my hip and holding the other out. I had Carteckan place its front legs on my feet in order to help guide it through the steps. We began moving, in a clumsy approximation of the other dancers.

Carteckan: Sias is warm, is something wrong?

Sias: No, it's just…

I spun Carteckan and led it into a dip. It was light, its barely three foot frame easily moved about.

Sias: You remind me of my daughter. We used to go dancing like this all the time when she was little. About your size, actually.

Carteckan: You humans are quite large.

Sias: Well, I am taller than most, if that makes you feel better.

A crowd had begun to gather to watch the display. Despite our clumsy, uncoordinated movements, it felt as if most eyes were on us.

Sias: You remind me of her in a lot of ways, actually. She was always so curious about the world, stopping to admire every flower we passed in the park, always asking why things were the way they were. So many questions, and my husband and I never felt like we had all the answers.

I spun Carteckan once again.

Sias: Even now I feel like I don't have the answers, but that's fine. These moments are special, and I'm glad for the opportunity to share them with you.

Carteckan: Sias sounds sad when talking about the child. Did something happen?

I laughed.

Sias: I guess I am talking like she's dead. No, she's just grown up now. Off living her own life. I'm not sad either, I'm just… nostalgic, is all.

I took a wide step and dipped Carteckan once more, before one final spin. I let go of its hands, and bowed. After a moment of confusion, it bowed in return. It had hardly been an impressive display, but the gathered crowd cheered for us nonetheless.



Current distance: Approximately 410,000km


"Anything new to report?"

"I am trying to find ways to describe it all that does not repeat what I have already said. I am learning so much here. Yes, in many ways they are well behind us, but they have and do things I never thought possible. There are concepts I have learned that I cannot even explain in ways that make sense, things I still have yet to understand myself."


"They will not be behind us for that much longer. We have seen the pace they are moving at, yes? They will be at our level in but a moment."

"We are lucky to have met one another. I just wish…"


"There was more time?"


Addendum 7999.7 April 7th, 2027


Nest


Carteckan surprised me in my room the next morning. It insisted that we go to its home world right away. I was confused, to be honest. "There's still so much to see here," I remember saying. It had been hardly a week, but Carteckan wouldn't take no for an answer. It spoke with a sense of urgency that couldn’t be ignored. So we loaded up onto the shuttle alongside Ketadanka, the only thing that could pass through to the other side, and we left.

Frankly, I expected more when passing through the portal. I had grown up on the classic sci-fi movies, after all; something inside me was expecting this flashy jump to hyperspace as I'm pressed against the seat, holding on for dear life. It wasn't anything momentous at all. By all means, it wasn't any different than a trip to the moon. By that I mean no jumps, no sudden shifts in momentum. We were simply just… there.



Current distance: Approximately 380,000km


"Yes. That is why I am being contacted, yes?"


"That is correct. The current projections are inconsistent as to what exactly will happen, but they all spell out some level of disaster for both of our people."

"Then might I make a request?"


"Of course."

"May I bring Sias to us? Let humans see our world before it's too late for both of us?"


"Are we certain that is the correct choice?"

"Yes. They should know us as we know them. While there is still time."


"Very well."


NestPortal.jpg

View of Earth from SCP-7999-2 recovered from Agent Sias's bodycam.

In the blink of an eye I was on the other side of the universe. It was a small solar system, no more than maybe five planets orbiting a red dwarf. I didn't get much time to really take it all in, though, as we arrived at Nest within an hour. Much sooner than I expected, but their tech was vastly superior to our own. We settled down somewhere on Nest, and the shuttle doors opened.

It was so familiar. We landed on a beach, with white sand not unlike our own. In the distance I could see a myriad of shrubby plants, sporting dark red and orange leaves that transitioned to black near their center. Even the sky above felt familiar. Aside from their sun appearing as a massive pale orb in the sky, the sky itself wasn't unlike the Earth's sky during a sunset. I could see our portal hanging in the sky above, on the other side a pale blue dot that I called home.

Carteckan: Please, come with us. There's much to show you and not much time.

I nodded and followed behind, heading into what I could best describe as a forest or a jungle. It was difficult to judge climate in my suit.

Carteckan: This is Nest, our home. The only one we have ever known.

Sias: You never colonized other worlds?

Ketadanka: We attempted it on many occasions. Our needs are very specific, and most planets we found were unsuitable.

Carteckan: Planet Earth shouldn't be able to host life at all based on our calculations. It is not tidally locked, and the atmosphere is so thin. Likewise, it is so far from its host star that it does not receive the amount of solar energy that is required to support life. It is a miracle humanity exists, and even moreso that humanity is advanced.

Sias: I guess this is the point where I say the opposite, huh? The fact that by our calculations there's no way your planet should support life because of all the reasons you say we can't?

They paused, clicking to one another. It looked like they wanted to say something in response, but both remained silent as we moved into what appeared to be a city of some kind.

The structures were low to the ground and rounded. Most were overtaken by native flora, in some cases nearly indistinguishable from the surroundings aside from odd, rounded bulges from the ground. They were all built with a sense of purpose; there were no decorative elements or patterning on them. As we walked I couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. It was all so… quiet. Aside from Carteckan and Ketadanka, I didn't see any other Keradids present. I wanted to ask, but a solemn look from Carteckan told me enough.

I was eventually led to a massive structure, looking like several of the smaller ones stuck together without much of a sense for organization or purpose. The wall itself manifested a door that slid open as we approached. From there I was let to a large room filled with indescribable technologies. Some were vaguely familiar—screens, buttons, dials. None had a clear purpose to my eye, but there was a sense of recognition nonetheless. Others were utterly foreign, composed of metal bars and wires that looked ready to electrocute me or chop off a limb if I got too close. This is also where we finally saw other Keradids, a small group of no more than six that huddled around us with chirps and clicks. They eyed me with a hungry curiosity.

There were no chairs, so I leaned myself against the safest-looking place I could find. Carteckan finally spoke.

Carteckan: Sias has many questions, yes? Please, ask them.

Sias: Oh God, uh… what was that stuff we walked through outside? What is this place? Is this just, like, a small city since there aren't many of your people here?

I stopped myself from rattling off more. My brain was buzzing, and it wasn't a good feeling for once.

Carteckan: Yes, what I expected. See, humanity is curious like us, the curiosity is just in the simple things. We should start with the simple questions. This is the largest city left on the planet, and what we saw outside are what remains of homes and businesses.

Carteckan looked at me, waiting for me to interject. I remained silent.

Carteckan: …Sias does not have questions about that?

Sias: No, actually, I think I know what's going on here. Remember back at the cathedral?

Carteckan: Yes?

Sias: I said the word "war". It was subtle, but you stiffened up at that. That, with everything you just said and I just saw, well, it doesn't take an intelligent species to piece it all together. Instead I'll ask this—how many of you are left?

Ketadanka: They are all here.

Eight. I counted this time, and there were eight Keradids in this room. It was hard to tell how old they were, but based on what Carteckan told me prior about its age it seemed safe to assume that most were as old if not older than it.

Sias: No others in the world?

Ketadanka: None.

Sias: How long has it been?

Ketadanka: Carteckan is the youngest. It happened when it was freshly hatched from the nursery.

Sias: …and there haven't been any other kids since?

The group chittered to one another, and Carteckan motioned for me to follow it. I was led to a section of the floor that began descending deeper into the ground when we stood on it. It took us to a large cavern. Looking around, I could see the ground covered in large, ovular objects colored a splotchy green.

Carteckan: This is the nursery. It is where the eggs are kept and where they hatch.

Sias: There's easily over a hundred here.

Carteckan: Correct. More specifically, there are three hundred and forty five eggs here.

Sias: Forgive my confusion, then, because I just don't understand what the problem is?

Carteckan: Neither do we. It has been one of our greatest sources of frustration and confusion for over a thousand years. Every single egg is viable, and it should not take more than two years for them to hatch. And yet…

I kneeled down with a flashlight and shone it at one of the eggs. It was faint, but inside I could see a vaguely-Keradid shaped sihouette.

Carteckan: We've accepted extinction.

Sias: You can't be serious!

Carteckan: I am. We accepted it long ago, once the old began dying. Soon hundreds became dozens, and dozens became eight. What hope was there left for us?

Sias: With all your technology, surely you could—

Carteckan: Sias, please. We know. And I know that Sias knows as well. We have tried everything we can. We are not afraid; we accomplished our goal in the end.

Sias: What was that goal?

Carteckan: To meet another like us. Another capable of thought. From the beginning we worshiped the idea that our planet was not alone. That despite how impossible life should be here, it existed regardless, and therefore there had to be another.

Carteckan led me back to the elevator and back outside. We could see the stars above—foreign constellations from stars whose light wouldn't reach Earth for millions of years still.

Carteckan: It was a nice dream early on, but we never really focused on it. We built up our society, began at home first. We learned of all the creatures that lived here from the land to the ocean, then began learning of those on other planets nearby.

Sias: So you did find other life?

Carteckan: Yes, and no. Mound, the world next in line in our system, had microbial life and never went beyond that. Filter, the world of gas beyond Mound, had makings of life but nothing came of it. Nothing like us, nothing that could think. We began harvesting energy from our star, and used that to send groups out of our system.

Sias: That's the kind of thing that I wish we could do, but there are so many problems at home still to solve.

Carteckan: Sias says that as if it was not the case here. We had problems at home, but our eyes were blind to them. Problems that I saw on Earth as well. There was something Sias said before… humanity is not monolithic? We were not either, though not quite as diverse as Earth seems.

Carteckan clicked, stomping its back legs.

Carteckan: I do not wish to waste time describing the entire history of my people. Time is precious right now. Sias has already understood what happened. Once that passed, those of us who remained doubled our efforts. The portal technology was created once we focused all efforts on finding another out there, and we began peering across the universe.

Carteckan began pointing to stars as it spoke.

Carteckan: Each star and system above was searched. All barren and empty, nothing more than a few dying microbes. Fitting, I supposed, for a few dying specs of dust to find others.

Sias: But you found us.

Carteckan: We did. After two million years of our people's existence, we finally found another like us, on their own impossible little world.

I looked to the sky, fixing my eyes on the portal and the pale blue dot on the other side. Strangely enough, it didn't feel that far away; it almost looked like the moon in our own sky.

Carteckan: But fate is cruel.

Sias: Carteckan, you keep saying there isn't enough time. I didn't want to bother you about it, but there's something wrong, isn't there?

Carteckan: …yes. You need to go home, right now.



Current distance: Approximately 340,000km


"Carteckan, we are out of time. Any longer and Nest will be destroyed."

"Does it truly matter? Even staving off death now does not mean we stop what is coming. We die either way. Why can we not die here, knowing we've passed on our knowledge to another?"


"Carteckan, such a thing is impossible. It does not only risk us, but them as well."

"It is all hypothetical, is it not? Just modules and simulations that cannot be proven for sure. We don't know what will happen!"


"Carteckan…"

"The knowledge gained from this exchange is invaluable. Something we will never get again if we cut it off now. There's still so much for them to see here, and so much for us to see there."


"Carteckan-"

"There are so many concepts left to discuss, things to learn. We have yet to speak on their belief systems, or their history! There are so many nations to see! Sias has only seen this one city, there's still so much more of Nest to—"


"CARTECKAN! Enough! The simulations do not lie. If we do not close the portal, either Nest will be thrown through to be torn apart by Earth's gravity, or worse. It cannot be left open."

"Is it not possible to simply close it and reopen it in a safer place?"


"Those were the final coordinates, Carteckan. The last person who knew how to enter in new coordinates died years ago. This has been known. There are none left who know how to enter more. Once the portal closes, it's over."

"Then that's all the more reason to—"


"Carteckan."

"…I know. I am just not ready to say goodbye."


Addendum 7999.8 April 7th, 2027


Nest


Sias looked at me, its head cocked slightly to the side. An expression of confusion, one I had become very familiar with over the past days.

Sias: Why all of a sudden? Is something wrong?

Carteckan: Yes. I need to be honest. Our planets—

Sias: Have been slowly drifting towards each other the past few days. That's what you wanted to say, right?

Carteckan: How did—

Sias: The Foundation isn't dumb or ignorant, Carteckan. We've been monitoring the distance between our planets since the portal opened. It was pretty clear that you all opened it between our orbital paths.

Carteckan: And they aren't upset?

Sias: I can't say the higher ups aren't upset about that. That said, there isn't a whole lot we can do about it. O5 wanted me to threaten you all to fix the problem, but that's not how I operate.

Sias made that strange rhythmic sound it often did when it found something humorous.

Sias: What happens next?

Carteckan: I send Sias home, and the portal between our worlds is closed.

Sias: No way to reopen it?

Carteckan: No.

Sias: Damn.

We remained there in silence staring at the stars above.

Carteckan: We are so small, are we not?

Sias: How so?

Carteckan: We have searched every star we possibly can over our existence to find another like us. Many have died searching, hoping that there was something else out there. Dying never knowing that there was! There was someone else! But even in knowing… we were only able to know them for such a short time it might as well have never mattered. These moments were fleeting, and now they're over.

Sias: You're right, we are small, and it would've been nice to have more time together. You all know it better than we do, but the universe is vast beyond our comprehension. When we die, the stuff that makes us ourselves will return to that universe. We'll become the matter that makes up the next stars, or even the next civilization. We become a part of that universe, don't we?

Sias rose to its feet. It reached out a hand to me. I took it in my own.

Sias: This moment was fleeting, but we were lucky to have ever had it. And no goodbye is forever, so I won't say goodbye here. Instead I'll say… I'll see you in the stars.

Carteckan: I will… see you in the stars.

Sias left, returning to the headquarters where Ketadanka would take it home. I returned shortly after, but by the time I arrived they had already left. One of the others who remained behind handed me something, a gift from Sias. Inside was a set of brushes and paints.

While the others worked to close the portal, I returned to the cavern below with my gift. I laid the brushes out, and I began to paint. It wouldn't be a wonder, nothing like what I had seen on their planet, but it would be beautiful. I worked long into sleeping time and into the next day, stopping only to eat. Sias would never see it, no one from Earth would, but it would be a memento of my times there.

When it was finished, I sat my brushes down. There it was, my landscape of stars with a Keradid and a Human looking to one another. I looked around and saw all the blank space that remained on the cave walls, and began planning my next masterpiece. In the distance, I could swear I almost heard the sound of something cracking.























































Current distance: Approximately 32 billion light years


"Come find us. We'll be waiting."

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