September Challenge - Write a saga in 20,000 characters (the maximum amount for one post) or less
Link to challenge thread with all other entries
Winning Entry: Mayflies
2724 words (12200 characters)
I am JaevenNemeth, record-keeper for the Actotrill (as all 274 JaevenNemeth before me have been). This record holds the start of the plan decided by the Council from the generation before mine to expand the requirements of these records. From now on, we will not only record what this generation has achieved for the education of our children. The records will also serve as an introduction to the Actotrill for our neighbours in the stars like those who live in the castle in the sky that the astronomers found in heat 263.
Time taken for record-keeping is necessarily brief. We all have many duties perform to maximise our time alive, before we return to the laying fields. The nutrient link between our bodies and the eggs only provides our children with ancient knowledge. Newly learned information and experience have to be read and re-learned by each new generation until it becomes fixed. The recording of this generation's learning must therefore always be of the highest priority for the record-keeper. Any additional information will be added as time allows.
The main plan for this lifespan was to continue work on building the generational ship that we want to send into space to explore the galaxy. The scientists have been working on methods to recreate the cycle of cold and heat that we live by (see appendix A for the details), while the rest of us have been building the ship itself (see appendix B). The architects and Council estimate that the building of the ship should be complete within five generations.
The cold is coming. It is time now for me to go back to the laying fields to die and nourish the next generation. They will return with the heat.
Half way through this heat cycle, the sky burned with fire. The astronomers say a meteorite hit the other side of our planet and we saw it fall (see appendix A for their explanation). Scientist Marecka took time out from helping design the generational ship to investigate the consequences of the meteorite. it has written up its findings in a separate paper, its child will continue the work.
Amazing progress has been made on the design of the artificial laying field that will go inside the first Actotrill space exploration ship. They are now ready to begin building the field (see appendix B for design schematics). The scientists had hoped to get everyone started on the building within this heat, but the sky-fire distracted us and we fell behind schedule.
A small note for any space visitors reading this. Our life cycles come in two halves, the heat where we are active and the cold where the eggs of the next generation wait for the heat to return. If you have visited while this planet is cold, it will appear lifeless. Please wait, or return when there is heat.
Very little work has been done this heat cycle. We did all try, but we were distracted by the discussions being held between the scientists and the astronomers. Astronomer HalladenNaret has shown that the sun is now in a slightly different part of our sky. Opinions on what this means differ greatly among all the scientists and astronomers. Their arguments are all detailed within Appendix A.
Scientist Marecka has shown that the previous cold cycle was longer than standard. It believes that this is directly related to the meteorite hit, but is not yet able to say what long-term effects there may be.
Council spoke to everyone impressing upon us all that now is not the time for dithering panic. Now is the time for hard work. If there are to be changes to our planet because of the meteorite then having a working space ship may be our salvation.
Everyone worked diligently on starting to build the laying field for the ship. Schematics and progress reports are in Appendix A.
The change in cold cycle scares me, I'm only the record-keeper, I don't understand most of the science that I write, but the idea of a long cold frightens me like nothing else. what if we never come back?
Well, that's that. The decision has been made. All work on the space exploration ship is to be halted. All our time and concentration is to be directed at discovering a way to fix the change in our cold and heat cycles. When I review the previous record entries, I can see that the Heat is noticeably shorter. We managed so much more in a lifetime before the meteorite. I don't know if anyone else will have noticed, but I spend so much of my time with the records organising the learning schedules. I can see the difference. These last two heat cycles it is clear in the records that they did not achieve what they aimed for because they ran out of time and then more time is lost in the next generation in learning and discovering how much more work is to be done.
I hope the scientists figure it out soon. Or our way of life is going to be very different.
The worst eventuality possible is beginning to come true. Something that the scientists didn't even dare mention in the official records, they kept separate records for each generation to study.
We are losing our memories.
It is believed to be because our bodies and the eggs are in the cold in the laying field for longer. The nutrient link runs slowly in the cold passing along physical nutrition. The memory link is triggered by the heat and it seems too long in the cold means that our bodies degrade before the memory link is activiated and some of the information is lost. See Appendix A for the full description.
Now we have two crises to deal with. The heat cycle is shorter leaving us less time to get work done and with the nutrient link no longer as effective we have so much more to learn.
If this continues, we will run out of time. We are dying as a race. We need help. There is no way we can fix this ourselves, we just don't have time.
The council has made the decision, we will send a message to the castle in the sky and hope they can help us.
This will be the last record produced by the JaevenNemeth line. I will not return to the laying fields to pass on my experiences to my egg. I cannot. I have to stay here to write up the records for sending the message to the castle in the sky. I cannot leave it for the next generation, because I cannot be sure they will remember enough to write it.
It has taken me such a long time to complete the details of the message and how it was recorded and sent. I am forgetting so many things, I had to keep searching through the archive to find the technical details. But it is done. This record holds all the details for the next heat cycle - they will know what was done and how to do it again if they need to.
But it is too late for me to make it to the laying fields, I can feel the cold seeping into my limbs, I am already dying. This record is my goodbye to my child. It will live, the egg will be nourished by all the others at the laying field but my own experiences will not be passed on, it will be the start of a new line.
I am JaevenNemethStrantor. I have taken on the name of JaevenNemeth in memory of its sacrifice in not returning to the laying fields. JaevenNemethStrantor will be the new line of record keepers.
Thanks to its sacrifice we know what was done last heat cycle to contact the castle in the sky. JaevenNemeth may well be the saviour of the Actotrill because things have got much worse. The cold cycle was much longer this time and very few of the memories came through from our parents, we have only these records to teach us what we used to know from birth.
There is no longer any time to do anything but re-learn how to survive and fix the machines in the city. And no-one knows how long we will even be able to manage that.
All our hopes lay in that message to the Castle in the Sky.
These records may be all that is left of us. They must be kept safe. What little we can figure out, the cold is continuing to get longer. There are not many generations left to us.
* * *
Deep Space Nine
Dr Julian Bashir had been working late in the medical lab on an experiement which he hoped would improve the early detection of Klingon Crontok syndrome. Bashir hoped his work would eventually lead to the eradication of the syndrome which caused so much pain to the children born with it.
Deep in thought, he nearly passed by the science lab without noticing that the light was on. He had walked beyond the door before the fact of the light registered in his consciousness and he retraced his steps to see who else was working this late. He saw Dax sitting at her computer, she seemed to be intently listening to something. Curious, he went inside.
"Burning the midnight oil, Dax?"
Dax jumped in her seat, "Julian! I didn't hear you come in."
Bashir blushed, "Sorry. I saw you through the window, I was wondering what you were doing."
Dax welcomed the distraction and turned to face Bashir, offering him the seat next to hers. "It's a puzzle Kira gave me to solve."
Bashir was intrigued, "I like puzzles! What is it?"
As always, Dax found Bashir's enthusiasm infectious, "A high frequency signal that was sent to us from what was thought to be an uninhabited asteroid. The contents of the signal look to be deliberately created becaue they repeat at regular intervals. And as far as I can tell it was directed straight for us. Every instinct I have says it's a message."
"Computer, play recording Dax05 time index 1"
A loud high pitched squeal sounded out of the speakers.
"Ah." Bashir commented. He thought for a minute. "Which asteroid?" he asked.
"Reusa's Rock" Dax told him.
"Oh, that tiny asteroid that speeds round Bajor's sun?"
"That's the one." Dax sighed, "I don't know Julian. I was just about to call it a night. I think I'm hearing things that aren't there. It's probably just a degraded signal artefact."
"Not necessarily." Bashir said slowly, thinking.
Dax watched him patiently.
"Have you tried slowing the signal down?" Bashir asked.
"Slowing it down? No I haven't. Why?"
"Because if there is anyone native to that asteroid, they'd most likely have incredibly fast metabolisms as a result of evolving on such a fast moving planet."
Dax considered his words. "Computer play Dax05 time index 1. This time lower the freqency by 50 percent".
The signal played again,but the sound was deeper and it began to sound like speech although still too fast to understand.
"Computer, replay, lowering the frequency by another 25 percent." Dax ordered.
This time the signal came through loud and clear and the Universal Translator was able to translate the language.
This is an urgent distress signal. We need your help. There was a fire in the sky and now our cold and heat cycles are changing. It is killing us, we need the heat to live. Help us. Please.
Bashir looked at Dax who looked back at him.
"I guess there's someone living on Reusa's Rock." Bashir said finally.
"Yes," said Dax thoughtfully, "And I think I may know what that fire in their sky was. I was updating the stellar cartography records the other day, and there were reports on a comet in that area and it may have..."she trailed off as she turned back to the computer. "Computer, please display stellar cartography records for the Bajoran system, from stardate 50054.6 up to the present."
Dax angled the computer screen so Bashir could see. "Yes," she said, "watch - there it is. A comet came through the Bajoran system. Historically it has passed untouched through the system and continued on its way, but this time it hit Reusa's Rock. Srandac's Horde!
Dax whispered the Trill curse as she watched the screen, and Bashir could see why. The impact of the comet sent Reusa's Rock off its orbit sending it on a new path away from Bajor's sun.
"Our heat and cold cycles are changing." Bashir repeated.
Dax nodded, transfixed by the screen.
Bashir tapped his comm-badge, "Bashir to Captain Sisko."
* * *
The next morning, Dax summarised her findings at the Ops meeting. When she had finished, Sisko spoke.
"Putting aside any questions about how there could be a race of beings living on that asteroid, I think we have to take this distress call as genuine. The path seems quite clear." He looked over at Chief O'Brien, "Chief, would the Defiant's tractor beams be able to move the path of Reusa's Rock."
O'Brien nodded. "It's certainly within tolerance. We'll need to run some models to calculate the optimum position for the beam."
Dax nodded her agreement,
Sisko stood up, "All right then, Dax and O'Brien plot the requirements, Major, you prepare the Defiant to launch. I want this mission underway as soon as possible."
* * *
Four days later, Bashir was sitting in Quarks when he realised he hadn't seen Dax all day. He didn't need the computer to tell him where she was, he went straight to the science lab. Dax was inside sitting staring at her computer screen.
"Jadzia?" Bashir called out softly, "Are you okay?"
Dax looked over to the door and smiled, "Come on in Julian. No, I'm not okay. When we finished the mission, there were going to be three days before Reusa's Rock came back into direct line with the sun. I figure that causes the heat cycle the message talks about. In any orbit, seven days are spent in view of the sun and for ten days the heat is blocked by other planets in the system. If they need the heat to live, then now that they're in a heat cycle there should be movement, life signs... something! I've had the computer scanning since we came back and there's nothing."
Dax rubbed her eyes in tiredness and frustration. "We find new life in the most unexpected place. A race of people completely unknown to us, who must be so different from us - I mean, if they need the heat to live then that's only seven days! What must they be like? But they saw us in the sky and wanted to communicate. They came to us for help when they needed it." She sighed, "We were too late."
Bashir touched her shoulder,"Give them time Dax. It's likely that they are dormant during the cold, and if they've had extended time in the cold it'll take them longer to warm up. Give it another day, Dax."
* * *
I start the count at three, and I call myself JaevenNemethStrantor, to provide a connection to the old lives. Really, I have no idea of either. We all woke up with only enough knowledge to bring us to the city and find the records. Luckily the machines and the city survived the cold much better than we did.
Thanks to the records, and to JaevenNemeth's detailed description of sending the message to the castle in the sky, we have been able to figure out how it was done. So now we send our message of thanks because if it wasn't for them we would surely never have hatched.
The new Council have asked me to record the text of the message. It is short so I'll put it here in the main text.
We are the Actotrill. We give you our thanks for saving us. With luck, in a few generations we will have built our explorer ship and we can thank you in person.