Explorers: a short story

Staff Writer
The star ship quickly entered the star system, its thousands of passengers and hundreds of crew members all unconscious except for the pilot and co-pilot.
“We’re almost there,” the pilot said, looking at the navigation equipment in the cockpit. “Wake the elite members of the exploratory crew from stasis and begin making preparations for a landing on the red planet.”
“Yes sir,” the co-pilot said. He gave orders to the ship’s artificial intelligence system to carry out the pilot’s orders.
“We’re a long way from home,” the pilot said, leaning back as they approached the red globe.

The ship made a smooth landing on the red sands, next to an abandoned city with what appeared to be a dome around it. The eight members of the elite exploratory crew donned protective suits, left the ship, and attempted to make their way inside the alien city. They found what appeared to be an entrance, but it was sealed by a force field of some kind. As one of the crew began to remove explosives to breach the gateway, a voice came to life from inside the dome. The crew struggled to understand it, as the alien language was entirely foreign to them and they had no method of translating it. Eventually, the gate opened and the voice was revealed to be coming from what appeared to be an ancient computer system.
They wandered the ruins of what must have once been a great city, but found nothing of note still remaining intact. Five crew members were left behind for the time being to excavate what had been buried under sand that had penetrated small holes in the dome and accumulated over the centuries
The rest of the crew members made it back to the ship and relayed their findings to the artificial intelligence system. Suddenly, the captain’s face appeared in a hologram.
“You are to go to another uncharted planet in the area,” he said, displaying a hologram of a planet almost entirely covered in water, but with small amounts of land. “The rest of this star system’s planets are either too hot or too cold to sustain life. Gather any information you can about the planet’s environment, and assess whether it is in fact habitable. You will be taking one of the exploratory shuttles.”
Three crew members accepted the mission, and speedily set off to complete it. Shortly after they had boarded and launched the shuttle, which was much smaller than the main ship but significantly smaller, they arrived on the second alien planet.
The main ship had completed a bioscan of the whole planet earlier from the ship, and discovered that life existed literally everywhere on the planet in one way or another, with the exception of a few areas that were absolutely loaded with radiation. The small shuttle found its way to an area of land not coated with radiation, and landed softly. One crew member stayed with the ship, and the other two embarked onto the unknown terrain, riding extremely fast moving vehicles.
A long way into their journey, they finally came across the ruins of a massive civilization. At first glance, it seemed remarkably similar to the one that they had discovered earlier on the red, sandy planet. The only difference they could surmise easily was this one’s much greater size and noticeable lack of a protective dome. Once they entered the city, that observation changed.
Whereas the other city, aside from the wear and tear of erosion, had largely been left untouched, this city was the opposite. Plants of all kinds grew in the streets and out of buildings, and ridiculous looking animals were everywhere, using every nook and cranny of what had once been a technologically advanced civilization now reclaimed by the planet’s natural environment.
Eventually, they reached the center of the city, where a clear dome existed that housed some type of alien computer. Using explosives they had packed, they were able to enter the protected room. As soon as the explorers’ feet had touched the ground, the computer whirred to life, and miraculously began speaking the same alien language as the computer system on the red planet.
“Remarkable. Both of the cities were created by same alien civilization,” one of the crew members said.
“That must mean that the city on the red planet was a colony. This feat would require the technology for interplanetary travel. We’re definitely dealing with a dominant species just as intelligent or possibly more intelligent than our own. But none of the life-forms we saw are even close to being this advanced,” the other replied.
The alien computer continued to whir, processing information, as the two explorers discussed the apparently absent civilization for hours, and suddenly said, in the explorers’ own language,
“Greetings, visitors. Do you come from the stars?”
Both explorers simultaneously asked, “How do you know our language?”
The computer responded, “I am History, the most intelligent artificial intelligence system ever created. I was able to translate your language into my own. Allow me to repeat the question. Are you from this planet?”
“No, we came aboard an exploratory star ship,” one of the explorers replied.
“I thought not,” it said. “My creators are sorry they are not here to greet you, but they were wiped out long ago.”
“Why were you created?” an explorer asked, curious as to the purpose of the AI.
“My creators were the most intelligent of their race, and knew their species’ days were numbered,” History said. “They hoped that an intelligent alien species would eventually pick up their radio waves, as I’m sure you did, and track down this planet as their source. They recorded their entire species’ history into me.”
“But why are you here?” the other explorer asked, frantically trying to communicate to the ship what they had found.
“They knew they wouldn’t be around when you came, and they wanted someone to be here to say hello,” History responded, and the explorers could almost detect sadness in its voice. “A species, sadly, does not survive centuries of polluting its own habitat while constantly going to war with itself with increasingly powerful weapons without eventually accidentally destroying itself.”
“Will you pass on this planet’s dominant species’ knowledge to us?” the explorer not occupied with the communication equipment asked eagerly.
“Of course I will,” History responded.
“Before we begin, I must ask a question. What is this planet’s name?” he inquired.
History replied simply, “It went by many names.”
“What name did it go by in the language your creators primarily communicated with?” the explorer asked.
History responded.