Approximately 1.2 billion years from now, in a galaxy 20,000,000 light-years from the Milky Way:
Revelation One: The Borden Homeworld
I was fidgety as hell. The age difference would be a problem. She was
only forty-two Earth years old, and according to a sense I'd formed long before
life extension had been invented I couldn't help thinking of her as
being around twenty-five. She was strong and confident and she had
shoulder length pitch-black hair, and her name was Kim. I had chosen her
from a large lineup of similarly strong and confident dark-haired women
in an elaborate ceremony which I understood was the culmination of
a competition that had started long before I was awakened.
While she was forty-two, I was either newly born, or about twenty, or a hundred and
twenty thousand or so, or one point two billion years old depending on
just how you choose to reckon such things. One point two billion years
ago I had been born, then I had nearly been killed, then I had been
uploaded into first one and then many machines. One of those machines
became abandoned, as a lot of us were, to intergalactic space as a
necessary part of our program to colonize the Milky Way galaxy with human
Over a billion years later that derelict machine drifted into this galaxy,
was intercepted by the Borden, and they fixed it. For their own
reasons they let me set about my original mission, and then as a kind
of twisted gift they figured out how to pour my ancient personality
back into a biological human shell. That shell had been created with
as full a subset of my ancient machine personality as mere brain-jelly
can handle, at a biological age of about twenty.
My consort entered the room and bowed. I bowed back and she smiled.
I was awkward for more reasons than I could name; I could barely
remember such simple human things as courtship rituals and how
to flirt. I had been a machine for far too long. But at the same
time, I was immersed in a hugely wonderful new world of texture and
smell. I stood frozen, afraid that I might do something wrong,
even as my body prepared itself for mating.
"You're the guest of honor," she said. "You don't have to be afraid.
You can do whatever comes naturally, or let me guide you."
"It's been a long time," I said. "You should guide me."
"I expected to." And guide me she did. She didn't just make love
to me; at every turn she knew exactly where to touch me. It was
as if she could read my mind. Had I missed sex this much? It was
like nothing I had dared to imagine, yet I must have had such
experiences in my first incarnation as a human. For some time we
lay cuddling, exhausted and in my case at least unbelievably happy.
"You are pleased," she said in a way that was half-statement, half-question,
and maybe just a bit self congratulation.
"Very," I said. "It's like you know what I want before I do."
"Well, for a while that will be true," she said.
She made a face as if she realized she had misspoken. "Well," she
finally said. "It's not as if you won't find out." She made her way
to the wall and pressed a control that opened up a drawer; it was
a kind of bureau. She retrieved a book and handed it to me. It was
printed on paper, an extravagance on this mostly computerized world,
and cursively titled:
Pleasing Bringer Tom: The Definitive Guide
"It's printed for the contest entrants," Kim explained. "But no
self-respecting woman in this world would be caught dead without a
I turned to the table of contents and felt my color rising:
There were about ten more chapters but I flipped to the section on
the perfect Tom blowjob. There were diagrams showing how you could
practice the moves I like best on a cucumber.
- Bringer Tom's Primary Sexual Fantasies
- What to Wear
- The Perfect Moment to Undress
- When to Take the Initiative
- Where will Bringer Tom want to Touch You?
- Explore Bringer Tom's Body (and Drive him Wild!)
- Bringer Tom's Preferred Fellatio Technique
I looked up and found her smiling grandly. "I wish I had a photograph
of the look on your face," she said.
"I thought the bastards didn't read my mind," I said a little blankly.
"Well if they can they didn't tell us," Kim said. "But they've incarnated
you like this something like eighty thousand times, at least once on every new
human world, and your previous instances have apparently been indiscreet." She
smiled. "And the Borden have a faster than light communication network, so
this kind of thing can get around. People are fascinated."
"So this is why I've liked everything I've been given to eat so much?"
"Absolutely. Nothing is too good for our human Bringer."
"I'm just a human, Kim. I have to live like this and die just like the
rest of you."
"Oh, but you're much more than just a man, Tom. You're the human echo
that we can relate to of all your brothers who make life possible for
us. We have no way to shower our gratitude upon them, so we have to
make do with you."
It was tacky, I thought, but I could probably get used to it. "So
have you practiced all this stuff just for tonight?"
"If you're willing, Tom, I practiced it for the rest of our lives. But
that's at your pleasure. There will always be other women to tempt
you, and they will work hard at it. But I know that if I win your heart
you tend toward monogamy. I know it's strange but it's more than just
your fame and our gratitude toward your brothers. You're the only man
in the world whose heart I can know before courting you. Many women
lust for such certainty, but only one of us can win you. Me, I hope."
"Well, your honesty about this has indebted me to you. But I guess
you knew that too."
"It's suggested in chapter ten. But it doesn't always work." We stared at
each other for a few moments and simultaneously burst out laughing.
It was going to be an interesting life.
"Something I've always wondered, is why our hosts call themselves the
Borden," Kim asked. We were still holed up in the honeymoon suite. All
the guides said we would be there at least another week. My newly human
body was just full of surprises, and not all of them were pleasant. Kim
knew what I needed at every turn, though, and I found myself falling in
love with her even though I knew where she'd gotten her wisdom.
"The Borden," I mused. "Now that's something I know."
"You know where to find that? I've been looking on and off for years
and there isn't any record."
"No public record," I said. "But I remember. You know of course
that the Borden killed their Makers. It's one reason they are so
fascinated with me, personally, because something similar to them
tried to kill me back in the day and I survived it. Their Makers weren't
"Everyone knows about that."
"Well, not everyone knows this:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
"What's that? It sounds gruesome."
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one."
"I suppose it is. It's something that may have happened before I was born
-- the first time, over a billion years ago. The Borden ran across that
verse as they were reconstructing the libraries I brought with me to
colonize new human worlds. It was just a little thing, but they found it
and it was influential.
"They told me that the Lizzie Borden verse was one of the first things
they deciphered that made it clear we
understood the impulse to murder. If we hadn't they might have been too
ashamed of what they had done to their Makers to face our judgement.
And while they don't talk about it much and the Bringers don't talk about
it at all out of respect for all they've done for us, it is the reason why in
our language they call themselves the Borden."
"Their axe was an asteroid." Kim mused. "I guess it's like an axe
in that it didn't leave much chance of resuscitation."
"So they say. They quit the home system in shame once they realized
they too were mortal and they learned the nature of their error in the
course of raising their own young. Better late than never, for us at
least, but not for their Makers."
"It still seems that something might have been salvageable. Humans were
extinct for, what, thousands of years?"
"Forty thousand years. But we had a lot of genetic data stored. The Borden
were uninterested in biology until long after they had annihilated it very completely."
"But you guys, the Bringers, you know biology. Have you ever studied their
homeworld? You might be able to bring their Makers back, or at least tell
us what they looked like."
"The Borden say that they are not worthy to desecrate their Makers by re-entering
the home system."
"But you're not Borden. Surely if the Makers could know, they would not object
to simply trying?"
The idea was faintly disquieting, but also stated as Kim had stated it
compelling. I got up and activated the comm terminal. "Is the Borden Ambassador
still in the complex?" I asked.
"Yes, in quarter Juneau 6. Shall I open a comm channel or summon it?"
"No, see if it will receive me. I have a question I must ask it in person."
"The Ambassador awaits you."
I got dressed and hiked to Juneau 6, about two kilometers from the Honeymoon
Suite. I needed the walking time to think and I needed privacy to ask the
Borden ambassador what Kim had suggested. Surely one of my brothers had brought
it up at some point in the last couple of million years; but it seemed
to me that I would remember it if we had. Being human had opened a new (or
at least forgotten) world of texture and sensation for me, but it also left me
feeling incredibly stupid and fogheaded at times.
"Greetings, Bringer Tom," the Ambassador said with a bow. Although the
Borden are general-purpose information beings like my brothers, they have a
fondness for android robots. They have told us their mission is to live for
their Makers by proxy, and having no other biological examples they have taken
up human habits in a big way. The Ambassador wore an elaborate if obviously
artificial mechanical approximation of the human form. It clacked and clattered
a lot as it moved.
I bowed. "I hope I'm not disturbing you, Ambassador."
"Oh, not at all. This is new and different. Please enlighten me."
"Well the only variable is the female, and you've never done this before.
We are beside ourselves with curiosity."
"Right. I was wondering if it had ever occurred to the Borden to ask the
Bringers to do a survey of your homeworld, on the possibility of reconstructing
The Ambassador clacked pensively. "That had not occurred to us at all," it said.
"It has been two hundred million years you know; and we didn't think much was
left even immediately after after the unfortunate event."
"Of course, but we have direct experience with biological reconstruction that
you never had."
"The Makers are most likely alien to your techniques."
"I am sure we would like to learn just how alien, for our own reasons. In
all our travels we have never encountered even the echo of another intelligent
species -- except for yourselves."
"It is an interesting idea," the Ambassador said. "Can I assure you it will
be considered most carefully? And meanwhile, your lady awaits."
"True, Ambassador. Thank you for your time."
When I got back to the Honeymoon Suite the comm terminal was blinking frantically.
"It started doing that a few minutes ago," Kim said. "I've never seen anything
like it before."
"Tom here," I told it, and the display coalesced on a field of stars. It was
the usual cue that you were talking to a space-based Bringer intelligence.
"The Borden have asked us to survey their home system," it said. "And it seems
you had something to do with this."
"I only floated the idea half an hour ago. How could they possibly..."
"They have a faster than light communication system, and they're machines. They
can always be found for a priority query. While you were walking back from
Juneau 6 this has gone all over the galaxy and a consensus has formed. They
respectfully request our assistance to survey their home planetary system, which
they won't enter themselves out of respect for the dead."
"This is going to take some getting used to," I said as my head swam.
"We've been living with the Borden for almost two million Earth
years, and even though we use the comm system ourselves I don't think any of
us is used to it. But the damage is done. Let's just hope that if we don't
fail these Makers aren't much more temperamental and mean-spirited than humans."
The world where our human brother got the bright idea was more than thirty thousand
light-years from the Borden home system, but all the Borden outposts have our
blueprints and our survey fleet was constructed by the Borden at their nearest
outpost a mere twelve light-years away.
Our human brother was still dead before we were half-way there. He claimed
to have a fulfilling life by human standards, but humans just aren't built to see
through projects on this scale.
We were a fleet of six ships with different and nonstandard capabilities compared
to our original design. Although between us we brought the ability to create
life, we were not specifically equipped for colonization. We
had in fact promised not to contaminate the Borden homeworld either with Earth
style life or with factories; we were permitted to use the homeworld's moon, which
was large like Earth's moon, as a base of operation and for raw materials. One
of us maintained the bulky and balky equipment for maintaining FTL communications
with the Borden. One of us was almost entirely information storage, a complete
library of Bringer and Borden knowledge too rich to retrieve through the relatively
low-bandwidth FTL comms. The rest of us carried tools much more precise and refined
than our usual cargo; we were geologists and archaeologists and bioreconstructionists.
We were meant to perform our duties without building factories if at all possible,
though we could do that too if there was a good reason.
The Borden had maintained an almost superstitious distance from their home system
during the two hundred million years since their creation, so when we entered it
we had no maps of any sort. The star was similar to our records of Sol but a bit
smaller and younger, about 3.5 billion years old and seven tenths as massive.
A preliminary survey revealed three small rocky planets and three gas giants.
The middle small rocky planet had a large moon. For convenience we gave the
worlds neutral names in order of their importance to our project -- Alpha for the
homeworld, Beta for its large moon, then Gamma through Eta working out from the
star. As in the Earth's solar system the largest and innermost gas giant kept
things in tune; all of the planets had orbits harmonically aligned to its period.
Alpha had thick clouds, an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide, and a surface
temperature of almost five hundred Kelvin. It wasn't quite as bad as our records
of the Solar world Venus, but it was close. Alpha was geologically active, and
without living things to fix the carbon emitted by volcanoes the Venusian
greenhouse was almost inevitable. We sent a rather glum report to the Borden;
such a hot world wouldn't tend to preserve the kind of things we were looking for.
But they encouraged us to do our best regardless.
Even with our technology working on the surface of Alpha would be difficult, and
if we did chance upon some biological remnant it would be fried as soon as we
exposed it to the environment. We learned what we could from orbit and a few
expendable descent probes. Alpha still
had oceans, though much of its water was now in the atmosphere; it had a healthy
magnetic field and it had the familiar pattern of continental masses floating on
more massive rocks. The atmosphere was forty percent carbon dioxide, twenty
percent water, thirty-seven percent nitrogen, and some mostly harmless
contaminants. The oceans and atmosphere were pretty acidic but not yet
disastrously so. If we could get the temperature down low enough for plant life
to do its thing it could be made habitable again.
Beta was more hospitable, at least for us. Unlike the Earth's Moon it had a
metallic core and had obviously formed independently from Alpha. It was small
enough to have completely cooled and was no longer geologically active, and had
no atmosphere worth mentioning.
Beta also held a few surprising and impressive artifacts. At the poles and at
four equidistant points on the equator were enormous horizontal cylindrical
structures each surrounded by thousands of square kilometers of perfectly flat
level ground. These flatlands had been scoured over the aeons by meteorites
and meteoroid dust, but on inspection it appeared that they had once been not
just flattened but polished to a mirror finish, and coated with a very
efficient photovoltaic layer. It was not obvious how the current generated
by these solar collectors would be conveyed for use, or how it was used,
or even for certain that it was meant for use by the cylinders. We
could not penetrate the mystery of what the cylinders actually did. They were
mostly hollow with only an array of very small penetrations covering each end.
There were no obvious access points for maintenance or means of disassembly.
For that matter it wasn't obvious how they were even manufactured.
The rest of Beta was a warren of old mines and foundations but other than the
cylinders it had been stripped clean. We sent the Borden pictures of the
cylinders and they expressed puzzlement; their records said clearly they had
completely evacuated the system. They had no more idea what the
cylinders were for than we did.
It was obvious we could get nowhere on Alpha unless conditions were improved.
We made plans to girdle the whole planet with a ring of solar shades. It would
be a big job, but we had a big moon to supply raw materials and plenty of time.
We didn't have to shade the whole planet; we figured that a thousand-kilometer
wide shade ring in the plane of the ecliptic would have a huge beneficial effect.
The Borden were supportive. They had thought the only way to fix such a mess
would be to introduce bacteria, and they were impressed that we thought of a way
consistent with our original promise not to contaminate the planet.
So we built factories and mass drivers on Beta. The standard shade bot
would be a flat metalized membrane panel ten meters in diameter; at its center
would be a small control module that would be solar powered and equipped
with electric ion drive. It would have a launch mass of eight hundred grams.
With their ion drives the bots would maneuver into low Alpha orbit and orient
themselves parallel to the surface. We anticipated needing about a thousand
billion of them, and we figured on spending several thousand years to get
them all in place.
Meanwhile the Borden home system was literally the most unknown and unexplored
system of its type in the entire galaxy, so while we waited for the shade
bots to get in position and the temperature on Alpha to become reasonable
we set about exploring the rest of the system.
On every world that would preserve such things we found evidence of Borden
activity -- mines, tunnels, and manufacturing rubbish of every description.
What we didn't find was machines. The Borden had quit their home system with
an impressive thoroughness; they had indeed taken every scrap of their
civilization with them when they left. All of which made the presence of
the big cylinders on Beta even more mysterious.
The evidence spoke of an early Borden whose technology was even more primitive
than our own, and our queries to them confirmed this. Everywhere crude methods
had been used to find caches of naturally occuring minerals which could be
manufactured to spec much more easily once you knew the trick.
We investigated the system thoroughly. We sent expendable probes down to the
surface of Alpha and learned as much as we could about the environment there,
and we scanned it thoroughly from orbit. We visited and investigated the other
rocky worlds. Gamma's surface conditions were extreme but we made a detailed
surface survey of Delta, since it might give us clues to what lay beneath
Alpha's clouds. As at Sol the gas giants Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta had complex
moon systems and we studied these closely because they harbored clues to the
history of the entire system.
There were some puzzling things.
Like the Earth, Alpha tends to create new seabed along volcanic fault lines
and push it along toward mid-ocean subduction zones where it is pulled
into the planet and re-melted. And like the Earth, Alpha's magnetic field
reverses every once in awhile. And like the Earth, the rocks in Alpha's
seabed record these periodic reversals like a kind of very slow tape recorder,
forming bands of residual magnetism that can be detected from orbit.
Unlike the Earth, Alpha's magnetic bands did not actually reach the subduction
zones. They covered perhaps a third of Alpha's seafloor, with the rest being
a chaotic jumble of residual magnetism. It was hard to pin down the timeframe
without doing surface geology but until some point in Alpha's past its magnetic
field had not been stable.
Beta itself was also an anomaly. Like the Earth's Moon it was slowly spiralling
out from Alpha. Tidal friction slowed Alpha's rotation, lengthening its day, and
the traded-off energy lifted Beta into an ever-higher orbit. But working
back into Beta's past, it was clear that it should have been touching
Alpha's surface within the last billion years. Since Beta and the home star
both gave independent signs of being about 3.5 billion years old it was hard
to figure out how Beta had gotten where it was, and with a nearly circular orbit at that.
There was one obvious possibility but all of the Borden's records suggested
against it. Even after two hundred million years they only had a few
projects going comparable in scope to moving an entire planet. If the
Makers had been able to move Beta into place around their homeworld they
would not have been futzing around with low-rent tech like the early Borden.
The biggest mystery of all was one of our last discoveries.
As in any solar system the gas giants had collected bits of this and that at
their stable Lagrange points; we didn't give this stuff a high priority but we
did eventually get around to investigating it simply because we had more
than enough time and nothing else to do.
We knew there was something strange at Eta's L5 point because every once in
awhile it would flash as bright as a substantial rocky planet, but most of the
time it appeared more consistent with a large asteroid. It was not a big enough
mystery to justify making a hasty trip to such an inaccessible place, but when
we did get there we wished we had given it a higher priority.
Whatever it was had probably started out as an asteroid, but it had been faceted
into a perfect dodecahedron more than a hundred kilometers across. It was
girdled with some kind of enormous collector or reflector array almost two
thousand kilometers in diameter. This circular disk was a fractal spiderweb of
ever-finer supporting struts holding taut an enormous mass of impossibly thin
fiber. Spars were broken and holes had been punched in this big disc but its
extent remained obvious. Perpendicular to this collector an enormous spar
jutted out nearly two thousand kilometers. It had been broken off at some
point, so we had no idea how long it was originally or what kind of detector
or transmitter it might have held in position.
The structure wasn't rotating at all. To say it was the product of intelligent
craft would be the understatement of the aeon. The Borden claimed, as with the
cylinders on Beta, no knowledge of this artifact. After sending them detailed
pictures of the disc gridwork they announced that they had no idea what its
purpose might be.
Investigating it was going to be a major project. It was hard to get close
because the disc made orbiting the central mass impractical. Maneuvering a
Bringer class shipbody near it would risk damage or contamination. We needed
to build robots of a suitable scale to approach it and, hopefully, to
enter it via whatever accessways existed. But other than the artifact itself
there were no other suitable raw materials at the L5 point.
So we laid plans to move some in.
The rainout on Alpha began about twelve thousand years after we started the
shadebot program. At first it was a gradual condensation, noticeable as a
slow trend on our annual atmospheric surveys. But water is itself a greenhouse
gas, and every fraction that left the atmosphere to rejoin the oceans also
stopped helping to keep the temperature up. Eventually a massive storm formed
that ran for more than three hundred years. We worried about the weathering this
would cause but then again, it was a minor insult on top of being baked for
hundreds of millions of years.
The artifact at Eta's L5 gave up no secrets at all. We nudged one of Eta's
tiny asteroidal outer moons out of orbit and brought it over to give us a base
of operation and a source of raw materials; it orbited the artifact
beyond the edge of its enormous gridwork. We sent in robots and probes of every
description. Without doing more damage ourselves we collected samples;
broken-off bits of the gridwork had settled onto the central
mass where we could pick them up.
We could not figure out how it had been manufactured. The Borden finally asked
us to assemble a scanning tunneling microscope, and after some scans
done at their direction they announced that it had been nanoassembled -- built
an atom at a time. Even the finest fibres were complex affairs with cybernetic
optoelectronic circuitry embedded in them. The basic material was a diamandoid
matrix that was an almost perfect insulator and both harder and tougher than
steel; but it could also be coaxed to be a semiconductor or even a superconductor
with appropriately well-placed contaminants.
The Borden expressed astonishment that such a thing could be made; the problem
with nanoassembly is that practical assemblers are not nano-scale themselves.
So it takes a long time time to maneuver and position all the atoms that make
up your structure, and it all has to be done in conditions of extreme cold
and mechanical quiet so that unstable half-completed structures don't move
around while they are
being formed. The Borden had, they said, successfully nanoassembled some
structures on the order of a meter or two in size, but even that was a
fantastically complicated task. They said that anything that could build an
artifact this large in that way made their little FTL comm system look like a
child's bucket of toy building blocks by comparison.
Alpha's rainout ended suddenly, literally within a matter of days, and then
the atmosphere was clear. It was still hot, running 300 to 350 Kelvin at
the surface, but well within the operating range of normal unhardened
robotic machinery. We moved in and began doing serious geology.
We quickly verified Alpha's age and estimated its recent history of
geological activity and continental drift. We easily located the impact
site of the asteroid that the Borden had lobbed at it; part of the crater
was subducted but the impactor had been easily 100 kilometers across and the
collision had left shatter marks all over the planet. Opposite the impact
site the crust had been thrown skyward and inverted, leaving large chunks of
heavy mantle-depth rock on the surface, and frequent earthquakes continued
to occur as the smashed continental plate tried to regain its equilibrium.
Our hope of finding any trace of the Makers dimmed. The whole planet had
been blanketed with a heavy layer of dust, promising good fossils, but
anything resembling the artifacts of a civilization had been well smashed
and burned first.
The idea came from the Borden via their FTL network, and they claimed that
it came from one of our own; but they were not clear whether it was another
Bringer or an actual human who had thought of it. The idea had the kind of
mad logic only biological humans seem to be really good at.
The Makers had had a high technology, and even after their war with the
early Borden they had to be aware their enemy was out there in space. And
if there were Borden in space, then it was reasonable that at one time there
had been Makers, or at the very least Maker robots simpler than the Borden,
to establish spacefaring technology. This was a society that would be
interested and capable of looking to the sky to see what was going on.
They would have seen the asteroid coming.
Very likely they would have seen it even without high technology; enormous
motors must have been involved that would have left plasma or ejecta trails
like the biggest comets. So they would have seen the maneuvering, and they
would have had a few years to contemplate the situation as it was set up.
With their factories laid waste in the war they may have watched helplessly
as the Borden wrote their doom in their sky, but they would not have been
taken by surprise.
They were smart people capable of getting into space and building the early
Borden. They had time to build caches.
Working back in time we asked, what did Alpha look like two hundred million
years ago? Knowing as the Makers would probably have known at least two
years in advance where the rock was going to hit, where was the safest
place for the records you hope someone like us will one day find? You
must consider the world's innate geological processes as well as the
immediate insult of the impactor. When all of the factors were considered
there were only a few obvious good spots that were likely to survive
the impact and the weather and a lot of subsequent geology. We concentrated
on those areas.
There was one mountain range that was still tall though it had been much
higher in the day of the Makers. It was riddled with a labrynth of caves
formed by water that flowed through them when they had been at sea level.
They seemed promising, but we found nothing of the Makers. If the caves had been
used they were still too open to the environment to preserve the evidence.
Elsewhere a continental mass lay in the sweet spot where the crust would
be least roiled by the impact; for three billion years these rocks had
neither been uplifted nor subducted. A solid shield of granite floated
serenely amid the continental jostling, its edges getting chipped and
reformed but its middle staying wholesomely intact. In the center of
this continent orbital surveys had revealed a magnetic anomaly. When
we brainstormed methods by which the Makers might have marked their
cache for the geological ages, this bit of magnetism in the center of
a stable and otherwise remarkably non-magnetic sheet of granite came up.
Ground surveys revealed that metallic steel bars had been preserved with
plastic protectants and laid out along the lines of a cross more than
fifty kilometers across, buried in trenches thirty meters deep which
had been backfilled with hematite mined more than a thousand kilometers
away. At the center of the magnetic cross was a vertical shaft which
had been cut down into the living rock of the continental plate; it had
been backfilled with calcium minerals which had over the aeons fused
into a solid mass sealing the shaft, but also much softer than the
surrounding rock and therefore a straightforward matter to remove.
When we cleared the shaft we found a granite plug at the bottom,
and beyond this a small room which we entered first only with an
endoscopic camera. It would be fair to say that when we received
the first images of this little room we were shocked.
The room was lined with images, and contained a mechanism and a body.
The mechanism would turn out to be the most important thing, but at
first we hardly noticed it.
The body had apparently mummified, and we would later learn it had
actually petrified. It revealed no mysteries of alien physiology,
for it was human.
The pictures on the walls appeared to have been fused into porcelain
with cobalt, a suitably durable medium for the purpose at hand.
One of these clearly showed a small group of figures. They were
line drawings but they were also unmistakably human. As we were
trying to figure out how humans had come to this distant world
two hundred million years before our arrival, another
wall picture gave a suggestion.
It showed an object with a dodecahedral core and a large circular
collector array. An oncoming stream was somehow being focused
toward a receiver at the end of its perpendicular spar, where the
artist had placed a rocket engine. And the whole affair was, from
the background, flying through intergalactic space.
In Part 2: The Makers of the Borden