By Andrew Hawnt
From the collection 'Across The Seas of Mind'
They fell silent for a moment, listening for the first hiss of static to surge through the library’s ancient systems. The books were already laid out in rows, open, ready to be filled with memories. The gathered had prepared the sanctuary with haste, as this wave of knowledge had been unexpected. The Librarians waited now, robed and hooded and solemn, as the planet’s gargantuan receptors opened up to their full scope, and the temporal and spatial distortion that had been hurtling towards them began to fill their halls with information.
The receptors crackled and rumbled beyond vast city walls, refining the distortion into actual images, words, thoughts, memories. Whatever this mass of chaos was, wherever it had originated, it contained an incredible amount of history, and the librarians were adamant that they would gather it all for the education of all and the cataloguing of every instance in history. This wave was a special find indeed.
As it grew in the massive engines beneath the city, purified by the oval-shaped receptors that soared kilometers into the sky beyond the Librarians’ citadel, turbines masked by crystal began to whir over the sanctuary, and the books began to be etched with symbols, words, stories and undulating pictures. The crystal screens over the turbines hummed, and the Librarians watched in awe as images of the past sprang to life over them in a massive scale, echoes of a distant world’s past recounted for all to see, all to know.
Pages flipped, chapters were filled and the story played out all around them in
Shimmering, ghostly apparitions. Those ethereal murals relinquished the secrets of the powerful wave that had delivered these memories, and told a story that none of the Librarians could have expected.
The wave was an echo of home.
Three centuries had passed since they had colonized this barren world and transformed it into the quadrant’s most prosperous and respected Library planet, and the barbarity of home had long since faded, replaced by discussion, debate, deliberation, and learning of a high order. The days of brother and sister against brother and sister were things of the past, things only spoken of in the countless tomes that filled every structure on the face of the planet.
Yet here they were, playing out all around the thirty-five most senior Librarians, stood watching wide-eyed as war ravaged their ancestral home. Weapons so terrible that they made the Librarians physically want to run from their ghosts as they rampaged across a landscape that had once been beautiful. Cities lay in ruins as millions of soldiers faced off against one another with all manner of guns, knifes, disruptors, grenades and more.
One of the LibTechs scrolled through the control sphere linked to this manifestation, and the image shifted to a terrifying structure which had been the focal point of the event that had created the echo wave. A glowing sphere held in place by vast pylons that stretched into the sky. Generators the size of cities powering the machine, which warped reality around itself. A temporal bomb.
What could have possibly happened to humanity that would be so bad as to inspire the use of a time weapon? The Librarians went over the rapidly filling books, hungrily lapping up the words, but nothing was there other than a record of this final day. Nothing was left other than this shockwave that had escaped for the stars. The history of their world was gone, but here, in this remote outpost of learning and records, the history of their world was well documented in many cities-full of books and data systems.
The archives were checked. The history texts remained intact. The Library had escaped any temporal destruction caused by Earth’s own paradox, which was comforting but humbling. They now possessed the only records of humanity in existence, not to mention its last vestiges of civilization.
They watched in horror as the echo of the final moment passed before them. The temporal weapon opened up, revealing a blossom of pure magenta, which unfurled and grew and licked at the ground with tendrils of light. The soldiers, so many thousands of them below the machine, screamed in a vile chorus as their bodies were taken apart molecule by molecule. The shockwave came, and the land was decimated. The cities vanished, the people disintegrated, and space folded upon itself around the dying world as the very planet crumbled. The anomaly caused by the weapon ripped humanity apart. Men. Women. Children. Civilization. Religion. Love. Hate. Belief. Hope. All gone.
A halo of screaming time hurtled out in all directions and the image went blank, the Librarians having witnessed the birth of the echo wave. The crystal screens fell dormant, generators powering down as the wave passed into nothingness.
All around them, the books closed, filled with the final chapter of their own people, their home, their history. They had missed three hundred years, had lived peacefully in deep space as generation after generation had faced off against one another in endless wars, and now, here in this resting place of knowledge and truth, they would at last find the peace that humanity had always longed for but never found.
One by one, the books were filed away, and the Librarians thought of home.
(C) Andrew Hawnt 2008