Trope-a-Day: Precursor Killers

Precursor Killers: While not actually known with any certainty, it is generally believed that the Precursors were wiped out by… the Precursors.  (Being the lovely near-solipsists described in the previous trope, well, once they started interfering with each other’s whims, they just couldn’t cope with each other’s’ existence.  Splat.  There are other theories, but this is the leading one.)

…so far as the best-known, usually-referred-to-as Precursors go, anyway. Why there is a general lack of extant Precursors around is a whole other problem. Suggestions on a postcard, please, addressed to the Existential Threats PWG, codeword BERSERKER VOID.


Little is known of the culture, former civilization, and even biology of the skrandar species. Extreme xenophobes, they had little interaction with the species of the Worlds even post-contact. The destruction of their homeworld along with the rest of Skranpen (Charred Waste)’s1 inner system in the self-induced nova of their sun (on detecting the relativistic approach of the Serene Fleet) has left little archaeological evidence available for study. Even the name of the Skranpen system, like that of the species, is phonemically generated and institute-assigned. What little is known of the skrandar is based on abstractions from damaged and disabled examples of the skrandar berserker probes and the two identified replication sites captured in the Exterminomachy.

What has been extracted from these sources (see declassified reports tagged PYRETIC PHAGE) suggests that the skrandar were in the grip of a peculiar type of madness at the end. It is believed among crypto-archaeologists that the skrandar had a preexisting cultural obsession with the Precursor Paradox: namely, why, when we see evidence of elder races and Precursor civilizations aplenty, and both life and intelligence appear to be relatively common within the Starfall Arc, has the galaxy not been colonized and/or hegemonized long since by ancient civilizations?

(Indeed, given the relative isolation of the Skranpen system, this paradox must have weighed even more heavily on the minds of the skrandar than on those species which originated in more populous galactic neighborhoods.)

The leading hypothesis, therefore, is that xenognosis came as a severe trauma to the skrandar; upon seeing the impossible, in the light of a presumed filter preventing starfaring civilizations from existing, they collectively went mad. If, they reasoned, there was – must be – some reason for the destruction of starfaring civilizations, then they themselves could only escape that fate by becoming that reason. And so they turned as a species to the manufacture of berserker probes designed to cull all other sapient, starfaring life.

It is easy for us today, looking back on the Exterminomachy, to attribute the tragedy of the skrandar solely to some inherent flaw in the species. But consider this: the skrandar were isolated, by their own choice. They had the opportunity, therefore, to go mad quietly, unknown to the rest of the civilized galaxy, hearing no voices but their own unreason.

For this reason, among others, the Exploratory Service at this time maintains its pro-contact, pro-intervention, pro-socialization policy towards emerging species. Whatever the short-term cultural impact of xenognosis might be, in the longer term, they very much endorse the view that an ounce of prevention today is better than a gigaton of cure tomorrow.

1. While identified here as a system of the Charred Waste constellation, the Skranpen system is not connected to the stargate plexus; it is, however, located centrally in the constellation in real space.

A Fermi Stance

“The Starfall Arc is old, its history a tale of fourteen billion years. A tale, moreover, littered with elder races, ancient Powers, and primordial civilizations godlike in their power – very few of which, and none of the oldest of which, remain extant in the present day. We know the galaxy to be rich in life, to go on generating new life, and to have been so for many eons before the modern era. And yet the civilizations of the ancient past that could have colonized the entire Arc a million times over have all fallen and disappeared long before reaching such an apex.”

“What may we learn from this seeming paradox?”

“Clearly, that the power of the gods is not enough.”

Darkness and Silence: The Empty Past,
Surana Ellestrion-ith-Ellestrion

Trope-a-Day: Invisible Aliens

Invisible Aliens: The youth of the current galactic culture of the Associated Worlds does seem to call for some sort of Fermi Paradox explanation, especially considering the relative dearth of elder races, and the archaeological evidence of older species still, including much, much older species.

If you happen to find one, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Excruciatingly Long-Range Planning and the Imperial State Security Fifth Directorate Existential Risk Group would very much like to hear from you…

(i.e., until and unless I think of something adequately awesome, Shrug of God.)

Doom, Idiocy, and Weirdness

“A few special adhocs aside, the Fifth Directorate is divided into three primary working groups: Existential Threats, Inadvisably Applied Technologies, and Exceptionary Circumstances.  Or, as they’re less formally known, the PWGs of Doom, Idiocy, and Weirdness.”

“Existential Threats handles exactly that; the end of everything, or at least everything local.  Some of their adhocs are as public as the Fifth ever gets, working on problems like why, exactly, we relative latecomers qualify as one of the eldest of the younger races and why no-one from the Precursor era or earlier seems to be around these days; or preparation for natural disasters like gamma-ray bursts or the upcoming galactic collision.  Most of them, though, concentrate on action against more direct threats, like Leviathan Consciousness intrusions, the ambitious that bypassed the Corícal Consensus and incautiously cooked up unstable gods, and any number of insufficiently careful archive-resurrectionists.”

“Inadvisably Applied Technologies is our benevolence PWG.  Their adhocs are responsible for intervening in places where we have no particular authority to do so because someone’s playing with fire in the explosives warehouse, and it’s not in anyone’s interest to see a repeat of the Ulijen Disaster.  More importantly, it’s especially not in our interest to have people become paranoid about advanced technologies just because someone didn’t read the documentation and flash-fried his entire planet, or worse.”

“Yes, it’s not normally considered appropriate to save people from themselves; but really, that’s just a side-effect of saving large chunks of the rest of the known galaxy from them.  Usually, useful ones.”

“Exceptionary Circumstances?  We can’t tell you about Exceptionary Circumstances.  If we knew what they were or had any idea what to do about them, they wouldn’t be Exceptionary Circumstances.  But when we don’t, or we haven’t – that’s what the adhocs of Exceptionary Circumstances do.”

– org briefing to new members of the Select Committee on Imperial State Security

A Random Thought on the Fermi Paradox

Perhaps, if it turns out transhumanism (or, rather, its polyspecific analog, transsophontism) is the development path all species end up taking once they have the ability to do so, the problem is that once they’ve spent much time and effort on engineering themselves into ever-more brilliant and beautiful forms, they rest of the universe becomes simply too unbearably stupid and ugly to interact with…

And so they don’t.

And they become pretty damn good at hiding from SETI searches, too, because the last thing they want is any of these ugly morons turning up on their doorstep.

Simply revolting, sweetie.