The Astronomer's Loss


"For the future," says the astronomer. "Humanity always needs challenges, horizons, adversity, to be constantly striving for the future. We had plans for the future. We went to the Moon and we were going to found a colony there. We were going to go to Mars, and found a colony there too. We were going to colonise Europa, and Titan, and maybe others. We were going to capture and mine the asteroids, build space elevators, build ark ships and go to other star systems. We need space... so that we can study, and learn more about the universe and discover new science. We could be like you, flying faster than light-- we know it's possible now! We could gain that much power. If you only gave us the time. We could colonise the galaxy and the universe."

"But you haven't."

The astronomer lowers his gaze from the growing ink blot in the sky and looks towards the horizon. Bright city lights. "To survive," he says. "One world cannot protect us forever. Humanity is vulnerable, living on a single unprotected rock. We need to be insured in case of asteroid impacts, or gamma ray bursts from space. We need to diversify genetically, to adapt to new environments and live on new worlds and look at the universe through new eyes. There's no other way to survive. You're taking away billions of years of potential future."

"No, we aren't."

He tries to stop shaking. "We need... something to shoot for. It's the only reason we ever built anything. It's the only reason we have mathematics, the only reason we have science. Because we wanted to understand the sky. We need light. We need stars to follow. We need inspiration."

"You don't."

Bright city lights. Millions of people who never even looked at the stars.

The voice says, "With the Moon and stars and planets we provided you with boundless opportunities. We gave you gifts. But you have shown no inclination to take advantage of them. Thus, the gifts are worthless to you, and we are giving them to somebody else."

The planets are all long gone. The inkblot finally closes overhead and the last star winks out. The gibbous Moon remains shining balefully down on the world for a tense and hopeful minute, but then, in an eyeblink, is swallowed up by one final event horizon, and spirited away.

Left in utter darkness, the former astronomer tries and fails to deal rationally with his loss, and his isolation from the human race who, as the voice rightly tried to tell him, has really lost nothing.

Next: Amber

Discussion (21)

2008-05-03 18:55:30 by Val:

I ph33r. I ph34r, that this will be the end of the storyline. I ph34r teh 3mptyn3ss.. I fear, that this will be the end of everything. I fear, that God (or under whatever name you call the one standing behind the scenes) will give us emptyness as punishment, because we were blind, and we were unable or unwilling to use His gift.

2008-05-05 03:21:09 by Mike:

I hope they leave us the Sun... we do kind of need that...

2008-05-07 18:05:11 by Thomas:

Nah, this definitely isn't the last one. One of the stories in 1970- had the main character not recognise a starchart, so that's definitely afterwards.

2008-05-10 19:12:31 by Mike:

That's a good catch and an interesting theory. However, that same story has Anne claiming to have 'walked on the moon barefoot', and we clearly see the moon being blotted out above with the rest of the heavens.

2008-07-21 07:41:37 by Isaac:

Well, she's been around through many, many, many crashes, so she could have walked on the moon before it was 'taken' and plus that person she's talking too doesn't seem too impressed by her "walking on the Moon" comment, maybe because they don't understand the problems of this for they don't know what the moon is?

2008-07-26 18:24:15 by Cory:

Aks didn't understand a star chart because either stars had shifted, or because his culture didn't study the stars in the same way. Would you recognize a star chart from the renaissance? No less thousands of years ago. Also, everything else she says is something they would understand; they weren't too impressed because she was "insane", not because there was nothing impressive about it.

2008-08-11 06:36:39 by Boter:

I think I've mentioned this before, but I see this one as metaphorical. The Crash takes away so much that is "important" to a society. The Astronomer is a character, perhaps a Power, who doesn't like what is happening to the human race, how much they're losing, and yet he realizes that the Crashes have a reason, so the human race isn't losing anything in the long run, just being stagnant. (The argument could be made that if you're not getting ahead, you're falling behind, but...)

2008-08-16 22:37:21 by pozorvlak:

Cory: I'd at least recognise that it was a star chart, even if I didn't recognise the constellations on it. FWIW, the stories in the 1970- arc are set in 11970, because they include Anne's 10,000th birthday.

2008-09-18 20:13:59 by wonder:

I would like to make one, little comment. If the moon was removed, then most life on earth would perish. Why is this? If the moon was removed, then the tides would cease. If the tides cease, then the ocean will stagnate. If the ocean stagnates, then the fish, animals, and phytoplankton living in it will slowly die off. If these creatures die off, then the carbon dioxide levels will skyrocket (if I am correct, then phytoplankton account for approximately 75% of the world's photosynthesis). If carbon dioxide levels go up, and oxygen levels drop from the imbalance then the ecosystem will change radically. If the ecosystem changes radically, then most creatures (possibly including humanity) would probably die off.

2008-10-23 23:43:55 by Overmind:

In regards to the just above comment, kind of sounds like Crushed Underground, does it not?

2008-10-24 00:00:43 by qntm:

I rather doubt the oceans would stagnate without tides. There would still be the Sun, and therefore weather, and therefore currents.

2008-11-10 04:43:28 by Isaac:

^ good to know! Now I can proceed with blowing up the moon as planned without any danger to myself! >:D

2009-04-14 05:34:35 by Sgeo:

I don't think anyone will notice this but, one interpretation could be that the Prison Guardian is for some reason more peaceful, and had to prevent one specific person from seeing the stars and moon. The astronomer wrongly thinks that everything's being taken away from humanity, but it's only taken away from this one person.

2009-06-22 18:42:57 by Paradoxia:

At Mike's Comment: "I hope they leave us the Sun... we do kind of need that..." If the moon (which is closer to earth than the sun) has been blocked out, it logically follows that the sun will be blocked out as well. However, I think that the thing taking away the stars from the earth (or the earth from the stars?) has probably provided some sort of replacement for the sun. Perhaps light with the same spectrum as the sun (not a star, just light) with a day-night cycle and everything. He could have replaced the moon's gravity with something else in the same way. Just a theory, what do you think?

2009-08-23 09:23:26 by Isaac:

So the "New Cosmology" commences! (or so I think...)

2009-11-19 09:21:25 by qntm:

This story was retroactively incorporated into Fine Structure in February 2008.

2010-01-02 23:01:23 by AgentYellow:

Perhaps the moon looked like it disapeared because when the imprisoning god moved everything aroud as "human's liked it" after the New Cosmology, it took a while for light to catch up and make the moon visable again.

2010-03-31 06:32:33 by Andrew:

I just realized that the Astronomer's claim that Earth isn't "protected" is entirely false, now that the bigger picture's been revealed. It's actually the safest place in Alef, locked away from the big scary universe through Umbra.

2012-06-11 22:06:08 by hexalydamine:

Who was the Astronomer talking to? The Imprisoning God?

2019-12-12 02:42:06 by The Apocalyptic:

Call Ed - maybe he can work this out.

2021-01-08 11:20:14 by lxgr:

Nice, but how did you know about Starlink in 2008?

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