About four or five years ago I discovered the SCP Archives, a fascinating collection of short stories in the “creepy pasta” genre. The SCP Archives are “found document” stories, framed as a series of procedures, bureaucratic files and research notes that compose the history of a single paranormal or preternatural person, place or thing. They’re full of inventive ideas, people and terms. While the SCP Archives themselves were never something I really wanted to write in the idea of a set of found documents that contained the pieces of a story but unspooled them in a nontraditional way. It took a long time but eventually “Lost Words” became the first result.
We’ve been working on decoding the information on the artifact for the last sixteen years, since we pulled it out of Saturn’s rings. We’re not sure how long it was sitting there, playing dead among the debris and we may never be certain. Frankly, it’s a miracle it’s still in one piece.
What we do know for sure is that it is electronic and has something like an onboard computer although we haven’t been able to make much of it. Here’s what we’ve got, along with notes from the researchers.
INITIATING DATA RETRIEVAL…
FILES 82% CORRUPTED
ATTEMPTING FILE REPAIR…
RECONSTRUCTED DATA WILL BE DISPLAYED [IN BRACKETS]
INITIATING DATA PLAYBACK…
The data retrieval and file repairs are things referenced in the artifact’s onboard memory, not something we did when we got it back to Earth. We find it unlikely we will ever be able to repair or replace any of the data lost.
SI[TUATION] REPORT: Drop Sphere 3
REPORTIN[G OFFI]CER: Te[data lost]
STAR SYSTEM: [data lost] 5 Phase 2 Star
Coordinates: 322.[data lost] off Galactic Plane
PLANETARY SURVEY: Tertiary Planet
Typology: Nickle-Iron Core
2/1 Ocean/Landmass Ratio
Satellites: [data lost]
It’s unclear what kind of coordinate system the artifact uses, or what kind of Galactic Plane they’re referencing. Based on the information available, the logical conclusion is that they’re referring to Earth although we find that eventuality unlikely for reasons that will become clear.
Chronomark – 928.4482.4
Multiple settlements confirmed on each continent. Civilization’s power distribution network consistent with a Type 2 Industrial society. Multiple orbi[tal structures] detected, suggesting the native population has been making [data lost] for some time. Survey of outlying planets did not reveal signs of permanent settlements on outward planets. Conditions on [inward pl]anets do not appear hospitable to life. Further information in fu[ture surveys.]
We conclude that the native species is most likely confined to this planet at this time.
The onboard records suggest that the bulk of the lost data in the artifact’s files were lost here. Roughly 40% of the data the artifact was trying to receive was from this chunk of lost files, which suggests that they spent a lot of time surveying the planet. What’s particularly interesting is that the context around the missing data suggests the missing information was entirely about the population and civilization on the planet’s surface.
Unclear how many sapient species are native to the planet. Initial scans show no signs of coherent architectural [themes] computer analysis cannot determine if differences are wide enough to suggest a differences in species. Communications [data lost] have not yet been deciphered.
Planet shows typical biodiversity for a Type 2 or Type 3 Industrial society. Standard sapience development studies show they should have larger settlements in the oceans suggesting the entire population may be mildly thassalophobic. Further details will [require closing to] close orbit.
The idea that a civilization is thassalophobic just because they don’t settle their oceans is interesting, particularly given things we will see later.
Chronomark – 928.4482.6
I have submitted a request to remain in high orbit. The stories about first contact with Type 2 and Type 3 societies are nightmares. [data lost]
It would be nice to know what kinds of things the Sphere commander was worried about but whatever it was seems lost to time.
Issued: 4th Fleet [data lost]
Recipient: [data lost]
Chronomark – 928.4484.3
Your objections to further surveillance are n[oted and show a comm]endable consideration for your crew and ship. We hereby override them. Deploy a communications relay and keep it updated in accordance with Hazardous Contact Protocols then approach to a [data lost]
You’re out there to detect potential threats to the Commonwealth, Commander. Do you job.
It’s interesting that whatever Observational Command was, they had protocol for these kinds of situations but still managed to lose the artifact – which appears to be a communications relay based on what we’ve learned – in spite of the protocols they put in place. What happened here was apparently well outside their expectations.
Chronomark – 928.4484.5
Our sphere has begun braking orbit, we are [data lost] and proceeding under Hazardous Contact Protocols. Our attempts to break the native communication codec is still [underway]. Fortunately we’ve discovered a series of analog broad[casts that appear to be unfiltered] audio and we’re working on translating the language. So far it seems we’ve avoided detection by the natives.
Several of the major structures have been firmly identified as orbital telescopes.
This is another major section of lost data – it represents about 12% of the lost data and presumably describes more of the planet’s orbital technology.
We believe the largest to be some kind of orbital space station, although what purpose the station serves is unclear. It’s not attached to a space elevator nor do we see large space vessels under [construction.] We’re adjusting our approach to avoid visual dete[ction by these install]ations.
So far we only have one new significant piece of information. Our analysis of the audio from the planet suggests only a single species lives there as the phonemes we’re detecting are all similar enough to come from a single type of [vocalization organ.] Based on what we know of the galaxy, that suggests a single sapient species is producing them.
At this point most of the missing data is accounted for. From the corrupted data on hand my analysts suggest at least part of the analog audio the drop sphere recorded was stored here. It’s possible we can still make something out of that and learn something.
[Chronomark] – 928.4484.6
[data lost] approaching standard orbit, two tanks compromised.
Definitely not a space station. What we thought were [just] telescopes do double duty as gathering arrays that focus [data lost].
The station then serves as a focal point for the weapon. Primary habitation module was compromised. Casualty list is attached:
– and I doubt our hull will stand up to the strain. Against the better judgment of my officers, I’m ordering us to abandon ship. We’ll keep in touch with the comm relay in accordance with Hazardous [Contact Protocols] but [data lost]
May heaven have mercy on us.
The reference to heaven is heavily debated by the translators. Most of them think we’re projecting our own culture on the aliens and worry we’re dumping a lot of cultural baggage onto this part of the records where it’s inappropriate. I’ve chosen to leave it in place for reasons you’ll see shortly.
Chronomark – 928[data lost]
Drop Sphere 3 has been abandoned. Find rest in the silence of space, old friend.
We’ve launched both of the sphere’s life pods and are making for the [data lost]
Current crew compliment of this pod [data lost] for a total of five survivors.
Five survivors in one pod led to a lot of speculation on the sphere’s original crew count. Since it’s a very small data point to draw any kind of conclusion on I eventually stepped in to end the discussion and removed that debate. Interested parties can pull the detailed files from the project archive if they’re really dedicated to reopening the issue.
Chronomark – 928.4486.1
In spite of maneuvering at minimal thrust for the past thirty hours [data lost]
The telescope is im[possible to] shake. We’ve raised our acceleration to the maximum safe rate and are maneuvering towards the system’s fifth planet, a gas giant with [data lost]. Hopefully the [local sapiens] conclude we’re trying to shelter there. In truth, I just hope we distract them from [data lost]
We’re not sure what the sphere commander was hoping to distract them from but our consensus supposition is they were trying to keep the planet’s telescopes from picking up their communication relay.
Chronomark – 928.4486.4
It seems [data lost] and salvaged some of the data we’d collected before our Drop Sphere was destroyed. I’ve assigned my team to work on analyzing it to keep them busy while [data lost.] I’ve told them maybe we’ll learn something that will help us survive, although privately I’m not optimistic on that front.
Pretty industrious people in that pod.
Chronomark – 928.4487.3
They scrambled a pursuit ship incredibly quickly. As near as we can tell it’s a [chemically pro]pelled ballistic ship, which is shockingly primitive compared to [data lost]. Even so, it’s closing fast enough to be here in three days. Things have been tense. Morale is dropping quickly and I have to admit that I don’t think we have any way to avoid [capture].
Given how vicious the [data lost] avoided at all costs. We will continue to report what we learn from our scanning and analysis.
Chemically propelled ballistic ships are shockingly primitive compared to their drop sphere but somehow they still managed to destroy it. I’m not sure what bothers me more. That they think our level of technology is primitive, or that they still got destroyed somehow.
We’re still not sure what the artifact’s Chronomarking system means, but given the pretty clear timeline laid out in these last few entries we’re optimistic we can crack them eventually.
Chronomark – 928.4487.8
A potential breakthrough, although [data lost].
The value of that analytical method is questionable but I’m operating on the premise the results are reliable. It’s the only thing with the potential to improve our sit[uation] anyway. [data lost]
We’re monitoring their communications now. We hoped that would help us evade pursuit but the new codec isn’t helping us since we still haven’t translated their language. [data lost] … understanding of basic machine commands based on what we’re seeing but that’s it for now.
We’re not sure how they cracked a communication codec without knowing the language it contained. Perhaps in one of the lost data sets they translated an analog audio segment and used it as confirmation. We don’t know.
Chronomark – 928.4488.6
We’re testing the new codec against their voice transmissions. It’s interesting because, even though we can’t understand them, we’re all able to mimic all the sounds we’re hearing. I’m starting to think that [data lost]
I think at this point the people in that pod were starting to suspect. That’s why they’re testing all the language they were hearing.
Chronomark – 928.4489.1
The alien ship is getting very close, close enough that we can make visual contact with it. We expect it to match velocity with us in four hours. After some debate, I’ve issued sidearms to all survivors on board. There’s already joking about saving a bullet for ourselves, which is an accurate reflection on the current state of our morale.
[data lost] and transmitted it. If the alien ship has any idea what we said or that we were talking to them they haven’t given any sign of it.
Too bad we don’t have the other ship’s records to tell us how they reacted to this.
Chronomark – 928.4489.4
The alien ship has launched some kind of grapplers and drawn us into contact. I will try and record as much of our encounter with them [data lost]
… some kind of diamond tipped drill to pierce the hull before establishing a seal and moving their personnel over. We’re bracing for their entry.
… fallen back and are regrouping. I don’t think they were expecting resistance. Frankly I’m surprised, too. We’re scientists here, not fighters, but [data lost]
We’ve got just enough time to pull the helmet off one and – my god, they’re human. They’re human just like us. That’s not possible. If anyone reads these logs [data lost]
When we reached this point we were extremely confused. The translators went over this dozens of times, we’re almost 100% certain whoever created this log found creatures like themselves on a planet they were totally unfamiliar with. Whether they were actually a human civilization that discovered another human civilization where they shouldn’t have is open for debate.
Did the artifact arrive here through some method of time travel? Is it a very elaborate, very expensive hoax created by one of the billionaires playing with space flight? Did the artifact just drift into the solar system after it was lost countless eons ago? We don’t know.
I would love to be able to confirm one of those theories. It would remove the possibility that some other human civilization on Earth rose up, took to space and had an encounter with an even older, more advanced human civilization from far flung stars only to vanish for reasons unknown. What does that say about what’s waiting for us out there, if it’s true? And what will we do about it?
For now, I’m proposing we head back out to Saturn immediately and begin looking for other pieces of technology comparable to the artifact. Hopefully we can learn more before it’s too late.