Deep Space, Deep Time
Take a seat around the bonfire and look at the stars. Consider each and every one of them. The vast majority of the stars have planets. Most of these planets can harbour life, and a few of these worlds might have harboured sapient life capable of creating self-contained ensembles of technologies, cultures and dreams - what we call civilisations. We are one of these islands of civilisation lost in the great void of interstellar space. There is a high probability that we might be the only surviving one.
We're arriving too late in a galaxy that is too old. Traces of civilisations past are scattered all around us, from the stones of Kapteyn to the Great Ring of Sagittarius, forming a necropolis of cultures and societies long gone that we are patiently trying to chart. There was no great galaxy-wide catastrophe, no massive war against an unknowable opponent, no general collapse of ancient galactic empires, no cosmic disaster. Just time. Time, deep as an ocean. Time, deep as space.
Most of the ruins we find will never make sense to us because they operate on timescales that are not ours. As far as human history is concerned, with a bit of luck, we can go back almost three hundred thousand years in the past. Three hundred thousand years is nothing on the cosmic scale. Some of the alien civilisations we know about were already gone when life first evolved on Earth three billion years ago. If alien civilisations existed and thrived before our eyes, comprehending them would already be difficult, for we have no basis of comparison, while even the most ancient humans shared a physical form with us if anything else. With up to millions of years between us, this task becomes almost impossible.
The geometry drive vanquished space but it cannot do anything against time. Time makes technology impossible to understand. Time merges civilisations that might have never met each other. Time creates chasms that even the most clever AI cannot bridge. Time dissolves anything and everything, it leaves us alone in space.
Maybe our civilisation will end up reclaiming the Milky Way, scattering in a thousand interconnected cultures and societies, recreating the empires of old almost by default, joining the cycle of galactic history once again.
Or perhaps we will build something different. Perhaps we will never stop moving. Ever further, ever further in the void, looking for something we'll never find - aliens we can understand.
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