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Nnurveela, my dearest

I miss you tremendously; each of my trips seems to last longer than the one before. I must remind myself that I'll be home and with you in a little over a month. But something extraordinary has happened, and I want to tell you immediately.

We stopped by a small planet on the way to our next dig. We picked up some signs of some technological civilization from what appeared to be a dead world, and thought it worth a day or two to investigate.

It turns out that it was inhabited eons ago by a race which called themselves "humans", who we thought had gone extinct long ago, but we've found several warrens containing hundreds of them being kept in some kind of stasis by automated machinery. We think they may still be alive. We've been reading the records they left behind, and have found references to a plan some of them had, to try to survive through the calamity they saw was going to befall them. (They never mention what it was, and we haven't figured it out.)

Evidently many of the people were embittered because only a few of the most prosperous and privileged were able to participate in this attempt to sleep their way to safety in the far future; even to the extent that there was vicious fighting by some to try to gain a place for themselves. I find the drive to survive in this race exquisitely beautiful, and have come to regret its absence in our own. (I tremble at the notion, but perhaps when the Elders decide it is my time, I may not be so pliant -- nay, complicitous -- as our traditions dictate.)

In contrast, we see images of religious leaders, their faces a livid scarlet, decrying these attempts as blasphemous, exhorting their followers not only not to participate, but to save the chosen ones from the consequences of their lunacy, by violent means if necessary, and redeem them in the view of their gods. Some of the more zealous of these did manage to penetrate a few of the enclaves and destroy them, at the cost of eir own lives. I suppose it might be considered a bizarre backhanded compliment that someone is so concerned for you that e would, emself, die in killing you, in order to save what e considers your eternal spirit.

While they clearly knew what was going to happen, we don't think they knew exactly when (or their stoicism was so great as to be unbelievable); we can see that some of them were taken in the midst of mundane daily activity. Many were asleep, but we've seen remnants of a female brushing her hair; youngsters gathered around uneaten pizza (a popular food item almost unique both in its ubiquity and in the prevalence of businesses that would prepare it and bring it, ready to eat, to the consumer); there was even a parent helping its child with academic exercises. That seems to go beyond stoicism and into denial. But perhaps continuing life until the very end was the best way they could deal with their inevitable doom.

I think the Elders will agree that this world is worth considerably more study. We are leaving tomorrow, because the sun of our next scheduled stop will go nova in about three weeks, and we must get what we can before then. Fortunately, the sun of Earth is too small to nova, and we will have plenty of time to learn all that we can of these humans. Perhaps we'll even try to revive one. Hopefully I can get an assignment to that mission, but that will not happen for a while, and I will still be home when this cruise is over.

It's a bit silly, but one reason I really want to return is to pursue a small mystery that I've found. I'm sure it means nothing, but there was among the humans a fascination with what they called "soy", which was simply a vegetable that provided a versatile and healthy foodstuff, but the way they glorified it makes me think we may be missing something very important. Anyway, that'll be my pet project if I can return here.

I haven't forgotten my promise to find a unique souvenir for you on this trip. Enclosed is a datawire containing the contents of a centralized information repository that claims to hold all the knowledge of the humans. This clearly cannot be, but it should be fun for you and the kids to sift through, and see through the humans' eyestalks.

I love you, and Fjimma and Herv. I'll be home soon.

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