There are various periods in Humanity’s history that can be legitimately called “The Dark Ages”. Any period where there is a lack of records represents the unknown. The period of Earth’s history two millennia ago was perhaps our darkest hour as records show that our advancement of knowledge not only slowed but crawled backwards and even basic skills of the time, such as writing or pottery, began to be lost. But Humanity prospered still and would later come to lament the losses of knowledge which set us back decades if not centuries. We recognise the follies of past rulers who sought to burn the great libraries for their short sightedness. As we still crawl out of our gravity wells and seek to find what was lost, we have to wonder where would humanity have reached without these setbacks. If the pre-Christian libraries had not been burned? If fear and doubt had not prevented research into life saving technologies in the 21st Century. If we had not lost so many cities during the Conquest Wars centuries ago. Would we have met the Traders earlier? I would hope not. I would hope it was our society developing, our social conscience and culture which attracted them and not just our ability to escape this sphere.
With this in mind, I have made my pilgrimage to Kumbu.
Kumbu is, in truth, a thing and not a place. It is a purpose-built data repository where the sum total of everything is stored and replicated. Every morsel of information discovered is reviewed, tested, reviewed again several more times and then placed in the repository for later generations. There are more than a dozen such repositories worldwide but this one, the Kumbu repository in East Africa is the only one open to the public. Others are protected in order to prevent another dark age.
Entering Kumbu is almost a religious experience. This is the most significant human achievement in existence. We took all of human knowledge that we could recover, added to it the vast data stores received from the Traders and began correlating it using human-Trader constructed algorithms. The entrance atrium is an airy marvel and apart from the browsing booths and the Assistance Expert, there is nothing to see. Anyone can come in and browse. Only if your query goes beyond the initial buffers which are maintained containing the most frequently asked billion or so questions, will the Assistance Expert intervene and direct you further. Most Explorer research teams skip the browsing hall entirely and go straight to the back of the hall for admittance to the Query Rooms. All Query rooms are occupied by an Assistance Expert whose purpose is to help you refine your query and find you the information as quickly as possible. Retrieval of information is almost instant, understanding an obscure query can take some time. To skip the browsing hall is difficult enough and the Assistance Experts can be very firm.
With Kumbu, we can functionally translate almost any language, given time. It has, at times, been key in dealing with alien species from a cultural, diplomatic and exobiological approach. The only problem being that when you need it most is when you’ve just discovered a new alien race who looks hostile and they’re bigger than you. Kumbu is Earth-bound. The quickest way to get an answer is to traverse the wormhole network and start the research (arguably you just need to return in-system as the months of travel back to Earth would be wasted when you could send an EM transmission and have the answer sent back within minutes). Needless to say, the Research team aboard an Explorer spends months at Kumbu before they even set foot aboard an Explorer. They plot out the journey, taking note of what encounters are likely and attempt to make plans for the outcome. This part of the expedition planning is undoubtedly the most complex and takes some of the smartest brains. The Query room are the only place to get detailed information on wormhole routes, a map that comprises a thousand layered maps, giving the wormhole network a fourth dimensional aspect.
Behind the Query Rooms are the Editing Halls. These have the austere atmosphere of monastic cloisters and if they are beautiful, it is by accident. There are few places in this Universe which would be described as a privilege to visit or work, but this trumps them all. Everyone there is either Editor, Archivist or Visitor. There is a flat, peer-reviewed organisation to the Halls and they employ Human Unity’s own resourcing teams to find them the best, the brightest, the most dedicated and, most of all, most scrupulously honest candidates. Few Visitors, even among Explorer researchers, ever manage to visit this far.
Within the Halls we can see that the repository contains data in almost every form. Writing in a million languages, recorded audio and video, chemical formulae, cascading light patterns of coherent light and EM scan readings. The Archivists work hard, attempting to make sense of the information which arrives daily as well as the Trader-sourced information, of which they estimate that they have accessed about 6% of the content. Undoubtedly some will never be retrievable but the main job of the Archivist is to determine the origin and categorise the content. Understanding is left to the Editors who must further breakdown the information and decide if an image sequence just viewed is educational, political, religious or economic in nature. Later still, they will attempt to determine if it is authentic or true. The most important task of the Editor is also his greatest burden. Some entries have been found to be more than just misleading but also hostile, especially when attached to a computer system. Others would foment seeds of rebellion in the impressionable and are therefore restricted. Censorship of this sort is distasteful but necessary.
There are entries in the Trader-sourced archives about Earth and it’s inhabitants. A survey vessel belonging to a race known only as The People encountered a dormant Trader vessel at the end of our wormhole circa CE 1901. When they approached the outer rims of the Solar System, the Trader vessel powered up and offered to Trade, claiming this system was under their control. Attempts to engage the Traders in conversation about this has been fruitless to date. It is unknown how long the Traders had been observing us.
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