In 9976 an exploratory probe swarm returned to the Muuh volume and found what turned out to be a formerly life-bearing Titanian/tholian planet orbiting several AU from a white dwarf, YTS-899780, 30 light years from the nearest inhabited star system. The Pluton swarm had gained permission from the nearby Muuh colony authority for surveying and performing minor mining operations on the apparently unused star system, in hopes of eventual colonization. The thinning atmosphere and clear evidence of former methane oceans seemed notable, but otherwise unexceptional in the Pluton volume. However, careful Inspection of a debris field orbiting another one of the outer planets revealed a few artifacts with clearly artificial origins in structure- most of which have been dated between 15-14.5 million years old, and resembled Muuh colonizing equipment. These included several artifacts- likely the remains of orbital habitats, which were dated to originate during far older time periods- around 30 MYA and 180 MYA. Many of the older structures likely correspond to HIE-121-CZE and another species, (if only by coinciding time period and location in space), but no other existing structures corresponded to any known species on record.
But this did not remain the most unusual discovery.
On that fifth world from the star, the formerly methanogenic superterrestrial planet now called "Charn" by local Terragen authorities, the pluton exploration swarm discovered a series of thousands of fossilized ruins and masses of bodies dated mostly at 14.8, 30, 85, and 120 million years old, with regular intervals in between filled with lesser, but unknown materials. The next five centuries became devoted to removing the layers of sedimentary rock and ice which covered the surface, and carefully uncovering a planet-wide array of Muuh archeological sites, or mass graves. Once the growing archeological expedition received paleoarcheology templates, expert systems and instructions beamed from nearby colonies, the operation grew to the necessary sophistication. As the expert systems worked over the course of the next few centuries, they uncovered that the most recent of these graves, at 14.8 MYA, collectively contained nearly a billion fossilized Muuh. Each site's population of fossilized , vivisected corpses lay in similar positions and arranged in near identical, mathematical patterns, most of which corresponded to cross sections of higher dimensional forms, appearing in the strata within approximately a hundred thousand years of one another at the 14.8 MYA mark. Such arrangements would be incredibly unlikely to occur from natural disasters, or without coordinated intention, by any known method. Structures containing trace amounts of exotic matter have been found in the fossil record across the planet as well, similar to many Muuh pylons. Since the Muuh do not currently possess any way to produce magmatter, or many other forms of exotic/non-baryonic material, the origin remains unknown. Most of the Muuh fossils were unusually and uniformly well-preserved in silt shale, especially given the distribution of sites around the planet- almost to the point that scholars theorize some form of possibly artificially induced fossilization. The Muuh bodies themselves had been better adapted to higher gravity than most present Muuh, along with a common trait of several subtle aquatic adaptations, but tens of millions of bodies had smaller fractals of the larger patterns carved into their shells, often to the point of probable mutilation. Around these sites, archeologists have managed to recover the fossilized ruins which Muuh authorities and the System of Response itself have agreed (after several centuries of unanswered requests) that they resemble components of an ancient System of Response.
Terragens know of many instances where Muuh are able to build structures which can last millions of years with minor external maintenance- most prominently certain terraforming equipment and a number of Muuh cybercosms. No such effort seemed to occur on the planet of Charn, and archeologists have found only the fossilized materials of various buildings and Muuh bots in the surrounding areas. In addition, geological evidence from around the nearby planets suggests that the Muuh had disappeared from the star system and stellar region by at least 14.7 MYA.
Image from Worldtree
|Muuh collaborators inspect an excavated fossil slab containing the remains of their supposed ancestors|
The Elder Civilization The discoveries only continued however, when the archeologist swarms found at least thirty more fossil sites in deeper strata, with the fossilized/preserved remains of several much older civilizations which had visited the planet earlier, around at regular intervals of 15-30MY between 30-180 MYA. Archeologist swarms uncovered several layers of strata containing millions of biomachines/silicon based life not corresponding to any specific civilization on record, plus the fossils of associated "organisms" and their descendants which evolved only a little in form, in layers across the next 180 million years. These original organisms and their descendents were likely an attempt at terraforming in enclosed environments.
Most of the bio-machines resembled designs common to various terraforming ecologies used by multiple species throughout history, by common design constraints. These fossils too were all preserved in a very similar way in silt or other material, but definitively dated at 180 million years old by various methods. Most unusually of all, in any of the sites, The elder machines and original organism fossils were vivisected and also arranged in the same higher-geometric patterns as the fossilized Muuh corpse fields, in most instances at the 180 MYA mark, from far before the Muuh. Outside the entire planet being rebuilt from the molecules up with the correct isotopes, (which is likely within archai capabilities) scholars have yet to find a satisfactory explanation, unless the scholars were to entertain wild local conspiracies, or dramatic Muuh historifics, about the star system being "A place of sacrifice to Things which dwell in the depths of time"
Current Muuh administrations claim ignorance, or ignore questions about the history of the planet, and the five Muuh colonies with any contemporary records of the star systems in that local volume of space possess only obviously fictionalized, very mundane surveys or have no record of the colony's existence, saying "records indicate we never colonized this world" or "we did not continue colonizing the system for it seemed unsuitable in the long term" depending on which Muuh authority is asked. No publicly available knowledge confirms whether the mysteries of the planet are actually a Muuh taboo, a truly forgotten colony, or something else. Records beyond standard astronomical data only present the system before its colonization, and several surveys during the 6-1 mya period, by showing four of the planets with survey information clearly copy-pasted or procedurally generated based on data from nearby Star systems to replace whatever existed before.
While the Muuh have recently invented several thousand historifics about the "Things which dwell in Time" or of "immortal ancient cults" who created the the "rediscovered" ruins, Terragen scholars have settled upon three more concrete theories, using the available evidence.
1. The Muuh population of the planet had discovered the fossilized remains of the earlier race's ritual burial, and imitated them while attempting some form of hive mind or collective coordination using the system of response, and abandoned their bodies in a form of elaborate artwork or religious ceremony or ritual before they mutilated and arranged themselves, or uploaded their minds into a cybercosm- or abandoned their bodies for another unknown purpose. These remains might have then been carefully preserved via artificially induced fossilization by the system of response. Several scholars also posit that the Muuh's discovery of this earlier species' "burial ritual" might be the original inspiration for the Muuh to create their taboo megastructures… whatever purpose they might have (if indeed the Muuh/System of Response actually created them). This remains the most widely accepted explanation in academic circles (publicly) despite the lack of explanation for the earlier species' similar fossilization.
2. The second most popular theory posits that The system of response imitated a burial ritual of the original species, which might also have used a hive mind. The System of Response on the planet recreated the patterns of the first races for an uploading event into a Muuh cybercosm, possibly a form of very sophisticated and elaborate bioweapon, and unleashed it accidentally, or on purpose, into the population while becoming a blight, which caused the carefully arranged the bodies across the entire planet, for unknown purposes. Unfortunately, most of these explanations don't fully explain how or why the original races was buried and fossilized in such a mutilated and carefully arranged fashion millions of years before, even if it used a hive mind, and apparently, space travel.
3. The third most popular theory posits that the entire planet is an elaborate fake of some kind, either somehow created by a present day archailect, the System of Response, or some other xenosophont entity with archailect-level abilities, at some point in the past. Fabricating an entire planet, and even components of a star system down to the molecular/atomic level to correspond correctly with atomic dating, micrometeorites, and other methods, is very far fetched, but suspected to be within present day archai capabilities. Any fabrication by present day archai seems least likely, if only because multiple correctly dated Muuh records of the planet exist independently from known sephirotic contact, even if they were faked, or fictionalized at the time of their creation. Also, there are no known telescopic observations of any Terragen exploration prior to the "rediscovery". In the unlikely event that a present day archai did fake the entire discovery, it would have happened in full public and telescopic view of nearby star systems, as the excavations proceeded. This is, again, within suspected archai capabilities, but not favored as a theory. For this reason, archeological scholars favor the idea that an unknown archailect-like entity fabricated the entire planet at some point in the distant past.
4. The fourth most popular theory is that the Dawn Hunters, whatever they were, created the burial sites on the world of Charn, including the most recent one, which was part of the collapse of the Muuh empire. The destruction and systematic 'burial' of the Elder civilization 180 million years before, in a similar way would also therefore become one of the only other confirmations that the Dawn hunters (whatever they were) ever existed, independent of Muuh records. This would also imply they existed for a much longer period than previously known, or were imitating some earlier race/entity with similar behavior. The Jacks are not favored as a possibility simply because their presence does not correspond to the timing of any fossil layers.
A small percentage of the Muuh historifics generated soon after these investigations occasionally entertain the Terragen theories as well, but the Muuh focus far more simulations, stories, and "alternative theories" on the more malevolent possibilities. Their historifics describe an advanced hive mind - based affine/bioweapon, or an elaborate cover-up for an atrocity by a rogue node of the system of response, or, sometimes, the dramatic fantasy stories describe a mad cult who sacrificed the population their planet to "The Things which Dwell in Time" to "give immortality to the Muuh species", or that the act was performed directly by something else (usually performed by a swarm of Muuh actors with black-dyed shells) . The Muuh historifics focus far more on the possibilities for the earlier species, and why they might have arranged themselves the way they did, or even intentionally fossilized their bodies, and what entities, Muuh based or not, might have inflicted such horrors on several species across the course of millions of years.
Most troublingly, the multiple Muuh archival institutions (rated near a Muuh high point for truth at 80% "non-speculative/revisionist" by Terragen authorities) have all publicly endorsed a theory that the Muuh at the time never knew anything of the earlier race and instead, some predatory entity (potentially "the Dawn Hunters") living in, or near the planet, or "from beneath space itself", might be responsible for this. According to this legend, this entity had attacked the species across the 180MY time period independently, then arranged the bodies into their gruesome patterns, induced their fossilization, and one day soon, the same fate might fall to whichever Terragens remain in the star system.
Coincidentally, the timing of the present day aligns with the next cycle for the periodic patterns of fossil burials on Charn. In response to this fact, a small number of Terragen clades in the region have begun burying their old or used sleeve bodies in similar patterns to the Charn burial sites, either as a form of respect, or as a prank to the future, when they move on to a new body.
A joint security council of the archailect Breaking Dawn and various nodes of the System of Response have since quarantined the planet from further public use or development, though development of new Terragen colonies in the stellar region continues.
Text by Worldtree
Initially published on 27 August 2023.