Memento Civilis

"Time grows short, Archivist. We must leave."

The bearded elder remains bent over the machinery spread across the table, twiddling crystals in the splitting and refracting ruby light. "You go ahead, Avi. I'll be right behind you."

Avi's forehead creases more deeply. "You have no intention of joining me, sir. And I would remain with you."

The Archivist glances up. "I have no intention of staying here, Avi. But I have a responsibility to the memory of our people. I must use every second I can." He sighs. "Get the last of the physical records through the portal and head through yourself. You will be instrumental in organizing the archives on the other side."

"The bandwidth is still restricted? Maybe I can-"

The Archivist cuts him off with a wave. "No, Avi. Go. We shouldn't have started with the Lexicon and simply trusted that anyone discovering our transmission would be able to reconstruct our art from its context." A cloud passes over his face. "Context. That's the crux of the issue. How do we impart what it's like to be us? What assumptions are missing from our art? What part of us can't be gleaned from what we've made? What makes us, us?"

Avi steps forward. "We have done all we can. Let the transmission take care of itself, Archivist. Come with me, and we'll find a better way to memorialize what we were. I'm sure any species intelligent enough to discover the transmission will be able to find..."

A smile creeps across the Archivist's lined face as Avi trails off in thought. "Find what, Avi? Evidence that we even existed? Nothing physical will survive our sun's supernova, that I can guarantee. No, there's another way. I'm sure of it."

Avi's eyes widen in alarm. "Surely you can't mean-"

"Enough, Avi!" Avi had never before heard the Archivist raise his voice, even in the strain after the destruction of their homeworld. "Go through the portal. You are in charge until I arrive. This is an order. Please do not make me summon drones to compel you to obey."

Avi hesitates, then deflates. "Very well, Archivist. I will begin organizing and exploring better ways to maintain the archive in perpetuity." Avi turns to go, then looks back. "Be well, Archivist."

"Be well, Avi. May we discover a way to preserve our culture for eternity."

Avi shuffles out, headed for the portal. The other side of the portal stands on a planet far away, survivable, but not hospitable. It seems stable, so it will suffice for keeping the archive for a while. Avi worries that they will not be able to reproduce fast enough and that some calamity will wipe out the tenuous few survivors. Two hundred seven souls seems a frightfully tiny gene pool.

As Avi leaves, the Archivist opens the box at his feet. He pulls out a crystal latticework and places it on his head. He takes a dangling end in his hand, breathes deeply, and says, "May my mind provide the context."

He plugs the glass cable into the machinery on the table. The latticework on his head flashes a deep ruby red, blinking and streaking through the transparent connections. His eyes roll back, and he moves no more as the helmet strips his memories, thoughts, and dreams from him and reformats them for transmission.


How would you preserve the essence of an entire culture, even an entire world in the face of oblivion?

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