"Doctor, are you saying there was once intelligent life in this system?"
"Yes, Commander," chirped Doctor Goous as he gently tapped the console in front of him. Using the suction cups across his ten tentacles, the weather-worn Dectapucian hoisted himself up so that the concave brow of his beak lined up with the Commander's line of sight. He was very excited; this was the first time in recorded history that even a trace of another Type II civilization had been found. Every other extinct society the Dectapucian Science Core had located had only been a Type I before they self-destructed over a lack of planetary resources.
"Do we know yet what caused such an advanced species to collapse?" asked Commander Viprate.
She knew full well the possibility that anything capable of felling a Type II civilization would surely pose a threat to the Dectapucian Republic. As an officer of the Guard, she could not allow any harm to come to the beloved homeworld.
"Actually Commander, it would be more correct to say species.
The databases we managed to salvage from what the locals termed the 'kupier belt' reveal not one but two
sentient species of equal technological prowess inhabiting this system: the humans, from the third planet, and the Venusians from the second planet. The humans were carbon-based, like us, but the Venusians were silicon-based. The two appear to have fought an extensive war before their sun unexpectedly accelerated its life cycle and became a red giant."
"Do we know why that happened?" If a third specie had the power to turn a sun into a weapon...
"It seems to have been a natural occurrence," croaked Goous as he used the vessel's neurolitic interface to call up a diagram of a Grell-type star orbited by eight planets. "A micro-fissure formed in the center of this system's star, causing it to rapidly lose mass. This greatly accelerated its stellar evolution, wiping out the civilizations that existed here."
"Then... there is no threat to the homeworld?" a palpable sense of relief emanated from Commander Viprate as the nerve bundles behind her eyes relaxed for the first time since entering this system.
"No, but this is a sad day for science. The only other Type II civilizations we've been able to find in all the galaxy reduced-"
An explosion snapped the ship backward. The warning lights began to flash, and a buzzing sound resounded throughout the ship.
"Doctor," screamed Viprate over the din, "you said this system was completely lifeless!"
"It is, it is!" bellowed Goous as the two grappled their way to the bridge.***
"What is it?" asked the Commander to her primary subordinate.
Through the bridge's monitor, the crew could see a large spacecraft in front of them. A sneak attack? How unsporting
, thought Commander Viprate.
"Demand that it identify itself," she said to the bridge crew. "See if you can understand their language. Bring the experimental linguistic database online." The database consisted of over a million languages, including the deciphered languages of the many extinct Type I cultures discovered by the Dectapucians.
"We're receiving an audio response over R/F channel 1007."
A static squeal shot out through the ship's speakers. Everyone cringed; the chromatophores in their skin contracted, changing the texture of their skin to indicate displeasure.
"We are eee the eee nnnnn Childre nnnnn of Modena." came an eerie wailing sound from the unknown craft.
"Are we broadcasting?" asked Commander Viprate softly.
"No, sir," responded the communications officer in the same bland tones as the so-called "Children of Modena."
Rotating her carapace, Cammander Viprate stared right at the doctor. "You said there was no life in this system!"
"I... Commander, the databases indicated that this system was populated by carbon and silicon based life. Our sensors did not find any trace of such lifeforms..."
"Then are they robotic, some kind of sentinels left by the Type II?"
"No... if they were, we'd be detecting some kind of electromagnetic field."
"So what are they, doctor? My patience is running thin."
The ocular muscles contracted around Viprate's eyes, giving her the menacing look shown to her by her mentor at the academy. "Intimidate the inferiors and they will obey you..."
"Ask what their demands are."
The communications officer ran his tentacles over the console to his left, and entered a mental command to the central processor. He paused a moment.
"Commander, they wish to speak directly to you.
Through a digital construct."
"What is the status of their weaponry?"
"We cannot disallow the possibility that they will collide with us, destroying both vessels."
The bridge crew tensed up. Viprate was well aware of the dangers of entering a digital construct with a stranger, let alone an alien life form. She forced her tentacles together, making her tower above the rest of the crew. "Prepare the bio-digiverter."***
Then... a flash of light. Viprate could see a grid forming around her, then the overlay of a physical landscape. A lifeless desert, the preference of the Children of Modena. The sparsely oxygenated atmosphere would have been unable to support Dectapucian life... had it been a real environment. But for the Commander's digital form, it would suffice.
"Show yourself," shouted Viprate. A flickering light shattered the faux desert, revealing a figure similar in appearance to the humans. Except there was no life in this creature's eyes.
"What are you?"
"I... am... Modena..." it rasped, its breathing apparatus moving in an unnatural manner. "We... are from... Modena... Utah..."
Viprate stood spellbound as she watched this soulless alien creature. Realizing she was twisting her tentacles over her beak the same way she did back at the academy, she forced herself into the same imposing stature she had used countless times before to assert her presence.
"Why can we not detect any life signs from your vessel? What shielding technology do you possess?"
"We... of Modena... are not alive..."
Suddenly, the ground began to shake slightly. A loud sound came from above. As Viprate looked up, she could see a Grell-type star expanding before her W-shaped eyes. The creature was somehow uploading its own memories into the construct... memories of the end of the Type II civilization?
"You can't have those memories," Commander Viprate reverberated through her digital form. "The human planet was destroyed by its sun. There were no survivors."
"We... did not... survive..."
And then the digital construct melted away.***
"Bring the antimatter compactor online," shouted Commander Viprate as one of the medical technicians removed the connectivity probe from her neural implant. "We need to be able to destroy that ship-"
"Commander, begging your pardon, but the Modena are... gone."
Viprate blinked her quartet of eyes in unison. The W-shaped pupils expanded slightly. Sure enough, when she got to the monitor, there was no trace of the craft housing the Children of Modena. "Scan for ionic residue. I want to know where they went."
"Commander, there is no ionic residue, or residue of any kind. It is simply... gone."
A few of the crew clicked their beaks in relief. The ordeal was finally over.
"Activate the superluminary accelerator. I want us out of this system immediately.
They watched the small ship leave. They knew it wouldn't be back. And they knew that thanks to the reputation the Dectapucians would start that no other sentient beings would ever intrude on them again. Yes... this was what they wanted. Silence. Silence and solitude. It was why they used a neutron reactor to create a micro-fissure inside the sun; for it was they, the people of Modena, who conspired to turn the sun into a red giant and wipe out all life in the solar system. Soon.. soon they would descend upon the cosmos, doing the same to every system. All must be as Modena.