Starting Point: Artemis

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I’ve spent the entire of my adult life aboard the Actaeon. I was twenty years old when we departed from Earth, and I spent the morning of my twenty first birthday waving goodbye to the moon as we hurtled by at 40,000 kilometres per second. I knew I would never see Earth or her moon ever again – at least not without the assistance of a telescope – and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t live to see our destination either.

I’m certainly glad to be wrong.

This year I celebrated another milestone birthday. Six months ago I turned ninety five. That was also the day my great-granddaughter Eliza was born, and it was the day the Actaeon began its deceleration. I was coming to the end of my life, and we were coming to the end of our journey.

I can see her now, Artemis, in the same window through which I said goodbye to the Earth – a window that has for seven decades remained dark and empty. She’s as beautiful as I always thought she would be.

I feel fortunate to have made it this far. To have such a large and loving family around me, and to have shared my life aboard the Actaeon with so many treasured friends. While it still sadens me to think of all the friends I’ve lost along the way, I also consider myself fortunate in being able to welcome some of their children into my own family, through the marriage of my sons and daughters to theirs. Now, to see with my own eyes the world on which they will build new lives, that is the greatest fortune of all.

But for all the reasons I have to feel fortunate, these past few weeks have also given me reason for concern. As we draw closer, we are able to learn more about our Artemian neighbours.

I’ve spent my life studying the Artemians, but until now the only data available to us has been that gathered and returned to Earth by the Columbus Probe. That data is now two hundred years out of date. I hadn’t expected them to have advanced so quickly.

How would you continue this story? What level of technology has the Artemian civilization advanced to? How will they react when a human spaceship arrives above their planet?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.


Written by Mark Ball.

Art by Chase Stone.

  • Leonardo Faria

    Despite a dramatic advance in technology Artemian civilization is still widely pre-industrial. The Indian-Artemian tribes still are not a threat to the colonization plans of these new ilk of pilgrim fathers coming from Earth on their hyper-technological Mayflower.
    Yet there’s a serious reason of concern: if the history of human civilization is any lesson, quick advances in technology are possible only in an industrial age, as the economic history of the US and Europe teaches dating from the industrial revolution in England of the so called Manchesterian capitalism. So, how is it possible the Artemians progressed so far in just two hundred years? What’s missing here? Is there an exogenic factor that influenced their civilization? Is there an unknown third party to deal with?

  • Kirov

    Outstanding starting point, possibly my favorite so far. Moving it to the front of my priority queue, aside from the piece I’m working on now.

    I’m thinking the Artemians were a new industrial-age species in observations, but have since grown to approach human tech in the past 200 years. The Santa Maria lander, launched from the Columbus probe, was recovered by one of the Artemian states, who have since grown into the dominant state of the planet. A rogue AI onboard the Actaeon, a result of an unsanctioned experiment by an ambitious computer scientist, has been feeding the Artemian state with knowledge through the probe and lander. The AI intends to seize control of the Actaeon and Artemis by manipulating the Artemians. Not sure where to take it from there, and I may decide on something else entirely, given the age of the main character.

    • Leonardo Faria

      Since the AI is no ethnologist or anthropologist, it failed to see that the hurried injection of scientific information in a backward (by human standards) culture would bring about a syncretic culture mixing warriorlike attitudes and high tech weaponry along with space faring capability (sort of Klingons…) So the problem of the Actaeon crew is how to avoid Artemians return the favor paying a visit to Earth, as it seems they are eager to do…
      There must be a reason, for Christ’s sake, if they all say: don’t interfere with alien cultures, don’t mess up with alien cultures…

  • What disturbs me about this story (Sorry Mark) that Earth sent a colony ship to a place they knew sentient life exists. Would that not be an act of invasion, and thus an act of war? We are concerend to sent the Mars rovers close to the Martian water because we fear contamination with Earth microbes, and in this story we sent a boat load of never be able to return scientists..who by necessity must become colonists. And if the humans are indeed scientists and not colonists. Who ensured that the next generations are indeed inclined to become scientists?
    Don’t get me wrong, it was a long dry spell since you posted any Starting Points and I am glad you’re posting again…but this one has a lot of logical cause and effect problems.

    • Kirov

      Nothing in the starting point actually explicitly states that the Artemians are sentient. Maybe they were primitive sea life, so humanity felt okay with settling the planet. Then they were surprised to find advanced life on the land when they arrived that might present problems. Also, we would be concerned with invasion or contamination today, but that might not necessarily be true of a future culture that’s undergone drastic change from today’s. Aside from the picture and the after-text, there’s also nothing in the text itself explicitly stating that the characters are human. What if they’re all aliens who colonized Earth in a similar manner, inadvertently wiping out humans with disease in the process? I think part of the fun with starting points is coming up with a backstory and universe in which the starting point makes sense.

      • the sentence : What level of technology has the Artemian civilization advanced to? sort of implies sentience…But then your ideas what the word technology implies might not be the same as mine. Also if you introduce an organism that iis not native into another biosphere, that’s an invasive species.
        Don’t worry Kirov it’s all good. I am certain the big guy didn’t mind me stating that…Besides if critical thought is not welcome why not outright say it?

        • who said they didn’t evolve sentient thought through natural or (TROPE ALERT!) artificial selection?

    • That’s what concerns me too. Seems quite foolish of them doesn’t it.

    • By the way, did you get the classical greek reference?
      According to legend, Actaeon tried to rape Artemis when she was out hunting, so she turned the hunting dogs on him. A clue maybe? Or a sadly prophetic joke by the mission leaders?

      • Yes dd. My Homer (not Simpson)s a tad rusty but dd read the classics. From before the Greeks (Gilgamesh, over to the Divine Comedy et al) But I wasn’t sure you picked the names with that in mind…should have known better. One thing I learned st that you do love hiding messages and meanings in your pieces.

      • really? I remember the story being that Actaeon stumbled across Artemis bathing with the nymphs and, when discovered, was turned into a fox (I think) and was hunted by his own dogs

    • it is a rather imperialistic story when you think about it isn’t it?

  • Christmas Snow

    The ship travels at relativistic speeds (A sizeable or not negligible portion of the speed of light), and as such, time on the ship slows down and lags well behind Earth’s time. Over 7 decades of space travel as measured on the ship, the trip lasted for 200 years for an observer on Earth. The ship can travel into the future.

    The continents look too familiar to the narrator peeking through the window, and 70 years on the ship have not erased the photographic memory of the old geography books by any means. The ship has traveled into the future, and has returned back to Earth. The head of mission believes that in two hundred years, conditions on Earth would be favorable for recolonization once more, and the alleged trip to Artemis was a mere cover-up. The ship was not fast enough, and the technical data that we were given are a complete make-up.

    But the story does not end here. Radio signals are being intercepted and analyzed. Probes are scanning the surface of the planet. Radiation is being measured, and activity of surviving humans is being monitored. All expectations to return to the surface of our mother planet have turned-out too optimistic. We can still fix it, but we have to work much harder.

  • Jack Hemsley 1

    The ship was travelling past the moon at 40,000 km/s but the moon is only less than 34,500 km wide, so the window would have past the moon for less than a second until it went past it.

    • Haha, good point.
      But due to the distance between the window and the moon, and the three dimensional nature of the moon-window-woman system, she’d have been able to view the moon for slightly longer than that.
      The ship may also have been circling the moon for a gravitational boost, keeping it in view for longer.
      By my calculation, a single wave takes only 1.3 seconds, so it was still entirely possible for her to wave goodbye to the moon at that speed
      🙂

      • Jack Hemsley 1

        Still, that short amount of time wouldn’t be extremely memorable after 95 years.

  • Joshua McArthur

    The Artemisian civilization, located around Alpha Centauri A, has advanced from American Civil War-level to present-level technology. Word quickly gets around via the internet-equivalent that an object moving at an incredible 40,000 km/s is passing through the Alpha Centauri B system. A hyper-velocity asteroid? A telescope artifact? No, the radio emission displays structure. Hydrogen fusion is observed too.

    A reply is beamed back: “. .. … …. . .. … … . .. … ….” It’s a simple indicator of intelligence. What’s to come? [end]