In response to a Starting Point article I shared last week, regular commenter Christmas Snow shared an idea for the development of the story that I think is quite exciting.
Before I get onto Christmas Snow’s idea, let’s remind ourselves of the Starting Point in question.
The Starting Point
Here’s what I wrote for the Starting Point. I called this “The Rosenberg Portal”. Artwork is by Wanbao (wanbao.deviantart.com).
The Rosenberg Portal was our way of cheating fate. It didn’t take the first explorers long to realize that the wormhole lead not to a different world, but to a different time – a time far in our future. With no trace of human civilization on the other side of the breach, it became clear that our species would not survive the next thousand years.
We didn’t know how humanity would meet its end, but it didn’t matter. Whatever the nature of the catastrophe, we’d been given a way to avoid it, to bypass it.
And so the colonization of the future began.
That’s what I wrote. Now for the development…
Christmas Snow’s Idea
Commenting on the above Starting Point, Christmas Snow wrote…
I would assume a meteor impact is the culprit for the mass extinction, not unlike that which killed the dinosaurs. The story comes with a twist, however.
The exploring team establishes communication with the satellites, which are still “up” (both figuratively and literally) and running, map the surface of the globe and find convincing evidence of meteor impact. Once they find their assumption is correct, they use the remaining satellites and space-based telescopes at their disposal to track the heavens, then find-out that a massive object in the asteroid belt is missing. Its mass matches that of the impacting object. The object has been tugged towards the Earth, but calculations prove that the planetary orbits are too stable for this to happen.
The team plans to relocate all human population through the portal, as this will lead them to the period after the impact, basically “skipping over” the disaster into a recovering world. Meanwhile, another team attempts to locate survivors and employs mobile broadcasting stations with the hope of the signal being received by some of them. While on duty, the team faces a mysterious attack and sends a distress signal through the portal. Analysis of the signal reveals an alien intrusion. Now it’s time to face the truth: The meteor has been tugged towards Earth to eradicate all humans before the aliens could repopulate the Earth.
I really like this idea. My original Starting Point was nothing more than a concept, and it didn’t differ too much from other colonization stories, or from <cough> Terra Nova <cough>. But now we have some antagonists and a mystery to solve.
Another commenter (John H Reiher) has pointed out that satellites generally do not remain functional for long periods of time, at least not the time indicated in this scenario, so the explorers might have a hard time using ancient satellites to reveal the truth about the asteroid impact. But there are a number of workarounds to this:
Firstly, more reliable satellites may be developed between the present and the fall of humanity. It’s a a bit of hand-waving, but there’s nothing wrong with that. A special satellite might even be launched for the purpose of monitoring the Earth for several centuries, with the hope that the information can be downloaded and analysed in the distant future.
Secondly, we don’t really need satellites to tell us that aliens have slammed an asteroid into the Earth. There are other ways to determine this, such as finding an ancient time capsule chronicling the events, or actually running into some of the nasty alien bad-guys.
There are a few things to be considered about this story idea that have been left unsaid. For example, what is the nature of the alien presence on Earth at the time of the explorer’s arrival in the future? Have the aliens begun their colonization of the cleansed Earth? How many of them are there? Also, are there any human survivors, and if so what is their civilization like? These two factors more than anything else will alter the nature of the story to be told here.
Another big consideration is the nature and/or origin of the Rosenberg Portal itself. Is it natural or man-made?
When I wrote the original Starting Point, I imagine the portal to be a natural phenomenon, like the time portals in the TV show Primeval (although from the image it’s clear that it has been somehow enhanced with technology, perhaps to stabilize it). However, what if it was created by humans at some point in the future, perhaps as a response to the alien threat? Alternatively, could it have been built by the aliens, perhaps intending to wipe out humanity at some earlier point in history.
I’m getting dangerously close to paradox territory here, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.
Please let me know your thoughts on this idea in the comments below. And feel free to develop this idea into a story if you think you have enough of the pieces to make up the puzzle.