"There was a sense of history about the place, deeper than anything that I had ever before experienced. The tunnels were undoubtedly artificial. Many were tens of meters in diameter, others were 2 kilometers or more. And covering every inch of the walls were carvings and inscriptions. Geometric designs, planetary bodies, pictures of what must have been animals, and many other things besides. Had this world been an outpost of some lost civilization, or had it been some alien Picasso's sketch pad? I could only speculate, and wonder at our luck on finding the place. Only later did we learn that this dead world, orbiting a white dwarf, had once been a thriving Gaian planet, almost 10 billion years ago, possibly one of the first to exist in our Galaxy. I still get chills down my spine when I think on that fact. We had been, in fact, walking on someone's grave."
-- from the journal of Lord Captain Horace Benthic, after discovering the Angelic ruins on the world of Absalom, orbiting Van Maanen's Star
A carven image of the most common bio-form image found on Absalom -- is this indeed an Angelic?
Home Planet = Absalom (Gliese 35 I).
Known Territory = The entirety of Gliese 35 I, a Stygian world in an eccentric orbit about Van Maanen's Star. There is evidence of planetary engineering to preserve the planetary lifespan during the expansion of Gliese 35 into a red giant.
Scientific Classification: Primocogitarius sapiens, the first intelligent thinker. An apparently bilaterally divided animal encased within a hard shell, and possibly a non-chordate, or even non-skeletal in its internal integument.
Genetic Makeup: Unknown. Probably carbon-based, but this is pure speculation.
Current Species Status: Presumably extinct. It is possible that they died with their world. No known extrasolar colonies.
Reproductive Method: Unknown. There is no evidence whatsoever of their reproductive method.
Habitat: Based on the possible inscribed images of the creatures thought to be Angelics, there has been some confusion regarding the possible habitat. Some believe that these were aquatic beings, while others think that the images may be stylized, and not show a true representation. The apparent hard body covering could hint at a terrestrial existence as well.
Span of the Angelics' Existence: Uncertain. Van Maanen's Star is approximately 10 billion years old, possibly even older, and may have been one of the earliest stars in the Galaxy to have a sufficiently high metallic content to foster the formation of rocky worlds. The general date of 9.3 billion years for the Angelic civilization is based on isotope readings on the surface of Absalom, as opposed to those within the sheltered caverns. The Angelics may have existed for millions of years, or their civilization may have died out after only a few thousand years. there is no current way to know for certain.
Species Fate: Unknown. Most scholars presume that they have gone extinct, considering the immense amount of time that has passed since they existed, as well as the fact that their sun has since become a white dwarf. It is possible that the planet-wide labyrinth was a final refuge for the species, or a repository of knowledge. No biological samples have ever been recovered from Absalom, but that is hardly surprising considering the amount of time that has passed.
Impact on the Sol System: No impact possible, due to the fact that the Sun had yet to form.
The probe that passed through the white dwarf system of Van Maanen's Star (Gliese 35) during the Hegemony Era wasn't expected to make any revolutionary discoveries. It was a standard interstellar probe, designed to pass through the system at nearly 0.95c, and to leave behind several smaller probes as it went. These smaller craft would perform a gravitational breaking maneuver as they passed close to the star, orbiting and repeating the maneuver several times over the next few years. During these maneuvers observations of the stellar environment were made, as well as planetary surveys. Little was expected from this particular survey, and as the data made the return trip to Earth, little excitement was garnered in the scientific community, save for the stellar evolution scientists. Distant, eroded gas giants were detected, as well as a couple of smaller, rocky planets. It was these that were the target of micro-lander probes. These in turn carried a full array of nano-probes, capable of fully exploring any planet, in nearly any environment, as well as subterranean exploration involving passages not visible to the unaided Human eye.
The planet Gliese 35 I is the first planet in the Van Maanen System, though undoubtedly there were once closer worlds that had been consumed by the long gone red giant phase of the star. Gliese 35 I itself had only just escaped this fate, its orbit having been expanded by the solar pressure of the growing giant. When the star finally began to collapse into a white dwarf, the planet was left in a remote, rather eccentric orbit. The lander, on approach, saw a planet rich in carbon dust, deposited long ago by the planetary nebula. A trace atmosphere was present, a remnant of the last volcanic gasps of the now geologically dead world. Its entire surface was pitted and scarred, ancient mountains slumped and appearing as if they had once tried to melt away, basins deep and forbidding scattered over the globe. In time the nano-probes would confirm the theory, but it had always been a favorite theory that the world had once been Earth-like, sporting seas and oxygen and life.
This discovery alone had the entire scientific community in an excited uproar. Here was a vision of what would happen to the Earth in another 5 billion years. Here was the future of the Homeworld, laid bare for all to see. And yet there was more. As expected, the nano-probes were released and spread out across the face of the world, to its heights and its depths. And even below these. The probes penetrated into the crust, examining in microscopic detail the geological history, and then delved even deeper. At a depth of nearly one kilometer, planet-wide, they passed into vast open spaces.
Covering the entire planet, at nearly a constant depth, was an incredible maze of tunnels and passages and caverns. Some areas held mere crawlways, while others were immense caverns kilometers in breadth and height. The labyrinth structure seemed to be infused with a material far beyond the current Human technology, maintaining the structural integrity of the caverns. Yet there were microscopic cracks throughout the caverns, and through these the nano-probes had gained entry. Some have speculated that these cracks were purposefully constructed, while others believe that even the super-strong material had succumbed to the ravages of a red giant, and time itself.
Regardless, here was clear evidence of the workings of an alien intelligence, and no matter how far removed in time they might have been, it was worth a manned mission to investigate.
Labyrinths of the Angelics
Manned exploration of the Labyrinths revealed a second, possibly even more exciting find. While there was absolutely no evidence of artificial or biological artifacts, the walls of the labyrinths held their own wonder, for they were completely covered, to all heights, with inscriptions of every sort. Carved into the naked rock, as if some insane artists had run amok with a chisel and hammer, were images that boggled the mind. Clear representations of planets could be found, while right next to them might be a tangle of squiggles and scratches. What were obviously animals cavorted next to what might have been an ancient alphabet. But most commonly seen of all were the images of what many believe to be the Angelics themselves, creatures with streamlined bodies and tentacles.
The Angelics were so named by Lord Captain Horace Benthic, the leader of the first manned exploration of Gliese 35 I, after he remarked that, to construct the Labyrinths, the creators would have to be almost divine in their technological prowess. But metaphysics aside, little else is known of the beings that once lived here. Or, at least, worked here. There is not even any agreement as to their true appearance, or if they called this planet home. It is possible that they were colonists, and other such labyrinthine worlds exist. Some have suggested that the world of Pellucidar was a construction of theirs, but aside from the mega-scale engineering, there is little to support this. Most scientists agree that this was their home world, and that they died with the planet, when even these deep caverns became uninhabitable in the face of the growing sun. But if that were true, then how could a race capable of such engineering not escape their planet all together and seek out a new home? This is indeed a working theory. The fact that there is no other definitely known world marked by the Angelics is scant evidence of being planet-bound; the galaxy rotates, and stars drift. In nine billion years, a relatively nearby star could easily end up on the other side of the galaxy from its neighbor.
Angelics remain the oldest known example of an intelligent species, and the
mystery surrounding them is only heightened by the distance in time that they
are removed from us.
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