Test Tube Territories

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The High Empiricists

Of the civilization-seeding efforts of early Bottlenose Nebula starfarers, the most arrogant was probably that of the High Empiricists of the One Alpha Thirteen sector. While some civilization patterns remain open to debate as to their origin, the Empiricists documented their schemes extensively in a linked archive translated to approximately two thousand languages. The only serious question is how much they fabricated to sound more impressive.

The Empiricists were responsible for the Test Tube Territories. A loose string of varying planets looped around the core of the Nebula was seeded with a calculated series of evolutionary starting points, ranging from organic soup on volcanic rocks to ecosystems tailored for particularly promising giant sloths. The grant proposal for the “primordial ooze” project proposed timelines beyond the usual project management recommendations, but included measures for cryostasis so the graduate students linked with the project could simply be unfrozen every million years or so for an update. It was generally assumed that an Empiricist advisor would be at a suitable point in his or her life cycle to sign the paperwork on the finished theses. Drafts of such theses are prominent in the project archive, though plagiarism is suspected to be rife among students who arranged to get unfrozen while their colleagues were still dormant.

Ultimately, the millions-year timeline proved too ambitious.

Data Contamination

Problems bedeviled the project from the start. Individual researchers heaped “Easter eggs” into their segments, leaving cheeky signatures and memes written in the pattern of seeded life. Similar planets diverged unexpectedly under the artificial acceleration of the observers, and dissimilar systems seemed to converge in odd places, most obviously when two modern-tech capsules were discarded within the experiment areas, skewing development entirely. Sentience sometimes ruined the models by developing as a gestalt, not unlike the later Dolphin Riders. In short, as described by the Theory of Physical Undecidability, it was impossible to gain reasonably controlled insights into the development of biomes and civilizations.

Civilizations did form under the accelerated conditions imposed by the planetary engineering crews. The Easter egg effects were good for a few famous white papers but otherwise failed to generate useful insight. One territory was stricken by a monster asteroid, disposing of its complement of seven thousand hand-selected microbe species in slightly under seven hours. (An effort to salvage the project by tracking the development of anything at all on the resulting space debris was denied funding.) One was eaten by a surprise white hole that began sucking matter in from the ruined solar system, depositing it somewhere else. It is suggested that this paired itself with the Blowhole of the Bottlenose Nebula, but probes proved inconclusive. For all anyone knew several imploded systems were feeding the Blowhole.

The Experiments’ Fate

Meanwhile the chaos of civilized development ran apace. The experiments were chalked up as total failures shortly before the conquering Megasloths of Pi 7 Epsilon 2 got to the cryogenic Empiricist Keeper vaults.

Some thirteen Test Tube Territories are extant today, ranging from the Exotrilobites to the still-acclerating Lursine Iterators. None of them have yet developed their own cryogenics or the urge to play God, Ph.D. History, left to now-unmonitored civilizations, might yet fail to repeat itself.