All was ready for landing and the six astronauts could not hide their nervousness. It has been a two-month traveling in that small explorer space ship, and the main problem was, that they did not know what they would find in Ciclope-34. This was one of the many Earth-like planets, discovered long ago, and a human colony had been implanted there 500 years earlier. However, contacts had stopped since almost one century, and nobody knew why. According to some, the colony people had all died, but a small amateur radio station in Siberia, forty years earlier, had detected signals coming from there, indicating living organisms in movement.
Long discussions arose among the space scientists on Earth, whether it would be worthwhile to send an expedition, or not – finally, yes, and, in fact, one of the tasks of the space ship now was to clarify the situation, and to study what had happened to the population of that colony.
Robert Smith, called Bob by the crew, the chief scientist, and also a renowned space physicist, had written years earlier an interesting book about the possible behavior changes of the Ciclope-34 population. It pointed out that in such a short period of time, the genome certainly would not have changed, but cognition might have changed. Particularly because cognition has to do with the interaction between living organisms and their environment, and in fact the environment in Ciclope-34 was quite different from Earth. Yes, there was water and oxygen, but no trees or forests, only immense flatland full of mushrooms, and an immense quantity of microbes condensed in the muddy water of many lakes. And there were mountains of pure crystals- of tungsten, iridium, niobium, which had been the main reason why the multi-nationals of the Earth wanted, centuries earlier, to colonize that distant planet.
The captain of the ship, Shah Samudhin, called simply Shah, was and had been always rather worried about this mission, and had requested a full weapon armamentarium for his men. He was notoriously skeptical about these colonies and their relation with Earth. And in fact, Bob, in one of the chapters of his famous book, had argued that after only a few generations, in the colonies, the pristine sympathy and attachment for the original mother Earth planet might naturally change into rivalry and hostility. The other three astronauts were Lucy, a computer genius and responsible of all ship communications; Matteo the young philosopher, at his first mission, and Boris, an old timer in space missions. He would remain at board. Shah checked again in the computer monitor the level of oxygen in the space suites of his crew, as it was not clear whether the outside concentration was enough; and checked also the transmitter monitors that would permit them to communicate with each other.
The landing place was outside the walls of the crystal city, and the ship computer managed a soft landing. A shining, blinding light, coming from the two small stars of Cyclope-35, welcomed them, but this came together with a sensation of intense cold which seemed to permeate through their space suites. They moved a few steps in the silica ground. Absolute silence. And cold. -They are coming! – said captain Shah after a short while, pointing at the large drone which was floating at the ground rapidly moving towards them. -Do not move! keep your hands on the guns! But keep calm!
Four men came out of the drone. They were very small, very slim, with a large head and very narrow shoulders. They wore a green suite with a large hat and large black sunglasses- and were all armed, pointing towards them small shining guns. Almost automatically, Bob, Shah and the other three raised their hands.
-We are here in peace! - cried captain Shah- Do you understand me?
-Are you coming from the planet Earth? - was finally the answer. The four men were all speaking at the same time, as one single person.
-What do you want? Why did you come? - again a chorus of four voices simultaneously.
-This planet was long time ago an Earth colony, and we are here in mission from the Earth, to study how you are, what are your life habits.
-We also have questions to ask you. - answered the chorus. –And you will not move around, until you have answered our questions.
-Which kind of questions? Maybe you can get the answers right here, from us, directly.
-Not so! Not so! - and this time the chorus of voices sounded angry. - Now deposit your guns, and enter in the vehicle. You are prisoners, and you will be brought into the city for a trial.
-Let us do what they say- suggested captain Shah to his men using the transmitter –We have no choice.
The journey was short, they had barely the time to glimpse at the streets and at the shining crystal buildings.
-We can only wait, and see what they want. There is so much I would like to know and ask- Bob was saying.
- Me too, me too! -exclaimed Lucy- This fact, that they talk collectively, probably means that they also think collectively, namely, that they have a unique mind…Or, better maybe, that they arrive at a unique mind after an extremely rapid mutual mind screening. Like many parallel computers, which coordinate with each other before giving a common answer…
-A universal, common mind? - asked Matteo.
-Yes, it may be so. –added Bob- And I would love to inquire whether this has been a spontaneous process of adaptation, or whether they have accomplished this with some brain microchips, capable of synchronizing their neuronal waves.
-Fascinating, fascinating... -mumbled simultaneously Bob and Lucy.
The vehicles stopped, and two armed men guided them into a large class room, with many parallel benches full of people, all of them with a large head and narrow shoulders. Probably a few thousand of them- all alike to each other. The front raw was occupied by seven older men, with a white priest-like robe and white beard. They were the only ones with a beard. It was clearly the court, the prisoners thought. A profound silence.
Then the seven little men with the white beard spoke simultaneously. Their voice made a profound echo in the big class room.
-You come from the wise Earth. We said wise, because we know the history, and the Earth is many thousands of years older than we are. We know about your ancient temples with white marble columns, a precious material we do not have here. And we know of your ancient philosophers and wise men. You are then ancient and wise, and you must know the answer to the question to which we don’t have an answer.
Now the voice of the seven men was strong and almost violent. The astronauts had to cover their ears as the simultaneous seven voices, which were not perfectly in phase with each other, and were painful to the hears.
-We have only one main question, and you have to answer, and if you do not answer, you will be executed.
A long silence. Then the seven voices begun simultaneously, like a thunderbolt.
-The question is: who created us? And: why? to which purpose?
At this point, the all audience, thousand voices at once, cried:
-Who created us? And Why? We want to hear the answer from you.
The astronauts had to cover again their ears, overwhelmed by that roar which echoed long time across the large class room.
Then again silence.
Captain Shah stood up. He felt that it was to him to say something. He tried:
-The difficulty by us, sirs of the court, is that we people of the Earth still think individually - that is, each of us has or may have a different answer to that very question…
A loud cry of protest came out from the audience. This time did not seem to be a single voice, but rather a chaotic mix of angry people.
The men of the court stood up, and there was an immediate silence. Than they said in one loud voice:
-This is not the answer we want to hear! – Certainly, you are aware of a collective truth, which you do not want to tell us. - Do you want me to enumerate all the important discoveries you have made on Earth in the last two centuries? And then you want to tell me that you ignore the answer to the most important question? –and the intensity of the voice reached an extremely high pitch- Tell us immediately: who has created us? Let somebody else speak. You, at the right, for example. Speak!
Bob stood up, bowed to the court, and said:
-We do not know, sirs of the court.
-You lie! –was the roaring answer of the court, echoed by the entire public. That echo persisted for some minutes in the large room. Then silence again.
Then, the weak voice of Matteo arose in the air like a soft wind:
-We believe in God, sir. God is the creator of all the universe.
-Ah, what is that? You refer perhaps to the superstitions of the Modern Medieval times? Come on! –there was a moment of silence, then the roaring simultaneous voices asked with a malicious tone:
-Who has created God, then?
Again silence, an angry silence.
But here again the feeble voice of Matteo:
-With your permission, sirs of the Court, your answer is the answer you are looking for…
-What do you mean? - the voice of the five bearded men was now angry.
-Suppose we give you the answer, telling you who is the Creator. Then, you would ask, who created the Creator? Isn’t so?
-But then, you see…-this was now Lucy, continuing Matteo’s’ argument--Because once you would find the name of a creator, you could ask again: who created the creator? And so on, in an infinite regress series…
Lucy told the others of the crew:
-It seems to me that their parallel computing minds do not find an immediate agreement. It is so also with parallel computers when the answer is not pre-determined… …They are now looking at each other, as if for waiting for the common mind to arrive…
Then the five bearded old men stood up again and spoke:
-The Court needs to consider in more depth the answer given by these Earth people. In the meantime, the prisoners should be brought to their space ship and sent away immediately. Thy are of no use here.