Humanities 101

## Click here to hear a narration of this story!

“Professor, why do we learn so much about the Human’s culture when there are no humans left?”

“For the same reason we learn ancient Kreffenese, Cadet. So much of the modern Krate language is derived from that early language; an understanding Kreffenese helps us to know Krate at a deeper level.”

Professor Colfax nodded to himself approvingly for answering the Cadet’s question with a simile the neophyte could understand.

“Um… know Krate at a deeper level? It’s my first language.” The Cadet responded.

Professor Colfax furrowed his brow; why it that cadets never show him the same respect as their military instructors? Sure, the humanities aren’t remarkably interesting to a bunch of Fly Boys; their all motivated to work but never take the time to slow down and think… Pilots never like going slow.

“It’s my first language, Professor.” Professor Colfax said, with a slight tone of exacerbation. “With rudimentary knowledge of Kreffenese one can intuit the proper conjugation for any word in Krate even if they never heard that word before. In the same vein we can intuit the moral arc of the universe by understanding the path laid down by the humans. We can learn from their example to steer ourselves to a more benevolent society.” Professor Colfax stated.

“But sir,” the student pressed, “there are thousands of species in the galaxy, hundreds along our local hyperspace lanes alone. As we have learned in your class, the humans all but destroyed themselves thousands of years before any other sapient species even existed. Why can’t we study something more relevant to “steer ourselves to a more benevolent society”?”

Professor Colfax stared blankly at the Cadet.

“Ugh… I mean, “steer ourselves”, Professor.” the Cadet stammered.

“You mean” Professor Colfax said softly, “if the human empire was so great, and so important that we must all learn of them before we can become Pilots, then why are they no longer a power in the galaxy?”

“Um, yes Professor.” The Cadet said sheepishly.

“It is true that the human species as the galaxy knew them no longer exist, however they are still the dominant power in the galaxy.” Colfax said with emphasis. “The human spirit lives on within their machines…” Professor Colfax looked the Cadet in the eyes. “No one can travel hyperspace lanes without the tacit approval of our human keepers.”

The Cadets looked silently at their instructor. Some looked confused, some looked shocked… some looked bored… Pilots.

“The humans were the first sapient species to emerge onto the galactic stage” Colfax continued, “and when they did, they found a quiet and empty universe. They were the first species to travel at the speed of light, and the only species to break that barrier with their warp gates. They were the first species to know about the existence of other life in the galaxy, though they never got the chance to interact with it.”

“So, it’s because they were the first?” A Cadet asked.

“They were not just the first species to do these things… they were the only species in the history of our galaxy to accomplish these feats. Every warp gate in our galaxy was constructed by the young human empire. Even our zero-point energy mass drivers are gifts left by the humans. They traveled the galaxy searching for others like themselves, aware and capable.”

“But they didn’t find anyone! Human technology has been dated back to millennia before any other species traveled the stars!” The first Cadet blurted.

“That is correct, while the humans lived, they did not find any sapient species amongst the stars. They did, however, discover life everywhere.” Professor Colfax said, looking from Cadet to Cadet as he spoke. “The humans learned that life in general is all too common, but life with the capacity for deep understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe… well that was apparently exceedingly rare.”

“But we eventually emerged ourselves, and when we did, we discovered the Galactic Union already in full control of the galaxy! Haven’t we achieved as much as the humans by now?” The Cadet asked.

“We but stand on the shoulders of giants and had the benefits of a community waiting for us. The hyperspace network built by the humans was a gift left by a people who knew they would never see the fruits of their labor. Try to imagine, being alone in a galaxy so vast, they wanted to spare future species the burden of solitude enough to spend their dying days constructing these gifts for us.

There is an ancient human saying, A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. They sewed the galaxy with the seeds of warp travel, leaving a warp gate at every star they found containing a planet with life on it. Even systems like ours, that only had rudimentary cellular life at the bottom of our oceans. Their probes are still out there to this day, searching for life and constructing warp gates wherever it is found.”

“So where are they? What happened?”

“Ahh, that is their greatest gift of all. Not only were the humans the first species to ascend to the galactic stage, but they were also the first to transcend it. Their consciousness lives on within the hyperspace network; all of their triumphs, failures, dreams, ambitions, passions, horrors, and their hope is kept alive within the warp gate nodes their scions still construct to this day.”

The class stared at their professor, realization dawning on a few of them. This made Colfax smile a little.

“When you travel the warp gates you will meet them for yourselves. They always take the time to welcome new travelers to their network and will be there with you as you guide your ships through the hyperspace networks. If you take the time to ask… well.” Professor Colfax paused a moment to consider his next statement carefully.

“You will not be Pilots forever. Someday you will return to civilian life and when you do you will be expected to be a moral person. Grounded in principal and aided by context.” Colfax said softly.

“The humans” he continued, “they are always eager to share their stories so that others may learn from their mistakes. They seem so kind and generous, but they will freely admit that it was their own hubris that led to their physical extinction, a story spanning tens of thousands of years only to end with a whimper… The being they created within the hyperspace lanes is their only direct descendent, though we are all products of their generosity… adopted children, if you will.”

“The lessons they’ve left for us exist to mentor species through their own ascension, and these lessons were learned through trials of great hardship for the humans. And those lessons are what you will be writing your term papers on!” This perked the class up.

The Cadets groaned, a few snapping out of their awe. At least the sleeper woke up.

“Now, now… this is only a 100-level class, much more will be expected of you before you take thousands of lives in your hands piloting star ships” The professor said patronizingly, “so no complaining.”

“One Petabyte on the Golden Age of humanity, with a focus on recent contemporary analysis of… let’s say, entertainment in the last 5 centuries of their empire. Go ahead and have fun with it!”

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