Archivist Memory Cache
Image from Steve Bowers
A Greater Archive in the Sco OB1 Nebula
The Archivists are an extinct alien species known only from their data storage artifacts. Two classes of these Archives have been discovered. All examples of each class appear to be physically identical. A Lesser Archive is a sphere approximately 1.2m in diameter. An outer shell made from an exotic form of diamondoid surrounds a layer of machine-phase material, within which lie further shells of crystal-linked magmatter components which in turn enclose a quantum-density information storage system. The operating principles of this quantum-density memory are not fully understood, despite analysis by transapient level investigators. The diamondoid outer shell is punctured by ports used to read and write the memory contents by means of bursts of coherent gamma rays. The whole system masses ten thousand tons, most of which is the mass of the central core. The Greater Archives are generally similar but are approximately 1.6m in diameter.

The first Lesser Archive to be discovered was found in 4666AT, orbiting the brown dwarf Niflheim in the GIA 348-5443344. The finder was a refugee ship fleeing the Negentropy Alliance's destruction of the Sagittarius Sphere's settlements in the Canakka system. In the course of the next century, the civilization established by the refugees made several failed attempts to extract data from the device. Three centuries later the Archive was destroyed during the last stages of the Ideoclastic Heresy. The energy liberated by the detonation of the device boiled the atmosphere of Midgard into space and totally sterilized that world.

Shortly thereafter all the asteroid habitats succumbed to ecological instabilities, and Terragen colonists became extinct in the system. Since that first find, several dozen Lesser Archives and three more Greater Archives have been found in systems across the Aquila Expanse and in the Coreward parts of the Sagittarius Arm. It is estimated that there may be as many as a billion Archives still awaiting discovery. The majority of the known Archives are in orbit around stable brown dwarfs and gas giants, although it is believed there are many more undiscovered examples orbiting stars in distant orbits within their respective Oort clouds. Possibly there could be freely drifting archives in interstellar space, although the chance of finding them remains minuscule.

The diamondoid outer layer shows a consistent pitting due to micrometeorites that gives a date of 1,452 (+/- 5) million years Before Present for its manufacture. As far as can be determined, the informational content of each Lesser Archive and each Greater Archive is identical, although the overwhelming quantity of data stored in each precludes a full comparison. Clearly the data must have been of great importance to the Archivists for them to store them in such a massively redundant manner, but it appears to be compressed to the entropic limit and no progress has been made towards deciphering their contents. This data appears to be essentially random, and displays no discernable patterns which could assist in translation.

Most commentators suggest that these databanks contain information which has been encrypted in some way; although the Archives are studded with data ports, no remains of the peripheral equipment which must have interacted with the data have been found. Presumably these peripheral devices would have incorporated some sort of decoding system that would make sense of the data, although one hypothesis is that the data is a meaningless work of art or votive artifact. Nevertheless the investigation continues, and entire research institutes have been established in the Negentropy Alliance, STC and MPA dedicated to the examination of these objects. A spokes-avatar for the Negentropy Alliance said 'If these things can be decoded in the lifetime of our civilisation, we intend to do it. We'll get back to you."

No other relics that are unambiguously related to the Archivists have been found in the Terragen Sphere. The orbits of those stars which hold Archives have been calculated back to -1.452 GY, and the original location of Archivist space has been determined. Because of uncertainties in the galactic orbits, this location is poorly defined, but it has been possible to find a fairly large number of other stars throughout the galaxy which would originally have been in this volume, and these systems have been extensively examined by the Argus Array and associated sensors. Apart from a few enigmatic ruined structures, one and a half billion years old, nothing certainly related to the presumed Archivist civilisation has been identified.

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Development Notes
Text by Richard Baker
Updated 2024 by Steve Bowers, including ideas by Bear
Initially published on 09 September 2000.