The Archaeologist

Kortan wished, once again, that he could rub his nares. They itched. But the unyielding face of the cleansuit thwarted all attempts at scratching. He refocused on his task. The ancient data storage system had been a valuable find, the find of the decirotation, perhaps. Though his arms and legs ached from crouching, the device fascinated him beyond measure. Above him were grayish walls of debris, carefully sloped and held back by force curtains to prevent them from falling on the site.

At this particular dig, their archaeological group had found a complex of chambers. Many of the artifacts were exceptionally well preserved, having been buried under layers of volcanic ash. Already many discoveries had been made about the Ancients’ materials technology, daily life, work habits, and much more. Some of the artifacts were obvious as to their function, others were completely puzzling. To what purpose, for example, did a cubical object serve that merely sat on the work surface and had no moving parts? Though the material it had been made from had long since disintegrated into powder, the imprint it had left was plain.

The Ancients had left a wealth of writing implements, traces of wood pulp fibers that indicated the presence of paper products. Many artifacts were made from simple petroleum based plastics, using molds. Molds! Kortan smiled as he gently brushed the ash off the case of the data storage unit. Sure enough, there were fine mold lines on this too. This was made of plastic and some kind of coated sheet metal, no doubt made with a stamping process. The sheer impact of being surrounded by this much history made Kortan’s cardiac organ flutter. As he saw the next prize, his excitement only grew.

To the rear of the case of the data storage device, there was a port. It looked like a large version of the data ports he was already familiar with. This was why he had brought his data archiver, which contained it’s own alternating current power supply that could be set to a variety of ranges, and enough types of connectors that it could link with nearly anything. A compact holodisplay and a simple central processing unit completed the device. Kortan liked his archiver very much but didn’t get to use it often. Too many of the primitive machines his team found were corroded beyond repair or too choked with dust to turn on.

Kortan smiled, entirely forgetting how much his nares itched, and brushed the ports clean. Gently, ever so gently, he loosened the ancient power cable. He then extracted the correct adapter from the Archiver and connected it to the power supply, then chose another adapter and plugged it in to the fragile port. He closed his eyes and focused for a moment before taking the next step. Making sure the electrical feed was at just the right voltage and amperage, Kortan let the electricity flow. He took a deep breath and pressed the power switch, held it down and watched the ancient data storage unit turn on.

The lights still work, he thought. The light emitting diodes really are robust. He cocked his head, turning his helmet to better hear the faint whir as the ancient processer started. It made a bit of a grinding sound but otherwise worked. His grin widened as characters started to appear on his holodisplay, characters, and then a representation of the ancient flat graphics.

Kortan began scanning through the files with his archiver, relishing the thrill of discovery. Disdaining the graphical user interface as being too slow, he slid into the file trees with a few quick key-clicks. Ah! Here was wealth indeed. His eyes glowing, he perused the long lines of names and file extensions. He decided to reward himself now, allow himself to do what he most wanted. He’d explore a data file from the Ancients.

He knew he should wait for the restoration teams to have a chance at the data, but with such a discovery, who would resist? He perused the names, translating them as he went. These people had used a system of characters that could be combined to form syllables, rather than the cleaner, simpler syllabary he was used to. Long practice had made most of the conversions second nature. Finally, he chose his file. A simple file, tiny in size, and by the extension was one of their moving flats, probably with audio. It was titled “meatspin.”

As the image began to appear, Kortan’s eyetufts shot up. It was an Ancient, without clothing, his face obscured, and very definitely male. Kortan stared at it curiously and began talking to himself.
“What a fascinating view into the ancient world,” he said. “This must be a piece of their art. Perhaps a dance? He certainly seems as fit as a dancer. The way he twirls his generative organs must be symbolic of greater things. Yes, the message reaches me even now, so far away from them in time. I see how we are connected, all in circles, in cycles, and the way it goes on and on is most hypnotic. Such souls the Ancients had, such images their artists made!”

Kortan looked at the ancient Meatspin video and cried for it’s beauty. He wished to wipe his eyes, but once again was stymied by the faceplate. Drat the thing, but his delicate lungs wouldn’t stand up long to the ash. Besides, it was too important to avoid contamination of the site. He could turn the image off, he supposed, but it was so interesting to watch the Ancient being, in the prime of his life, twirl his member around and around and around. Like wheels, and seashells, and the stars themselves, and the great revolution of their galaxy, by which they measured the time. It was all one to him.

After a time, text appeared on the screen, Ancient characters.

Kortan pondered. “What, I wonder, do they mean by ‘gay?'”

(Note for those who haven’t been in so many seedy internet spaces: On the original Meatspin video, somewhere around the 47th revolution or so, a message would appear that said “you are now officially gay.”)