Civilizations tend to destroy themselves. You’ve noticed this, haven’t you? For every empire of a thousand years a hundred fall, and length is no guarantee. Easter Island supported 10,000 people at its peak, the Roman Empire was 1500 years old when the gates of the Hagia Sophia were battered down, and the Empire of China was heir to 2000 years of intrigue when it was toppled by a few flags in the street.

It doesn’t take much, does it, to project those onto a global scale?

This is as unavoidable as it is inevitable, as the civilization of your choice is always prey to the capricious whims of a few, the lowest and base, who would see everything ground to dust for their own reasons. On a planetary scale, it means that civilizations are inevitably doomed regardless of their level of technology or expansion.

It seems like a closed system, a foolproof system. But what if it’s not? What if there’s a chance—however slight—that sapients might avoid the cycle that has seen galactic empires crumble and the mighty R’de laid low?

Someone, something, has seen to that, too.

There are three possible states of a universe: stasis, growth, and contraction. We know that the former to are untenable given our observations, and a cursory examination of the Vyaeh archives reveals the same. The universe is expanding, and that expansion is, against all that we know, accelerating.

The Vyaeh know this at the highest levels of their Orphaned Court, as do those of them with half a brain. But they, like us, are too busy fighting over the ashes to recognize the conflagration that surrounds and envelops them. Their manifest stupidity prevents any serious inquiry, though I’ve reason to suspect that perhaps there are forces acting upon them, and upon us, that cannot be fully understood.

But the R’de…the R’de are different. Why were they destroyed and enslaved by the Vyaeh? Why, when our scientists, and theirs, insist that there is nothing to learn from them? Their worlds are not strategic, they contain no natural resources of value.

Don’t you see? They were destroyed because they were too close to unlocking the secret. The ultimate failsafe that will prevent intelligent life from thriving and spreading: the heat-death of the universe.

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