We Were Not Always Thus

Author: Julia S.

TOS, Kara, rated PG.

Summary: Kara of “Spock’s Brain” describes how her people’s ancestors lost their ability to understand their advanced technology.


I am Kara. I am leader. For many years on our world’s cold surface, I work hard, share what little I know, try to keep our people strong. We hunt beasts, make clothing from their hides, find wood to heat our caves. It is new to us, this struggle to live. Before, the machines provided for us. Now they are gone, and we have only ourselves.

The ancient knowledge was never mine to keep. I am old now, there is much I forget. Listen well to my words, little ones, for when I am gone, there will be no-one to teach you of the ancients. They did not dwell in caves, as we do. Life is hard for our people now, but we were not always thus.

The ancients who were our ancestors had skill enough to craft great ships that could travel from one world to another. Wherever they settled, they built machines to serve their needs. I do not speak of simple tools, like our stone knives and the flint that we use to build fires. Their machines were wondrous indeed: some brought water to the ancients’ communities, some made food and clothing for them, some warmed their dwellings, and some controlled the other machines. Their people never went hungry; they lacked nothing.

Among the ancients, in each generation, there were children born who could see pictures in their thoughts, just as clearly as we see pictures with our eyes. Such people were often skilled builders of machines. They had busy minds, always exploring their world, seeking new knowledge, thinking of new ways to build and create. Rarely did they obey without thought; instead, when given a task, they often questioned its usefulness or the manner of its doing. They did not sit quietly and listen to the words of their elders as you do, little ones.

Such a lack of obedience, the ancients’ leaders declared, was a great and vexing problem, a plague, a calamity. How could children learn if they did not obey? Surely such children had to be diseased or damaged in some way, said the leaders. A cure was sought.

It was not long before the ancients’ healers proudly announced that they had learned a new art. With their new knowledge, they could prevent the birth of the flawed children who lacked obedience. There was much rejoicing in the ancients’ communities, where soon, it was thought, all children would be perfect. And so it was done.

When they saw the change in their young ones’ behaviour, the ancients were greatly pleased. No longer did any of their children wander away to explore, or become obsessed with peculiar interests, or argue with their teachers, or daydream about creating new things. Instead, the children did as they were told, desiring only the approval of others.

The ancients noticed, after a time, that their young people did not show much interest in learning about machines, or about other worlds, or about the workings of nature. Their leaders saw no reason to worry, for they had a craft of storing knowledge in their machines. That being so, what did it matter if their children did not strive to learn such things? Machines could be controlled by other machines. And so the ancients contrived to bring into existence a great, powerful Controller, which would direct the workings of all machines in the community for ten thousand years. Knowledge was no longer important to them. Conformity and obedience were all that had value.

With the passing of time, curiosity was lost, and understanding was lost, and tolerance for differences was lost. And when, inevitably, the Controller itself was lost, there was nothing left, and we had no choice but to live as we do now.

You do not understand, little ones, I can see that. It is hard, so hard, to learn. Tomorrow, I tell you again. Maybe, some day, you will begin to understand.