What happened to the Nzooni? Is there a more haunting question in all of science than what befell a civilization that declined, perhaps precipitously, and vanished? The researchers of ancient Terra never demonstrated conclusively what happened to the Mayans or to the Clovis Culture or to the Mycenaeans. How long was it before we had any grasp of the fate of the Krell or the Heechee?
When the decline of the Nzooni civilization began some 30,000 SGY ago, the civilization had thrived for many standard galactic millennia, adorning the species’ ancestral home world, Salan 4, with immense and glorious cities. Nzooni civilization also had spread beyond Salan 4 to crystalline domed settlements on Salan 5 and to well-developed mining operations on the great moon of Salan 6.
Whatever went wrong apparently went wrong first in Wnook, the most populous Nzooni city on Salan 4. Dr. Creuser and her team have recovered and partially deciphered digital communications and other records from the ruins of Wnook in which inhabitants refer to a recurring phenomenon that clearly and understandably astonished them and instilled enormous fear.
The word in Standard Galactic that seems the most apt translation of the Nzooni word for the phenomenon is “explode.” Among the first recovered Nzooni communications to use a form of the word is this one from an archive discovered at the site of a university complex in Wnook: “Professor Tzalc exploded at lunch today.”
Naturally enough, Dr. Creuser and her team initially hypothesized that the Nzooni intended “explode” in some metaphorical sense. Professor Tzalc “blew his top” or “lost it,” to use colloquialisms from ancient Terra still common today. In other words, Professor Tzalc became angry or agitated in some way. He lost his composure.
But this early hypothesis now has had to yield in the face of quite conclusive evidence that the Nzooni used forms of “explode” in the most literal sense. Professor Tzalc actually exploded, his body transformed into a green mist that settled over his colleagues, the food, and much else in the faculty dining room.
Over a period of roughly a single SGY, millions of Nzooni exploded. At first, the explosions were confined largely to Wnook and the other great coastal cities of Salan 4; however, as the residents of these cities fled inland, the plague followed them, and they exploded wherever they happened to be.
Apart from the concentration in the coastal cities, the only correlation the Nzooni themselves could discern in the progress of the plague was its apparent preference for the educated classes within Nzooni society. Professor Tzalc was among the 80% or so of Nzooni faculty at institutions of higher education who succumbed, along with most graduate students, authors of literary works, visual artists, and even a disproportionate percentage of journalists. About half the lawyers and medical professionals exploded. Relatively few of the Nzooni beyond these groups became victims.
Dr. Creuser argues that this loss of the educated classes, and the concomitant unwillingness of succeeding generations of Nzooni to become educated without some assurance, led to the complete collapse of the Nzooni civilization within 100 SGY. She will present her argument in a forthcoming paper in the Annals of the Institute.
It should be added that the decision of Dr. Creuser and her team to continue their work on Salan 4 after becoming aware that they might be vulnerable should the plague reappear on the planet, reflects an admirable, if not entirely prudent, commitment to science. Fortunately, none have exploded.