The sleek star cruiser moved towards the newly discovered solar system, the captain having advised the crew to be on special alert, as it was believed this system had showed life forms living on at least one of the planets in the distant past. One of the crew commented on the large planet with an interesting red spot on it, which seemed to be a storm of some type. Another crew member was intently gathering all the data possible from another planet which had rings circling its equator. Each member of the crew on the bridge was intently working at their assigned tasks when one of them exclaimed, "Captain, the third planet from the sun, take a closer look."
The captain called up the information on one of the large screens circling her station. With a couple of taps of her finger on the screen, she was able to enlarge the view until she was looking at the planet as if she was actually standing on the surface. Slowly she started to pan the surface of the planet, shocked by the devastation she was viewing. The planet stretched before her ... cold, desolate, totally void of any life. The captain focused more closely on the debris directly below her, enlarging the rubble so she could make out various objects. "What had happened to the planet?" she wondered. Pressing a button on her operations panel, she opened communication with the rest of the vessel.
"I need a landing party of 6. I need all of the standard tests and samples usual for a class 3 discovery. Number 3, you're in charge."
A young sounding voice responded, "Yes mam, the landing detail will be ready when you are within range."
"I will notify you shortly, bridge out."
Number 3 was excited. This would be his first landing party he would command. This was what he had been preparing for the entire voyage. By the time he had the other 5 members of the party in place and the necessary equipment, the captain signaled the party to take their places for transportation below. The six of them took their places on the transportation deck and number 3 signaled they were in place. The ship dissolved around them and then the new planet started to form in front of their vision.
All six of them were stunned and silent as they looked across the vast wasteland. One of the 6 asked, "What could wipe out an entire planet like this?"
Number 3 spoke with as much authority as his few years could muster, "Focus people. Remember, the Captain is going to look over our reports very carefully."
All of the landing party went about their assigned tasks after having agreed upon a meeting time back at the beam out location. Several hours later the team reassembled and the chief engineer commanded them to prepare for beam out. Once back on board, each member went off to their respective labs to finish the necessary work on the samples they had bought back.
The next morning the 6 members of the landing party were prepared to give their presentation to the Captain. Each member provided as much information as they had accumulated in the short time they had been working. As number 3 was finishing his presentation of the various visual items he had recorded the Captain suddenly rocked forwarded in her chair. "Go back to that last picture." Number 3 brought the requested picture up on the viewing screen. "Rotate the picture 45 degrees." Number 3 complied. "Enhance the lower right hand quadrant." As the shape started to focus, the room grew completely still. One of the other members muttered, "Oh my God."
The Captain asked number 3, "Can you find this pile of rubble again?"
"I believe so; it was one of the last things I looked at before we came back aboard."
"Take one other crew member and bring that back." The captain pointed to the object under discussion. When the two of them returned, they took the piece to the Captain's briefing room and laid it on her desk. The piece was small and most of it was missing, but the basic shape was still there, as was the faded color. The shape was defiantly part of a circle and the color was positively yellow in color. The Captain asked number 3, "Doesn't this look like the holy symbol?"
Number three looked at the shard lying on the desk. "It is yellow, even though it is badly faded, however; the piece is so small, it is hard to tell exactly what the original shape was."
"I want to see if we can find another pile of ruins like this. During the briefing, you all agreed that this had once been a large city. Let's see if we can find another city."
"Yes mam, I'll ask navigation if they can find any similar sized rubble."
Over the next few weeks, many cities were located, all of them in ruins. Two of the departments had decided after running independent tests that the cities were well over 500 years old and perhaps as old as 1,000 years. It was felt after the ship had returned to the home planet better tests could be run and a better date could be established when the planet had been destroyed.
In every city they discovered, they found the yellow objects. Sometimes more fragments than other times and once an almost complete relic. It was with that discovery the Captain started to send all of the tests and data back to their home world. The Captain felt the ruling counsel and the church would have a lot to examine. Most important of all, the holy relic they had found in every city they had explored so far was the exactly the same symbol they had in front of every one of their places of worship.
The crowded lecture hall erupted in laughter with several members booing and making derisive noises while the tall, slim, sliver colored male's cheeks turned slightly pink in embarrassment. As the peals of laughter continued, he bowed his head, waiting for the laughter to subside. Finally one of the older elders slowly rose from his seat and immediately the laughter stopped. The elder stood for a long time, just staring at the young male on stage. The crowd grew restless while the elder reached a decision. Finally he addressed the male on the stage asking, "How did you come up with such a..." the elder paused, searching for the right word, "such a novel idea? Why do you think you know more than the entire expedition ... more than the entire council?"
The young male was obviously ill at ease under the elder's verbal examination, "My idea is just a different interpretation, a suggestion. I didn't say my idea was the correct analysis. We are trying to interpret a civilization that ceased to exist over 800 years ago. Why are my ideas any less valid? Why does the symbol have to represent a church on that destroyed world? Why can't they represent something different ... like a place to eat or something?"
The elder's tone took on one of rebuke, "Because, you haven't even attained junior status rank and here you are questioning the interpretations of some of the finest minds we have on our planet. The symbols we have found on the destroyed planet closely match those of our religion and the most sacred symbols we have. Because of the importance of the symbols, obviously our priests and religious leaders are correct. What you're suggesting borders on blasphemy. You do realize you are close to being excommunicated from the church." By now the elder's voice had reached a fevered pitch. "How dare you even say such disrespectful things?"
The young male paused, even though he felt he was correct, he also was aware he was treading on very dangerous grounds. "I mean no disrespect. I'm not trying to create any controversy. I'm only trying to suggest the possibility there might be different interpretations to the artifacts the expedition has brought back. Along with the artifacts, there were lots of other items brought back from the same locations. Many of those items don't suggest any sort of religious beliefs or ideas."
The elder pressed, "And who's to say those items are all related?"
"Sir, I humbly submit each location where you find the symbols, which have been called a religious symbol, usually has some, or all of the others items scattered in the same vicinity ... for example, the soil samples. Every location has exactly the same contamination."
"That can just be a coincidence, "the senior elder stated.
"But sir, the same findings are found exactly at every site as the other symbols. How can that be a coincidence?"
The elder pointed to a picture of the main symbol they were all discussing, in a tone of rigorous ignition, the elder spoke, "Look at the holy symbol. Just look at the graceful curvature of the symbol. It is our most revered and holiest of holies of our symbols. We have them in front of every one of our places of worship. We even have smaller ones in our homes. We pray to them every day. It's obvious this was an enlightened society ... a society that was very religious. Your interpretation is blasphemy. It degrades both our society and theirs. Every major city that's been discovered by the expedition has at least one, if not more of the sacred symbols found in the rubble,"
The young male pressed on, "But sir, the soil samples in very case shows the heavy presence of contaminated animal fats. Every location where the symbols are found are identical in soil samples, in addition, many of the sites have pictures showing various items which I believe show items to consume. In the debris found ... every location is the same. Sir, I submit if we were to examine each of our places of worship, we would not find exactly the same soil and debris samples like the expedition has found."
The tone of the older elder now trembled with anger, "We've tried to show you some respect ... to take in consideration the factor of your youth. Up to now you've been one of our brightest, if not the brightest minds to come along in decades. We had such high hopes for you ... and now for you to imply that our most sacred symbol, the holiest of holy would be a symbol for a place to eat is abominable. We all know the circle is the most perfect symbol there is. It represents life, death, rebirth, the continuation of us and our society. The half circle shows us that we are part of the whole. Half of the circle represents God and we are the other half. We need God to be whole and God needs us to worship him and service him. Two half circles, the two arches make the complete circle. Every one of our churches are built under the holy arch.
'What happened on that newly discovered planet is still being examined. What destroyed it is still a mystery and our best minds are working on unraveling it. But, what we do know is it was an enlightened society, a deeply religious society who had churches in almost every village and city ... a society who understood the meaning of the arch and used it as we do."