Foundlings (Noon Universe)

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In the Noon Universe created by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the foundlings are a group of 13 humans, who evolved out of the embryos stored in the "sarcophagus". The embryos were discovered on December 26, 2137 by Boris Fokin's group of explorers on an unnamed planet in star system EN-9173. These events are described in the novel Beetle in the Anthill.

Discovery of the Sarcophagus[edit]

In the late December of 2137 an explorer group led by Boris Fokin discovered and obtained a permission to study an artificial underground cave, presumably, built by Wanderers. After entering the cave, Fokin's men discovered a strange machine which they called the "sarcophagus" (because of its visual similarity to ancient ritual coffins). The calculated age of the device was approximately 40 to 45 thousand standard years and it was soon discovered that the Sarcophagus is connected to a planet-wide network of energy generators providing it with energy.

The true shock came when it was uncovered that the Sarcophagus is, in fact, a sophisticated incubator containing 13 fertilized, but latent human egg cells. Shortly after that Gennady Komov, the director of the expedition to EN-9173, ordered to classify any information on this discovery, therefore nearly nothing about it was known to the public.

Reaction of the World Council[edit]

Immediately after the discovery of the embryos, Komov informed the Earth World Council and demanded further instructions. The reactions of the Council were very different, but in the end Rudolf Sikorski (already being in chief of COMCON-2) demanded that they decide whether they destroy the device and the embryos or activate them. Leaving things as they were, according to him, was not an option.

Kirill Alexandrov, one of the youngest Council members, suggested that these 13 humans were, in fact, not humans but Wanderers and, since no one could contradict him in this, that the Sarcophagus was a safe containing their gene pattern. Because it was, thus, none of Earth's business he proposed "leaving things as they are" and abandoning the EN-9173 system immediately.

August-Iogann-Maria Bader argued that the sarcophagus was built by the Wanderers to preserve actual human embryos. According to him, Wanderers may have created this gene storage 45,000 years ago to preserve human species in case of a catastrophe that would wipe out the whole race.

Pak Hin agreed with Bader but added that the device might be a "time bomb", opening of which may bring the mankind detailed knowledge of how their ancestors lived. In this case, the Wanderers were acting as progressors of mankind.

Gennady Komov himself suggested that the embryos, once activated, would developed into agents who would help the Wanderers to establish a contact with Earth, and should be activated immediately. Cautious Masahiro Shinoda suggested that they Wanderers may not have friendly intentions towards humans.

The Stepchildren Case[edit]

Komov's and Shinoda's theories sparked much discussion but this was ended abruptly as Boris Fokin informed the Council that the egg cells had self-activated and started evolving to embryos. In the next three days the Council decided the best way to raise the foundlings.

In the end, when a completed plan of their upbringing, as well as secret observation and study of them was finished, Rudolf Sikorski, as the chief of COMCON-2 demanded four things:

  • All information on the foundlings was to be classified
  • None of them is supposed to know of their true origin
  • All foundlings are to be separated immediately after birth
  • All of them should later get extraterrestrial jobs to make their return to Earth as difficult as possible

"Sikorski's Four Demands" were accepted despite a strong opposition of the minority and mostly because of the support of the psychologists and, personally, Masahiro Shinoda.

Later that year (2138) after a cautious intelligence exchange, all diplomatic relationships between Tagora and Earth were cancelled. It was revealed that Tagorians found an identical "Sarcophagus" on their planet but decided to destroy it rather than activate the larvae stored within it.

In 2139, after the Sarcophagus was transferred to Earth, scientists found a small box containing 13 small discs with different symbols on them.

Life of the foundlings[edit]

The foundlings were born on October 6, 2138 with no apparent difference from normal human children on Earth. A difference appeared only in 2149, when symbols identical to those on the discs in the Sarcophagus appeared on the right elbows of all 11-years-old foundling. The disks became known as "detonators".

To study the bond between the detonators and the corresponding foundlings, one of the discs was destroyed. A week after that, Edna Lasko, whose symbol matched the one on the destroyed disc, perished when her class was caught by an avalanche somewhere in the Northern Andes and the World Council demanded to stop experimentation on the detonators.

In 2162, in violation of Sikorski's demands, another foundling, Kornei Yashmaa, was told of his true origin. He accepted this information with stoic serenity and promised to cooperate with Earth's government if he notices anything strange about himself.

Encouraged by this experiment and despite strong objections from Rudolf Sikorski, the scientists revealed the truth to the second foundling, Thomas Nielsen, but this time it didn't go so well. Four months later he perished on Gorgona under circumstances that suggested a suicide. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the corresponding detonator tracelessly disappeared from the case.

Assassination of Lev Abalkin[edit]

Lev Abalkin was the first foundling to get the detonator's mark on his skin. In 2178, he returned to Earth under suspicious circumstances and, despite being chased by Maxim Kammerer and Rudolf Sikorski, tried to obtain his corresponding detonator. Since he provided no information on how he found out about the discs or what he was going to do with them and ignored multiple warnings from COMCONs, Sikorski shot him before he could reach the detonator.

This assassination was a very controversial topic both among the people of Earth (leading, eventually, to Rudolf Sikorski's retirement from COMCON-2) and the Strugatsky's fans.[citation needed]

It is unknown if any other Stepchildren tried to obtain their corresponding detonators after 2178 and, if so, what happened to them afterwards.

See also[edit]