When our subs discovered the first of the abandoned cities under the Indian Ocean, some people suggested that it was the lost city of Atlantis. As you all now know, the city had never, and could never, have been home to humans. The city had been built completely three dimensionally, and could only have existed under the ocean.
I only visited the city myself once, but the sight of it will stay with me until I die. Great towers rearing up from the sea bed, connected to each other with bridges and tubes. The only thing that it compares to is our orbital colonies, which were built without having to worry about gravity.
Of course, once we knew that the cities were not built, or occupied, by humans, people wanted to know who had lived there. Plenty of biologists and exobiologists studied the films and photographs that we took, trying to work out what kind of creatures had lived there. They were hampered by the fact that there were no pictures of any kind in the city, no helpful portraits of the city founders. A few of the scientists got the right answer, by measuring the doorways and the control panels and so on, then looking at deep sea creatures we already knew about to see which would fit. We couldn’t confirm anything though, until we found the second city, and the carefully preserved body in an ornate tomb.
When we all knew, it was really rather obvious. What other ocean dweller could manipulate tools so carefully, and with so much intelligence, as the squid?
The two cities we found were very similar, like London and Paris of 1950 were. Similar, but distinct enough to know that they had not been stamped from a template. We assumed, therefore, that the cities had been built at pretty much the same time. But when we used carbon dating, we discovered that the first city we had found had been built eighteen thousand years after the second! Any human culture that stayed the same for that long would be deemed utterly stagnant.
If those discoveries were surprising, they were nothing to what we have now found. A third city. An inhabited city.
When we sent one of our remote submarines to the city, we were astounded when a squadron of armoured squid-creatures intercepted it. We watched, horrified as it was dragged into the city and inspected by larger squid. Then the video circuit was broken, and we were cut off. For six days we waited to see if the submersible’s cameras would begin to work again. And they did. For an hour the sub transmitted again, showing us a line of the squid’s hieroglyphic writing, then it stopped again.
Our translators had been working on deciphering the language of the squid from data left in the cites for years, so we were able to translate the message they sent us.
We had freed a warlike species from stagnation by showing them that the journey from sea floor to surface was possible. We gave them inspiration, we gave them prey.
The only thing stopping us is the pressure. If your machine can withstand it, we are already on our way.