Dr. Jeffrey Kjeldsen, MD
Address to the 115th Xenobiology Symposium
[This is an excerpted direct transcription of Dr. Kjeldsen’s address. Images and more information can be found in the digital archives of The Journal of Xenobiology.]
The Journal of Xenobiology
Special Issue on Exceptional Species
Vol. 7, August 11, 2418
The Shadow Being
Consider, if you will, a universe in which there is no time and no finite space. There is nothing solid, nor is there anything biological. In fact, in this universe all things, all beings, exist and interact as pure energy. There is no linear time, nor is there cyclical time. Time exists. Time is. Past, present, and future are one. Moreover, there is no finite space. There are no boundaries whatsoever. Imagine this universe and put it as firmly into your mind as you can.
With that firmly in mind, imagine that at this very instant, without any warning whatsoever, you are transported into that universe. Your body is intact. You are fully clothed. You have in your pockets what you had when you left the house this morning. Absolutely nothing has changed, except that the universe in which you lived a split second before has transformed into a totally alien universe—a timeless, limitless, universe inhabited by beings of pure energy.
You have no idea what happened. You might think that it is a dream and try to shake yourself awake, but you can’t, no matter what you do. Then you become confused, you look for a way to get back to where you were, and you grope everywhere looking for a door, an opening, or something that will help you escape. But there is none. You cannot return to your own universe. You are, in essence, stuck in this alternate universe for eternity. You must sustain yourself. You must fend for yourself. You must find food, shelter, companionship—everything that sustained you in your own universe. Pause right now, take a minute, and consider that.
Is it even remotely imaginable how you would survive in a universe without time, without distance, without solids, liquids, or gasses? I would wager that most of you would be dumbfounded at such a fantasy, yet this is exactly what happened—in reverse—to a being that has hitherto been a closely guarded military secret. This is what happened to the being that has come to be known as Shadow.
According to Starfleet records, this inter-dimensional energy being was snatched from its own dimension and trapped in ours when an alien subspace probe created a dimensional rift in the vicinity of Sky Harbor Aegis 30 years ago, on February 1, 2388. After a long period of adjustment and a steep learning curve, the being and the crew accepted each other. The crew eventually named the being "Shadow" because at first contact it appeared as a shadow, and some of the more superstitious among them believed it was a ghost. Although its species has neither male nor female, for ease of communication… and for no other reason, mind you… the being is spoken of in the masculine.
Shadow is a sentient being who exhibits intelligence, reason, emotion, the will to survive, and the need for companionship, shelter, and sustenance. In short, he possesses everything we possess except for a biological body, and he exists today trapped in our universe of finite space and time. After 30 years he is still uncomfortable. He still puzzles over much that he finds in this reality.
During last month’s conference on Beta Zebulon I had the rare opportunity to study Shadow, and I can assure you that, as a Xenobiologist, it created a challenge that suggests an oxymoron of infinite proportions in the world of Xenobiology, since there is nothing biological about him. His very existence seems to defy reason. His survival in our universe has challenged my own concept of the universe, and it definitely broadens the Vulcan idea of Kol-Ut-Shan: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
There were, of course, certain basic questions that had to be answered. How does he sustain himself and survive? How does he move? How does he communicate? Does he reproduce, and if so, how? How did he function in his own universe, and how does he function here, outside his own universe?
First let us consider survival. As do most beings, Shadow seeks a safe haven wherever he goes. The first place he encountered in this universe was Sky Harbor Aegis, and he considered the station his safe haven. Sky Harbor Aegis was the only link to his own universe—his home—and it was the first place that he found everything he needed to sustain himself: energy, shelter, and companionship. Thus, he was initially reluctant to leave the station for fear of losing the source of everything he needed to maintain his existence.
How does he sustain himself? He is energy, therefore he seeks energy. After some experimentation, the engineering staff configured the energy output of a reactor that would meet his needs. The reactor became his home. He wrapped around it and drained just enough power to recharge himself, for lack of a better term. He has, on occasion, mistakenly drained certain systems, but he does not have the ability to drain the energy of entire starships, shuttlecraft, or other large craft. For him, it would be the equivalent of one of us eating the entire fare of several buffet tables, the complete stores of the San Francisco farmer’s market, and then finishing off the contents of the Galaxy Mart down the street.
How does he move? He thinks, and he moves. His movement is beyond time and space. Distance is no barrier. One meter is as one light year, and one light year is as a thousand. Within a nanosecond he is able to transport from one ship to the next, or from one galaxy to the next. I say he is able to because being able to and having the desire to are two distinct concepts. Also, to move from one distant place to another, he must have a focus—an energy signature or frequency he can focus on—just as we would need galactic coordinates to plot a course.
As for communication, Shadow’s pure energy state enables him to connect with the life energies of those around him, including their brain waves and any variances that may occur with their changes in emotional state. He is able to speak by producing sound waves that transfer to our auditory processors as words, but he does so with difficulty. He can also enter communication equipment, such as PADDs or monitors, manipulate the characters within them, and form rudimentary sentences in several languages. However, he prefers to communicate through energy waves and brain waves, quite similar to telepathy. Full telepaths, empaths, and those with telepathic and empathic tendencies—all of which I lack—have been Shadow's most common contacts.
Socially, Shadow is an emotional being who craves companionship. In his own universe he forms energy bonds with like energy beings. In our universe he forms what I will call a companionship bond with those whom we might call his friends. With a few, especially telepaths, he forms an inexplicable solid connection. With that connection he can contact a telepath regardless of distance, even though it might be beyond the ability of the biological friend to reciprocate. He associates with his friends much as we do. He is reluctant to leave their company and will vigorously protect and defend them when they are threatened, to the end of his existence if necessary.
Shadow prefers to ease himself into situations and relationships. When encountering a new situation he often manifests himself as a fleeting shadow until he reaches a certain comfort level with his surroundings. He can take on any form, but prefers to take a form that would be familiar to the biological who wishes to make contact. In that sense, I would say he is extremely polite, with a desire to conform to the expectations of the civilization in which he finds himself. In my case, he manifested himself as a Starfleet science officer, most probably because I knew he operated with science in some capacity. Because he is a ward of Starfleet, he bowed to my expectation that he would look like a Starfleet officer.
Shadow calls himself a seeker, which not only suggests that he comes from a complex societal structure, but that within that structure his function is much like a scientist. He has a great deal of curiosity and has learned many facts about our universe but is still working on the comprehension of those facts. Just as a child learns that a certain object is called an apple, the child must learn that the flesh of an apple can be eaten and the core cannot, an apple grows on trees and can be used for sauce, pies, and other delicacies. Like the child, Shadow is still working on entire concepts: comprehending the things in and the function of our universe. In fact, it was several months before the concepts of home, planet, and Sol System were explained to him so he could effectively help a ship navigate in the desired direction.
Some of you will no doubt point out that we have encountered deceptive, dangerous energy beings such as the anaphasic lifeform, and suggest caution with this new form, which could also prove deceptive. Of course, at first contact, Captain Ramson, then commanding officer of Aegis, proceeded with extreme caution. But time has proven, and I assure you from close observation, that Shadow is very unlike an anaphasic lifeform.
Anaphasic energy is extremely unstable and anaphasic-based lifeforms require some sort of conduit to maintain molecular cohesion. They require a corporeal host with compatible biochemistry in order to take physical form.
Shadow, on the other hand, requires no host to maintain molecular cohesion. He requires only a sufficient energy source with which to charge: a place to figuratively plug in. He might use—and has on occasion used—a phaser, a force field, a tricorder, or a console to recharge. Then he produces his own form as he wishes. After 30 years of careful, close observation by various groups within the Federation, we are certain that Shadow is the first sentient and inherently benign energy being we have encountered in this universe.
Now to the ultimate question: can Shadow die? We know from his own fears that he must be able to diminish to the point of extinction, but can he die and how can he die are two questions that have yet to be answered. Theoretically, all things must pass. However the type of energy that is Shadow has yet to be identified, for obvious reasons. Since he is a sentient being and there is no other being like him, how would one proceed in identifying his type of energy without taking the risk of damaging or destroying him? It is, indeed, a conundrum.
According to Shadow, in his universe groups of energy beings exist in bonds, or what we might call cohorts or clans. Shadow considers himself a positive (for lack of a better term) energy being, and those of his bond are of like leaning—they are positives. Positive energy groups seek knowledge and harmony. They are the diplomats, the scientists, and the philosophers.
Conversely, there exist bonds of opposite leaning which we shall call negative energy beings. These negative groups thrive on discord and strife. When they join in large bonds they produce conflict, dissention, and disruption—something akin to our wars.
Using the terms positive and negative for these groups can be confusing because, for us, positive and negative, when used with energy, usually refer to an electrical charge, and positively and negatively charged particles attract one another and seek balance. In Shadow’s dimension positive and negative seem to be opposites on a philosophical plane, though that analogy is woefully inadequate. Positive and negative cohorts vie for dominance. Should Shadow come in contact with a negative energy being, a conflict would ensue and continue until one is either run off by the other, or one is totally dissipated by the other.
The energy is dissipated, not destroyed. What exactly happens after this dissipation remains a mystery as deep as the mystery surrounding a shadow being’s infinite existence. Shadow has no concept of birth or beginning. When asked, he says with some puzzlement that he simply is. He has no recollection of any type of birth, any type of creation, only that the universe, he, and other beings like him, exist and always have existed. So, can Shadow die? Certainly not in the sense that we understand death, but this dissipation may lead to some kind of ceasing to exist. Whether the energy is absorbed by another being or that the energy floats around, dissipated, until it regains cohesion and continues on as the original being has yet to be discovered.
The nature of Shadow beings, being positive and negative, leads me to the thought that our universe was indeed fortunate to have trapped a positive being rather than a negative one. Then I wonder what might happen if a negative energy being should be trapped somehow and enter our universe. We do not know if there are other Shadow beings present in our dimension, but the possibility exists that there have been other Shadow beings trapped that have remained undetected. Also, there is the possibility that, should similar circumstances akin to those of Sky Harbor Aegis recur, another might be similarly trapped. As unlikely as that is to occur, we should certainly be aware, and on guard against trapping a negative energy being.
Let me say in conclusion that we still have much to learn about these beings and much to learn about the nature of the universe, or the multiverse, in which we coexist. We seem to question the very nature of creation, and discoveries such as this cause us to struggle to find our place in it. As a scientist I find that the more I explore, the more questions I have, and the more questions I have the more ignorant I feel. Yet, in our pursuit of knowledge we must go wherever that pursuit leads us. Our search today has led us into strange territory, and no doubt our search tomorrow will lead us into even stranger realms. All sentient beings—even sentient energy beings—are inherently seekers. It is humanoid nature to explore, to ask questions, and to look for answers. In the words of TS Eliot, “We will not cease from exploration. And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”
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