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Please don’t go until you have considered my appeal. I am taking advantage of this free Web space to ask for your assistance in solving a mystery, the importance of which will become most clear as you go. Not long ago I could not have made this appeal without exposing myself to retributions I cannot even imagine yet I am convinced are out there. The fortunate appearance and unexpected generosity of sites like this one have made it possible for me to lay the evidence before you. And as you will see, our time is running short. I work at a major research institution. I can’t risk giving you any more than that. About sixteen years ago, a student from a coal-mining region brought me a specimen, a strange lump of something not coal which had been in his family’s possession for several decades, an oddity of an heirloom. It seems that some coal is processed by washing in water baths, and during that process, this hunk, about the size of a softball, had floated up. It lay so high in the water that it attracted the attention of the student’s grandfather, who scooped it up and took it home. It is deceptively light. It appears to be a large black stone, but has a density less than styrofoam. The student, knowing that the organic chemistry and morphology of coal was one of my research areas, thought that I might be able to at last tell the family what it was, as no one had ever seen such a thing and no other like object had turned up before or since. He dropped it off in my office one day, and I stuck it in a drawer to study as time became available. Three years passed until the morning I opened that drawer again, three valuable years lost and not retrievable. I won’t bother you with the details of my analysis, even thought they will never appear in any paper, much less a peer-reviewed forum. The mystery built with each test. The object was made of an amorphous polymer, very hard, extremely durable, incredibly heat-resistant. Its NMR spectra were breathtakingly simple. Had I not known its origin, I would have thought it a new material, manufactured to specifications I did not think possible. I was convinced that it was a hoax, either played upon me by the student or upon the student’s grandfather by a coworker so long ago. Until I had it X-rayed. The film showed that inside was encapsulated a squat cylinder - like a disk - obviously machined, about 5 millimeters thick and 25 millimeters across.
Fortunately, I had not let anyone else in on my project. The student probably thought the curio still in my drawer. I locked the door to a small room off my main lab and proceeded to extract the disk-shaped piece. It took several carbide-tipped drill bits and circular saw blades to access the interior of the lump, and a noxious concoction of acid and solvents to soften it enough that at last, by taking great care, I approached the solid inclusion. The disk appeared to be metal. Luckily it was seemingly unaffected by the acid, and after a couple of months of tedious manipulation, I had cleaned it of the last traces of its shell. Long before that moment, my doubts had evolved to wonder. The first bit of the disk’s surface that I uncovered had been shiny as a newly silvered mirror, yet not quite mirrorlike. And in the SEM image, I saw why: the surface was etched with pits, quite clearly formed and patterned in some systemic fashion. This was unmistakable. It was information. I don’t fashion myself a genius, but luckily, the evidence was not opaque. This was a recorded media, a form of CD unlike anything on the market or in development. The dimensions of the pits were such that they could only be resolved by an X-ray, which meant that if my hypothesis was sound, this disk could not have been recorded or played by any technology I could get my hands on. But I did have access to an old scanning elecron microscope, so I could take snapshots of the pits, one minute area at a time. After a maddeningly long while, I had moved around the disk one time and had enough of the pattern to attempt decoding it. Again I was fortunate - the information was not encrypted, but was simple alphanumeric, although recorded in 16384 bit samples. Also, I began to see patterns in the grains of the metal underneath the layer which held the pits. It was only then that my final fear that this was some elaborate practical joke was banished for good. As unlikely as it was that someone could fabricate the disk, pit the surface, encase it in a polymer, and then bide their time while the punchline lay dormant in my drawer for three years, it was impossible that they would also be able to manipulate the crystal structure of the metal itself. I now believe that the information of the surface is only a minute faction of the total contained in the disk itself. The surface is like the name on the spine of a multivolume encyclopedia, but it took me four years to even begin to extract - from tens of thousands of glossy micrographs - that which follows. What came out, one letter at a time, was apparently the transcription of a verbal journal.
The individual who is speaking is someone named Birdseye. No last name so far. He is describing what must be his job, which is to repair or perhaps replace beings he calls “weasels”. These seem to be sentient beings employed as workers, though Birdseye seems to have a special loathing for them. His offhand commentary on space travel and bioengineering are clearly from our future. I have struggled long and hard with this part. My scientific skepticism remains intact and uncompromised, so my conclusion is based on extraordinary evidence. I now believe with all my being that this is an artifact from our future, the future of this planet Earth of this timeline. Not from a parallel universe or from some other world coincidentally resembling our own. I have not yet found anything on the disk or in the description so far which dates it to the year, but I estimate that it is at least six decades away based on the technology of the disk and of the narrative, certainly no more than eight or nine decades based on the evolution of the language. So how did it come to be in my hands? More than that, how did it come to be in a vein of coal, the youngest of which are tens of millions of years old? The outer layer of the polymer has obviously been through some cataclysm of heat and pressure. I thought at first that it was due to aging processes, but now I think it is more due to some event which resulted in its displacement - yes, through time - into our past. The energy necessary for that I cannot even begin to imagine, nor the effect of that energy if it were expressed anywhere near us in space. This is my charge to you. Read what I have found. See if there is any clue there, perhaps not to the identity of the individuals mentioned but to the identity of their fathers or grandfathers or to places or events. If we can pick up any thread in Birdseye’s account, we may be able to somehow steer ourselves away from whatever catastrophe it portends. I am consumed by this now. I have resolved my life to finding the answer. I know it can be done. The appearance of that black lump upon my particular desk at that particular time cannot be a coincidence. Something, someone, wants us to have this chance. Please help.