|Fresh meat! A Kzin examines the contents of a stasis box|
Stasis boxes are featherweight storage devices of the ancients. When active, a stasis box encloses its contents within a stasis field which suspends the passage of time. Items put into a stasis box can remain in their "present" state unchanged for millions - even billions - of years. Stasis boxes are therefore a unique window onto the very remote past.
And you have to have one to find one: a stasis box will begin to glow when it is within a few light years of another stasis box. Once in-system, deep radar (using compressed neutrinos) can then be used to "ping" the specific location of the stasis box. This is the only way to find one.
"What's Inside That Stasis Box?" Table
- Hundreds of Eyes, each no more than 1 cm in diameter.
- A ring with an unfaceted ruby gem.
- A machine-bug typewriter.
- You hear a loud shrieking whine; it's phaser set on overload.
- Space-time is folded inside the box into several Psychic Scrolls.
- An octagonal pendant on a chain. One face of the pendant depicts an open mouth with its curled tongue protruding.
- A small tablet device (apparently uncharged) and without a charger.
- Three large (10 cm in diameter) soft-shelled eggs.
- Five hundred loose sheets of paper, each apparently blank. One sheet, midway through the stack of leaves, has a hand-drawn map and numerous notations in an alien script.
- The head of a robot.
- The head of an android.
- A robot hand or heavy metal gauntlet. The "knuckles" on each finger have very fine inscriptions.
- A writhing mass of tentacles.
- A fine mist which clings to the interior of the box.
- Several dozen crumbs.
- A wooden stake covered in some grue or ichor.
- A doll-sized mummy of roughly human proportions; it is 30 cm tall.
- A set of keys.
- Eight cuboctahedrons, approximately 10 cm from side-to-side. Each item is composed of a predominantly white, grainy material (rather like granular laundry detergent) with flecks of light blue and brown matter within its matrix. If squeezed, the cuboctahedrons collapse into piles of the granular material.
- Dozens of capsules containing unknown substances.
- A small bound journal filled with notes in an alien language.
- Several ampules, each containing a colored viscous fluid.
- A knife composed of a white ceramic material. The hilt is of a polished black stone. The blade is covered with inscriptions.
- Data crystals containing star charts.
- Several hand-painted figurines. These appear to be very ancient representations of several well-known Star-Saints.
- Sonic screwdriver or machine phallus? Further investigation required.
- Data crystals with numerous DNA sequences.
- Strips of paper with hand-written quotations from ancient religious texts; the paper strips have a strong psychic residue.
- A device with a "hilt" or grip, and a round softball-sized module above the grip. The module is covered with numerous physical push-buttons.
- A matrix composed of numerous glowing gems.
The "Stasis Box" concept was invented by Larry Niven. I first encountered it in his Known Space short story, "The Soft Weapon", which served as the basis for the Star Trek animated series script for "The Slaver Weapon".