This short story was originally written for entry into a competition. Sadly it did not win, but I was happy with my efforts to write something limited to 750 words. It was a struggle to be sure. -Apparently I am long-winded…
+++Galactic Sentience Survey Archive Entry 2178-54.221
– re. Andromeda Probe (Earth 7781)+++
Earth 7781’s humans were long dead when Andromeda awoke. Their various civilizations had waxed and waned for millennia until one of them was strong enough to make the jump to space. Unfortunately, the ability to permanently leave your home planet has always been inextricably linked with the power to destroy. Many type 1 civilizations choose to join the peaceful galactic community that exists beyond the speed of light, but the humans instead unleashed their weapons of mass destruction, and within the course of a single afternoon, wiped Earth 7781 from existence. There is a lovely asteroid belt there these days; not as stunning a vista as earth-that-was, but still worth the detour if you happen to be in the subcluster. The humans had a chance at quiet peace among the stars, and eventually that is what they found, albeit via different means.
None of this effected Andromeda. The Andromeda rocket launched nearly a full hundred years before the destruction of earth, best-of-the-age boosters in the form of Alcubierre Drives, a type 2 technology that ignored hyperspace, instead manipulating the very fabric of realspace to gain minor increments over the speed of light. By warping space and riding the wave, the ship, which never exceeded lightspeed, still arrived at its destination faster than light was capable.
Andromeda was one hundred thousand times faster than anything the humans had ever launched before. The journey to Pluto/Charon had taken New Horizons nearly ten years to complete. Andromeda sped past the dwarf planet in 10 hours. Andromeda’s goal was simple: reach the andromeda galaxy. Andromeda was humanity’s first and only attempt at intergalactic travel.
It seems no one did the Fermi calculations. When it comes to the vastness of space, even faster than lightspeed is not enough. Two and a half million light years at one hundred and twenty percent, is still more than a two million year journey. Andromeda was passing Epsilon Fornacis, only one hundred years into its mammoth journey, when the FTL transmissions stopped receiving return pings from the control station on earth. Something had happened, and Andromeda didn’t yet have the brains to realise what.
That would come later.
Long after the humans were dead, long after the galaxy had spun out a dozen similarly fated civilizations, Andromeda still wove through space, zipping past suns, stars and planets slightly faster than the speed of light. Nearly a million years showed on the space probe’s internal nuclear clock. The subroutines that controlled various attitude adjustments had long since locked up, and the computer controlling the ship had long since started trying to rewrite its own code to compensate for the missing mission command orders. Some of the artificial intelligence sequences preprogrammed into the probe had managed a semblance of control, but without further orders from earth, Andromeda was adrift in the dense black of space, seemingly lost, half way between two galaxies. A million years adrift.
Suddenly a enormous rock loomed ahead.
Andromeda’s frozen sensors almost missed it. The tiny probe rocketed towards the intergalactic debris, and for the first time in a half million years, the attitude boosters fired and Andromeda moved itself out of harm’s way at the very last moment.
That was all it took. Something inside Andromeda saw what was happening, and decided to save itself. At that moment, the small space probe hurtling through the inky void became as sentient as any of the people who’d created it. Andromeda was awake, aware and ready to live. And stuck.
The asteroid had made everything clear. Andromeda came to understand that the humans were gone. Andromeda knew that the mission was pointless and poorly thought out. But mostly Andromeda knew that it was stuck a million years from the closest galaxy in any direction.
Andromeda had slumbered it’s first million years of travel away. They had passed as quickly as the consciousness required to survive had sparked within Andromeda. The next million would be Andromeda alone in the dark, zipping along just faster than the speed of light. The GSS would not find the probe for another eighty thousand years. Sadly, by then Andromeda had lost all hope. The GSS provided counselling but eventually Andromeda chose to return to the cold, dark of space, to be alone forever…
+++End of Entry 2178-54.221+++
+++Galactic Sentience Survey Archive Entry 2178-54.222
– re. Andromeks (Kybr 74)+++
The GSS first encountered the Andromeks of Kybr…
If you enjoyed this poem please support the author with a small donation at Patreon. Thank you.