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The Voyage

In the abyss of Wild Space, a lone scout ship drifts through the endless black ocean of sprinkled stars and systems. The ship is Unit 1782-­‐A, one of many sent out from the planet Dren. It’s coated in a polished silver-tone, reflecting the stars and planets it passes. Two cybernetic androids pilot the ship, Luxri, and Yufu. Their physicality is efficient, each balancing square metallic heads on bulky frames. Exposed wires creep in and out of their joints, connecting to flickering screens on their heads, chests, and backs. They sit on opposite sides of the cockpit, each attending to their own controls. They speak in an almost human dialect.

“Cruising at 25 parsecs, we’re not breaking any records here,” Luxri reports.

“Since when do we have a deadline?” Yufu replies. Luxri turns his head over to Yufu. “No sass, it’s only been 2,264 rotations since we left, there’s no need to burn fuel faster than the allotted schedule allows.”

“It was only a comment, brother. No need to give me an entire report on the situation.” Yufu replies.

“Oh, were you telling me a joke?” asks Luxri.

An awkward silence falls on them like a wet blanket.

“Yes, yes I was” answers Yufu in a sarcastic tone, fearful of another lecture.

Luxri laughs softly. “Oh, very amusing brother.” he says. Yufu nods and turns back to his console. Luxri does the same.

The ship continues its drift. It passes through a small field of asteroids, dodging each with slow, elegant precision. The pilots bicker inside.

“What do you think the others have found?” asks Luxri.

“Most likely the same as we have, lots of nothing” answers Yufu. Luxri reads some data from his monitor. An array of charts and graphs paint the display, strange languages fill the screen as Luxri effortlessly navigates through the complex menus. “That’s not a great attitude to have, think about how many of us they sent out on this run. The chances are much higher now than they were with the original Aquali missions,” says Luxri.”

““Yes, but not by much. You must stay realistic, brother. Space is the largest thing in existence. We could have a billion other sister ships out there and the likelihood of finding intelligent life would still be slim.” Replies Yufu, staring coldly at the controls of the ship. Luxri stays silent; he navigates his menus slower now. Some of the spark has left his robotic eyes.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he says quietly.

Yufu hears the melancholy in his brother’s voice. He relents.

“I mean, that’s what the odds tell us, but we’ve been lucky before. No one thought we’d ever be able to travel this far 30,000 cycles ago, yet here we are. We’ve traveled farther into the void than any of our ancestors. That’s not a feat to be ignored,” he says. Luxri perks up a bit.

“That’s true, we are on the forefront,” Luxri says. “I hope that it is us that makes first contact. Then they’ll remember us.”

Yufu replies, “Yes, that would be nice.”

The ship travels on, leaving the cluster of rocks.

Luxri and Yufu sit in boredom, all of their maintenance for the day is finished, nothing to do but admire the stars.

“What do you think they’d look like?” asks Luxri. “Who do you mean?” says Yufu.

“The aliens, the other beings. What do you think they’ve evolved to look like?” “Possibly similar to us I suppose,” replies Yufu.

“Well, what if they didn’t. What if the gravity on their worlds was weaker than ours? So they would have no need for bodies like ours. Maybe they’re made of liquid or even flesh like the fossils once were on Dren so long ago? Asks Luxri.

“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself,” says Yufu.

“Or maybe they’ve evolved into some sort of liquid or plasma, like the kind they eat at home.” continues Luxri.

“Nobody eats plasma on Dren, what gave you that impression?” asks Yufu.

“I’ve seen the Carthologians eat it, they can eat mountains of it in one sitting!” says Luxri.

“Yes, but they don’t eat it because they’re hungry, they eat it because they’re bored. And the plasma makes them okay with being that way. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it gives you any sort of magical energy or powers because it does not.

“It’s simply a way for higher ranking units to pass the time,” barks Yufu.”

“Meanwhile, a blip comes on a monitor nearby, but neither robot notices. “So, I shouldn’t drink it?” asks Luxri.

“If you want to end up a muddled scrap pile, then be my guest. I’m not your guardian,” replies Yufu.

“Okay, brother,” says Luxri.

The blip seems to detect a faint, slow-moving object a few light-­‐years ahead. It quickly disappears, going unobserved.

A chirping sound is heard from the console. It’s a message from central command, requesting a progress report from the pilots.

“I’ll take this one,” says Yufu. A stale, female voice is heard from the COM.

“Unit 1782-­‐A, please provide your mission report for Cycle 2,264,” it commands. “This is Unit 1782-­‐A, as of this time, we have nothing new to report,” says Yufu. The COM goes silent for a few seconds.

“Confirmed. Please continue with your voyage and await further instructions.” the COM says. The brothers sit in silence. Luxri feels the scrape of disappointment, shrugs it off, and continues his work. His brother watches him for a moment, then follows suit.

Cycle 2,658. The ship passes by an enormous star in some unknown system.

The vessel looks like a pebble as its shadow drifts across the incredible sight, the flaming ball of gas towering over it. A sight like this would put any sentient being on their knees in pure awe of the glory that is the Universe.

Meanwhile, the robots inside the ship play a chess-­‐like game, completely ignoring the spectacle, as they’ve seen lots of them already.

“Your move, brother.” says Luxri. Yufu examines the game board. It is a circular board with different platforms populated with carious shiny pieces. The pieces appear to be strange monsters, some with wings, some that appear ocean-dwelling, some grotesque, and some cute. It appears the higher you get your piece on the platforms, the closer you are to winning. Luxri appears to have the upper hand; Yufu takes his time in his move. He touches a piece and sends it to a higher platform. The piece comes to life and moves up the platform. Yufu then makes a gesture to the piece, and it crouches.”

“Red Guardian to AA2, in defense mode.” Yufu declares. “Playing defensively, brother? That’s unusual.” Luxri quips. “Just make your move” Yufu replies.

Luxri makes another gesture to one of his pieces. It jumps to the side and fires a rocket from its mouth. The rocket flies across the board and hits the Red Guardian. “Activated Salander’s trap move, Wild Flare!” Luxri announces excitedly. The Red Guardian collapses and disappears from the game board. Yufu scratches his metallic head in frustration.

“Your move.” says a smug Luxri.

The two continue playing, silently at first. Luxri has a thought. “Hey, brother. Can I ask you something?” Luxri asks.

“Sure,” Yufu replies.

“Back home on Dren, why do they keep shutting off the outer mass factories? First it was on the Island of Drax, then on Paut, and now I’m hearing that they’re stopping all production in Doby. Why would they want to bring the population to such a standstill?”

Yufu stares at his brother, thinking of the right way to answer. “Perhaps it’s a precautionary measure.” Yufu answers. “Precaution for what?”

“Lack of resources I’d assume,” Yufu says. 

“What do you mean?”

The figurines keep moving, Salander moves up a platform while Yufu summons a new creature, a knight with heavy guns, Damer.

“Those outlying countries are very poor, so they can’t sustain a society efficiently anymore, so the Grand Masters must believe that eliminating new unit production will keep them afloat for a little while longer,” Yufu says.

“But isn’t that only a temporary solution? What of the units already in poverty?” asks Luxri

“They will be deactivated I suppose.” Yufu answers.

Damer fires its weapon at Salander, destroying it. Damer moves up a platform. “What if the inner countries start shutting down production?” asks Luxri.”

“I doubt it’s that bad, Luxri.” Yufu says.

“Are you sure? What if the Grand Masters know something we don’t?”

“You won’t know anything if you keep asking questions like that! It will get you deactivated!” yells Yufu, scaring his brother.

Luxri stays quiet. Yufu apologizes.

“I’m sorry, I should not have snapped at you,” Yufu says. “It’s okay, I understand,” replies Luxri.

They continue playing

“Imagine that’s already happened to the other societies,” says Luxri. “What do you mean?” asks Yufu.

“Suppose we find a world, and it is habitable for us, but we see that whatever lived there before had the same problem we’re having? Overpopulation. Maybe they stopped producing as a means to extend their existence on the planet only to run it dry of resources? It’s plausible, don’t you think?” says Luxri, in a heavy tone.

Yufu stares at his brother and then makes his move. Damer moves up a platform and sets off a trap from Luxri’s side. A small quake buries him under the board. “Then we study the grave, make our report, and move on,” Yufu says. Salander moves up one more space to the top of the board. Luxri’s team is declared victorious. Luxri’s indifference drowns out the celebration.

“I’m sure they will be there. After all, we are.” Luxri says.

“Maybe they are looking up at their own sky, wondering if we’re looking down on them.” Yufu remarks.

The two nod at each other. They press a button and start a new game. The ship has only now cleared the sight of the star.

It’s resting time for the brothers. They have plugged themselves in to the main console and have shut down. They sit straight, but completely asleep until the scheduled start up time. A blip appears on the monitor, the same as before. It’s still faint, but it’s slightly closer now. Outside, the ship traverses a half-destroyed planet, pieces of it splintering off into space, the apparent victim of a planetary collision.

Back in the ship, the blip disappears.

“Cycle 3,194, the ship has traveled vast and far, but no contact with other worlds has been made. The robot brothers truck on, holding fast to their mission. Surprisingly, conversation pieces remain in high volume.

“So, you’re telling me that if you had the chance to link with one of the Carthologian units, you wouldn’t do it?” yells Yufu.

“Correct, brother,” answers Luxri

“What’s your logic behind that?” Yufu asks.

“Well, I have respect for them, plus it’s not about lineage for me, it’s the quality and connectivity. I wouldn’t want to link with an incompatible unit.” Luxri answers. “Okay, but what if it was only a one-time deal? Just link once, download the software and applications, and be done with it?” Yufu asks again.

“Well, isn’t that like stealing?” “Not if she approves it”

“Well, if she has good applications I suppose I could be convinced” Yufu holds back motorized laughter.

“So, you’re saying you have to be the one who approves, not the other way around?!” Yufu blurts.

“Correct again brother, you’re on a roll.” Luxri answers. Yufu laughs and returns to his controls.

“Creators be praised, you have some self-­‐esteem,” Yufu says. “Since when did you believe in the Creators?” Luxri asks.

“I don’t. It was a figure of speech.” Yufu answers. “Oh, but why don’t you believe in the Creators?” “What?”

“Why don’t you believe in the Creators?” asks Luxri. “Why are you asking me that?” says Yufu.

“I’m just passing the time, brother,” says Luxri. Yufu hesitates to answer, as he knows how unyielding and intricate Luxri’s questioning can become, and he knows all too well how easy it is to upset him.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t wish, brother,” says Luxri.

“Well, it’s because it’s illogical,” says Yufu.”

“Illogical?” asks Luxri

“Yes, it’s illogical to believe that the Creators made our world, built our code, and programmed our ancestors.” Yufu declares.

“Well, who did?”

“No one, that’s exactly the point, No one created us, we just…appeared. Due to evolution or necessity or dumb luck, our race simply evolved from the primitive species that first walked Dren. There’s no magic or creation to it. That’s what I believe.” Yufu says. Luxri stays quiet, buffering his brother’s answer. Yufu says nothing.

“Okay.” Luxri replies. “Okay, what?” says Yufu

“Okay, that’s why you don’t believe in the Creators.” “What did you want me to say?”

“Doesn’t matter,” says Luxri. “No, tell me!” yells Yufu

“Why, you’ll just disprove me. Just be happy with being right, brother.” Luxri says in a quieter voice. A tense silence follows the exchange. The deafening sound of space, machines, and computer beeps suffocate the two.

“I’m sorry I’ve upset you.” Yufu relents to his brother. “It’s alright, brother,” says Luxri.

“What about you?” asks Yufu. Luxri looks over at his brother, staring him down with heavy lights for eyes, afraid to speak.

“I do,” he says.

“Why? Asks Yufu. Luxri takes another pause, longer this time as if to stall for any sort of cosmic entity to stop him from answering.

“Well, I like believing in something, brother.” he says. “Something?” says Yufu

“Yes, as far as we know we’re the only intelligent beings in the Observable Cosmos. And now that we’re out here, in Wild Space, where none of our kind has gone before, it gives me perspective I suppose. It makes one realize how little is known about the universe, or how little we know about the existence or the sense of being for that matter.” says Luxri. Yufu stares down at his controls, perplexed by his brother’s words.

“There’s so much to discover about the vast space we live in, but even more about ourselves.”

“What do you mean?” asks Yufu.

“Don’t you ever wonder what happens to us after we shut off, Yufu?” asks Luxri. “I’ve always believed that once we were shut off, that was it. Kind of how it was like before we came online, nothingness, non-­‐thought,” says Yufu

“How can you imagine that?”

“I can’t,” says Yufu. “But it’s what I believe,” he adds. The brothers sit in silence, unable to swallow each other’s processes.

“I suppose we all think that, one way or another,” says Luxri. A transmission from Central Command arrives, asking for the progress report.

“Unit 1782-­‐A, please provide your mission report for Cycle 3.194,” it says coldly. “This is Unit 1782-­‐A, at this time, we have no new progress to report.” says Luxri. The COM makes some static noises before replying.

“Affirmative, we have new information pertaining to your mission.” Says the COM. The brothers lean in to listen. This is the first new piece of information in ages. “At approximately 1200 R.T., Unit 34690-­‐F was declared lost by Dren Mission Command. From our readings, it appears to have fallen victim to debris in Wild

Space. Mission Command has determined that the pilots ignored multiple warnings of the debris, and as a result, were destroyed by their own negligence. Please be advised to monitor all radar and detection systems at all times to avoid further loss of units. Also, be advised that you are now the only units traveling in your sector.

Should you find the same fate as 34690, you will have failed your mission. From Dren, and all of your kind, best of luck, and safe travels.” The COM goes dark, leaving Luxri and Yufu staring at the console. They are together and alone in this entire sector. The ship continues to drift, past a large blue and black planet, with gargantuan storm clouds swathing its surface. 

Cycle 3,195. The ship sails along with the cosmos at a normal speed. It passes a small asteroid cluster, likely remnants of a past collision. They carefully navigate the debris as they have done many times before. Luxri and Yufu work their machines.

“What do you think happened to them?” asks Luxri.

“They’ve been destroyed. Probably crushed into nothingness by the Pit created by a dying star,” answers Yufu.

“Will that happen to us?” asks Luxri.

“Not if we’re careful. We won’t make the same mistakes they did.” Yufu answers. “But they were probably careful too. Maybe their systems malfunctioned, system error.” Luxri says in a panic.

“Control yourself! Stick to your work and we’ll be fine!” yells Yufu. Just then, a loud beeping noise comes from a monitor. It’s the same blip that appeared before, except the pilots have no idea what it’s for. Luxri examines the blip.

“Brother, did you ever take note of this?” he asks. “Of what?” Yufu asks.

“The monitor. It says there was debris heading our way since 931 cycles ago!” “What??” Yufu yells. He slides over to the monitor and observes the anomaly

“It’s coming in fast! Can you scan it? Is it debris?” barks Yufu. Luxri frantically inputs numbers on the computer, trying to figure out what the object could be. The scans indicate that the object is of a foreign nature, not debris or space matter.

“Brother, it’s not debris, the computer can’t read it!” says Luxri.

“What do you mean, if the computer can’t read it then that means-­‐“ Yufu stops in his tracks. The brothers stare out of the front window of the ship. They see a faint object moving toward them at a brisk stride. It’s following a path, not like a meteor or asteroid. It seems to be heading right for them.

“Brother, what do we do?” yells Luxri. He inputs data on the computer in a panic. “What’s the protocol for this? Is it intelligent?” yells Yufu. Luxri enters some more commands into the computer.

“Let’s find out!” yells Luxri. The ship comes to life, projecting a flashing image on its

hull. It’s a series of colors and shapes, all moving in unison as if to test for a”

“response. The colors meld into a desperate greeting. The object continues to move, ignoring the message.

“It hasn’t responded!” yells Luxri.

“Should we try a gravity missile?” asks Yufu.

“No! If this is only a scout or a recreational ship, we could start a war with the only other species we’ve ever contacted!” yells Luxri.

“How are you so sure it’s from another species?” yells Yufu.

“I don’t see you coming up with any ideas!” yells Luxri. The object drifts closer and closer, not stopping it’s course.

“It hasn’t contacted us either, nor attacked us. It’s probably peaceful.” says Luxri. “We’re not going to count on ‘probably’!” yells Yufu.

“What should we do?” asks Luxri.

“Wait, wait I have an idea,” says Yufu. He takes the controls of the ship. “Override the autopilot!” he barks at Luxri.

“Are you insane!?” yells Luxri.

“Only for a moment, trust me!” yells Yufu.

Luxri complies, inputs a manual override for the ship. It displays multiple error and warning messages. He closes them all and issues to command. The controls of the ship are now entirely in Yufu’s hands.

“What are you going to do?” yells Luxri. “Save our lives!” yells Yufu.

He maneuvers the ship slightly, diving it down to avoid the entity’s path.

It is no comet. It appears gargantuan to the robots. Bizarre antennae spire out from its abnormal shape. It glides in a deafening silence. The gleam of its body appears primal and mindless, with short and ancient limbs that seem to engulf in a fire in the light of the nearest sun as if to gross power from it. The antennae grow longer, seizing out into the abyss. The ghost-white head surfaces into view, cut from the harshest of stones. A sharp and solitary eye glares deep into the ship. It comes into full view; its cycloptic head ready to swallow the vessel in one gluttonous motion. The face has no expression, no malice, and no compassion, only pale indifference to its casualties.”

“The ship dives as the object moves. The brothers brace themselves for the worst. They look at each other as if to say goodbye.

The object passes overhead; one of the antennae scraping the top of the ship. It passes over, steady on its path as if nothing occurred.

The brothers nervously look around, checking their own bodies to see if they survived. They let out cheer and embrace each other. Whatever it was, it was gone. A notification comes up from Mission Command. They answer.

“Unit 1782-­‐A, please provide your mission report for Cycle 3,195.” The brothers look at each other, unsure of what to say, still processing what’s happened. Without thinking, Luxri takes the COM.

“This is Unit 1782-­‐A, as of now…” Luxri looks over at his brother. “Nothing new to report.”

“Confirmed, please continue with your voyage and await further instructions,” the COM says as it goes black.

The brothers sit, do the robotic equivalent of exhaling loudly. They sit in silence for a moment and then return to their posts. They re-­‐activate the Autopilot, and carry on with their journey.

Out in space, the object that they so feared, the impossible beast, carries on its own mission. A peculiar marking can be seen on the side.

VOYAGER 1

NASA

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