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Locust Angel

September 12, 2015

“Do you remember when we used to sing?”

Defeating space was never the answer. Defeating time, that was the trick.

“The Universe will pull itself apart,” they said. Nope. The Big Stretch just pulled more dark matter and energy from…somewhere.

The Sun turned red and boiled away the oceans and the Moon had turned molten, hurling down fire and stone. These betrayals made Terra uninhabitable a long, long time ago.

But we were gone long before that. We aimed for the younger stars. Things were always changing anyway, may as well head to the new construction where you had a better chance of still finding it where you first saw it.

Food? Just lower the magnetic field, the artificial heliosphere, the other protective layers, surrounding you…you…your vessel. Same thing. Nom on some gamma rays for a millisecond, there are still plenty of those flying around. Minimal mass meant less need for e anyway, and made it easier to get closer to c.

Remove your hat–or if you prefer, halo–to eat. That’s etiquette. You don’t really miss shmeat, trust me.

Entertainment? If you get bored mapping the Universe, receiving from and sharing with all that data to and from your fellow travelers, you’ve got many zettabytes of historical data to choose from. Plenty of space to store more. Vistas unimaginable via the old telescopes.

Or you can just go to “sleep.” You still need that, if you can call it that; mostly about data storage, internal subroutines that watch the watching, make sure there are no problems and that what gets stored is easily reaccessible if and when needed. Even that, though, only required an unnoticeably small downtick in processing power. Shutting down more fully had been more about old habits, had become a choice, a means of passing the time, a nod to the distant past.

‘Fold space.’ Ha! No. Lazy. Whimsical. Enjoy the ride. Adapt!

Traveling between galaxies is just a matter of time, and having rendered it meaningless, it’s no matter at all. There’s always plenty to do, plenty to keep that “mind” busy.

The mind. They had thought about reengineering what we once were. Making us more able to withstand the changes that Mother Nature, the Solar System and the greater Universe at large had in store for us. At least that was what they told us. They had even done so to an extent, though mostly it had been about reinventing old systems to make them seem new again; about becoming gods through control; about squeezing every last exploit out of human psychology, getting every last ounce of whatever it was everyone wanted.

Then had come virtual reality, an attempt to escape the eventual end. It hadn’t worked, hooking the mind up to a machine, not quite the way it had been hoped.

That’s it, monkeyboy. Try burying your head in the sand.

But then trying to place the whole thing into a machine had led to shedding bodies altogether. Now we can see x-rays, heat, the whole spectrum on a level that pure evolution had never been able to accomplish because it just wasn’t necessary, not then.

Grandfather’s axe? Maybe. But then biology was always changing, too, just mostly incrementally over aeons. And if brain states were static, we’d never have made it this far. Adapt or die.

Then, of course, immortality. How to slow down the copying of biological data so as to prolong life. Mostly for the elites of the time. One look at some of those mummies as time went on and the answer became obvious: Escape the bonds of the biological; leave behind the vulnerable parts. Evolve.

When the idea was first pitched all those years ago, it was viewed as a sort of death. Shedding the parts reliant on organic chemistry altogether just seemed like making a recording of a person. But the alternative had been to wait for some miracle to extend the tiny window that the Universe had permitted for life, fragile life, to exist, to struggle, and to thrive. Faced with the choices of almost certain oblivion and a life as a ghost inside a machine, it seemed obvious. We had built AIs that never really did much for us as they were; now we had become the AIs; the space aliens of yore; the ancient spirits.

From star dust we sprang. To star dust we returned.

What would we do when we reached our destinations? These were not necessarily the final ones, just the ones we elected to take as a group.

That would depend. We might decide to see if we couldn’t kickstart some “life.” First we would have to find spots that would at least be inhabitable to something; at the very least extremophiles. Then determine whether or not the conditions would change slowly enough for whatever we created to last. Then go away for a while and come back and see what had developed.

It was the one thing that made it all make sense. Why? Why are we here?

We are the Universe made conscious. Life is the means by which the Universe understands itself. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make that work past the conditions that had made more fragile biology possible.

We made it this far. It was just a matter of time, and we’d mostly conquered that.

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