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“Where are we?”

“How am I supposed to know? I just woke up too, silly. What do the stars say?”

“Uhmm let’s see…we’re about a couple thousand light years out from Earth, on one of the ancient Kepler Candidates. I think it’s, I thi..Holy Sh-”

“What?”

“The Initial surface scan returned signs of life”.

“Wait What!? What do you mean Life?”

“Well, it’s mostly dense vegetation. No signs of animal like life or anything like that but still, this is amazing! Mind you, this is about over a thousand years behind the latest news, but till now, the best find has only been definitive evidence of extinct microbial life. All their predictive models suggest very low probability of ever finding life. This is a super high surprisal event!”

Victor, overjoyed, performs a figurative spin with less grace than an unbalanced top. Hannah, though more focused and less animated, is even more elated by the news. They scramble to interface with the Vessel’s Intelligence, scanning radiological reports, spectrographic analyses and all manner of complex sensors. Over a few hours they arrive at a 98% probability that vegetation is the only form of life on the planet. Excitement only slightly abated, they send off a few dozen high sensor probes to orbit the planet and create higher resolution maps.

Dipping as low as 50 km above ground, the probes complete their orbital scans in just under five hours. The earlier hypothesis of vegetation only life all but confirmed, Victor and Hannah drift leisurely across their vessel’s circuits, deciding on what to do next.

“Still, this is probably the most amazing find in the history of mankind, we should hurry back and report the awesome news. Maybe we might even get a place in the history archives!” Victor says, only a bit downcast.

“I know, but I think we would be remiss not to go down and make physical contact. Just think, the first to make landfall on a planet with life, that’s sure to get us more than a footnote.”

“Perhaps, but I think you overly romanticize corporeal accomplishments.”

“And I think you’re just too frightened!”

Victor begins a retort but is unable to continue, Hannah’s remark is more correct than he’d care to admit.

“Okay, well the Vessel’s stockpiled plenty of matter but it’ll still take a few weeks to extrude a ship you can land with. And then a few months more to construct an appropriate body for you.”

“Alright, we better get going then.”

——–

Just under four thousands years ago, a large group of scientists gathered to plan a mission whose task was answering whether Humanity was truly the only Life form in the universe. One of the quickest conclusions they’d arrived at was that the best way of exploring was to literally radiate out in all directions.

Progress on that front stalled till significant discoveries were made in Propulsion, Mind Uploading, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology and Mind Compression with Error Correction technologies.

The mission was then simple. First, a few kg of light sailing drone seeds were accelerated to nearly 60% the speed of light and targeted at highly encouraging prospects. The drones would then build out Mind Receiving Stations as well as set up a general Atomic Precision Factory. On completion, these stations would beam status and initial scan reports. Discouraging results were filtered out until there were only a handful of candidates.

Brave volunteers, who would agree to the disassembly required for digitally reconstructed mind-body maps, were then necessary. Though their initial bodies were lost, once Atomically Precise Manufacturing was perfected this quickly became a non-issue. Hannah and Victor had been two early volunteers. Though they’d left before replaceable bodies, as per protocol, their 2 kg vessel had waited just over five centuries before instantiating them. In that time plans had been sent for new manufacturing improvements. The AI had itself made a handful of improvements and sent those back. All this knowledge was available to the humans by the time they’d awakened.

———

“Are you sure about this?”

“Of course. And kinda late to back out now.”

The new body stood 7 foot tall and mostly inorganic. Within it was just under 10^35 operations per second of computing power, more power than the fastest supercomputer on their departure. The proportions were human female, the aesthetics and colors more or less the same as Hannah’s.

“Wow, you’re like a demigod!”

“I run the goal systems and priorities. But most of the intelligence in this skin is not mine. If I weren’t keeping most of the thinking processes segregated from my mind, I fear I’d forget myself. Or at the very least be unable to communicate with you.”

Victor nods to himself, distracted. “Ready?”

Hannah squeezes into what is essentially a mold of her form. The ship is more a shell, carefully built to disintegrate a few hundred meters above ground. Following that, Hannah would then fall the rest of the way, slamming into the ground at a blistering hundred and nine meters per second. After her survey was complete, her body too, would self destruct upon beaming her mind back up.

“Hey incoming news! A group of Acorporeal Separatists left Earth 680 years after us for a Brown Dwarf nearly 800 light years out. They’re the furthest colonists ever, most of civilization is spread out over no more than a dozen light years.”

Hannah nods, curious but mostly impatient. “Pay attention Victor, we can go over the signal updates next year.”

“Roger that. All Systems Nominal. Let’s go!”

With that the shell closes over Hannah. The hooks dislodge and a set of tethered drone thrusters propel her into the planet’s gravitational well. Slowly at first and then ever more quickly she falls. All is silent for a moment. And then a quiet buzzing, slowly increasing to a loud rattle. The ship’s extreme heat and the intense g-forces register only as numbers at the edge of her vision. Abruptly the shading of the inner panels begin to lighten. Light slowly leaks in, sneaking in a finger, now two. Vision adjusting.

Less durable than her, the ship’s unraveling proceeds faster and faster. Suddenly the sky is clear and all is still for a moment. Clouds wispy and thin, hang motionless above her. No movement registers across the sky – not even insects – just a deep, silent blue. Hannah shifts her body to look at the ground. The trees here are less than typical for the planet. A few brushes, mostly tall grasses. As she scans, the ground quickly reaches up and..SLAM! Only a dozen seconds after leaving the shell, she lies, sprawled face down in the dirt.

“Ah, finally, you’re awake, took you 2 hours to run checks.”. Although it feels like Victor is speaking, positioned just over to her side, no audio is generated — the message is relayed directly to her mind.

“Huhm report states some sensors and a bunch of processors got knocked out. Also a few synth-muscles got displaced. Had to use backup mass to replace them all.”, Victor continues.

“So no real damage. Have to admit I was worried for a bit, even if some downtime¬†was expected.”

Hannah remains silent, still recovering.

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