The hulking lump of inert machinery that used to be the pride of the human race, screwed through the empty vacuum of outer space like a forgotten and slowly deflating balloon. A sole blinking red light flickered on the aft of the vessel above its redundant and silent solar driven engines, while a thin line of vapour drifted like an oil slick from an imperceptible crack in its hull.
Normally such a fissure would have been ripped open by the pressure of the atmosphere within, but the carbon nanotube outer hull laced with matted spiders’ silk was designed to withstand such a burden and the valiant last members of the crew had sealed the internal bulk heads before the entirety of the ships atmosphere could escape.
Rows of motionless antennae and radio survey equipment studded the flanks of the colossus. Their springs of curious electronic pollution had long since dried up and with them so had the chances of the ship ever getting spotted by an intelligent observer. It was a dark silent object in a dark silent wasteland.
The inside of the ship was just as bleak. With all its lights cold and computer terminals dead, it was nothing more than a catacomb of empty corridors and cavernous baron rooms. The only sound was the occasional creak from tiring supports and the howl of cascading winds running free along the passageways.
It was here, amid the maze of technology, where the Human race had been given its death sentence. While the last member of the species, a young teenager by the name of Jarrad, had not in fact died aboard, to all intents and purposes it was on this ship where he heard the final death rattle. And, with no bodies aboard and the purification filters forced into overdrive in the last desperate attempt, it was not just the human species that had died. Nothing of the life which had once plagued planet Earth survived. Not one microbe or strain of virus had managed to escape Time’s ever decaying grip.
As the batteries drained and the wires burnt out, the computer systems turned off, one by one. In truth, ninety per cent of them were already damaged beyond repair before Jarrard’s end, and the ones which were still operating at the time of his passing, like the purification filters, were running at such a high level that they had had little hope of lasting beyond a decade.
It had been thirty thousand years.
And still the little red light blinked. Somewhere inside this hunk of scrap materials something was still working, something had survived.
When the decision to abandon the doomed earth had first been declared, the designers of the first galactic ships thought of the giant vessels as bodies and, in many ways, the resemblance was obvious. Each part of the ship was designed with a unique function, yet each section worked together in a symbiotic relationship that ensured complicated tasks could be performed by the unit as a whole.
So when they had come to design the computer system which would govern the ship, the engineers had subconsciously decided on a central computer mainframe, a brain for the ship’s body. It was housed in the heart of the vessel for protection and, this magnificently powerful computer, controlled every function of the ship and co-ordinated all the efforts of each individual section and system.
However, much like the human body, when something went wrong with the brain, something went wrong with everything. The first few galactic ships were prone to universal melt downs and, after GCS Alexander suffered a major computer malfunction and instantly opened all of its airlocks and interior doors resulting in the loss of all hands, it was decided a new strategy needed to be devised.
The new and last ship’s design still took their inspiration from nature but this time, rather than modelling them as a whole body, they mimicked the structure of the brain itself. Systems were simplified but all interconnected, so, in theory, even if a part of the ship was damaged other similar systems would have the ability to take control of some of the damaged functions. This new style of architecture required each basic module to be adaptable and as such the billions of relays sown throughout the ship were given the most basic ability to re-write their procedures to adapt to the needs of their goal. This meant, if a particular wire or power source became un-useable, each individual relay would be able to adjust how it operated to utilise other routes or batteries so they could still acquire the desired outcome.
The ship’s dark hull slowed in its rotation slightly as its hefty body got caught in the far bigger mass of a distant star. The light blinked slightly faster as the rotation speed changed but then once again resumed its steady rhythmical flash. The light had been part of the ships outer illuminations, carefully colour coded to help docking shuttles recognise the orientation of the vessel. The minor system which had governed its use was a simple relay that bounced a signal off the ships engine’s computer systems; if any engines were on, the light would turn on. If all were turned off, the light would turn off.
Sometime in the thirty thousand years that had passed; a small electrical current had rippled along one of the wires and had hit the relay, turning the light on. However, the batteries were running on empty and quickly the residual energy started to wane. The relay detected the dwindling power and sent a second signal to the power supply requesting more energy. The power supply’s system, a similar relay to the light’s, fired a signal back to the engines saying it needed to be charged. The engines tried to fire, causing a small amount of energy to surge back to the power supply and also prompting the signal for the light to turn on again. This process repeated itself, again and again and again.
As the ship rolled and twisted through space, it would occasionally bisect magnetic fields and as this happened, the frequency of the light would change as its energy signals slowed or sped up. However, after a short time it would slowly normalise itself back to its regular rhythm; the last heart beat of planet earth.
As the circuit warmed its wires, the engine’s faltering attempts to start up began to supply a small amount of surplus energy. This built up within the battery, but the power supply’s relay still only offered the light the same amount of energy.
The battery was actually one of a cluster, each with their own individual relays, all interlinked. Only this battery seemed to have any life left in it and, even with the engines small amount of surplus, it would not fill up for millennia and so it seemed none of the others would ever be required. Yet, maybe due to a random error in its code or purely a self-learnt failsafe mechanism, the power supply relay suddenly dumped all the surplus energy it contained into a neighbouring battery.
This caused the second battery’s relay to fire, turning on a small white light on the starboard side of the massive ship. The white light quickly dwindled and its relay sent a request to the engines, which in turn caused them to start splitting their power between the two lights.
Two blinking lights on a spaceship of billions. Two random pinpoints of interest in a sea of black. Two circles of cause and effect where there had previously been only one.
As the empty carcass of mankind’s last achievement drifted pointlessly through space, it blinked silently at the universe; a flickering of circles and simple programmed motives the universe had seen somewhere before.