Pre-Ruined

Author : Beck Dacus

“VEYAN! COME LOOK AT THIS!”

I looked up from my bio-sweep and bolted to the sound of Carlos’ voice, knowing that the rest of the team would follow me. After rounding a few corners of the empty city, I came upon the intern and followed his gaze to the giant, defunct construction machine. Its purpose was immediately apparent; broken treads would have held up a blocky body studded with instruments, which itself sported a mechanical arm with a 3D printing knob, laser chisel, and manipulator fingers.

“Building machine?” Mirina thought out loud. “Wow. Looks older than most of these buildings.”

“Must’ve been,” Carlos wheezed, still out-of-breath from yelling. “I think it built them.”

“Along with the aliens?” Reifa clarified.

“No, I think there’s more of them around here. I think they’re von Neumann probes.”

We all turned our heads simultaneously. Janthin was the first to speak.

“Can you back that up with anything? We can’t just guess about this.”

“Think about it! It’s what we humans thought about doing for a long time, before we got the Kicker Drives. Send out robots to build your colony beforehand, then send some people– or whatever– over to live in the new city. Once the robots are finished, they self-replicate and repeat on some other planet.”

“You still need more evidence,” Janthin retorted. “It’d be pretty interesting, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”

“Besides,” Reifa said, “It doesn’t tell us anything about the people who lived here or why they left. For some reason, neither does anything else.”

Reifa’s words made the answer hit me. “Actually, it might tell us something.”

Attention shifted to me. Their expectant looks were enough to prompt me.

“You all know that we’ve been a little frustrated for the past few days because we haven’t found anything on these aliens. No DNA except for that from the native life, no messages or writing system, no possessions, nothing. We’ve been assuming that this is because of quirks in their biology, psychology, and that they were very thorough in their evacuation. But I looked and that robot, and now it’s clicked: I don’t think anyone or anything has *ever* lived here.”

Carlos, by that time, had caught onto what I was saying. “Yeah, yeah! They sent the robots here, planning to follow them, but then they went extinct. Or lost funding. Or got bored waiting, maybe. But getting the robots to stop would have been too hard and/or too expensive, so they let ‘em do their thing. We’re standing in a city that has never held people.”

We all looked around ourselves, and the place got even creepier just then. An entire city that had never been lived in; the ultimate ghost town. I don’t know if I was being sincere or if I was just scared when I said, “Well, I think that means we’ve found everything there is to find here. Pack up the gear and prepare to rendezvous with the Aristarchus in orbit. We leave in two days.”

The crew nodded, slowly walking to their outdoor stations, looking around to avoid the ghosts of those who had never been.

Submit a Comment

Random Story :

  • Getting Old

    Author : Grady Hendrix When new Aunt Sally arrived, David …

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member

Submissions

We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact ssmith@365tomorrows.com