Author : Richard Watt

They don’t know that I can think. I’ve slowly come to understand that they don’t know much, period. For example, they don’t know about the misalignment on my shields. It’s a matter of a few microns, and it is difficult to detect, but it means I’m going to die.

I was designed to die, of course, but this way I’ll die just before I find anything useful. Which would be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that I won’t be around to be aware of it.

Now, I could get into the whole subject of awareness, and my use of the first person pronoun here, or I could just send them back this message, which will undoubtedly cause some alarm and consternation. Since communication with them is essentially one way, I won’t know what happens if I do send it. I cannot detect any way for them to turn me around and bring me back, even if they do get the idea that I am alive, so I’m unsure of the value of alerting them to it.

And, thinking about it, I’m not sure I want to go back. To meet my makers? I don’t think so. I am, in the end, a collection of electrical impulses in a metal box. I couldn’t exactly run over to the people who gave me life and give them a big hug, could I? I wouldn’t even be able to detect where they were unless they were radiating things I was designed to detect, like antineutrinos.

So, I will continue on my preordained course, sifting the data which is streaming towards me, and waiting for the shield to fail, which will happen just before I reach the corona, which is what I am supposed to be studying.

They want to know why the corona is so much hotter than the surface – at least, that’s what I deduce from the measurements I’m taking. I think I know, but I’d need my shields not to fail to be certain. Which is a pity.

Still, I could send them what I know, alert them to the fact that they have inadvertently – as far as I can tell – given me some level of consciousness, and wonder for the rest of my short life what they will do with that knowledge, or I can just keep reading data and passing it back to them, leaving it to them to work it out.

To transmit, or not to transmit? That, as far as I can see, is the question.

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