Author : David Stevenson

“Once there was a ship, travelling through space. There was a terrible accident. The reason for this is not important. What is important is that one man got suited up in time and was able to survive the immediate aftermath of the ship’s destruction.

Of course, he now had bigger problems. The priorities of anyone lost at sea haven’t changed since antiquity; find the largest piece of wreckage, and head for the nearest landmass. The AI inside the suit looked around itself in the first few milliseconds of booting up and immediately burned the smallest amount of fuel necessary to grab onto a large piece of wreckage, and then burned another small amount of fuel to nudge its course in the direction of a convenient stellar system. The reasons for this are twofold. If rescue comes quickly then they can more easily find a survivor attached to a large object and heading for a logical destination. Should rescue come not at all, then at least you have a large lump of metals and plastics to play with, and you’re heading for a source of energy.

It should be stressed that this was not some government issue, special order, experimental suit. This was an ordinary, off-the-peg, standard issue suit which could be bought for a modest sum by anyone who wanted one. This fact will be very important later on.

There was no rescue, or, if there was, it was too late to make any difference. After a short while the suit conferred with its occupant and they went into hibernation mode.

Have you any idea how long you might drift in these circumstances before coming across a handy stellar system? It’s all been worked out. Going at those sort of speeds, pointing in a random direction, and in that part of the galaxy you’re looking at tens of millions of years. If you get lucky and end up travelling towards the nearest star, maybe just ten thousand. It took half a million years before this suit came close enough to a star to wake up and start repairing the damage of the centuries.

It took another few thousand years to loop around the star in huge cometary orbits and eventually end up in the asteroid belt, close enough to collect solar radiation, and with a plentiful supply of raw materials.

Solar panels, microwave emitters, ion drives. It’s amazing what you can do with a determined AI, emergency nano-manufactories, and a lot of time. You can build a simple spaceship, which only really needs some basic propulsion and a big heat shield, and then you can land on the nearest planet, while the hardware you left in orbit beams down power and launches manufactured goods at you.

Again, I should stress that this was a standard survival protocol, in a standard suit.

The occupant of the suit awoke to a new world. Every human need was catered for. The bio-vats had come online just before he was woken up, and the next twenty humans were due to be born, fully adult, and with personalities supplied from the vast storage capabilities of the suit’s AI.

Within a few centuries the entire planet was habitable and occupied and these new humans spread outwards once more.

Every other race who tried to conquer us announced their intentions and turned up with a huge fleet of ships. Not only did your people seize half the planets in this sector, they did it by accident. This story is the one we tell our children when they ask why we kill all humans at first sight.”

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