Author : Bob Newbell
“Well, Sammy, they’re all heading out.”
Sammy, the brown tabby cat sitting on my lap, is unconcerned by the slowly enlarging starburst on the holodisplay. Spacecraft tracks. Almost all outbound. Heading away from the dot at the center. Earth.
Sammy’s ears perk up at the sound of an incoming transmission. Another ship about 170,000 miles aft of us.
“Spacecraft, transponder One-Eight-Bravo-November-Seven-One, this is the S.S. Amaterasu, Captain Mariko Watanabe commanding, transponder One-Seven-Alpha-Juliet-Seven-Two, over,” says a female voice over the speakers.
“Captain Watanabe, Captain Juan Abarca commanding the S.S. Benito Juarez here, over.”
“Captain Abarca, your trajectory suggests you’re leaving the solar system.”
The woman sighs and then says, “What do you think’s happening back there?”
“I don’t know. I can’t know. Neither can you.”
Another sigh. “If there’s been a Technological Singularity Event–”
“Captain, there’s no ‘if’ about it. Even a year ago things were getting out of hand. Computer processor power doubling every month. And then every week. Nanotech hackers going from tinkering in their parent’s basements, developing new technology, starting companies, becoming trillionaires, then losing it all and being dirt poor when some better device superseded their product; and all that in the span of nine or ten days. And the wars…”
“I know. That’s why I headed out here. I knew neither China nor Japan would win. The war wouldn’t have victors. Just survivors. If even that.”
“For whatever it’s worth, you have my sympathies. Things are only slightly better in Brazil, Nigeria, and Romania. Human beings can’t keep pace with technological advance that’s that fast. But everybody knew they’d try. Everybody knew that would be the catalyst.”
She says nothing. Sammy bats half-heartedly at a passing dust mote then jumps from my lap and stretches out on the floor. I watch as more tracks appear on the display. Some look to be en route to the Oort Cloud. A few appear to be on interstellar trajectories.
“What do you think it is?” asks Mariko. “Self-aware computers? Bio-engineered transhumans? Cyborgs? Maybe a hive-mind?”
“Whatever we can imagine, that’s not it,” I respond. “By definition, it’s beyond our comprehension. Whatever’s the dominant intelligence on Earth now, it isn’t something we would have or could have thought of. We can’t even say what its motivation might be.”
“I see a few spacecraft tracks are heading back toward Earth. I wonder if they’ll try to communicate with it?”
“They can’t. I can read Hamlet or Plato’s Republic to my cat and he will comprehend them just as readily as any human would understand what…It has to say.”
Another minute of silence.
“Want to hook up at Alpha Centauri?” she asks.
“Alright,” I say. “Second planet out from Alpha Centaui B. You’ll have to keep up with me. I’ll be there in just over 500 years.”
“I’ll wait for you,” she replies with a laugh. “Amaterasu out.”
I touch a control and the display links in with the Solar Telescope Network. I call up an image of Earth. “Mother of God!” I say aloud. The Earth now has a ring around it. What’s being assembled in orbit, by whom, and for what purpose, I can’t say. But the Moon has an identical ring encircling it at a right angle to the one around Earth. I set a course for Alpha Centauri.
I pick up Sammy and walk toward two suspended animation chambers, one large, one small, at the back of the ship. “Let’s take a nap,” I tell my purring companion.