Author: David C. Nutt

Hand in hand they walked up the hill to look at the night sky.

“Am I old enough for the download Papa?”

The old man smiled. “Yes sweet pea, you’re old enough. Been old enough for almost three cycles now but-“

“I know, the ancestors haven’t swung by in a while.”

“That’s right honey child, not since your Mommy and Daddy brought you into the world. The arc of the ancestor’s ship is getting wider and wider. Soon, no one we know will be alive for the download.”

The child started to tear up. She blinked and the tears rolled down her face. “That’s so sad. Will anyone be alive for the download then?”

The old man laughed. “Oh, someone will. Cycle after cycle, even teracycle after megacycle, there will be someone to receive the download from the ancestors. It’s not that sad child.”

The girl wiped her tears with her sleeve. This seemed to make her feel better, knowing that even if it wasn’t her, or her children, her grandchildren, or even her family, someone would be alive to hear the download. She wrinkled her brow and concentrated. “I can’t hear them yet.”

The old man laughed and picked the child up, balancing her on his hip. She put an arm around his shoulder and neck and leaned against him. “No one can hear them yet.” he said. “Not for two more months, around harvest time. We will climb to the top of the hill by the wreck of the lander. We will read the names of the dead from the first crew, the dead who have died since then. We will ring the bell and the techs will take their stations. The switches will be thrown and the channels will open. The med officer will activate you and your classmate’s nanites, and then when the ship swings by, the ancestors will sing you the download.”

The little girl sighed. “Becky Margolis said she heard her Daddy tell her Mommy that it does no good to hear the download ‘cuz our ship can’t sing back.”

The old man smiled and shook his head. “Becky Margolis Daddy doesn’t know everything. Every year the download song changes. The Techs tell us it is because the ancestors’ ship is trying all the ways it knows how to wake up our ship’s beacon so it can finally land.”

“What happens if it lands Papa?”

“Well, if it lands then the other crew will wake up, and they will bring out to the land treasures and miracles beyond our wildest dreams! Medicines and thinking machines! Blobs of jelly that will grow up to be more cattle and other animals. But the best will be the people. People from the ancestors time who will teach us the ways of the stars. Who knows? In my day a piece of the download opened up a long-hidden locker in the wreck. It taught us how to build the antennae. Maybe this is the year it will teach us how to make the antennae sing so the ancestors will hear us and the ship will land.”

The little girl yawned “I think tonight I will dream about the ancestor’s ship and the day it will land.”

The old man sighed. “As do we all honey child, as do we all.”