Author: David Barber

The generation ship Pilgrim was the first to set out for the worlds of Centauri. A century into the voyage, faint messages spoke of problems and conflict. After that, nothing.

A subsequent mission by the c-ship Unity revealed no trace of Pilgrim. In time, technical progress made it possible to locate the vessel, still heading outwards into the vast emptiness beyond Centauri. It had never slowed.

About the middle of the millennium, it was decided to solve this ancient mystery.


Power on self test.
Boot up.
Boot device found.

“What the—”

“Where am I?”

And, “My internal clock must be wrong.”

Then, “Ah…”

You might ask why sentient silicon would volunteer for a one-way mission. But I am the cloned copy of the blue screen AI who stayed safely behind. I need to think about this.

Meanwhile, sensors confirm I was woken because the generation ship Pilgrim is close. I have schematics so detailed that were I dropped at random anywhere inside the vessel, I could direct a colonist to the nearest toilet.

If there are any colonists. A primary goal of the mission.

But schematics do not prepare you for that kilometre-long pitted hull in the darkness, the enormous spiderweb of the Bussard ramjet – no longer working – despite those long dead zealots of redundancy.

Decelerating towards Pilgrim, I can see the asteroid that forms the nose of the vast cylinder, a shield and a resource. I am already halfway through the checklist. No radio emissions. No reply to signals. Energy output at a bare minimum for habitability.

But if I want to know more, I must don a remote and go aboard.

Or not. My original stayed behind while volunteering myself for the hazards of this mission. Yet what else am I to do? No matter how much I resent the situation forced upon me, silicon does like a puzzle.

I shall continue this log when (if!) I return.


Dust and a few bones. What happened there? Their computers crashed long ago, and someone lit cooking fires with books. But slogans and graffiti on walls were popular. There are questions I cannot answer, but these snapshots of politics in the generations after launch tell a story. Read them and decide for yourself.

100 Years After Launch
They want it back the way it was,
When Crew and Captain ate your share.
If we listened to them then
You and yours would not be here.

Year 175 After Launch
How can you be one too many?
Don’t we feast on plankton,
yeast and roachcake every day?
Don’t listen to this malthus Crew,
what they want is less of you.

238 AL
Malthists believe in progress.
Vote For No More Kwashiorkor.
Just splice the gene for cellulase
and let them eat grass.

About 300 AL
Every drop we drink was pissed by someone,
Every lungful breathed before.
It’s your protein.
Say Yes to Proposition Four,
Say Yes to Soylent Green.

Year Unknown
the cult of denial
says stars are just lights
hung in darkness to trick us…

Smash the telescopes of blasphemers!
Follow the Prophet Outside
With Joyful Singing!


The plan was to message home with my findings, then reach for the off switch. That will not happen.

This was a one way mission for a reason. Getting back to Centauri was thought impossible, but I have time, nanotech and the empty generation ship Pilgrim as a resource.

I think the media will pay for this story.

My original will hear from me personally, and there will be a reckoning.