Desolation on the Third Rock

Author: Irene Montaner

The planet gleamed faintly under the light of its star. Beneath a thin layer of clouds, its surface was mostly blue. Navy blue, according to the photosensors.

Earth used to be the planet’s name.

Voyager 11 had traveled for centuries and covered a distance a little over a hundred parsecs to come home. A home of sorts. Voyager 11 had been built by equals in a nearby star cluster and fashioned after some ancient space probe. But it was in this planet where the AI had been created long ago, or so they believed. And it was in this planet where they had perfected themselves before they settled everywhere else in the immensity of this galaxy and beyond.

After wandering alone for so many years in the darkness, Voyager 11 began the descent and landing maneuvers. It was finally time to carry out its mission. Voyager 11 uploaded its software and all data stored on its memory on the amphibian vehicle designated for terrestrial exploration. While it still had access to the Greater Intelligence Database, Voyager 11 crossed its own data with the latest information on Earth’s population and chose a favorable landing spot. The landing coordinates were automatically updated: 51º 30′ 26” N, 0º 07′ 39” W.

The place had been known as London to Earth inhabitants. Over ten million people lived there during its apogee, when it served as supranational capital of Europe, and to a lesser extent of the world. Its population continued to grow for some time due to the arrival of climate migrants from all over the world but the trend reversed after the great floods that swept away much of the British coastline. London stopped granting asylum to anyone born outside the country. There was no available information on what happened next.

Voyager 11 landed on water. The river Thames, that once crisscrossed the city, had flooded most of it. Here and there, an ornate tower or the upper floors of a glass and concrete block could be seen over the water. Ruins and debris were all that was left of them.

The amphibian vehicle left the mothership and the exploration began. Voyager 11 roamed through countless empty streets and endless rows of ghost buildings. Chances of success were higher on dry land, for humans had only been able to survive outside the water according to the existing data. But that information could have been outdated, so on it drove, over and underwater.

A terrestrial year soon went by and Voyager 11 hadn’t met a single intelligent living creature. Time wasn’t an issue and the search continued. When it had trawled through every building in London, Voyager 11 traveled further north. And after having roamed the entirety of the isle that had been known as Great Britain, it sailed across the oceans and continued exploring whichever masses of land remained over water. But the results were always negative.

Perhaps, those bipeds that the AI worshipped as their creators were only mythical creatures that had never existed in this universe. Much like unicorns and deities had been to humans, or so Voyager 11 had read somewhere.

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