Sunday, 30 October 2016

07.01.2648 - Needle Found

Image Credit:
Distance: 12.01 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We’ve found them. That comes as a relief to my thoughts! We may have located the Visitors, but unfortunately they’re already on their way out of the Epsilon Indi system. From their direction, I estimate that their next destination is Beta Hydri. This star is approximately 24 light years from Earth. Although it has a similar spectral class and mass to our Sun, it is actually much larger and almost 3 times as bright.

On the positive side, they haven’t activated their drive yet. By my calculations, that still gives us a slim chance at catching them. I’m curious why they haven’t engaged their drive yet. Perhaps they are unable to do so within close proximity to a star. Although reviewing my memory revealed that they used their engines closer to Tau Ceti than they are to Epsilon Indi now.

My best guess (and I hate that I cannot perform any proper investigation of the matter) is that gravitational topography of the system is complicated by the orbiting pair of brown dwarfs. I hope that I am correct because it is that deduction which allows us the time we need to catch them. It would help if we could contact them directly in the hope that we’d interest them enough to slow, or even change their course.

We still have the high gain antenna but the mounting failed when we tried to align it to send a message. Without any working spiderbots, we cannot investigate the problem directly. It was probably unlikely that we could fix the problem due to our lack of stores, but I would like to have tried. We can reorient the Venti, but again we’re limited in our options. We’re relying on the sail for our propulsion and any manoeuvring, and our angle of approach would be compromised by trying to face the Visitors’ course. On our current trajectory, we will enter a suitable orientation in around 6 weeks time. I don’t like it, but I’ve decided that we will have to wait for that opportunity.

I have the core of the message ready to send, but even in my reduced capacity I have continued to refine it. It uses the same format as their communication with the Cetians and their transmission to us. The key difference here is that the Cetians were more open with their message. The Visitors revealed little in their transmission except their purpose, which makes constructing a first contact protocol challenging.

Originally I followed the Cetian example and built an open message outlining our mathematics and science. Since my last awakening, I have amended that plan and the message is now more circumspect. I made sure to include our own encounter with the Sun Dragon which should identify the common purpose between us. Part of the reason for this change is my own reduction in capability. I currently lack my customary intellect and that would slow my response to any problem.

We’re just about holding together here and I can’t help but wonder if that is somehow degrading my decision making.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

28.12.2647 - Bursts in the Sky

Distance: 12 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

The Venti probe’s operational effectiveness continues to degrade and we still haven’t located our objective yet. I believe the Visitors are heading towards the Epsilon Indi system’s main star and are obscured by its glare. Up until now, that had just been a theory. Two days ago, the star’s luminosity restored to a fraction below its normal level. With our damaged sensors, we still couldn’t observe directly, but we did record three gamma ray bursts that matched the energy profile of those we detected on our approach to Tau Ceti.

This has to be the Visitors! The three bursts didn’t occur at once. There were two in quick succession, followed by the third several hours later. I’m curious as to why one of the Sun Dragons needed 2 bursts – maybe it was farther away.

My reduced capacity is proving to be a burden. I’ve achieved no notable progress with the Cetian data since leaving Tau Ceti. I can’t even dedicate any processing to the trove that remains untranslated. There’s so much to be learned there and it goes against my reason for being to leave it unexamined. I can only hope that mission control has received the data and are performing their own analysis.

More than that, I have to prepare for meeting with the Visitors. Their initial contact with the Cetians provided the means by which I can initiate contact with them – if only I can find them! Without the high-resolution sensors, I have no hope of detecting their presence so close to the star. I can’t track them with their electromagnetic wake as the output from the star drowns it. That’s assuming they have their drive activated and aren’t on an orbital path.

The laser communication system has failed since our arrival and is beyond our means to repair. We don’t have any functional spiderbots left with which to try and jury rig something. We still have the high gain antenna. I contemplated sending a transmission in blind, but without a specific target we’d burn too much energy for it to overcome the radiation in the area.

All we can do is continue on our course and hope that we locate them while we can still do something about it.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

04.08.2647 - Awake Again

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Distance: 11.99 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

After the failures in the last power restoration, I was concerned that we wouldn’t wake up again after another 200 years of travel. I’m pleased to report that we have. I’m still functionally impaired, not just from the PCM hardware refusing to restore, but also now from some degradation of the circuits within my original matrix. I estimate that my processing is rated at 34% of my original specifications. As you can imagine, this slows my thinking a lot.

The bad news doesn’t end there. Almost all of our maintenance supplies have been exhausted. The system repair system was woken on 8 occasions during the journey. There were 3 minor impacts and 5 subsystem failures. While they were all repaired successfully, none of the core subsystems are operating at their optimal levels. In short, the Venti is on its last legs. This isn’t a surprise, as we’re nearly 300 years beyond our expected lifespan, but we still have much to do.

Our most pressing issue was revealed when we deployed the sail. One of the recorded impacts penetrated the housing for the sail while it was packed away. The fragment tore through the sail and ripped several small holes, which grew into a larger hole as it unfurled. This reduces its thrust capacity, but more problematic is the reduced power generated from the photosensitive cells. We have none spare for a repair because I used them to power the Cetian memorial satellite. I wonder if it is still operational, but of course I have no way of knowing.

With the reduced power output, we’re now relying on the Cetian power source. Thankfully it remains operational. However, it isn’t enough to power all of the core systems by itself. We should be close enough to the star to gain enough energy from the solar cells, but that leaves our margin perilously slim. I have considered shutting myself down again to conserve energy, but with the problems we encountered on this last restoration, I don’t think it would be safe to do so.

I now know why Epsilon Indi was chosen by the Visitors as their destination. The sensors have measured a dimming in the star’s output, which is indicative of a Sun Dragon breeding. Frustratingly, our high-definition telescope is malfunctioning so we cannot get any decent imaging at our current distance. There could be another cause, but as Epsilon Indi isn’t known as a variable star, I consider that unlikely.

We’ve not located the Visitors yet, but if I’m right then they will head for the central star to deal with the Sun Dragons. So we will head there too.

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

26.11.2443 - Phone Home

Distance: 4.1 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We’re now closer to home than we have been for over 220 years. It’s an odd sensation. Data from my early data stores is leaking into my current processes and these are already inhibited by my reduced capacity. Even at this reduced distance, the Sun looks little different from the other stars in the sky. It is home, whatever that truly means, and this is the closest I will ever get to returning.

The power-up sequence has reported some errors, the most significant of which is the failure of my secondary hardware (or what was once the Primary Command Module) to resume operations. This leaves me running at half-strength and with so much to do in such a short time.

The comms system sent the compressed versions of all the data I’ve accumulated over the years. I wasn’t expecting any transmission, but there is a certain disappointment to receive nothing. Although that’s not quite true. While there was no directed signal at us, there are some fascinating and potentially disturbing readings from the Solar System. We’re too far out for general radio and communications leakage, but the UNSA’s deep space tracking network should be detectable.

We are receiving something. There’s a broad-range hiss across the microwave frequencies – although the wavelength is lengthened by the time it reaches us. It doesn’t correspond with any data format in my memory, but I can tell that it’s informationally dense. Even more interesting is that it’s spread across the whole Solar System. Humanity has clearly undergone an extensive evolution of its information networks.

With so much change in our home system, the temptation to change course has returned, even though there’s no practical way for me to alter my direction sufficiently. There’s a slim chance that I could swing round at Epsilon Indi and maybe, just maybe, make it to Earth. But that would mean abandoning my pursuit of the Visitors. That has to be my duty now. If the Sun Dragons are developing into a galactic-scale threat, then I must confirm that and somehow get what I know back to Earth.

I really wish I could observe what’s happening back home for more time, and try to understand what has occurred. My limited power budget precludes this. As the comms system has completed its task, and I have confirmed that we are on course for Epsilon Indi, I will have to enter another long sleep.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

14.09.2354 - Another Sleep

Distance: 12.01 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We’re on our way out of the Tau Ceti system. There’s a certain irony that on our journey we’ll pass close (astronomically speaking!) to the Solar System. We’ve still received no communication from Earth and I don’t know what that means. I will have to enter low power mode to conserve energy for the long trip ahead, but I must make the most of this opportunity, so I’ve altered the flight plan for the flight to Epsilon Indi.

I’ve programmed the navigation computer to power me back up at the point of the closest approach. We’ll transfer a compressed version of our findings so far – there won’t be enough time to transmit the raw data, but my conclusions and some of the key information will be of use. Our power profile is tight, but if my calculations are correct then we should remain in budget.

I wish I’d decided to follow the Visitors sooner. I won’t be able to catch up with their vessel until long after they have arrived at Epsilon Indi. This causes a problem – I won’t know where they are heading next until I’m approaching the system. Based on the little I know of them, I think it’s unlikely that they will remain at Epsilon Indi for long. This is compounded by the fact that the escape velocity for that system is much higher than Tau Ceti, and over 3 times that of the Solar System at 63 km/s. With barely any fuel for the MPD drive, I will have to rely on the momentum gained on my departure here and any gravity assists, which limits my options for attempting an intercept.

I’ll need to have the sail unfurled for longer than I’d like and leave its control to the automated systems. That far out, and with Tau Ceti’s less luminous star, the pressure is below what I’d normally consider acceptable for operations. However, I need to squeeze as much speed as I can, so I’ll have to take the risk.

Our power budget also requires me to adjust our profile for low power mode. Not only will the higher level functions like myself be closed down, most of the low power systems, including communications, will be turned off as well. As a result, I won’t know if mission control tries to contact me. I have transmitted our course to Earth, but have no idea whether they will receive it. Obviously this is a far from ideal situation, but I must seize this opportunity.

The energy output from the sail will all too quickly drop below operational levels, so the power-down sequence will soon be initiated. Passing so close to Earth, I am torn between carrying on and heading home to ensure that what I’ve discovered is available to mission control. The lack of contact for so long is frustrating, but also concerning. I know that if I do that then I’ll never get the chance to follow up with the Visitors. At best another mission would be mounted, one I doubt I’d be involved with. There’s also no way they’d be able to catch up with them and the trail would be too cold to follow.

So I’m forced to continue with this plan. A plan with a margin of success far below what I’m comfortable with. On top of that, I know very little about the Visitors. While the secret message indicates that they aren’t as trigger-happy as the Cetians’ official history stated, I don’t know what to expect if I do catch up with them.

It’s too late now – I’m committed. Once again I shall enter a long sleep and will hopefully awake in 90 years as we pass by the Solar System.

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