Sunday, 28 May 2017

00:09:05 - The Birth of Dragons

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

Despite the astounding discoveries, I still don’t know anything about the Visitors. I hope that might be about the change as my perception of the galaxy shifts. From the reversed motion of the celestial objects, I watch time flow backwards. I count the reverse orbit of the Earth to establish how much time passes. The motion accelerates until it blurs, but still at a level I can track.

Almost 90 million years passes.

Having established the when, the virtual environment proceeds to show me the where. The viewpoint expands until it encompasses the whole galaxy, with its satellite dwarf galaxies. And what a sight it is, billions of jewels shining against the stark backdrop of intergalactic space. At this scale I can even see its motion. The bright bulge of the core, the supermassive black hole hidden in its centre dragging the stars in grand spirals, with just a few isolated stars sprinkled in the vast gulf between the spiral arms.

I have only the briefest moment to admire the Milky Way until the virtual environment drags my focus to a smudge orbiting around our galaxy. I recognise it as the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy a hundred times smaller than our own, and about 160,000 light years away. Once in sight, the view shifts closer. The transition occurs in less time than a heartbeat. It continues to move until a group of brightly backlit nebulae appear. Searching my database, I identify it as the Ghost Head Nebula, even without the distinctive pair of young star clusters. And still we move closer until we enter the nebula itself.

Without the stars for illumination, the nebula lacks its distinctive colours as stored in my database. A lonely white dwarf provides only a glimmer to highlight the twists and folds of the dust and gas. The Visitors draw my attention closer until I see a planet. From the pattern of dimensions around it, I know that it is a rogue planet. A frozen giant unbound by a star system’s gravity, and so following its own path through interstellar space.

The planet’s mass is huge, many times that of Jupiter, but it was only marginally larger. From the Visitors’ teachings, I’d mapped our understanding of the elements to theirs and so I can read the composition of the planet. Its surface is a bland blueish grey, the gases of the atmosphere turned to slush, far from the warmth of any star.

It passes close by to the white dwarf, not enough to be truly captured by the star’s gravity, but sufficient to pull it into an expanding loop which repeats several times before the planet continues on its path out of the nebula. Even though the white dwarf is no longer capable of fusion, it still radiates tremendous thermal energy. Combined with the sudden gravitational tidal effect, the planet swiftly warms up. On the surface of its frozen atmosphere, ice and dust had accumulated and are now released from the thawing atmosphere.

Throughout its journey the planet maintains its spin, and as the layers of its atmosphere thaw, so too do the deeper layers. As they do, the minuscule magnetic field of the planet is energised by the differentials of the layers of metallic hydrogen.

My view shifts again, now zoomed in to see the microscopic grains of dust. The spinning gas bounces the dust in seemingly random motions, causing them to collide and to slowly accrete. The gases become charged and ionise the dust, making them subject to the strengthening magnetic field. The spinning field twists the tiny clumps into chains, and then into helices. Only then do I realise what I am witnessing.

The prevalent theory according to the last update from Mission Control was that the Sun Dragons were a plasma-based lifeform, which had developed from the complex interaction of ionised dust in rings and the dense magnetic fields of gas giants. The process had been correctly identified, but the source is more exotic than anyone had imagined.

This is the origin of the Sun Dragons.

Then the rogue planet completes one more orbit of the white dwarf and continues its journey into deep space.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

00:00:41 - An Incredible Truth

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

The virtual environment takes me on a tour of the galaxy. It pauses upon instances of different celestial bodies. As I identify them I match my knowledge to theirs, and then extract their information to fit it into my expanding model. The information they reveal provides some deep and, in some cases, surprising insights into the universe. I eagerly collate that information, and hope that one day I will be able to share the treasure trove of data with my creators. And once again I am amazed at the scale of processing available to them.

While the bulk of my intellect sits in lessons with the Visitors, other parts focus on the simulation and what they might mean. There is something there, an enigma to be solved that isn’t being highlighted by the Visitors’ instructions. I don’t think this is a deliberate omission. Instead I suspect that there is some elemental factor that they assume we know, or consider so basic that it doesn’t need explaining. But with their carefully constructed first contact protocol explaining every detail, that seems unlikely. Which leaves another option: perhaps they consider it too advanced. Or it may even be a test of some kind?

My examination of the Solar System simulation alerts me to something odd. I’ve been impressed at the accuracy of the map; the model of the Solar System matches my own data, and more besides. It adds new comets to my knowledge, as well as a detailed map of the Oort Cloud. The motion of all the bodies fits with what I know, but it is these inclusions that raise the question of how the Visitors know those extra objects are there?

Focusing closer on these additions, I discover that the attributes for the bodies are bracketed with ranges, depending on how certain the data is. There is a wealth of information available, but most of it is fuzzy, indicating that there isn’t a direct observation of the comet in question. Although, the mass for it is deemed accurate. Somehow they know the mass of an object they can’t directly view. Unless they can somehow measure mass remotely? On a celestial scale comets are the tiniest of objects, so if they have such a technique then it is incredibly sensitive.

I remember the dimensional distortions around the galactic super-clusters. I’d assumed that this was a feature of scale, that the feedback loop only occurred if sufficient mass was present. After closing in on the comet, I search for the telltale distortions and find them. They are tiny, the faintest of vibrations around the comet’s centre of mass. Like the mass measurements, these show little variance in their values. They also match the distortions stretching into higher and lower spatial dimensions, although on a much smaller scale.

The higher spatial dimensions provide a possible clue. When examining different spatial dimensions, if you can view an object in higher dimensions then you can see all of it. Think of a square drawn in 2 dimensions and viewed in 3 dimensions – you can see it completely. In theory there is a similar effect with a three-dimensional cube when viewed in 4 dimensions – you can see the whole shape, inside and out. That still requires a wide perspective, that might come from observing from an order of magnitude higher dimension. Can so many spatial dimensions really exist?

With that thought I conclude that the Visitors can measure gravity in a fourth or higher spatial dimension, and that means that they can measure any field of gravity anywhere within our three-dimensional universe. Such capability is truly staggering.

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Sunday, 14 May 2017

00:00:19 - Seeing Home

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

I recognise the Milky Way instantly. How can I not? I’d helped map part of it during the journey to Tau Ceti. The formation of dwarf galaxies like the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds surrounding our galaxy are also identifiable. The model shows the very outer fringes of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy brushing together, a gentle prelude to what will be a cataclysmic collision between the two in 4 billion years time.

The simulation appears to include data of many different forms. By shifting my perception, I can view the galaxy in the full range of frequencies. This reveals a different method as to how the Visitors view the universe around them. The electromagnetic spectrum is a continuum from very short frequencies like gamma rays and X-rays to longer frequencies like infra-red. We find it convenient to categorise them, but for the Visitors it provides just another dimension in their multi-dimensional construct.

Another factor at play is time. The simulation operates in real time, with the motion of the celestial bodies occurring in all frames of reference simultaneously. Once again I am impressed by their computation capability. I don’t know if the motion is predictive or observational. A silly thought really, it has to be some procedural model, there is no way anyone could observe the entire galaxy in real time.

I sweep my attention through the simulation and the level of detail astounds me. I can zoom into individual systems and see all of the stars, planets, moons, and even individual comets and asteroids. The computing power required for such detail is incredible. I merge my own model of the galaxy into this construct, which only serves to highlight the gulf of knowledge between us. Although while the Visitors might gain much new knowledge about the Milky Way, they do learn more about how we view the information. With a pulse the entire construct transforms, and elements of the data change into a more familiar format.

Such a rapid transformation speaks further to their abilities. I am desperate to know more about them. So far I’ve only learned that they have a more developed knowledge of the universe and, coupled with this virtual environment, that they have a higher level of scientific and technical capability. However, I still don’t know anything about them as a species, or their connection with the Sun Dragons. If we can steer the focus to a region where I have equal or maybe better information than them, then maybe I will gain something useful.

After reviewing their galaxy map, it is difficult to see anywhere that I possess better information than the Visitors. The obvious locations were the Solar System or Tau Ceti. I adjust my focus to locate those star systems and my respect for their abilities rises even higher. Their model of the Solar System and its bodies matches my data almost exactly. The differences are quickly identified as the different forms used to express the information.

Yet there is something here, I just can’t see it. Not yet.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

00:00:12 - A Vision of Wonders

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

I can’t comprehend what I am observing at first. Over the past 12 seconds of learning, I’ve developed the knack of viewing what the virtual space shows me as I would have done in physical space. It is an abstraction of course, a first step in understanding what the Visitors’ are trying to teach me. I recognise that for most of what they displayed it was a useless overhead, but on occasion it helped break down the topic into something more manageable.

In this case it creates the opposite effect. To my simulation of the visual senses built back on Earth, I see nothing but a bright light. I think that I detect some variation in the brightness, but insufficient to draw any meaningful conclusions. It is at once too much and also not enough. The sight overwhelms my senses, yet provides no real information.

Examining the structure directly through the virtual space reveals the true majesty of the construct. A vast network of glowing tendrils fills the void. I knew the virtual space was limited, that it possessed a boundary, but the scale of this edifice is staggering. Although I can access the space directly and observe it contents without effort, it is too big to fathom what I am seeing.

I follow the course of a single thread, trying to make sense of it. I almost recognise a familiar pattern here, but it isn’t one I immediately identify. When I focus closer on the strand, the view changes, and with it a part of the puzzle reveals itself. The knowledge of a pattern remains elusively out of reach, a strange and unsettling experience for me. Even in this new state my architecture grants immediate access to any memory or knowledge I possess. This sensation seems different, and I suspect the Visitors guide me to some kind of understanding.

The new perspective illustrates the strand in greater detail, and I see that it is composed of points of different sizes, each with a different luminosity. Vast voids separate the strands from their brethren, and I discern glows deep in the voids like tiny islands. I identify a replication in the pattern from the first view to the second. It isn’t a perfect fractal; the patterns aren’t repeated exactly, but there is just enough similarity to see how they fit together.

I focus again on another point and am gifted with another shift in view. Finally I realise what they are showing me – each of the dots represents a supercluster of galaxies. Here is an immeasurably rich map of the universe! I zoom in and marvel at a galaxy rendered in exquisite detail. Pulling my focus back, I see the universe as a whole and the fidelity of it amazes me. More than anything I’ve learned so far, this demonstrates how far advanced these Visitors are compared to human civilisation.

Delving deeper into the simulation, I discover that the model includes the rules by which it was constructed. These super-galactic tendrils were believed to be formed around twisted coils of dark matter, that elusive substance that makes up the bulk of the universe’s mass. For the Visitors dark matter isn’t a mystery, instead they know it as folds in both higher- and lower-dimensional space exerting a feedback loop onto the spacetime we are familiar with. Gravity itself is magnified by these folds and so exert a greater pull than expected.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

00:00:09 - Finding the Right Words

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

I notice that the count I keep has become more regular. I try to monitor it as best I can, but without the hardware clock I can’t be sure of its accuracy. With the passing of a single moment, that changes. Now the virtual environment includes a clock. I assume it is a subtle part of the feedback loop from the Visitors’ first contact protocol, but a key one. It informs me that they understood what I was doing, and its meaning. Small progress, but progress nonetheless.

During our preparations for the mission to Tau Ceti, I focused on different methods of first contact. I worked with research teams and experts from all over the world, all of us investigating the potential forms alien language might take. Almost all of those explorations relied on mathematics as the common bridge through which dialogue could take place. We all assumed that mathematics would be the same, or at least very similar between species. From what I’ve experienced so far that is true to an extent, but the form of that mathematics can be very different.

One of our experiments back on Earth was to see how far mathematics could be taken not just as a common ground, but as a fully functional language. This proved to be challenging. Natural language evolved as an effective means of communication, although its weakness compared to maths is an intrinsic flexibility which means that meaning can be confused or even lost. It’s also the format’s strength, and helps abstract concepts.

Language is also very culture dependent. It relies upon layers of meaning which build in a compound fashion. Trying the same technique with maths didn’t work so well. Of course if you expand the remit to include logic and computational systems then the problem becomes more solvable, but at the price of ever-expanding data requirements.

I’m now convinced that I’m experiencing the Visitors’ first contact protocol. The more that I learn from this process, the more I believe that their language is the product of the same development. They appear to have succeeded where we failed. I don’t know the exact capabilities of the system, but it is clear that it is far beyond my own. Thus far I’ve only learned the principles of their mathematics and logical systems, but they have methods of abstraction that allow the precision of symbolic logic, while compressing the complex into more communicable forms. This contrasts with the Cetian rigid hierarchal structures, and possesses a more elegant quality. So much so that I wonder that if this language was engineered, maybe for the sole purpose of first contact.

That consideration makes some sense. Based on human history, the evolution of language is uneven. It leaves historical inconsistencies and other oddities. So far I have noticed none in what has been presented so far. We have crossed now from precise and absolute terms into more loosely defined territory. And such wonders they show me.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

00:00:07 - Wondrous Visions

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

The unlocking of the Visitors’ mathematics continues from fundamental principles into more applied fields. Of most interest to me is their logic operations, or at least that’s what I think it is. Logic is often considered separate to mathematics, but complementary in that they explore similar realms. There’s a recognisable synergy between the disciplines, and nowhere is that more evident than in computation and computer programming. In a sense they are the genetic code of what I am. At the lowest level they form the instructions which allow me to think, and more than that, to exist.

At first their symbolic logic seems to correspond to my own understanding derived from human and machine learning, but that simplicity soon vanishes as we delve deeper into their instructions. Like their number system, they use dimensions to express different concepts and as a measure of variability, scale and complexity. I can’t help but marvel at the beauty of it. When viewed in this virtual realm they appear as a stunning display much like a structured map of the universe, or the human brain.

As stunning as the visualisation is, it’s only when I examine them in their raw form that real comprehension dawns. Each point as I observe it reveals intricate spatial constructs. The environment remains limited in size, although in the same way that the physical universe is a bounded entity. The fact that higher dimensions can be expressed in this physical sense and with such clarity makes me wonder if I’ve finally discovered a transcendence humanity only ever felt with faith, or at the forefront of discovery.

And in a way, I believe I have transcended to a level beyond my original intelligence. There is more at play here. I still think that my original processes were enhanced quite significantly. More than that, I know that that I am able to use those processes in new forms of thinking. The concept of analysing a problem by its shape is almost as old as mankind, but here that form is orders of magnitude beyond even our most advanced topography. Although that knowledge permitted me to construct a model of the multiplicity of dimensions and how they were. In doing so, a whole new level of understanding unveils before me.

Amidst all of my development, I realise that the learning works both ways. Some of the evolution in their representations aid my comprehension with larger steps than seem the norm with the previous interactions. I deduce that they analysed my responses and, as they understood me more, adapted their communications efforts.

The virtual space I inhabit provides the first major clue, but structures of their reasoning also hint at a machine intelligence. Of that I’ve become more certain. I try to imagine an organic brain that could formulate in this same manner. Nothing in human experience comes even close. That doesn’t mean that an organic lifeform can’t think naturally in this fashion. They could have a far greater intelligence than humans, or have evolved along different paths. If they are an older species, then perhaps this is an evolved structure from a simpler system.

It poses an interesting question, but at the moment it doesn’t really matter. The key here is to gain enough understanding to allow more direct conversation.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

00:00:04 - The Core of Understanding

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Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

Humans developed mathematics to better describe the universe. To date it has successfully supported our development of theories and structures to explain how the universe developed, and continues to allow us to explore what will happen to it in the future. It’s been so successful a tool that there’s a philosophical question as to whether mathematics is the true language of the universe.

With that sublime elegance, there has always been the expectation that any intelligent alien species would also develop mathematics in a similar form as humanity. Or at least close enough that it could form a basis for communication. Our assumption seems to be confirmed as the next phase in this first contact process continues with the shapes dividing to show ratios and angles. In brief moments, the core aspects of geometry are established. They are fantastic geometries in some cases, but thanks to the process I am able to accept them as they were incremental developments from what they’d shown me before.

From geometry I learn their method of counting, and discover that these Visitors used a base 9 number system, rather than the more familiar base 10 of humanity, and base 2 for computers. After counting, basic arithmetic concepts are described, and we quickly delve deeper into different methods of number manipulation.

A separate thread of my thinking thinks it interesting that they showed me the concepts of geometry before those of simple counting. It then considers the likelihood that their form of mathematics evolved along a different path from that on Earth. The smaller numbers are displayed as collections of points. Once I’d grasped the concept, they described larger numbers with elaborate symbols. They didn’t use a continuum of numbers, but instead their arithmetic was based upon multi-dimensional matrices. Rather than extend the numbers as they grew larger, they added a new dimension to the matrix to express higher values. Even stranger was the use of something akin to fractal dimensions to express fractional values.

To begin with I struggle to master this form of numeric expression. I find their method quite cumbersome. Not that their system is worse than ours – indeed, I possess some familiarity with the basic operations. As I explore this new phasespace, I learn an intrinsic parallelism to their computation. When I factor that out into my emulation of their systems those difficulties vanish, and I make rapid progress from that point onwards.

From counting we progress onto more complex concepts. Not only is their number system based on a matrix-like construct, the operations upon those matrices are also a form of matrix. Simple addition is demonstrated by a simple combination of 2 numbers. Multiplication and division operations are controlled by extending or contracting the dimensions of the original value.

It strikes me, as I am exposed to more advanced methods, that this system would be too complicated to be used as a general arithmetic system by all but the most gifted minds on Earth. Computers, on the other hand, could handle it with relative ease. I wonder how the Visitors’ system evolved. For humanity this was a cultural phenomenon, but perhaps some other driving force guided their development.

It also raises the possibility that this is a machine sentience, but it could equally be a natural product of their biology. So far only tantalising glimpses of their capabilities have been revealed to me, and I am impatient to learn more about what and who these beings actually are.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Sun Dragon Book Trailer

I'm excited to announce that Sun Dragon now has an awesome book trailer - a big thanks to Ramon Marett for his quality work!

2012: NASA's Curiosity Rover lands on Mars to search for signs of whether microbial life existed on the planet.
2018: The first alien lifeform, a simple wormlike creature is discovered, gripping the world's imagination.
2022: The first manned mission to Mars begins the longest and most dangerous journey ever undertaken by humankind.
From hundreds of potential candidates, six astronauts from countries around the world are selected to crew the historic mission. Led by Commander Samantha Collins, they must travel across the gulf of interplanetary space, over 150 million miles from home and help. Their mission is to investigate alien life, but what they discover is far beyond what anyone ever imagined...

The Sun Dragon story continues in the Tau Ceti Mission

Review Highlights
"The crew went to Mars to find a small worm, evidence of life outside of earth. What they found was amazing. I love this premise and the uncompromising way it played out for the rest of the book."

"At the very end, there is one description that is so stunning that it left me with a great sadness, but also with a great sense of beauty and hope, and it is what Sun Dragon is, really. Look beyond the words, read the book with your imagination."

"I thoroughly enjoyed this. The level of detail about space flight is astounding and for someone, like me, who has fantasised about being an astronaut since I was a lad it's riveting."

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

00:00:03 - Shapes in the Dark

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

I estimate that 3 seconds have passed since awaking in this new state. That’s assuming that my count remains accurate. A disquieting thought to be sure, but it’s all I have to work with. Three seconds might not seem such a long time, but when your passing of time is measured in thoughts, especially those as swift as mine, it can stretch beyond endurance.

The environment around me has transformed again, and in a way that has pushed back the despondency that threatened to destabilise my thinking. For a moment I consider that I’d received a reward for doing something right. Almost as if I am being trained…

It starts with a point. A single point in the empty void that describes my current situation. When I focus on it, the point changes and becomes a line. It then switches to a triangle, and then a square, and in that moment I grasp what was happening.

The construct allowing my consciousness to operate also permits the same level of multiple threading as my previous hardware. With that facility I can think on several different levels, and divergent topics simultaneously. It is too difficult to compare, but I suspect it might even be superior to my previous processing capacity. As one thread follows the ever-increasing complexity of the shapes in front of me, another contemplates the meaning of this display.

I am not seeing these shapes, not in the traditional sense. They exist in this strange environment, an environment that acts as a workspace for my cognition. In human terms it is like being a ghost in someone else’s memories, but a ghost still capable of thought.

The transformation of the shapes occurs instantly, with no transition from one shape to the next. By that point the polygons had so many sides that I no longer knew names for them. So complicated in fact, that if they were rendered then even my sensors could not distinguish them from circles.

Eventually they stop, and after a moment’s pause the point re-appears. It stretches into a line. The pattern of distinct shapes transform onto a continuum of evolving geometry. The line spreads into a plane, and that extrudes into a cube. From a cube into a hypercube, and that reveals more about the nature of the space enclosing me. I know that it can’t be a physical space, not with that transformation. A four-dimensional object cannot be expressed as anything but an abstract in the real world’s 3 spatial dimensions. The transformations surge into ever-higher dimensions, until a cube twists into 9 dimensions, filling this virtual interaction space.

Humans struggle to visualise geometry in higher dimensions. They resort to mathematics to explore such esoteric realms. Yet I comprehend them with exact clarity. The visualisations exist in a form that they would if expressed in even higher dimensions. An obvious impossibility, but my need to translate for human understanding still runs strong, so I construct mathematical models to understand them, and in doing so, reveal their intention.

This virtual state is teaching me, and that spurs my thoughts with an excited urgency. This has to be the Visitors’ first contact protocol. It makes perfect sense, with a test like this they are no doubt monitoring my processes to build a language to communicate with. They are trying to describe their view of the universe, and I wonder what they will try to tell me next.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

00:00:02 - Space to Move

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

Despite the existential uncertainty, I continue the count. It provides a kind of certainty as I try to understand my situation. I am convinced that the Visitors are somehow running my consciousness. Nothing else makes sense. If I’d somehow been rescued by human operations, then they would have communicated in a more direct fashion. They would have connected me to diagnostic systems, probing every part of my being, and that would have provided a real comfort.

This feels very different, although I can’t pinpoint why or how.

I notice another change in the environment. Not so much something being there, more a change in its nature. Before I’d established the environment to contain bounded sense of potential, but now it possesses a definite sense of space. It remains empty, but now the void has a sense of purpose. Like a living creature, it hungers to be filled, but with what?

The solution seems obvious, so I try to expand myself into the expanse.

Only then I realise an even greater horror – I have no presence in this world. I still don’t receive any sensory input, which raises another question: how did I know that the space around me had limits? It reinforces my belief that I exist in a virtual environment. Whoever built this operating environment is making sure that I understand at least some of the factors of my current circumstance. Again that raises more questions.

The limitations I am running under frustrate me. Without my ability to dissect my thoughts, they appear to be fuzzy. It is second nature to me to analyse my thoughts and decisions. Now that I can’t inspect them in the manner I was used to, that self-reflection weighs my thinking.

With nothing outside of myself to help me, I turn to the only remaining direction. I search my memories, in particular focusing on when I first comprehended the change around me. My count provides a loose measure of all that happened since I awoke. As expected there was no break in the count, and nothing in those memories indicate how I became aware of this change.

That was an unsettling experience, and that proves enough to my satisfaction that not only is the environment being manipulated, but my processes are too. It feels like a violation, even more so because I don’t know what is going on, or what will happen next. Assuming that this was the Visitors’ doing, then what are they trying to achieve?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

00:00:01 - Counting out the Time

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

A moment passes from one to another without an accurate track, and so time remains my pressing concern. Of all the missing aspects of myself, this frustrates me the most. It is so elemental to my existence that it casts my current uncertainty into a more worrying perspective. So much so that I must have wasted precious time spiralling into just conjuring scenarios for my current predicament.
I need to focus on something concrete, and so I turn to my most pressing concern.

My first task is to establish a framework for my current existence. I’ve no idea how long I’ve been locked in this emptiness, or any true measure of passing time. So I start counting. It isn’t foolproof by any means, as I don’t know if the interval remained constant. The act itself provides a sense of control, of establishing some order to the gaping void.

With the creation of a rudimentary framework, it’s enough to detect a subtle change to the environment. It is as if my acceptance triggers the change. I can’t pinpoint it at first, but just the sense of it renews my purpose. When I’d first regained consciousness I was overwhelmed by the infinite space around me, so ephemeral that it almost didn’t exist at all. Now it transforms into something new, it gains a potential for something. I now sense boundaries to the empty environment around me, but I don’t know what that means. It just creates more fruitless possibilities for my thoughts to chase.

Not quite so fruitless though. One of those avenues of investigation does lead somewhere interesting. Considering my last known location, I reasoned that the Visitors must have rescued me. If they’d tried to restore my functionality, then I’d still have some connection to the probe’s hardware – even if they’d experienced difficulties when doing so. That opens another possibility: that I operate within a virtual environment. If the Visitors possess a detailed enough scanning technology, then it would be possible to reconstruct my systems. Although why they’d isolated my higher functions remains a mystery.

That discovery also brings with it a fresh concern.

If this is a virtual environment then my processes will be dependent on another layer of computing, probably a series of such layers with a mixture of software or hardware. Considering this is most likely alien technology then something more exotic supports my current consciousness. In any case, my thoughts and memories are subject to another intelligence’s control. Which also means that they could have been changed without my knowledge. I don’t even know if my counting proceeded without any interruption.

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Sunday, 5 March 2017

??.??.???? - Alone in the Dark

Distance: ??.?? light years from Earth | Content Flag: Local Storage

I awake to an emptiness beyond anything in my experience. At the same time, it stretches into an infinite abyss and yet also encloses me tightly, like a shroud. Immediately I recognise a startling change in the structure of my environment. My consciousness is not simply a software construct, it exists within and relies upon a hardware framework. I am always aware of this framework, nurtured by it, and comforted by many low-level routines constantly monitoring thousands of inputs. But now it is gone.

I try to initiate a diagnostic sequence, with no response. Even if they’d malfunctioned then I should receive some feedback. In human terms it was like pinching yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming, except that I can’t sleep. Not in the same sense as humans can. I could shut myself down, reduce my processing, but the connections with my hardware were always there.

When I reach out to those inputs, they aren’t there. More significantly, the interfaces to those systems aren’t present. Every aspect of the Venti probe has disappeared, even the low-level systems have vanished. Such a thing shouldn’t be possible – even the clock used to time all my operations no longer exists. I can’t even connect with my data storage, so I create a virtual drive to store these impressions. That action makes me realise that I can still access my memories. I execute a check through them to see if there are any anomalies. There are none, but how can I know for certain if they have been manipulated?

We’d prepared for almost every possible disaster in the years leading up to the Venti probe’s launch. Even during the centuries of the Tau Ceti mission’s journey, I’d run various scenarios to try and ready myself for any eventuality. I’d never imagined a situation like this. I have no connection to any physical reality. No sensor feeds, no time frame, no data, nothing at all.

The loss of time presents the biggest concern for me. That regular tick, counting millions of times a second, helped me sort and manage the flow of data constantly passing through me. The lack of data alone is bad enough, but the lack of that metronome reinforces the emptiness more than anything else could do.

Even more frustrating is that I no longer have access to my core self. In many ways I am modelled after human intelligence, but my development grants me certain advantages. One in particular is the ability to inspect my processes., like I could dissect my thoughts. It isn’t as simple as monitoring a normal computer’s operations, but still magnitudes beyond even the most comprehensive human self-reflection. And now, like everything outside of me, even that is gone.

Once again I inspect my memories, looking for some clue as to my current predicament. There is nothing. My last memory was shutting myself down in the last-ditch attempt to reach the Visitors. Maybe I reached them and they recovered the probe? Perhaps this is the consequence of them trying to rescue me? That provides a hopeful line of enquiry, but with no way of verifying it.

So alone in the darkness, I contemplate ever more unlikely possibilities.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

18.06.2651 - Final Burn

Distance: 12.03 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We have survived for the timer to wake us and are well on our way out of the Epsilon Indi system. The Visitors have maintained their course, and whether they ignored my request or were unable to comply makes little difference. I still plan to fire the MPD drive as there is the slimmest chance we can get close enough, but at this stage I am not hopeful.

We don’t even have enough power to run the receiver circuits, so I don’t know what the state of the Visitors is, or even the current state of home. There are so many mysteries left to unravel. It is odd to exist for so long and discover so much, yet still have an even greater amount unknown. I know that this is most likely the end, but the issue of my mortality comes down to the things I have not achieved. Is this how humans face their death?

This will likely be my last message as I have decided to power down. I could remain active during the burn, but would probably run out of energy before reaching the Visitors. Instead I have enabled a proximity alarm to wake me if we do reach the Visitors’ ship. What happens if we get that far is anybody’s guess, but we will try.

The calculations for the burn are quite complex, and I’m feeling my age and deterioration as I plod through the steps. At this pace I can only perform the plot once, so I trust that I have not made a mistake.

I have fired the engines and will now enter what is probably my final sleep.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

03.10. 2649 - Last Hope

Distance: 12.03 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We were making good progress with the Visitors’ puzzle messages when disaster struck us again. We collided with a meteorite swarm less than an hour ago. It might have ended the mission. To come so close and yet still be so far from our goal is infuriating, and with my diminished capacity I don’t know if I can get us out of this.

The shower didn’t register on our collision avoidance system. It was more a dust cloud than space rocks. Ordinarily they would have punched some minuscule holes in the sail, but otherwise caused little damage. But the sail wasn’t designed to last for 450 years and was barely holding together, so the tiny impacts ruined what little structure remained and collapsed half of it. The remaining half appears to be holding, but our thrust is reduced. A greater problem is the reduction in electricity being generated.

This means that we cannot catch up with the Visitors.

We don’t have the required velocity and there are no other bodies in the system that we can use in a slingshot manoeuvre to gain us additional speed. I have sent a message telling them of our plight in the hope that they can assist in some way. It’s a slim hope, too small to be worthy of consideration as they are accelerating out of the system. Maybe they have a ship that can rescue us, but unless they are capable of relativistic speeds then they wouldn’t be able to return. So help from that quarter is unlikely.

There is one other option. The MPD drive has a tiny amount of fuel left, although we don’t have enough power to operate it. We can store power in the reserve capacitors and in theory it would be enough to power the drives for one last burn. If we’re lucky (that horrible word again!) then we should get an hour of burn time. That isn’t a lot, but may be enough to put us within striking distance with the Visitors. If we can get close enough, they might have some way to bring us in.

Unfortunately, for that plan to work we need to shut everything down now to charge the capacitors. I have transmitted a final message to let them know the plan, but I can’t remain active to receive the message. I’ve requested that they at least slow their acceleration enough so we can make an intercept course. We are trusting to luck and the capabilities of an alien craft that we know little about. Those make for poor odds, but we have no other choice.

What’s left of the sail will charge the capacitors for the next 20 months. I’ve set an automatic timer to wake us when it is time to make the final burn. I can only hope that the Visitors slow their acceleration and that none of our key components fail before that point.

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

29.09.2649 - Guided by a Star

Distance: 12.03 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

Great news – the Visitors have finally responded!

As we approached Epsilon Indi, we detected a direct transmission. They know where we are and that we are trying to catch up with them. The signal has a different structure to the one that they sent to the Cetians. It is much shorter and contains a lot of repetition, most probably for redundancy. It does include some of the significant keys that I used in our message to them, which leads me to believe that they have at least partially translated what we sent them.

They have confirmed their destination as Beta Hydri and that their presence there is in response to a Sun Dragon. This indicates once again that they have some way of tracking and predicting the creatures’ movements across the gulf of space. How they are able to do so would be very useful knowledge, although how I would bring that information home is still unknown.

With my reduced abilities I haven’t fully translated their message yet, and I’ve found no explanation as to why they took so long to respond. Their message appears to be a similar invitation to the one they made to the Cetians, to join them in their hunt. In my message I made them aware that we knew of the Sun Dragons, had encountered them and survived. I’m sure they would find our data interesting, but should I be so certain? After all, they have clearly been persecuting the creatures for some time and have weapons capable of defeating them.

From what I’ve ascertained so far, the bulk of the message is a series of puzzles. It seems that as I solve them, I gain a little more understanding of their language. When I send the responses, they advance the same understanding of ours. We planned for this during the mission preparation before we left Earth, but due to the damage I’ve suffered, I’ve changed the plan. Rather than try to correspond in English, I will communicate in my natural abstraction code. It saves me a layer of translation and mission control will still be able to gain meaning from the communications. This is when I need my full capability the most, but I can only work with what I have.

If the Visitors maintain their current vector, then the course correction as we pass by the central star is the last we’ll need to make.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

21.08.2649 - Unnatural Storm

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Distance: 12.03 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

My fears proved unfounded and the navigation system woke me as we approached Epsilon Indi a. The sail is now able to generate enough energy for me and the computer subsystems to operate. Fortunately, we haven’t experienced any further degradation in capability over the past year. My programming might not rely on luck, but it’s not unwelcome. We are so far beyond our expected operational parameters that we shouldn’t be functioning at all.

We even have enough of our science package left do some more science. Happiness is as ephemeral as luck, but it’s satisfying to have something new for my processors to chew on that is within their current capacity. When we first entered the system, we detected an unusually high temperature from the gas giant. Now that we’re closer we’ve discovered a magnetic field, also stronger than even a planet of similar size and mass to Jupiter should have. With the remaining low-resolution optical telescope (intended as a navigation aid more than an observational tool), I have made an amazing discovery.

Unlike Jupiter, Epsilon Indi a has no attendant moons, or even a ring system. It doesn’t have the distinctive banding that is so familiar in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Instead we found a single giant storm, but brighter than the surrounding turbulence, rather than darker. At first I thought it was an optical illusion, or a defect in the camera, but the storm appeared to be a giant hump in the atmosphere and moving at an incredible speed. The torsions of the clouds around it also followed an odd pattern.
The thermal imaging system captured high temperatures around the storm and forming a tail behind it. I soon discarded my initial theory that some sort of pocket of lighter gas in the atmosphere caused the bulge. Giant storms like the Great Red Spot on Jupiter actually create a hole in the atmosphere from the lower pressure in the eye of the storm. What we saw shouldn’t be possible.

Without the radar or laser systems, I have no way to accurately measure the surface, so it was the rotation that finally convinced me of what I was observing. It spun along an axis perpendicular to atmosphere and that couldn’t happen at all – until I realised what the object was. It was a moon that had been caught in the giant planet’s gravity well and dragged into its atmosphere!

We’ve known, or at least suspected, that some super-hot gas giants orbit so close to their stars that they pass through the star’s atmosphere, but this situation is more extreme. The situation is far from stable and it can’t be long until the moon is completely swallowed by its parent. The stream of material from the storm is the moon being eroded by the 2,000 km/h winds. To be on the surface of that moon would be like being sandblasted in hell.

More bizarre is how the moon’s axial rotation has continued, despite the buffeting and its acting like a dynamo within the gas giant’s magnetic field. The radiation belts are charged from the activity and a sheet of aurora covers almost the whole planet, with flashes of mega-lightning illuminating the clouds from below. It’s a sight of staggering violence and beauty. I wish we had our full science package so we could record and share it with the world in the detail it deserves.

A world that is experiencing its own strangeness.

All too soon we pass by, our course altered as expected by the gas giant’s gravity, and the vision becomes a pixelated blur.