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.