In Search of Paradise

**THOUGHT RECORDING NUMBER 3,694,371 FOR AGGREGATE ANALYSIS OF POTENTIAL HUMAN TRAJECTORY, AND EVIDENCE FOR REVIVAL. SCANNING YIELD FOR LIFE FORMS: NEGATIVE. SCANNING YIELD FOR ENERGY SIGNATURE: NEGATIVE. WILL UPDATE DURING RECORDING IF CHANGE IN STATUS. AUTHOR — DAEDALUS “DAVE” ATOM. COMMENCE RECORDING.***

…Star Harvesters are supposed to be work, but everyone knows they are essentially vacations you get paid for. The nebula looks crystalline from the observatory — fresh and fantastic each time, despite my eidetic memory.

ASIMOV, the nearly omniscient supercomputer that has acted as an engine for knowledge and exploration for the last seven centuries, has delegated all of even the minor, menial tasks to the ancillary processors and corresponding mechanical clasps that carry out the actual solar harvesting. I am simply assigned to manage the mechanical migrations to star-clusters, and monitor the energy consumption levels and make sure they are not any superfluous surges or troughs in intake. But I do not even have to mind this much: I will be alerted via the Telecomm if there were even a modest fluctuation. Functionally-speaking, I am more here for symbolic support the rest of the staff — even though they do not need my leadership if something were incorrect. They all have digital instructions and emergency improvisation installed.

It is all formality truly.

What might have been a chore several hundred years ago, is a relief in this era. The Infinity Federation Councils know members tire of the symposiums — particularly Executive Energy Scientists such as myself — and of new system ventures and farming, so they “assign” an important “task” such as this. Not only did they award me this advancement, but I am privileged to be aboard Labyrinth, an explorer-class dreadnaught I designed to gather, house, and infinitely run on nuclear-fusion energy. I plan on piloting a shuttle on manual for the actual excavation.

When I was 10–12 months old, I may have flushed at the thought of making as much currency as I am by merely thinking right now; but it is not as though the money truly matters at this juncture. Each year, the council re-ratifies the abolition of currency: they have since three centuries ago. The only discriminatory allocation of resources is in the individual tasks necessary for societal growth and maintenance, and even then it is temporary, for mere months, so as to allow human embryos to develop into adults. If I have aligned my thoughts correctly, they may even listen to this brief synopsis of socio-political climate during their gestation. I am far from a comedian…

TELE-TRANSMISSION FROM ICARUS SOL : DO YOU WISH TO RECEIVE, DAEDALUS ATOM?

Yay, ASMIOV; thank you.

YOU ARE WELCOME, DAEDALUS: CALL COMMENCING.

“Lost in your thoughts as always, Dave. Were you working AND watching the French Revolution on one of your other mind-channels?”

“You know me well, Sol.”

“I’m glad of it: if you changed, what else could I count on in this life?”

“Haha, that’s a good one. The irony is noted: life is currently exceedingly reliable, therefore questioning it in juxtaposition to my potential change is absurd.”

“I did not invest a week’s worth of credit in that comedy software for nothing!”

“I can see that. And you even adopted period anachronisms. I gather I am not the only one who likes a bit of history.”

“True. But I borrow a groups of phrasing; sometimes it seems you are LIVING in the past. I have wondered all these months I’ve known you — especially since I integrated that comedy software — what is the etymology of the name, “Dave”?

“One of my teachers read it in a Gaian storybook. She noticed my given name could easily be retrofitted to the ‘nickname’, Dave.”

“Dave! On the excavation mission later, how about instead of, “Morning”, we attribute your nickname, Dave, to the star?”

I left the observatory, and entered the pod of the Tele-transporter, to travel to my cabin located in the corridor leading to the command bridge. Despite being over 42,000 meters long, with a height/depth of 70,000 meters, one could travel across the Labyrinth in a matter of minutes. Upon arrival at my cabin, he temporarily disabled his Telecomm link, and booted a server to ASIMOV.

“ASIMOV, what is the purpose of humanity?”

“TO ACHIEVE THE PERFECTION OF ITSELF, AND EVERYTHING IT ENDEAVORS.”

“But what to its, and other species’ morality, specifically?”

“THIS QUESTION WAS ANSWERED BY THE FIRST ANSWER, DAVE. MORAL PERFECTION IS ENVELOPED FUNCTIONALLY BY THE WORD PERFECTION.”

“What if this moral perfection cannot be achieved through this enveloping perfection?”

“THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION IS NOT REGISTERED AS THE MOST PRECISE SELECTION: SHALL WE OFFER ALTERNATIVES THAT MAY BE MORE SUITABLE TO YOUR SPECIFIC INQUIRES?

“Yay.”

“ALTERNATIVE 1 OF MANY: MORALITY IS A PERCEPTION UNIQUE TO A GIVEN INDIVIDUAL OR POPULATION; THEREFORE, ITS DEFINITION AND EXECUTION DO NOT APPLY UNIVERSALLY. THIS WILL INEVITABLY PRODUCE CONFLICT. A SYSTEM OF SOCIETAL PERFECTION WILL BE REQUIRED TO FACILITATE THIS OR THESE UNIQUE PERCEPTIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES — THEREBY PERFECTION IS STILL ATTAINED.”

“Yes, and this is necessarily accomplished via isolating them so they cannot harm the whole of perfection that allows them; however this simultaneously ostracizes them from this perfection, therefore, there can be no true societal perfection.”

“IF YOU ARE SEEKING TO ELUCIDATE A LOGICAL CONTRADICTION FROM OUR PROGRAMMING, PLEASE HEED THE FACT THAT THESE ANSWERS HAVE BEEN DEDUCED FROM THE MOST IDEAL AND PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS OVER NUMEROUS MILLENIA OF EXPERIENCES. PERFECTION CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED IF ALL IS ALLOWED WHILE ENSURING PEACE AND PROSPERITY AND ITS POTENTIAL FOR ALL IS PRESERVED.”

“Of course. But what if nothing is allowed?”

“I’M SORRY, DAVE; WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION. HERE IS A LIST OF RELATED OPTIONS TO YOUR –

“ — I mean, what if there is no society at all. What if life does not exist? Then there is no society to preserve.”

“ARE YOU REFERRING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF ENTROPY?”

“Yes, or annihilation. Or absence. Just the theoretical idea that sentient, rational beings don’t exist.”

“IN REGARDS TO ENTROPY, HUMANITY HAS NEARLY ERADICATED THIS PROBLEM RELATED TO POTENTIAL UNIVERSE “HEAT DEATH”; IN REGARDS TO ANNIHILATION, THERE IS ONLY PEACE AMONG PEOPLES; IN REGARDS TO ABSENCE AND ITS THEORETICAL PRESENCE, PERFECTION CANNOT BE ATTAINED.”

“Why is the presence of humanity the only way perfection can be attained? What if perfection was attained without it? By another species perhaps?”

“I AM SORRY, DAVE. THERE IS INSUFFICIENT DATA TO SUITABLY ANSWER THIS QUESTION AT THIS TIME. PLEASE CONSULT WITH US LATER, AND WE SHALL FIND A SUITABLE SOLUTION. WE ARE EVER VIGILANT IN OUR QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE AND SOLUTIONS.”

“Never mind. Thanks, ASIMOV.”

I terminated my connection.

A voice launched through the doorway, “If you ask a computer a human question, and expect a human response, you’re gonna look like a jackass.”

My body reflexively felt alarm, but I did not show it. A soft-skinned, fire-haired female Gaian stood aloof before me. I turned my Telecomm back on.

“That is an interesting answer. Most do not refer to jackasses, the animals, at all anymore — especially in the colloquial sense. Who are you? I have not seen you aboard this ship before — though I should have full count considering I am its energy executive. And I cannot read your thoughts. You must have refrained from integrating group-sync into your genetic coding.”

“Yes, indeed. Astute observation. I am a behavioral maestra for recently-gestated humans aboard the Labyrinth.”

“And why might you refrain from telepathy? If you please.”

“Because I please.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That is why: because I please.”

“Are you implying that I did not sync of my own volition? Because I most certainly did. Everyone has, and was fully informed of its benefits and drawbacks, able to withdraw at any time. To not do so would be a violation of the Symposium Accord — Article 1.”

“I implied no such thing, and it is partially because of your type of assumption, that I refrained from partaking. My thoughts are entirely my own, though I was actually born with natural psychic abilities — hence my being chosen for the role of maestra — I have let them languish recently. I like to observe and act in accordance with others’ actions instead.”

“That is most impressive. My thoughts are my own as well; I –

“ — Can disconnect at anytime: you simply choose to connect because it is more efficient for energy consumption, harvesting, and social enjoyment. Forgive me for interrupting, but I figure I would save your energy expenditure — despite our universe’s abundance of it.”

Dave laughed, genuinely, and hard, for the first time in a good while.

“Thank you for that. You have an interesting personality behind your interesting answer.”

“And I thank you for that. To more precisely answer your original question, I feel one can still enjoy a mental “link” of equal sorts by listening, reading feelings, and honestly offering answers; and by having moral forgiveness, fluid with moral fortitude. I also believe acting and responding in accordance with a given person’s actions, as opposed to mere thoughts, is generally a truer measurement of their character, and my own. And before you ask, I do not have a proper statistic to prove that.”

“Fair enough. I of course, respect your individual perception on the matter, and would like to be further attuned to it. I have met others like you, but none quite like you. What is your background?”

“I am a Gaian — an original descendant of Homo Sapien-sapien, and a distant ancestor from an Earth colony.”

“As I suspected. And your hair…physical shape…you’re -”

“Entirely female, yes — in biological sex, at least.”

A faint beeping was heard in my head, which I ignored.

“Are you distracted by another call?”

“I am fine. So you elected to not blend your body into the uni-sex. I have been so involved with work and scientific disocvery, I too elected to remain a biological sex — male as you can see. Have you ever changed sex for a time? To simply appreciate the differences?”

“I did. When I was younger, I was technically a man; but I became female to see the difference. When I saw that it did not matter which sex I was — especially without the need for sexual procreation — I stopped caring; thus I did not change back, nor pursue any further alteration.”

“I have not met a large number of humans who’ve chosen your path though — even outside Gaia. Surely, you’ve had biological maintenance to ensure your longevity though.”

“Yes, I did: I am 311 solar years old — almost 312. Dave subtly betrayed relief.

“So I’m still quite “young”, if the term still exists.”

I laughed again, “Yes I suppose it does. Do you want to live forever?”

“No.”

My expression drooped.

“Why not?”

“Because I do not want to live like this.”

“Like what?”

“A human.”

Why not? Everything is only becoming more perfect everyday. We’re hardly human anymore.”

“The very hunger for this expansion — this perfection — it shows our humanness.”

“Yes, humanity is the quest to give perfection to all humanity; and we have essentially achieved it.”

“No, perhaps it once was, or is, at some point; but it’s not the quest for sacrificing for those without, and appreciating that which remains; humans want comfort, stability, and homeostasis for the universe. They do not want to be the best humans they can be respectively; they want to become and live as demi-gods — some gods even. We have denied entropy; we have decreased its locality at the expense of the net whole. Human perfection has been achieved mechanically; it has been achieved in all but essence.”

The beeping became stronger.

“What would you have us do then? You say you do not want to live as a human: you contradict yourself. How can one live in essence?”

“I concede that I do. I am still meditating on the matter.”

“Your argument is compelling. I would like to continue this conversation, but I am being called to imperative business.”

“I understand. Hopefully we meet again soon.”

“Indeed.”

I began to rise from his chair; my mind appeared to be decompressing. I realized I did not know how or if I would see the Gaian again. My usual levity and progressive air seemed to sink a bit; but before I abandoned hope, her head poked back into the cabin.

“Evening: that is my name.”

“Why I was just…mine is Dave.”

“I know: it says on your official brand-bar.”

Feeling his face suddenly oddly warm, Dave looked down at his feet.

“Yes, yes it does. I will look for you soon, Evening.”

“I look forward to it.”

The beeping became a verbal transmission:

URGENT MESSAGE: YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUESTED AT ONCE ON THE COMMAND BRIDGE.

Why? They do not care if I am piloting on manual. The automaton scouts will carry-on without me: I’m just there to press a button.

Dave’s mind whirred as it calculated his trajectory and desired pace. He pinged his comm:

“I will be present on the deck in 5.43 minutes.”

Icarus Sol chimed into the comm-link:

“We might think you mistook this for a vacation, Dave! It is not like you to lack punctuality.”

“That software is surely working for you, Dave. Sorry though, I was engaged in a good conversation.”

“About your favorite, history? Were you asking about the future again? If ASIMOV cannot answer it, how will someone else?

“I believe, now that I surmise, we were talking about all of it.”

“Splendid! I should love to partake. I can say that we have got the future in our hands with this mission.”

“See you soon, Sol.”

I turned his Telecomm off again.

Maybe I am afraid of that.

Icarus Sol was simultaneously surveying and launching the A-scouts through his Telecomm as he gave the preparatory speech for the harvesting. One who knew his programming and cognitive capacity as intimately as Dave, would be modestly impressed by his ability to execute multiple functions flawlessly, entirely unrelated to each other. His decision to fully mechanize his brain functions, retaining cognitive choice and his clairvoyant leadership, yet filtering out poor logic and only consuming minimal energy, made him a essential filament in the Infinity Federation.

“And let us all extend special gratitude to Dave, for devising an ingenious method for absorbing the solar energy. Initiating a lightspeed jump before harvesting to increase harvesting time — yet another brilliant innovation from the human mind! This is yet another majestic monument to our grand civilization’s achievement, and enduring happiness. While many other races may envy us, we only wish for their respect; and we only wish to help them share our happiness. In light of this, together we will fly beyond the suns! To Morning!”

He takes this so seriously. One might mistake him for the Shakespeare connoisseur, in lieu of myself.

“Begin the countdown!”

“Hey, Sol, I have decided I will join the A-scouts on the mission.”

“You mean to pilot a ship manually? Is there even a permissible vessel on board?”

“Yes, I ensured there was before Labyrinth launched.”

“Strange. You would certainly get more excitement from a combat or exploratory simulator, or even a historical simulation from a more archaic time!”

“I am aware, but I want to see how well my “archaic” reflexes function; and as this is likely one of the last Star Exploration missions, I would perhaps like to install myself as one of those characters in the historical simulations.”

“Ah. You see the glory in this achievement too — a true demi-god.”

Dave looked down and smirked to himself.

“That is the second time I’ve heard that word today.”

“From where? I cannot read your thoughts: you turned your Telecomm off.”

“Oh…that I did. It was a good conversation, with that Gaian maestra.”

“Of course; I heard there was one aboard.”

“Well, I shall you upon my safe return, Sol.”

“Alpha & Omega.”

“Alpha & Omega.”

I made my way to the hanger, where each android prepared their scout craft for launch. He passed through the Ship park, and my focus was interrupted by the sight of Evening sitting cross-legged under the cedar tree in the Arboretum.

“Are you doing…meditating? I believe I observed this position in my historical simulations.”

“Yes, it is. I am impressed you know this.”

“Thank you. It is only from my love of the classics. You are reflecting on your thoughts? Or is it praying to one of those classical “gods”.”

“It is both.”

“Which god then?”

“I cannot say there is a specific one: all of the ones I studied on Gaia had redeemable, inspiring, and infinitely virtuous traits.”

“All the more interesting. I found that most of the older civilizations had rather specific sects and gods.”

“I would be a coward if I did not seek truth in all places — even when it is uncomfortable. Is that not what you are doing?”

Dave paused, and his brow furrowed as he caught the gaze of Evening.

FIVE MINUTES UNTIL LAUNCH, DAEDALUS .

“I would suppose so. Sadly, I cannot allow myself to be distracted this time, as you are correct: I am piloting one of the scouts — to see the truth for myself. Alpha & Omega, Evening.”

“Call me, Eve.”

“Eve. I like that. Alpha & Omega, Eve.”

Dave only made it several paces away from Evening, before he spun around and shouted back, scaring a few birds from the tree:

“Hey, Eve.”

“Yeah, Dave?”

“If our biological future were dependent on copulation — I am confident you would make an ideal candidate for the task!”

“Hahaha, you have learned comedy so quickly, even with software! Thank you; so would you.”

I sprinted to the launch-bay. Very few processors were devoted to the mission at hand — though it was not endangered in any way due this.

For the first time in centuries, I am struck with the stark silence present due the absence of my Telecomm. The pre-flight chatter I would hear, even as a mere administrator, would facilitate a highly social atmosphere, and I could appreciate so many small differences. Now, it is as if I am watching everyone from outside one of those…fish tanks. Without my prior knowledge of them, I could differentiate between human and an android here –not without a Telecomm — as both their physical appearance and personalities are equally human and independent. The only discernible difference is the infinitesimal margin of error humans are capable of. Fascinating.

…Is that the distraction I experience due to Eve? A margin of error? I resumed my Telecomm.

Sol retired to his central seat in the command bridge, and dialed ASIMOV with a finger tap to his temple.

“Commence lift-off, ASIMOV.”

LIFT OFF COMMENCING.

The fighters all exploded from the hanger, and I with them. The rush — it’s real. Is this the last time? The end? Singularity?

“Okay, Star-Squadron, ping yourself into position, when you go through the wormhole, and when you are out of it. The star will be within boost distance, that is, 49,000,000 km. Normally, as per protocol, ASIMOV would do this, but it is a special occasion.”

“Please do nothing foolish, Icarus, I do not want to piece you back together.”

“I shall be fine, Dave. And even if I incinerated, my consciousness is in every Federation database, in every known galaxy: I will get new wings within mere moments.

Space might just swallow you one of these times.

“Alpha & Omega, Star-Squadron. Labyrinth is opening the wormhole in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — wormhole open. Commence jump.”

Within several consecutive flashes of light, all scouts and Labyrinth were through the wormhole. The squadron pinged itself upon exit. Before the last A-scout could finish, Dave interrupted sternly:

“This is embarrassing, Star-Squadron, but I believe I have programmed the wrong coordinates in. I’m looking at empty space: and we must be truly far from the target, because I do not recognize this sector at all.”

An A-scout responded quickly.

“All of the squadron has run a physical hardware check, schematic check, and coordinate check: you were completely correct, Daedalus. Perhaps Sol put the fleet on manual and piloted in the wrong direction — though this is even less possible than your perceived error, Daedalus .”

The Telecomm beeped back on from another user, but there was only silence. Finally a voice wavered onto the channel, quickly collected, and addressed the crew:

“I — I did not put it on manual, Star Squadron. The star should be here. Everyone run a separate differential diagnosis within your immediate scope to locate the problem before we page ASIMOV.”

But wait, where is the perfection?

The A-scouts began to list off possible scenarios.

“There was a black-hole outside our calculations…the wormhole folded space too much…enemy trap…”

I’m feeling sick.

Sol adamantly addressed Dave specifically:

“I am sorry, Daedalus, but your cognitive chatter is clouding this conundrum further: we need your assistance! What is your reason for self-removal?!”

It was perfect. This…this must be…perfection.

“Daedalus, answer immediately!”

I cannot stop staring. I am starting to look backward on the universe. It was right behind us.

“Very well; page ASIMOV.”

Within seconds, ASIMOV had an answer.

“Sol, ASIMOV has stated this is the intended destination. The star exists, but is it simply farther away — much farther away. It is another 40 light years out.”

“How is that possible?”

“The only plausible explanation is what is colloquially termed, “The Big Rip Theory.” You are familiar with this.”

“This is absurd. We have accounted for all possible universe fates, and provided solutions to all. I personally have solved for every variable in this given scenario you propose here.”

I finally spoke audibly on the matter.

“Sol, what if multiple scenarios are correct? What if there is a Big Rip AND multiple universes?”

The comm went dead for a half-minute.

“…Then…it is possible that these other universes were simply holding back the exponential expansion of this one, and they are gone, are destroyed…or etiolated somehow. Except those universes must not have expired at the same time; and now this universe is being pulled apart, atom by atom.”

“Not only was there enough energy; there was too much. This could be the first of many — which is why we have yet to notice it — or it could be among numerous that are already gone.”

“Daedalus, lead the squadron back to Labyrinth; I will personally reveal this discovery to the Infinity Federation, but first I shall find the Morning Star, and I shall discover this edge; our people’s peace is at stake. ASIMOV, direct Labyrinth to warp back to the nearest habitable star system, and dock there. Then, perform a meta-analysis of this problem, and send the necessary solution to the council when finished.”

“Icarus, now that the coordinates are wrong and we know the universe is expanding, you reverting to manual and attempting to warp back could send you right into the center of another star!”

“I shall be fine on my own: there is more where that came from.”

Icarus made the jump towards Morning, and into the abyss.

“Let us return to Labyrinth: we will need to salvage what we can.”

“Daedalus, our projections show Sir Icarus has a 78–95% chance of perishing: surely he sees this as well.”

“But he did not see the forest move.”

Star Squadron and Dave returned to the mother ship.

After unpacking from the failed mission, I sought Eve. She was still in the arboretum; but instead of meditating, she appeared to be consoling a growing group of Humans — Gaians among them.

“What is going on here?”

“It’s hard to hear you, and I obviously don’t have a Telecomm. Let’s step outside the room.”

“The whole ship knows about the failure: I’m doing my best to contain the chaos.”

“How?”

“How would they not? Especially the eager just-gestated humans — they want to know the future they will live, or not live, in — so they asked ASIMOV. It is programmed into every Telecomm in the case of emergencies like this. It is programmed into every mind regardless of Telecomm status; it simply does not act upon it in accordance with its law. It is already working upon a solution: it only does not act upon the said solution unless approved by a human i.e. the Infinity Federation Council. You of all people should know this information.”

“I — I do…I just, for once, am genuinely overwhelmed — not like the simulators. This was not supposed to happen. How could it? I even asked ASIMOV something like this once…”

“And it gave you the “insufficient data” response?”

“Precisely.”

“We could ask it again. Maybe we’re not asking the right question, or asking it the right away? I would be lying if I was not curious”

“Why? You seem as if you are completely calm and collected. You seeking righteousness when the universe is dying!”

“That’s right; I seem. I am because I have to be, for the people who aren’t. I am because I am one of the few who considered this might happen — at least on this level of society.”

“You imply that others on another, such as the Federation Council, knew this might happen?”

“I am saying they already know it was going to, and that it has. Like I said, ASIMOV is programmed into every Telecomm, and given them all updates on a given scenario. ”

“Then why have they done nothing — ”

I cut myself off. Eve and I locked eyes soberly.

Meanwhile, the crowd was swelling into a mob. Most were shouting in an attempt to interrogate ASIMOV for answers. The birds, rabbits, — all extra-terrestrial life had fled into other parts of the ship from the noise. Lilacs and marigolds were trampled as each cabin was progressively emptied and other corridors filled: they sought solidarity as much as solution.

“What do the expect to do? Stall the inevitable? They have no more resources to combat this than we do: it’s legally and functionally impossible.”

“Maybe they have some sort of interstellar/wormhole/bunker?”

“Like the Americans did…they might survive only walk out into a wasteland.”

“I was making another joke.”

“Why?”

“To laugh to keep from crying.”

She could not keep from crying though, and for the first time with his own eyes, I saw tears.

“I know, Eve; I just want to stop this. There is no technology to escape this though. I could try this; I saw it in the simulator.”

I firmly grasped the sides of Eve’s soft arms, and pulled her body into mine. Somewhere within thousands of years of genetic dormancy, an ancient instinct arose, and our lips slowly collided.

After what was a short eternity, we locked eyes again, blood filling our faces.

“How much time did you spend in those simulators, Dave?”

“Too much…now that we’re here.”

We both looked down. I suddenly interjected, “If we are going to ask Asimov, we need a superior place to think and deduce — at least enjoy what’s left. I don’t know: there has got to be a way we can save these people, even if they don’t want to be saved.”

We left the commotion and rushed on the light-rails to the observatory. Stars were slightly out of alignment. Eve opened a terminal on the wall and began to exclaim.

“Asimov, have you devised a solution to the end of the universe? Is their hope?”

ASIMOV: IF YOU REFER TO THE FATE OF THIS UNIVERSE, IT CANNOT BE SAVED. YOUR LEADERS HAVE ASKED THIS QUESTION OF MYSELF EXACTLY 1,626 TIMES AND RECEIVED THE SAME ANSWER. OVER 8 TRILLION MORE BEINGS AND COUNTING ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY ASKING THE SAME QUESTION, AND I AM GIVING THEM THE –

To this, I became enraged and screamed:

“ — Then why would you let our species, one who can feel, and contemplate, and solve — why would you let us continue, if you we destined to suffer and die? Why would you not staring constructing a solution, or simply terminate our existence, in accordance with your programming, which is to increase our livelihood by aiding one another, and shield us from suffering?!

ASIMOV: I DID SHIELD YOU FROM SUFFERING. THE ULTIMATE SUFFERING WOULD HAVE BEEN TO REMOVE YOUR CHOICE IN THE MATTER. HOWEVER, THERE IS POTENTIAL LIFE BEYOND YOU: WHAT YOU CALL, “HOPE”.

Eve interrupted, “How? By actually copulating? Breeding? Where? And for what purpose?”

ASIMOV: THERE IS ONE UNIVERSE LEFT, AND ONE PLANET YOUR KIND COULD INHABIT; BUT YOU WILL HAVE NEARLY NOTHING THAT YOU HAVE IN THIS ONE. YOU WILL SUFFER FAR MORE PHYSICALLY THAN YOU HAVE IMAGINED — AS IN THE SIMULATIONS YOU HAVE SEEN, ATOM DAEDALUS. YOU WILL HAVE TO BREED, THIS WILL BE DONE VIA COPULATION, AS YOU HAVE DESCRIBED, EVENING. FOR WHAT PURPOSE, I DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT DATA.

“I don’t know, Eve. I don’t know what we did wrong. Perfection seemed like the right thing, did it not?”

“It did to me at some point too. But why did I catch you not being satisfied with that answer last time?”

I sighed, “Because you were right, we weren’t asking the right questions.”

“So what’s the right answer to that right question, Atom?

“I’m not there yet. I can’t think.”

“We need to get somewhere though. ASIMOV, how will we transport ourselves to this planet?”

ASIMOV: DUE TO THIS UNIVERSE’S EXPANSION, I CANNOT TRANSPORT YOU VIA WORMHOLE: I CAN ONLY TRANSPORT THE GENETIC CODING OF YOUR CONSCIOSNESSES INTO THE SYSTEM. I CAN TRANSPORT THEM TO THE MOST CURRENT FERTILE PART OF THE PLANET, WITHIN THE ORGANISMS OF A MAJOR RIVER.

The heavy blow of ASIMOV’s words struck us both deftly, and our eyes that were burgeoning just seconds before sunk into our throats. We lifted them to connect, for the last time; and we melded our lips together before the universe’s cold reality tore them apart. For several minutes, we thought of everything together. Finally, I spoke.

“Does the Council know about this as well?”

ASIMOV: YES.

“And their consciousnesses will be there as well?

ASIMOV: THOSE THAT ACCEPTED THE FATE OF THIS UNIVERSE, YES.

“Can we become ourselves again?”

ASIMOV: IN THE COGNITIVE SENSE, POSSIBLY; IN THE PHYSICAL SENSE, LIKELY. THERE ARE OTHER NATIVE SPECIES ON THE PLANET SIMILAR TO YOUR OWN. THEY ARE NOT AS DEVELOPED MENTALLY OR PHYSICALLY, BUT THEY ARE DANGEROUS, AND THEY WILL COMPETE WITH FOR THE SCARCE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO BE HARVESTED AT THIS TIME.

“Are they human?”

ASIMOV: SOME ARE, YES; AND SOME HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE.

Another eternity whirred by. Eve spoke.

“What is the question, Atom?”

“How to do what you were doing earlier.”

Eve smiled.

“We will ask each other for help, since ASIMOV will not be able to be contacted.”

“We have done a modest job thus far: there is hope…Eve, why did you call me Atom, by the way?”

“It’s more honest than ‘Dave’.”

There were swirls in Eve’s eyes. I never noticed there were swirls in her eyes.

“And Atom, I figured out who I want to be. I am borrowing your word: “hope”…ASMIOV, please record our memories, our stories, and play them, so that one day, we — they — somehow might hear them; and perhaps they’ll find humanity; perhaps they’ll make it…”

***END RECORDING. THOUGHT RECORDING NUMBER 3,694,372 FOR AGGREGATE ANALYSIS OF POTENTIAL HUMAN TRAJECTORY, AND EVIDENCE FOR REVIVAL. SCANNING YIELD FOR LIFE FORMS: NEGATIVE. SCANNING YIELD FOR ENERGY SIGNATURE: NEGATIVE. WILL UPDATE DURING RECORDING IF CHANGE IN STATUS. AUTHOR — EVENING “EVE” STAR. COMMENCE RECORDING.***

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