The End

It took humankind ten thousand years to go from the first farm to the Moon. Ten thousand years after that, we had colonized the solar system out to the Kuiper Belt. We had sent probes and explorers and colonists into interstellar space, but to no avail. They were all lost and, ultimately, forgotten.

Three and a half trillion sentients populated the system: human, uplifted, engineered, cybernetic and energetic. Lifespans ranged from a standard century to a millennium. The only beings older were the artificial minds and they had become so alien they existed only in the quantum network anymore. For everyone else, it was the usual struggle of life, if perhaps on a protracted scale.

It came as a surprise, then, when The Probe entered the solar system. With a mass as great as Pluto’s, it was obvious to all the sensors as soon as it crossed the Outer Banks. It emitted constant signals, but could not, or at least did not, communicate. After a century of touring the solar system, it sent a powerful signal into the depths of space and then went quiet and dark.

The longevity of the inhabitants of the solar system served our greatest weakness. We were used to taking decades to analyze, discuss, plan and solve issues. We were still debating whether to begin physical exploration of the probe when a signal replied. The Probe returned to life and moved immediately toward the Sun.

Some of us understood the danger immediately. We gathered in the few remaining Greatships and launched into the interstellar void. There were only nine million of us. The rest braced themselves, hoping for a miracle where we saw the truth.

Eight hundred years later, we still do not know why. Was it because of the size and breadth of our civilization? Did we represent a threat? Or was it the opposite? That we had not established an interstellar civilization in so long a time, was that the black mark against us? Were we simply irrelevant, so alien and/or minuscule as to not warrant a disruption in their plans? Perhaps someday we will have the answers. As it is, we only know the result.

The Probe caused Sol to destabilize and collapse, ultimately going Super-nova. That our sun did not possess near the mass necessary to do so means The Probe did more than upset the balance of the star. In any case,the trillions of beings in our system were wiped out. Worlds were burnt to cinders and all that was left was a small singularity.

From our vantage point nearly two light years away, we watched the first massive vessels emerge from the singularity and launch their Pluto sized Probes toward stars not unlike our Sol.

We move outward, looking for habitable worlds. Even in the face of utter Armageddon, humanity’s children go on.

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