You sent us out here. We do this for you. We break this painstaking trail, crawl across the universe while time itself runs down; we spin the webs and tie the knots and open the doors, then scuttle away before the light of your coming turns us into plasma.
Is it too much to ask, that you might talk to us now and then?
I know about evolution, and engineering. I know how much you've changed over a billion years. I've seen our portals give birth to gods and demons and creatures we can't begin to comprehend. I've seen things I still can't believe were ever human; alien hitchikers, perhaps, riding the rails we've left behind. Alien conquerers.
Exterminators too, if I'm not mistaken.
But I've also seen those gates stay dark and empty until they faded from our sight. We've infered diebacks and dark ages, civilizations burned to the ground and others risen from their ashes— and sometimes, the things that come out afterwards look a little like the ships we
might have built, back in the day. They speak to each other— radio, laser, carrier neutrinos— and sometimes their voices sound something like ours. There was a time we dared to hope that they really were
like us, that the circle had come round again and closed on beings we could talk to. I've lost count of the times we tried to break the ice.
I've lost count of the eons since we gave up.
A noninterference imperative, maybe? A nature preserve? Mustn't interfere, mustn't talk with the savages, mustn't contaminate their quaint cultural worldviews. What
culture, you imperious assholes? We're stuck on a flying mountain
, we're riding a black hole to the ends of the universe so that you
can frolic in our wake like spoiled children. The mission kills us off one by one, and we make do, really: we mix-and-match our replacements from bits of leftover genes, try to keep the Chimp from indoctrinating new generations with its own simpleminded vision of mission priorities
. We've given our fucking lives
for you, given a thousand lives, each one sliced into a thousand brief bright moments and strung out along a billion years. All so that you can step between the stars in an instant.
All these iterations of humanity fading behind us. All these hybrids and posthumans and immortals, gods and catatonic cavemen trapped in magical chariots they can't begin to understand, and not one
of them ever pointed a comm laser in our direction to say Hey, how's it going
, or Guess what? We cured Damascus Disease!
or even Thanks, guys, keep up the good work.
We're not some fucking cargo cult. We're the backbone of your goddamn empire. You wouldn't even be out here if it weren't for us.
And more than all of that, you— you're our children
. Whatever you are, whatever you've become, you were once like this
My sons. My daughters. Why have you forsaken me?