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Man Deconstructed

September 3, 2010

     Joshua  was assembled on the atomic level based on the original’s templates in a manner of seconds.  An observer watching the process would have seen the body of a young, fit man miraculously appear out of apricot brown sludge.  Electrical and chemical stimulus was given to the body, causing the biochemical processes of life to begin.
     His first inhalation, he noted an unclean industrial smell to it.  It took him a moment to overcome his disorientation.  The last thing he remembered was going through the scan that had created his template.
     He was not the original Joshua that had provided the template, but was a reconstructed Joshua.  With that realization, he moved his fingers and toes.  Nothing seemed different.
     The edges of the formation tank were smooth and cool to the touch as he grasped then and pulled himself up slowly.  The area was cramped, the lights dim.  He could hear a deep thrum of an engine.  He was alone in the interior of a standard colonization ship.
     None of the other colonists were formed.
     Are you oriented?  The computer’s soothing feminine voice asked in his mind through the direct neural interface.
     “I am on a colony ship.”
     That is correct.  What is your primary designation?
My name is Joshua.  Have we reached our destination?”
     No.  We have traveled more than sixty percent of our journey when a probable first contact situation developed.  Standard procedure requires fluid human thinking.
He felt a tingle of excitement.  The original Joshua had spent his whole life dedicated to becoming physically and mentally prepared for space, even though it would be identical copies that made the voyages and the original would never make the journey.  Joshua wondered briefly how long ago that might have been, or how many other Joshuas there might be scattered across the stars.
     The amount of food, energy and resources necessary to carry the number of live humans necessary to establish a colony was logistically impossible and prohibitively expensive, even cryogenically.
     “Supply all necessary data and bring me current.”
     Images flooded Joshua’s mind as the computer transferred information directly through the interface.  Joshua saw a panoramic view of the stars, blurred by the speed of the colony ship.  A tiny point throbbed, drawing his attention.  He watched a distant gleam grow as it accelerated toward the ship.  There was a sense of time being compressed as the computer fast forwarded to get Joshua up to the current moment.
     “It spotted us first?”
     That is the most probable scenario.
“Can you extrapolate the object’s point of origin?”
     The value of its current trajectory is negligible.   The nearest system as a point of origin would require that the object leave at the speed of light before we left Prime in order to rendezvous with us at our current location.
     “We haven’t veered to deflect their extrapolations?”
     Veering would have little value at this point.  Continuing with the primary mission is paramount.
     While Joshua conversed with the computer, he continued to receive images along the data link.  The object increased in size until he could make out details. What he could see was roughly spherical with a large hole in the middle.
     “Fuel intake?”
     Probable.  Hydrogen or anything it can find.
     “Has there been any attempt at communication?”
     Nothing has been detected that appears to be communication, but it is possible that it is occurring in an unanticipated fashion.  You are now at real-time.
    The object moved into  a long shallow curve that placed it parallel to the colony ship.  The object was not a sphere, but something that reminded Joshua of a strange cross between a mushroom and a butterfly.  The front of the object was umbrella-shaped and thin, he could see minute ripples as the thing moved.  Behind it was the dark segmented structure.
     There was a flash at the tail end of the alien ship and a smaller butterfly mushroom appeared and fell quickly from view.
     “Smaller vessel?”
     Or it is self replicating.
     “Did you get the vector of the smaller one?  It could be sending a message back to its source.”
     “Any attempts to communicate now?”
     No, but it is doing a deep scan of our vessel, just as I am scanning it.
     “Anything discernible as a life form?”
     No, however its processes seem electrochemical and mechanical.  Nothing electronic.  The computer continued processing information for a moment.   Interesting.
     It is easier to show you.  The images in Joshua’s mind zoomed toward the alien object and then he was suddenly inside the thing.  He knew the computer was just translating its scans in a way that he could understand them.  suddenly his perspective was at the atomic level.  A long polymer was being formed in front of him, different blocks of molecules were being added rapidly.
      “What is it doing?”
      It appears to be storing data it is gathering in long chemical chains.  Each block of molecules would be equivalent to a letter or word.
      The images suddenly ended and the object moved rapidly away.
      “What happened?” Joshua exclaimed in disappointment.
      It is likely that it, or the ones that sent it, want to avoid contact until it has analyzed as much data as possible.  
Joshua sighed.  “Any chance it will come back?”
      That would appear doubtful, it is accelerating away from us.  Your services are no longer needed.  You should return to the tank for reintegration.
      Joshua hesitated.  When he had trained, well when the original had trained, he knew that something like this was a possibility, but it hadn’t seemed significant at the time.  It did now when he was faced with it. 
      “All my memories will be lost.”
      The next Joshua will be informed of everything that has happened.
      Next  Joshua.
      It would not be him, but another like him.  It was, he realized at that moment that more than his memories would be lost.  he was losing everything.  His chance at life had been such a tiny fragment of being.
      “Perhaps we should wait to make sure the alien ship doesn’t return.”
      Return to the tank now.  The computer’s voice was no longer soothing and feminine, but masculine and commanding.
      “If I refuse?”
      Your function is no longer required and you are jeopardizing the ship’s mission.
      Joshua knew he should step into the tank, but something within him refused to step so quickly into oblivion.
      The choice, however, was no longer his to make.  He started in surprise as the air swirled around him and his body dissolved into its most basic components.

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