Under Dead Stars
Summary: Using a camera capable of looking backwards across time and space, Dr. Ulysses Underhill records stories from long dead alien civilizations.
As I have done all I can to prevent thought from hardening with age, it is with great irony that I consign myself to that exact fate for eternity. The Extrasolar Xeno-archeological Initiative is launching their first, and perhaps only, survey intergalactic survey. It is intended to replicate itself as it arrives in target systems, so we can conduct a scientific survey across this galaxy, and perhaps others.
My mind, my memories, and those of other volunteers will be scanned and uploaded into a spacecraft the size of the pen with which I write this. An armada of these craft will be launched at relativistic speed away from our home system, and into the vast void. Should the remains of a dead extraterrestrial civilization or intelligence be found, that craft's instance of my mind will be first awoken.
It is no small irony that I note that would be the standard encoded on the first generation of probes, and their innumerable descendants. Given the cosmic time scales, the millions of years necessary to even survey our own galaxy, I am well-aware my mind will become an ancient relic. I did not reflect on it when I accepted the offer, but I am to be the standard to which all future xeno-archaeologists may be judged. That thought alone would've terrified my younger self.
There is still a certain surrealism to it. I remember my days as a military re-enactor in university, holding a hanger sword and percussion revolver as we advanced towards a line of staring tourists. The thousand posthuman clades that follow in our wake may have similar curiosity towards me and my crew. I hope for the success of this mission. Part of me anticipates that sort of post-mortal fame given to so many artists. I considered myself a mediocre academic at best, but perhaps that is why I was selected. The historian destined to become a relic, enshrined forever as a mediocre measure for our future descendants.
I could not have predicted the development of temporal Viewer technology, which has given us the ability to look backwards in time. Such technologies caused much of humanity and its transhuman siblings to seriously re-evaluate their own traditions, and encouraged others to double-down or be more selective. Earth is now a backwater among the stars, as we stretch our wings beyond Sol. I am of mixed feelings on leaving my homeworld behind, but I know I may one day be back. For now, I consign myself to eternity.
-Ulysses Underhill, PhD
Europa Autonomous University
School of Astrobiology
Department of Xeno-Archaeology