Adrift in Eternity

Summary: The city drifted through the void, unbound by all but entropy.

The city drifted through the void, unbound by all but entropy. It was among the last artifacts of the universe's youth, a cosmological relic forged in era of the supermassive black holes. Its creators had survived the dimming of the stars, and they thrived in the black hole era, even as the hungry giants devoured all matter in the cosmos. They too succumbed to evaporation. By the time the last of the leviathans evaporated, the remaining civilizations engaged their own survival plans.

The city was one such plan, although it was not alive in a conventional sense. Instead, it was a microbe-sized processor that stored the uploaded denizens of earlier epochs, a ghost ship amiss in a dead universe. It remained dormant, until the cosmos itself cooled. As the temperature approached absolute zero, it came to life.

Ancient phantoms filled its simulated streets, thinking anachronistic thoughts. Conversations terminated cosmic eons ago resumed mid-sentence. People moved about the mimicry of daily routines that continued even after their transition to computational substrate Above, the sky was filled with facsimiles of long dead stars. Time slowed, as the city expended a small amount of its power supply.

It went silent a moment later. The sky disappeared. Conversations were again suspended. The specters of elapsed ages lapsed like a desert mirage. The world disappeared once more, vanishing into stasis within the probe. It drifted alone through the void, as the universe cooled around it. Once it reached a particular temperature, it activated once more, for an even shorter interval.

The city and its infrastructure operated using periods of staggered dormancy. The lower the cosmic temperature, the more efficient its computers. Thus, it could awaken for a time, return to sleep, and repeat while only draining half of its power. The first awakening consumed half of its power, the second consumed a quarter, the third consumed an eighth, and so on. Just as the universe asymptotically approached zero, so too did its power. And so, it was thought it would continue, until it either failed or was rendered otherwise inoperable.

Its original architects, and its current citizens, had seeded the dying universe with many such craft. Their hope was one would survive in the vacuum for an event that would be statistically rare, but not impossible across infinity. That would be a second Big Bang, arriving spontaneously from the void. While improbable, they nevertheless seeded the universe with their scions. They had no rush, for they had all the time in the universe.