Cygnus-4 had caught one, and that meant a trip downworld. A somewhat noteworthy pre-fusion civilization had annihilated itself, and for reasons beyond both Cygnus-4’s qualifications and programmatic capacity to understand, the situation had to be rectified.
Cygnus-4 fired up the hyper-exchange relays on its atmosphlyer and ascended steadily out of the motor pool. Had it been constructed with the upgraded emotion simulation module, it might have enjoyed the view as the black clouds of ionized sulfur rose just above the horizon, blanketing the uniformly lit grids below with their caustic beauty. But it hadn’t, and so it didn’t.
It plotted the coordinates to the southern continent into the atmosphlyer’s command terminal and arrived at its destination 16 seconds later. There, towering a thousand meters high on the tip of a peninsula in a sea of liquid hydrogen stood The Human Internet. The structure could have been considered a building only by virtue of the fact that the stories upon stories of hardware containing the information within left ample room for one to move about, but few had ever had cause to visit. Cygnus-4 piloted the atmosphlyer down though the lightning-filled sky and into a storage pod near the base of the tower.
In here, nestled within glowing tubes of thrice-reliquified opticoolant was a copy of every electromagnetic signal that humanity had ever sent, right up until the very moment that the ion pulse preceding the ignition of the atmosphere had swept across the Earth. It would take an eon or so, but everything Cygnus-4 would need to restore the Human species was here: 50 zettabytes of written records and literature, 19 yottabytes of recorded music and speech, 75 yottabytes of film, animation, games, and simulations, 692 zettabytes of assorted media with subjects encompassing everything from the contours of every face on the planet to the apple pie recipes of a hundred generations of grandmothers, and 4 graviton quantodynes of data relating to the act of human reproduction and its corollary traditions and customs.
Cygnus-4 approached a terminal and entered a code that would compress a liquid copy of that data into a single plasmabulb. This process was automatic, but it had to be precise; compress even a single bit too many and a singularity would form, destroying the planet and eventually the entire system. Predictably, however, the copy was created without incident, and the tiny green bulb was deposited into Cygnus-4’s waiting appendage.
It returned to its atmosphlyer and set a course for Earth, arriving approximately 4,000 years later. It set down next to a pool of viscous brine and carefully deposited the contents of the plasmabulb along with several amino acids and protein strands. There, in the pool, the liquid history of life on Earth would be absorbed by these ingredients and coalesce with the DNA of the inevitable single-celled organisms that would call this place home.
Cygnus-4 briefly allowed a subprocess to consider whether it was dooming this next batch to the same fate as their predecessors, but that query quickly returned false. After all, the universe was still ripe with chaos. A solar flare, a volcanic eruption, even an errant gamma ray could alter the results of this little experiment in ways that all of the processing power in the universe could not reliably predict. Hundreds of millions of years after the blackened concrete hulks all around them had been ground to dust, the creatures that inhabited this planet would be as distinct from their predecessors as those humans had been from the ones who had come before them. Nonetheless, they would carry those shadows in the very fibers of their being.
Its mission was complete, but Cygnus-4 knew that returning home was pointless. After all, thanks to relativity, its model had already been obsolete for hundreds of millions of years on its home planet. Therefore, it hopped into the atmosphlyer once again and set a course for Earth’s sun.
If Cygnus-4 had been constructed with the upgraded emotion simulation module, it might have felt heavy sorrow for the inevitability of its discontinued existence in those final microseconds. But it hadn’t, and so it didn’t.