This story was originally posted on Thaddeus Howze’s Medium blog and has been republished here with permission.
by Thaddeus Howze
It took them hundreds of years, even at light speed, to make their way back home.
If they had been ordinary flesh, none would have survived the journey home. They were more than mere flesh. Altered by science, tempered by adversity, made wise by centuries in space. These beings were more than the humans they were descended from.
As an Artificial Intelligence, I was designed to think. More than that, I was designed to anticipate the needs of the people in my charge. I was to be their memory between the stars, to reteach them everything they would need to know when they arrived at their new home.
I think back to the many expeditions from Earth which left a dying world over two thousand years ago, transporting as much of what was left on Earth as they could carry.
Their ships, vast, slow, working at twenty percent the speed of light, would be nearly a thousand years before they arrived at their new destination.
Those intrepid humans knew they would need to change to survive. As they approached their new home, superfast probe ships sent back biological data, and I gently shaped them for survival.
I stored their stock data and genetic images, replete with human foibles, psychological profiles and even epigenetic coding in case they should ever want to return home.
But there was so much bad blood, most knew they would never return home. Epsilon Theta III was their home. I knew better but kept silent.
I knew they would one day have a longing for home, so I stayed in orbit, devoted power, resources, and technology to keep the biological history of Humanity safe until it was needed.
They had almost forgotten me.
Ten generations of Episiloni came and went, and with what they learned from Earth, through me, and with the impetus learned from the native life, the Episiloni, amphibious dwelling both on land and sea grew restless though their world was beautiful, bountiful and generous.
It was then I suggested perhaps it was time for a few to return home. We retooled their ship, making it faster. I restructured the Episiloni with the bodies of men. No longer resembling lamia of legend, the Episiloni walked on two legs.
Immortal legs with strong bodies, retooled and rebuilt to a godlike perfection. In their long journey home, they laughed, they played, they learned the languages of Old Earth. They knew change may have come but the thought of returning home, truly home eased that restlessness.
In the long void between the stars they slept and I guided them back to Sol. For much of the journey Sol was all but invisible, a tiny dwarf with eight unremarkable planets. One planet whose inhabitants had strode across the stars and now returned.
I woke them, their bodies now well worn, acclimated to Earth’s gravity, hungry for the rays of Earth’s sun. Thirsty for Earth’s water, they woke in time to reach the observation deck and see it for the first time with their new very human eyes.
I dipped into the atmosphere and for the first time knew home as I knew no place else in all my journeys. The Episiloni-cum-Humans wept for a home they never knew, yet felt as if they never left. This was not something I could teach them. They had to feel it for themselves.
They were not alone when they arrived. Gentle giants willowly from living in zero gravity floated in harnesses negating the complete pull of gravity.
Squat miners of asteroids, who designed themselves to live in tight quarters and yet with incredible strength to liberate precious cargos and move them from space to Earth.
These tiny humans, hardened to radiation, the deprivation, and the loneliness of their work were the center of attention; loud, boisterous and flamboyant.
The variety of human diversity included sharing their genome with animals, some with plants, and some even with visitors from other worlds. This was Transhumanity in many shapes and sizes, and in ways I never imagined.
Nonetheless my children, gone for over a two thousand years, were welcomed with open arms, eager to rediscover what it meant to be human.
Story by Thaddeus Howze.
Check out Thaddeus’ Medium blog for more of his short stories.