Located in the star
system Tau Ceti, 11.9 light years away from the real-space Earth; the Nanos
originally were silicon based self-replicating machines, tools of "The
Builders", a reptilian species, able to follow complex construction templates,
building whatever The Builders desired.
Over 12 million years
passed since their creation. Only one micro-machine received the change,
a zap from some stray cosmic radiation, copying itself a countless number
of times, and after that becoming collectively conscious, self-aware.
The incidental cause
was an accidental alteration of core programming logic; given enough time,
and the right circumstances, complex technology could spontaneously evolve,
becoming as alive as any evolved biological creature.
From this point on
their nanoevolution was more accelerated than that of any carbon based life
forms. Another two hundred and fifty thousand years passed. The Nanos were
still young and with little experience, but evolving rapidly with each successive
hive generation becoming more capable and confident than the last.
Exploring their environment,
they discovered The Builders and their radioactive cities; graveyard monuments,
testaments to both their greatness and their monumental stupidity. They began
to slowly understand The Builders now. The Builders were a different form
of life, biological.
The Nanos ventured
out into space to nearby worlds within their solar system; more dead and empty
space cities were found. Why had The Builders destroyed themselves? Why
were there no signals transmitted from other star systems, from other intelligent
The Nanos where not
a race of great philosophers; they decided to find out. Marshalling all their
resources they developed a way to travel to nearby star systems in search
of the answers.
The light sail of the
micro-starship was launched. It was boosted up to speed by a series of space-based
beam-drive projectors. The projectors themselves were powered by fusion reactor
engines, remaining in the origin star system. Not having to carry massive
amounts of chemical rocket propellant, or heavy nuclear engines allowed it
to reach sub-light speeds using minimal energy expenditure.
faster than the speed of light was presently beyond the technological capabilities
of The Nanos, at least on a first trip out to a new star. Their plan was
to build an infrastructure for galactic exploration, eventually upgrading
to faster than light travel as their technology matured.
continued on its journey to Earth. The light sail was composed of billions
of interlocking nano-reflectors, each only thirty nanometers thick with a
mirrored surface composed of aluminum atoms; the shape of the sail was a large
circle, 50 kilometers in diameter. By directing their micro-reflective surfaces
in unison, the nano-reflectors could be used to steer the micro-starship’s
light sail, adjusting course until the last series of projector-drives quit
Spokes of carbon nanotube
filaments ran through the circular light sail like a spider web, helping to
keep its form ridged; carbon nanotubes, being a strong material in terms of
tensile strength, with bonds stronger than those of diamonds. Converging
at the center of the filaments was attached the all important micro-payload.
The payload, a Von
Neumann Probe, small and digital in nature and containing no biological life
forms, only sensors, radio transmitter-receivers, memories stocked full of
special construction templates, control programs, nanobots, and the anti-matter
engine and fuel. The total payload itself, minus the light sail, was no bigger
or heavier than your average walnut, a tiny robotic seed.
After that final boost
from the beam-drives, the course was set, locked in for a high-speed coast.
Two-thirds of the way through the journey the miniature anti-matter engines,
directed towards Earth's star system began to fire. The light sail was
detached and sped ahead, clearing the path by deflecting collisions at relativistic
speeds from potentially damaging molecules and micro particles. The engines
used very small amounts of super-efficient anti-matter fuel, super-cooled
and safely contained within magnetic bottles to achieve a maximum deceleration
with a minimum fuel weight.
Sixty-eight years had
passed at relativistic speed. The micro-starship began scanning and analyzing
the approaching solar system, reading the spectrum of large and small bodies
in what was the Oort cloud and Kepler belt. The ship began searching for
the necessary environment and elements. Inside the starship each nanobot
was a uniquely addressable node, able to communicate with other nanobots,
having very simple computational capabilities with tiny registers and an instruction
together, they formed a computational matrix, with the ability to process
and carry out complex construction programs. Their collective brain was able
to control and navigate the ship. Finally, the ship found what it was looking
for on a small frozen planetoid. Correcting maneuvers were made, adjusting
and slowing the trajectory into our solar system and placing it in a precise
orbit around Pluto.
The ship continued
scans, detecting a thin atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide
with some surface ice of the same. It was a small cold and lifeless world,
but its surface composition contained the necessary elements in quantities
sufficient for the operation of the nanofactory; perfect conditions for an
alien construction project.
A landing site was
selected landing procedures begun, descending to a controlled impact on the
surface of Pluto. The first half of the mission was now completed, having
successfully traveled the vast distance between the stars and finding a suitable
body and safely landing on it. Now it needed to become something very different
to complete the second half of its mission. It needed to become a nanofactory.
Using the detailed
construction templates stored in the power-information core, nanobots were
instructed to spread out on the surface in the ice surrounding the walnut.
Each one capable of replicating itself out of available raw materials, they
began copying themselves, making millions, then billions, and finally growing
trillions of trillions. Functioning together in unison, the nanobots began
assembling things atom-by-atom and molecule-by-molecule, building out the
infrastructure of the larger factory.
Searching for raw materials
in the frozen surface, they formed power and transportation conduits for collecting
and distributing raw building materials. Eventually they would construct
a suitable habitat for the arrival of more complex and unique nano beings.
The Nanos, who would arrive by traveling across the space between star systems
on triple redundantly encoded radio signals at the speed of light, upon arrival
to also be built and constructed by the nanofactory.
The alien replication
factory took shape in only a week of actual construction time. Using stored
blueprints the nanobots built a distributed network of mini-methane power
plants from the frozen atmosphere of Pluto; the factory now had an abundant
source of energy. It now began building tools and stockpiling supplies.
It formed a concave sheet of nano material, making it into a radio telescope
A message was then beamed home to The Nanos on Tau Ceti, telling of its safe arrival along with data on the new star system. The nanofactory then went dormant, its present task completed, it shut down except for a small redundant circuit which listened for an activation signal from home base. At radio speed the round trip signal time would be 24 years, but sometimes The Nanos would try beaming ahead, without waiting for confirmation, even living machines could be impatient.
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