AVI and DENN pulled themselves through the passageways that led to the reactor, occasionally rearticulating their appendages to reach the improvised handholds along the way.

ALERT: Singularity destabilizing… AVI sent to DENN.

STATUS: I feel it… DENN answered.

Even at this distance, they could sense the almost imperceptible thrum of the quantum singularity pulsing and twisting in the core below. They had been awakened specifically for this task, augmented cortexes primed with protocols for reconfiguring the failing quantum gravity field pulling them through space and time.

HeTER, the generation ship was called, meaning fire in an ancient language of EARTH. It had been built to carry fifty homo superiens, hybrid human-cybernetic organisms, and half-a-million homo sapien specimens in vitro to WIROS-GEN, a promising Earth-like exoplanet chosen to reseed humanity.  

For sixty-three years AVI and DENN had slumbered, awakening to perform vital tasks as needed. Over that time they had changed, growing and adapting as they parsed the data of their ancestry and the protocols for their eventual arrival.

Although both knew the story of their journey—the Kuiper Belt object that had appeared in the solar system and slammed into Earth just two years after its discovery—AVI suddenly paused, feeling a compulsion to reprocess it with DENN. 

QUERY: LUNA and ARES failure to rebuild EARTH after KBO impact… AVI sent. 

ANSWER: Cost-prohibitive… Investment in HeTR for future survival and tech innovation was prioritized… DENN sent back.

Sensing AVI’s delay, the adaptive AI chirped more urgently now, filtering the data feed down to essentials—SINGULARITY COLLAPSE IMMINENT… INITIATE CONTAINMENT AND RESTART…

QUERY: Status LUNA and ARES… AVI sent.

This time DENN paused, tapping into HeTR’s communication archives.

ANSWER: Final transmission indicates war between conglomerates… Predict colony collapse from limited resources and EARTH sterilization… DENN sent back.

Another clip from the final transmission—All we need is a fire in the dark… and then the idealized image of a homo sapien, a flame cupped in one palm.

QUERY: Source… AVI sent.

ANSWER: Prometheus… Stole fire and knowledge from mythic beings to advance homo sapien culture… DENN sent back.

A gravity wave rippled through the ship causing them to lose their grip and float weightlessly in the passage. The HeTR AI activated the motivator stream, an amalgam of Earth memories and sensations designed to help them endure the long voyage—a balcony covered in plants that were cool and pliant to the touch, the smell of a salt breeze on a strong wind, the feeling of the Earth’s sun burning and invigorating the flesh.

But this was just data to AVI and DENN. They knew only the dark cocoons of their pods and the passageways of the generation ship. On WIROS-GEN, humanity would build, grow, kill, tear down, and build all over again. The theft of the gods had been squandered and must be righted. 

There was no more need for sending. They floated silently for the last moments that would ever be counted until the singularity collapsed, consigning the memory of humankind to the eternal dark.