Those Who Laugh
A billion light years from Earth, Tucker Wells stumped his damn toe. Hard. He went down swearing, and the floor managed to warm up enough between his ass moving towards it and his ass making contact that it didn’t feel cold. It could do that, but it couldn’t warn him he was about to jam his little toe into the doorframe with way more force than was comfortable.
Tucker was about ninety percent sure that the personality on the ship did this sort of thing on purpose, possibly as a result of being a mind that could perform factors of magnitude better than the meat monkeys it was tending to. He wasn’t sure that Bob, the personality, had a sense of humor, but he had his suspicions.
“Are you alright, Tucker?” Bob said.
“I’m pretty sure that your scans work down to the picoatomic level, so I think you know. I also think that you move the doors just slightly every time you wake me up.”
“Tucker, you know that your safety and well being is my highest concern. And yes, you’re fine. Won’t even be a bruise.” Bob said, in a smooth voice that, like the door thing, Tucker strongly suspected was designed to annoy him while simultaneously allowing Bob plausible deniability.
Tucker grumbled but didn’t actually say anything, rocking on his naked ass while cradling his toe. That he was so far from home, surrounded by the pinnacle of human technology or, at least, what had been the pinnacle when he started on the survey, and was sit buck ass naked grunting like an ape was not lost on him. He laughed. What else could you do.
“Once again, are you alright Tucker? Should I wake up the others.” Bob said.
Which was personality passive aggressive for get your ass up off the floor and do the damn work. So he did. Well, first he went to the bathroom and pissed, which was where he was going when the toetitanic happened.
After that he got dressed and went to see what Bob had done to the ship while he was under. He could have had Bob tell him, or even make a neural connection while he was under and have Tucker just wake up knowing, but Tucker was old fashioned, and preferred to see things for himself. He wasn’t alone in that, which was why he was so far from home.
The truly cost effective way to explore the universe was to create self replicating Von Neumann probes and, indeed, they’d done just that. They had refined the art of creating personalities down to the point where they could launch baseball sized probes cores and let them grow from there.
But the probes were just the scouting party. Their job was to find worlds that looked like they were or at least had been habitable. Preferably with signs of civilization. There was no good reason that the probes wouldn’t have been enough. Logic said that the quality of the sensor arrays that built was many factors of magnitude better than anything humans could parse, and that seeing these places through probe transmission wasn’t just the same as the real thing, it was better.
Except it wasn’t.