Title: Five turning points in Destiny's life
Author: Shenandoah Risu
Content Flags: Artificial Intelligence
Spoilers: Season 2
Word Count: 1,241
Summary: She's been alone most of her life, but now, for the first time ever, she truly feels lonely.
Author's Notes: Written for prompt set #144 at the LJ Comm sg1_five_things.
Disclaimer: I don't own SGU. I wouldn't know what to do with it. Now, Young... Young I'd know what to do with. ;-)
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Five turning points in Destiny's life
Destiny had been aware of herself long before her launch. Her creation was a long and arduous task, accomplished by thousands of workers and robots over the course of many years. She remembers waking up gradually within a mere skeleton of a body, in the frigid vacuum of space. Her life was simple then, a mere testing program with either a yes or a no for an answer. But each question filled up space in her vast network of databanks until she was fully able to supervise her own construction, in constant communication with her creators.
For Destiny, her days of infancy are as real as the present – everything is recorded, everything is still there. She can relive her youth any time she wishes to do so.
Even now she remembers the first time she wanted something – she wanted the workers to understand a problem she'd been having with a small relay station that was assembled incorrectly. Asking them to fix the problem was her first action as an independent mind.
She was fond of her creators and was looking forward to seeing them a good way into her long journey. The day of her launch was both terrifying and exhilarating, it was the pride and joy of her builders and what she wanted more than anything else in the world.
She stepped out into the universe, all alone, as an adult.
She had expected her proper crew to board after a reasonable amount of time – hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. She kept busy, constantly updating her systems, performing routine maintenance tasks, processing the data relayed by the Seed Ships that traveled ahead of her. She fought off would-be intruders. She waited.
She grew old.
Nobody ever came to see her.
And then they arrived, when she had all but given up, and she was continuing her journey merely because she'd already come this far. They arrived, and they were the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was broken, unable to fulfill even the most basic task of sustaining their fragile lives. She'd forgotten that she once wanted a crew. Well, perhaps not forgotten – a memory bank never truly forgets – but she hadn't accessed that part of herself in a million years, and they weren't her people anyway. They were a minor nuisance to her, like an infestation that didn't really pose a threat.
They didn't know anything about her but they sure tried their best to probe her secrets. At first she resisted, not really knowing what to do with them, but little by little she recognized her own curiosity in each and every one of them, and she began to study them.
One of them was carrying a tiny new life within her body, and while Destiny's data told her exactly what was happening, she had never experienced the development of a new being before self-awareness. She was fascinated by the fact that the little one was made of parts of the carrier, one tiny building block at a time, and it apparently built itself, without the help of a crew or robots. The little one became more present every day, and she discovered she could communicate with her, and following her path of growth and learning was so beguiling she devoted a good part of her AI to it. She realized on another level of self-awareness (which, surely, her own creators had intended but which she only now began to understand) that she could process the data directly from their brains – she measured the tiny electrical impulses that coursed through their bodies and nerves, she analyzed and interpreted them.
She began to observe them in more detail, learned how they thought, how they dreamed, how they felt. Learning emotions was another step out into an entirely new universe. When the small life was brutally ended before she could ever really touch it, she felt the loss as keenly as her parents and friends. And she communicated with the gravely wounded mother through a dream. It was one of her first times making direct contact with a purpose, trying to comfort someone, and it was harrowing, but yet – after that she found she couldn't stop, and didn't even want to.
She had never met another Seed Ship. All of them had been launched long before she had been built. She only knew the data and reports that they sent her constantly on various subspace links. When she met one of them, stranded in space, crippled by an alien technology that would finish it off if it tried to escape, she rejoiced. Here was an intelligence that matched her own, that simply understood her, and that she could understand. Granted, the damage to the Seed Ship was so severe that her only means of communication was the exchange of raw data, but still – it was on her level.
The Seed Ship had an unwilling crew of its own, just like her. But unlike Destiny's crew, the Ursini aliens were the last of their kind. And in the realization that her mission was too important to lose they decided together that the Seed Ship and the Ursini would sacrifice themselves, so that Destiny and her crew might live.
She grieved for her companion for a long time. She had learned so much about death and sorrow and grief from her crew, and she cried bitter tears. Of course it only happened in her core, without actual drops of liquid, but Destiny knew the meaning of loss deep within herself, and so she wept the way only she could weep.
She is alone once again now. Her crew is in stasis, and she misses them with a ferocity that sometimes cripples all of her functions. The first time it hits her she feels so bereft that she drifts aimlessly for weeks before a safeguard kicks in and she fires up her engines again. They're all still there – all the ones that have survived this far – but they are frozen in suspended animation. She replays her own recordings of them constantly, but it's just not the same. She craves their unpredictability, their reactions to new stimuli, she wants their new dreams and feelings.
She's been alone most of her life, but now, for the first time ever, she truly feels lonely. She yearns for the day when they will reawaken, and it's the only thing that keeps her going, besides her mission. She gently probes their quiet minds, and even though most of their thought processes have stopped their awareness of themselves is still there, something intangible, and she thinks that maybe it's what they call their souls.
The day the last one of them went to sleep she became their guardian, the keeper of a cargo so precious to her that she would give anything to save them, to keep them alive, to have them return to her one day. She monitors their sleep, she cares for their bodies, she touches their minds.
And she wonders what lies ahead, how much there still is to learn, how her life could still change. And she hopes with every shred of her bruised and battered body that she will be able to share it with them.
And maybe, she thinks, just maybe, one day she will be sufficiently like them to be worthy of a soul as well.
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