For millions upon millions of years, it drifted through space alone. At a time when trilobites swarmed through the seas of earth, it had been cast out of its home solar system. A wandering star had passed too close, and its gravity had ejected it from its orbit. Left behind were its stars and fellow planets as it was cast into the cold darkness of space.
Until, at last, it found a witness to its travels. Without the illumination of a sun, it was just barely visible, easier to see by the light it hid than the light it reflected, and indeed, that’s how the astronomers noticed it. A gas giant, more than twice the mass of our own Jovian neighbor, was heading towards their home, and by every law of motion known to them, it would intersect their planet’s orbit in a few years’ time, absorbing their homeworld into its mass, before continuing on its unstoppable path through the galaxy.
The civilization knew their doom was nigh. Prayers were prayed, rockets were built, fantastic journeys were planned, anything that might provide their species with another few centuries of existence was considered. But in the end, it was all for naught. They lacked the technology to survive away from their world, and they could not overcome that barrier to make their great leap into space before the destroyer of their world arrived. All they could do was hope that some small part of them might survive.
In the hopes that their world might simply be thrown out of its orbit rather than outright destroyed, caches of bacteria were sealed deep underground, where they might be able to survive the coming catastrophe and repopulate the planet. With an extensive series of explosives, they carved the text of their sacred scriptures into the largest of their moons. Records of their race’s history, its culture, its art and music and language were put onto space probes and launched out into the universe to be found by another species someday, so that it would at least be known that they had once existed.
The wanderer arrived as expected. It swept up its small victim as it passed through the orbital plane. The temperature on the planet’s surface dropped dramatically. The friction from the gas giant’s atmosphere slowed the planet’s speed until it no longer orbited, but fell. It crashed into a sea of metallic hydrogen, breaking up into rubble as it was absorbed into its devourer. Those who had built deep enough bunkers to survive the loss of sunlight managed to live long enough to die from their homeworld being ripped apart and obliterated.
Of the thousands of probes launched, one made its way towards the Gould Belt. Its nuclear battery powered its radio as it sang its lonely song to an empty galaxy, desperately looking for a listener to hear its tales of a dead world. It flew past uninhabited systems, scattered across the great void. Ahead of it, a small yellow dwarf became larger, eon by eon. As it journeyed, apes evolved and diversified, spreading across Africa and Asia. Many branches died out, but one not only survived, but thrived, its descendants conquering the earth.
The sun’s light grew. Its warmth awakened the probe’s primary functions. Its solar panels unfurled gracefully as it prepared for possible contact. It broadcast its stories. Would someone hear it? Would someone finally know of its long extinct builders? It used all of its power, singing as loudly as it could, as widely as it could, hoping for someone, anyone, to notice it.
The earth filled its vision. Perhaps someone there might turn on a radio and hear it, record its song and decode it, and learn of those who had once lived so long ago. The probe’s journey was over. Just before its circuits melted, it broadcast its final message: “Remember them.”
On the surface, two humans sat together and watched the shooting star streak across the sky. “Aspice!” cried the man. “Bothynus!”
“Bellissimus est is,” sighed his companion, as the probe burnt up over the rustic hills of Latium.
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