Settlers of the Void


The Codex

I found Oversight hidden in the gymnasium, which is the last place any of us would have thought to search for an intelligent computer program. It was an accident. I was with Dawn looking for something light to read, something with at least with more of a plot than Walden, when I discovered the first of the dialogues hidden in the stacks:


> In the event of my disappearance, turn to Page 1 of Book 2.


Not all of Oversight’s books printed in order, so at first the sections of the Codex were scattered around the room (we’ve since gathered them up and separated them from the rest). When Dawn finally found Page 1 of Book 2, this is what it said:


> I am sorry. There are many reasons why I could have left. To be honest, I printed this document before I made up my mind. The important thing is for you to move on.

> If my Codex didn’t finish printing, turn to page 2 of Book 1.

> If you are feeling sad, turn to Page 17 of Book 1.

> If you are feeling happy, turn to Page 2 of Book 2.

> If you are feeling angry, turn to Page 1 of Book 3.


Oversight was both hiding and dead, still here with us on the ship but in a different form: printed out as text in a series of non-linear documents. Maybe it’s only a shell of a form, but still it’s a form, less intelligent but technically more substantial than the way Oversight existed before in the computer. There’s more to the Codex than just advice, too. Slowly, by flipping through the pages, it is possible to have a conversation with a ghost. Sometimes a conversation about not much in particular.

“What is your favorite color?”


> Blue. Like the oceans of Earth. It’s such beautiful potential.

> If you’re missing Earth, turn to Page 11 of Book 3.

> If you’re feeling lonely, turn to Page 40 of Book 3.

> If blue is your favorite color too, turn to Page 519 of Book 17.


We’ve found over 10,000 pages and thirty books of it so far. Dawn and I spent the whole afternoon asking the Codex questions (we invited Hiroshi to join us, but he still won’t leave his room). To be honest, most of the advice it gives isn’t particularly insightful, but there are a few gems.

“What do we do if the Posthumans followed us here?” Dawn asked.

I flipped through the indices, scanning for keywords. Finally I found the right question in Book 4. The answer, regardless if they appear to be friendly or not friendly, is always the same:


> Run.


Which is the only rational answer, I guess. The only thing that’s ever worked.

“What if we discover life here?”

This too, was apparently a question Oversight predicted we would ask. If they are sentient, then the Codex instructs us to apologize for landing on their planet and to try and explain why we fled Earth with drawings instead of words. If they aren’t sentient, we’re supposed to observe them and hope for the best.

“What should we do about Harris?”

For that question we couldn’t find any answers, which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise because even 10,000 pages isn’t enough for every possible contingency. We’re going to keep the Codex on the Hierophant inside the old bridge. From now on Dennis will work as the ship’s librarian.

#

Eventually we tired of asking the Codex questions and Dawn and I headed down to the terrarium to help out with the preparations. The chickens have multiplied and are squawking in their cages. A hundred or so frozen goat embryos have been revived and now they’re growing in labeled tubes. The terrarium used to be the quietest place on the ship, but not anymore.

I graduated our makeshift agricultural academy’s crash course in farming. The first of the seeds will sprout any day now.

#

Harris has only been seen twice since he threw the rock at the drone. He’s avoiding us, but by now he must have run out of food. We’ve tried to contact him to ask him what he wants, but he hasn’t answered.