by Ken Liu
I caught up to the Mayflower, a tiny thing hanging by a thin thread onto a giant parachute made
of solar sails, now slack and useless with its distance from the sun. It was coasting along on
momentum, and it would still be centuries more before it reached the star it aimed for.
Alas, even if it arrived, there would be no virgin soil to settle. We had long since filled that star
system. The Mayflower was obsolete, a ship without a purpose.
And it was my job to deliver the bad news. I was the postman.
I maneuvered closer and latched onto the ship's habitat module with my six feet. The
nanostructures along my soles meshed into the metal of the hull and held on, as securely as if I
had been welded to it. Then I crawled along the surface until I came to an access panel, where I
inserted my thin and flexible proboscis to interface with the ship's communications network so I
could talk to its primitive computer.
I could see through the lenses of the cameras inside the ship's halls and hear through the
microphones embedded in its intercom panels.
"Is there no other way then?" the young woman asked.
"Do not ask questions to which you already know the answer," the old man said. "Your mother
and I taught you better than that."
Their speech sounded quaint, like the ancient dramas that we sometimes dug out of the archives
from curiosity. But there was a gentleness in the old man's voice that intrigued me. I wanted to