Eya slowly awoke from her slumber. After sleeping for hundreds of years, it can take a while to wake up. The machines surrounded her body like a cocoon, massaging her flesh and articulating her joints. It filled her body with life giving sustenance and mind altering chemicals like a coffee cup laced with cocaine. After several hours she was fully awake and felt her senses come back to fullness. She smelled the aroma of gamma rays and saw the millions of stars around her. She felt the coldness of the virtual vacuum of space around her, the warmth of the fusion reactors humming inside the ship, and the heat from the closest star in front of her. The ship was her and she was the ship.
One star was the brightest of all. Its ancient name was Kepler-442. The ship had planted itself in an eccentric orbit with a collision course to the second planet of this solar system, 442b. This planet was the reason she was here.
She was taking a risk by traveling through space like this, but she was not stupid. Any outside observers would have a very hard time distinguishing her ship from any of the millions of comets orbiting this star. From the outside it was just a dumb rock, only accelerating or changing course when absolutely necessary and mimicking all of the features of a typical comet.
Eya was a Searcher, searching for the offspring of humanity and collecting what data she could. There is only so much you can learn when confined to one solar system and robots can not be trusted to do the search on their own. Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is impossible to predict, human intelligence included; but at least if mistakes were made it would be a human making them.
Eya was human, although her body was infused with nanobots that monitored her cells at the microscopic and molecular level which allowed her to be effectively immortal. The nanobots repaired any broken DNA, destroyed any misbehaving bacteria or virus, and helped control the processes that otherwise would kill a human being during long periods of cold hibernation. Her entire physical body was submerged in a brine vat and coated in sensor-relays which allowed her to virtually feel and see what the ship felt and saw. She could will her ears to be filled with the sounds of interpreted data collected by the various sensors of the ship, so that a super nova became a ringing bell or a planet’s chemical composition became a melody.
She looked at the Kepler-442 solar system around her in real time. She listened to the hum of the six planets spinning around this system and saw that some of them were leaching atmosphere into the void of space being blown by the solar winds of their star. She sniffed the molecular composition of the solar wind and decided to capture some argon for later use. Using the elements found within a solar system as propellant helped to disguise your presence.
This was the 12th system she had visited since leaving the Society. So far she had not found one shred of evidence of a human (or post-human) settlement, but she still kept a shred of hope inside her. “They have to be out here somewhere. Maybe this is the one,” she thought to herself, although with each planet she grew more weary.
Many elders of the Society did not like what the Searchers were doing. “What if the predator finds you and somehow you lead it back to us?” they would ask with fear and searing disgust. They insisted that each Searcher be equipped with a self-destruct device that would detonate the moment a predator was sighted. Eya was well aware of this fact and it haunted her nightmares, when she dreamed at all. But she was determined. The frontiers of Science always required some danger and self sacrifice. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, humans have put their lives on the line for the advancement of science. Eya’s era was no different in this regard. Without science her species would no longer exist.
She went back into hibernation and told the ship to wake her up when in orbit around planet 442b.