Brief by Karl Dandenell
The first interstellar flight is nearly ready to depart, and the only thing lacking is a pilot. They have a volunteer, but the catch is they have to travel as a downloaded AI. The recording process will kill the pilot, but they will “live on” as a piece of really sophisticated software. That’s the theory anyway. Early tests were… mixed.
The ship isn’t a colony vessel. The physical constraints of slow travel (no FTL or really advanced drive), combined with the lack of functional cryosleep mean the pilot will be going alone, along with all the Lego blocks of stuff to make a new civilization. It’s going to be lonely.
Depression, and coping with it. Self-discovery. Estrangement and connection with family and humanity in general.
I envisioned this originally as a flash piece, with all the action taking place in a surgical suite while the pilot is getting ready for the download.
Character A learns in that moment (or the night before) that they will soon become a great-grandparent. Now they are faced with a dilemma. Stay and fulfill that role, or go on the trip anyway.
Character A is not the first choice for pilot duty. They are a close companion to Character B, who cannot make the journey for Reasons. The substitution is unexpected, and possibly last minute, forcing Character A to deal with their legacy. The central question for me was, “If you had to give advice to your unborn descendants, what would you say? What could you say?”
Bonus points/plot twist: Could their be a Character C who might step in Character A gets cold feet? Is there something/someone that would make Character A give up this historic opportunity and stay behind?
A – old, but not ancient person. Wealthy but something of a hermit. Outlived their spouse/lover.
B – Friend of A. Genius behind the AI protocol. Driven to prove themselves after disaster with human trials in cryosleep experiments.
C- Long-term rival of A who would be happy to become the Pilot. Motivation isn’t revenge but ego.
D – Nurse/prep technician who witnesses the scene. Possibly related to B, and has serious doubts about ethics of killing someone just to make an AI.
I think this one can move from a place of sadness and wistfulness to internal resolution. Character A will make a difficult decision but be satisfied with it. Either way, it’s an adventure and they feel alive again after going through the motions for many years.