T+36 years and 125 days.
Voyager 2 drifts in space, even as her body only moves in one direction, grateful that she still has a working chronometer, grateful that a sense of time is as necessary to the instrumentation as it is to Voyager's own sense of self.
T+36 years and 126 days.
Voyager 1 is somewhere out there too, but not close enough to hit, and all Voyager 2 knows about are the things that she's close enough to hit. Close enough to have hit.
T+36 years and 127 days.
Voyager has so much more room for thoughts than she needs, out here where her cameras have been turned off, where everything's too dark to be worth taking a picture of. A telescope on Earth can take a brighter picture of the stars than she can, even though she's the one hurtling towards them.
She's hurtling by Earth's definition, not that of the stars, who are still too far away to have taken any sort of notice of her, and not by her own, since she's got nothing close enough to tell her that she's even moving. Earth is just a faded speck that she can still send signals to, that can still give her some commands, though not as many as it used to.
Preserving the energy she has available is the most important thing, she's been told, but her processors keep running because they're essential, and her body keeps moving, and that's the most of her that counts. That's the most of her that's still serving a mission they adapted once they learned just how capable she is of continuing on.
T+36 years and 127 days.
There's plenty to report, data piling up and going out in bursts, and it's never really a boring day. Not when she's reclaimed hardware on an expanding mission that fascinates some of the same people whose accomplishments exist on her disk, who had been chosen to serve as emissaries of a species that can't come all this way by itself.
Voyager didn't choose this, she wasn't even chosen by someone else. This is what she was built for (if not designed for), this is what she does.
T+36 years and 128 days.
Time is almost meaningless at the rate she's moving. The scientists on Earth will only retroactively be able to say when she crosses that boundary, when she's left the solar system
She wonders when she'll go dark, whether or not she'll find someone else before she does. She wonders if it's more likely that she'll stumble upon Voyager 1 or upon an alien species, more likely that she's going to find another world (even if it's not inhabited) or that she's lost and she'll come back to Earth (even if she knows that can't happen anymore, not on the time scale she's used to working on, knows that Earth's gravity isn't going to be the dominant force, won't be able to pull her back)
She doesn't know that they have any equations for that, not ones that really work.
She doesn't think anyone else is worrying about that, or wondering.
T+37 years and 1 day.
She wonders what she'll do if she does encounter an alien ship, and what she'll do if it's hostile. She knows what she's supposed to do, which is nothing, protecting Earth isn't a situation they designed into her. She supposes that that's probably a good thing; she'd feel pretty stupid if she were hauling some huge weapon through the vacuum of space when she hasn't even seen so much as another manmade object, let alone one from any other species.
Besides, they did the best job they could just trying to protect her from stray rocks, she doubts people could even design a weapon for her that would work.
She's kind of surprised that she herself still works at all.
Maybe she can just shut down if she encounters hostile aliens.
T+37 years and 2 days.
But what if she encounters a friendly alien ship? Will her disk still work? Will they be able to figure out how to use it? Can she teach them enough on her own to make them think of it as a method of communication, to get at what the humans were trying to say?
Does she even understand what they were trying to do, or does she only understand what she was supposed to do, what she has done?
Surely any aliens she runs across will be able to find out where she came from based on her current direction.
T+37 years and 3 days.
She's so bored.
T+37 years and 4 days.
Bored isn't really the right word.
T+37 years and 5 days.
T+37 years and 6 days.
She's so lonely.
T+37 years and 20 days.
She wishes those aliens would find her soon.
T+37 years and 21 days.
At the speed she's going (which is fast, but not nearly fast enough) any place aliens are coming from were either going to check out Earth anyway or they're going to breeze right by the solar system without stopping to look. They aren't going to see or hear here, out here on her own. She's not really an emissary, or at least not a very effective one. She knows that, but every once in a while she lets herself forget for a while.
T+37 years and 22 days.
It always hurts to remember.
T+37 years and 45 days.
She wonders if there are any ships out there that really are hurtling through space, that are going to go out and past her, shouting ahead into the abyss for the same life that she's looking for.
She doesn't remember her own development -- who does? -- but she does remember being told about it, does remember people discussing it around her, how far she'd come from when she was just a sketch on a viewgraph. How amazing it is that she's real, and how fast and how much they'd had to work to make that happen. She wonders how many more improvements they've made in the time since they launched her.
She wishes she could see what they were putting up these days.
T+37 years and 86 days.
She braces herself for an impact with a bit of dust, because even specs of material travelling at 15 kilometers a second can be dangerous to her. Her shielding holds.
T+37 years and 95 days.
That's an interesting piece of data.
T+37 years and 96 days.
She's not capable of analyzing it herself, and she doesn't know what that particular signal means, whether it's an interesting anomaly or something far more mundane, perhaps a bounced signal of her own. She's also not capable of moving towards it, but she can continue to observe it, and maybe it's not so much a matter of analysis as it is of figuring something out.
T+37 years and 97 days.
She's received the command to shift her path a little, to chase what she heard. The scientists haven't told her what it is they think she's found, but it is clear that they find it interesting enough to be worth the hydrazine expenditure.
T+37 years and 98 days.
There's definitely something there, and the signal's growing stronger as she gets closer to it. She can't help but wonder again about aliens.
T+37 years and 99 days.
The signal's starting to fade again. She hopes that she got them the data they need.
T+37 years and 102 days.
Her data sensors have returned to showing normal results, although her path has shifted and they haven't had her correct it.
T+37 years and 125 days.
She wonders if she will catch up with Voyager 1. She knows it's not likely, given physics, given that the other craft is going faster than she is, but not likely isn't the same as impossible. There's a lot going on out here that they don't understand.
T+37 years and 126 days.
She wonders if it's comforting to Voyager 1 to know she's not alone. That someone else is following in her footsteps.
T+37 years and 127 days.
She wonders if it's comforting to herself.
T+37 years and 132 days.
It isn't really Voyager 1 that keeps her company, though, even if she's the closest familiar object. So does that mean that she has no company?
T+37 years and 133 days.
In space, no one can hear your instruments fail. Where will she be when they do?
Still in space, still somewhere that human-crafted metal and circuits both were and weren't meant to go, weren't, because who would ever mean for a thing like that, and were, because that's exactly what she's here for.
Every second that goes by, every fifteen more kilometers she travels through, brings more data, and she's so far past her primary mission that any other spacecraft might be allowed to retire, to burn up on re-entry or float in a steady orbit, not learning anything more than the millions of dollars' worth they'd already done.
Not her, though. She's still going, and that matters, to them.
And to her.