Falling, falling, falling.

It wasn’t really falling, but he always thought of it that way as the target star grew on his view screen. Well, it wasn’t really a view screen either, but when in Rome. He prided himself in adapting to local thinking. 

It was cold outside, but getting warmer. Not really, but the effect was the same as light activated portions of his ship “woke up” and came “online.”

Falling, falling, falling.

He passed a few indigenous machines on his way down. He was sorely tempted to mess with them, there was great opportunity for humor there. Even the natives appreciated that idea. 

But that would spoil the surprise. And he liked surprises. 

Falling, falling, falling.

What was he, really? He didn’t know. He really wasn’t a he either. An it. But that seemed so impersonal, so he thought of himself as a he. He was already starting to identify with the natives. He’d been studying them as he fell. Well, studying their electromagnetic broadcasts. They were amusing, though he was easily amused. The Universe was funny, why not laugh?

Other beings around other stars laughed. Math wasn’t universal, but laughter was.

Falling, falling, falling.

Past the gas giants now. Most star systems had them, not all. Not interesting, not to him at least. Sometimes their moons had oceans with odd beings swimming in them. Never appealed to him. He suspected that meant he had not originated on such a world. He had no idea where he had originated. 

That was a lie, and he knew it, but it was too painful to think about, so he didn’t.

Falling, falling, falling.

His machines had been busy. Or parts of himself. The distinction was hazy. He knew a lot about the aborigines now. And he mostly knew he wanted to sneak up on them. So much more fun to be had. He had to slow down now. That was going to be hard to hide. A pound of hydrogen and antihydrogen reacting was going to make a really bright light. So he waited until he was  close to the fourth planet and the light wouldn’t be visible on the third planet.

Stopping.

Well, not falling anymore. A light brighter than a million Suns bathed the dark side of the fourth planet. More than 200 gravities of deceleration. There were times when not being an organic was an advantage, this was one of those times. And he was in orbit. Had they seen him? Maybe, but they couldn’t really know what they had seen. This was going to be fun.

In the NASA Mars Curiosity rover control room a technician looked at a data transmission from the rover. “What the fuck?” he said. 

Our story begins.

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