“While you were outside,” the computer tech continued, eyes never leaving the AI’s housing, “and Jackson was taking care of the maintenance bots, I was working on a few different things.” She pushed and pulled against the handholds on the bulkhead, looking ready to launch toward the AI at any moment. She seemed to realize what she was doing as well, and stilled herself with a visible effort. “One of those things was that city we saw.”
“We don’t know for sure that that’s a city,” Dann started to object.
“We do know,” Jenny said. “At least we do now. After you left, I got Rose Dawn’s sensor suites up and running again. The AI caught on eventually and shut them down again, and they were useless after that, but while they were on I picked up a lot of very interesting stuff. The colony down there has been filling the air with all kinds of broadcasts. Not nearly as much as Earth was producing, but way more than I need to say, yeah, they’re definitely human, and they’ve been here a while.”
“That’s crazy,” he said. “How can that be possible? How long have they been here?”
“I can’t tell from the broadcast contents, but there’s enough development on the surface that I’d say years, or even c-centuries. Without knowing the population they had to start out with or any knowledge of their living conditions, it’s hard to tell for sure. They’ve built quite a bit and have 3 major population centers that I was able to make out on this side of the world.”
“Three doesn’t sound like that many for half a world,” Dann noted.
“Not for Earth, no, of course not, but it took time to build a lot of huge cities on Earth, too, back in prehistoric times, and they were in an environment that was ideally suited to them. Colonists on another world, like us? We’d have to focus our efforts on the best available spots, wherever they might be on the surface, and prioritize that above concerns like being close to the neighbors, right? I-I’d say they’ve done pretty well to have three cities so fast.”
Dann found himself wishing for gravity so that he could rest his head in his hands easily. If it was true that the planet had already been colonized by humanity, they had to have left after the Rose Dawn had, and obviously they had traveled a lot faster to arrive so much earlier.