Humanity was dying, but it seemed like no one else could see it. I spent my youth during the early 21st century buried in books and tablets. I was driven, obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge from the time I learned to read. I had graduated from Secondary School by the age of 11, and had earned two doctorates by the age of 19. I had completely tunnel-visioned on my education and forced out any interest in the world around me. My social skills were, and still are terrible, and I never really learned how to properly interact with humans.
I was a prodigy though, a young Einstein, as my parents were wont to tell me. I revelled in their praise and the recognition of others. I sought superiority for as long as I could remember. That was, at least, until an explosion rocked the campus I was researching at. It was the first time I could remember that such an attack occurred at a place of higher education, the first time I realized that my life could potentially be in danger. I was selfish then. Indeed I may still be selfish, but the event opened my eyes to what was going on around me.
My homeland of England, a place I had previously felt no kinship with, was just one of many nations besieged by its own citizens, and those beyond. The messages of the protesters and terrorists had long since lost their meaning, and it had all devolved into the violent tantrums of children. There were causes though. Overpopulation, the casualties of war, increasingly volatile weather, increasing numbers of droughts, and theft, both governmental and corporate had pushed people to the breaking point. What pushed them over the edge, and indeed what whipped them into a frenzy, though, was the media.
Much like the other corporations seeking to bleed the people dry, media almost universally sought to put a magnifying glass on tragedy, and demand there be action or justice in response to it. There was no real justice to be had, even if justice is merely a human concept, because there initially hadn’t been much wrong. These efforts to expose the filth of the world became a self fulfilling prophecy though, as a feedback loop was created that caused people to create more news of the same variety. It almost felt like people were causing havoc for fleeting moments of fame rather than any higher virtues.
I had been so blind. Now, rather than a ravenous hunger for knowledge, I was filled instead with dread for the future. A feedback loop is not easily broken, and the financial incentives were nearly impossible to interrupt. Technology had advanced too far for the lower class to wisely handle, and with everyone carrying a camera and having the ability to submit their footage to the media, they had an army of people willing to destroy themselves and those around them for fortune and fame. I realized I had to do something.
I had seemingly not been aware of myself and my efforts for my entire life up to that point, so complete was my isolation. I was like a plane on autopilot. It would not be unfair to imagine that I had been victim to many of the same sorts of cycles of positive reinforcement as the rest of humanity, and I am not so vain to think I am above that. I had broken free though, and taken a higher view of things. I was fortunate I had the position to do so. I looked back through what I had done, the patents I had made, and the research I had contributed. It was disorienting how much of it felt like I had no hand in, as if I had not experienced consciousness until a concussion wave ripped through my isolated reality. It was my own, personal Big Bang.
I immediately set to work, planning and seeking finance. If the world was in the state I believed it to be in, I would not have enough time if I didn’t act now. I had to commit to this. I had to dedicate every waking moment for the remainder of my life to the rescue of humanity, even if the planet had to be left behind. There were so many flaws with the current system. There was no redundancy. If something were to happen to humanity, to wipe us out, there was no backup. There was no secondary Earth. So few seemed to be interested in preserving this most unique and interesting form of life.
I actually found my sponsor rather quickly, a woman of vision and intellect and wealth beyond my previous comprehension. Even with my meager, retarded social skills she could understand what I could see. Perhaps she was driven by fear, perhaps she was driven by hope, but she believed in me. The two of us set to work to undertake something that had never before been attempted in the history of humanity outside of biblical myths. We were going to build a backup for Earth.
Compared to what I initially hoped it would be, it was a modest endeavor. Indeed, our level of technology was sorely inadequate, despite my own contributions, to make the journey. It is thought that any efforts to reach a new star that would take over fifty years should not be undertaken at all due to the likelihood that in that time propulsion technology would advance fast enough that it would overtake the mission that left before it. As such, it was better to not make the first attempt at all, and instead focus on advancing that technology.
The flaw in that thinking is assuming you will have that time. I could feel it to the very core of my being, that we did not. I did not.
It was not long before we had commissioned launches of equipment into space. At first we worked under the guise of making satellites. Before too long, it was a civilian space station. In truth, it was a ship. It took every ounce of intellect that I could produce to overcome the greatest problems with what I had to work with. Realizing it would take me too long to accomplish our goals, my sponsor sought out others like us. Within a year of beginning, we had a team of some of the greatest minds of humanity forming around us, dedicated to abandoning our planet.
Many of them were much like myself. They were geniuses in their own right, and in fields I couldn’t dream of having experience in. I was encouraged. These were peers I never knew existed, minds on a level comparable to my own. These were people I knew that had to come with us. This needed to be the core of humanity that would undertake this expedition. It was a shame I would know them for so little time.
I may have been a socially awkward, isolated scientist, but many of them had families. I had never even considered the idea myself, but they all had distractions of some sort or another. Their abilities, as a result, constantly amazed me. It was as if they had a greater capacity for tackling multiple tasks at once with the knowledge that they had loved ones to drive them. My love of humanity was nothing compared to the individual love they had for their spouses, children, and in some cases grandchildren. Indeed, did I really love humanity, if I was so willing to abandon them to their own vices?
I didn’t have time to think about this. I instead dedicated myself to learning everything I could from them, and in the process use them to advance my goals. Research and Development progressed by leaps and bounds. Much like similar brain trusts in the 20th century, we found that our combined intellect was greater than its individual components. We accomplished in fifteen years what should have taken a century.
Technological barriers fell one after another. We found materials and techniques to extend the theoretical life of technologies vital to our success. We had detected a suitable target to send our Ark to. Everything was coming together. The problems with the Ion engines we were going to utilize, both in the efforts to refuel them, and maintain them from breakdown fell away one after another. I had become an unclassed expert in programming and had begun work on perhaps my greatest accomplishment while my colleagues assisted me in assembling and launching equipment into space.
T.I.A; Technological Interfacing Artificial Intelligence; would both be my life’s most important work, as well as a dedication to the first person to believe in me. Tia Monsalle, the billionaire who had thrown her fortunes in with me from the beginning, was my inspiration for this project. Theoretically our journey to our target, a planet in the Goldilocks zone of Alpha Centauri B, will take 100,000 years. Our computer technology, as I was creating it, was not nearly advanced enough to create a truly human-level AI, at least not in the conventional sense. T.I.A, however, had an advantage over these other technologies: Time.
It was nearly impossible to comprehend, even for me, the idea of a computer spending decades at a time processing over concepts like emotions and morality, but that is exactly what she will do. The intent is to task T.I.A. with the administration of our spacecraft, as well as the development of her own intellect and personality over the course of our journey. I will be there to guide her for the majority of the rest of my life while everyone else slept in peace. Upon announcing my invention, not my intentions, to Ms. Monsalle, she confessed to me the greatest mistake of her life.
Somehow, some way, Tia Monsalle had the misfortune to fall in love with me.
It was an awkward and embarrassing affair. I was not equipped emotionally or socially for the experience. It was like throwing someone who couldn’t swim into the ocean, but despite my floundering she never let me drown. Never do I think I will understand how or why she tolerated my long absences from her bed, or my feeble efforts to interact with her on a human level. She was, however, my muse after that point. I began speaking of grand ideas of her and I being progenitors of a new humanity. I never told her of my plans, however, to not join her on the other side. T.I.A. will end up being my lifelong companion, not her, but in those fleeting moments I think, perhaps, I truly knew happiness for the first time.
Time passed quickly, and the world fell into turmoil. Resources were increasingly difficult to obtain, and we needed a great many. We purchased great quantities of samples of genetic diversity from around the world. We obtained an incredible variety of plant seeds, especially, as to rival the seed banks hidden around the world. Perhaps most importantly, though, we acquired embryos. We produced technology adequate to keep them frozen and secure through the long journey through space, and obtained such a variety that I nearly wasted time in trying to create artificial wombs to birth them rather than simply bring humans with us that could do so. That alone might have tacked on another decade to our departure.
We could not bring too many people, though. The genetic diversity of the embryos will have to be enough to keep our new population from inbreeding. We decided on 2000, half male and half female, to bring with us. In truth we probably should have brought all females, but there had to be redundancies to even our vault of embryos. We will not get a second chance at this. There was no room for failure. We were very careful about who we brought, screening their genetics and their family histories for potential problems. We could tolerate no familial tendencies for disease, deformation, or disorders. Even I, technically, should have been disqualified for my obvious social disorders.
I will not likely be going to be breeding though. I will, instead, be the shepherd, not the sheep. My plan is to join my companions in cryosleep only periodically. Every thirty-four years, or so, I will exit my stasis for four days at a time to assist T.I.A. in her processing and research, catalogue transmissions from our facility on Earth, and administer repairs to the ship as needed. This work will take me late into my late sixties by the time we arrive. It will be more than three decades of near-constant work to safeguard my charges. More than long enough for me to potentially die by the time Tia Monsalle and the rest of our cargo left their long sleep.
Plans rarely survive contact with the enemy, or so I’m told. Thankfully the enemy didn’t know about us, at least not for very long. It took longer than I expected, to be honest, for the media to discover our gargantuan spacecraft. Orbit was a big place, and there wasn’t actually as many cameras up there as people thought. Our media contacts were mostly able to shout down cries of conspiracy by reminding people that we were making a space station, but at the level of progress we had reached it was impossible to mistake what it actually was. It was time to leave.
We already had our cargo aboard, for the most part. Many of my colleagues had decided to stay behind, the oldest ones especially, to manage our facilities on Earth, and to secure an uplink to our ship to allow us to receive as much information as we could from humanity. I will only be able to personally respond three times a century or so, so my communication will mostly be one-way. It is my intent that T.I.A. will keep contact with Earth, and typically will not respond without my consent. That was when the assassinations started.
They began with the families of my colleagues, then it was employees of Tia’s company. Before too long it was anyone we had ever done business with, anyone who had supplied us with materials or cargo. Attacks on seed banks, sperm banks, agricultural companies, tech firms, and steel mills became common. The media revelled in the bloodbath, telling Earth to destroy the betrayers. We could not stay. The ability for people to acquire personal information only led to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of people and the destruction of infrastructure not seen outside of war. Most criminal was the loss of the seed banks, in my opinion, as these were supposed to allow humanity to recover from catastrophes to Earth’s biodiversity. It was insanity.
With my crew in stasis, and T.I.A. and I preparing for launch, we were made aware of one, final cargo vessel on its way to our ship. It was not scheduled, and indeed we had already completely filled our storage. It was then that I was contacted from the vessel. Somehow a terrorist had commandeered the transport, and they had brazenly contacted the media while they approached the ship, promising to blow up the betrayers. Thankfully, in my foresight and distrust in the stability of humanity, I had placed two great canons on the rear of the ship. Their primary use was to propel the ship in times of desperate need, but in truth they were also to defend the ship from debris and threats like this.
I had never killed before, not up to that point. I took no joy in it. Our work was too important. The world watched as I aimed the cannon at the helpless vessel and fired once. Our ship was rocked, partially rotated by the shot, but the aim was true. It tore the vessel apart, and while none of our cargo ships should have had anything explosive on them, it exploded in a brilliant light. I was not able to view the explosion for long, as T.I.A. maneuvered the many robotic arms that surrounded the hull of the ship to block the debris from the explosion from hitting us. Our primary defense against interplanetary debris will be these arms, as at their ends they held what amounted to shields.
On the surface of these shields also had deeply embedded solar panels, and as we got underway they rearranged to face our sun like a giant reflective sunflower. Our great Ion engines engaged, and we slowly got underway. The only other propulsion we used were two enormous chemical boosters, which had been incredibly difficult to assemble in space, to get us up to a good initial speed. These boosters were abandoned before too long, and on March 15th, 2065, the Ides of March, and my 37th birthday, we officially left the gravity well of Terra, the third planet around the star Sol. Our destination around the binary stars of Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B should hopefully prove habitable.
I hope I live long enough to see it, but I have work to do. Ion engines have a great deal of power efficiency to their fuel ratio, but they take a long time to accelerate. The Voyager spacecrafts left our solar system at speeds fast enough to reach our destination in 80,000 years, but we have to decelerate on our approach to our hopeful new home to protect our frozen cargo from damage. Thus it is that we leave Earth. Our work has only begun. It is imperative that we brook no mistakes. We will not get a second chance. Even if humanity survives the dark age it is driving itself into, it is unlikely that another such expedition could be undertaken for a very long time. We had access to resources and technology that will be jealously guarded in our wake. I can not imagine that with the state that humanity is in that they would ever allow anyone to leave again, at least not until the current systems have collapsed. Humanity will need to tear itself down in order to rebuild, and we can not be a part of that.
If the 21st century was the highest height humanity would ever achieve on Earth, then we were the best that humanity had to offer. If Earth’s current course sent it spiralling back down into a new Dark Age, we will be the last sliver left of its former glory. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel guilty. Too often had I wondered if I could have helped solve their problems instead of abandoning them to their own devices. Much of that guilt left me as I saw images of the killings that were undertaken in name of opposition to us. I realize that all the same potential exists in my crew, as humanity is ever corruptible, ever capable of evil. That is why we can’t allow it to happen again on our new home. Our species depends on it.
I am Dr. Hawthorne Crenshaw. I led these people to abandon Earth, to abandon the rest of humanity. I have sentenced them to a possible lonely death between the stars. I have sentenced them to labor for the rest of their lives to nurture a new seed of humanity on a new planet, with all the same potential to bring ourselves to ruin as our companions on Earth seemed like they were going to. I have sentenced myself to be prisoner in a cage of my own making, to protect these people and our cargo en route to our new home. I hope one day I can be forgiven. I’ve lived these last fifteen years in fear, and allowed it to drive me to this course of action. I believe I am right. I hope I am right. There is no safety net.
If I may make one request of the endless voids of space, it is this. Please, allow me to see the sun at least once from the surface of our new home. Please allow me to die an old man knowing that he succeeded in saving these people. I have never been a religious man. I have known only science and research and a pathetic smattering of affection in my life. Please just let this be successful. And if I could beg one more indulgence, please let Tia Monsalle, the fool that she is, survive on the other side as well. I don’t know that I ever loved her. Perhaps the millennia to come will reveal this to me, but she certainly loved me, and I owe her that much. I fervently hope my awkward, pathetic efforts to return some fraction of her affection was enough for her.
And to humanity: You will rise again. Somehow, someway, some fraction of your number will survive the destruction you will bring upon yourselves. If it’s not us, then some survivors of Earth will retake it. Endeavor to survive. Struggle to survive. Perhaps one day we may dream of a future of many more such expeditions to other planets, of a galaxy alive with Humanity, rather than rife with its ruins. Good night, and good luck.