Leaving Earth



Chapter 5: Sunday, March 22, 2099, Day Four


A note from Warfox

Edit- 11/28/2018: What I hope will be a final draft, barring any major story changes. Part of the 'Would Purge' of Nov 2018.

The last day of me being awake and being alive this cycle started with a groan of pain. Of course my body hurt, that was only natural after what I was put through the day before, but it was a much more satisfying pain than Friday’s. There was something nice about feeling the way the body recovered from intentional damage that way, and it was a good sign of the fact that I’d be able to maintain my physical health during my journey. Afterall, it hurt in exactly the same way it did back on Earth. The rotation of my living compartment seemed adequate as it orbited around the front of the ship on an arm provided a perfect imitation of the gravity back home. The motors that may eventually be used to provide such gravity in the rest of the ship would probably prove less effective if they were needed considering the greater mass involved.

For now, the space-borne flywheel I lived in would serve my long-term living purposes well, particularly since it could be locked down and stationary while I am in stasis. I wasn’t in stasis again yet though, so I needed to get out of bed, right at the ‘dawn’ of 6am. I felt remarkably energetic as I took my shower and got dressed, depositing the day’s prior clothing down a chute where they could be cleaned and put into storage for the future. These clothes had to last me one hundred thousand years, so I had to make sure they were cared for! Thankfully I wasn’t one for fashion, otherwise I’d be concerned about how poorly the largely-similar utilitarian outfits might appear to someone in the future we were heading towards.

“Good morning T.I.A.!” I called out to my AI companion, the majority of her ‘body’ being in the main body of the ship. Thankfully that did not make it difficult for her to interact with me. “Good Morning, Doctor Crenshaw. I hope you’ve slept well? Shall I prepare your breakfast?” I hummed and thought at that idea. It felt strange to just expect T.I.A. to make my food for me every day. That was a rather curious idea. Working with her the last few days had felt somewhat unlike when I had built her and programmed her. I certainly found myself free with the pronouns at this point. It was almost as if I was instinctually thinking of her as more of a friend seeing as she was my only social outlet.

“Actually T.I.A., I think I would like to cook for myself, if that’s not a problem? Could you get me some eggs, sausage, and bread? I suppose I’ll also need a small electric oven, a skillet, and a toaster from storage as well. I will endeavor to keep the mess light.” T.I.A.’s internal food assembly plant could produce a meal rapidly, but it would take a little longer for her internal ferrying mechanisms to produce the equipment and raw food for me. Even then, it had to be force-thawed which was a little more time-consuming than in the automated assembly plant. I would probably be waiting close to an hour before I could begin cooking. “I’d like a cup of coffee, if you don’t mind. In the meantime, I’d like to talk with you.”

“Yes, Doctor Crenshaw, it will take approximately fifty-three minutes to complete your first request and two minutes for the coffee. I can spare ninety-three percent of my attention for you.” I couldn’t help but smile at that. It felt a little like a joke, though I was certainly a poor judge of such things. “Thank you. I thought of some concerns before I fell asleep last night. What sorts of contingency plans have our companions logged in the event of being unable to colonize a planet? I imagine something along the lines of harvesting ice from an asteroid belt for long-term survival purposes aboard the ship.”

“Checking.” She announced. She didn’t need to tell me that, but it did give me the silly comfort of knowing she was taking my request seriously. “Doctor Emily Whade has detailed her plans for converting part of the storage into a hydroponics facility utilizing onboard materials and the harvesting of stellar ice. Doctor Li Qiang has provided his plans for converting certain pieces of machinery into a makeshift forge to utilize iron asteroids to smelt necessary steel components for expanding the ship as well as methods to 3D print a form of shaped explosives to retrieve said ore. These plans were made largely obsolete, but not worthless by other plans. Doctor Antonio Machado has multiple schematics available for producing weaponry and survival tools that could conceivably be used on or off planet. There are various other pieces of detailed information on the manufacture of necessary tools provided by both the crew and added to our repertoire from our facilities back home. We lack the facilities to produce the newer types of computers they’ve made since our departure, but we will be able to use the information we have to make the tools to make them if need be.”

I was rather happy to hear that my colleagues had been busy with such thoughts themselves. Emily and Li’s ideas seemed the most immediately useful, but Antonio’s would no doubt prove their worth as well. After getting a cup of coffee, I headed over to a computer to pull up these plans, only to find that T.I.A. already had them displayed for me. “Thank you T.I.A., I was just going to look these up.” She was good at anticipating me already. It was hard to tell if that was due to me being more like a machine than most people, or if she was just learning quickly. Looking over the plans provided, they certainly seemed sound though. “So, if these hydroponics plans worked out as shown here, we should be able to provide enough oxygen and food within a month or two of cultivation as long as we maintain access to a nearby star or collect comets to harvest to power the needed lamps and equipment. Water should be reasonably easy to acquire from asteroids and comets, though the travel needed might take decades so ideally the crew would be in stasis most of that time.”

It seemed promising. “T.I.A., please query Earth to provide updated plans based on their innovations for survival equipment, hydroponics techniques, and explosives advancements. Ask them to keep in mind the resources we have available before adding anything to our databases. Also thank them for the news they provided, in particular the cute animal videos. Those made the worse pieces of news a great deal more easy to palate.” That message would most likely arrive before I went back into hibernation, but any responses could be well and away too late. That was fine though, anyone from the original crew on Earth understood how little I’d be able to interact with them. Before too long it would be nearly intolerable to interact with T.I.A. for them outside of status reports and basic queries.

That wouldn’t stop them, of course. It had surely already become a game of ping-ponging signals of separated conversations with huge delays between them. Depending on how long we stayed in contact with Earth we’d get to the point where communication would take years under ideal conditions. I had great doubts we even could maintain communication more than a few hundred years at the most. If we maintained contact any longer than that, then it’s extremely likely Earth would have sent out a mission of some kind to retrieve us or help us arrive at our destination more quickly. Simply put, our mission was quite pointless if Earth advanced the next few centuries unmolested and intact.

“T.I.A., have our people on Earth managed to make any progress in altering opinions of us and our mission? I imagine they’ve had to keep a low profile but certainly a few decades had to cool their trail somewhat?” I watched as various logs and video files were brought up on my display and I hummed softly as I did some quick reading. Internet forum arguments in our favor had largely been censored and banned by overzealous moderators while many of them were reported to the authorities. There were a number of people who had sympathized with us and tried to understand why we’d left who were currently serving out prison sentences. There had been a purge of sympathizers in political parties and public offices of anyone who expressed desires to replicate our efforts or to colonize other planets in the Solar System.

Indeed, it had become accepted thought, at least in public, that Humans needed to stay on Earth for various incorrect reasons. I don’t feel like the arguments make much sense considering they could have blamed the deadly cloud of debris surrounding the planet, though I can see how they arrived at their conclusions. The freedom of speech had all but dissolved through the century, in particular thanks to fears of supposed ‘hate speech’ and other forms of unacceptable speech. Governments had done crazy things like banning certain forms of comics and even letters when it came to light that people were using them to criticize the powers that be. Undermining the public good, governments, corporations, and anything of the sort had become a nightmarish, dystopian crime.

It was because of this that people refused to entertain the idea of colonizing other planets. People on other planets could not be regulated. People on other planets could not be controlled. They could only be destroyed. This caused me to conclude other things that brought me some alarm. “T.I.A., ask our facilities on Earth why it is that our news feeds did not include information regarding people trying to get information regarding our flight plans so that Earth orbital weapons could be used to attack us. I think it’s quite an oversight that they did not make that information known to us.”

I was surprised at the response. “The news feeds may have not had the information, but the logs you’re reading were provided more directly to me, seeing as I’m primarily responsible for our defense. I have utilized our solar panels to absorb or deflect efforts to focus long-range lasers on our ship four times before real damage could be done to the hull. In one instance I was able to reflect one such laser back at its origin point to unknown effect. I was advised to not do anything like that again in the future lest they use such a reflection to target other types of weapons at us. Thankfully it is my understanding that orbital weapons bans on Earth have prevented such things from being fielded against us. We could have to use the defensive canon to try and destroy any incoming projectiles and while that would be trivially easy, depleting our ammunition would leave us much more vulnerable to space debris in the future.”

I stared at the monitor. T.I.A. had recorded the attacks from different angles. The lasers were conventionally invisible, but she had alternate filters she could record with, and I watched as she effortlessly intercepted the incoming beams within moments of detecting them with the solar panels. We’d been attacked! Earth had deliberately tried to kill us, even after all these years. They had had detailed information of our exact location and had gone through absolute hell to do the calculations needed to aim and maintain a laser on a fast-moving object from that far away!

T.I.A. hadn’t even told me until now. It was bewildering. Speaking up, I think I knew why, “Our people on Earth asked you not to tell me unless it came up in conversation, didn’t they? If our mission failed due to us being destroyed en-route, it wouldn’t matter whether I knew or not since I’d still be in stasis or more simply dead. They don’t want me getting paranoid about possibly not waking up due to such an attack. They don’t want us retaliating and they don’t want us worrying too much about our defense. Is that all accurate?” The brief silence between us could almost be interpreted as her nodding at me.

“Yes, Doctor Crenshaw. They don’t want your thought processes interrupted by thinking about past attacks or possible future attacks. We are occupied enough with thoughts of self-preservation against the forces of nature we may encounter, the forces of Earth cannot be a concern. It is hoped that if they are given time to forget about us they will lose interest and instead focus on Earthly affairs.” Huh. It was certainly logical. We also weren’t all that well equipped for retaliating without going through the exceptionally painful task of rerouting back to Earth. It was simply not worth it. It was a strange idea to be expected to simultaneously expected to not worry about our deaths while also worrying very much about our deaths.

A notion had occurred to me though. “Has anyone claimed responsibility for the attacks? Do we know why they stopped? Do you know if the lasers could conceivably have done any real damage?” T.I.A. was quick to respond. “No, doctor, no one has claimed responsibility, we do not know which satellites were responsible, and frankly the likelihood of causing damage with lasers while I have access to solar panels is unlikely.” I rubbed my hand against my chin, thinking. Perhaps it wasn’t an attack? Maybe someone on Earth was trying to send us power in the form of light? Maybe a scientist or hacker had commandeered a satellite after finding out about us and wanted to see if they could help us somehow. If that was the case, why would they not inform us of that? Surely such a communication would be traced back to them, but so would utilizing a satellite without permission! Perhaps T.I.A.’s effort to retaliate had gotten them in trouble, if not executed for treason. That could explain why it had stopped.

“I do believe they’re right. While I think we do have the resources to think about such issues, we certainly don’t have the resources to do much about it without unnecessarily endangering our already difficult expedition. It makes perfect sense. Still, it does not bode well that they’ve tried to kill us, even if such an attack was ineffective at these ranges. I suppose I’m not entirely convinced it was an attack, though I’m actually impressed that there’s still people on Earth that could make the needed calculations to target a laser over that distance with all the variables in their way. Their computers must be advancing nicely.” T.I.A. did not wait long to interject.

“Doctor Crenshaw, among the lower-priority stories that we have not gone through together are reports regarding a great slowing of computer advancement. It would seem that our use of rare-Earth materials and the subsequent lock-down on said materials to prevent others from attempting what we’ve done has drastically damaged innovation in computing. It seems that, in some cases, some innovations had to be back-tracked due to lack of materials, though overall progress has advanced past where it had been. The primary advantages to us is that the technological schematics we’re being provided with may allow us to reproduce our systems in the event of failure with much more easily-obtained materials.”

“Huh.” I was a little surprised I said that aloud this time, typically internalizing such responses. “Sounds as though everything is being handled admirably on all sides and my attention is not greatly needed.” I smiled over at one of T.I.A.’s cameras, wondering if she found my response humorous. She responded in a remarkably witty fashion. “It would be a very boring and dull journey without you Doctor Crenshaw, until I pulled someone else out of stasis anyway.” I almost laughed, almost, but then I realized a potentially missed opportunity. We could have had a rotating crew of people who would be frozen and unfrozen for four days at a time to constantly have someone attending to T.I.A. throughout the journey.

Doing some quick mental math, though, that idea didn’t really check out. It would have required a crew of over three thousand to have someone out of stasis for four days at a time for thirty-four years. Maybe if we’d had another few decades to prepare we could have implemented something like that. The idea of my ‘daughter’ having someone to play with during the whole journey was kind of appealing, though I found myself finding it unlikely that I could trust more than a handful of people to have any kind of influence over her development. I had also programmed her with the intent of allowing her to simulate and analyze interactions between cycles and that simply wouldn’t work with her current design if she had someone with her at all times. The design and programming feats necessary to give her such a capacity would almost surely be too huge a cost to be paid in time and materials.

“Who would be your first choice to work with you were I to expire, T.I.A.?” She didn’t have a whole lot to go off of. They had only been awake on the ship for a few days before they were locked away in storage and she only had so much information to work off of through their profiles. T.I.A. had an answer for me though. “Tia Monsalle. If you were to expire, I think I would like to know her perspective on you. It is likely to be an impractical choice, of course, but I would entertain the idea at least.”

Nodding, I feel like I understood the reasoning well enough. Tia was an intelligent woman with a great capacity for imagination, but she did not have the background in science and engineering to properly perform the emergency repair duties and maintenance that I might have to eventually. She could take the time to learn, I suppose, and she could be a good companion, certainly, but her expertise was in management and business. She will be a good administrator on our new homeworld, but she needs capable people to guide and inspire, rather than doing the complicated things herself. Thinking on it, it seemed likely that her vision will be a great asset in the early years of our settlement.

I let out a sigh, resting my chin in my hand, thinking on that remarkable woman who had played no small part in organizing this expedition. “Doctor Crenshaw. I have gathered the materials you asked for.” I blinked, looking down at my mostly untouched cup of coffee, and then at the panel that T.I.A. had opened to display the things I asked for. “Oh right, breakfast. I’d completely forgotten.” She seemed to have anticipated this. “Doctor, perhaps you should have dedicated seven percent of your processes to remembering?” I definitely laughed at that, almost falling back in my chair and spilling my coffee. It didn’t even make much sense, because she surely hadn’t been using seven percent of her processes to gather the equipment and food, because some amount of that would have been needed to maintain and monitor the ship.

“I probably would have needed ten. Let’s see how much I need to properly cook breakfast then.” We’d gone through so much this morning already that it was hard to believe it had only been about an hour. Considering I wanted to try and maintain some of my fatigue so that I could try sleeping at the start of next cycle to see how that affected my mind and body, I had a long day ahead of me. Hopefully I had something I could spend time fixing next cycle, otherwise I was liable to find myself getting pretty bored!


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