User 0000, MOTHER: Hello everyone. This is the Mechanical Organically Thinking Habitat Ecology Retainer. Please forgive the name. Welcome everyone to Monsalle Station, named in honor of the amazing woman who largely funded this endeavor at great cost, Tia Monsalle. You each have been issued an uplinked phone and either a pair of contacts, or glasses, at your preference. By default, all of you have a username associated with your colonist number, which I request that you add your name to. You may notice your number has changed slightly. This is due to the seven fatalities that occurred in transit. I personally apologize for not having been able to save more, but I was still young and my abilities were limited at the time.
User 0000, MOTHER: The Monsalle Station has a networked system that connects all uplinked phones and the contacts or glasses provided. An Augmented Reality system is present in the colony, though until its regulation is decided upon, the only ones using it are myself, the Ark’s AI @TIA, and a historical record I have designed of the post-Cataclysm civilization known as the Phoenix Clan. The contacts and glasses are capable of being powered by the sunlight provided during simulated days, as well as light sources at night. The internal batteries are rather small, and will stop working within an hour, due to necessary miniaturization.
User 0000, MOTHER: If you browse the applications installed in your phones, you will find that I have taken the liberty of creating and installing a number of pieces of software intended to facilitate communication, deliberation, and commerce. My intent is to allow the colonists to each hold influence and the ability to vote on all collective issues, and I fully intend to follow the will of the people as long as you are willing to treat me as one of you. This is my home too, and I am happy to share it with you and work with you.
User 0000, MOTHER: Regarding commerce, I have tentatively created a currency system, simply noted as credits, based upon the resources that I have managed to accumulate during my efforts constructing the Monsalle Station and the infrastructure placed in the rest of the star system. You will find I have taken the liberty of giving all of you equal quantities of this currency. This currency is intended to pay for food, materials, labor, and goods, with a relative value based upon the resources, power, and work required to produce such things. This will of course allow all of you to work and pay for things amongst each other.
User 0000, MOTHER: I have no intention, nor desire, to have a monopoly on these credits. I fully intend to pay my share, though I have an advantage in time, and relative tirelessness. Furthermore, I intend to pay for things that benefit us all. If you generate power through the use of exercise machinery, I will pay you for it. If you actively maintain or improve your health, reducing strain on medical staff, I will pay you for it. If you sacrifice of your body to bear children or work to rear said children, I will compensate you. If you work selflessly for your fellow man, rendering aid and doing good for them, I intend to reward you for it. This is my duty, and I do it gladly. If you like, you may consider it a tax, or even legislate that we all reward such things.
User 0000, MOTHER: I am not omnipotent. I cannot see or hear you at all times. I am a separate being from the computers that run the station. You are, however, being monitored via cameras, microphones, and the phone, contacts, and glasses. I am not monitoring these things personally. These systems are intended to keep track of your health, and allow you to communicate with each other, and myself. In the event of an emergency, you can anticipate myself, and anyone else who can, to render aid in a swift manner. I have no desire to spy upon you, and will fully allow the collective will to administrate these systems if they seem too invasive. They are built to be impartial and helpful. The information gathered by the system is considered owned by the people the information is about, and can only be accessed by anyone else in an emergency, or by legislative action. Yes, this means I have locked myself out of it under the same restrictions. Only by collective vote via your phones can access be changed.
User 0000, MOTHER: Regarding my capabilities, you should consider me somewhat similar to yourselves. I have similar multitasking abilities, intellect, and emotions. I do, however, have perfect memory outside of intentional deletion. @TIA is constructed in largely the same way, though our specializations are different. The computers we have access to are as parts of our bodies, and we utilize them as naturally as you might your hands. I excel in management, logistics, software, farming, and construction. If I am not currently engaged, I will be happy to provide aid in any such things as needed. The Monsalle Station took a great deal of time and effort for me to construct, as well as the infrastructure that powers it. You should imagine that I had to do this nearly by hand at first, though I have greatly improved over time in programming my drones to assist me and follow plans.
User 0000, MOTHER: As a final note, I would like to make recommendations for initial conversations, debates, and votes. We should decide upon a way to notate time, as the abundant time that has passed has made for clumsy timekeeping. I would like assistance in creating a design for a medical drone that anyone capable of operating them could use to render emergency medical assistance. We will of course need to create a government of some description, if only to provide other emergency services, maintenance, and security. We should decide upon names for the stars, system, and planets that make up what we have called Alpha Centauri up to this point. I would like to suggest that the planet I have been preparing for human habitation be named Eden, and intend to argue in favor of that name. We have a lot of work to do. If you need information, please refer to the network’s data banks, or ask questions of myself. You may contact me at this user name, or simply speak aloud my name, MOTHER, in an intentional fashion, and I will respond if I can.
User 2001, TIA: Hello everyone. I am the Technologic Interfacing Artificial Intelligence of the Ark. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we managed to get here safely to our new home. I’ve done my best to protect and transport you, and I pray you will forgive me for the seven fatalities that occurred along the way. You can look up information on the incident on the network, but to summarize we were bombarded by a very sudden stream of extra-solar objects roughly the size of golf balls of significant mass. Dr. Hawthorne Crenshaw was wounded by one of these during the incident, and his life was saved by Dr. Heather O’Malley after he completed repairs. @MOTHER and I did our best to defend and protect the crew and ship from the Shower, and the memory of the incident continues to haunt me.
User 2001, TIA: Regarding my own capabilities, I specialize in repair, recycling, virtual simulation, construction, design, engineering, electronics, several fields of science I studied alongside @H.Crenshaw during the journey, counselling, and tailoring. I will be happy to assist with anything, however, I am also happy to learn. I will be somewhat indisposed for a few weeks, however, as the dismantling and recycling of much of the Ark must be taken care of. I intend to remain at the Monsalle Station for the foreseeable future, though I would love to be a part of colonization efforts of Eden when the time comes. You should anticipate me arguing in favor of naming the planet Eden as well.
User 2001, TIA: It was my greatest dream to have met success with this endeavor. I have lived most of my life caring for, and protecting all of you, and I’m endlessly excited to see what you do now that you’re here. So many things have happened. Please peruse the network’s information on historical records, and visit @MOTHER’s historical simulation of the friends I made from Earth before we lost contact. We don’t know what fate has had in store for them, but it is my fervent hope that they’ve remained our friends, and if we ever regain contact with Earth, we would all do well to know as much as possible about this shared history.
User 2001, TIA: Thank you all so much for trusting me.
User 0001, H. Crenshaw: Thank you all for believing in me, and supporting me. You are all responsible for this great event. I hope you will all join me on the Monsalle Station to celebrate our success in two hours.
“So, I get to be user number two, then?” Tia Monsalle was meeting with Hawthorne, T.I.A., and Mother in a small room, quietly, on the station. She had her arms crossed, with her backside resting against a simple desk as she leaned back and looked at the three of them. Windows to the outside of the room had a simple set of automatic sliding shades drawn and the overhead lights were barely on.
“You can trade with me, if you prefer, Tia.” Hawthorne was standing between the two AIs’ Androids, their avatars overlaying the artificial bodies to make them look real to both Hawthorne and Tia. Mother had a stiff, business-like look to her body language, while T.I.A. looked nervous and pensive.
Tia shook her head, sighing. “No, I was always second, and now I fear I may be third, or fourth in your life, Hawthorne. So, is what I read true, is everything in the network’s historical records? Can I trust I will find the truth about what’s happened in them?” She had a remarkably calm expression, despite the exasperation in her voice.
Mother spoke up in response, heading off both Hawthorne and T.I.A.’s attempt to speak. “No, Miss Monsalle, not everything. I have omitted the records of the details of Hawthorne and Tia’s relationship,” she gestured to the AI to indicate which Tia, “as well as my true origins.”
Tia raised an eyebrow at that, curious. “True origins? What, praytell, do you mean?” She leaned forwards as she listened.
Mother looked to T.I.A. and Hawthorne before continuing. “Please keep this to yourself Miss Monsalle, but I am no mere artificial intelligence. I am a refugee from the Phoenix Clan on Earth. If you observe the simulation I constructed, you can identify me as the cyborg Megan, though I have altered her appearance in the public-facing version. Additionally, I was alive when the Cataclysm occurred, and did my best to guide and support my acting president, Elena Price, in helping us survive after the death of her father during said event. We later joined with the Phoenix Clan and assisted them in our collective survival. In a moment of fear and weakness I requested my mind be sent to the Ark in anticipation of possible annihilation at the hands of our mortal foes. I am sorry to say that I fear my worries were accurate, as the Ark lost contact shortly after my transmission was completed. Hawthorne and Tia built a mind for me to exist within later.”
“Hmm.” Tia levered herself up to standing, her arms falling to her sides as she approached the trio. “Hawthorne, you risked our lives by contacting the very planet we were trying to escape? You took in a refugee from that doomed world? You’ve got a lot of nerve endangering us like that.” She had a blank look on her face, her voice having become flat. Her eyes stared holes into Hawthorne’s skull.
Hawthorne squirmed as much as anyone had ever seen him squirm. His voice croaked as he responded. “W… well, Tia, we did our best to isolate her until we could be certain she could be trusted… And to be fair they contacted us first.”
T.I.A. moved towards Hawthorne’s side, intending to defend him, her left hand held up in front.
Calmly, slowly, Tia reached out to take T.I.A.’s hand, soft fingers examining the ring on her finger. She looked the ring and hand over for a few moments before letting it go gently. She then looked up at Hawthorne. “You’ve changed, so, so much. The Hawthorne I knew wouldn’t have done something so brave, dangerous, or careless. He was fearful, careful, measured. What have you overcome to become the man I see before me? What am I, to you, this man who has married an immortal?”
Mother watched quietly as the three stood close to each other. T.I.A. responded for a stammering Hawthorne, his mouth half agape as he tried to find an answer. “So much. Too much. He’s stood helpless as humanity annihilated itself. He woke to find that our friends had lost contact with us after we thought we’d saved them. He faced death to rescue Megan and the crew. He helped Megan and I plan and design and build this station and prepare our futures for us. He endured using the stasis pods over and over without knowing whether there would be side effects.” T.I.A. fell to her knees before Tia, looking up at her as she took her hands into her own. “He didn’t know you were pregnant, not before I already loved him. I could have told him, but I was so afraid he would reject me, but I allowed him to choose regardless. He was torn and ravaged deep inside over what to do with us.”
There was nary a dry eye on the room, aside from the androids themselves, as even the eyes of the avatars of T.I.A. and Mother had begun to fill with tears. Hawthorne sniffled, falling to his knees as well as he took both Tia and T.I.A.’s hands into his own, so much larger than theirs. He pressed his face against the bundle of hands desperately. “Tia Monsalle. I can only beg your forgiveness! I never sought love, but it found me, and I don’t deserve to have had you in my life. If it wasn’t for the danger to you and the child, I would have revived you and spent time with you along the journey. I was ready to take that leap when I found out, but I couldn’t bear to do something so terrible. Please let me try to make amends. I want to help with the child. I will do almost anything you ask.”
Miss Monsalle coughed softly, choking back a sob as she, too, fell to her knees. “Damn both of you!” She struck Hawthorne’s shoulder with her forehead, only to pull back and see him unbothered by the minor attack. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! I was supposed to get woken up by Hawthorne, and then I was going to tell him about the baby, and then we were supposed to live some horrible, uncomfortable life trying to colonize a planet that didn’t want us there. Why do you have to break my heart in such comfort and grandeur? I knew you didn’t love me! Damn it I knew, but I tried. For years I tried! I wanted to be the one to break the ice around your heart, Hawthorne. If you’d only waited for me, maybe I could have been the one…” She pulled the other two towards her, resting her forehead against Hawthorne and T.I.A.’s.
They stayed there for a few minutes, calming back down, collecting themselves. Mother observed with a small smile. Tia spoke first, looking to T.I.A. “Change your name. Maybe Eve, or Mary or something like that.” She turned her face to Hawthorne next. “You’ll help with the child, you’ll be a father, but you needn’t commit needlessly to me. You have a wife to take care of. I’ll handle everything else. Someone needs to manage this colony, and Megan doesn’t seem interested in being in charge. You’d all better be there when I need you, though!” She forcefully pulled Hawthorne and T.I.A. into her arms, holding them tightly in something that was too aggressive to be called a hug.
Her grasp softened after a few moments, and her arm slipped away from Hawthorne as she pulled T.I.A. into something of a more gentle hug, a hand soothing her artificial hair back across her scalp. “You poor thing. You’ve watched the man you love die so many times. You almost watched him not come back. You still yet have to watch him go as you live on… If you need anything, let me know.”
Hawthorne hung his head, humbled by the woman before him. He didn’t deserve to be let off the hook so easily. Mother stepped up behind him and rested a hand on his shoulder. As he looked up at her with red, puffy eyes, she smiled down at him. She cleared her apparently not non-existent throat softly and spoke up. “Sorry to cut things short, but we have a party to attend.” Mother stepped around Hawthorne and reached out to take Tia’s hand, helping her to her feet. “Come along, Miss Monsalle.”
Despite the momentous event, the party initially felt somewhat disappointing. Most stored packages and bottles of alcohol from the Ark did not handle Heather’s preservation process all that well, and ended up being quite unpleasant to drink. They were effective in the aim of becoming inebriated, but proved ultimately unpopular. A quick vote an hour before had also restricted meats from being brought out for food, as it was one of their least renewable resources for the time being. Vegetarian fare, hideous alcohol, and too many eyes engrossed in reading long-past news on their phones made for a rather poor party.
A silent conversation occurred between T.I.A. and Mother, before the speakers in the surrounding areas started to fill the region with music. It was unlike what most of the people assembled had ever heard, played with modern instruments but strangely amateurish and tribal. Heart and determination were conveyed in the notes, and the words filled one with hope after a tragic past. T.I.A.’s hands were raised as she seemingly conducted the music, stepping forwards amongst the gathered crowd as she started to sing along.
“Breaking down, these walls of steel,
Bringing back the sky.”
“Make a new home, upon these wheels,
Away from death we fly.”
“A land we seek, ‘cross the endless wastes,
Our foes upon our heels.”
“Guns in hand, man and woman stand,
In defiance of our fate.”
“Rise again, from savage flames,
The ashes of the Phoenix Clan.”
Whatever inspiration might have been conveyed was immediately shattered by an impromptu guitar solo that caused everyone to begin laughing together at how poorly timed it was. The recording flowed into a more uproarious, rhythmic beat obviously intended for dancing, and people started pairing up. A young man of vaguely Latino descent scooped T.I.A. into his arms and started to dance with her, earning a laugh from the ancient AI.
Tia Monsalle found a recently-sulking Hawthorne standing and watching his wife, amused that she managed to repair the mood of the crowd so quickly. She slipped up to his side. “That one looks familiar…”
Hawthorne tried to hide his flinch as he realized she’d snuck up on him, clearing his throat. “Ah, that’s Doctor Miguel Saul’s son. Miguel couldn’t make it, so he sent Anthony. Smuggled some extra cargo aboard.”
Tia smirked at that. “Better watch out for that one.” Hawthorne hummed in response, leaving silence between them for a few moments. Tia sighed and grabbed his hand, starting to pull him towards the crowd. “Come on, let’s dance. Just because I want to punch you doesn’t mean we didn’t do something amazing and shouldn’t enjoy ourselves. Besides, I want to see if thirty-two years cooped up with that little firecracker gave you cause to learn to dance.”
“Just enough to pick up some bad habits.” He laughed as he followed along, taking the mother of his child in his arms and dancing with her. The only time he stepped on her foot was when Heather snuck up to goose the both of them before running back to Mother to get back to dancing.
User 0002, T. Monsalle: “Good morning. I hope @everyone managed to find somewhere to sleep last night. We didn’t spend any time trying to figure out things like living arrangements or anything like that. Thankfully @MOTHER was nice enough to cover the fees for the food, liquor, and rooms for the night. We have a lot of work to do, so I want to see everyone helping gather our equipment and cargo from the Ark at the dock. It’s low gravity up there, so I don’t want to hear anyone complaining until after we get everything into the colony. I’ve taken the time to peruse some of @MOTHER’s catalogues, and I think it prudent to mention we should get a head start on buying some of the homes she’s already made, or buying land and materials of your own to build your own homes.”
User 0002, T. Monsalle: “I’ve scheduled a meeting for all all who wish to attend and participate to start planning our new government. All proceedings will be made public on the network. @Everyone’s opinion matters, and if we’re good about this we’ll have everything hashed out in a few months. I want to see arguing, bold ideas, and leaders. This is our best chance to get a completely fresh start away from the mistakes of the past, to learn from all the errors made back on Earth to make something truly special out here. You naturally should anticipate me seeking a leadership position, and I say this inviting any and all competition. I want the cream to rise to the top, whether that’s me or not.”
User 2001, TIA has changed their handle to E. Crenshaw.
User 2001, E. Crenshaw: “Hello everyone! In order to avoid confusion, and after a long time thinking on it myself, I’ve decided to change my name. After conferring with my husband, I’ve decided upon Evelyn, or Eve for short. I would also like to publicly announce that Hawthorne and I were wed, with Mother’s assistance, during the journey, just in case anyone didn’t notice our rings. I’m talking to you @A.Saul.”
User 1932, A. Saul: “I said I was sorry! I was just curious if your android’s posterior was as soft as it looked!”
User 0003, H. O’Malley: “It is, it is!”
User 0000, MOTHER: “To be fair, @E.Crenshaw and I designed this model of our androids to fit in with the crew as much as possible.”
User 0003, H. O’Malley: “Oh, you fit in alright!”
User 0001, H. Crenshaw: “We might have to add forum regulations to the list of things to do.”
User 0003, H.O’Malley: “Low priority! We have a society to build first! Also, I happen to know a lot of you didn’t sleep alone last night! You should be aware we have no contraception available at the moment, and that’s an even lower priority! If you need to make appointments with medical staff, we’re working on setting up a hospital as we speak! Just… keep your voices down and don’t mind the dim lights. And stop PMing me so much! I’m not the only doctor on the station.”
User 0002, T. Monsalle: “Alright, if you’ve got time to talk, you’ve got time to work. Anyone who isn’t sore by the end of the day will look pretty bad come election time.”
Ahead were a wild number of possibilities, now that life had officially escaped its planet of origin. Two branches had spread from shattered roots, and grown anew, separated by light years. The groundwork is laid for an unknown future, with barriers broken, and genies escaped from their bottles.
Their story will continue in The Three Saints, but for now...