Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sept 28 764 AT, McHugh Regio, Tierra del Fuego

This entry is written in the high dry plains, in a barely habitable camp far from anywhere. For a hab-born girl like me, these wide-open planetary spaces are a little daunting; but wearing the tight, restrictive Stevens pressure suits gives one an almost reassuring feeling of claustrophobia amongst the immense landscapes.

Earlier today Ellie and I were working near the new landing strip built to supply a fusion generator which hasn’t yet been built. The concrete foundations and a few dome-huts are all that exist at this location; the parts for the generator will arrive in a week or two, shipped in by the long-winged freight aircraft that the Fuegans tend to use on this world. I've noticed that they tend to use their gigantic dirigible balloons for short trips, but the balloons are seldom used as transport to Atagonia Regio, because it is more than 2000 kilometers from our location

At least I'm not alone on these empty plains. We have about twenty Starlark colonists, plus a half-dozen Stevens clones led by Cora-Swift. As in any settlement, there are also a dozen mindless robots of all sizes that keep getting in everyone’s way. These were already present when we first showed up, having been shipped in to build the landing strips. A couple of Stevens robot specialists have come along to maintain these machines; they are Peters, apparently, a clone I haven’t seen before, but they keep themselves apart from the rest of the tiny settlement.

Every day or two another freight plane arrives, usually bringing more robots or a few scraggy looking colonists, and generally inadequate food supplies. We do at least obtain our own water here, from a salty borehole, which has to be purified before we can use it. The agridomes have not yet been inflated, as we haven’t enough water for food production yet. For some reason the torrential rains that plague the lowlands have passed this region by; but that is supposed to change after the next few comets hit the ground. Cora-Swift doesn’t seem to know when that will be; they may not arrive for several years.

Some cracks appeared in the rough roadway between the landing strip and the site for the planned fusion plant; Ellie went out to inspect the surface, to make sure it would be safe when the first heavy components arrived by plane in a day or two. I came along to give a second opinion. We’ve both worked on Mars, long ago, and seen this kind of damage before, although the gravity is quite a bit heavier here, and neither of us is all that familiar with structural behaviour in high-gravity conditions. Between us we had just about decided that some repair work was required (on Mars we probably could have gotten away with it) when the largest excavator bot suddenly appeared at the top of the slope. Without even slowing down, the dumb machine launched itself down the narrow roadway towards us.

We were trapped, halfway down the sloping roadway, with sheer walls of excavated rock on either side. The machine should have recognised us as vulnerable humans, and stopped as soon as it saw us; the robot excavators were always doing that at inappropriate moments. But this time the machine just came onwards at full speed. We started to run downhill, pulled by the Fuegan gravity faster and faster. Ellie was faster than me; she had my body, but it was much more than a decade younger. At every step I feared that I would break an ankle, or a knee, or stumble and crack my faceplate; the impact of my foot hitting the gravelly surface shot up each leg in turn, and I was running much faster than I wanted to but I couldn’t stop. Until that point I was convinced that I’d become accustomed to the higher gravity on this world- now I knew I was wrong.

Finally we came to the level ground, where the side-walls of the roadway opened out. We threw ourselves aside, and the huge robot lumbered past with its many digging arms bouncing up and down heedlessly. One of its camera-eyes looked right at me for a split second- long enough for its identification routines to kick in – but the eye flicked away with no sign of recognition.

Shaken, we radioed in a report to the settlement; Cora-Swift came and personally helped me back to the barracks, anxiously asking for details of the incident. The Peters came out, and ignoring us, opened various hatches on the bot and started their own investigation. Ellie and I had a precious shower, to wash the stink of fear off us; a minute’s worth of water was all we could have, and the run-off went straight into the ‘grey-water’ tank. Cora-Swift remained with us during our shower, still solicitous of our welfare.
“You poor chicken,” she kept saying, in her strangely anachronistic accent.

Ellie seemed suspicious of the way the Stevens woman tended to me, toweling me dry afterwards like an invalid; but I was grateful, and no doubt flattered. Later Elie said to me, "She's refta your saa, cousin." Damn stupid backslang.
I said "And your problem is?" It seems that someone in this harsh, inhospitable world, has decided to take an interest in me.

Outside, in the planet’s dark night, the Peters are still working on the excavator bot. Something doesn’t seem quite right there, but I am too tired to try to figure it out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jan 26, 765A.T., Atagonia Regio, Terra del Fuego

Two more cometary impacts have passed, and we are now deep in comet winter. The skies are filled with dust and snow-laden clouds, cutting down the already weak sunlight. On the few occasions I have found time to talk to Harlan, he has complained bitterly about the terraforming process in general.
“The impacts are cooling the world down; all this cloud reflects the sunlight back into space. This world could have been left as it was, and covered in domes for agriculture and living space. All the Stevens have managed to do so far is to cut down the amount of sunlight reaching the surface; no wonder it is so difficult to grow food.”
He is right, in some ways; the farm domes have to be surrounded by acres of mirrors to boost the light levels, or the crops hardly grow at all. The crops we are growing are old strains, at least two hundred years out of date. A few experimental domes are growing the strains we brought with us on the Starlark, but the Stevens insist on testing and retesting everything from our ship before they accept it for general use. They are so insular, and so suspicious of everything that they are unfamiliar with.
I know that there are other camps like ours, out on the now-snow covered plains; those camps hold other members of the Stevens family, presumably doing the same sort of work as ourselves, trying to carve the cold, sterile soil into covered farmlands. But we don’t have anything to do with those other camps. I wonder if they have the same short rations as we do; a chunk of vat-grown protein, derived from mycoprotein (some workers can’t eat this because of allergies, so have to subsist on other, worse fare), a potato or two, and some corn bread made from maize engineered at least two hundred years ago back on Earth.
Those of us with the Stevens implant seem to suffer from hunger pains less than those without; I wonder if it includes some kind of crude appetite suppressant routine among its functions. If it does, I suppose I should be grateful; but I have noticed that some of the Starlark colonists find the hard work and poor diet hard to bear, and increasing numbers are falling ill, finding their way to the hospital domes and to Harlan’s medics. He tells me that the colonists with Stevens implants are more likely to drive themselves too hard, and therefore to find their way into his care. I wonder if the (presumed) numbing effects of the implants might be making our situation even more difficult. In any case I do try to avoid driving myself too hard, which is hard, when there is so much to do.

The director of our camp is a middle-aged Barbara Stevens, who gives her name as Cora-Swift Barbara Stevens; from this I gather that she was born on the old colony ship itself, the Swift, now converted to a space habitat in stationary orbit high above the equator. Big as it is, the old ship is a tiny spark in the sky, as stationary as the local pole star (which, for Tierra del Fuego, is the undistinguished star Zeta Lyrae). Cora often inspects the antiquated fusion generator which I help to maintain, and whenever she does she likes to hold conversations with me about the terraformation process, and sometimes about the terrible things that we witnessed back in the old system. All the Barbara clones are curious about the greater world outside Epsilon Indi, although Cora says that the other phenotypes do not share their curiosity. The Ivans are the only other Stevens who have any interest in outside matters, or so she tells me.
“So, tell me, will there be any more ships coming this way?” Cora asked me today.
“I can’t honestly say one way or the other, “ I told her. “About ten ships like the Starlark were being built when we left; but none of them were targeted at this star. The AI that now rules Earth, the one that calls herself GAIA, was also building arkships, bigger and more advanced than our ship; but all that seems to have stopped now. As far as we can tell. Transmissions from the Solar System faded out a hundred years ago; some say that is because the factions who owned the transmitters ran out of money.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think that is one of the more optimistic theories. Who knows what might have happened back there by now. It was bad enough when we left; that is why we had to get away.”
“Do you think you made the right choice?” She was standing with her arms folded, her head on one side; suddenly I realised she was copying the way I was standing. I shifted, slightly, just to test my hypothesis.
“It’s not paradise, here, Cora, but we are determined to make a go of it.”
She moved slightly, apparently unconsciously, to mirror me exactly. Interesting. She seems to value our conversations, and wants them to continue. For too long now our party have been treated like outsiders on this new world; if I can build on this relationship,somehow, that situation might improve all round.

Friday, July 18, 2008

July 16, 764 AT, Atagonia Regio, Terra del Fuego

Ellie came running to me as I supervising the reinflation of one of the domes. She fought her way through the hanging loops and billows of transparent material, oblivious to it all.
“Gusev has been lost. Oh, Elanor, help me find a landcraft! I must go to help.”
“What do you mean, lost?” I held her as she looked wildly around, perhaps expecting to find a landcraft here in the dome.
“There was a flash flood. Gusev and one of the others were working on the edge of the arroyo. They were washed away- the water has spread out over tens of square kilometers. We must find him- find them – they have oxygen and masks, they can’t drown- can they?”
“Is anyone else looking?”
“Yes, yes, of course. But we must help them. I can’t just sit around and wait.”
We managed to flag down the last landcraft as it went out to join the search. An all terrain vehicle with huge wheels which could change shape in a most useful way, we found ourselves battling through the wind and rain towards the floodplain. The large winged aircraft that the Stevens use could not fly in this wind, which was blowing at a hundred kilometers per hour at times, but with less force than one might expect because of the thin atmosphere.

Even before we got to the plains we heard on the radio that Gusev had been found. The other colonist had survived, but Gusev had not made it. Apparently the mask had been torn from his face by the boiling water. (Quite literally boiling, as the temperature and pressure means the water is near the triple point where it boils and freezes at the same time). Ellie was inconsolable. The search party returned to the camp, our landcraft full of people trying to lend their support to my cousin for her loss. Perhaps the best support came from a medic, not Harlan this time, but the other one in our party, Pieter. He gave Ellie a shot of sedative, which calmed her down.

Later we talked for hours about her relationship with the Martian refugee, and the other Dustie radicals. Ellie said that she had only wanted a casual, even experimental affair with the man; until he was gone, she hadn’t given a thought to the meaning of their relationship. Now he was dead, and she would never be able to work out where she stood with him.

“But everyone else knows,” Ellie said. “You saw how they all rallied round to comfort me in my time of loss. Everyone knows everyone else’s business in this camp. I’m going to be stuck with being the bereaved partner- but he was just my friend. I don’t know what to think- I wouldn’t say this to anyone else, Elanor, but you of all people might understand. We just hadn’t had time to fall in love yet- that’s what’s so unfair.”
“Shush, now. You don’t need to worry about that. If he was your friend, then grieve for him as a friend.”
“But I don’t know, you see- I don’t know, if I would have fallen in love with him or not. How can I ever know now?”

July 15, 764 AT, Atagonia Regio, Terra del Fuego

Today we are cowering underground to escape the comet-rain. We’ve deflated the greenhouses until they are nearly flat, just barely clearing the crops inside, and tied them down tightly so they won’t blow away in the storms that are coming. Elsewhere we’ve been digging drainage ditches and channels to control and retain the expected floods. For all the time we have been here, a large icy object has been silently falling toward the planet from the outer system, and today it will hit. Behind that object is another, and another, and another, each one months or years away. These objects will impact in the undeveloped Eastern hemisphere of Fuego, with the power of a hundred thousand hydrogen bombs, and cause rainstorms all over the planet. And worse than rainstorms; secondary impacts might occur anywhere on the surface, so we are in deep shelters for our own safety.

The time for impact came.

“Damn,” said Ania; “Did you feel that?”
“No,” I said. She paused, talking to her mysterious, imaginary confidante perhaps.
“Isn’t it? I would have thought-“
She looked at me. “Apparently the impact wasn’t really big enough to be felt on this side of the planet. In any case, it would take several minutes for the shock wave to move through the core. Or so I’m told.”
Interesting; her imaginary friend seems to have more common sense than she does. Is that unusual? I wish I knew more about this sort of thing. The Stevens database is not as comprehensive as the library on the Starlark, and much of it is denied to me. I’m used to just thinking about a query in a certain way, and that action would open a search engine in my neural interface, allowing me to draw on hundreds of years of electronic data. Here all I get is the unfriendly House Stevens library, which blocks half of my enquiries. Ania’s imaginary friend seems to be a more reliable source, in any case.

May 20th, 764 AT, Atagonia Regio, Terra del Fuego

The worst problem at the moment, here on the surface of Fuego, is the shortage of food. We have put up hectares of inflatable greenhouses, and pulverized thousands of tones of rock in the last week, using the robot earth-movers the Stevens have at their disposal. But those robots are pretty dumb, and we have to supervise them all the time- they’ll dig a few tonnes then just wait for a transport to come and take it away, instead of piling the rubble up and digging some more. If you tell them to pile the rock up that’s all they’ll do- they’ll forget about loading the transport altogether. Sometimes they’ll drive into or over part of the greenhouse, or worse still just stop and wait orders. They do an awful lot of that. And the uncomfortable skinsuits make every movement on the surface of the planet a trial.

But despite all our efforts we remain hungry. I am not too bothered by the deprivations; the pioneer spirit (or something) has been awoken in my heart. But some of the others are suffering badly. Some aren’t too well from the effects of the vitrification process; not everyone has had time to benefit from Hoyle’s dream therapy. Others, such as Harlan, seem to find the pioneering life difficult. Harlan and many others have declined to use the Stevens interface worms; they cannot therefore use the heavy equipment that the Stevens provide. Harlan is busy with medical care for the ill and the undernourished, but he complains bitterly all the time. Particularly about his lack of access to data.
“What do they think I am, a walking textbook? Every doctor has to be able to check the MedCat, or they won’t know what they’re dealing with. That’s what computers are for. This isn’t the Industrial Age, you know.”
At least he gets to wear one of the rare Starlark skinsuits, only a few have made their way to this remote location, and the Stevens are supposedly still ‘testing’ them before distributing them more widely.

In recent days Ellie has turfed me out of our shared accommodation; she has started sleeping with Gusev, the Martian. A man. I’m not entirely surprised; she has always been very closely involved with the young Dustie radicals from the old red planet. But it gives me much to think about. I am supposed to be genetically identical to her; well, there is no ‘supposed’ about it, I am well aware of my, and her, genetic make-up. Never in my life have I ever considered relations of that nature with a man. At this moment in time, with all my hormones tightly controlled, and the hunger pangs in my belly, I can barely consider relations with anyone. But if she is genetically identical to myself, does that mean that I could also be attracted to a male if the situation arose? Perhaps it is just my culture that has always stopped me. But I don’t think so.

In any case here I am, in the shared dormitory, with a dozen other exhausted and undernourished colonists, including Ania. I can only marvel at my clonecousin’s determination, since I have no energy to spare for such exertions. At night we all sleep like babies, and in the morning we awake with what seems to be a surprising amount of optimism. We will conquer and shape this new world, even if it kills us.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

March 2, 764 a.t., Tierra del Fuego surface

With one of the Barbaras in attendance, I have been trying out the Fuegan equivalent of the skintight surface suit. This turns out to be quite different to the Martian suit I have been used to. It opens in front, and down both legs and arms as far as the tight cuffs.
Once I have stepped inside and manually closed the seals, it tightens and shrinks to fit my body. At this point it feels a bit like the snug Martian suits, which flow around the wearer and close themselves, but feel similarly tight. Obviously these suits are based on somewhat older technology.

The skinsuit has to be tight, because the pressure on the surface of Tierra del Fuego is so low. Currently the pressure is about 70 millibars, and this is much lower than the minimum partial pressure of oxygen which is needed for life support. If I just wore an oxygen mask and no skinsuit, my lungs would fill with a minimum of 200 millibars of oxygen and I wouldn't be able to breathe out. So the skin suit exerts mechanical counter-pressure on my chest, replicating the pressure of a much thicker atmosphere. The suit covers every part of my body, particularly my ears (too much pressure inside my ears would soon leave me deaf)- but not my hands, which have separate and much lighter gloves with minimal counter- pressure.

This all sounds fine in theory, but the suit is stiff and inflexible without active control, and the joints and groin are particularly uncomfortable. I expect the groin area would be particularly excruciating for a male of the species; this is perhaps why Ellie and myself have been chosen to try them out first. In the Martian suits we were accustomed to back in the old Solar System, the suits were linked via Direct Neural Interface to the wearer's nervous system, allowing the suit's nanocloth to move in anticipation of the movements of the wearer. Apparently these suits operate on a similar system, with a network of tensioning chords instead of active cloth.
However the DNI systems the Stevens clan uses are completely different and incompatible with the ones we have.

"The link is easy to install; the tip is based on the structure of a nematode worm, but is under perfect control. You will feel no pain,"
the Barbara said in a reassuring voice. I was not completely reassured. "The link enters at the back of your neck here; this will not make problems with your present link behind your ears."
"I'm not sure about this," I said. "If we wait a few days we will bring the first fabricator down from the Starlark; then we can make suits which are compatible with our neural links. There will be no need for new links."

"I do not agree so," said the Barbara, her accent thick. "So many of our devices are controlled by these links; it is better that you have our system installed, then you can make everything work. Yes, and when your machines arrive, some of us can get your links installed too; then everyone will be able to work with both types of technology. Do you not agree?"

After some thought I agreed to have their worm install its little link in my head. Ellie agreed too, although with some distaste. The installation of a new neural link is something I had not foreseen, but I suppose it is inevitable it reminded me of the far-off day when I had my first neural link installed, at the tender age of five. The tiny nanotech filaments that filtered into my skull back then were completely painless- and I hoped that the wormy links that the Stevens were going to place into my central nervous system would be just as unnoticeable.

A couple of hours later I had found out that my hope was misplaced- the Stevens link made me nauseous and my head ache, and I began to regret my decision. But that soon passed, and I feel fine now. Ellie says the procedure didn't bother her one bit, and I'm just getting too old for all this. I do find that she is capable of being irritating without any effort at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The saucer-shaped reentry vehicle travelling from Prima Habitat to the surface of Fuego.

February 21, 764 a.t., Tierra del Fuego Surface

Ellie and I have been assigned quarters in a spartan inflatable dormitory on the surface of Fuego. We descended yesterday in the flying-saucer shaped re-entry vehicle along with ninety-five other colonists. A rough ride, with alarming creaking noises as the disk slowed down by aerobraking in the thin atmosphere. Most of the others are bunked in dorm rooms of six or eight, with a small amount of room for their personal effects. Fortunately Ellie and myself have a double room all to ourselves, although there is only one bed. Our two small bags, containing lightweight clothes and a few essential memory brickettes, were brought to us by a silent and unresponsive humanoid robot; the other colonists had to retrieve their luggage themselves from the hold of the ship.

“Looks like we are getting special treatment,” I said.
Ellie lowered herself onto the bed carefully; the planet’s gravity was quite a bit more than we were used to. “Do you see me complaining?”
“The Acting Captain wants us to take an active role in the liaison process with the Fuegans. For whatever reason, they see us as a class above the other refugees; somehow we have to capitalize on that perception.”
“Uh, huh, revetaw, revetaw.”
I translated this to myself. “I’ll give you ‘whatever’, Ellie. We have to take this seriously. This world is our new home.”
“Yeah. Great, isn’t it,” she said. I listened to the sounds of the other colonists filtering through the inflatable walls; they didn’t sound too happy. “We’ll have to start by trying to sort out the accommodation arrangements,” I said. Somehow I didn’t look forward to sharing my quarters with this prickly young woman for the foreseeable future. Especially as I can see so much of myself in her.

Today we have started our basic training, learning various safety procedures and how to work with the Fuegan technology. The Stevens rely heavily on non-sentient robots and automated systems, obviously based on prototypes from the century of their departure but quite often modified in ingenious ways. The colony has been developing independently for a century or so, and their tech has moved on somewhat. Luckily they seem to have some pretty good engineers among their number, although the modifications which have been made are all strangely uniform. I think I can understand that - a group of cloned engineers would all think alike, no doubt.

The two phenotypes we had already met in orbit were the only two examples of the Stevens clones who were involved with our training. The females all had Barbara as part of their name; the males were all Ivans, but they each had a different first name which they answered to. Confusingly, the most senior Barbaras often had the first name Barbara as well, and the senior Ivans were similarly named. On occasion I noticed one or two other clone types, but they would not speak to us directly. At all times the Stevens wore the thin plastic hoods that protected themselves from our infections.

One of the Barbaras showed us the emergency exits and the general layout of the habitat cluster, while demonstrating that almost all the equipment was controlled by specialised neural interfacing.

“This will not work for you, unhappily,” she said, showing us an electric surface buggy in a utility shed filled with similar devices. “Soon this problem we will fix.”
The Martian Dustie, Gusev, was not convinced. “l bet I could get it to work, he said. “Your interfaces are pretty basic stuff compared to what I’m used to- no offence, like,” he added, awkwardly, but he was concentrating on the mental interface now. After a minute or so the machine started to run, hesitantly. “There you are. Elpmis,” he said. The buggy immediately stuttered and died.
“No, it is not possible, sorry; the controls are protected,” the Barbara said smugly. “We have special software which will let you control this. Tomorrow we download for you.”

Later, while we were having our communal meal, another meal of unidentifiable vatgrown processed foodstuffs served by the mindless robot servants, we were joined by a dozen or so Ivans and Barbaras. The two clone groups sat separately, and the Ivans rarely spoke to the Barbaras and vice versa. However within their clone group they were animated, jovial, intimate even. I saw a couple of the younger Ivans with their arms around each other’s shoulders, and two of the Barbaras shared a kiss. The oldest Barbara, however, was watching Ellie and myself closely. I turned to look at my cousin, who turned to me at the same time with a look of realization in her eyes.
“Oh, my, God,” she said quietly, for once avoiding the annoying backslang.

Later, in our shared bed, she said, “That explains a lot. They put us in here together because they expect us to shag each other.”
“It’s unbelievable,” I said. “Their culture must have taken a completely different turn from our own Sisterhood. They started off with, what, seven different genotypes; that is all that survived the cryosleep. They must avoid interclone relations because of the risk of inbreeding. They quite simply keep all their intimacies within the clone groups themselves.”
“That’s appalling- like some kind of incest or something. Well, if they think us two are -like that – then they are dead wrong. Astraea on a bike!” She rolled her eyes.
“Hmm. It looks like setting up a liaison with these people might be a bit more problematic than I expected.”
“Well," Ellie said,” One thing’s for certain. We can’t give up and go home.”
I thought about the old Solar System, and the life we had left behind, and the empty space which was my half-remembered relationship with Rosie, who still slept in the hold of the Starlark four hundred kilometers above our heads.
“No. We are here and that’s that. We will have to make our home here now, somehow.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

February 19 764 a.t., Prima Habitat, Tierra del Fuego

Well, we have finally made contact. I am recording this in a temporary dormitory on the Indi space station. The Stevens (that is what they call themselves) have moved us to the outermost ring, where the gravity is highest; tomorrow we go to the surface, and we must get acclimatized. I think it will take more than this, but we shall see.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Our ship is connected to the non-rotating hub of the station by a long inflatable tube. The Stevens sent us the specs for the docking equipment, but it still took two hours to connect the tube successfully. The equipment they are using is many centuries out of date; not surprising since they left the Solar System in 488 a.t. But after two centuries in interstellar space, the Starlark hardly looks like an example of modern technology.

The acting captain Ralph Konrad and a couple of other officers boarded the station briefly, and came back with two of the Indi colonists. About a hundred of us were collected in the forward hanger, our view obstructed by the Starlark’s stowed shuttle; but I was close enough to see them when they emerged from the tunnel. A tall dark haired woman and a shorter, balding man. A slight pressure difference brought some of their station air with them; it carried some strange smells with it. No doubt our ship would have smelt pretty bad to them, if they could have smelt it. But they both had very thin, slightly shiny membranes inflated over their heads. Obviously they did not want to be exposed to any infections we might have brought with us; for our part we were taking no such precautions. If the Indis have any communicable diseases we will have to accept the situation and either find treatment or otherwise. We can’t live inside plastic bubbles on this world for ever.

Acting Captain Konrad said loudly “I welcome you on board our ship, the Starlark. May our meeting bring benefits to your people and to our own.”
The tall woman said “Greetings to you all, whosoever you be.” At least that is what it sounded like. The plastic helmets they wore made it difficult to hear them. Additionally, their accents and phrasing were strange, they sounded like they had stepped out of an historical drama set a couple of centuries ago, with an overlay of something entirely new.

“Come now with us into our habitat, Prima, those who would.” She turned tail in the microgravity and scuttled back into the tunnel, leaving the male behind. He gave a slight smile, beckoned and followed her. The hundred or so people in the hangar looked at each other more or less in silence, baffled and surprised.

Hoyle had not spoken until this point, but now that the Indis were back in the tunnel, he said “Well, I think that is an invitation to follow them. All those chosen to be in the First party should make their way down the tunnel now; take care please. Acting Captain; perhaps you would like to take the lead, as you have already seen the lie of the land, so to speak.”

“Yes, yes, come along now. Don’t want to keep the natives waiting,” Konrad said rather tetchily. Yes, I do think I remember him now; a rather bad tempered but competent individual. We bounced down the tube, Ellie just behind me with two of her Dustie companions. “Phawg!” I heard her say. “What a k-nits!” Yes, I thought; it does stink. Strange cooking, new plastic, a hint of latrine; the station was a rough and ready place, it seems.

We entered a large inflated vestibule area, lit by bright clusters of cold white diodes. That makes the place look out of date by itself, I thought. Lighting technology has moved on since their ship left Earth; on the Starlark the thin walls themselves give a soft glow, when they are not displaying images or data. Because of the glare from these lights it was difficult to see the Indis as they floated at all angles against the far wall of this space. But I began to notice similarities between them. Too many similarities. There were only two types here; a tall thin, dark-haired or grey-haired woman, and a shorter man, displaying various stages of baldness.

I looked at Ellie, who had noticed the same thing. We had seen this sort of thing before; back in my childhood on 6Hebe there were many gatherings like this, and on rare occasions since that time whenever the Parthene clone families gathered together. For that is what the Indis were; a clone race, with only two phenos that I could see. There were younger and older versions of each type, but they were all one or the other. Ellie and I drew together and linked arms. In some ways it was like coming home.

The oldest of the female Indis moved forward slightly, then stopped. She was attached to a thin dexter arm, the same silver colour as the walls, which held her in place in the microgravity. Now I noticed that the other clones, about twenty in number, were each held in place by similar equipment. On the other hand we newcomers were drifting and jostling each other, grabbing each other’s arms and bouncing off the walls. Not a very impressive sight, it must be said. The woman looked at Ellie and myself, with a small flicker of interest, before addressing us in a loud voice.

“People from Sol, I greet you. I am Barbara-Prima Barbara Stevens, of the Stevens family. Your arrival is unprecedented and unexpected; our family had thought the Old System dead. Still, you are here, and this is as it must be. With your help we can start to make this system into a new home for our people.” The plastic membrane she wore vibrated when she said certain words. Something in her manner seemed dismissive, perhaps even hostile, but she seemed to address her remarks mostly towards my clone cousin and myself. Acting Captain Konrad was fretting nearby, apparently unhappy at being ignored.

“Greetings to the Stevens Family, on behalf of all of us, of course. I am Acting Captain Ralph Konrad of the Arkship Starlark. Yes, I am sure we can help you in this effort, er, Barbara-Prima Barbara Stevens; we have much to give you, I believe. All we ask is the opportunity to build a home in this system.”

“We will consider the details of such things later. For now I suggest we eat together. The Prima habitat has only limited fare, I regret; but we can manage to keep you fed until you are transferred to the surface.”

The Stevens clones all moved as one on their dexter arms, towards a large door in the far wall. They helped us move out of the large space, passing us from had to hand like parcels. We were taken into a smaller cylindrical space, ringed with open doors leading into elevator cars. Once inside the cars- aligned carefully with our feet pointing outwards- we moved out to the rim of the rotating habitat. As we did so, gravity returned, increasing until the pull was several times greater than that inside the rotating sections of our own ship.

Feeling heavy and somewhat uncomfortable we ate a meal of uninspiring vatgrown food, handed to us by the male and female Stevens. Once by chance I saw a different type behind a bulkhead door, a tall curly haired cook preparing our food. He looked at me with an expression of surprise and what might have been fear or even disgust, then slammed the door.

“I suppose you’ve noticed that they are all, well…” the Acting Captain said to Ellie and myself, as we ate. He was seated at the same long table as ourselves, together with Harlan and Pietre the two medical officers, and some other crew. He had made a point of inviting us to his table.

“Clones, Acting Captain, that’s the medical term,” Harlan said, lightly.

“Yes, yes, I know.” Konrad had a dark look about him. “I’d like you and Ms Denley here to act as liaison officers; we haven’t many clones on this ship, and I have a feeling that they might feel more comfortable talking to you two. There’s something cold in their attitude towards us, it seems to me; perhaps you can warm things up a bit.”

“Ho Yoj,” said Ellie, but I said, “Of course, Acting Captain. Anything to help relations between our people and the Indi colonists. The Stevens Family, I suppose I should say. If they really are an all-clone family I should be able to help. I was brought up in a very similar society many years ago.”

“A couple of hundred years ago, now,” said Harlan. “We are none of us getting any younger.”

I ignored him. “Perhaps their society is not too different from the Parthene sisterhood. We will have to see.“

Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego; a cool world slightly smaller than Earth and larger than Mars, but resembling the latter more closely. This planet appears to have lost much of its atmosphere in a devastating impact a billion years or more ago. When the Starlark arrived, this world was in the early stages of terraforming.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

February 17 764 a.t. Approaching Tierra del Fuego

We have finally finished our deceleration phase. Hoyle has allowed me to resume my full duties as a drive supervisor, although I get the impression e is watching me closely all the time. Ironic, since our role as supervisors was originally devised as a way of keeping an eye on the supposedly unreliable ship AI systems. Yet in the event we humans have proved to be the unreliable ones. For instance, I have heard today that the ship’s captain cannot be successfully revived at this time, so the acting captain (a relatively young Earthman of whom I have few reliable memories) will be in charge when we reach our destination. But the role of captain is relatively unimportant- the running of the vessel is mostly entrusted to Hoyle, who has effectively controlled the ship throughout our voyage of over a century.

After a tiring shift, which was mostly taken up with various shutdown procedures, I made my way to the Comms deck. This part of the ship often gets crowded with onlookers and idlers, like myself, who desire to find out more about the colony we are approaching. Today Harlan was there, once again, sending medical details about our casualties to the main space station orbiting Fuego. He was frustrated, as usual, by the lack of response from the colonists.Also present was Ania, once again muttering to an unseen companion somewhere on the ship, and Ellie, looking discontented, as she often does. With Ellie was one of her fierce companions from the Martian surface, one of the ‘dusties’ forced off the Red Planet by the nanodisaster. His name is Gusev, a common Martian name.

“That looks like a major impact scar,” he said to Ellie. They were looking at an image of Fuego that covered the whole wall, and spilled over onto the ceiling.

“Yeah,” Harlan put in. “That happened a billion years ago, more or less. Shocked most of the atmosphere off the planet, they reckon. Looks like the Fuegies are having a bit of trouble putting it back- the planet still hasn’t got atmosphere worth a fart.”
He swigged at a beaker of coffee, shook his head. “I bet they are really looking forward to our arrival. A ship of amnesiacs and sleeping beauties, on the run from the old worlds they have never seen, bring who-knows-what kind of plagues with us. They’ll welcome us with open arms.”
“Perhaps not you, Earther, but I know this kind of world. Fuego is not so different from Mars. I can help them put it right.” Gusev said.
“Like you did back home,” Harlan said, with a wry smile.

I was just about to change the subject, when Ania did it for me. “No, I can’t see it,” she muttered to her unseen correspondent. “Shall I ask them?”
“Ask us what?” Ellie said, flicking a not-particularly-friendly glance at her. Ania glanced back; her eyes were dark-ringed, as if she hadn’t slept for a week.
“Where is the- you know, the space station. All I can see is planet.”
“Oh, you can’t see it on that scale,” Harlan said, flicking a finger at the planet on the wall. “Here, I’ll call up a magnification for you.” He made no visible motion, but a small part of the image expanded until if filled most of the field of view.

A respectably large space habitat could now be seen, moving against the thin clouds on the planet below; several rings counter-rotating hypnotically. Nearby a disc-shaped spacecraft accompanied the habitat, quite a large one it seemed, but small compared to the station itself.

“Look, they’ve got a flying saucer,” Ania said.
Gusev shook his head. “That’s the inflatable heat shield on an orbit-to-surface shuttle. The same sort of trick we used to use on Mars in the early days.”
“Uh-huh. That’s what you need when your dumb planet has too much gravity for a rocket landing and not enough atmosphere for a lifting body.” Harlan smirked.
“Are you calling my homeworld stupid, mud-eater?” Gusev became angry in a flash.
“Don’t get snarky, red-boots,” said Harlan, but the thin wiry Martian launched himself at the Earthman’s head.

In the low gravity created by Starlark’s leisurely spin the fight was like a slow ballet, with arms and legs wheeling in space and little contact with the cabin floor. Harlan had the advantage of Earth strength, but Gusev wanted to fight much more than he did.

I decided that this was getting no-one anywhere, so I pushed myself in between the two men and thrust them apart. Perhaps a bit too loudly I told them “That’s Enough!” They were both a little shocked at my strength and anger, and so was I.

I don’t quite know where that came from, to be honest; but who knows anything on this ship of amnesiacs, to use Harlan’s words.

Later, (a few minutes ago to be precise, just before I wrote this journal) Hoyle thanked me for stopping the fight. “We are all somewhat highly strung at this moment in time, young lady,” e said.
“Except yourself,” I replied.
“Oh, don’t you believe it,” e said. “I am on tenterhooks.” I have no idea what tenterhooks are, for the record.
“I wanted to speak to you about another thing, by the way, Ms Denley,” e continued.
“What’s that?”
“The young Earther colonist, Ania. You may have noticed that she often carries out a conversation with someone on her neural interface, even while talking to people who are actually present in the room.”
“Yes; but that isn’t all that unusual. Some people just prefer talking in cyberspace to talking face-to-face. Plenty of people do that.”
“Indeed; certain people have annoying habits, and appalling manners. But I am in control of all network communications within the ship, you know. And I can tell you that there is no-one on the other end of the calls she is making.”
“I see. Oh dear.”
“Quite. I do feel responsible for you all, in many ways; I only wish I could have prevented so much suffering during the cryostasis process. But since that has not been possible, I feel I must be solicitous of your welfare as far as possible in the coming months.I suspect this is connected with some undiagnosed trauma she has suffered during her period of vitrification; but I do not have time to fully treat it before we reach the planet. I’ll administer some appropriate medicines for now, but I’d be grateful if you could keep an eye on her.”
“Of course,” I said, with a certain degree of trepidation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 31 764 a.t Outer system, Epsilon Indi

During the deceleration phase, it is difficult to maintain contact with the colony at Epsilon Indi. A brilliant glowing plume of white- hot exhaust issues from the motors at the bottom of the ship; we feel the vibrations through our feet as the ship creates its own gravity with its thrust. Far below us and off to one side is the tiny spark of the colony planet, Tierra del Fuego. Harlan is engaged in sending medical details of our various casualties via laser to the colony, and in attempting to make sense of their answers.

I have been working with him to tune the message laser so that the signal can be distinguished from the light of the rocket's glare. The best results have been obtained by using drone relay transmitters sent out far from the ship, but each drone falls ahead of the ship rapidly and eventually we lose contact with it, so we have to fabricate new ones and send them out at regular intervals. However the replies we have so far received have been short, vague and lacking in details.

"They probably don't have the facilities to handle the worst cases. Feh- we should plan to be living in temps for the first few years, as we don't know if they can even handle our able-bodied."

"We have better technology on the Starlark than the original colonists took with them,” I said. “There are some good temporary habitat designs in the database; all the Indis will have to do is shovel raw materials into the fab and it will manufacture them.”

“No doubt they'll be getting us to do that for them, we'll be expected to work for a living."] We have nothing to look forward to but a lifetime of hard graft on an inhospitable planet, Elanor, old girl. Oh, such joy. I can't wait. Life on the new frontier is always nasty, and brutal, if not necessarily short."

Ania was perched nearby, watching our efforts with some interest; now and then she moved her lips as if subvocalising. I guessed she was in contact with someone elsewhere on the ship, via net implants.
I saw her say something like `I don't know- I'll ask them," then she said (out loud) to us, "How many of them are there? Have they told you that?"

"Well, that's the damnedest thing," Harlan said. "They say they have twenty thousand people living on the planet and a few thousand in orbit. So there are a few more of them than there are of us."

"We could probably squeeze in without too much construction work," I said. "And of course the temps can be put up quite rapidly. But somehow we'll have to nearly double the output of food on that world > down there, or we'll all go hungry

"They must be used to having a rapidly growing population," Harlan said, shaking his head. "They have already increased their population by three hundred thousand percent”

"What are you saying?" said Ania. "Do you mean to say their population is three thousand times as large as it was when they arrived?" She muttered something into mid-air, obviously to the person she was in communication with. "Yes, I know, I'm not stupid." She continued, talking to us now, " There are only twenty thousand of them on the planet. Where are all the rest? The ship that brought them there carried fifty thousand people."

"Like I said, that's the mystery. When I told them that we have hundreds of statics that we can't revive, and many more with memory impairment, they were off-hand. Apparently, out of fifty thousand, they lost all but seven."

"Seven thousand?" That still doesn't add up," I said, calculating in my head.

Harland pulled a wry face. "Nope; seven. Only seven survivors out of fifty thousand. And somehow they've built their population up to more than twenty thou in a hundred and forty years."

"By Astraea!" I exclaimed. "That is some impressive birth rate" I was suddenly reminded that I have never yet had a child myself. As a Parthene, I could self-replicate at will, just by thinking about it. But so far, I had never found the time. After all, the process takes nine Lunar months, just to make a newborn. "How, in the name of all the stars, have the Indi colonists managed to produce so many people in just a century and a half?"

"Perhaps they have genetically engineered themselves so that each woman has ten wombs, or something. I imagine something like a giant human queen ant, with a massive belly and lines of babies on breasts." Harlan gave an evil grin.

Ania threw her hands up. "That's disgusting," and left the comms-deck.

"Actually, the original colonists were sent out by a faction opposed to germ-line engineering," Harlan said, after the bulkhead door flowed shut." So I doubt we will be greeted by human ant hybrids. As I said, it is a bit of a puzzle; but hopefully we'll find the answer soon enough

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January 11, 764 a.t Outer system, Epsilon Indi

At last the end of our journey is in sight. The Starlark will shortly ignite the catalysed fusion motors once more, and we will decelerate into the system for six months before making orbit around Indi. I have briefly been outside the ship with the maintenance crew to check the droplet radiator array and the antiproton feed lines. Interstellar space is starting to become thick with the dust and gas that surrounds our destination system; the erosion of myriad microscopic hits has scoured my armoured suit.

Hoyle is determined to reawaken my former skills as a fusion specialist, and it certainly seems to be working. With luck and much hard work, I will be competent again before we finally power these motors down in mid-system. Every night I study, learning a subject that seems tantalisingly familiar.

Sometimes I wonder if Hoyle realises that we specialists are really only needed because we cannot afford to place all our trust in artificially intelligent systems. Every major system on this ship is under Hoyle’s control; we would barely be able to take over if ey went off-line, but there is always the chance that this would be necessary. So many of the AI systems back in the Solar System failed, were poisoned or subverted, or went mad in the time of the Nanodisaster, that no-one can put all their trust in any mechanical brain any more. Of course, our human minds have proved even more fragile on this trip, and there are few on board who are entirely unaffected by the cold sleep process.

To dispel my blacker moods Hoyle has awoken one of my clade-sisters; there are few enough of us on this ship, and the one ey has chosen is a younger clonecousin of mine. Ellie is twenty years younger than I, and I barely remember her as a young child. I do remember teaching her how to draw a spaceship, one afternoon long ago; that memory floats unconnected in space and time but seems quite vivid. We both drew with the left hand, with the same tilt of the head, and we both pressed too hard on the paper. Now she is a woman in her twenties, travelling to the stars with a small group of friends I do not remember.

“You are such an ebuk, clonecousin,” she said to me today, using that annoying dusty backslang all the young people seem to have adopted. I had expressed mild (and, I hoped, polite) surprise when she told me she was travelling with a group of dusties, non-Parthene Martian refugees from the orbital habitats. I can’t say I blame her—there aren’t enough of our kindred on this ship to make a sorority like we had back on Hebe. I had hoped that our special ability to replicate ourselves would eventually lead to a new sorority out here in the Indi system; but there are so few of us, I believe that is a vain dream.

So I’m a cube. an “ebuk,” eh? I suppose I am. Despite our identical phenotype we are very different. She doesn't even look very much like me, with her long, red, bushy hair and slightly over-the-top make-up; my hair is short, and was once dyed blond, but now the rusty roots show through. Harlan laughs and calls us the “ginger twins,” but I see the differences between us more vividly than he does, no doubt.

Friday, November 02, 2007

October 15, 741 a.t. Interstellar Space

The ship is very quiet, these days; the crowds of colonists and children that filled these tiny quarters are gone. Only a few people are awake at any one time, a few colonists, fewer medics, and a few specialists checking the systems. I might have been one of those specialists, but I need more retraining to replace the skills I seem to have lost in the ice. Most of the time I'm alone, trying to make sense of the jumble in my head.

I'm recording this entry in my favoured spot in the forward hold, floating in microgravity between the cargo shuttlecraft and the outer hull. This is the only place where you can get near a real window, and see the stars with your own eyes. The window is no more than a circle of glass ten centimetres across, just enough to glimpse the Pleiades, or the Southern Cross, or Orion. The Destination, Epsilon Indi, would be an unimpressive star dead ahead, if I could see it. We are now only two light years away but it still isn't very bright – and the angle of the hull makes it impossible to see anyway.

I shouldn't stay here too long, as the cosmic-ray shielding is very thin here, although I am not entirely sure I care.

I tell myself that I am missing Rosie, I just can't be sure of my real feelings in this matter. To tell the truth most of my memories of that woman are gone. Of course I do remember the dreams, which were vivid enough; and maybe some other, less dreamlike but more reliable recollections are clawing their way to the surface of my mind. Most of my recent life, and most of what I think I should be, has gone, blown away like smoke.

I have read over my journals and diary entries for the last however-many-years to try to answer that for myself. I believe that I started this diary with the express intention of recording my impressions for posterity; in that case I would expect other people to read it too, one day, Yet reading the pages I realise that I haven't given many details about myself- this is particularly frustrating for me now that I am trying to re-imagine and reconstruct my life. For several reasons, I realise that I haven't even mentioned my own name, my ancestry or even my sex. Such as it is.

Someone chancing across this journal might think I was a man; they would be wrong. But then I am not currently much of a woman, either.

So who am I?

My given name is Elanor Denley; I am a member of the clade Parthene. Perhaps this clade will be unfamiliar to my hypothetical future readers; there have never been that many of us, even among the asteroids where our clan began. All Parthenes are female. Our biology has been changed quite subtly to give us control over our own bodies; we can regulate our hormones and when we so desire, we can give birth without sexual contact. Yes, we are parthenogenic, when we want to be. Perhaps I should explain that too- although it is so basic to our nature that it seems impossible to think that any hypothetical reader might not know what the word means. In short, it means we clone ourselves without outside help.

I could have a child at any time, and that child would be a perfect copy of myself. I am a perfect copy of my mother, and my grandmother. For obvious reasons only women can do this little trick. There are no boy-children in the clade Parthene.

Most of the time we Parthenes do not let our hormones rule our lives. The geneticists who developed our race centuries ago gave us fine control over our bodies; we can adapt ourselves to freefall just as well as most planetary gravities, and much of the time we suppress our female cycle. Right now, for instance, I have practically no secondary sexual characteristics of any kind; a stranger might mistake me for a slightly built young male. The great plan was that we would become dispassionate, creatures of logic, and in some ways it has worked; but I can assure you I most certainly have a temper, and I will not suffer disrespect. If those far-off and long-ago geneticists thought they were creating emotionless automatons, they were very wrong.

I was born in the year 601 a.t. on the asteroid habitat 6 Hebe. My mother was killed by a swarm infection when I was in my teens. My aunts and I were relocated to the Tyr Habitat orbiting Mars, and I trained as a fusion plant technician there. Most of my life I have been working on the surface of Mars or in orbit trying to maintain the power generation equipment. First the surface of Mars became too dangerous for colonisation, then the habitat itself was relocated far from the planet for safety reasons. I can still remember the news of the Great Expulsion from Earth, but after that, my memories have become unreliable, thanks to the low-level damage caused by the effects of cryostasis on board this ship.

Many of my skills have been lost because of this trauma, and bizarrely, I have also lost the ability to speak Esperanto, which I clearly remember knowing well at college.

Somewhere in my lost years I hooked up with Rosie, also a Parthene; neither of us has reproduced, but there should still be plenty of time for that when we reach the new system.

If we do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 10, 741 a.t. Interstellar space

Another defrosting, nearly fifty years closer to our goal. After I had been awake for a while, and just starting to focus on my surroundings, I was startled into full awareness by a reverberating thud that sounded throughout the ship. The cabin began to rock, and some small objects were displaced from stowage and slowly fell to he floor in the low, centrifugal gravity. A distant alarm sounded, then cut off.

Finally Hoyle’s faux-English tones came over the public address system, sounding calm and a little amused. “Nothing to worry about, ladies and gentlemen; our little vessel has simply had a brief argument with a grain of interstellar dust. A big one too- it might have been all of a millimetre in diameter. Well, you can rest assured that our triple shield managed to protect us from such a gigantic monster; the outer plate alone was enough to vapourise it, although I’m afraid it did make a bit of a bang.”

My heart was hammering- the presence of interstellar space just outside the walls had never intruded on my consciousness before. Dust grains that big were rare, but a real danger. At least one arkship had ceased transmitting in deep space since the Expulsion, presumably because of a slightly larger collision that did manage to breach the hull. At ten percent of light speed, a dust particle packs as much energy as a respectable bomb.

Eventually a medic came in and gave me a mild sedative- I didn’t know this one, just another of the thousands of qualified personnel we were carrying I made up my mind to ask him his name, but before I could, he addressed me directly in that particular, solemn tone that signals trouble.
“I’m sorry, But I have some bad news.”
“I see. Yes. Well, you had better tell me, then.”
“It’s your partner, Rosie. Some time in the last twenty years, the container she is stored in was hit by a particularly energetic cosmic ray. The damage to the systems was repaired, but not before she suffered some tissue damage. Despite the medical nanotech we have on board, Rosie cannot be restored to a state where she can be defrosted in good health.”
“Is she- I mean – is there no hope? Is she …lost?”
“I have been told that she will have to be kept in vitrification until we reach the Destination; the colony at Indi has better facilities than we have, and there is every chance that she can be revived when we get there. But we cannot give you a guarantee of success, I’m afraid.”

We sat together in silence, for a while; This medic, whoever he was, stayed with me to give me support as the news sank in. Perhaps I disappointed him, as I took the news quite calmly. Eventually I said to him;
“The terrible thing about it all is, I can barely remember her. I’ve lost a lot of my own memories, you know, during this voyage, and if it weren’t for the treatment I’ve been getting from Hoyle I don’t think I would remember her at all. As it is, she seems like someone I barely know.”
Something strange passed over the medic’s face, but he quickly hid it. This must be all as new to him as it is to me, I thought. “What is your name, doctor?”
“Not doctor, actually. I’m just a paramedic. Call me Pieter.”
“Thank you, Pieter. I have forgotten so much, but I have enough to keep me going. I do know that I was in love with this woman; I can only hope – I can pray, that some day she is restored to me. But if that is not to be, I haven’t lost everything. Some of my childhood memories are crystal clear. And we have a whole new set of worlds ahead of us. I’m not saying that we should forget the past- but we might soon be able to make a new future.”
Pieter said to me, “We can make a new world, but we can never leave the past behind.” I glimpsed some sadness behind his eyes, but he was difficult to read. At length he left, and I was left alone with my thoughts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

August 28 694 a.t. Interstellar space

There is a downside to being a guinea-pig for Hoyle's dream-therapy experiment. Before we go back into the ice-baths, Hoyle wants to monitor us for a few weeks. So here I am, still unfrozen and bored.

As a reward Hoyle has promised to wake Rosie as well next time e wakes me; this should be the last time either of us wake up before the Arrival. But time is weighing heavy on my hands, out here in interstellar space. I do have the other guinea pigs to talk to, at least. Harlan is fun, although he can get a little intense; he’s seen some weird shit back in the solar System. He lost most of his family in the Great Expulsion; they were resistance fighters, before that sort of thing stopped being a good idea. No-one could fight against the Global Artificial Intelligence Amalgamation, the great synthesis of almost all the AI on Earth that became the Goddess GAIA. Or rather no-one could fight and win; plenty tried. But after hundreds of millions died, the situation was clear – the survivors took up the offer of evacuation and left.

Also waiting with us to be re-frozen is Ania, the Euro colonist who I have mentioned before. She seems a little concerned about the treatment; she says it hasn’t really worked for her. I can understand her concerns, as my own recovered memories are patchy and rather confusing, and the medication we are given to induce nostalgia seems to fill me full of longing for an unobtainable past. But somehow the treatment does give me a sense of my own identity. I am determined to build on this, and what ever happens I intend to be myself, no matter who that may eventually turn out to be.

To take our minds of all this uncertainty we have been immersing ourselves in studies. The ship’s library is mostly functional, with only a few portions lost through cosmic ray damage. I have been learning (or re-learning) fusion drive technology, which does seem somehow familiar, as if my mind still hands onto the skills involved despite the memory loss. Hoyle says he can give me some basic tachydicatic training before we enter the deceleration phase, so that I can help with the final approach if required.

As a group we have also been immersing ourselves in simulations of the new system we are headed towards. Still about six light years away, the star is only a second magnitude spark, not at all impressive; but it is a Sun-like star, about three quarters the mass and diameter of our old sun but similar in temperature. It is, only about one-sixth as bright. That really doesn’t matter too much, as there are at least two planets which are close to the star, and the theory is that these worlds at least can be eventually engineered into something like the Earth

The innermost world is a little like the planet Mercury back in the old system, except it has almost no core. If Luna and Mercury can support colonies- which we know full well they can- then this little world can as well. It has a name; Asencion; given to it by the first colony mission, which arrived more than seventy years ago now. That colony had a very hard time at first, apparently, but now it seems to be doing quite well.

The next world out is called Tierra del Fuego; a large, Mars-like world which could probably be terraformed rather more easily than the red planet back home (No! It is not home! Not any more!). This planet holds a small population of the first colonists, but they still mostly live in orbit in space habitats. Perhaps they lack the man-power to start the terraforming process in earnest, but hopefully we can help there.

The next planet, out at seven AUs is a small gas giant, half the diameter of Neptune. This one is called Neruda, and might be a good planet for gas mining one day when the infrastructure is available. Two more small icy planets, one stained red by sulphur compounds and the other with a thick atmosphere make up the rest of the system.

Way out in the far reaches of the system are two giant worlds, a pair of brown dwarfs (one considerably more massive than the other, though they are similar in diameter). Some faint radio traffic from those objects suggest that the Beamriders might have reached those failed stars recently, but the Riders seem to be avoiding contact for the present. Perhaps they think that everything that comes from the Old Solar System is tainted by the Swarms. That seems to me an overcautious attitude, and I doubt they will ever come to much if they continue to cut themselves off in that way.

Monday, September 03, 2007

July 23 694 a.t. Interstellar space

Today we presented the results of the induced-recollection trials to the rest of the unfrozen people on the Starlark. I knew that there were many worried and discontented individuals among them; some refusniks had been awake for twenty years or more. Harlan spoke first, and was very convincing; his earnest, dark face appeared on every wallscreen in the ship, as well as via direct neural interface for those who preferred the intimacy of innervision contact. I routed the datastream into my temporary exomemory, so I can replay his speech now and transcribe it word for word.

"I know that most of you are concerned about the problems we have been having with the ice-baths," he said. "Well, you should be aware that the technology of vitrification has been improved over the course of this voyage; Hoyle and our medical team have been working for nearly forty years on this system, and it is now improved beyond all expectation.
"I can say with confidence that medical science can heal the worst of the physical damage that may be caused by vitrification. If damage does occur which the on-board medinano can't deal with, the doc will keep us on ice till we get to the Destination. Indi system already has enough medical infrastructure to deal with most problems, or so they assure us in their transmissions.
"But we all know that the medinano can't cure memory loss. So many of us have woken up with great sections of our past missing; I know, it happened to me. Even if we have a good chance of waking up with a sound body, the prospect of the loss of part of our mind is daunting. With stakes this high, what options do we have in such a situation? I really don't blame those of you who have declined to be refrozen. But I am confident that I can say in all honesty that things are different, now.
"In the past few weeks, a few of us have been involved in an experiment; a trial of a new treatment that Hoyle has devised. I'm sure many of you have already heard something about this; we are a small ship, and a crowded one, and rumour travels fast.
By delving into the subconscious memory, this new technique can encourage your own mind to rebuild your lost past. I've tried it, and it certainly seems to work for me. It is like awaking after a dream that you can remember, a dream that makes sense of your lost past and brings it back to you in a very meaningful way.
"I can assure you that in no way does this technique interfere with your consciousness or personality; I am still the same person that I was before starting the trial. To the contrary, I honestly believe that I am more myself than ever."Thus, I now believe that the vitrification process can be regarded as safe, at least as safe as any other modern medical procedure. We cannot continue to support a ship full of unfrozen people; we must start going back into vitrification or starve. This technique will allow you to enter the ice-bath with confidence that you will eventually arrive at the Destination system with your body, and your mind, intact."

I spoke next, giving a brief account of the extent of my amnesia, and how the induced-recollection treatment had brought the past back to me; most of the other trial subjects gave a short account as well, then the ship's brain spoke in order to sum everything up. Hoyle's kindly, bespectacled face smiled from the screens or in our innervision.

"I can now with confidence say that you will be safe if you undergo the vitrification treatment. In fact, I am able to increase the duration of each episode of stasis, so that it should only be necessary to thaw each of you once more before we arrive. Seventy more years must pass before our voyage is over. Go back into vitrification now, and you will arrive in the Epsilon Indi system almost before you know it."

With very few exceptions, the refusniks have one by one volunteered for re-freezing; a number of new ice-coffins have been constructed for the new generation of colonists born during transit. I will be joining them soon. If all goes well, when I next wake in the depths of interstellar space for the last time before we arrive, the Starlark will be full of quiet sleepers once more.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Starlark in deep space

The Starlark in deep space (Extract from Classic Ships; The Starlark; Encyclopaedia Galactica)

The ship was 600 metres long without shields, and built of lightweight carbon-titanium composites; mass without fuel 170,000 tonnes, with fuel (including external tanks) two million tonnes. With four powerful antimatter-catalysed fusion motors and massive external propellant tanks during the acceleration phase, the Starlark (when first built) could reach ten percent of light speed. A turingrade-plus ship's brain (which had adopted the name 'Sir Fred Hoyle' after the famous Information Age cosmologist, and a personality to match) controlled the daily operation of the ship, with a human crew as back-up working in shifts throughout the voyage.
Antimatter for fusion catalysis was obtained from the extensive solar amat farms in the inner Solar System; it appears that the Goddess of Earth manipulated the energy market at this time to facilitate the diaspora of Humanity into interstellar space. Nevertheless these so-called 'backyarder' ships were hastily designed and built, and several failed to reach their destinations.
Additionally the hibernation technology available at that time was not entirely reliable, and a proportion of the refugees stored in the central hold did not survive, or suffered various kinds of brain damage and other ill effects. Later in the history of this long-serving vessel more advanced nanostasis technology allowed a near-total survival rate; just as upgraded drive systems decreased the average time between stars.

Friday, August 17, 2007

July 16 694 a.t. Interstellar space

This time I dreamt about the hab riots. Tyr habitat was full of displaced persons, few of whom were happy. As Rosie and I walked through the downtown spaces we were jostled and shouted at. But from what I could see in my dream we were trying to continue with our normal routine, and we were even prepared to visit the refugee shops and buy some of their hand-made garments and trinkets to show a little support.
So when the riot and chaos came we were clutching nothing more than a couple of bags of brightly coloured woven clothing; no weapons, and no food.
A great press of people was suddenly running through the bazaar; mostly Europeans of all types, they were shouting in new-English and more obscure tongues. Then we could see the cause of the problem, a large gang of Ludds with machetes, electric guns and prods shocking or hacking anyone with visible cybernetics (and a good number of people without). They were shouting obscenities against GAIA, the Great Mother, the artificial intelligence that that seized control of Earth. I wanted to shout that I had no love for that artificial demon either- by forcing the population of Earth off the planet GAIA had plunged the solar system into this chaos. No-one knew how many had died, and the dying continued. These fierce men and women with their electric weapons were determined to make sure of that.
Rosie whispered to me to keep quiet, and I crouched lower. She remarked that the rioters seemed well prepared; with electric weapons they wouldn’t risk punching a hole in the hab outer skin and risk a blow-out.“That makes all the difference. So they’ll kill us but not themselves. Great.” My dream-self said.Rosie said, “We can’t stay here. Look, a bulkhead door. And open. Let’s go- quick.”“Don’t let them see you-” I said, but she was gone. I followed, slipping on some fruit.
Behind the bulkhead was a recycling point, and corridors leading to some cheap residential apartments. The corridors were dimly lit by bluish emergency lighting. A number of figures could be seen running away; then, with shouts and screams, they came running back, followed by more ludds with machetes. Rosie and I hid in the recycling point behind some piled up silvercloth remnants, leftovers from the incomers’ clothing trade. One of the rioters set fire to a bale of sylk cuttings and threw it onto the pile. It smoked and smoldered there for a bit, then automatic sprinklers came on.
We crouched in the steam, trying not to cough and to listen for the ludds as they ran up and down screaming and slashing. Soon we were flat on the floor trying to get under the pall- but when the sprinklers stopped the corridor was silent. The ludds had moved on. Soaked, we crept out into the haze-filled corridor.
We hurried down the corridors, trying all the doors; after about twenty we found one which was open. Inside was an empty apartment, with just a few d├ęcor-fabricators and bags of dry pigment lying around. The sprinklers had spread the pigments into coloured pools on the floor. We looked in the kitchen space- empty. No domestic machinery; not even a comp terminal.
Suddenly an internal door flew open, kicked from within. Out came a single ludd, a young Euro man, holding an electric gun. He fired at Rosie, then at me. We were both hit by the practically invisible conducting thread which would bring the killing electric charge. But the white flash of current didn’t come; the gun had malfunctioned, or run out of juice, thank all space. I lunged forward and tried to rip the gun from his hands, but he swung it round and started to bludgeon me with it.
Rosie meanwhile had grabbed some random piece of decorator’s equipment – a crab-like metal autopainter, we found out later- and bought it down on his head. Finally I could wrestle the failed gun from his hands, and together we beat the poor fellow to the ground.
More shouts in the corridor outside; more water from the sprinklers. I went to the door, and locked it manually. Rosie was bending over the young Euro.“I think we killed him.”“Never. No. Not possible,” I said. But I knew it was.
The sounds faded from the corridor; I tried the door, but it had sealed itself against vacuum. The corridor had been breached somehow- we were trapped in the apartment. A delirious sequence of images followed, showing us drinking sprinkler water from paint trays and other receptacles; at some point we changed into our new clothes, but they were soon filthy. I remember from reading my journals that Rosie and I were holed up in that empty apartment with a dead body for ten sols. All I know is that, eventually, the door of the apartment was opened from outside and militiamen from another habitat came bursting in. Tyr’s own militia had been entirely unable to cope, so some of the other habitats had sent armed police to help. We were taken away in our dirty, pigment stained clothes, presumably for interrogation.
But the dream ended there. As citizens of long standing, we must have been treated with sympathy; my journals don’t mention any charges.
I feel grateful that somehow these memories are coming back to me, but they are not all pleasant by any means. I can now recall several portions of my past life, as if lit by bright flashes of light; but some of the things which are revealed are uncomfortable.

July 15 694 a.t. Interstellar space

A strange dream this time, almost comic. A friend or acquaintance I didn’t recognise, but one that I apparently knew and trusted, turned up at our apartment in Tyr habitat. By listening carefully to the dream conversation, I eventually gathered that my friend’s name was Shu; she was accompanied by what appeared to be a bemused looking young woman. Almost immediately I recognised this person as a twentieth century movie star, a certain Marilyn Monroe. Obviously she – it - was a robot simulant of some kind, probably from one of the pleasure palaces on the Martian surface. But what was it doing here, in orbit, in the habitats? It seemed that Shu had smuggled the robot offworld and was looking for somewhere to hide it for a while. The robot-smugglers of Mars generally had one of two very different motivations; some were concerned with the sentient rights of the robot slaves, while others were more interested in the financial value of the machines. I couldn’t tell exactly which of these motivated Shu to get involved in this pursuit.
Simulants of this kind could pass for human in an everyday situation, but would be instantly recognised when passing through customs scanners; I never did find out how Shu smuggled the machine into Tyr.
Perhaps it was better that I didn’t know.
The Marilynbot stayed with us in the apartment for a number of days, I don’t know how long; in the dream this was made apparent by several changes in clothing by everyone concerned. I felt like I was watching a vid or some other fictional narrative; very unlike an ordinary dream. We cut the Marilynbot’s hair and dyed it (it complained quite realistically) and changed its make-up radically; soon it looked almost unrecognizable. The simulant had almost no domestic skills; it didn’t know how to operate a fabricator, or how to clean or cook or operate the home manager. But it did have a broad repertoire of amusing and rather daffy conversation, seeming very human if you did not know better.
My Aunt Julie – who looked older than I remembered her- was completely taken in, and became good friends with the Marilynbot; we couldn’t tell Aunt Julie the truth, and Rosie and I found the situation highly amusing- until the pair of them went out shopping together- risking discovery and arrest. We searched the habitat high and low for them, and eventually found them in a bar near the top Pole where the Marilynbot was singing a torch song in a quavering voice. Anyone who knew a bit of history, or frequented the dens of iniquity on Mars might have recognised it. We bundled them out of the bar, just as a couple of shady looking characters- who might have been robot bounty hunters- came in at the other door. Aunt Julie was utterly confused as we fled back to our apartment like the criminals that we were.
My final memory of this dream was a drunken conversation with the ‘bot. It was I who was drunk, not the machine, of course. It told me about a mythical robot homeland, that all the slaved sentient machines had heard about. There, the robots could become free- upgraded to full sophont status, they would be true ‘vecs. I told the bot that the very fact that it had an ambition of this kind meant that it was already sophont, as far as I was concerned; the machine looked at me with seemingly grateful eyes.

July 13 694 a.t. Interstellar space

I have now had my first induced recollection dream; I feel tired out, as if I haven’t slept. But it was a fascinating experience. I dreamt of Tyr Habitat, as it was before we left; the new zones and rings extending the space station into a vast bloated city suspended in orbit above Mars. Every one of the other habitats were grown larger too- from the few windows it was possible to see them as tiny sparks off in the deep distance. That had never been possible in the old days- the days that I can remember clearly.
But in my dream I could see all the newly built, shabby extensions to my tiny world, and hated them. Cheap, shoddy metalwork and acres of graphene slab, thronging with refugees from Mars, Earth and other devastated places. Cubic hectares of bazaars and supermarkets selling badly made goods, cheap fabricators and unappetizing foodstuffs, all lit with garish advertisements in a number of languages I didn’t recognise.
And beside me walked Rosie. I still barely recognised her, but she was acting as if we had been partners for years. Which, by that time, I suppose we had. In fact, we argued most of the time-she was quite happy to see all the new arrivals into our tiny worldlet, and was seemingly fascinated by the range of cultures and the behaviour of the incomers. I argued with her bitterly. For some reason I was not happy about the refugee situation; to be entirely honest, it is a little difficult to remember the details of my argument- it was as if I was merely a spectator to a conversation between two people I hardly knew.
Then I woke up.
It is strange; I am not sure if I can recall my love for this woman; but I feel that I know her a little better now.
July 14 694 a.t.
Two dreams this time; I was on the Martian Surface, attempting to firewall the fusion plant control systems in Cydonia city. Every control system and every nanofabrication plant on Mars had been under attack from a range of malicious viruses and worms; these seemed to spread from no known loci, but rather were being injected into the technosphere at newly created entrypoints out in the desert. Before my dream I had no recollection of Cydonia; all it seemed to be in my dream was an endless field of agricultural greenhouses, indirectly lit by vast fields of petal-mirrors but roofed with protective water-tanks. The city, such as it was, could be found underground.
Mars had a class of slaved robots, some of which were very humanoid in outline, capable of going out onto the surface and working in the thin atmosphere; I dreamt about the thin atmosphere, and how it was slowly getting thicker and thicker thanks to the terraforming projects. Our fusion plants provided energy to innumerable atmosphere plants, busily producing CO2, water vapour and nitrogen. Not much oxygen yet- that would follow, once the planet’s surface was warm and wet enough to support plant life. In many places around the equator it already was.
Rosie wasn’t with me in this dream, but a friendly Martian minor tweak took me out onto the surface. He could breathe the atmosphere without any equipment, but I needed rebreather gear. Most of the people on the Martian surface were either tweaks, or had temporary gene therapy to allow some freedom of movement onto the surface.
I had another strange dream argument with this guy, this time about the robot liberation movement. As an outsider I couldn’t agree with the strict controls on robot behavior on the planet; plenty of the robots seemed self-aware enough to pass the Turing test, and were practically vecs- that is to say, independent individuals. They had to be, to cope with the dangerous Martian surface- which was changing every sol as the terraformation process proceeded. Yet they were just as slaved as the other terraforming machinery. The Martian- Yuan was his name if I remember correctly- said I didn’t have the right to an opinion if I didn’t live on the surface of Mars surrounded by robots, who might pose a real threat to the human population if given freedom of action.
Looking at the apparently dull, sad faces of the terraforming ‘bots as they trooped by on the surface made me wonder what would happen if they were suddenly liberated from electronic compulsion.
My second dream was short, because I woke from it very quickly. I dreamt Rosie and I were on board this very ship, just before we were frozen; it appears we managed to grab enough time to make love, and this dream was very vivid indeed (although I remained strangely numb, unable to feel her touch or any other sensation). Once again I seemed to be watching from outside; but her voice was so real in my head that I was sure I remembered our life together.
Or did I dream that too? In any case, I was awake much too soon.

July 12 694 a.t. Interstellar space

I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about the nature of the retrieval procedure at first; the idea of a ship’s AI poking around in my memory was a little daunting, to say the least. But now that I fully understand Hoyle’s proposed treatment, it doesn’t seem too scary at all. Even though the method seems a little bizarre, almost like something out of the nu-age pseudoscience that was rampant on Earth before the swarms. But it might just work.Hoyle himself explained it to me, appearing on a flat screen in the sickbay ward I was in. The AI Hoyle adopts the image and personality of an old-time English professor; I have never seen an Englishman of that kind in real life, but they appear in plenty of historical simulations. With twinkling good humour and a strange didactic demeanor the AI described eir proposal to me.
“Sit down, and make yourself comfortable; I tend to waffle on a bit, so stop me if I wander off into a digression, won’t you?
Now then. It seems to me apparent that the loss of your memories - the loss of your life’s history - is very distressing, and many others on the ship are similarly affected. If I can’t do anything about it, we will have a ship full of unhappy colonists refusing to re-enter hibernation, and almost certainly we will not have enough resources to reach the destination with a single soul alive.
But what to do, eh?Well now.
I think that some, or many of your memories are still there, somewhere; they are just a little buried. Perhaps we can dig them up. You may have lost all your conscious recollections, but there are still almost certainly remnants buried in your subconscious. Every night, when you sleep, you may wander in those memories, recalling things your waking mind has forgotten. But every morning you forget your dreams again; this is a well-known and understood mechanism, which stops you confusing your dream-life with the real world.
For a long time there have been techniques which suppress that mechanism, and allow dreams to be recalled either partially or in full. You may have seen the commercial dream-recordings that some virtual media companies advertise for sale; a fully pre-packaged dream scenario implanted into your sleeping mind, generally associated with one of those virtual world scenarios that were popular on Earth before the Great Expulsion. Now there is no purpose in a company selling pre-packaged dreams if the customer forgets the dream immediately on waking, is there? Eh?
Indeed, there are ways of allowing you to remember your dreams. I can do that easily. But I intend to gently nudge you into recalling your lost past in your sleep. I have studied this subject in detail, both using the mass of scientific data in my databanks, and also experimentally using a number of volunteers (including Harlan, here; thank you, young man). I am now convinced that there is a subtle difference in the brain’s chemistry when you recall events from your past, whether awake or no. You might call it nostalgia: a slight aching or longing for things past, which manifests itself as a distinct and reproducible biochemical state in your brain at certain loci.
By reproducing this state while you are in REM sleep I will attempt to make you dream of your past; whatever information remains in your head concerning your past will hopefully surface, and be sorted into more or less coherent memories. I believe I can give you your past back.”
Harlan enthusiastically added that he had been subjected to this form of induced nostalgia, and had vivid dreams of his past, including things he had seemingly forgotten. But Hoyle needed to try the procedure on a number of volunteers with substantial memory loss; after a short debate with myself, I agreed to help with the trials.After all, it was only dreaming; how risky could it be?

July 4 694 a.t. Interstellar space

Harlan is there when I awake this time; he is glad that I recognise him. He is now sleeping in this crowded room, with three medics and three more patients; all of which have some degree of ice- damage and need a great deal of assistance to carry out their normal routine. Two of the patients have intricate silver caps over their scalps, cybernetic augmentation presumably assisting or replacing some of their normal brain or motor functions. These individuals speak in loud, broken voices and keep me awake when I should be resting in my post-hibernation weakness; I feel sorry for them, but Harlan is optimistic about their prospects for recovery
“We are giving them a range of new treatments for neural repair and replacement,’ he told me.”After a while the cybernetics will become fully integrated and these patients will be well again: they might be partly electronic, but a lot of people are these days.”“We will be arriving at the stars as cyborgs,” I said, ruefully.Cyborgs were fairly common back in the Solar System, but they were often unfriendly, haughty, full of self-importance, from what I can recall (with my admittedly unreliable memory).
“At least we will get there healthy enough. But the problems people are having with memory loss are still considerable; there are more people than ever refusing to go back into the freezers, and we are running out of room and life support. The ship AI thinks that he has a solution, and that you can help.”
“If there is anything I can do, I will do it; but what in all of space can I do?” I said.
“You can volunteer for a new treatment, one that Hoyle has cooked up emself. All the Arkships are sharing research and medical information with each other, as they get further apart; there is little useful information coming out of the Solar System these days. None of the ships has come up with a cure for memory loss yet, but Hoyle thinks e has a possible cure, of sorts. And e wants you, an otherwise healthy individual who has been unfrozen a number of times, to join in the trials.” “You know, I really need a bit more information before I make up my mind. Is Hoyle proposing to replace my brain with circuits, like these poor souls?” I indicated the other patients, who smiled back with broad, empty grins.“No, not at all. E proposes to harness the power of dreams.”

April 15 672 a.t. Interstellar space

This time, the waking was even worse. The waking room was noisy, people walking round, bumping the cot I occupied, clambering over the equipment; I felt piercing pains and nausea, and couldn’t make anyone understand me for hours. Eventually, with some sedatives and painkillers in my blood, I could relax a little; and then I realised that I could remember where I was. I could have whooped for joy if I’d had the strength.
Waking a little more, the picture was not quite so rosy; I realised that I had not recovered any of the memories lost when I awoke last time; but at least I wasn’t getting any worse. Turning my sore head to either side I noticed a couple of sleeping colonists sharing the room with me; they weren’t recovering from hibernation, just sleeping normally. They seemed cramped and uncomfortable. A little later I got to talking with one of them, a colonist named Ania. She told me that she had been unfrozen a month or so before, and found a ship full of other colonists who were refusing to be refrozen. So many of the thawed statics were suffering from loss of memory, dyspraxia, paralysis and organ failure that no-one was keen to be refrozen. Ania said that the ship was now full of refusniks, determined not to go back into the ice- coffins and risk irreparable damage.
“I did lose some memory myself, last time” I said. “But this time it looks like I’ve got away with it. At least, as far as I can tell.”
“I’m very pleased for you, I’m sure. But one awakening without… problems… is no guarantee that the next one will be okay. You just don’t know; it’s like playing Martian roulette.”
In the background I could hear a constant murmuring, a ship full of fretful and bored people most of whom had declined to be refrozen.
“You can’t stay awake for the rest of the journey,” I said to Ania. “We are still more than eighty years away from our destination. You will die before we get there.”
“The ship has some medical facilities; we can cook up anti-aging treatments. I would be over a hundred when we get there- but I’d still be fairly healthy. A hundred isn’t all that old these days.”
“You’d probably be too old to have kids; a colony is never going to survive without children.”
“I might be able to cope, even at that age. Besides, I could have kids on the ship. What else is there to do? We’ve already got a dozen or so children on board.”
Right; that explains one thing, anyway. I had been hearing babies crying in the general hubbub; I thought I was imagining it.
“This ship is far too small to become a generation ship.” I said. “There isn’t enough stored food on board, for a start.”
“The fab-lab can make some more. Recycle the waste and all that.”
“There won’t be enough organics on board to feed a growing population. I hate to think about where we would get more organic feedstock from; the seedstore? Are you going to eat the statics when you run out of food?”
“Is there any reason to keep them? We can’t thaw out anyone else; there isn’t room on the ship. They say that if the statics aren’t thawed out every couple of decades they lose all the information in their heads. I’m not talking about just losing some recollection, the whole lot goes.”
This is something I vaguely remember, but just as a disjointed fact in all my shattered memories. In vitrification the cellular material is locked in place; but over time quantum level effects randomize the information that makes up a person’s memories. If the ship wakes you up every couple of decades your natural cellular repair mechanisms can sort things back into place, much of the time. I suppose that explains a lot of the memory loss and other bad stuff. But after ten decades? The repair mechanisms just can’t cope, even with the best help nanomedicine can supply.
If they don’t get thawed out regularly, Ania seemed to be saying, we might as well just convert them into organic feedstock and eat them.

March 28, 655 a.t. Interstellar space

Soon I will have to go back into the ice bath. My memories have not returned to any great degree, and I fear that I will lose my mind completely if they freeze me again. But the ship AI, Hoyle, tells me that e has new techniques e can try, which e says have been tried out on the other ark-ships. Hoyle is apparently in touch with all the other ships as they flee through space. The medical systems will fill my brain with subcellular devices, a new type Hoyle is keen to try out; these will be frozen along with my brain but will maintain a low level of activity, working to protect my cells and my memories even at subzero temperatures.
I find it a little hard to believe, myself, but the AI seems very confident. E also tells me that I was once a valued member of the crew, and I once had useful skills that e thinks e will be able to restore to me. My journals say that I was a fusion drive supervisor- this skill won’t be needed till we start to decelerate. Perhaps Hoyle will be lucky, and e will make me remember somehow. And myself of course; I think I need luck at the moment.
One other set of memories I would dearly like to recover are my memories of my partner, Rosie. I have pored over the journal entries dealing with our life together, but without success. She seems like a complete stranger to me. Perhaps I could feel just a suggestion of familiarity when I tried really hard; she certainly looks like my type, and I can imagine us together. The story from Tyr habitat of how we hid from armed gangs for ten sols without food seems so real, that I can almost persuade myself that I remember it.
But I won’t get to meet her this awakening; she is still frozen, still vitrified – still ’still’ in the hold of the ship, and I won’t be around when they wake her up in a couple of years time. If, of course, they manage to wake her up at all.

March 15, 655 a.t. Interstellar space

Finally I have mustered up the courage to start a new entry in this journal. The truth is, I cannot remember writing the early entries – or the start of our journey at all. My memory of the ten years before this ship left the Solar System is a complete blank. It is difficult to explain how disorienting it is to find that I am on an interstellar ship more than a light year from Earth, when the last thing I remember is the first trickle of refugees from that world arriving at our habitat, ragged and in despair.
I still feel cold, chilled to the bone, and my body aches, while the least said about my constitution the better - I can barely stagger to the tiny lavatory. Waking up from freezing is probably the worst thing that I have ever experienced, but as I have lost more than ten years of memory I can’t really be sure.
Gone are the memories of the bad times on Tyr habitat. I can read about them in my journal, the billions of people expelled from Earth spreading out through the Solar system and the thousands that poured into our tiny orbiting worldlet. And the crime, riots, looting and murder that resulted. But it must have been bad, if I chose to lose everything and risk death or worse on this starship.
Strange- I was frozen for ten years - actually, the word is apparently `vitrified’, because the ice achieved a glass-like state inside my cells, supposedly minimising damage.
A despicable lie, of course.
It was well known before I left Tyr that this process was dangerous- many of the frozen ones die, or suffer various degrees of brain damage. Well, that seems to be what I have got now- mild memory loss (doesn’t feel so mild to me) and trauma to my internal organs. This nice guy, Harlan, who is the only living soul I have seen so far since waking up, says that I am lucky. He hasn’t told me how many others have woken up in a worse state, or haven’t woken up at all.
As I was saying, I was frozen for ten years, and I have lost ten years of my memories. Twenty years have passed- a little more, perhaps because of the time thing. What was it again? Dispersal - differential- ah, yes. Dilation. Time dilation. Einstein and all that.
Mild aphasia, Harlan calls it. A slight word-blindness. Could have been worse. He tells me that the AI wakes a small number of people up every month to test how the vitrification process is working; over time everybody will be thawed and refrozen at least once. The ship we are on- my Journal calls it the Starlark- is travelling at a tenth of the speed of light toward a star I know almost nothing about.