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.


Space Rocket Meteor said...

Alright. A conclusion of sorts. Though I'd like to see what they do once they get there to the Indi system. Smoke doobs and party or get down to the serious work of adapting and living and terraforming a hostile environment.

I think the story stands as a good thread through a larger story. The 3 twists on common themes provided a brief respite from mediocrity. The opera has not ended. It has only just begun.

Steve Bowers said...

You are right; this story has just begun.

The problems with memory loss are only the first crisis this expedition will encounter; and the solution they have found is somewhat less effective than appears at first.