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.