Intransit - Chapter 1

>>>>>>>>>>>>> SYSTEM LOG

>>> EVENT: AWK #39874 Prof. Annamarie Manning

>>> MISSION YEAR 500:01:27



>>>>>>>>>>>>> CREW LOG

I knew when I signed on to this mission that I’d be giving up a lot, and I knew I’d be experiencing things nobody else had ever experienced. Knowing it isn’t at all the same as being ready for it.

It has been five hundred years since my last log entry.

Five hundred years!

I knew it would be five centuries when I went to sleep, but now, standing here, all that time gone in an instant!

I’ve been over the crew logs for the last few centuries, and I’m starting to understand why they wanted my crew on board. This journey could last centuries, maybe even thousands of years. Who better to document the history of the people living aboard than anthropologists and historians?

I only wish we could wake up more often, see the lives of these people in more depth and detail, but that’s not the mission. We trade the detail for the long view, a view unprecedented in all of human history. Imagine if we’d had living witnesses with accounts of events surrounding the birth of Christ 2,100 years ago! Or 2,600 years ago, I suppose. Even so, I do envy those whose schedules allow them to wake up more frequently.

Enough of this journaling already. I’ve been asleep since launch, and the journals of those who have already been awakened are fascinating; I have to go see what the natives have been up to while I slept!




Annamarie shut down the logging system with a quick gesture and grabbed a pack from beside the work surface. She had taken the time to prepare supplies for her work before sitting down to record the required logs; she hadn’t wanted to have to waste any time when she was done.

She was out the door in moments. It felt like she’d been in these corridors just yesterday. There was no visible sign of the centuries that had passed. There was nothing definable at all that she could point at to say precisely why the ship felt different, but it did. It felt … older, somehow. But it was a reassuring kind of older, old with the solidity of a mountain.

It was a short journey. Her temporary quarters were located near the preserve, and two minutes later she had reached the first observation post.

It was a small control room that opened onto several additional rooms. She passed straight through to the observation room itself; a large, semi-circular room with a vast curved-glass window that looked out on a stunning view of the preserve. Her breath caught in her throat.

Five centuries had been kind to the Preserve. Gone were the neat rows of stick-like sapling trees she remembered. In their place was a tangled jungle, wild and untamed, untouched by any hint of symmetry. She gazed down over the wilds that covered dozens of square kilometers until they were lost to the vast distance and the gentle curve of the ship.

“Nothing,” she muttered to herself absently. No trace of the inhabitants. She wasn’t surprised; they certainly had better things to do than to hang out conveniently by the control rooms in case someone happened to stop in.

She sighed, disappointed in spite of herself, and started going through the more detailed logs of the last five centuries. She had a lot of catching up to do before initiating contact.

She was just glancing at a maintenance report detailing repairs to one of the ship’s artificial sun surrogates when the faint sound of hurried footsteps reached her, accompanied by a loud yawn. She glanced back toward the outpost entrance, puzzled, just as her intern Jenna rushed in. Former intern, she corrected herself.

“Jenna? I didn’t know you’d be waking up this early!”

“Same time as you. Hi Doc! It’s been centuries!”

“Don’t you ‘Doc’ me, Jenna. We’re colleagues now, call me Anne.” She grinned as she said it. She had recommended Jenna for the position on the crew.

Jenna grinned back, but Anna could see something in the younger woman’s eyes, an underlying tension that she’d never seen before. “What is it?”

She blinked in confusion. “What is what?”

“C’mon, something’s bothering you. What is it? Out with it.”

“No, nothing’s—well, I guess … it’s just a little creepy here, isn’t it? It’s not like I expected. The ship feels different somehow.”

“Well,” she said, glancing back over her shoulder, “the preserve has certainly grown a lot while we were out.”

“No, it’s not that. Or that’s part of it, but—ah, it’s nothing. Maybe it’s this whole being five hundred years out of time thing. It’s sort of weirding me out.”

“Let’s check on the natives then. The reports I woke up to make it sound like they’ve been busy for the last few centuries; there’s lots to catch up on. Should take your mind off it.”

“Okay. It’s not a big deal, but yeah.” She stopped speaking a moment, peering behind Anne out the large window to the preserve beyond. “I don’t see anything from here, do you know where they’re living?”

“I was just about to check on that when you showed up. Let’s check the logs.”

They set about scanning the combined records of the computers and those who had periodically awakened to check on the inhabitants before them, as well as records left by the inhabitants themselves. “Complacent, aren’t they,” Jenna commented dryly. “It’s been 15 years since any of them logged anything at all, and almost a century since they kept the standard reporting schedules correctly.”

“That’s part of why we’re here, to keep them on track when they start to go off.” Within half an hour they had a pretty decent idea of where the central settlement of the inhabitants was most likely to be located and had retrieved a routing solution from the ship’s internal crew navigation system. Anna updated the location data to a couple of tablets. While they worked, an almost unnoticed hum of activity was creeping back to life, casting away the feeling of ancient abandonment that had so spooked Jenna.

Distant sounds of equipment in use carried down the corridors, mingling with the sounds of voices long unused. “Sounds like the rest of the crew are up.”

The mission planners back home and studied the problems of long-term space flight and confinement for many years before this mission had been put together. They knew that the potential psychological cost to be paid by the crew would be very high, and so they’d gone to great lengths to make the ship not just bearable, but actually pleasant to be on. Everything they could think of had been considered, from the colors of the walls, to the diversity of the interior environments, to the almost inaudible but omnipresent background noises that suggested they lived in a larger, more open world than they really did.

One small part of all that planning had gone into crew rotations. Crew who were awakened would be active for a service term of a few months at a time, and 80% of those awakened along with them would be the same from shift to shift, while the other 20% would be new to that larger group, or at least relatively unfamiliar later in the mission when the time came that everyone had served with everyone else at least once. With tens of thousands among the “sleeper” crew, it would be a while before anyone met everyone.

The idea was to preserve a feeling of familiarity alongside something of the unknown. Familiarity can be a great comfort, but taken too far, it leads to boredom, and then a whole host of psychological problems.

Anna took the lead and ushered Jenna through one of the side doors into the Walks. The Walks were a series of open-sided corridors that lined the edges of the preserve. “Aren’t we going to ride?”

“Are you kidding me? Just look at this place! I think we can walk for a while, at least until the next station, get a closer look at what’s happened while we were out.”

They weren’t the only ones to have that same idea. It took them the better part of an hour to walk to the next exit point, and they passed a number of other newly awakened crew, a few legitimately working in the area, most taking flimsy excuses to enjoy the view as they went from one part of the ship to another. Neither of them recognized anyone, but everyone they passed with a smile, and Anna noticed Jenna’s tension draining somewhat.

The preserve itself was breathtaking just in the vast engineering prowess that had been required to recreate such an enormous natural space in a man-made ship, let alone the beauty of seeing it after centuries. The trees were old and wild, rising majestically out of the woods, branches straining towards the artificial track-sun far overhead. It looked like an impressively large space until you saw the tiny little specks shooting around overhead and realized they were birds, some of them large birds of prey, and the colossal scale of the place began to dawn on them.

“And this is just one of them,” Jenna whispered. There were four in total, two up top where they were, and two down below, “under” the ship. “It didn’t look so huge when we saw it before,” she said, almost reverently.

Anna could only nod her head in reply.

It took them twenty minutes to make their way to the station, a walk that covered the barest fraction of the perimeter of the preserve. When they arrived, the transit hub was buzzing with activity, staff and crew mingling and bustling about, hurrying from one place to the next, many still opting for the slower scenic route. The last of the tension drained from Jenna’s frame, and she practically danced her way toward the waiting platform for the train line that would take them nearer their goal. She had to admit that she felt better too, being among people again.

She joined Jenna just as the small open-air train pulled in, disgorging passengers. They stepped aboard and Anna pulled her tablet out, flicking through displays of the data she’d pulled up in the control room. “Wow, they really have moved around a lot. They’re nowhere near where their initial settlement was placed! According to these reports, they’ve pulled up roots and moved their whole village four times in the last five centuries.” She had to speak up as people climbed aboard beside them, filling most of the available seats. “And there’s more than one of them,” Jenna said, a note of surprise in her voice. “According to Dr. Rodriguez, the village divided a little less than three hundred years ago.”

“What?” she asked, surprised, and started flicking through her own displays.

“Yeah,” Jenna confirmed as the train began pulling out of the station. “Sounds like there was some sort of disagreement between the villagers, but there’s nothing that says what they disagreed on. A small group of them broke off from the main village, and …” Jenna’s face crinkled with concentration as she flicked through reports. “There’s barely a mention of them after that. Why wouldn’t anyone have kept track of something like this?”

Anna hadn’t had any more luck. “I don’t know,” she admitted. The train passed into its main transit tunnel, windowed on one side with a breathtaking but suddenly mysterious-feeling view of the preserve. “We’re going to have to find out.”


Generation Ship Log #1

This fragment is the first in a series of crew logs I'm writing in support of a larger series of stories all set on a generation starship. It's not part of a short story in itself, though it does introduce some concepts that will appear in the stories of the series.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> SYSTEM LOG

>>> EVENT: AWK #39874 Dr. Laura Candless

>>> MISSION YEAR 378:08:27



>>>>>>>>>>>>> CREW LOG

Awakened again. It’s so eerie. It feels like I walked these halls a few hours ago, but in reality, there’s nobody left alive here from the last time I walked this place. That was almost two centuries ago. I’m treating their great-great-great grand grandkids.

I wonder if you get used to it? Or is this going to happen again? How long will it go on? How many thousands of years can I live at the rate of only a few days per century?

Turns out that the eggheads back home were right, and letting most of the crew live out their lives on board the ship has some pretty big problems to go with the advantages. Something has happened to them over the generations, like they forget what they’re doing here. That’s why they have us, the leftovers of the original crew, here to teach the unmotivated slaggards that live on how to do all the jobs that they’ve slacked on.

It’s beyond me how they let something as important as medical care go untaught. Last generation they only had ten trained doctors. TEN! Out of over 200,000 inhabitants. God, I pity them. It’s no wonder the computer thawed me out.

I’d better get started. They’re not going to teach themselves, apparently.

The Best-Laid Plans, pt. 1

“Archerd!” the voice called from farther down the street. He stopped at the sound of his name, startled out of a deep contemplation.

He turned and searched the street with his gaze, quickly spotting the suit-coated figure waving at him from among the crowd. “Maevin!” he called out to the fellow. “There you are! I had just stopped by to call on you,” he continued as they navigated the sidewalks toward each other.

“So I heard, old chap,” the other huffed. “I hurried on to catch you before you got too far. Damn your long stride!” His face was flushed red. “I have excellent news, so I do hope you appreciate the extra effort on my part!”

“Well let’s have it then,” Archerd exclaimed, “though we should perhaps retire back to your office,” he added with a glance at the throngs of people strolling the downtown streets of Dolesham.

They hadn’t traveled far from Fredik Maevin’s residence, and a scant few minutes later Maevin had pulled a sheaf of correspondence from a locked drawer in an extravagantly carved desk. A servant poured a generous measure of wine into a cup for Archerd, something stronger for Maevin, and retired from the room.

Once they were alone, the older man’s florid face broke into a wide grin. “We did it!” he crowed. “The approvals, Archerd!”

Archerd felt a flush of mingled excitement and relief flood through him. “That’s wonderful news! The appropriations committee didn’t raise a fuss?”

“With your family history? With your own history? Come now, my friend. You scarcely needed me at all for this.” He gulped from his glass with gusto. “Most of them folded with just the words “Archerd Dolet wants,” they barely even paid attention to what you wanted, let alone why or how much it would cost.”

A thin wisp of cloud moved in to cast a shade on Archerd’s enthusiasm. “Most of them?” He frowned.

Maevin paused abruptly in thought, glass halfway to his lips once again. “Well, yes. Old Codlin is the only holdout—”

“Maevin! This isn’t all of the approvals?” He tried to hold in his frustration, but for this to come up again after so many fruitless months was more than he could bear. “What does he want this time?”

Maevin drained his glass and shrugged apologetically. “I know, Archerd, I know it’s frustrating, but you know Codlin. He doesn’t approve of—well, what he calls your ‘familially institutionalized spendthrift’s ways.’”

Archerd firmly throttled the rage-inducing frustration as quickly as he could, though he knew it showed all over his face. “That—that—”

“It’s not that he doesn’t know what you and your family have done for this city,” Maevin placated. “He’s well aware that without the Dolets, there would be no Dolesham at all.”

“But that’s no excuse for fiscal irresponsibility,” Archerd quoted. “Has he never looked at a budget sheet before? How is he incapable of seeing the simple cause and effect relationship that these expenditures reap far more income than they ever cost?”

“Don’t tell me, tell him. Maybe you can get him to listen to you. I’m afraid it’ll be some days before he’s going to consent to see me again.”

“I swear, he never gave me this much difficulty over the communication devices,” Archerd growled.

“The idea of a flying machine didn’t seem to sit well with him, I admit,” Maevin thought out loud. “Perhaps that explains his extraordinary stubbornness.”

The approvals were critical to Archerd; he’d been without a new source of income since 


Journals of the Fall, pt. 9

Record #012-02-35

Journal of Randal T. Dawson

5th Day After the Fall

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Day 5

What am I doing out here?

Seriously, what the hell am I doing out here? The world has gone completely crazy, and I’m out here checking the mains?

I haven’t heard from my family in a week, and all the phone lines to the city are out. There are police out in force, even the military are out and around doing who knows what, and the stories!

I don’t believe even half of ‘em, but whatever it is has to be almost as bad to have things in the state they’re in. The Internet’s gone nuts too, at least where it’s working. Has to be some sort of terrorist plot.

Besides all the police and military and stuff, things are tense as hell but quiet around town. The bosses say something’s coming, but nobody will say what, or when. They just get real quiet.

Well, if they want the mains working, I can keep ‘em working.

Day 7

The town lost power. Water treatment’s running on backup, we should be good for a few more days. At least we’ll be good if things keep going as they are now.

Things are worse out there if the ‘net is any indication. Still have a bit of a charge left in my phone, so I can check. There’s not much left to check though. Most sites are down, and the few I can still reach have barely any use.

Most of what’s there are crackpots posting tips on how to survive attacks by some kind of monsters. The dead come back to life. That garbage can’t be real though. That’s just movie stuff. It’s not even Halloween! When this whole thing blows over, they ought to be arrested for trying to make a bad situation worse by scaring people.

It’s sure scaring me. There’s someone bad out there from outside the town. I don’t buy for one second that they’re the dead risen from the grave, but they’re putting enough people into graves. It’s a little too much truth for my taste.

Day 8

My job got bumped up to the highest priority. There are three other engineers helping with what used to be a solo job. They were pulled in from further out on the town radius.

The police and military types have pulled inward too, and they’re terrified. I heard they’re shooting people who try to escape outside the town; least, that’s what one guy said. He was never too reliable.

Whatever’s really going on out there, it has sure cut down on the amount of crap flowing through the pipes, but these systems weren’t meant to run on reserve for so long. We’re having to get creative to keep the whole thing running.

Day 9

Holy crap. Some of those stories? They’re actually true. I saw one today. I don’t know who it was, or where it came from, but there is no way in hell that thing was still alive, no matter how much it moved and walked and moaned.

Thank God for the military. It was 20 feet from me when they shot it down. Fell right into the reservoir. I don’t much care to think about that, honestly. They fished it out, but we can’t flush out the tank. We have nothing to refill it with until the next rain.

Day 10

People all through town are getting sick. They have us herded together in shelters; I go there when I’m not on duty, which right now is most of the time.

Early this morning people started coming down with whatever it is. Some of ‘em are getting pretty bad pretty fast.

- This journal was found in an abandoned shelter. Evidence suggests most of the town turned in a short period of time. Large numbers of partially eaten victims were found in the shelter, with tracks of many of the risen leaving and spreading out to the surrounding areas. J.T.


Journals of the Fall, pt. 8

Record #012-02-35

Diary of Rochelle de Meaux

Time Unknown

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He paces endlessly, tortured thoughts unknown to those around him. There’s a sense of depth, of hidden darkness that clings to him like a musty shroud. It’s a shroud that billows with impatience, each step casting waves of it out into the night.

Now and then he stops, asks me what I’m doing, why I’m writing, why I keep looking at him. Sometimes he yells, the impatient waves turned to the lashing, crashing of a hurricane.

“Writing,” I tell him. It’s the truth. How can I not write? How could he, anyone, expect that of me? Writing is all I know. All I’ve ever known, all I’ve ever done.

Well. Writing, and observing. Always observing.

For instance, I observe that every time I answer, he tightens a little more. Withdraws a little deeper into the tight-wrapped shell he’s forming around himself.

I would lie to him if I thought it would help. But it wouldn’t help. He’d only withdraw even faster.

My words aren’t the only thing driving him deeper within himself. They’re not even the main thing. More than anything else, it’s the waiting. We lost power several days ago. It’s like that huge crippling of the power grid that happened a few years ago all over again. Only this time nobody knows the extent of the problem.

Only trickles of news have gotten in or out of town, and he is waiting for news. For hope. His hopes are going gray.

Each day he’s a little grimmer, face a little more wooden. The cupboards he’s sharing with the rest of us empty a little more.

A shout reaches us from deeper into the house. “The water’s off.”

“What do you mean it’s off?” He sounds like he knows exactly what that means, but he’s angry about it and doesn’t know how else to react.

The pale custard-yellow of the walls looked warm and inviting, once. Next to someone so gray though, they’ve turned a bit sickly. It makes you want to huddle in on yourself, if only to avoid touching them.

“I don’t know, it’s just off! There’s no more coming out of the taps.”

I’m not sure if we should have seen that coming or not. Now that it has happened, it seems so obvious and natural. Without power, the water system has to shut down. I guess I thought maybe it hadn’t reached there, or that they had a backup supply or something.

Maybe they did have a backup, and that’s gone too. There’s something ringing and hollow in that thought.

He’s going to go out. I know that. I know I can’t stop him. I want to, but I can’t. If someone doesn’t go, we’ll have no water.

They said on the radio that nobody was to go out, but they didn’t say why. They didn’t say it so loudly that it scared everyone half to death. We’d heard the rumors already.

It’s funny how word gets around even faster than radio sometimes. Old Joe at the truck stop swears he saw Bob walking the highway shoulder, but he’s been dead for a week and a half.

Wendy swears up and down she saw her dad’s silhouette on the hill out back of her place, but he’s gone too.

They’re all stories everyone’s heard. The mind goes gray like his when you lose someone. Life loses all colour, all smell, all taste, all vibrancy, and your mind can’t cope with that forever, tries to bring the colors, the smells back again. Sometimes it brings them back too well, you see things that aren’t really there.

That must be it. Right?

But there’s more of the stories, too many more. And soon they’re not being told by people who just lost someone. Tony sees a guy he’s never seen before. The guy’s all torn up, broken and bloody but not bleeding. Danny sees something too. Always at a distance. Still just whispers.

They tried to tell people what they were seeing, but we never believed them. I mean, can you blame us? I suppose now you can. But it was straight-jacket talk at the time, just asking to be thrown into a padded room. The dead, walking around? Attacking people? Turning us into them?

That’s the comfortable story we cling to anyway. It was too much to believe. It was true enough at first, but eventually we’d all seen to much. Eventually, we simply couldn’t bear to believe. To stay sane, we had to deny what we knew.

So now he’s going to go. Tony and Danny too. And the rest of us will stay, and we’ll hope. What else can we do?

- The diary was found next to remains too badly eaten to be identified. Other remains on the site and certain details of the surrounding environment corroborate the details of the account. J.T.


Journals of the Fall, pt. 7

Record #147-56-91

Internal Security Log

51st Day After the Fall

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6:00am Reporting Unit: Pvt. Hicks

All stations reporting all clear.

7:00am Reporting Unit: Pvt. Hicks

Most units reporting all clear. Activity reported by Dawson on the west side. Confirmed remotely. Looks isolated. Walkers moved off after about twenty minutes.

8:00am Reporting Unit: Sgt. Maxwell

Everything’s A-Ok.

9:00am Reporting Unit: Sgt. Maxwell

Everything’s sealed up tight. Hicks said he heard something out in the yard, but my patrols couldn’t find anything. False alarm.

9:32am Supplemental Reporting Unit: Sgt. Maxwell

Hicks has complained of hearing things. Won’t shut up about it. Would have dismissed him and recommended a session with a head doc, but one of my patrols heard something too. They couldn’t find anything though. I’m telling all security personnel to be extra alert today.

10:00am Reporting Unit: Sgt. Roberts

Maxwell & Hicks have half the base scared stiff. I haven’t seen or heard a shred of proof of any activity inside the perimeter, and even outside it’s been quiet. If those two don’t shut up, they’re going to start a panic that could get more people killed than half a dozen of the Dead inside the gates.

11:00am Reporting Unit: Sgt. Roberts

11 of 12 stations reporting all clear. Remaining station failing to respond. That station has had radio problems in the past. I expect it’s just more mechanical trouble.

11:40am Reporting Unit: Cpl. Edwards

Sgt. Roberts left his post to investigate station 9 about twenty minutes ago. No word from him yet. People in comms are getting scared.