The Ship of the Unforgotten
by Gord McLeod
Troy Orbital Construction Yard
L1 Orbit, Earth
Apr. 4, 2063 A.C.E.
“… and though we will never see these brave pioneers alive again in our lifetimes, we send them forward with all of our hopes for the betterment of tomorrow. It is with these brave men and women that the dreams of generations past come to fruition, as they will fulfill humanity’s destiny as a multi-planetary species.”
The admiral paused dramatically, head raised, gazing out across the empty void to the hull of the colony ship. She was tethered to the station with only a few remaining umbilicals pending her launch within the hour. He turned back to the sea of glassy floating camera eyes that transmitted his image and his words to the entire population of the Earth.
He paused, cleared his throat of a perfectly calculated flood of emotion.
“Captain Elliot Smith, all of his crew, and all of their colonists will make history this day. It will be five centuries before they set foot on the surface of any world, and they will never again set foot on Earth, the only world our species has known in all of history. But today is a day of celebration. We celebrate their departure. We celebrate their future. And we celebrate the world they will create five hundred years from now, the Eden Rose colony that we will never see, but only dream of.”
The speaker relaxed now. The camera feeds had switched off of him; he watched with the rest of the population as the view shifted to cameras aboard the Rose Dawn where the view panned and cut to linger over each of hundreds of cryogenic suspension pods containing the crew and colonists, ensuring every name, every frozen face was given a moment of spotlight before that individual left the Earth forever.
He stood attentive at first, watching with solemnity and dignity, straightening the uniform he wore. Disciplined as he was, even he got fidgety after the second hour.
The total population of the ship was small, only 3000 people, but the alloted 10 seconds per name still made for a lengthy delay. He wished desperately he could slip off for a drink, but he was required for voice overs at key parts of the presentation, spouting off noteworthy facts about key members of the crew and colonist populations. He fought to keep the impatience from his face.
Finally the view shifted to the final pod, the sole empty pod in the entire procession. The name plate read “Captain Smith, Elliot.” Admiral Richards smiled and relaxed a bit. At last, it was over. The view dissolved to a view of the ship’s bridge where Captain Smith himself stood over the controls. The final words would be his.
“It is with the utmost humility, sadness and hope that we undertake this most important of missions,” Smith said. He was young for a captain; the whole crew were young as every body would need to work hard for years to get the colony of New Eden up and running quickly. “We leave you now in the knowledge that one day, our descendants and yours will work together as part of a civilization greater than what we can imagine today.”
The captain lowered his eyes to the deck in contemplation. “I have only two remaining duties before the great sleep of centuries. It has long been a tradition that a ship be christened before it is launched. It is my honor to do so now.”
He strode to a control console where one button shone a bright green. “May you bring us safely home, UTS Rose Dawn.” He pressed the button; the monitor view switched to an open port on the side of the station. A glass bottle of champagne, still corked, flew from the port. The camera panned to follow the straight path of its flight which ended explosively in a fine spray of glass and liquid as it crashed against the bow of the starship.
The view lingered on the crashed bottle for a few short seconds before switching to views of huge crowds from all around the world whooping and cheering and crying.
New Eden Project HQ
Jan. 10, 2065 A.C.E.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“No sir, I’m afraid not.”
Admiral Richards lowered his head to his hands and tried to slow his breathing. “Are you telling me,” he said, measuring his words carefully, “that we spent trillions of dollars—trillions—on a colonial mission that won’t reach its destination for five hundred years, and now—”
“And now a collaborative think-tank—”
“—a bunch of damned egg-head scientists—”
“—have discovered how to move a ship faster than light, yes sir, I am.”
Richards drew in a breath and blew it out again, slowly. The UTS Rose Dawn was traveling under constant acceleration and had already left the solar system despite having been underway for less than two full years.
“What’re our prospects for stopping the Rose Dawn and bringing her home again?”
“No can do, sir. Even if we had another ship built with a tested version of an FTL drive ready to launch today, it’d take another couple of years to slow the Rose Dawn down, and four more to bring her home. That’s if we had a ship ready to go now. The Rose Dawn was our only ship, and usable Faster-Than-Light will take years to build into a new ship.”
The admiral clicked on the vid window and brought up a news feed summary. The discovery was already all over the outlets; public reaction was astounding. Scanning the feeds quickly showed calls for the recovery of the Rose Dawn, the launching of newer, faster colony ships, the cancellation of the whole project (which made Richards roll his eyes—a bit late there!) and demands for comment from the New Eden project heads. From him.
“What are you going to do, sir?” The young aide asked, looking acutely uncomfortable. The admiral squelched a snort of impatience. He was impatient? He wasn’t the one personally responsible for the decision he had to make next!
“Start drafting a script for immediate release. We’re going to leave the UTS Rose Dawn to continue her current mission, with one alteration. Once we get a working FTL drive built into a ship, we’re sending a second colonization mission on ahead of them.” He sighed. “Let me know when the script’s ready to shoot.”