The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 2

Camp NaNoWriMo

New Eden Colonial Council Chambers

New Eden

Feb. 19, 2545 A.C.E.

 

“Order! Order!” the council chair called. The chambers were awash in agitated talk, as usual. Councilman Rojer Mayet sighed.

Mayet was a slight man, non-descript in appearance, with pale skin, neutral brown hair and pleasant, if plain features and middle age. He’d served on the council for almost ten years and never drawn attention to himself in all that time. Tonight he meant to change that.

“If there’s no other business to bring before the council,” the honorable Syth Welker said. Mayet rapped his sounding-box; all eyes in the room turned to him.

The council chair blinked at him with only the faintest hint of recognition. His eyes flicked, showing his use of a display to recall his name. Mayet sighed inwardly.

“Councilman … Mayet, the chair recognizes you. You have the floor.”

“Thank you, your honor. There is one issue that we need to address, and we need to do it soon. I’m sure you’re all aware to some degree of the matter of the original colony ship?”

All around the chamber, faces frowned and a murmur of conversation sprang up. Welker’s eyes narrowed. “The …” His eyes flickered again. “Ah, yes. The United Terran Ship Rose Dawn. What of it, councilman?”

The murmured conversation died down. Mayet looked around the room at a lot of confused faces. “My fellow councilors, you know our history as well as I do. 423 years ago our ancestors arrived here from old Earth and in less than a generation, they built the solid foundation upon which all we’ve achieved has been based.”

He took a sip of water. The room was quiet; he had their attention. It wouldn’t last long though; as he’d said, they already knew the story.

“What most of us have forgotten these last four centuries is that they were not the first settlers old Earth sent here.”

“Nonsense!” blustered an old gentleman he couldn’t see from his vantage point. “Our founders’ ship was the first faster than light ship old Earth ever built! How could they have sent others before us, and why didn’t the founders find them if they did?”

That started the room buzzing again; he looked around at the collection of faces, almost two dozen representatives of the various colonial holdings, and in them he saw some looking thoughtful, others apprehensive. So some of them are starting to remember, then, he thought.

“The first ship that old Earth sent was not found because you are correct, sir. It was not equipped with faster than light drives. It was not found because it hasn’t arrived … yet.”

The mutterings grew loud at that last. “What do you mean, yet?” someone called. “Surely you’re not suggesting they’d still be on their way?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you, yes. The UTS Rose Dawn is still making its way here. I received a report earlier today from my Holding’s university; the Rose Dawn has been spotted.”

The chamber exploded with conversation at that. Mayet sat back in satisfaction. Welker looked as stunned as anyone, and as the uproar carried on, started banging his sound box for order. “Councilman, that ship was supposed to carry thousands of colonists and crew. We can’t possibly cope with that many new arrivals all at once. What do you propose to do about it?”

The second colony ship, the UTS Eden River, had arrived at the new world less than a year after leaving the old. When it arrived, it discovered conditions weren’t as ideal as hoped. Their original mandate had been to prepare the colony, just as the Rose Eden would have, but with the intent of welcoming the second ship when the time came. When this time came.

The original colonists had set out to do just that. In the generations after, though, that mandate had come to be less and less important as the stresses of living on the alien world took their toll and Earth and the Rose Dawn’s memories faded into history and oblivion. The population had quickly grown to max out the planet’s carrying capacity; it was restricted by an atmosphere that was close to that of Earth, but not close enough to enable reliable plant growth.

Things were further complicated by difficulties producing viable soil. The micro-biotic cultures that created fertile soil had difficulty with the mineral composition of the native ground. Even the hydroponic growth of food was slowed by short supplies of just a few key minerals.

The current population of the New Eden colony was roughly 15,000, and food was already in desperately short supply in some areas. Mayet had gone over the numbers carefully when he’d heard the news; 3,000 new arrivals would be catastrophically bad.

“I submit, your honor, that we must turn them away.”

“But where can they go?” It was the same voice as earlier.

Mayet had anticipated the question. “I’ll have my university’s technology department go over their records of old Earth technology of the era. They should be able to find some way to remotely reprogram the ship’s control system to return to Earth. The colonists and crew won’t care, they’ll just stay frozen.”

Mayet smiled to himself as the council chair looked thoughtful. He had no intention of sending those people back to Earth, even if he could; he’d already been briefed on the most basic specifications of the vessel. It wouldn’t have any fuel left by the time it arrived. More importantly, it would carry many secrets lost to the centuries. The ship was a treasure he couldn’t afford to let go of.

Chair Welker allowed the chatter to continue for several minutes, then called for order once more. “Objections to Councilor Mayet’s plan?” Nobody raised a point against it. None of them oversaw the University, and all of them knew of the impact 3,000 new arrivals would have.

Mayet rose and bowed to the chair, mentally working through the details of his plan. It was a shame; the people aboard the ship would be a treasure, too. He wished he could keep them intact.

<>

UTS Rose Dawn

Mar. 16, 2545 A.C.E.

 

The United Terran Ship Rose Dawn drifted through the depths of space, still decades out from the destination set for it so many centuries before.

It was lighter now than it had been back then. Leaving Sol’s gravitational embrace had been a matter of brute power. They’d burned fuel for a good 250 years, accelerating to a fantastic percentage of light speed. When the initial burn was done, the ship’s AI awoke, flipped the ship around, verified their course, and lit off the massive engines once again to slow them down for arrival. Then it shut itself off once more.

The plan was that the AI wouldn’t wake up again until they were a year out, when it was to perform any last-minute course corrections and oversee any minor repairs that might be needed. The plan hadn’t accounted for the interception of an unexpected signal, however.