Rojet Mayet sat back in his high-backed chair and rubbed his temples. The day had been long and hard, though that was hardly anything new. His life had become so complicated since that council session all those months ago. The Rose Dawn project had complicated his life immensely, though of course that was entirely his own fault, and indeed he’d planned for it. That didn’t mean there weren’t days that he regretted it.
He’d spent countless hours debating the priorities of the project with various heads of state around the colony. So many fools and their petty-minded fears. He couldn’t comprehend how they got through their lives with such limited perspective on the world.
He could only imagine how much worse it would be if anyone actually knew the extent of his plans for the First Ship, as so many liked to call it. He shuddered. As far as anyone outside his facility knew, the ship had been the victim of prototype technology errors, the crew dead for centuries as their mobile tomb carried them faithfully across the stars. They had no idea that he had had his teams develop and launch an AI module to hijack the computer and kill the still-living crew of the ship in their long sleep.
He felt true remorse over that necessity. He wasn’t a monster, no matter what others might have thought of him had they known. The sad fact was that New Eden couldn’t sustain the population it already had, and that a paltry 30,000. People were starving in the streets of some provinces already. Add another 3,000 newcomers and a tense, ugly situation was only going to get far worse. The First Colonists could not be allowed to make landfall at New Eden. They just couldn’t. But no matter how bad things were out there, the other councilors would never accept that.
By now it was academic, of course. The AI module had long since been launched and would already have done the first of the jobs he had set for it, the elimination of all of the UTS Rose Dawn’s crew and colonists. The second job it had to perform was simply to allow the ship to continue on its way as originally planned, and then to adjust course to enter orbit around the world and ensure that his boarding crews had no trouble relieving the ship of the precious cargoes it carried; the fresh stocks of viable soils, waters, and many and varied biological specimens. He was particularly curious about those last. When the UTS Eden River had arrived here and founded New Eden before Rose Dawn had even left their home solar system, it had come with what had seemed at the time to be plenty of supplies.
If only, he thought, FTL travel had worked more like it had been depicted in science fiction programs. A quick flash of the drives and poof, there you were at your destination, no problem. Sadly, reality didn’t work quite that conveniently. The UTS Eden River had been capable of FTL flight, but only five times the speed of light. Her original crew had had to fly frozen too, because while they made the trip far faster than Rose Dawn had, it still took them a century to do it.
For quite some time, it was true that they had enough supplies, but only until it became clear just how hostile the planet truly was to terrestrial life. They could survive there, but only with great difficulty; they had immense difficulty in converting local regolith into new, viable soil for growing crops and other plants, which in turn limited—or should have limited—the population growth of both the human population and other animals and livestock.
Rose Dawn, though … now there was a unique opportunity. She had flown here the slow way, and he could not wait to board her personally and investigate what exactly had happened to her population of flora and fauna in the centuries she’d spent crossing space. Her colonists and crew may have been suspended, but for the animals aboard her, the ship was what had popularly been called a generation ship. He knew from the records that one early proposal for the Rose Dawn mission had been for the people aboard her to remain awake and to reproduce along the way, leaving their distant descendants to colonize New Eden. That plan had even informed some of the ship’s design elements. The development of safe, reliable cryo-technology had made it unnecessary though, and the generation ship concept was adapted so as to spare the crew the expected psychological problems of living out the rest of their lives in containment.
And so only the flora and fauna had remained “awake” for the trip. Survival of centuries in an artificial environment with relatively complete ecosystems would have placed enormous survival stress on the entire population. After centuries, it was a certainty that a lot of adaptation would have occurred, though it was hard to say how extensive such adaptations would have to have been. His dearest hope was that there would be some changes, most likely in the bacterial populations of the ship, that would offer the scientists of New Eden new ways to cope with their hostile home. The hardiness required for survival in the ship-that-was-a-bottle might be of some benefit on the planet below.
He sighed. And the other idiot councilors couldn’t see past the soils themselves. That was their idea of a prize to be gained from the ship. He wasn’t blind to its value, of course, but even if it would effectively double their supply of soil, the potential riches living in that soil were so much greater! And some among them argued against keeping it. Blind fools. Their sentimentality would have them direct the ship into the sun, thinking it disrespectful to rob the dead.
He had his staffers subtly spreading other messages to counteract such foolishness. They talked often and openly of the nobility of the First Colonists and how it would be dishonoring them not to make use of the bounty they had left behind for the benefit of the colony they had believed in so strongly and worked so hard for. He planned memorials and tributes to them, and in the next breath had shuttles standing by, ready to transport everything off the ship that could be taken. In time, he’d have even the ship herself broken up and brought down for her resources. Maybe some of the less valuable pieces—the bridge perhaps—could be saved intact. The children might like a museum to remember the historical curiosity, after all.
His thoughts were broken up by a sudden commotion outside the office door. Voices were raised, and then without warning, the door flew open. Savid Ohgman, a vid reporter he recognized all too readily, burst into his presence. Following immediately after him were a full rec crew; head-mounted cameras turned to him, their wearers bearing witness to what was about to transpire.
“Councilor Mayet! News just broke that your people here in the university have been working behind the back of the council to sabotage the arrival of the First Colonists, that they are, or were, still alive, and that you planned to murder them so you could keep their ship for study! What is your response to these charges?”
He fought against visibly allowing his jaw to go slack. “What? This is preposterous, what are you doing in here, spewing this nonsense at me? Get out of here, all of you.” His mind whirled. His security was good, what could have allowed this to happen?
“We have schematics for an AI-housing built into an old planetary probe, councilor! We also have some damning audio clips. Would you care to respond to those directly? I’ll play them for you—”
He set his face into an expression of grim implacability. Heads were going to roll over this. He just hoped none of them were his.