The Ship of the Unforgotten - Epilogue

Camp NaNoWriMo

Rowland VI

UTS Rose Dawn

Nov. 11, 3234 A.C.E.


The UTS Rose Dawn finished firing her engines, ending years of deceleration as she slipped into orbit around the world that was to finally serve as a home to her long-waiting passengers.

Some of those passengers had been aboard for over 700 years, awaiting in stillness and silence. Others were older still, having slept for more than 1,200 years, all the way from old Earth herself.

The android Rose waited quietly on the bridge while the main computer, Rose Dawn, finished the shutdown routines and began the scheduled powering up that would slowly bring the rest of the ship back to life. New schedules kicked in, sending maintenance bots working all over the ship to get things ready for the reawakening of 3,000 crew and colonists.

Rose was looking forward to the awakening. She’d gone more than a thousand years without a full crew around her, and more than 700 since Dann, Jenny and Lydia had kept her company. She didn’t need the company in the same way a human would, but she enjoyed it. It kept things more interesting.

In the meantime she worked with Rose Dawn on restoring the ship to full operational capacity, overseeing the maintenance bots, clearing overgrowth from the biomes, especially the rain forest, and restoring power to lesser-used sections of the ship in preparation for the human inspection that would follow.

That complete, Rose Dawn began sending signals out to the cryo-pods of the crew, awakening the medical staff so that they could prepare for the remainder of the crew’s awakening. Rose turned her attention back to the bridge, and the full-powered sensor suite they had available. She needed to be able to brief the crew on the world they were about to set foot on.

She smiled as she trained the sensors on the globe, a beautiful blue, white and green world that might have resembled Earth had the proportions been correct. Instead, this world was dominated by the green, not the blue; it had 70% land surface coverage, with most of the surface water filling deep trenches. As data spilled in from the surveys she was conducting, she made note of subterranean aquifers that showed that the world actually had more water than Earth did. The humans would find that reassuring, no doubt. The New Eden colony had shared the location of this world with them, but even given the technology they possessed that was slightly ahead of what Rose Dawn had brought from Earth, they hadn’t been 100% sure about what they’d find when they arrived here.

Details continued to flow in as the planet turned below, as well as from elsewhere in the ship. The crew were mostly awakened, and Captain Chambers would be on his way to the bridge in short order. It would be good to see him again, she thought, though to him it would seem like only a few hours since they’d seen each other. She doubted she’d have to tell him to drink enough water this time.

She frowned as a sensor gave an unexpected reading. A ... what? No, this can’t be right, she thought. She checked the sensor stations manually and confirmed.

Even with no humans present to see, she couldn’t help but lower her head in despairing exasperation. “Dann,” she said over her comm, “you’d better get up here on the double. We just received a transmission from the ground.” She frowned. “This world has been colonized.”

The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 34

New Eden Colonial Council Chambers

New Eden

Jun. 11, 2565 A.C.E.


The honorable Syth Welker faced the assembled council and this time, there was a lightness to his spirit. He smiled as the last councilor took her seat around the room’s edge, and rapped the chairman’s sounding box.

“I am sorry to disturb you so soon after our last session, councilors, especially given the gravity of the situation we faced. However, new information has come to light about the fate of the UTS Dawn Rose and her crew, and I thought it important—no, critical—that we assemble again to deal with it.

“Not to worry though,” he chuckled. “I will not be boring you with another long winded description of something dead and far away.” A number of eyebrows rose at that remark, as close as they came to disrespecting the memories of the First Colonists. “No, today is altogether a happier day, and it is not I who will tell you why.”

He nodded to his aide, a lanky young man, hardly more than a youth, inexperienced enough that he still lacked the thousand-meter stare that all members of the ruling staff developed over time. The man nodded back, face a study in seriousness, and tapped the comm controls.

The center of the council chamber lit up as a holo-image began to form. It was a scene familiar to everyone in the room thanks to repeated reviews of every detail of the UTS Rose Dawn that they could get their hands on; it was a holographic recreation of her bridge in 3/4 scale. No, not a recreation; a projection. Welker saw the eyes of the councilors beginning to widen as the resolution of the image improved and they recognized that there were people on the bridge, then crease in confusion as the sight conflicted with everything they’d heard about and discussed for the last several days.

“Hello,” a confident male voice said. Confident, but bone-weary, too, and determined to carry on in spite of it. Welker was impressed. “We are the survivors of the UTS Rose Dawn. It’s an ... unexpected ... honor to address the New Eden Council. I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion?”

Chuckles circled the room. “UTS Rose Dawn, this is Chairman Syth Welker. On behalf of the council, welcome! I assure you, we’re just as surprised as you. Please, tell us of the events that you experienced just recently.” Welker himself already knew, of course; he’d been on the comm with the Rose Dawn computer itself a good part of the morning already, and had spoken to the young man who addressed them now as well, albeit only briefly. He thought that hearing the tale from the survivors themselves would have a greater impact on the council than if he just related it.

“Very well, your honor. First let me introduce myself. I’m private Dann Chambers. This is private Jenny Pixton, and this,” he indicated the last figure, who was now visible with enough resolution to have noticeably artificial skin, “is Rose, the autonomous android persona of Dawn Rose herself.” Murmurs from around the room.

Pvt. Chambers put his hands to his hips and said thoughtfully, “From the crew’s perspective, it all started with me. I was the first to awaken in the ship after the disaster ...”


<>


The council was largely silent and spellbound as Pvts. Chambers and Pixton related their tales to those assembled. “And that’s how we come to be here. I don’t have to tell you, we’re ... uh, well, this isn’t exactly the arrival we anticipated when we left Earth.” The wistful look on his Chambers’ face was affecting. Of course everyone on New Eden knew the story of the First Colonists now, but Welker wondered how many would have considered how it would feel to the colonists themselves, to arrive full of hope at a new world after leaving everything they’d ever known behind, only to find that somehow, somebody beat them to it. And that was ignoring the additional shock of finding most of their crew dead and themselves under attack by their own ship’s computer, via a rogue AI.

Welker felt for them, but unfortunately, misguided and monstrous as he may have been, Mayet had been right about one thing. They couldn’t take the newcomers in. Maybe, had it only been the three of them, but they had close to fifty more still unawakened from their long journey aboard.

Fortunately Welker thought that he might have the perfect solution in mind. Some on the council wouldn’t like it; in fact, he expected heated resistance from some. There would be a few who would insist that New Eden open their arms to the First Colonists, reduced as they were; they would argue that the additional supplies the colony ship carried made the arrival of more people a non-issue. They’d be able to feed their own and the new people and have enough left for years of growth.

There were issues with that stance though, the first being that it would take a lot of time to get new crops in the ground, so they’d still have the short-term issue of feeding everyone, no matter what supplies were on board the ship. And second, the new supplies were just a way of putting off the inevitable. The population would continue to grow, and the same problem would come up again, only there would be even more of them to die off.

He stepped forward, standing in front of the quartet of projected images. His face and voice were sad. “I’m afraid the bad news isn’t over just yet.” The android was impassive in the display; the others frowned, clearly wondering what new calamity was about to befall them. “The reason Mayet did what he did is that, quite simply, our world can’t handle the population it already has. New Eden was supposed to be habitable, and it is, barely. But it’s also hostile. We’ve had a devil of a time surviving here, and we have people starving in our streets because we just can’t produce food fast enough to feed everybody.”

The faces of the First Colonists fell; clearly they’d expected that their trip was done. Chambers looked up and spoke first. “Well, we can’t go back. What do you propose we do?”

“As it happens,” Welker replied with a small smile, “I do have a proposal to put before the council and before you, if I may.”

There was a rising tide of grumbling from the council; he was technically speaking out of turn. He should have made his proposal before them before involving the strangers, but under the circumstances, that would not have felt right. The grumbling didn’t last too long though. Most of them seemed to realize what was at stake.

“What I propose will not be easy, and will not be universally popular among your people,” he indicated the quartet, “nor mine.” He cast a long look at the council. “However, if you’ll indulge me anyway, I believe the idea has merit and should prove to be worth the time it takes to investigate it.”

He began to pace up and down the room, all eyes on him. “We’ve established that most of the population of your ship have passed on,” he said delicately, “and likewise, we’ve established that we have too many people on this colony. Why don’t we help you find a world that may be better suited for colonization, and then we solve each others’ problems. We replace your lost crew and colonists with volunteers from our world. I assure you, there will be plenty.”

Thoughtful looks from the First Colonists greeted these words, and murmurs arose from the council as well. Not all of them positive, as he’d expected. He sighed to himself. Ah well. What could he do but forge onward? “That doesn’t solve every issue, of course. You’re not going anywhere in that ship as it is, crew or no crew. You were sent here to this world, and carried only the fuel necessary to reach here. We can help with that problem; we don’t produce the same type of fuel that carried your ship to us from Earth, but we’ve had a few centuries to develop methods of our own that have served us well.

“At the same time, you may be able to help us with our ongoing food problems. Even if you carry away some of our excess population, that will only be a stopgap solution. If, on the other hand, you’d be willing to trade us some of the biological stock of your ship in exchange for the fuel you need, we might be able to find a more permanent solution by analyzing samples. We’d ask for a certain amount of seed stock, breeding stock, and bacteriological sampling from the various biomes of the ship to aid our research and our food production efforts.”

The four exchanged glances; he didn’t see any clear objections on any of their faces. The murmuring from the council had taken on more of a speculative tone. Perhaps there was yet hope.

The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 33, Pt. 2

Transient

Lydia slowed her pace to walk alongside him; together they slowed further. The wind was picking up and visibility was just getting worse. “Rose Dawn! Is there anything you can do to shut this wind off?” he shouted into his phone.

“Negative. I can shut off the temperature variations that alter local air pressure zones, but I can’t specify where the winds will blow or when precisely they will stop.”

Dann sighed. It had been worth a try. “Thanks anyway,” he shouted. His fingers were crimping closed around the device despite the cold weather gear they’d found in the stores of the bay. He shielded his eyes from the blowing snow, trying to catch sight of anything moving near them.

He paused suddenly, though he couldn’t have said why. A hint of shadow, maybe, or even less, the suggestion of a pattern against the blowing snow that wreathed the simulated mountainside. He lost it just as quickly though, and stood looking about in futility for any sign of what he was sure he hadn’t imagined. The area was empty to his eyes, even their own footprints lost within seconds to the scouring of wind and snow.

When he turned back again, Lydia was gone.

<>

One second she’d been preparing to ask Dann what he’d seen, and the next everything was a blur. Something or someone had hit her hard and at a fantastic speed; she was trapped in its grip and rolling down a steep section of the mountainside before she could say or do a thing.

The descent was over quickly; she hit hard against a flat, cold surface and immediately felt a series of quick blows rain down over her face and upper body. Reacting instinctively to her years of training, she was able to block most of them without seeing them, but the ones that got through hit hard. The grinning face before hers could only have been Cobb’s.

Slamming her elbow around and into the side of her face, she kicked up with her knee at the same moment; he cried out and rolled away from her with a sharp gasping intake of breath and a wheeze. She rolled off in the other direction before trying to get to her feet; it felt like they’d landed on an icy surface.

“Clever of you to split up to come after me!” his voice came at her. It was thin and reedy against the howl of the wind, but she could hear the touch of madness as clearly as she felt the bruises forming on her face. “I’d wanted to catch you all together, but if I have to end you all before I see each of you, so be it!”

“You’re a nut-job, Cobb,” she spat. “What are you babbling about?” She had her pistol in hand; she didn’t want to risk the sub-machine gun’s more erratic fire while she didn’t know where Dann was.

He crashed into her from behind, knocking her face first into the ice. His footing had been unsure on the slippery surface though, and she managed to roll with the blow; he couldn’t get a grip on her. Blood gushed from her nose; she didn’t think it was broken, but she’d be feeling it for a while.

He swore and grinned as she got her feet under her again and brought the pistol around. He was circling quickly around her; she turned to try and keep him in her sights. “I’ve got a secret! Even the traitor computer doesn’t know. We traveled hundreds of years to reach a new sun that we’ll never live under thanks to you traitors. My sun’ll blow your plans just as dead as you could please!”

He was fiddling with something at his belt; a control device of some sort. The import of his words joined with that image and her breath caught, panic rising in her for one brief moment. Lila! If he blew up the ship, she was dead too.

Cobb was tensing for another spring, but she beat him to it; she threw herself at him with a ferocity and fury that for one brief moment brought a look of shocked clarity back to his features, and then they were down.

She clubbed him senseless with the pistol, heedless of the pain in her fingers where the metal bit into her, heedless of the ominous creaking and groaning of the ice underneath them. Cobb’s face was a bloody pulp, but he fought back, trying to block her attacks. He wasn’t very successful at that, but he did manage to entangle her legs in his. She felt his forearm crushing into her throat, trying to force her off of him when, with a gunshot crack, the ice split beneath them, and together they vanished into the ice-cold river below.

<>

His shout died on his lips as he saw them abruptly vanish. He ran as close as he could to the spot where they’d fallen; there was no sign of them save for the cracked and broken ice, already refreezing in the frigid air and wind.

“Lydia!” he called, searching for any sign of her under the ice. He grabbed his knife from his belt and tried to break an opening in the surface, but it was too thick where he was standing, and too thin to approach the broken part.

“There’s nothing you can do now, Dann,” Rose’s voice said over the ear piece. “I heard her fight with Cobb over her connection. She saved all of us. She saved her daughter. You have to come back now.”

The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 33

UTS Rose Dawn - Sub-Arctic Tundra Biome
Cryo-Bay 084
Jun. X, 2565 A.C.E.

They were halfway to the scene of Cobb’s crime by Dann’s reading of the data Rose fed them through Jenny’s modified phones. The wind had picked up while they were inside, leaving Dann almost missing his space walk and the horrible claustrophobic suit that had trapped heat so terribly well.

Lydia Jackson cut a path doggedly through the snow, Dann keeping a few paces behind and to the side of her. The simulated sun was well up in the sky, but with the wind had come blowing snow that cut their visibility to almost nothing. They spent as much time staring at the data feeds on their phones as they at their surroundings.

They could miss Cobb so easily in this mess, Dann thought. He could pass by less than 5 meters from them and they’d never see. They were taking every precaution they could, walking staggered to see a larger area, but the fact remained the biomes were BIG, and they didn’t know where he’d be headed next, if indeed he had even left the bay at all.

The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 32, Pt. 4

Camp NaNoWriMo

“Rose can stay here and guard this place. I’m going to get that crazy, murdering—”

“Lydia, You’ll never find him if I don’t accompany you,” Rose pointed out.

“I-I think I can help with that,” Jenny said. “Working on all of those phones gave me a lot of inside knowledge on how Eden Rose’s systems work. Eden Rose, would it be alright if I modified Lydia’s and Dann’s phones phones to tap into your data stream to track Lt. Cobb?”

“I cannot permit that, Pvt. Pixton,” Eden Rose replied. “Access to that level of information is restricted. I would require authorization from the ranking officer on board to grant you access.”

“And, at the moment, that would be Lt. Cobb,” Rose added. “I can’t override that restriction, I’m afraid.” She shot a look at Dann that he could only take as meaningful.

Lt. Cobb is the ranking officer? He can’t be, not in his current state. That’s ridiculous,” Dann stated flatly. “He is not fit for command.”

“Are you prepared to remove him from command?” Rose asked.

“Yes, absolutely. What do I have to do?” The very idea that Rose Dawn still recognized Lt. Cobb as a viable command officer boggled his mind, but Rose had explained that Rose Dawn thought in a much more linear, restricted fashion than Rose herself or any human personnel did.

“Please state clearly the reason Lt. Cobb is considered unfit for command,” Rose Dawn instructed.

“Because he’s a homicidal lunatic! He is clearly unfit for command,” Dann said. One of them was just going to have to assume command. Jackson would be a fairly solid choice, he thought, though Jenny was pretty adept at unconventional thinking in a crisis, which could serve them well.

“Additional opinions are necessary for a charge of this type in the absence of qualified professional diagnoses. Pvt. Pixton, Pvt. Jackson, do you concur?”

“Y-yes,” Jenny responded.

“Yes. Absolutely, yes.” Lydia had her arms crossed and was waiting impatiently near the door.

“Rose Dawn, I concur as well,” Rose added, though that was more for the crew’s benefit; she didn’t have to speak aloud to make her opinion known to the ship.

“Very well. Transfer of command has been noted in the log. UTS Rose Dawn stands ready under the command of acting Captain Dann Chambers.”

Dann’s jaw dropped. HIM?

The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 32, Pt. 3

Camp NaNoWriMo

Dann stepped inside after the others, feeling grateful for the respite from the cold and the wind. The scene that greeted him flooded him with relief; for the first time since he’d awakened, he saw a room full of glowing green. Only an occasional red light marred the display.

Lydia was rushing from cryo-pod to cryo-pod, checking name plates until finally she stopped, staring down at one with a silence almost bursting with gratitude and relief. After a moment in which she seemed to drink in the sight of the pod, she visibly steeled herself and turned back to the group. “She’s here. She’s okay.”

“I’m so glad for you!” Jenny exclaimed. “W-what’s our next move?”

“We stick to the plan. We beat him here, so we wait for him here. We know this is where he’s headed.” There was steel in Lydia’s voice that promised that Cobb would regret his arrival.

“I—Oh no. No—!” Rose’s face was stark and as close to sick as Dann could imagine an android ever looking.

“What is it?” he demanded, feeling his own insides tighten up.

Rose clenched her fists and gritted her artificial teeth. “Another cryo-pod has gone dead. It’s in a bay near by. The nearest one to here.”

“H-he doesn’t know the way,” Jenny said, her voice catching, but hard through the pain.

“We’re going after that son of a bitch,” Lydia stated in a tone that brooked no argument.

“We can’t leave this bay unprotected!” Dann protested. “Rose will have to go, and the two of you are the best suited to deal with him!”