1001 Nights and a Day
Of course the trip really took us three years and nine months but with a little time subtracted for relativistic effects surprisingly close. A faster more agile ship than the Mayflower could make the trip in a bit under 3 years.
The Historian and I were both tasked to begin work on the Encyclopedia Alchibah. The Hist says that not only the data gathered during our flight but our daily log files as well will become the primary sources for most of the entries. Once we get to the planet every colonist will be a contributor. What follows are a few instances and details of shipboard life that for one reason or another I found interesting. The complete documents and recorded conversations can be found in the E/A under Log Files.
Captain Travis and I were eating dinner on the second day when this conversation occurred. “Why the evasive flight plan Captain? I don’t get it. I mean this roundabout route to the wormhole. How can we hope to hide our path? Even a 10 watt signal from a remote satellite is easily detected half way cross the system and our drive must be radiating umpteen giga-watts.”
“Oh much more than that.” Captain Travis said looking from the navigational display. “But we’ve got an ace or rather 20 aces up our sleeves in the form of decoy drones. We launch them in a couple of more days. If they work as planned the UNWG won’t know where to look first. With their limited number of deep space vessels a couple of weeks delay now might buy us several years should they decide to send someone after us.”
Travis Spent the first several days getting Arte and Larry Monroe up to speed on the Mayflowers systems. The Hist and I spent that time along with the bots clearing rubble and salvaging what we could from the wreckage of the greenhouse. I had decided to rename mine “J.P.” or Jeep for short. It had seemed almost sacrilegious referring to him as Heinlein.
“Damn Hist, I am going to hate farming.” I said while clearing some of the debris away from what looked to be a repairable nutrient tank.
“You can call me Brice,” he replied, “Let’s not get too formal here. And I am sure you’ll get used to it. I have always enjoyed contemplating the pastoral existence.”
“I don’t mind the contemplatin’ either, but contemplating won’t grow cabbage.”
I was struggling with a large chunk of rock and glanced sideways over to where R.Jeep and R.Isaac were standing. “You boys ready to help yet?”
R.Jeep responded in a voice I had reprogrammed to sound like the classic C3PO. All of us fiddle with the voice at first but later most go back to the neutral robot standard. That’s what I did after a couple of weeks. The slightly unnatural speech rhythms the bots produce make anything else just too distracting.
“Boss,” R.Jeep said “As R.Isaac so aptly stated earlier, beginning such a task before we have been able to internalize the full range of motions and required actions would be contra productive.”
“How much longer Jeep?” It really seemed a bit backwards that the Hist and I were working our asses off while Isaac and the Jeep stood enjoying the view.
“I am sorry Boss but it is too soon to tell. We will know when the time is optimum. I can, of course begin assisting you at once but that would be….contra productive.”
A couple of hours later R.Isaac went over and began helping the Hist by clearing away items too large for him to handle. Jeep still stood and watched.
“What’s the matter, Jeep, is Isaac smarter than you or what?”
“We are computationally equivalent Boss. The Historian’s working patterns are more logically consistent and hence integrate faster.”
“You can call me Brice.” the Historian said.
About a half hour later R.Jeep started to work also. That was the way many robot working sessions went. If they had a canned routine they learned much more quickly, only needing time to pick up on the peculiarities of their owner. The bots’ communication network meant that once any learned a task they all learned it. When we get to Alchibah and have all the bots up and running there will come a time when even their large storage capacity is exceeded. A bot is supposed to then begin dumping extraneous material and save that which is most relevant to its owner. We will see.
How fast were they? On complicated tasks like clearing rubble they were perhaps slightly slower than a human would be, though 2 or 3 times stronger. On simple tasks such as throwing a rock they were like lightning. I had Jeep throw one just so I could see. As it shattered against the exact aim point I had selected I said to the Historian. “Hist”, the Hist was resigned to the name and had stopped asking me to call him Brice, “Would ya look at that! Who needs blast rifles!”
“Impressive, Bart, but as I am sure you know at the core of their operating system is something very akin to Asimov’s three laws. They are so basic and tied into so many higher level functions that to program around them –though theoretically possible– has proven practically impossible.”
“Sure thing Hist, and something else, the core is all in Quantum ROM and even back on Earth only a few places can make the stuff. Any Idea how Many lines of code?”
“Not sure Bart. I heard it was the longest and most convoluted piece of coding ever written with the possible exception of Word for Windows 2045.”
Into the Wormhole:
“On course Captain…. 2 .… 1 .… cut.”
The Mayflower’s engines shut down and for the first time in nearly three months their subtle undertone was missing. If things were going smoothly with the decoys they all cut their power at the same time. Larry had explained earlier that we could have gone through under power but then the way the ship’s radiation signature would appear to anyone watching back in system was something that the drones couldn’t reproduce.
“20 seconds to entry,” Travis announced.
The rear screens showed the familiar starry background we had grown accustomed to. The forward view screen showed an expanding dim halo enclosing utter blackness with a point of light dead at center. That point of light was being lensed from 48 light years away down the wormhole center from its Alchibah end. The halo was light being lensed around the exterior at the Solar end.
“2 …. 1 …. Now!”
I am going to describe what the video replay shows, but for us it was over in the blink of an eye.
The halo grew rapidly larger then expanded beyond the viewing frame. The point stayed on center, did not get any brighter, but expanded till it filled the frame. Then a new star field oddly distorted as if 180 degrees of viewing angle was compressed into a 10 degree window. Then another new star field filled the screen.
A very bright star shown bluish white near the left edge. Our destination.
We all worked on average 12-14 hours a day with Sundays off for good behavior. The Historian tried a brief experiment using the near twenty hour day of our new home world but soon gave it up saying, “It Just Wasn’t Natural.” I wondered how the shorter day will affect us once we get there.
I spent at least 4 hours a day working in the greenhouse and so did everyone else including Captain Travis. First at rebuilding and later at all the other stuff that goes along with raising crops in that type of an environment. God I Hate Farming!
The historian seemed to have a particular fondness for chickens and they seemed to like him too. I think he secretly hated to slaughter those we put on the table but my were they good eating. The Hist took charge of all the growing areas and poultry production spending 12 hours or more most days keeping up with and expanding the operations. He had R.Isaac to help and often several of the other bots. Often when the owner was asleep or engaged in an activity where a personal bot would have nothing to do that bot was sent into the Historians care.
As the crops came in there was harvesting, canning, and freezing. Did I mention I Hate Farming? At least all of the bots got good at this. If one bot was good at anything they all were.
At the start either Travis, Clark or Monroe had to be on the bridge at all times. Later I got enough training that they trusted me to stand around and not blow things up. That still was 6 hours a day plus the farming thing. I spent a lot of my bridge time running simulations and learning how to operate the small cruiser Travis used when he came to the Mayflower. I was going to be the deep backup we hope we never need but there just in case. I flatter myself by saying I thought I was rather good for someone who had never taken off, landed, or operated any kind of spaceship whatsoever.
I also spent time learning the systems then setting up the scanning routines for our ships sensors. The amount of information gathered was staggering. Terabytes ain’t the half of it. Our baseline would be so long and position data so good that I had hopes about being able to determine the existence and locate any other wormholes, large or small, in the near stellar region without having to rely on lensing. Instead just using the incredibly small stellar displacements caused by their gravity. Nothing on the Mayflower could handle the computing task. Just maybe, when Andy Stuart was revived his network might be able to to do the job. I had my doubts but we will see. And on top of all that the Hist badgered me unmercifully if I didn’t spend a little time each day on the Encyclopedia.
Arte Clark and Larry Monroe, besides standing watch, spent a couple more hours every day, first learning the foundry operations, and then learning to roll steel and other metals. Their bots worked right along besides them. They both also performed any incidental maintenance the Mayflower required. Only twice during our entire three year voyage did something break that they felt ought to be taken care of immediately rather than just schedule when convenient and that was only to make sure a backup would always be available. A superbly constructed ship. One of the colonists’ life support units failed but it was only a matter of moments for Arte to switch in a new one. We all tended to stay out of the cryo area it was just too funereal.
All the time aboard the Mayflower I never met a Sunday I didn’t like.
We spent a lot of time kicking around ideas of almost every conceivable nature. One of the things we did was make some guesstimates of what kind of occupations and how many people in each would be needed In order to support ourselves on the new planet. That speculation lead to the Forming a Civilization entry into the E/A. It wasn’t of much practical use but we did argue quite a bit over it so the Hist and I decided to leave it in not necessarily as something useful but to show one of the ways we spent our free time.
I spent quite a few hours suited on the surface at the ship’s pole. The view was breathtaking but indescribable.
We were so busy most of the time that we never grew bored with each others’ company.
So now that we are finally here its hard to believe that the five of us have aged about 3 years relative to those in Cryo. What memories and stories. There were a thousand and one nights. This is the new day.