4. Bon Voyage
I. Bridge, Anyone?
The team leaders had left with their groups. Hanna, Glenda and Steven seemed to have things well in hand on the Lancer and had started a sort of bucket brigade of colonists off-loading various supplies from the tour ship, down the elevator chute, to the Mayflower. Captain Monroe was satisfied that he could head to the control center of the Mayflower to assist in shoring-up their defenses if it was needed.
As he raced through the tunnels, he noticed that the old fellow who called himself “The Historian” was keeping pace with him, as was another colonist, a short — perhaps 4′8″ — but supremely muscled middle-aged woman with close-cropped white hair. She had a pistol — he couldn’t tell what kind — holstered at her waist under her black leather vest and was holding the arm with her wristpad out in front of her. The Historian was toting, of all things, an ancient lever gun.
Monroe had not asked for anyone to accompany him and his annoyance must have shown because The Historian said, “From the sound of the plea by those on the bridge, we figured you and they could use some back-up, too, Captain.” As an afterthought, or perhaps to bolster the rational for his presence, he added, “Besides, if I’m to record the history of our expedition for future generations, I need to know what is happening at all points.”
To himself Monroe thought, these two are just going to slow me down, but said only, “Uh-huh,” and then glancing to the white-haired woman on the other side of him added, “And what’s your excuse, honey?”
“Natasi,” she replied in a surprisingly husky and accented voice. Just the one word, as if that explained everything.
“She’s Russian, Captain,” The Historian said, “Natasi is her name. She was part of the high-gee experiment by that country back when they were still fielding their own space fleet. She speaks English acceptably although she understands it perfectly.”
Monroe scowled again. Of course, he thought. Forty years ago the Russians experimented with the decommissioned international space station that had been set up the previous century. They tethered it to an old American space shuttle that, for safety reasons, had been abandoned in orbit. They set the whole thing to rotating so that the gravity in the station approached one and a half gees. Then, somewhat barbarically, they installed three couples there, to conceive, give birth to, and raise children. The parents were uncomfortable to say the least and after giving birth frequently stayed in the part of the station with a somewhat lower gravity. The children, two boys and a girl, were forced to live in the high-gee sections with the parents taking turns caring for and educating them.
The theory was that by raising them, from embryo to young adulthood in the higher gravity, they would be perfectly suited to man starships by withstanding long term accelerations that would disable or even kill Earth-born humans over time. Worldwide outcry against the “inhumaneness” of the experiment caused it’s termination and the kids, 6-years-old, were returned to Earth. While it was true that their bodies were over-developed with enlarged, very strong hearts, lungs, and musculature, their psyches were a wreck from the bizarre childhood they had experienced. Withdrawn, anti-social, unable to function in wide-open spaces teaming with people, one of the boys took his own life when he was sixteen. The other boy became a falling down drunk and wound-up in a mental hospital by the time he was 25. Here was the girl, now a woman, sprinting alongside Monroe, glancing at her wristpad.
They came to a “Tee” intersection and Monroe said, “We go right, here.”
“Dis way,” Natasi commanded, pointing to the corridor branching off to the left, “Ooh Cee are hundred foots dis way.”
“Ooh Cee?” Monroe asked confusedly.
The Historian, who by this time was getting winded, looked at his own wristpad and snapped his fingers. “Of course! The ore cars It’s a sort of electric train, Captain. Wherever the miners had been working, they laid-down a simple track and ran a string of open cars between that section and the cargo bay where the container ships would load up and then ferry the minerals or ice to Earth or Mars respectively for processing.
“The control room of the asteroid, remade into the Bridge of the now interstellar ship, is still 3/4 of a mile away by foot, located, along with the sleeping quarters and other facilities that were constantly rebuilt at wherever the latest mining was occurring. The ore cars can zip us there in a couple minutes.”
Captain Monroe had not ever been on the Mayflower before and with some chagrin he had to admit that his un-invited companions were correct. Damn, he thought, that’s what the “OC” on the map meant!
Sure enough, the corridor ended in an air lock leading to a huge compartmented bay the size of four football fields and almost 3 stories high. In what turned out to be one of the few pieces of good luck so far in this adventure, the loading area of the bay was pressurized and sure enough, there sat a string of four open cars. Each was about five feet wide, 6 feet high and 10 feet long, all painted (but not recently) blue. At both ends were small engine/control platforms. A simple metal rail enclosed those.
Rushing forward, Natasi inspected the engine platform, and single-handedly uncoupled it from the ore car behind it. Turning to the others she said, “Go faster now. Get in.”
Monroe and The Historian glanced at each other with raised eyebrows.
Natasi shrugged her shoulders and said, “I work mines in Moon base for few years.”
They stepped up onto the platform. There were only two controls on the tiny panel sitting atop a tubular stem, a key switch marked “On-Off” and a large green button. She tried the key, seemed satisfied with the hum that came from below their feet, and hit the green button. The engine platform lurched forward, rapidly gaining speed. Monroe and The Historian gripped the railing as the platform hurtled forward into a dark tunnel. Occasional lamps on the walls flashed past and just as suddenly, the platform decelerated into a large, sparsely lit cavern that showed where the miners had last left off work. Whatever simple computer was controlling the platform brought it to a smooth halt exactly at the end of the track.
Monroe and The Historian dived to their right and scooted behind a large crusher machine. Natasi sprinted to a nearby drift passage about 30 feet away on the left. Over Monroe’s wristpad came her accented whisper, “I draw fire. You shoot them.” She had her pistol out and was firing.
The crawler turned in her direction and the goonie at the controls raised the bucket for protection. It advanced toward her. Natasi’s shots ricochetted off the steel bucket with sparks.
That exposed the goonies, left them vulnerable from where Monroe and The Historian squatted. The Historian crept around to the front end of the crusher on hands and knees and from a prone position he aimed and fired. The driver jerked back in his seat and then slumped forward, over the steering wheel. The other goonie fired off a volley of shots in the direction of the crusher and jumped off the still moving crawler. He rushed forward in a zig-zag, then darted behind a crate about five foot square. He was only about 20 feet away from them, now.
“This guy is suicidal,” Monroe said to no one in particular.
“Then I suggest you ablige him, Captain,” The Historian replied.
Monroe stood up and fired over the top of the crusher, at the crate, mostly to see if it had anything in it. It did and a pinging against metal could be heard. At that moment, he realized his grievous error as a heretofore unknown 3rd goonie shot at him from the safety of the corridor up ahead on the right. A bullet tore through Monroe’s shoulder and he dropped to the ground. More shots, from both goonies. They were trying to shoot under the crusher, which sat up about eight inches off the ground on it’s huge solid rubber tires.
Monroe crawled to behind the rear tire on their side. That, along with the steel wheel it was mounted on and the corresponding tire on the other side should provide some protection.
The Historian had backed up to hide behind the front tire.
Just then there was a loud crash as the crawler –now driven only by a dead goonie– slammed into the rock wall at the junction of the cavern and the drift passage Natasi had been hiding in. A shower of rock and debris rained down where the bucket had dug into the stone wall. The treads on the crawler continued to grind against the floor of the chamber and while it made no further progress, the rocking bouncing of the bucket jammed against the wall caused more rock to fall, nearly closing off the passage there.
Monroe tried to move his left arm into a position where he could access his wristpad. The pain was excruciating and blood was flowing freely from the bullet wound. Nonetheless, they were pinned down and this was life or death. Still, he couldn’t budge his arm up to his face.
He looked up to The Historian crouched ahead and through clenched teeth managed, “Yes?”
“I can’t raise Natasi on my wristpad,” he said, “If you can lob off a few shots — don’t bother to aim — from under this equipment, just to–,” The Historian stopped with a startled expression, jerked his rifle up and fired directly over Monroe’s body. Quickly cycling the lever gun, he fired again.
Monroe tried to turn his head from where he was laying but instead felt a weight crash down on top of him. It was the goonie who had been hiding behind the crate. He’d snuck up while they were distracted and had come around the crusher from behind.
More shots rang out — though from their position and the echos of the cavern it was impossible for Monroe or The Historian to tell where they were coming from. No bullets landed anywhere near them — always a good sign — and The Historian crept back to the front of the crusher for a look. Footsteps could be heard and with a smile, he stood up.
Natasi appeared around the front, looked the Captain over and said, “So, you vant to lay around all day?”
Monroe managed a feeble grin and said, “What about the third goonie?”
Natasi said, “Ooh, I shoot him in de back. I escape passage when I see big truck coming and I circle behind while they ver busy with you.”
She was kneeling over him now, tearing away the fabric of his uniform at the shoulder. From a pocket of her vest she removed a small kit. From it she withdrew a single dose aerosol injector and poked it into Monroe’s upper arm. Then, she took some self-adhesive plasti-patches and covered both the entrance and exit wounds on his shoulder.
The pain killer was already starting to work. With obvious relief Monroe said, “What other magic items do you have in that vest of yours?”
Pulling a pint-size clear plastic bag out of another pocket, she unscrewed the topper on it and handed it to him. She said, “Just dis.”
Monroe was sitting up against the tire by now. He took the bag and said, “Vodka?”
“Don’t be dumb. It’s vwater. You lose blood a lot. Drink.”
The Historian had finally gained contact with the control room. He gathered there had been battles all over the Mayflower and now there was also an attempt to take control of a goonie cruiser. Those adventures are related elsewhere. He turned to the others and said, “We’re still on our own. According to my wristpad, the control room is just a couple hundred feet down that corridor where the goonie had been hiding.”
Between the two of them, Natasi and The Historian got the slightly woozy Captain Monroe on his feet and with his good arm around Natasi’s shoulder, they headed to the control room.
Along the way, Captain Monroe quipped, “Oh all right… You guys can come along with me to the Bridge!”
Sometime Later on the Bridge.
“So Captain Monroe,” Rocco said, not without a grin, “We ask you for assistance and you show up with a white dwarf and some old coot.”
They were in the spherically shaped control room-cum-Bridge of the Mayflower. In a semi-circle were several large screens mounted on stanchions showing different views, both inside and out, of the massive ship. Facing these were several control stations.
Monroe had been deposited in a surprisingly comfortable — or was that just a benefit of the pain killer at work — chair at the navigation console, approximately 36 inches by 18 inches of solidly packed controls and computer readouts mounted on a slanted base about 3 inches thick and supported by narrow support columns at either end. He looked up and said to all gathered, “Natasi and The Historian have been most helpful.”
“‘The Historian’?” Rocco asked, with a bemused grin, looking at the elderly gentleman.
The Historian felt himself blushing and for a brief instance frowned but that quickly dropped away and he said, “Well, Sir, My true name is Brice Halsworthy. I’m a retired history professor. I’ve also decided to chronicle our little adventure to Alchibah. Others have taken to calling me The Historian. Now that I think about it, the ‘the’ seems pretentious. I’ll drop it.”
Rocco gave an expression of apparent boredom and dismissal and turned back to Monroe.
Monroe said, “They also saved my life back there.”
Seated to his right, at the similarly sized Captain’s console was Captain Glenn Travis, leg in a cast extended underneath it. He said, “We’re all grateful to you two for your help. Indeed, given the obstacles thrown in our path so far, all of the colonists have proven invaluable.”
Pointing to a rather rumpled looking gentleman lounging nearby at a smaller board, Travis continued, “This is Dr. Mitchell Hibbes. He actually engineered the conversion of this mining asteroid to an interstellar ship. The young fella with the spikey orange hair standing by the life-support station is his assistant, Harlan Allison.”
“An amazing feat, Gentlemen,” The Historian said.
The giant-sized Rocco had been communicating through a wristpad and said, “They’ve taken the UN Cruiser. Also a prisoner. Dr. Van Vogt and Nurse LeGuin are on their way there now to see what supplies can be salvaged. Captain Monroe, when Van Vogt is finished, he’ll attend to your shoulder. The patches seem to have stopped your bleeding quite well.”
“I’ll be fine, Rocco,” Monroe said, still in a haze.
With that, Rocco left the Bridge through a second sliding door on the side. Over his shoulder he said, “They’re taking the captive to the lounge on the other side of the ship. I’m heading there now.”
When he was gone, Natasi said to Captain Travis, “Who is that man? I no like him. I no dwarf.”
Travis smiled and said, “Oh, he’s just full of himself. Rocco Williams was R.J. Hamilton’s personal body guard but I’m sure he was just joking with you.”
“Is he now boss of ship?” she asked.
“No, no,” Travis replied. “Actually, I’m the Captain, and Captain Monroe here is my second. Engineer Arte Clark will be the third of our little trio that remains awake for the voyage. Speaking of which, it’s time to think about firing this sucker up!”
Almost on cue, Engineer Clark entered the Bridge. Introductions were made and then Travis turned to where Natasi and The Historian were standing and said, “In the alcove beyond that side door are a handful of — for lack of a better name — golf carts Just touch the screen on them for where you want to go. Why don’t you two head to the lounge yourselves and relax. I’ve got to show Captain Monroe and Engineer Clark how this all works.”
Taking the hint, they left. Sure enough, just beyond the door there were a couple of what appeared to be over sized golf carts with computer map screens on the dashboards. The Historian located the “lounge” on it, pressed the membranous screen, and they were off.
III. Rock and Roll
In the Lounge.
15 minutes later the golf cart stopped just outside a large, open double-door leading into the lounge. There was music playing. It sounded like The Rolling Stones from their farewell tour recorded in 2038.
Marty and Jack Seaworth were standing at the door, drinks in hand, singing along, “I know, it’s only rock and roll but I like it…”
Marty smiled and said, “Hey Historian, check this place out. Hamilton really knew how to treat his employees after hours.”
Introductions were made and they all made their way to the bar. Near them, seated at a table, was a young couple, Les and Judith Raye as Historian recalled. He couldn’t help overhearing the conversation. Les had his arm around Judith as she quietly sobbed. Across the table from them sat Mariana Stuart, Dave and Jack the Blade. Les Raye was saying, “It’s just that we weren’t expecting all of this violence–”
Judith broke in with a sob, “–We haven’t even taken off yet and it’s as if we’re fighting World War Four here. I didn’t bargain for this. All we ever wanted was the freedom to live our lives and start a new world.”
Mariana said, “I know, I know how you feel. None of us expected this. I thought, pack my few belongings, ferry to the ship, and off we go.”
Judith said, “Jesus, everyone around here has guns. Apparently they all thought there’d be trouble. I don’t want this. I want off. What is this, a damn military operation we’re heading off to?”
Jack the Blade offered, “If so, we’re ready for it. I’m enjoying this!”
Mariana said, “You’ll have to excuse Jack. Most of us want nothing more than a fresh start on a new world.”
“I thought guns were illegal,” Judith said, “How is it everyone seems to have one? Am I the only one who obeyed the laws?”
Jack the Blade gave a snort and Mariana shot him a look. She said, “Actually, it’s only about 40 of us and most of these are hand-me-downs from our grandparents or what have you. It’s probably not that unusual in a –for lack of a better phrase– libertarian collection of people like this to have more than the average number of gun owners. I brought mine because I imagined we’d have to hunt for our food on Alchibah. I think the fighting is done with, now. I understand the ship will begin moving shortly. Try to relax and just think of this as a speedbump on the road to our destiny.” She got up and went over to where her husband was seated with several others.
The Intercom came on and the voice of Captain Travis said:
“Your attention, ladies and gentlemen, we are getting underway.”
A cheer went up among many in the lounge. The Captain continued:
Much like on The Lancer, you will feel a bit strange. The Mayflower creates gravity by centerfugal rotation. Down for us is the inside surface of this hollowed asteroid. Now, you’ll also feel some force pushing you lightly towards the rear of the ship, almost as if you were pressed by a strong wind. It will take you some time to adapt to walking around and many other activities. When you turn on a faucet, the water will flow at an angle! We’re going to keep the acceleration at only a quarter-gee for now. Once you all have been safely installed in your cryo-tubes we’ll really get going. You won’t feel that in your long sleep. Watch for sliding dishes and glasses!
There was some commotion at one of the far tables. It was over almost as soon as it had begun but it was obvious that the “prisoner” that had been mentioned was seated there and was the focus of several other colonists that Historian was familiar with now including Andy, Bart, and Mariana. Rocco was standing behind the goonie, glowering.Historian drifted over, martini in hand. Whatever had happened, folks seemed a bit more relaxed, except for Rocco. Historian said to him, “Mr. Williams, might I have a word with you?”
Looking resigned to fate, Rocco said, “Alright, Histy.” Then, turning back for a moment to those who were seated at the table, he said angrily, “You all may be willing to trust this guy Ash but his cronies killed my boss. I won’t forget that.” And to Historian he said, “Come on, Pops.” He led the way to an empty table nearby and they sat down. More colonists were showing up and the place was becoming quite crowded.
Historian said, “I’m just wondering, Mr. Williams–”
“Call me Rocco. Everyone does.”
“Okay, Rocco, what happened to the second goonie ship? I remember that two were spotted but as you indicated before leaving the Bridge, only one was captured. Where’s the other one?”
“Best as we can tell, it quickly deposited some marines near the cargo bay docks — probably the ones you guys ran into in the mine — and then took off, heading out of the Mayflower interior.” Rocco stopped, shrugged. “Saturn Base tracked it heading away. That’s all we know.”
“Which direction was it headed?”
“Back to the inner solar system.”
“That makes no sense,” Historian said, puzzled.
They continued talking for a bit. All around there were colonists drinking, conversing, even dancing. Several of them had discovered the kitchen located next door and were preparing some of the perishable foods left over from the Lancer for everyone.
Historian and Rocco noticed it at the same time. There were ripples in the surface of their drinks. Then, the floor of the lounge itself shook severely twice. Glasses and bottles were falling, several people who had been standing or dancing lost their balance. The alarm bells went off and the music stopped. Historian wondered if this was the effect of the massive dee-hee engines but that couldn’t be right. Everyone quieted as the ominous intercom was heard again:
“Attention. Attention everyone. This is Captain Travis. Explosions have been reported. There appears to have been two explosions, one in the greenhouse and the other in the goonie ship itself in the docking bay. There has been structural damage and we think also decompression in the affected areas. Emergency airlocks have sealed off those sections. Everyone please remain calm while we ascertain the extent of the damage.”
Historian thought he heard another sob from the direction where Judith Raye was sitting.Rocco jumped from his seat and lunged at Ash at the neighboring table. He had his arm around Ash’s neck and in his other hand held a Glock pistol against Ash’s head. “You fucking bastard,” he said.
Ash cried, “I swear I know nothing about this.”
Andy said, “Ash, I trusted you. I gave my word for you!”
Ash said, “Andy, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t. You’ve got to believe me!”
Bart said to all, “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Janie and I de-activated the reactor on the cruiser. It couldn’t have blown. Rocco, break his neck.”
A commanding voice said, “Nobody is breaking any necks just now.”
Everyone turned to see who had spoken and saw that Engineer Clark had come up to them followed by Glenda, Steven, and Dr. Hibbes.
Clark said, “Rocco, ease-up.”
Rocco said, “I don’t take orders from you.”
Clark replied, “Yes you do. I’m 3rd in command on this ship. We have an emergency. This is no time for vigilante justice.”
Hibbes joined in, “Glenda, there’s a small brig one level down next to the recycling complex. It was used to allow the occassional miner to sleep it off, as it were. You can reach it by the elevator out back of the kitchen. Perhaps you — you have a firearm, yes? Good — perhaps you and a couple of the colonists could escort Ashcroft Andrews to it.”
Clark nodded affirmatively and said, “Good idea.”
Bart said, “I’ll be glad to help lock this bastard up. Might take an hour or two of arresting.”
Clark said, “I know but I’d rather you come with us. We need to survey the damage as quickly as possible and I’m not sure just what — or who — we’ll run into. I need a good shot with us just in case. Let’s go, we’ll take a couple of the golf carts.”
IV. No Sleep For You!
The next 24 hours were busy ones on the ship. While Clark, Hibbes, and Bart investigated the bombings, almost everyone else was put to work as well except for some of the parents with little children.
At Captain Travis’ direction, Glenda organized the colonists into several groups, each with a few armed ones for protection, to inspect all the halls, storage areas, virtually everywhere on the Mayflower. The expeditions had three purposes — to be sure there were no Goonies left on board, to inventory supplies so everyone would know exactly what was available when the ship arrived at Alchibah. They were also instructed to be sure all crates, boxes, cartons and what-not were netted down so that they wouldn’t tumble or slide under the thrust of the Mayflower engines.
After attending to Captain Monroe, Dr. Van Vogt and Nurse LeGuin collared the only other medical personnel among the colonists. There was a young orthopaedic surgeon named Kurt Kellerman. There were originally plans for four doctors to join the ship but Kellerman was the only one able to make the sudden call from the late R.J. Hamilton. He was a fitness buff, tall and goodlooking, with a shock of Irish-red hair, a slightly cleft chin, and penetrating blue eyes.
His wife Sally was an R.N., and with blonde hair and dimples, was easy on almost everyones’ eyes.
One other colonist, a sharp-featured Germanic woman in her sixties with a professionally-stiff bearing named Hilde Garronde was an R.N. as well and had spent the last ten years working in the trauma center of one of New York City’s busiest hospitals. She reeked of competence and confidence. LeGuin thought, she will be invaluable.
Van Vogt set about familiarizing LeGuin, Garronde, and the Kellermans with the cryo-suspension tubes; their theory and operation. Captain Travis also received instruction as it would be up to him to revive the medical staff when they reached their destination.
For everyone on board, getting used to the thrust of the dee-hee engines was disorienting at first but most all got the hang of it. If you were sitting with your back to the rear of The Mayflower and you spilled your coffee, it went on your shirt instead of your pants!
Sometime in the early morning, when engineer Arte Clark and William Bartlett were heading back in the golf-cart from the wreckage that had been the greenhouse, Clark said, “Bart, our crew is short-handed. Our navigator never made it here — he was arrested at his home on Earth the day before Hamilton emailed us. Surprisingly, there are few colonists amongst us with any science training.”
“Why surprising?,” Bart asked, “Most scientists are rather a conservative lot. Most also depend on grants from the World Government to conduct their research.”
“Yes, I know all that,” Clark said, “But you would think that the opportunity to be the first to land on and explore a new planet outside our solar system would attract almost anyone who professes an interest in the unknown and the origins of the universe. They should be lining up at the on-ramp! None did.”
There was a brief silence as the men rode along the corridor.
“I know it’s not really your field of study,” Clark said, “But we need a scientist who can make studies of the wormhole and anything else we encounter. Can you consent to forgo sleeping through what will mostly be a very long and boring trip to Alchibah? I’d like you to be our astrogator. Our information collector.
“Captain Travis feels certain,” he continued, “that if we can learn about this wormhole, we can spot others quickly. There can’t be just one of them; there must be many. Not that we’re planning to jump into every single one that we come across but who knows what the future holds. We need someone who can record, quantify, examine and — you know. We need to understand this crap better.
“I’m not putting this very well but yes, I and Travis and Monroe can get us to Alchibah. We know the coordinates and how to fly this two-mile rock but we don’t have the scientific minds to record what those who follow us will need. Eventually many of us will have children and they need to be taught what we’ve learned.” Clark took a deep breath and glanced over at Bartlett.
Bart noticed the glance, smiled, and said, “Arte, I’d be a fool to not take you up on this offer. What is this voyage going to take, almost four years? I’m sure I’ll be bored-as-shit for much of it but the chance to do real science in space exploration is too much to pass up. Heck, I’m probably the first decimal-pusher and slide-washer to have the opportunity. Too bad the Nobel Awards don’t extend to researchers located outside of the solar system. Just one thing, Clark–”
“Please don’t start calling me ‘The Scientist’.”
It took a second for Clark to grasp what Bart meant but then he chuckled and said, “Oh, no! One pretentious old fellow is enough…”
V. Conference Call
The Next Morning in the cafeteria.
The cafeteria was the only large space with seating that would hold most of the colonists. The night had been a busy one.
Most of the colonists were seated at long tables in the dining hall, eating the last of the fresh eggs and some rather delicious corn muffins that several of them had baked in the kitchen a few hours before. There was butter and jam as well. This was almost a feast. At one end of the large room a table was set and sitting, facing the colonists, was engineer Clark, Dr. Hibbes, Dr. Van Vogt, and Captain Monroe.
Monroe was saying, “I want to thank all of you for your assistance last night. Enjoy your breakfast, folks. This is your last solid meal. Dr. Van Vogt will explain. Doctor?”
Dr. Van Vogt rose and with some hesitancy said, “Yes well, in two days we — Doctor Kellerman and his wife, nurse Garronde, Leguin and myself will put you into deep cryo-sleep. These cryo-suspension units are not large or scary, they really just look like the old tanning-beds of old. You’re not really frozen, you know, just that your body temperature is dropped to about 37 degrees. Your body still functions, but, very slowly. Metabolism is about 1/60th normal speed. One breath every two minutes or so. 2-3 heartbeats per minute. If you have solid food in you — well, er, it’s still digested — very slowly — and you would still, er, excrete it, er, if you know what I mean. It’s better if you don’t or, you know, you wake up in a pile of…” He looked embarrassed to go on.
Dr. Hibbes rescued him by saying, “from now on, after this breakfast, until you go into the cryo units, it will be liquids only for you. The cryo units will — you will have catheters inserted to remove fluid wastes. Intravenous tubes will administer nutriments. One gallon of nutriments can last years. It’s all computer controlled and each unit is self-contained. I know many of you looked them over — sort of like coffins with glass tops. Fortunately, unlike a coffin, you aren’t there for good…”
Captain Monroe said, “Good enough, Doctor. Arte, how bad was the damage caused by the explosions?”
“Very bad, Captain,” Clark said, “the greenhouse is toast. Not that it was a greenhouse in the traditional, Earth structural sense, but the ceiling was low in there to maximize the efficiency of the grow lights. The bomb must have been quite hefty — it blew the ceiling right out into the center cavity of the ship. Decompression took almost everything right out the hole. There was also significant damage to the oxygen recycling machinery next door. It’s all sealed off now but we lost a lot of air before the locks closed.”
From a table near the front, Historian asked, “Engineer Clark, what kind of explosion was it? Was it a typical goonie nuclear device?”
“No, actually. I’d say it was more conventional, regular old explosives. We detected no radiation at all. There aren’t a lot of monitors onboard since this rock was only intended to be mined. Security was never an issue. Anyone foolish enough to sneak into a mining colony was simply put to work! We do have outside video of the greenhouse blast and it clearly looks the work of ordinary explosives.
“The goonie ship blast was probably likewise although there we found trace radiation from various components of their cruiser.” Clark paused and then continued, “There’s good news and bad news about that. The goonie cruiser was completely destroyed, as was another StelCo cruiser in that dock. Oddly enough, because of the sheer size of the docking bay, it’s integrity survived — no rupture of the walls or ceiling itself. Two of the three airlock doors leading into space still function fine.”
One of the colonists asked, “So how the hell do we reach the planet’s surface when we arrive?”
Captain Travis had arrived during the exchange and taken his place at the head table. He said, “In a sense, we’re lucky that this was a mining asteroid. There’s still the huge triple-bay cargo dock on the other side of the ship, where Monroe and company found the oar cars. That’s also where the cruiser is — albeit a rather small personal one — that Rocco and I arrived in, is. There are also two ore freighters there. The crew compartment only holds two people but the holds are pressurized. These freighters are capable of landing on a planet to deliver goods. Not very comfortable but hopefully we only need them for a one-way trip.”
Dr. Van Vogt muttered, “This is preposterous. No greenhouse, not enough air and food. No cruisers. Why don’t we just park outside Pluto somewhere and wait until we’re able to fully stock this blasted rock?”
Travis said, “I’m afraid not, Doctor. We can’t take the chance. The Goonies are probably “reloading” as we speak.”
Monroe spoke up, “Travis, there’s another possibility for getting us to the surface, too. Like all tour ships, the Lancer has six lifeboats. Each can hold 10 passengers and can land on the surface. They’re a bit cramped as they are meant for emergencies only, and they’re strictly “one way” but, they’ll do the job.”
“Here’s something else,” said Clark, “We can ferry down in them, and one of the freighters can carry them back to the Mayflower for more people and refueling.”
“Excellent idea,” Travis said. “It would appear we still have plenty of resources at our disposal.”
The colonist Judith Raye seemed to have recovered her composure from the previous evening and said, “Speaking of resources, what about food and water?”
Colonist Kristopher stood and said, “My group was in charge of inventorying that.” He glanced at his wristpad. “There are some 40 thousand MRE’s — meals ready to eat — that I guess StelCo gathered from various sources at their Saturn headquarters, other mining sites, and what was left on this asteroid when mining was still active.”
“Jesus,” remarked one colonist, “Forty thousand? We’re in great shape. That should last almost forever!”
Monroe smiled indulgently and said, “Not quite. Do the math. At last count, there are a total of 168 of us. At three meals a day, that’s 15 thousand meals a month. We don’t know what — if anything — we’ll find on Alchibah that’s edible. It could be that everything is poisonous, or has bacteria that does weird things. If we can get our own vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes to grow, it would still take a couple months to get any meaningful harvests. That’s if the weather cooperates! Two months — 30 thousand meals. That’s not to mention the 15-thousands of meals we who are staying awake will consume.”
The colonist who had spoken up looked as if he’d had the wind knocked out of him.
Kristopher said, “There are a goodly bit of other supplies, mostly canned that will help out immensely. I hope you like seafood because there’s 4000 cans of tuna and salmon — one of the few meats the world government still allowed. We counted 150 cases of evaporated milk — I was surprised they even still made the stuff! — and 1000 cases of spaghetti and (of all things) Rotini. Apparently Hamilton thought of almost everything because there were 2000 cases of canned tomato pasta sauce but he forgot the grated-cheese!”
There was sporadic laughter throughout the hall. Someone shouted, “Any water to cook the pasta in?” Kristopher looked at Tim Watson who was sitting nearby.
Watson stood and said, “My group surveyed that. Fortunately, some good news. This rock had very large deposits of ice on it and much of that hadn’t been mined yet for the Mars colonies. There’s plenty of water. Over a million cubic feet of it. Even on the planet, the sparse, early information we have from the trip Stan Oliver made shows that Alchibah has copious oceans and lakes. Worst case; if we have to boil it, we should still be in good shape there.”
Kristopher took another look at his wristpad and said, “Clearly StelCo or whoever didn’t have enough time to stock everything — we did have to leave three months before planned — but there are miscellaneous other supplies, spices, salt, pepper, sugar, et cetera. There are also two hundred 50-gallon drums of olive oil in one of the deep cold storage areas. And, ” he paused, “get this; ten cases of cocktail onions and olives. Oh, did I mention — enough gin and vodka to keep us all in la-la land for a long time.”
General laughter ensued. Someone said, “Well, if we drink enough we won’t mind starving! Anyone want to start an AA chapter, just as a precaution?”
Captain Travis brought the proceedings back to order, saying, “Okay, everybody. Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, you led the team that cataloged non-food items. This might seem silly but, after we eat all this wonderful food of ours, will we be able to, er, wipe our butts?”
Mariana and Andy Stuart both stood. Mariana said, “Wipe away, fearless leader! We inspected the huge storage holds near the cargo bay docks.” She glanced at her husband and then said, “Andy, you counted how much TP?”
Andy Stuart said, “She’s right, Captain. One room contained nothing BUT toilet paper. About 200 thousand rolls. Also, 3000 cases of instant hand-wash, plenty of toothpaste and tooth brushes, even floss. Another cavernous room had cartons containing 200 insta-tents. Each can sleep three people with room for their suitcases. Four hundred sleeping bags, 3000 mini-nuclear battery powered lights, and enough batteries to power them and much more for years. Lots of rope, fishing supplies and even two row-boats with small battery engines. Also, 500 camping stoves powered by the same batteries, and another room filled with cases of pots and pans and even dishware and stainless steel flatware. Someone thought of everything!”
Travis said, “So it’s obvious we won’t have to start in the Dark Ages when we arrive. Good business! Anything else?”
Mariana said, “In the huge hold nearest to the cargo bay docks we found some rather funky stuff. Three giant crates were marked ‘Com-Sat’, several others contained computers and monitors, 229 large crates marked GE-3A robots and smaller crates of parts and supplies. Several gas-powered generators — not sure what we are supposed to do with those since there’s no gas on this rock. Battery powered heaters, water pumps, lots of PVC pipe, a pile of refrigerators and compressor pumps, really an incredible list but I’m sure that reality will prove that some things were forgotten. Oh!, two KD wind generators, miles of electrical cable and transformers, electrical parts.”
Arte Clark said, “Captain, this gives me an idea. We earmarked those robots — one for each colonist. We have extras. I seem to recall that Histy–”
Historian blushed and was beginning to regret adopting Jack the Blade’s moniker for him.
“–said he had gardening experience. We can activate a few of those robots to help him and Bart rebuild the greenhouse and make other repairs.” Clark paused, “Bart won’t have that much to do and we can help rebuild as well. Let’s use some of those robots to our advantage during the voyage. If we can grow some food — can it or bottle it — to help US during the trip and the rest of you when we land… There are plenty of free rooms in the Mayflower for building new greenhouses and I saw cases of grow-lights.”
Travis said, “Historian? Up for it?”
Historian shrugged a yes.
Jack the Blade rose and said, “My group searched an uninhabited series of old excavation caverns. We found some old construction equipment the miners must have used to make the original tunnels here. There’s also a small steel mill, believe it or not!”
Dr. Hibbes said, “Not so surprising, really. Hamilton’s business model for mined asteroids such as this said that if the customer wanted it, instead of just the raw ore, he could order ready made steel components. That eliminated extra shipping and additional processing stages, reducing charges for the buyer since he could order the exact parts and have them delivered to work sites. I would imagine though that it was all CNC and not very flexible. Besides, just mining, excavating and creating the entire growing structure of this asteroid required a great deal of steel. It made sense to have a functioning mill right here. I imagine that will make our lives a lot easier!”
Jack the Blade added, “There’s also a room filled with bags of concrete mix and portable one cubic yard cement mixers.”
Travis said, “Okay folks. Starting in a couple days, Doctors Van Vogt and Kellerman and our good nurses Leguin, Kellerman and Garronde will be –,” he looked at Van Vogt and said, “What do you call it, anyway? Putting you all into cryo-sleep… Histy? Bart? Hope you like tuna-macaroni salad.”
The meeting broke up and everyone went their seperate ways.
Historian meandered over to Travis and said, “Captain, might I have a word with you in private? By the way, who’s piloting this ship right now?”
Travis replied, “Engineer Harlan Allison is at the controls. He helped convert this rock to a spaceship. Why? Are you envisioning any dangers?”
VI. Taking Out the Trash.
Three Days Later, 12/8/2052
And then there were six. All of the colonists and auxiliary staff had been put into cryo-storage. Even the prisoner, Ash, was in cryo. Only Monroe, Travis, Clark, Bart, Historian and Dr. Van Vogt remained awake and busy. The pilots increased acceleration of the Mayflower to 1/2 Gee and began a circumspect route through the outer parts of the solar system to deceive or lose anyone from Earth who might be trying to track or follow them. The Oort Cloud, where the worm hole was located, was still months away even at greater accelerations. The idea of increasing acceleration in stages was to give everyone a chance to adapt to the conflicting forces at work on their bodies — their balance.
Dr. Van Vogt was pacing impatiently in the infirmary. He couldn’t seem to get some of his equipment to function.
His wristpad chirped and Captain Travis’s face filled its tiny screen. Travis said, “Doctor, it’s past time to put you into cryo-sleep with the others. We can’t afford the food and air you are using.”
Van Vogt angrily said, “I really must protest. Both you and Monroe are injured. You need a doctor to look after your wounds for at least another month. And what if one of you becomes ill?”
“Doctor, we’ve been through all of this. If there’s a problem, we can always revive you. I insist, Doctor. It’s bedtime for you.”
Van Vogt thought a moment and then, exasperated, said, “Fine. Let me just tidy-up a few things here and I’ll meet you in the cryo-center in an hour.”
“See you then. Travis out.”
The Doctor didn’t like the way things were turning out. He really hadn’t intended to have to spend the voyage in cryo. He exited the imfirmary and hopped into a golf cart. Selecting his goal on the dash-screen, he sat back and thought about what he needed to do.
Arriving several minutes later at his destination he disembarked from the cart, pushed open the large double-doors and entered the storage area. The place was silent and dark, with only a dim light high above casting its feeble illumination. His footsteps echoed in the huge room as he walked over to the large crates marked “GE3R” and pulled some of the tie-down netting out of the way.
Suddenly, blinding light as three portable halogens snapped on. When Van Vogt’s eyes finally adjusted, he realized the lights were aimed at him and beside them in the darkness stood Captain Travis, Monroe, William Bartlett and Historian. They all looked very grim. They also all had firearms pointed at him.
Travis spoke first, saying, “So Doctor. In the market for a robot?”
Van Vogt said, “What is this? What’s going on here? Why are you pointing guns at me?”
Monroe said, “We figured with an ultimatum to go into cryo that you’d show up here.”
Travis said, “You know, Doctor, it didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that there was a traitor in our midst. Didn’t even take that long to realize that you must be him.”
“You’re nuts!,” Van Vogt said. Why would I betray any of you or this project? I want to go to Alchibah as much as you do.”
“Ah,” Travis said, taking a few steps forward. “The problem is, Doctor, that you’ve always been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could speculate that it wasn’t you who kept in contact with the Goonies, alerting them to the voyage and providing them with the blueprints of the Mayflower so they knew exactly where to set their men down when they raided us a few days ago. That could have been anyone, I suppose. I doubt it, though.”
“I’m telling you that I am not some spy.,” Van Vogt almost pleaded, “You’re making a mistake.”
“No Doctor, I’m not.,” Travis said with deathly calm. “That bomb in the greenhouse was not set by the Goonies. They were in battle and when I spoke with Jack Seaworth and Dave a few days ago they assured me that at no time did the Goonies carry or set a bomb that size. They wouldn’t even have had the time to do it. No doctor, that was a conventional bomb and it had been placed in the greenhouse days, maybe weeks before any of the events of the past week took place.”
Van Vogt was shaking, fear-sweat dripping down his face. “Where would I even get explosives? It must have been someone else.”
Bart angrily said, “This asteroid was a working mine. There are probably cases of dynamite all over the fucking place.”
“Yes,” Travis continued in a more steady voice, “and let’s face it, Doc, you, Hibbes and Allison were the only ones on this rock for the past several weeks. Rocco and I only arrived a couple days before the colonists and I’m certainly in no shape –” he momentarily pointed with his gun at his leg, “–to tote a large bomb around. I suppose Hibbes or Allison could have done it but why would they? They helped convert this asteroid to an interstellar ship. Even if they were against the journey to Alchibah they wouldn’t blow-up their own handi-work. They’d have easily found other ways, non-destructive ways to sabotage things. As engineers they would never resort to anything so crude. Sorry, Doctor, it had to have been you.”
Van Vogt had crumpled to his knees and was pleading, “Please. It wasn’t me.”
“Oh yes, Doctor, it was,” Travis said. “After we captured the Goonie cruiser and it’s captive, who was it rushing to the cruiser with his big black medical bag in hand? It was you. Nurse LeGuin says that you two split up to hunt for supplies. You had every opportunity to carry on a another bomb, place it, and then fill your bag with supplies. Quite a coincident that the cruiser blew-up almost immediately upon your exit from the docking area. In fact, it went off at the same time that the greenhouse bomb did — same detonator frequency I imagine. And of course, it was you arguing that we shouldn’t make the trip right now but “hide out” somewhere until more supplies could be had.”
The Doctor had broken down completely, sobbing uncontrollably.
Travis went for the jugular. “We knew you’d have to come here to revive your friends. See, I know for a fact that Hamilton had ordered 225 GE robots because he and I had discussed it and I was the one to check them in. Yet after the colonists conducted their inventory, Mariana said they counted 229 crates. Four extra crates, mysteriously showing up after a quick landing by the second Goonie cruiser near the cargo area. Four crates each containing a Goonie operative in a self-contained, battery operated cryo-unit. About the same size as a tall robot crate so the crates looked identical. We’ve already blown those out the airlock. We took care of them the day after inventory. Then, it was just a waiting game. And since LeGuin and the others didn’t know until a few days ago, when you taught them, how to operate these units… The Goonies would never have planted four agents in self-contained cryo-units unless they knew they had an accomplice who was trained to operate and revive them.”
He continued, “All the colonists in cryo. Just the six of us. I give you an ultimatum to meet me in the cryo center and instead, you show up here, prying up the netting to look for your buddies. Once again, the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Van Vogt simply sobbed.
Travis walked up to where he lay crumpled on the floor and pointed his gun at Van Vogt’s head, saying, “On a ship, Doctor, the Captain is the rule of law. No doubt you want mercy. Would that be the same mercy your friends on Earth showed when they broke my leg? When they killed Hamilton? Or when you set my leg without pain killers? Nice sadistic touch, that. You must truly hate us for what we’re doing. Sorry, but the penalty for treason is death.” He pulled the trigger.
After they had dragged the body to the airlock in the cargo bay next door and jettisoned it, they returned to the hold where the robots were stored.
“I’m sorry about that,” Travis said to the others, “You must think me heartless but we’ve worked too hard, come to far to risk having a traitor like that along for the voyage. I hope I never have to do that again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading to the lounge for a very stiff drink.”
VII. We, Robots.
Monroe said, “As long as we’re here we might as well activate a couple of these bad boys.”
Bart and Historian both grabbed wrecking-bars laying on a nearby table and approached one of the crates. Working from either side, they pryed the front off of one of the crates. The inside of the crate, as well as the “face” they had pulled off was coated with packing foam wrapped in plastic — And within stood a GE3R robot. Now they all understood the reason for the large crate since the robot must have stood 6 1/2 feet tall.
“Kinda ugly!” Bart said, staring at the thing before them.
“What was that old expression?” Historian asked, “Form follows function? Still, it’s better than some of the industrial robots I’ve seen that look like bad dreams. Here’s the starter kit.” he said, reaching into the crate and pulling out a small cardboard box. Within was the nuclear battery, wrapped in lead-foil, a pair of lead-mesh gloves that were always included with such batteries, and a two page instruction manual. “Two whole pages of instructions!” he said sarcastically.The three of them grabbed the robot, surprisingly light, and tugged it out onto the floor in front of the crate.
Historian read the manual and then put on the lead-mesh gloves and said, “Okay, we take the battery out of its wrapping. Same as all others, you pull out the lead “I-bar” buffering thing and then it says to insert it into the lead-lined battery compartment in the rear of the robot.”
He pulled out the buffer shield and the battery gave a quick “beep” and a green LED lit up to indicate the battery was now activated. He looked at the back of the robot and said, “Whoever wrote this pamphlet was certainly literal about it. The battery compartment actually IS in the, uh, rear.” He inserted the battery and snapped the compartment door shut. Nothing happened.
Bart took the instruction pamphlet from Historian and looked it over. He said, “Well, duh! There’s actually an on-off button in front. He stooped down, looked at the controls and pressed one of them.
There was an internal “beep” from the thing and a small readout in front of it said, ‘Running internal diagnostics’.
After a moment a bland, neutral, robotic voice said from the area of the mouth, “Thank you for your purchase. I am a General Electric Personal Assistant Robot, version three. What name would you like me to respond to?”
Bart exclaimed, “Holy shit!”
The robot said, “Very good. My name is ‘Holy Shit’.”
Bart quickly said, “No, no! I didn’t mean that. Your name is… ummm…”
The robot said, “Very good. My name is ‘Ummm‘.”
Monroe snickered and said, “Brother, this could take all day.”
Historian said, “Better let me try.” Turning toward the robot he said, “Your name is ‘Isaac’.”
The robot said, “‘Isaac‘. Very good, sir. Will I be your personal assistant?”
Historian replied, “Yes.”
R. Isaac said, “And how should I address you, sir?”
Historian thought, I’m not going to have this thing calling me Brice. What the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound and said, “Call me ‘Historian’.”
“Very good, Historian,” R. Isaac said and then added, “I am programmed to assist you in your day-to-day life, Historian. And remember, all General Electric Personal Assistants are backed by a full two-year warranty with in-home service. How may I assist you?”
Monroe and Bart glanced at each other and then Bart said, “That in-home service should come in handy. The voice kind of grates on you–”
R. Isaac said, “You’ll be happy to know that I come programmed with a wide variety of celebrity and ethnic voices. You can also select average pitch, timber and sex.”
Bart said, “I’d choose sex — but not with you.”
Historian said, “I think I’ll keep the voice as is for now. It makes identifying you by your voice easier.”
Monroe said, “No imagination, Histy.”
Bart went up to another crate and began prying the front off of it. “Time for mine!”
After installing the battery and turning it on, the second robot started accordingly by saying, “Thank you for your purchase. I am a General Electric Personal Assistant Robot, version three. What name would you like me to respond to?”
Bart thought for a moment, shot a peek at Historian and muttered, “Isaac, eh?” and then to the robot said, “You will be called Heinlein.”
R. Heinlein responded, “Very good sir, and how should I address you?”
Bart grinned and said, “Refer to me as ‘Oh Fabulous One’. Can you do a voice like the old comedian, Jack Benny?”
R. Heinlein was silent a moment as if searching it’s pre-programming and then folded it’s arms, turned it’s head to the side and said, “Well!… Yes, Oh Fabulous One. And don’t forget, General Electric has a full line of high quality refrigerators, dishwashers, and televisions all backed by our in-home two-year warranty.”
Bart rolled his eyes and said to himself, “I suppose I can change him whenever I get bored… I hope endless commercials aren’t a feature of this thing.”
R. Isaac said, “Historian, now that there are two of us in operation, we can network with each other as well as the wi-fi I detect in this place. You and Oh Fabulous One can select our privacy settings regarding each of your own actions and information.”
Monroe had been reading the instruction pamphlet and said, “Interesting. They can become “terminals” much as your wristpads but you can block them from revealing to the ship’s computers or each other any or all actions you might do — as well as any actions you ask the robot to do. This auto-networking can be very useful because it allows you to instruct one of them how to do something and they will all know how to do it — such as building a house. They will also learn all of our names that way. It let’s them work in tandem with each other on projects. Really quite an interesting concept.”
Historian said to R. Isaac, “Yes. Keep all personal information about the person you are assigned to private but network with the ship’s computers and each other for other data.”
“Very good, Historian,” R. Isaac said, “Making connections now.”
R. Heinlein said, “Ah! We are on a spaceship. I have the layout now.”
Captain Monroe said, “Well, this has all been very entertaining but I’ve got to get back to the control room and relieve Clark. You guys know what needs to be done. Let me know if I can help. My shoulder should be healed in a few weeks.”
9/13/2056, Three Years, 9 Months later.
It isn’t necessary to relate all the details of such a long voyage because most of it was depressingly routine. The Mayflower computers mostly took care of normal flight details. Travis’ leg and Monroe’s shoulder had long ago healed. They, along with Clark worked in shifts monitoring things and helping Historian and Bartlett create new greenhouses in unused rooms and holds all over the ship. Three more robots had been activated, R. Simak, R. Niven, and R. Columbus. They perfomed most of the drudgery.
Historian and Bart, with the help of agricultural files from the Mayflower’s computers, were actually able to raise rather large crops of tomatos, potatoes, and even small orange trees, as well as garlic, lettuce and wheat. They were able to can or freeze large quantities of orange juice, french fries (!), tomato paste, and bread dough. The small crew of five enjoyed fresh bread, pasta, tuna, and more.
Their greatest accomplishment was to create one room where, using the technology of the biology lab, they were able to artificially inseminate frozen chicken sperm and eggs and now they had a “hen house” with egg laying chickens and two roosters. Eggs and chicken became a staple of their diet as well. That went a long way towards raising morale.
To alleviate the bordom, they read from the computer’s library, played chess and other games, did practical jokes on each other, and each learned a musical instrument and then they formed a band. There were limited instruments on board but in the old rec room for the asteroid miners they found an old set of drums, a guitar, and two midi keyboard controllers. They called themselves The Plymouth Rockers and worked up quite a repertoire of songs. Engineer Clark turned out to have a pretty good voice so he became lead singer. They put on shows for the five robots in the audience.
Travelling through the wormhole was quite the — albeit quick — experience and Bart made copious notes. He’s preparing an entry on it for another project they started, their own version of the now ancient Wikipedia titled, Encyclopedia Alchibah.
In the final year, the star Alchibah started to become more than just a pin-prick of light in the monitors. Travis and Bart estimated they were about 2/3 of a liear — light year — out and they turned the Mayflower around so the engines were facing in the direction of travel and began braking the ship. It had reached a speed of almost six-tenths of light.
Finally, the Mayflower had slowed and they had passed the orbits of the two outer planets. There were six planets in all, two were gas giants. Perhaps fittingly, their destination was the third one from the sun. They were still about three weeks away. Bart had determined that there were two moons circling it. They were still too far away for detailed examination but he would do that as they got closer.
Travis revived Doctor Kellerman and his wife, as well as nurses Garronde and LeGuin. They began reviving the others. For the time being, Ash was left asleep as were a couple of others — one at the request of Captain Travis and Rocco. It was slightly disorienting to many of the colonists who felt that they had only just “gone to sleep” a short while ago. The fact that they had actually been in cryo for almost four years and had travelled 49 light years — almost 294 trillion miles — was a bit unsettling. At that point, I think it hit many of them that they would probably never see Earth again.
Soon, the Mayflower was teeming with human life. From the old mining days, there were over a hundred small personnel cabins and each colonist or couple were assigned to them. In order to prevent crowding and confusion, it was decided that only after landing would the personal robots be brought down by one of the freighters and then the colonists could activate them. Besides, the wood the crates were made of would come in handy as ready lumber for construction.
Finally the day arrived. The Mayflower was two days out from orbit. Everyone was assembled in the cafeteria over a surprisingly hearty breakfast. The mood was good throughout the crowd of colonists.
Travis rose from the front table, asked for the lights to be dimmed a bit. Turning towards a large screen behind him, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re home.”
–From The History of Colony: Alchibah
3rd Edition, 2088
Author: The Historian