Author : Andrew Schnell
On the twentieth anniversary of their launch, the citizens of the Lincoln gathered along the main promenade for a celebration. Chief Engineer Leonid Zuyev was in the avionics bay, keeping an ear to the ship’s broadcast of the proceedings. He hated these types of gatherings, so it was almost good fortune that the radio array had gone down that morning.
There were speeches of course, from Captain Hodges and Medical Director Stuart. The Interior Minister spoke, reiterating many of the changes he promised in his recent re-election campaign. Then, recently downloaded videos of Earth dignitaries were shown. Each leader discussed the citizens’ dedication and desire to explore. None of them touched on what it was actually like to explore: the severe rationing and near starvation in the early days, diseases that spread faster aboard ship than on Earth, accidents and mechanical failures that had resulted in many more lost lives than the designers estimated. Fortunately though, the designers had also underestimated the citizens’ reproductive habits.
If things went according to plan, Leonid would speak last. The twentieth anniversary happened to fall on the exact moment when the first transmissions from their destination, the planet Nuwa, would be received by the radio array whose control systems were in pieces along the floor of the avionics bay. The signal was being sent by the first of many supply vehicles sent ahead of Lincoln. They were over a century old by now, but they contained long storage supplies, construction robots, and artificial intelligence programs that would survey Nuwa and begin constructing the first settlement.
As the Earth diplomats’ rhetoric droned on, Leonid stumbled on the source of the problem. A surge had burned out a power distribution unit. He ordered the AI to print and install a new unit, while he reassembled the rest of system. As the system rebooted, he used the spare seconds to hold out his cold fingers in front of the monitors to warm them.
Using pulsars as navigational beacons, the Lincoln’s AI pointed the arrays at Nuwa. The supply vehicle’s AI would point their transmitter at the Lincoln using the projected route programmed into the AI before launch. That route, Leonid was proud to say, had been followed to the letter. They were exactly where they needed to be. Hopefully, the supply vehicle would be, too.
Leonid tuned his slate to the century-old operations manual, to the section that would help him translate the first few 64-bit strings of data into a report on the overall health of the supply ship. The seconds clicked down on his slate’s timer. Leonid could hear the captain apologizing for his delay.
Then, the monitor flickered, and a blue “INCOMING MESSAGE” notification filled the screen. The 64-bit line came in underneath. Leonid interpreted the message as quickly as he could. Contact lights were green. Power generation levels were green. AI was green. Robots were green. Storage was green. Everything had safely landed on Nuwa.
Leonid gestured the information to his slate and ran towards the promenade. Holding the slate above his head, he apologized repeatedly while pushing through the crowd. Hodges saw the commotion and had the crowd make a path for his chief engineer. Leonid leapt onto the stage and his quick smile was all the crowd needed to break into cheers. The citizens of the Lincoln were heading to a planet they themselves would never see, that their children may never see, but now they knew that when the Lincoln arrived at Nuwa she wouldn’t be alone.