Destination RP-Q

Something startled him out of REM.  His synapses had been working out some portion of a tactical problem involving two different types of species attempting to achieve chaotic balance in a closed system.  His conciousness waited for the warning message or systemic communication that would signal his awakening process.

Nothing happenned.

He triggered the super-red hypnotic system and began reviewing the starshift algorithms.  Bach floated out of the shadows on the control deck.  Slow and steady, then some Vivaldi.  A sticker he had smuggled onto the ship and placed on the exterior of his cryogenic shell said, “If it’s not Baroque, then don’t fix it.”

The chromatic shift on Omega-447q (his home star) was beginning to decend, which meant that his craft was beginning accellerate relative to his distance from home.  His speed, relative to home, was beginning to change at a faster rate.  Then he realized that was what had triggered the alarm.  They were approaching the point at which there was a slight possibility of breaking ‘The Barrier’.

They still were not sure what would happen when the rate of change in speed changes at a rate that exceeds what is physically possible.  When he left home, they were just realizing that with the current technology, it might be possible to reach that point.

That left him in a unique position.  If he was to continue accelerating at the current rate, then he would at least be aware of whatever happens when a person is able to travel faster then what is physically possible, at least theoretically.

He lowered the magnetic engine amplitude and waited for the accelleration to level off.  As the ship crossed the event horizon, he was only concious of the slowing of time.  The Bach Aria which had been rippling out in his cryogenic chamber slowed down, barely perceptible at first, and slowly increasing until it sounded like harmonic bells, tolling in some ancient ceremony that stretched on for days.

He took a break from the heavy lifting and worked up some shade rippling equations for a nice light cloud that would synchopate well with the Aria when played at full speed (which he could still imagine, but not actually hear)

If the acceleration of his ship remained constant, he would reach far-beta-9 before his body’s one hundredth birthday.  Back home, all his friends and neighbors that had waved him off on his voyage would all have died thousands of years ago in their own time.  His daughter would only still be alive if she had headed off on a voyage somewhere on her own.

He prepared the return beacon.  An experiment devised by Dr. Speakenbaum, the dean of religio-ethnic sciences.  This device would carry back signals and resonances to the home planet and orbit in distant space, radiating vibrancy on our atmosphere.

His thoughts travelled out of his hibernating body through several interfaces, into a network of devices which controlled the ship, and it’s many different systems.  A computer activated machine in the beacon’s chamber, etched some diagrams onto a sheet of titanium alloy which had been attached to the exterior of the probe.  He hoped that one day, back home, some space travelling species would read the diagrams and understand what had been learned by travelling near the speed of light.

The appropriate release command sequence sent the beacon hurtling back homeon a journey that would take several thousand years in it’s own right, and probably not return to home planet at all.  There was some statistical probability that it might survive travelling through the ether, buffeted by ion storms and somehow make it back to home planet, but most likely it would find some earth-like planet and orbit as if it had achieved it’s objective.

His forward antennae array had been detuned by the change in acceleration rate, so he tuned about for a little while, looking for a dead center to gauge by.  Nothing resonated, so he tuned the array directly at his destination and waited for the signals to coincide before alternating the polarity back and forth at a synchronous rate.  Once they were synchronized, it was just a matter of listening for any kinds of signal patterns through a specialized dm-9 pattern search module.

If anything had come out of it, then he would begin to investigate the nature of his destination.  Was the location evolving?  Were any of the alternate destinations full of life?  All the instruments back home had determined was that the destination was a likely candidate for development.  If life already existed there, then his mission would be one of investigation.

Nothing had come up on any of the chromat-o-graphs, as they jokingly referred to the spectrometers set to look for color changes in the atmosphere.  The ship was close enough to see actual light from the destination, and his steady rate of acceleration allowed him to see a shift of what it actually looked like.  His computers shifted them accurately back so that he could see what it would look like as a stationary planet.

They all appeared similarly.  Weathered rocks with puddles of liquid here and there.  No sign of green, which would have signalled a slam dunk for the ‘floating life’ pundits who claimed that life was all over the cosmos and anywhere that it could live, we would find it there, in some state of evolvement.  Of course, there was still some possibility of life on one of the five possible destination planets but there wasn’t any visual sign of it yet.

His ship was designed to reach one of these five locations and then land or orbit indefinitely.  Once at his destination, he would awake from his hibernating state and begin the second phase of his mission, which would be determined by whatever he discovered there.  It was a one way ticket, as were all tickets issued by the Ministry of Light.

If he was to attempt to return, somewhere before the midway point of his voyage, then by the time he got home, everyone he had ever known would be long gone.  His home would not be there.  The continents wouldn’t even look the same from outer-space.  Some groups had even contended that some cataclysmic event would effectively erase any evidence that they had ever existed at some point between his departure and his return.

He contemplated just that.  He knew that each of the five destinations would require geo-forming and bio-adaptation before all the really fun stuff would happen, like watching a planet evolve right before your eyes.  He wasn’t all that hot at genetic mashing like some of his counterparts had been.  They would make a bacteria that could digest any element or compound and convert it ionically with external control signals like light so that the natural orbiting of the planet would develop a circadian rhythm.  Amazing stuff.  A real art actually.  One that he had not acquired.

He was only able to convert existing structures to adapt to whatever energy sources were available.  So he took his rudimentary element catalogue of each destination and searched for carbon related minerals to base the system on.  The silicone content of RP-Q was promising, so he opened up the profile and reviewed it.

RP-Q — Class 8 planet, one of 7 known to orbit a single star of dwarf multi-gas status.  Day cycle 17 parsecs (which is comparable to his own cycle back home), Radiant triple-spoke galaxy, Several gaseous anomallys near by to explore.  Everything a curious space tourist would want to explore.

He wondered if back home they would have finally finished the digital model of their own existence that they were always working on so feverishly.  It was such an exciting time when he left.  All the developments in theoretical intelligence evolvement that had left him flabbergasted would continue on without him, as he hurtled on-ward, or as he returned home to a different world.

RP-Q, he pondered.  To calculate and formulate a living system from scratch, or to return and spectate on the existing system.  As planeteers, his one creed was to leave no footprint when it came to existing, operating life systems.  It was a kind of tongue in cheek declaration, but a guiding one none-theless that his compatriots had agreed on.

Mercury levels were a little too high at the destination, but that was solvable.  He had already worked out a system in school for that possibility.  He only needed to model it with the exact data and hope that it resolved appropriately.  Before initiating the digital model, he checked total free nitrogen levels against total gaseous atmospherics in hopes that he wouldn’t need to run a genetic alteration scheme on the standard B9 bacteria array, which would save a lot of energy and time.  Strange to think that a hundred years was not enough time for something, and that beyond that hundred years, he would still be there, working.

Back home, it had still been against the law to attempt to change your time-standard, but people thought about it all the time.  Maybe it was some kind of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ kind of a complex.  Many people just gave up and opted for government supervised ‘coccooning’ as they called it, which was just as good as going into cryo-sleep, except that you lost all control over when you would be awoken, or for what purpose.

He had chosen to volunteer for service.  As far as he was concerned, anything was better then becoming a component in the super-brain as the builders called it.  Besides, by coming on this journey, his daughter would be cared for, all his other family would benefit.

If you had asked him why he left, he would have said, “because of my daughter.”, but she was strong, and would do well regardless of his support.  Never hearing a note played with intent again was the deal-breaker.  I guess the super-brain couldn’t be distracted by ‘interesting noises’ or something.  In the cities where the super-brain was more oppressive, even wind-chimes had been abolished.  People called rovers wandered around, looking for ‘distractions’ and eliminating them.

Another reason he had left was that his daughter had signed on as a rover.  He knew she would do her job correctly, as she should.  And he realized that she would have a greater understanding of ‘the noises’ as a result, but it would still break his heart to see her at her best, breaking his own personal moral code intentfully and willfully and doing an excellent job at it.

The age old trick of beowolf against his father.  Damn mythology.  All long gone and non-existant now.  All just an old faded postcard from something that doesn’t exist anywhere anymore.  An echo of a life that disappeared as soon as the magnetic drive engines engaged and began hurtling him away from home.

His video messages back towards home might have been received for a few decades. His daughter might have seen several video messages from him, staying the same age as she grew older.

RP-Q loomed ahead as he triggered the model sequences and returned to review the other candidates one last time.  He had thousands of computational hours available before the decision was set in stone, but he set the course and began looking for continental shift on the surface that would indicate a repetative magnetic polarizing central core.

The models starting showing him the most predominate patterns that had been reoccurring and it appeared to not require the genetic alteration.  The model began to optimize with different similar configurations.  Occasionally some interesting pattern would splash up on the display and disappear as some plant growth pattern would indicate animal development or some other evolutionary event that was significant.

The super-red finished the theta-wave portion of the program and the crisp sound of Hayden’s harp gave way to a series of chorales.  His mind drifted off to memories of his childhood and old conversations with friends in coffee shops and in restaurants.  His thoughts bounced around like a handfull of ping pong balls in an iron bathtub and then he dropped down into a dream state.  He began to open-think and sorted through some nagging questions.

What were the possibilities that two planeteers (out of thousands) would return at approximately the same time and be able to interact with each other.  Had any of them agreed to do just that?  Would the X5000 (our ship) give them what they might need if they returned to find a space ready civilization that was aggressive against outside invaders.

Suddenly, he was awakened again.  RP-Q had shown slight change in color that could only be attributed to some kind of life.  He hoped that there wasn’t some kind of ionic discharge that was preventing the existing life from colonizing.  It was possible that such a system would evolve over eons rather then centuries, which would trigger the creed and force him to a different destination.

Current technology when he left allowed him to live for centuries at the destination, but that was all.  He easily slipped back into REM after receiving the grim news and contemplated breaking the rules.  A working system was better then some dumb old crystaline life-form that they predicted would evolve from a planet like that.

Then he realized, that the “Living Universe” wierdos were actually correct, and that there probably was life floating around everywhere in the Universe, looking for an appropriate atmosphere to occupy.  Either way, he resolved to involve himself with RP-Q rather then returning to origin or choosing another less likely candidate.

The models all returned positive and he activated the machinery in the ship which would flood the biotubes and populate them with the appropriate bacteria, which would begin training to populate the destination planet, where they would consume heavy metals and emit harmless salts, which would begin to precipitate out of the atmosphere and into the ground.  With any luck, the air would be breathable to carbon based life forms like himself within 10 years, at which point, his mission would be completed and he would be happy to die knowing that somewhere in the universe, life had been progressed.

He imagined the life-forms evolving out of the mire.  Colonies of bacteria and other single cell organisms, learning to work together on their own for century after century, until plants rise up above the ground to catch the light before the colonys of mold and lichen can bring them down.

The modelling system told him that most likely, plant warfare would continue for several thousand years.  He would not live to see animals of any kind roaming the planet’s surface if he took that route.  He contemplated leaving some kind of beacon in the atmosphere of RP-Q.  A sort of message into the future of his child/planet.  So that whenever they might evolve into intelligent, space travelling entities, they might see a piece of their origin and know that they are a part of us.


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