Chapter One – Arrival (Draft)
Far below the rolling swells of the Monterey Bay, a giant kelp began to lose its tendril grip on the weakened shale, each surge tearing away at the holdfast, each surge drawing in the Garibaldi that schooled nearby. With a final tug the holdfast ripped free and the Garibaldi charged out from the shadows, their bright orange scales flashing against in the emerald waters as they picked off the limpets tumbling through the silt, their thin calcium shells snapped in half.
Nori had been diving nearby when she heard these snaps, a trigger in the back of her mind it was time to rise. She looked up at the starburst of light filtering down through the golden canopy of fronds and began her ascent along the towers of kelp. Without warning, her regulator began to sputter and readings of high carbon dioxide displayed on her ocular implants; she was running out of air. With her arms stretched upward she clawed her way through the surface, her hands reaching to pull the regulator from her mouth, gagging on its arm-length of tendrils that slipped from her throat.
After thirty years aboard the starship Hoshi Akari, Nori was the first of her crew to be awakened by a personal dream applet. She was lying on her back, suspended above a bath of orange cryoGel, deaf and blind to the universe around her. She waited until her breathing settled before scraping away the paraffin covering her eyes. Stretched above her was the lid to her cryoPod with its rim of emerald lighting and the criss-cross of golden stanchions lining the ceiling beyond.
Nori was brought to a sitting position by the Correlation Engine and Intelligence Lab, known as CEIL; the ship’s AI and handler for the crew. She looked down at her legs to see the droplets of orange cryoGel begin to pool on her skin and drip back onto the carbon plank and through the mesh below. She shook her head of fine white quills and the droplets scattered like a dog shaking its coat; her reflexes noticeably faster than she remembered.
A tingling swept across her scalp and she knew CEIL was reaching into the wetware of her implants.
CEIL? Nori streamed.
Yes, Nori, CEIL replied, its voice female, caring, as if whispering into her ear.
Where are we? Nori streamed.
We are maintaining a stationary orbit of 3.8624+5 km from Dykazza. The year is 2132, June 17th, 15:11:11. We are 22.238 light years from Sol with a time dilation of 9.175 Earth years..
Nori let out a sigh as the rope of tension began to unwind; their ship was exactly where they were programmed to be.
CEIL. What is our ship’s status? Nori continued to stream as she removed the remaining paraffin covering her ears..
Our ship’s ballast was detached and tethered successfully. Rotation has been set for 1.5 Earth G. My infrastructure, life support and backup systems are nominal.
Nori paused to take this in.
CEIL. Were there any problem records during the journey? she streamed.
There was one problem record, CEIL reported without a sense of worry. PR-0001occurred during your cryoGenesis period; a primary raceway telemetry interruption occurred on September 22nd, in the year 2123 at 21:04:45. My root cause analysis had identified a Q-bit allocation drift, which has been corrected.
One incident in thirty years—Impressive, Nori thought.
CEIL. What’s the status of the crew? she streamed.
CryoGenisys was successful on all six crew members, CEIL responded. Four crew members remain under my handling and their bays are opening now, but I have just received a trap alert from cryoPod 581.02, crew member, Rhodes. It appears there is an intermittent failure to the set timer during the load of 581.02_av_progDA. His awakening app has aborted. His condition is stable, but below thresholds for our bioSketchers to level out homeostasis. He will be entering a state of autonomic hyperreflexia in eighty-eight minutes unless he can receive physical assistance, which is beyond my capabilities.
There was nothing Nori could do until she and her crew were on their feet. She tapped the palm of her hand against her temple, hoping to shake way the silence in her ears. Still nothing and she felt alone in the universe.
CEIL. Bring up some music please, Nori streamed.
Your selection, Nori?
She hadn’t thought about that. What would she listen to after all this time.
Shuffle my playlist, psyChill, she streamed.
CEIL randomly selected a track from her playlist and rolled up the volume, just enough to shave off the the emptiness around her. A musical piece called, Who We Were by Ryan McShae began to play with its soft plucks of the cello and the solitary notes of a piano. It was a reminder that Earth was now, and forever would be, nothing more than a memory.