Tim was bored. The interesting events had degenerated, in his opinion, into a boring adult party. It was made worse by the fact that though there were about a million children on board the Lincoln only one of them was awake and he was that one.
Due to the time dilation effect on the Lincoln, the total journey time to the crew would only seem to be about five or six years. It had been decided to take only singles or couples without children and to fit all of the crew with contraceptives devices. They would be removed only at their last stop which would also become their new home. At least that was the plan, now that living beings could use the matter transmitters, exactly what would happen at their final destination was unknown.
Within a week, they would be at the outer boundaries of the solar system. It was intended to be their final destination and the extrasystem drive would be shut down, possibly for the final time if there was a habitable world available, in this solar system.
After a few minutes of what Tim considered to be terminal boredom, he slipped out of the auditorium to head for his quarters. He entered the lift and keyed in his destination and then as the lift started off, his head seemed to explode.
He screamed with the sudden pain and as he was dropping into darkness, he heard, a voice in his head say, apologetically, *Oops. Sorry about that.*
The alarm immediately went off in Sick Bay. All of the crew wore Personal Medical Alarms but the one that Tim was wearing was an especially elaborate affair, since they were still investigating his medical condition. The worry that such an alarm caused, was quickly alleviated, as the Med-Tech on duty examined the information coming from Tim's PMA. He spoke over his shoulder to the doctor who was in back of him. “It's Timothy Williams, Doc. There was a sudden spike in his brainwave patterns. It caused him a burst of pain and loss of consciousness, but the sensors indicate that no physical damage was caused. He's on Lift Three, Bank Five and he's already heading our way. I'll stop the Lift at our deck and send a team to get him. There's also a note on his Med file that both Dr. Wait and the Captain are to be informed if anything unusual happens.”
When Tim woke, he should have had a horrible headache, but as he made his way up through the darkness, there was a barrier between him and the pain. He recognized it from experience as pain medication. He opened his eyes and smiled wanly at Dr. Wait on one side of his bed and the Captain on the other.
Dr. Wait nodded at the Captain, telling him, “Go ahead Cap, he doesn't even have a headache right at the moment thanks to the medication and from every indication there's no lasting damage.”
The Captain looked down at Tim, he asked, “Do you have any idea what happened to you, Tim. Dr. Wait said that whatever happened to you was caused by something external, that's why he's letting me do the questioning, rather than doing it himself.”
his head and said, “I don't have any ide...” He stopped there and
said, “Yes I do, I have a message for you. Well not addressed to you
personally, but to any commanding officer of a Terran Starship.
'From: Terran Star Ship General Sam Houston.
Message Priority One: OmegaZulu 76149
Message: Arm all weapons and allow no one from this system to board, until direct communication between the General Sam Houston and incoming starship can be established. If necessary, destroy any ships that try to make direct physical contact.
Report: When approaching the second destination chosen before the mission began, a collision occurred between the General Sam Houston and an alien spaceship. It caused massive disorientation which lasted for a period of 6 days 12 hours 36 minutes 18 seconds. Several hundred crewmen died during this period.
When disorientation ceased Houston was on the periphery of this system. Extrasystem drive destroyed, intrasystem drive damaged. All matter transmitter bays and spares destroyed. FTL com and all spares destroyed. Massive radiation levels which occurred during initial collision was already killing three-quarters of the crew. The remaining quarter of the crew was altered.
The DNA was now between three to four percent different from the rest of humanity. The radiation was of the type that is commonly used by humans in medical devices such as Med beds.
The passengers in stasis were not affected. The radiation shielding that protected them held up perfectly.
Speculation Engineering Officer: The alien spaceship had some type of FTL drive which affected Houston and threw it over a thousand light years from its intended destination. Observation of stars indicates that the time that passed during disorientation was the same time period that passed in the rest of the universe.
Close examination of the radiation used in Med beds and other medical devices might lead to discovering a FTL drive.
Continuation of Report: The alteration of the crew enabled direct communication between crew members and the computer of the Houston.
Under the crew's direction the crippled Houston was brought into orbit around the third planet, It seemed to be an almost perfect duplicate of pre-industrialization Terra. In this case the crew had discretion over what to do with the passengers in stasis and it was decided to awaken half of the remaining six million passengers and transport them down to the planets surface.
The Houston needed only a small portion of the crew to keep orbit watch, so after doing basic exploration of the solar system they established a watch rotation list and the crew joined the first colonists. The colonists named the planet New Eden.
Twenty years later, since everything seemed to be going well it was decided to awaken the remaining three million passengers. One container was landed by shuttle and the passengers occupying it were awakened.
All died within two weeks of being awakened. Thorough examination indicated that New Eden in fact was too much like Terra. A mild cold had gone through the first colonists, affecting all of them, even those who never had the symptoms of a cold. In the following twenty years, it combined with a New Eden virus, to form a new strain of the cold bug. The first colonists and their descendants had a tolerance for this new strain, if affected it only acted like the old cold virus did.
However, for those humans who had never been exposed to the original hybrid version it was absolutely deadly.
The Colony Council decided to establish beacons to warn of the danger that New Eden presented. These were established around the boundary of the solar system. They also decided that they would abandon space entirely and all of their energy was focused inwardly. At that time, they abandoned the remaining humans on the Houston. Much of the Houston was stripped of anything usable. Much was removed from the computer database including anything to do with communication devices, even information on such primitive devices such as the telephone, radio and television.
The Houston could still communicate with the crewmembers mind to mind. It was found that the crew who had been exposed to the massive dose of radiation were immune to both strains of the disease and in fact to many other illnesses that could affect humans, including the disease of aging, for a time at least. When the last crewmember died almost two hundred years ago, he was close to three hundred and fifty years old.
By that time, many of the population no longer believed that they were carriers of a deadly disease. They split almost down the middle and a cold war that has occasionally erupted into actual shooting, has existed for over two hundred years. They've come back into space and the side that doesn't believe in the illness destroyed all of the beacons.
At first, the other side replaced the beacons but eventually they just gave up, as they were destroyed as soon as they launched.
The last crewman who died was the first officer. He initiated OmegaZulu about a year before he died, perhaps anticipating what eventually occurred.
Captain Paul Cody took his communicator out of his pocket, he keyed in the bridge computer. He stated forcefully, “Initiate Protocol OmegaZulu 76149 immediately!! All parts of that order are to be observed to the letter!! Initiate battle station alarms!! Record and playback after alarms. This is Captain Paul Cody, this is no drill, repeat this is no drill!! Protocol OmegaZula 76149 in now in effect. Continuous playback until all battlestations have reported in.”
He closed his communicator and as the alarm began to sound, looked at Tim, his eyes cold, though about the situation not with Tim. He asked, “Can you get in touch with the Houston, Tim, I'd like more information on what type of weaponry the colonists might have available. Hopefully with the constant upgrading that the matter transmitter allowed us to do, we are well ahead of them.”
“Actually,” Tim said, “he's sorta been knocking for the last few minutes, but the message had absolute priority. I had to give you that first.”
Cody nodded, telling him, “Okay, I know it was painful the first time, see if you can get in touch with him again and hope he's moderated his volume.”
Tim scrunched up his face with a little apprehension, but obediently, he began to try, “This is Tim Williams, representing Captain Paul Cody, of the Lincoln, come in Houston.”
His eyes opened wide , as he succeeded. He said, “I have contact captain, he is apologizing to me for the pain he caused me, but the volume he used was what he used with the crewmembers on the planets surface and for the exploration of this solar system. We're not that much further out than the farthest exploration the crew made.” Tim explained.
Dr. Wait said thoughtfully, “Tell him about what happened to you, Tim, it's possible that there is enough of a change between twenty-second century humans and thirty-third century humans, that even though you didn't have as much of a genetic drift as the crew-members, you simply may be more sensitive than your ancestors were.”
They listened to Tim explain his story to the Houston, stopping occasionally to answer a question. When he finished, nothing happened for close to five minutes. When he did receive additional contact, his eyes went very wide with alarm.
He said anxiously, “The Houston says, the event that my presence represents, increases the danger exponentially. He says that the Priority One message should be upgraded to ZuluZulu 78554.
Cody said with grim humor, “I never heard of a computer who could upgrade a Priority One message before, but somehow I'm inclined to agree with its assessment.” Taking out his communicator again, he contacted the bridge computer again, “This is Captain Cody. Upgrade the Protocols to ZuluZulu 78554.”
Instantly the alarm and the message which had been coming over the intercom changed, “All crew members, status upgraded to Protocol, ZuluZulu, repeat ZuluZulu.”
Dr. Wait asked, a little shakily, “Paul, exactly what does Protocol ZuluZulu mean.”
He said grimly, “I just authorized the computer, to self-destruct if anyone should successfully get into the ship, past the airlock and Decom. Tell the Houston, Tim.” and the boy nodded.
Wait thought carefully, his face also going grim. He said, “I guess you're right, Paul, losing one ship with two million people aboard is better than risking over one hundred planets and more than a hundred billion people.
He pointed at Tim, stating firmly, “You are too important to risk. You're going back to Terra this afternoon.”
Tim already knew what the Captain would say when he shook his head. The man said with regret, “Sorry Doc, until we get close enough that we can talk by radio to the Houston, he's our only communication link. There are more than five million people left on board, between the Lincoln and Terra. We need to transfer those people on board.”
Tim said, “Cap'n, the Houston was telling me, that the Non-believers, have been on him several times. He has vented all oxygen into space to prevent any spread of the virus. From all reports before contact was shut off completely, it can't survive in vacuum. They used spacesuits and they stripped him of anything that he could use to make a radio, except for the most primitive type. He has no remotes left to put one together, even if he had the parts. And also he would have to be taught how to construct a radio.”
The Lincoln had put on extra deceleration, redlining the drive so that they eventually came to rest more than two light days out from New Eden's sun. They had already started upgrading all weaponry and sensors when they had begun to decelerate, several weeks before, but that process was speeded up, extra technicians being sent out from Terra, to help them along. Also new fighters began to arrive on the Lincoln, the older models were sent back to Terra to make room, but the old ordnance was simply destroyed, since it was a couple of centuries out of date and unlike the fighters couldn't be upgraded.
Several weeks went by, then some very odd looking ship parts began arriving in the Lincoln transmitter bays. These hadn't been developed specifically to rescue the Houston, but some additional features had been added.
What they were, were ships built around oversized tractor beams and with equally oversized power plants. They had small matter transmitters and powerful shield generators had been added. They had self destruct mechanisms which could be triggered by any of the small five man crew, by the computer, or by FTL com from either the Lincoln, or directly from Terra itself.
Their crews assembled them outside the Lincoln. When finally completed there were thirty of these strange looking spaceships.
were used in the Sol system and most of the other systems, They had
been designed to move small asteroids, closer to manufacturing complexes.
There was a meeting of the senior staff, which was broadcast throughout the ship and back to Terra. Tim and Doctor Wait were also included.
Captain Paul Cody began, “We're ready to begin moving in, half of the one hundred fighters have been assigned to escort the Lincoln and the other fifty will accompany the asteroid movers, just in case their new shield generators aren't strong enough in themselves, to keep the New Eden Non-believers from successfully attacking them.”
He explained, “Even though the Houston is much bigger than the asteroids the movers usually transport, he doesn't weigh much more, so twenty of them should be able to do the job. That gives us ten as spares.”
The Captain told them, “The scientists are looking at the data that the Houston transmitted through Tim about the collision and the premise by the engineering officer that the radiation from the Med bed and other similar medical instruments give off. They've already come up with some promising results, so all starships not actually in acceleration or deceleration, have been ordered to stand by, for the time being. Doctor Wait has something about the medical problems that we face.”
The Doctor said, “Regarding the new strain of the cold virus, Houston was never provided with very much information so we can't determine if we can do anything about it, at this time. We simply need more information and that means contacting the inhabitants of New Eden. About the method of communication that developed between Houston and the crew. Houston had much more data on that and it is not a recipe for immortality as some of the crew has been speculating.
He told them, “The crew of the Houston received a massive dose of radiation when the ships collided. That sterilized all crew members as they found out when they removed the contraceptive devices. Also the increase in the lifespan of the crewmembers. In point of fact, none of the crewmembers who survived the initial burst of radiation were much over twenty-five and not all of them survived either. It appears that the research done by those doctors still available indicated that the time spent accelerating and the time spent at almost the speed of light and then the deceleration contributed to the survival, of so many of the crew.
Wait paused for a moment, bfore saying, “You have to realize that these doctors were very young, but they were the most brilliant of the physicians on the ship. They came to the conclusion, that without repeating the entire process, none of the crew would have survived and only that process allowed for the four percent genetic drift. The scientists on Terra have been working with their data and they came to the same conclusion. We have determined by examining Tim and experiments on animals, that he has attained the maximum genetic drift possible, without going through the entire process. In fact we don't know how he survived the process, all of our data says he should have died.”
He explained, “We have found that his growth has slowed by about one third and we can do much better, with the rejuvenation therapies that we already have. Unfortunately and this Tim has already been informed of and he's not concerned about it right now, though he may when he grows up, he is also sterile. We have tried cloning some of his cells and we tried all of the known methods and all of the experimental ones and none of them worked.”
“That means that if any of his organs are damaged, we can't just clone them, we'll have to use the old fashioned method of repairing the damaged organ, or replacing it with artificial organs, since Tim's cells vigorously defend themselves against any attempt at transplantation.”
The Lincoln only went far enough in, so that they could establish communication with New Eden. Once communication was established, they transmitted information on how to build FTL communicators. FTL communicator and matter transmitters were based on entirely different technologies, so learning about one wouldn't tell anything about the other.
As the asteroid movers kept traveling into the inner system, ships of the Non-believers began to attack them. They had three shield failures, the crews of two, were able to use their small matter transmitters to transport back to the Lincoln, before their ships exploded, the third just disintegrated.
The fighters had hung back to see how effective the shields would be, but when three of them failed, they moved in before any more attacks could be staged. The Non-believers ships had no chance against the modern weaponry and were completely destroyed. Once superiority was established, twenty-five of the fighters darted ahead to guard the Houston, but there was never an attack carried out, not even the Non-believers wanted to kill three million innocents.
Scientists boarding the Houston, were able to reestablish communication with its computer, installing a FTL communicator and it downloaded all the information that it had to Terra.
“We're sorry to see you go. We'll miss you,” said Paul Cody to Tim, who was preparing to go back to Terra. The authorities felt that now that communications had been established with the Houston and it was being towed out toward the Lincoln where its colonists could be transferred, it was time that they got Tim back to medical facilities where he could be given proper examination by more up to date instruments.
“I'll miss you as well,” said Tim, his eyes were watery, but he was determined not to cry. Firmly he shook hands with the Captain and Doctor Wait and Jack Flint. They represented the crew, since it would have been impossible to get all the friends he had made into the transmitter bay. He had already said goodbye to the Houston
Climbing aboard one of the new passenger containers, he sat in one of the comfortable seats. The intercom, announced, “Ten seconds to transmission...5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Transmission initiated.”
Suddenly pain shot though Tim's head, far worse even, than the first contact with Houston. His body stiffened, then he lost consciousness and his heart stopped.
The three on Lincoln were watching on the monitor and when the sensor built into the container chair flatlined. Dr. Wait, hit his head with a groan, realizing what must have happened. He barked out, “Get that container back here.”
“We are sending medical personnel, right now,” protested the receiving end.
Wait said, “The sudden loss of contact with Houston, gave him a massive shock and shut down his autonomic system. You can get that started again, but be needs to be back in touch with Houston, or it could cause massive brain damage.”
After about five seconds, “The medical personnel here agree. Transmission now.”
As soon as the container solidified and the door opened Dr. Wait jumped aboard. Aside from the instruments he was carrying, each of the containers was fully equipped with emergency medical equipment. By the time, his own medical team arrived, Tim's heart was beating again, but his breathing was being assisted and he was still unconscious.
The shock luckily had caused no brain damage, but Dr. Wait kept Tim unconscious until a special implant arrived from Terra. The implant was in pieces and the pieces were in several places on Terra. It took a few days to gather them together, reassemble them and transport them to the Lincoln, where Dr. Wait performed the surgery.
Tim woke up slowly and there seemed to be two voices in his head instead of one. By the time he was fully awake, Dr. Wait was beside the bed. Tim remembered a quote from history. A very old quote. He said, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Three voices asked as one, “What is it, Tim,”
Choosing one, he answered the doctor, “I've got two voices in my head instead of one.”
Dr. Wait smiled, telling him, “Good, we were hoping that it would happen that way.” he continued answering Tim's questioning look. “When the link between you and Houston was suddenly severed, your body had a massive shock, which shut down your heart and breathing. We transported you back here and successfully restarted everything and we eventually put an implant in your brain.”
He explained, “Information about it was in the medical data that was sent to Lincoln over the last few months and it was flagged for special attention. About a century ago, a physicist developed a small implant device, that had massive memory capability. The device itself turned out to be useless, since it couldn't do what it was designed to do, which was interface directly with the human brain. That portion of the design never worked, but it was taken apart and many other devices have been developed based on the concept of the different parts.”
He told Tim, “When your system collapsed I thought of that device. The parts were reassembled and transported to us. The Houston was designed about a thousand years ago and this device had enough memory capacity to duplicate Houston's core memory, with a great deal of room left over. When we implanted the device into your brain, we were hoping that the connection between you two, was in the software not the hardware and that seems to be the case. So now you should be able to go back to Terra, or anywhere else without any trouble.”
“That's nice, doc,” Tim said sleepily, “Why am I so sleepy?”
“We've been keeping you under electronically, now you need to catch up on natural sleep.” Wait said. He patted Tim's arm. “Go to sleep Tim.” and he left the room.
Tim was almost asleep when one of the voices in his head asked, “Tim, what are you going to call me? I'm no longer the Houston and we're going to be together a long time.”
“How about Sam. That is if you don't mind Houston.” Tim asked.
“No, Tim, I would be honored.” said Houston.
Tim's last comment before he fell asleep, “Well I might not be able to have children, Houston, it's nice that you can.”
After another week, Tim was able to go back to Terra. The Lincoln was assigned to keep in touch with the New Eden government, until the new technology which was very promising could mature. The Lincoln began transporting their colonists to ships that were close to their destination or already colonized planets. When the Houston was far enough out that new shields and weapons could be installed, then matter transmitters would be emplaced and the three million colonists on board would be following the Lincoln colonists.
Until or if they found out about the new version of the cold virus, the New Eden system was put on complete quarantine by the Terran government. All matter transmitters were protected by self destruct mechanisms and a couple hundred additional fighters were transported to enforce it.