Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 23) Accidental Divinity

Flash Fiction Friday:
Prompt: THEMED WORD LIST, thanks to 75 Words Every Sci-Fi Fan Should Know stellar Engine, mind food, needler, superluminal, and wetware  
Genre: Sci-fi themed pot-boiler
Word Count: Under 1500 words

The first time I actually saw the starship Olympus I was in the transport shuttle approaching the shipyards in orbit above the moon Callisto. Even with Jupiter dominating the window screen silently watching over the affairs of human as they scurried over his collection of satellites, I was lost in awe at the graceful manta-like shape of the ship that was going to be my home for over a thousand years.  She was a beautiful merger of art and science and like every decent captain in human history; I was in love with my ship despite my dubious feelings towards the superluminal pods attached to what I considered her undersides.   

For a couple of seconds I caught a glance at the surface of Callisto long covered in steel alloy and ceramic structures  saying a small prayer of thanks to the workforce living there whose job it was to save the human race by spreading it among the stars. Their own fleet of twenty sub-light starships were nearing completion and by the time they finished Olympus’ two remaining sister ships the entire population would board the multigenerational vessels and leave the solar system. A mere hundred years before the radiation from the Mirkhan magnetar collision reached humanity’s birthplace and sterilized everything.

In one of the more curious cosmic jokes the universe can produce the arrival of the Andar starship in orbit above Earth informing us of the collision of the two orbiting magnetars a little over five-thousand light-years away from Earth had both condemned and saved humanity.  It was the middle of the twenty-first century and the majority of the human race was in embroiled in the insane destruction that history has named the Third World War. The situation on Earth was so bad then that some of the old nation-states refused to stop fighting even with a three kilometer-long ship in the sky clearly visible during the day.

Cooler, and wiser human heads eventually prevailed with all hostilities ceasing and both the Andar and humans finding some way to communicate. The Andar had only one real message, that humans had twenty-five hundred years to get there affairs in order and evacuate the solar system or face extinction. They offered up several important pieces of technology to help us but the most important being the Stellar Engine for light-speed travel and the Zero-Point energy module to power it. With that, they engaged their engine and left humanity behind without saying another word.

But it was enough to begin the human Diaspora, fifty years later humanity was united under a common government and with a clear goal, one to survive and expand. Strict birth control measures and a massive solar system wide infrastructure building program being the priorities to accomplish that objective. 

Now with just a little over two-hundred years left before the wave front reaches us the population of Earth was down to five-hundred million with a good segment of that number saying they would stay from either not believing the Andar warning or thinking they could ride out the radiation deep underground. For those leaving, Earth had its own necklace of sub-light, multi-generational ships orbiting the planet with departures occuring even now..

My mission with the Olympus was completely different, not happy with just the ability to travel close to the speed of light early into the Diaspora several scientists kept researching the principles of star travel and came up with a method of superluminal flight. With the bulk of humanity having a way to leave, enough resources were left for the Appleseed Project. A class of starships loaded with automated factories, androids, planetary engineering equipment, and millions of human embryos who would be raised in artificial wombs, when old enough these children would colonize hundreds of planets all across the galaxy and beyond.

The developers of the project were still uneasy with the idea leaving human children in the custody artificial intelligence so they included a crew of one on the ship to oversee everything. The captain’s body would be put in total stasis while his or her mind was integrated into the ship’s systems allowing a lifespan of at least a thousand years before the amalgamation broke down. With the faster-than-light drive estimates suggested at least forty worlds could be colonized.

My only problem was the mission was that the superluminal systems were largely untested and the very nature of the assignment prevented the earlier Appleseed ships from reporting success or failure. My doubts should have eliminated me from the project but my test scores and personality traits superseded those faults. Mainly because I know having to live out my life on one of the multigeneration ships would have drive me insane.

After visually inspecting my ship from the shuttle I finally docked and was greeted by a gorgeous brunette from shipyard security who scanned me looking for all manner explosives. I found myself admiring her cleavage enhanced by her tight uniform at the same time she kept her wrist mounted plasma needler not exactly pointed in my direction. Proof that the insane Luddites back on Earth would still kill anyone who believed the Andar warning.  

The Diaspora had just about ended all forms of ceremony and a few hours later after being inserted into my fluid-filled stasis chamber and plugged into the ships systems the Olympus and I were watching Jupiter recede in the background.  I was still dealing with the mental buzz the mindfood running through my brain was causing as it aligned my thought processes with the ship’s wetware systems when I discovered a small problem with the superluminal systems.

It was just my over curious nature to discover a small error in the Zero-Point energy system computations and how they were connected to the superluminal pods mere minutes before the Olympus went faster than light. Delving deeper into the program I discovered this was not a small error and that unless I did something fast the ship would be destroyed right after it went into hyperspace. Ancient history had been my passion back on Earth and as I flowed through the interconnected systems leading to the pods I realized what I was doing was once called a “Hail Mary.”

The Olympus went into hyperspace nanoseconds after I finished realigning everything the best I could. My reward was that the ship was still in one piece but it was then that I realized that the issue was a general design flaw and that unless the departed Appleseed captains found the problem, unlikely I thought, they had all died minutes after leaving the solar system. Given the nature of FTL travel they had all been reduced to subatomic particles reentering normal space with hyperspace absorbing the explosions.

Going completely against orders I cut the superluminal engines and reentered normal space barely a light-year out of the solar system. There were other Appleseed ships under construction and I needed to save not just their captains but also the frozen embryos and all that equipment and effort. Aiming my communication array back towards Callisto I was rewarded with nothing but silence and normal background static. Central fleet command on Earth and Luna offered the same forcing me to focus my sensors on all three bodies.   

Shock almost overcame me as I noticed everything was gone, Callisto looked like it did when the ancient Pioneer and Voyager probes passed it in the Twentieth century, Luna was dark brown and gray with no evidence human occupation, and none of Earth’s huge orbital factories could be seen.

I scanned the surrounding stars and discovered the problem, they were all out of proper position. The imbalance, while not blowing the ship and me up, had sent us two-hundred, fifty-thousand years in the past. With no better answer as to what to do I engaged the stellar engine and made my way back home.

A year later I now orbit the home of humanity looking for evidence of my species and finding nothing of Homo sapiens. My shipboard scans and automated probes I deployed can find plenty of Neanderthals and several other hominid species but nothing of the species that nearly destroyed the planet but eventually found a way to overcome their barbaric nature. There should be bands of Homo sapien hunter-gatherers all across southern Africa but the dusty savannas are empty. An old anthropology problem comes to mind as I circle Earth; the question of human origins was long abandoned because of the Diaspora but the fossil record on Earth suggests Homo sapiens seem to have appeared suddenly and out of nowhere.

My duty seems clear, I have over a million frozen embryos onboard and all the equipment I need to start the human race where it should already exist. Thousands of questions occupy my mind over this situation as well as the added responsibility of the collective weight of all future human sins and misdeeds. Do I even have the authority to create the human race in the first place?

This additional accidental divinity is a damn near unbearable burden but even now two of the embryos, one male and one female, are growing in the artificial wombs onboard my ship. I have decided to give them the names Deucalion and Pyrrha, which seems fitting since I am destined to watch over them and their children from my spaceborne Olympus for as long as possible. The ultimate question of what role I will play in this rerun of human history is a mystery to me, will I be an arrogant Zeus or a benign Prometheus? Another question of lesser importance that I none the less ponder in my solitude is what becomes of my ship and me as we march through time back to the beginning?

(Author's note: With the chaos of the weekend fading I dredged up a couple of better ideas for the ending.)


Pixel Peeper said...

Quite fun to read, Beach, and what a clever twist at the end!

Windsmoke. said...

Who would have thought that man could recreate man in the future and not god as we are lead to believe :-).

allen said...

"Anything that happens, happens.
Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.
Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.
It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though"
(The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide)

David Barber said...

Nice work, Ron. Well written with a great ending. Well done!

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Thank you! Actually I'm not happy with the story, I got it where I wanted but I had too many people calling my name all weekend and it lost some of the punch I had in mind.

Windsmoke: The origins of us humans is curious, unless new data has been discovered the last I heard our species did "suddenly" appear in southern Africa about the time my fictional captain made it into Earth orbit with his starship.

Allen: You know, Douglas Adams may have been God but us naked primates were too stupid to notice.

David: Thanks my friend! I may still tweak it some more.

Akelamalu said...

There's hope for mankind then if you're in charge Beach!

Are you sure you're not from the future??? (wink)

Liberality said...

no don't do it--leave the world in peace for once! oh, shit, there you go starting trouble all over again...:)

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: The future? No, but I do feel I am either 200 years too early or too late.

Liberality: Actually thought about making the captain of the Olympus be the founder of the "Andar" after leaving a few thousand Homo sapiens on Earth. Might revisit this story sometime.

ERR said...

Very good. Be careful playing god, you might just end up as one.

Kentucky Rain said...

I've been away far too long. I must have spent an hour at least over here. Great stuff as always, except better....


Oso said...

Beach,I thoroughly enjoyed the story and its twists - to this reader it's not lacking in punch at all!

chad rohrbacher said...

I really enjoyed it. It's difficult to write a compelling story that deals with such sweeping story lines

Joyce said...

Wow. I wonder if two times will be the charm...

What an obligation to assume; such power and such responsibility. Didn't ask for it, but it was thrust upon him. How can he not accept.

What an incredible story. This was fantastic and such a frightening yet exciting twist at the end.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

As I was reading the ending, I swear, I could almost hear Pat Robertson's head exploding.

Angie said...

Ooooh, that was a fun twist at the end!

Flannery Alden said...

I love the world-weariness of your narrator. Great job, Beach Bum!

Beach Bum said...

ERR: Thanks, I believe the real dude/dudette tends to screw humans over when we get to big for our britches.

Madmike: Just getting back into the groove of things after a busy couple of weeks. Been over briefly to your place will return shortly.

Oso: Had several really super duper ideas for this story but last weekend was a bitch and the days after have not been any better. Most of the good ideas fell off my train of thought and were forgotten. Was able to rescue the ending and make it something more to my original idea.

Chad: Thanks, yeah like I mention to Oso I about screwed the pooch.

Joyce: Yeah, I felt my character was able to deal with the original Appleseed mission but when he inadvertently became the "father" of all humanity that was way too much. May revisit this story and do something about the fall of humanity.

Will: LOL!!!!! Sort of wanted to do just that, create a strange situation that takes things to a completely different plain.

Angie: Thank you, not my best story but I sort of like it.

Flannery: Thank you, yeah the captain of the Olympus knows he is over his head.

Doc said...

A solid story throughout Beach. Way to knock it out of the park!


Beach Bum said...

Doc: Thank you but it could have been better. I started it with several ideas in mind I wanted to explore. But no one in my family would leave me alone for any length of time and this is the best I could do.