Erin Moore spent her last free day on Earth with James Thomas at their favorite resort on the Brazilian savanna. James was still in bed asleep as she sipped a cup of coffee while sitting on their room's balcony looking out toward the giant domes that preserved the last remnants of the Amazon Rain forest.
For a moment she considered taking a picture of the massive structures to show her future children, but ultimately decided against the idea. If the mission counselors stumbled upon the holographic photos as the last of her personal effects were uploaded to the ship's servers they might get a wild hair and takeaway her flight status. Too many global credits had gone into the mission to have even one crew member dealing with the psychological trauma of permanently leaving Earth. What was truly bothering her was the message flashing on her personal datapad.
The legal A.I. entity her lawyers employed had finally worked out all the details on the termination of Erin's five-year marriage contract with James. The pad screen listed out how their mutual property was being divided along agreed lines. The whole procedure being a testament to the timeless idiocy of legal mumbo jumbo since her personal property mass limit was five kilograms. Erin's situation simply didn't lend itself to keeping any of the items they bought as a couple.
Is this an example of the separation anxiety the mission counselors were always warning us about, she thought to herself. Erin took refuge in the idea that the reason she and James did a five-year contract was that their careers were always going to be considered above the relationship. She had applied for a slot on one of the Alpha Centauri colony missions right after graduating from university. James, already a pilot in the United Earth Space Navy, required the marriage leeway to keep his career viable. Having to turn down a possible posting someplace faraway like the habitat orbiting Pluto because of a wife and kids would kill his chances for promotion. The cold war between Earth and Mars might be over, but there were still colony habitats beyond Saturn that adhered to the totalitarian Neo-spartan ideology.
It wouldn't matter to me, she thought to herself as she climbed back into bed and moved closer to her former husband. She would be on the Gaia by tomorrow afternoon leaving James forever. She knew he had already started communicating with one of the female members of his squadron. Erin cynically figured they would be an item before her cold sleep chamber had fully suspended her body between life and death.
Even though Erin was nursing a self righteous grudge, she maneuvered herself into James' arms. This was no time for second thoughts Erin continued to herself, years of struggling to make it through the selection process and then even more time training for the chance to be part of the last crewed colonization expedition to Alpha Centauri was something she couldn't pass up. Even if it meant letting James go as she and the six-thousand other pioneers went into cold sleep for the fifty year voyage to the planet now called New Haven.
The cargo shuttle lifted off from the Boa Vista complex carrying the last batch of crew members for the Gaia. In her seat, Erin clutched the small box James had given her just minutes before boarding. After making her promise to open it before going into cold sleep, he turned and coldly walked away without saying goodbye. Not exactly how she imagined their last moments, but Erin was ready for it nonetheless. Feeling slightly hurt, Erin walked down the passageway to the shuttle and found her seat. Barely ten minutes later the shuttle rolled onto the runway and lifted off into the atmosphere and beyond.
The trip to the Centauri colony shipyards at the lunar Lagrange-4 point took a day and Erin used it to close up all her other loose ends. She made one final call to her mom and dad in San Diego then to a few former teachers and professors. Erin felt strangely detached talking with her parents for the last time but she ended the call without shedding a lot of tears. Her younger brother was married and living with his wife and child in Scotland. Given that the global restrictions on family size had been removed, her parents would almost definitely see another grandchild and maybe even a third. Babies running around a house did a lot to sooth the pain of of parents missing their crazy daughter who wanted run off to another star system.
It wasn't until the latter part of the flight that she finally opened the box James had given her. Inside was an even smaller box that had a strange type of memory crystal embedded into the top. A small strip of paper had the words: “Push down on the crystal with your thumb.”
Unfolding the small table attached the seat in front of her, Erin placed the box on it and followed the instructions. A couple of seconds later a miniature, hologram of James appeared above the crystal. When it began to speak, Erin lost all her carefully crafted composure.
“Hi sweetie,” the hologram said in James' voice, “bet you thought you would never hear or see me again. This is one of the newest toys the damn Martians created in their labs. When I was there as an liaison with the provisional government one of the Martians told me about these keepsakes. See, they take a scan of your brain down to a molecular level and embed it onto a hyper-memory crystal. Through the use of some seriously crazy software this device creates an artificial personality allowing a limited form of interaction.
While this representation of me isn't a true artificial intelligence, we can still carry on a conversation. Hope you don't mind me tagging along to New Haven. And no, this avatar doesn't have an emotional algorithm, so I'll never be jealous of whomever you hook up with at the end of your voyage. Just imagine, you can show your grand kids the weirdo you were married to back on Earth.”
For the rest of journey on the shuttle, Erin hid in one of the zero-gee restrooms crying.
Gaia was falling towards Earth using the planet's gravity to slingshot out into interplanetary space where its main engines would then ignite. Erin was in engineering monitoring the several orbital tugs guiding the colony starship on the first leg of its long journey. Earth filled the large screen above her workstation with Erin wondering just what James was doing down on the surface. She had tried to call him several times but was sent to voicemail after each attempt. It was clear their breakup wasn't as cut and dry as they originally planned.
Erin duties did not prevent her from enjoying the majesty of her home world. The Earth's human population was down to under six-billion with it projected to fall much further due to two centuries of global planning and management. It took the Chaos Times of the twenty-first century to finally force humanity to evolve beyond infantile ideologies and realize their own extinction was a real possibility. Born in the mid-twenty second century, Erin couldn't fathom the world that had existed up until the 2050's when the stirrings of the New Rationalists began to be heard over the continuous, destructive static of what was then human civilization.
While much had been done to first stop the destruction then repair the damage, the flooded coastlines of the continents were a testament to human stupidity. While the atmosphere was approaching pre-industrial levels and the planetary climate had stabilized, the massive flooding that had devastated whole countries and submerged entire islands was irreversible.
Once clear of Earth and its orbital system, the Gaia's main engines were pushed up to one-hundred percent it was time for the crew to enter cold sleep. Erin entered her cold sleep chamber with the assistance of two human technicians and a restrict intelligence robot. The drugs slowing her metabolism and preparing her body for the cold temperatures made her thoughts hazy. The numerous intravenous lines and monitoring cables attached to her body made Erin feel less than human.
“Okay lieutenant,” the technician said as she calibrated the readings on Erin's medical panel next her chamber, “when you go under all brain activity will stop. The next time you wake up wee will be in orbit around New Haven or whatever the people there finally decided to call the planet.”
As instructed, Erin began counting backward from twenty feeling her mind increasingly slow down. She never reached fifteen before she went under and the techs and robot moved on to the next crew member. However, a final sliver of a thought about James crossed her mind before she was engulfed by the abyss. It was more a feeling than actual words, but as her mind faded she wished to be back on Earth with him.