September 17th 2012
The Artemis was the manifestation of a dream. When the announcement came that a vessel was being constructed for a push to the nearest potentially habitable planet, the public flipped. Alien worlds and first contact was no longer the province of sci-fi, it was becoming a tantalizing reality.
The ship would be fitted with stasis couches (known as ‘boots’), terraforming equipment and supplies, and an AI Core at the helm. Maximum capacity: Five thousand.
A call went out for volunteers.
No one downplayed the risks, of which there were many. On a slow-burn with the latest engines, the Artemis would take over two hundred years to reach its destination. A lot can happen in that time. Regardless, there were over a million volunteers. Committees filtered the list down, trying to balance the best combination of skills, trades, and disciplines.
The following are excerpts from Chariot to the Stars, the official companion piece to the launch, based on the compiled flight logs, personal journals, and witness accounts of the Artemis and its launch.
TIME STAMP: Launch = -0d14h38m13s
On the eve of the Artemis’ launch, Captain Lisa Danvers was checking circuit boards underneath the Comm station on the bridge… for the third time.
Arthur Kenlo, Engineering, sat on the arm of the Captain’s chair. He’d given up trying to figure out what she was looking for.
Lisa always had an issue with big ships. Sure, she’d flown transports before but this was different. There were a thousand things that could go wrong which could, in turn, affect a million functions. It was maddening and she probably screwed herself by even starting down this path.
“Are you sure I can’t assist you, Captain?” A disembodied voice said, murmuring from dozens of hidden speakers throughout the bridge. It was the AI, helpful as always.
“No, I’m okay.” She said, Kenlo mouthed along the words of what was clearly a familiar exchange. Lisa couldn’t see anything wrong, out of place, or suspect in the myriad of circuit boards. She hated pre-flight anxiety. No matter what she did, it always hit her bad. So she made an executive decision, she cut herself off and replaced the panel. Kenlo perked up.
“Yeah, I think so. Hey Janus?”
“Yes Captain?” The disembodied voice replied.
“Generate another set of contingency actions for the Stasis Boots.”
“Do you have any specific parameters?”
“No, use your imagination.”
“That is a concept of which I only have a external understanding.”
“Outside the box. Something that we haven’t thought of.”
“I will try, Captain.”
That night, Janus, the AI Core, tried to imagine.
TIME STAMP: Launch = -0d0h4m21s
The next morning, the world waited. The volunteer population was waiting on an Orbital Platform. The engineers felt it would be easier that way, save themselves the trouble of having to build launch seating for five thousand if they didn’t have to. So they had been ferried up there in groups over the past few weeks.
Today was the launch of the Artemis itself. Danvers and her core crew would take her up then dock with the Platform to pick up the Civilians and any last minute supplies. NewsOrgs from around the world were gathered, ready to capture the moment in every conceivable format and put it on anything with a screen.
Lisa was already strapped in, the nerves and jitters of the past few days melting away with each passing moment. She stared at the main projection screen, displaying the front view of the ship. Right now, it was just a sealed launch tube. She thought about what lay beyond it, the sky. The sky that she loved. It was waiting for her to come back.
Danvers glided through her pre-flight checks. She was thorough and professional but couldn’t get through them fast enough. Crew departments checked in, it was green across the board. A final check in with Flight Control. They were set.
It was time.
Klaxons outside the ship began beeping. The massive metal gates of the flight tube unlocked with heavy thuds.
“Captain Danvers, shall I assume launch control?” Janus said.
“No, I got it.”
“Are you sure, Captain?”
The gates started to move.
“But Captain, I have a .002 error quotient to-”
“Just show me that sky. I’ll get us there.”
TIME STAMP: Launch = +9d5h12m57s
Janus assumed control and circle for a week once the crew and civilians had entered stasis to check for any errors or anomalies. Effectively a dry run of how the ship would run once it started its Push. If there were any problems, Flight Control could abort and even remotely pilot the Artemis back if need be.
Flight Control finished a final assessment of the checks. Everything looked good. Justin Cobb, the Mission Director, looked over the bays of technicians, scientists, and analysts.
“This is our last chance. If anybody’s got the slightest hesitation or concern, I don’t care how it’ll sound or how the people upstairs will flip, you better voice it.”
Silent. Cobb gave it a few moments then nodded to establish contact with the Artemis.
“How are you Janus?”
“I have been running simulations. Contingency scenarios. Examples include; random Power fluctuation, impact with foreign body, contact with new uncategorized gas or element, contact with hostile organism, etc.”
“I think we’ll be satisfactory.”
Cobb glanced at the nearest Tech, slightly confused by the AI’s language. “You think?”
“I imagine we will be fine, Mr. Cobb.”
Twenty-two minutes later, the Artemis blasted its thrusters, starting a full-burn for a scheduled seventy minutes. It passed the edge of our solar system, into that great sea of space beyond, into that silent black that surrounds us.
And so we wait, dreaming of the things that they will find, hoping that one day we will hear back from the brave men and women who boarded the Artemis, that chariot to the stars, and struck out as the first Ambassadors of this United Earth.