Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Microstory 1682: Starcatcher

After the wars began—precipitated by a debate about what to do with the people on this version of Earth who were already infected with the sterility virus—a group of scientists figured that there was no way out of this. Now that the virus existed on their planet, there was probably nothing stopping it from getting out eventually. They could bomb the quarantined nation, and they could send people to bunkers, but their fate would eventually catch up to them. They decided that the only way to save the human race was to take it off world. But they weren’t trying to save themselves. They did not have the resources or technology necessary to send a significant enough population to the stars. They would only be able to send frozen embryos, and one individual young adult in stasis. There was also no guarantee that revival from stasis would work, because even though they had tested the technology in the short-term, they didn’t know if it would be able to last for what was potentially thousands of years. There were no sufficiently habitable planets within a reasonable distance from Earth. Neighboring worlds were always too hot, or too massive, or not massive enough. A human outpost could probably survive on these worlds, but again, this was a long-term project, and the people who would grow up in the colony were not liable to be able to advance fast enough in a harsh environment. Thanks to a boost from the solar sails, the ship was capable of traveling at about ten percent the speed of light. It would slow down over time as it hunted for the right world to settle on. Since they didn’t know exactly where the ship would be going, they called it Starcatcher. It was designed to use solar power to jump from the current star to the next, and just keep doing that until the right orbiting body presented itself.

There was no way to know whether their plan would work, let alone how long it might take. They just had to send off the embryos, and hope that Starcatcher found a new home eventually. As aforementioned, this could take thousands of years. They could program the AI to gather the requisite data for every planet they encountered, synthesize it well, and extrapolate a survivability factor, but so many things could go wrong. Again, the scientists would never know how the mission turned out. Even if Starcatcher did manage to find a world just next door, the trip was still going to take decades, and none of them was young enough to still be around. This was all about faith. They were right to have it. Fifty-six thousand years later, Starcatcher found a decent planet that was about 5500 light years away. It had a nitrogen-rich environment with healthy levels of oxygen, 85% water on the surface, and fairly reliable climate patterns. Things went pretty smoothly, but not perfectly. The Governess, as she was called, woke up from stasis, obviously still alive, but she wasn’t intact. She had trouble remembering who she was, and what she was meant to do. Fortunately, she didn’t try to mess with any of the embryos until her mind was better. It just took some time for her to acclimate to the future, and remember her purpose here. You may be wondering how it’s possible for a single woman to raise the 147 babies needed for the initial population. She didn’t start with that number. Experts had developed a complicated development plan for her, which involved starting out slowly, having the older children help raise the younger ones, and patiently doing this over the course of three decades. Humanity was able to restart here, and they never had to worry about the Ochivari again.

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