Thursday, November 19, 2020

Something New, Perhaps?

     [Writers write. Some of us have no choice about it. Just now, that’s how I feel: write, or die.

     The following just popped out of my fingers. It feels like the beginning of something, though I’m not yet sure what. Perhaps you’ll have some suggestions for me. --FWP]

     The Counter-Hegira was a long time in the planning. The planners needed to be certain that their provisions included everything the colonists would require to establish an endurable economic, social, and political order on the motherworld of Mankind. The preliminary probes had made it plain that the wars that depopulated Earth had rendered its prior economic-industrial base useless to a new populace. Nature had reclaimed the planet almost completely; the few recognizable structures that remained had deteriorated to uselessness. Whatever the colonists would need to recreate civilization on Earth, they must bring with them.
     The resulting list of required items was staggering. The volume the supplies would occupy caused the organizers great anguish, for they had thought the vessel for the journey to be already at hand. It was an asteroid twelve miles in diameter that mining operations had neatly hollowed out. It could easily be fitted with the engines, instrumentation, and environmental support required for the interstellar trek. But it was too small for the purpose.
     The volume of supplies needed wasn’t the only reason that seemingly convenient asteroid wouldn’t serve. The Counter-Hegira project had solicited volunteers for the enterprise from the whole of Cetia. The response had been as voluminous as the logistical requirements. Before the planners could close applications, they had acquired a list of over thirty thousand volunteers. The would-be migrants were of every nation, race, creed, and philosophy on Cetia. Their aggregate resources, all of which they committed to the trek, came to slightly over 300 billion floi: more than enough for the undertaking, as ambitious as it seemed. But they would need a bigger vessel, and not just because of their number.
     The planners selected a much larger asteroid, a nickel-iron body approximately thirty miles in diameter, and set crews to hollowing and preparing it. They partitioned the interior to separate inimical migrant groups from one another, and to guarantee the security of the supplies the settlers would need to create an adequate economic base. It developed that the ores carved out of the asteroid could be sold at a profit to several Cetian nations. That provided a useful increment to the expedition’s funding.
     Despite the unprecedented resources committed to the project, the engineering and logistical phases took over four years to complete. Strife on Cetia’s surface often threatened to derail the project entirely. The planners and the specialists who captained asteroid operations suffered frequent bouts of doubt that verged upon despair. Yet there came a day, four years and more from the inception of the enterprise, when all was finally ready and the migrants could board the ship.
     There was space enough for the migrants and their belongings.
     There were supplies enough for the journey and the colonization effort.
     The engines were fueled and ready to take the vessel to the edge of lightspeed.
     The chief of the project decreed that boarding and the assignment of berths could begin. Once the crew and migrants were aboard and settled, the asteroid-vessel could set forth. However, it needed a name. To plunge into the Deep Dark without first naming the vessel would surely bring bad luck, perhaps even disaster.
     Many names were suggested. The chief picked the winner:
     Homeward Bound.
     His partners concurred with his choice, but then, they’d concurred with virtually every decision he’d made. He was a visionary, an acknowledged genius of conception, planning, and management. His attainments were the stuff of legend. They had named him their premier without considering an alternate. Thereafter they trusted every decision of significance to him and him alone. He had not disappointed them.
     And so, on the twelfth day of the fifth month of Terrasynth year 5823, the 3617th anniversary of the First Landfall upon Cetia, Homeward Bound fired its engines. It accelerated steadily away from Tau Ceti, toward where they expected to find Sol eleven years hence. The project chief had the conn at the launch, for he was as brilliant a mathematician, engineer, and astrogator as he was a planner and manager.
     His name was Philip Lonsdale.
     The histories of Earth Renewed would style him Philip the Bold, the founder and first King of Neastra.


Copyright © 2020 Francis W. Porretto. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.


1104wrhmr6r said...

I can't wait, regardless of how you develop it. At first I thought it was a new Spooner Federation novel.

Amy Bowersox said...

This is a fascinating snippet that feels like it's the "middle" of a story, and begs some interesting questions. What happened on Earth that caused it to become depopulated? Is it really depopulated, or are there a few survivors left, possibly reduced to barbarism? What about plant and animal life? Have, perhaps, new organisms arisen that will pose a danger to our Cetian colonists? How did humanity get to Tau Ceti in the first place? What prompted the desire to launch the Counter-Hegira and recolonize the Earth, as opposed to setting forth for still newer frontiers?

(Also: Tau Ceti, eh? Are they Urrasti or Anarresti? :) )

Micro said...

Fran, this is the story type at which you excel. As another commenter said, it is somewhat inline with your Spooner saga. I hope you can bring it to life as a full novel.

evilfranklin said...

Why must the colonists take tremendous amounts of gear to survive? Are they not advanced and confident enough to re-colonize a planet that, at one time, supported a thriving civilization?

Linda Fox said...

Yeah, about that gear. I'd have thought that true interstellar travel would have invented ways to 'live off the land (space)'. Relying on supplies makes escaping tethering too risky. Travelers need to find ways to mine nearby asteroids or other debris for elemental supplies.

Ron Olson said...

Like the fellow said, "I can't wait" . I don't know about your other readers but I could use a a primer called an illiterate's guide to writing book reviews.