Earth, Sol System, 2952
What makes me write? Perhaps I'm just feeling nostalgic already. Things look like being quieter for me from now on, but quiet isn't necessarily good. I think it's important to look back and reflect upon the past.
I keep remembering what has now become my earlier life, along with all the implied attachments. I sort of fell apart last week, so several people recommended I start writing in order to try and get my thoughts together.
Where to begin? I suppose the Tyrhenna would be a good start. She was a fine ship - a veritable model of a spacer vessel. She was fast enough to make each journey a matter of decades instead of millennia; she was heavily armoured to keep radiation from the sleeping crew; she was powerfully armed to deal with trouble - and, for seven quite remarkable individuals, along with myself, she was home. I realize that this must sound very standard to a modern audience, but I have to emphasize how strange and wonderful the ship was to me at the time I first found myself on it.
What made the ship special, however, was the crew - and that's also one of the biggest reasons I feel so shaken up. We got on well with one another, and if you consider that the other crew members were the only permanent friends and family any of us had, that's something really special on a ship. We don't have it anymore, though. I've chosen to abandon both the ship and the crew's other loss. Tom's gone, and it's looking like there's nothing we can do to help him out. His disappearance sparked an epiphany of sorts, and now I feel cut off from everyone else.
They're all doing their best to get him back; Chryse and the captain are talking to the stubborn local government, while the three techies, David, Michael, and Rachel, are working on a way to search for him without a direct survey. Ruby's gone off on foot - the only legal option - in the hope that she can somehow manage to find one person in over two hundred square kilometres of jungle - I wished her good luck, but everyone knows that she's looking in vain. By contrast, I'm acting as if he's already dead. It hurts me to realise that I'm giving in to despondency, but being able to recognise the problem hasn't helped me to deal with it so far. The crisis has clearly separated the chaff from the wheat.
Doctor Henkel told me that feeling that way was only natural, and that the captain had asked him to remind me there was nothing I could have done - but I know the truth. None of them know how it was, just standing there being useless. I tried to tell them that, but I stopped after the third or fourth time - all they did was tell me to calm down and not to blame myself. So now I've given up - I'm being a good little girl and staying out of the way. I haven't told them yet, but I'm going to stay here when the ship departs. I can't be bothered writing down the reasons - everyone I've told them to has started acting sorry for me, and chances are that this journal is being monitored anyway - even if I bothered encrypting it, almost anyone could break through or use the ship's master codes.
I suppose that I won a victory of sorts in that regard - I'm not writing as such, but thinking. It feels strange just making a story happen, and just knowing that it's been done - but it certainly means that editing is simpler. Rachel had to keep from crying when she put the implants in - I gathered that they'd been meant for Tom.
I have to say I'm surprised by how badly she's taken his loss - while she's doing her best to work with the rest of the crew, it seems to me that she's hollow inside. The strangest thing is that I would never have thought her to be the one to follow in my footsteps and break down. She doesn't have the kind of basic connection that David shares with him, nor the trust that he's built up with Ruby or Chryse - as for Michael and the captain... well, they've got their own ways of dealing with pain.
I suppose it's because, like me, she doesn't have any illusions about his chances. I don't care what they say, proximity leads to wishful thinking. I can see the three of them lying to themselves, pretending that he's going to be all right. David I can understand especially. He and Tom share a home, after all, so it's natural for him to go into denial.
But this isn't helping any - I'm supposed to be trying to forget the present. I'm just meant to be writing whatever comes into my head... so I guess I'll just talk about the things worth remembering.
On to Chryse, in that case. He was the ship's EVA specialist; even more than the rest of us, he was accustomed to zero-g; he almost seemed to enjoy weightlessness for its own sake. He embodied the unspoken contract we had with the ship: it protected us during our journeys through the void, and we took good care of it whenever it stopped in orbit around a planet. Chryse was the one who went out and patched the meteoroid holes and repaired the radio dishes, taking radiation so the ship could keep on ferrying us from place to place. And yet despite his role in the crew, he could really do anything. Whenever there was a situation on the ground we couldn't handle with the people we'd put there, he was the first to volunteer. He helped the captain close deals, he wrote programs for the ship's autonomous management routines, and he was the first choice for infiltration deals. More than anyone else on board, he truly seemed born to live among the stars; an all-purpose tool in a ship full of specialists, he really did epitomise the spacer ethos.
Last but not least (a horrible cliché, but I find it oddly touching) was Tom. Even now, I don't know quite what to feel about him. While he had a rougher time than any of us on the ship (and is now God knows where, lost if not dead), I still remember him as the quiet, shy boy who introduced me to the life of a spacer. Although he seemed frozen over, made hard by his experiences, I feel that the boy I knew during my early days on the ship is still inside him, as brilliant and vulnerable as ever. Perhaps that's the real reason I write, to say how much I miss him and hope he'll come back to life.
He still was a new hand when I joined, a little younger than me and twice as shy, apparently taken in for his enthusiasm and his intuitive ability to improve on old designs. Looking back, I realize that despite all the mutual embarrassment and avoidance, there could have been something between us - but we were both too shy to do anything about it until it was too late.
Lately I've been trying to get my head in order; I hope that this can do the job. Life's been very confusing as of late, and despite the problems that it's caused me, I think my decision to stay put here was the right one.
The Tyrhenna had been decelerating for several years before she came into orbit around Demeter. We had seen them well before they arrived, but there was no cause for panic. These days, Spacers minded their own business and allowed planet-dwellers to do the same. Visiting ships were no longer cause for celebration, either; not because they weren't welcome, but because they had become routine. A ship was a once-in-a-year occurrence on Demeter, so the old practices had slipped a little. Crews could no longer expect the kind of celebrity status that they'd enjoyed a hundred years ago - but they didn't really mind; they understood that human society was becoming stratified and knew that they couldn't change it. Of course, I didn't know most of this back then. I only knew that another ship was coming, and hoped that it might bring some solutions to our problems.
This crew, at least, certainly didn't seem like the near-mythical starfarers we'd expected. They were relaxed, casual, almost sleepy at times. They wore loose, nondescript clothes and spoke in quiet tones. While their electronic technology was clearly visible, they didn't sport any obvious changes of body or shape, and they seemed - well, normal. Nothing like what we'd expected, that's for sure. I later found out that this was because spacers led such a cramped life aboard ship; they loved to get out on a planet and enjoy all of the freedoms of unlimited atmosphere and real gravity. Their docile mood, I found, came partly as an aftereffect of their long sleep, but it was also part of the way they saw the world; planets, in their minds, were places for quiet relaxation - safe havens, where they could all sleep at the same time and not worry about the thousand different disasters that could happen on a ship.
As usual, the whole crew came down (to my town, First Landing, as we had the best infrastructure to receive ships). The ship was mostly automated, so despite its size you could quite easily move all of the crew down to a surface without having to drydock it. They were met by the usual delegation; the mayor and several other dignities - the usual promises were made, diplomatic words exchanged.
I was in the crowd, and I wondered, along with several of my friends and probably most of the others there, whether the delegation was going to crack the really tough issue. I had bet against it. Ship crews generally don't like to involve themselves in intra-planetary politics, but as the Tyrhenna had never visited Demeter before (and may well never have done so again), so the officials had thought it worth the risk.
As such, the decision was made to approach the spacers about it. I turned out to be right: the first meeting was all smiles and sugar. Since my father was a man of some import, I was privileged enough to be at the official trade ceremony, where formal offers and requests are made between the spacers and our government. I was sitting on one of the side benches in the town hall, almost on the edge of my seat with anticipation. It's hard to be patient when a big problem, especially one that affects you directly, is shoved out of the way in favour of small talk and procedure.
Finally the deputy mayor broached the subject in his usual direct way (I had a feeling that the officials had been saving him for the occasion). After a few formalities, he got to business, clearing his throat and looking at the three spacers attending (whom I later knew as Gareth, Tom and Ruby) in a rather apologetic manner.
For quite a while, there had been conflict on Demeter, and we were unlucky enough to be caught in the middle. A low-tech world like ours naturally generates a certain amount of discontent; there were always people who wanted newer, brighter futures. There were also heretics of another sort, people who wanted us to burn and raze every piece of machinery we had retained, to purge us of our 'original sin' of industry. Neither side was loved, but none of the larger towns felt like stopping either of them. As the conflict unfolded, my town (which had the misfortune of being caught in the middle) was raided regularly by both sides. The spacers were our best hope; if they could get the two factions to stop fighting, (or at least leave us out of it) then we would once again have medicine and adequate food.
I remember sitting in suspense, waiting for their answer. My stake in the matter was not an abstract one: I was asthmatic - a dangerous affliction on a world where little can be done to help, especially when you live in the middle of an enormous plain, full of pollen and seeds. From time to time, I have nightmares, remembering long, dark days in spring, my sinuses clogged and my throat constricting. My parents had kept me inside to avoid the worst of the pollen on windy days, but there were still several times, I think, when I was given up for dead. I don't know who or what to thank, but I am truly grateful to have survived.
In the end, it turned out to be my lucky day: the captain agreed to help us out. He and three of his crew left and returned two days later with assurances that our town would be left alone. That gesture alone made them all heroes to us. But it wasn't quite the same in my case: I had one more request of the Tyrhenna's crew.
I asked them to take me with them.