Trope-a-Day: Human Popsicle

Human Popsicle: Cryostasis used to be a standard way of storing people, and was taken advantage of for a variety of purposes, specifically including the Deep Star projects (subluminal interstellar colonization of the Thirteen Colonies, with ships full of frozen people), and, in the time after the prospect of fixing the dead was mooted but before the technology to do so was available, freezing something very close to everybody who died accidentally “for later”, in the Vaults of the Dead Awaiting.  Hates the permadeath, they does.  Some people, chrononauts, even used it electively for, to be closest to the spirit of the trope, deliberate one-way time travel into the future.  See history while skipping the boring parts!

In the modern era, cryostasis is an archaic technology, mostly replaced with digital archiving for minds and the rather more high-tech and less damaging/risky nanostasis for organic bodies, but the effects and the purposes for doing it remain much the same.

Trope-a-Day: Generation Ships

Generation Ships: The Empire itself has never used generation ships, despite thinking of the concept.  Regular lighthuggers don’t count – the whole immortality thing means that while children may well be born en voyage, the people who got on will by and large be the same people who’ll get off.  Their first burst of interstellar colonization (the Thirteen Colonies) was done subluminally, but the Deep Stars carried frozen colonists, so they don’t count either.  And the wandering city-ships don’t count simply because they’re not a means of transport, they’re places people live – and people come and go all the time, any time they pass through a system.

Which is not, of course, to say that the concept’s never been used by anyone else; I’m sure it has, probably quite a bit, and still is in places beyond the Associated Worlds, or where they’re still en route.  And, arguably, the couple of nomadic cultures (the londian, for one example) who live on wandering city-ships and have nowhere to leave them for but other city-ships might well count.

First First Contact (4)

CS Extropy Rising, entering Galáré system.
Core, Command Bridge

Two hours later, Svínif looked around the conference table, and wished his old headache back.

“Preliminary reports. Let’s see what we have. Comms?”

“EM emissions from our target world, just as the exception said, all over from log-8 to log-10. Nothing even resembling a standard format, so I’d say they haven’t invented a stardrive while we’ve been in transit, but apart from that…”

“No chance it’s a natural phenomenon?”

“No chance at all. Definitely non-random, and the information entropy’s too high. It’s got to be sapient transmissions. My filters can’t find anything that looks like recognizable audio or video modulation – most likely data, and of a high order.”

“Sensory?”

“Nothing new, yet. We should be getting some good images back from the orbital probes in the next couple of hours, though.” She hesitated. “I canceled the launch program for the ground probes. I thought it might look hostile, dropping them planetside without asking.”

“Good thinking.” Svínif looked around the table again, mentally tallying the officers. “As nothing else has been flagged up as urgent, let’s hold the routine stuff for now.“ His head hurt abominably.

“Well, gentlesophs, this is quite the situation we’re in. If they’re as smart as their comms suggest they are, they’ll have spotted us by now, and have a fair idea what we are. And unless any of you know the universal signal for ’Excuse me, soph, could you spare a megaton of deuterium?’, it’s not like we can turn the ship around and go home.”

“If we stopped the entry burn right now,” the Flight Director confirmed, “We’d have enough Δv to swing around the sun onto a return vector. No fuel for a burn, though. Our frozen hulk would make it home in, oh, 3,500 years or so.”

“So, let’s hope the locals are friendly and don’t take our turning up with a shipload of frozen colonists too badly. Dig out the first contact set, Comms, and — wait, none of that traffic was directed at us yet?”

“Not that I can tell. Maybe they’re waiting for us to make the first move.”

“Well, send them the first sequence-set on the hydrogen line, broad-angle, and we’ll see what we get back. Until then… by the book, gentlesophs, by the book. Assume we’ll be making orbit as planned unless we hear otherwise somehow. If nothing mishcrit comes up, send your status reports to my terminal. Thank you, all.”

As they dispersed to their consoles, he rested his head for a moment on the cool vitrine tabletop.  Well, you’re in the history books now. Just – let it not be for starting the first interstellar war.

First First Contact (3)

Galáré Actual, Galáré System.

The noösphere of Galáré sang with electromagnetic voices.  The galari themselves, crystalline creatures of carbon-wrought silicon,  were the most complex voices in the song, exchanging trills and dithyrambs of information, an endless symphony of knowledge framed in multi-layered harmonies of incredible complexity; not a singular overmind, but a continual conversation on a million topics, each seeking its own harmony.  The simpler voices of lesser orders, the stony plantimal-forms from which the galari arose, the spun-crystal worker-machines, and the computer minds embodied in the planet’s greatest monoliths filled out the chorus; and Galáré itself, so much of its surface worked into matrices in which the knowledge and history, the memories, of the species were imprinted, echoed the song back to them.

Now, though, the song was disturbed.  For centuries, the music of Galáré had been serene, a slow adagio towards a well-planned future, filled with calm and order, endless self-reflection and contemplation of the sciences and philosophies stored within the galari’s great archives.  But today the astronomers sang quick, sharp arias of warning: of the 18.3 MeV glow the oneirists thought most likely for a fusion drive, with blueshift and parallax showing its path clearly.

Someone was coming to Galáré, and the divergent imaginings made the song stutter in jagged dissonance.

First First Contact (2)

CS Extropy Rising, one light-day outside Galáré system.

Sophont intervention required.

Supercargo processor: Engage emergency revival sequence for Command Conference in accordance with protocol 1030.

Core, Cryobay Ess Zero.

Fire and ice.

Microwaves hammered at the frozen bodies hanging in the thick blue gel that filled the cryotubes, bringing them slowly back up to a temperature suitable for bringing them back to life.  Tapping their energy as flesh thawed, the crude nanites perfused into the bodies’ tissues before chill-down came sluggishly into action, attempting to patch the gross damage of cryostasis with a sensation like ten-thousand red-hot needles, then sending painful trickles of electrical current down raw nerves to coax activity from reawakening muscles and organs.

Flight Commander Svínif Andracanth-ith-Cyranth leaned over the side of his cryotube, wet, naked and shivering, and spewed a long stream of greasy gray-green freezer-porridge onto the deckplates; then hung there, caught between coughing, retching, and trying not to do both at once.  Around him in the bay, he was aware through the sick throbbing in his head of the rest of the command crew doing much the same.

“…I repeat: Non-emergency critical exception in progress.  Command Conference to the bridge, please.  Command Conference to the bridge.”

First First Contact (1)

One light-day outside Galáré system.

The long plume of the fusion torch flickered out, and the great ship began to rotate slowly, end over end, bringing the foreshield once more into alignment with its direction of travel. The wide radiator vanes of the drive module glowed a bright cherry-red from the torch’s waste heat.

Extropy Rising, the eighth sleeper-ship of the Deep Star program, had finished decelerating into the Galáré system.

In obedience to the programming set up before it had left its construction slip in Talentar orbit, the triple-triple computers which controlled the Rising completed the flip, then turned their attention to the next steps in the entry procedure. A centrifugal ring spun up, throwing a sextet of probes outward to safe ignition distance. Sensors, unused since launch, slid out from behind the foreshield and powered up.

As the computers gorged themselves on the influx of new data, ongoing critical paths were adjusted at thousands of decision gates, fine-tuning the remainder of the mission to match the newly revealed local conditions; precise solar spectra, orbital elements, atmospheric composition…

Extensive electromagnetic emissions from the third planet in the log-8 to log-10 bands. That was outside all defined parameters.

Sophont intervention required.