Captain Elijah Anthony Stormshadow looked out over the crowd waiting to go onto the generation ship that would take them to their new home. He nodded to a young man, who waved to another standing by the ship, and the access door to the big ship opened.
The young man next to the ship, Hydroponics Technician Zachariah Barstow, stepped into the constrictive halls of the ship, then waved to the people waiting below him. The crowd slowly began to move, one after another entering the ship and following Barstow to the cryogenic pods. There would only be a bare bones crew of thirty people for each "shift" on the ship's nearly 60 year long projected journey to humanity's new home. Everyone else would be placed in the cryogenic pods and would remain there as the ship made its way to the planet they'd discovered in Alpha Centauri A's orbit back in 2152. It was hard to believe that no one had gone there since the discovery over sixty years before.
The process of placing everyone in the pods took just over five hours with twenty members of the first shift's crew assisting the young man.
Once the passengers had been placed in the pods, Captain Stormshadow and his crew prepared to detach the ship from the space dock. It had taken six years to build the 1500 meter long ship, and in a moment they would be leaving Earth behind, never to see her beauty again.
He was ready to give the order to release the mag locks when a voice reached them over the comm system. "Starship Earth's Hope, prepare to be boarded, you are not allowed to leave station due to Executive order 2213-72a,b,c dated 02:17 AM GMT June 17, 2213."
Captain Stormshadow replied, "Please repeat, interference ... breaking message, please repeat." The Captain shut down the comm system long enough to order Helm Officer Jonathan Barstow to launch, saying, "If you ever hope to be able to live free, we need to leave NOW."
Jonathan, Zachariah's fraternal twin brother, hit the controls that triggered the release of the ship from the space dock. The two brothers were quite similar, barring the fact that Zachariah's hair was a sandy brown compared to Jonathan's dirty blonde locks. Both were 6'1" tall, weighing around 180 pounds, both had shoulder length hair, steel grey eyes, long, narrow noses, large ears and wide mouths with weak chins.
The mag locks shut down and the ship began to move away from the space dock, slowly picking up speed. The Captain was relieved to see that there were no Orbital Patrol ships nearby, although a large laser from the moon's surface did fire once; the laser wasn't a big problem, the energy from it would be absorbed by the multiple types of shielding that had been implemented as part of the starship's design. One type of shielding was capable of absorbing attacks from weapons such as lasers and turning it into energy for the ship's systems.
"Starship Earth's Hope, you are in violation of executive orders, return to dock now," came through the comm from Luna Control.
"What executive orders are you talking about?" queried Captain Stormshadow.
"Executive orders 2213-72a, 2213-72b and 2213-72c, specifically that no ship is permitted to leave Earth or it's orbit without authorization from Earth Control pursuant to Overlay Inc.'s statement that you are carrying subversives/insurrectionists/dissidents, that said people are to be delivered at once to Overlay Inc. for immediate overlay procedures and that failure to return those people will be considered treason."
"Hmmm... I don't recall seeing or being informed of such executive orders before now, when were they enacted?"
"Yesterday evening at 10:17 PM local time in Washington (03:17 AM UTC) by President Ambrose Blackstone and Vice-President Johnathan Callander. They were then countersigned by the head of Overlay Inc. himself, Valentine Crosse," came the response from Luna Control.
"Ahhh, that explains why I wouldn't have known about it. I'm guessing people at Overlay discovered we were bringing people up here?"
"That would be correct, Captain, now please return to the dock and prepare for boarding by Overlay officials."
"I'm afraid that I can't do that, LunaControl, returning them for such a procedure would be sentencing them to death," the Captain replied.
"What in the heck are you talking about?" Luna Control asked.
"To put it very simply, Luna Control, only one person who has had an overlay has survived past the ten year mark. In 94% of cases, the overlay fails within three to seven years; the three outcomes of a failure are person with overlay suicides alone, person commits one to half a dozen murders, usually close family members, then suicides, or person goes on a rampage killing dozens of people, in some cases, hundreds.
"The only person that ever survived ten years or more with an overlay actually lasted just over twenty-three years, Luna Control. Her name was Petra Bellamy," the Captain stopped speaking for a moment as he heard a sharp hiss from the person at Luna Control. "I can hear that you recognize that name. Well, Petra had been an army captain on short term leave when she snapped; she returned to her base, loaded up six crates containing ten rockets each for use on a rocket launcher, then two other crates, each containing two high end rocket launchers.
"She then left the base and returned to her home town, stopping at a fair sized mall there. She parked in a spot where she could see most of the actual building, then set up the four launchers, placing rockets behind each launcher. Over the next twenty-seven minutes, she used those four launchers to drop rockets filled with high explosives on various sections of that mall. By the time that the various police forces could get there, including two full units of National Guard troops, there was only one shop still standing, or at least not completely destroyed.
"The police and National Guard units were horrified at what she had done. She had also stolen a machine gun, a modernized and updated version of what was known in the former United States as an M60, she turned to face them and started firing. She was dead seconds later.
"In total, Petra Bellamy killed 946 people and injured at least 1,528 others before she was gunned down by the combined police group. Every time people tried to leave by any of the main exits which all faced toward her, Petra aimed a launcher at them and they ran back inside. Of the nearly 2,700 people that were in the mall at the time, shoppers, workers, mall staff, only 207 uninjured people were found.
"I have no idea why the people in that mall never used the secondary exits in the back, but that doesn't matter now, does it?
"Petra Bellamy was the worst, but there were 127 others with failed overlays that committed similar acts since they were first used in 2087."
"Just how did you manage to get all of that information, Captain?" Luna Control queried.
"One of the people on this ship, currently in a cryogen tank, is one of the five best hackers in the world. She got into Overlay Inc.'s hidden information systems and found the files showing the final status of the nearly 3,800 people who had had overlays. Those files, in most cases, gave brief but detailed information on how the person acted after their specific overlay failed, it took her four days to sort through the files."
"That still doesn't change the fact that you've been ordered to return to dock and hand over the people in this list," Luna Control stated as they hit a button which sent the information to the Earth's Hope's data banks. The list contained nearly three thousand names.
"I regret to inform you that there is no way that I can hand over those people, Luna Control, even if I end up convicted of high treason."
"One last time, Earth's Hope, return to dock or we will send ships after you to bring you back to Earth."
"Too late for that now, Luna Control, we'll be at full speed in about six hours and you have no ships in range to catch us," replied the Captain.
"We have ships that can catch you, Captain. Pantomime, Starfly, New Dawn, Bearpaw, launch now, your target is starship Earth's Hope..." Captain Stormshadow chuckled as he listened to the Luna Control officer giving orders for a moment before he shut down the comm system.
That first laser and another one fired at the ship several times before the engines reached full power; the ship reached its designated in system travel speed of just under one percent of the speed of light and was soon lost in the multitude of objects caught in Earth's orbit. The lasers stopped firing once they were in amongst the orbital objects as the chance of them destroying valuable items became all too likely.
Helm Officer Barstow turned the starship and pointed it toward the system where their new home was located. The ship slowed down for a moment as it turned, then it returned to the same speed used before the turn as it left Earth's orbit and headed into the depths of space.
Just over four hours out from the space dock, alarms started sounding across the ship, then the Captain's voice rang out, "Battle stations!"
Captain Stormshadow looked out through the shatterproof transparent material that allowed them to see the areas around the bridge of the starship. Hovering several hundred meters behind them were four ships belonging to the Orbital Patrol. He used one of the command codes to have several cameras scan the four ships, giving him their alphanumeric IDs, weaponry, armour, and other useful bits of info.
The Captain nearly laughed himself silly when he saw the weaponry stats, most of the weapons were old and quite out of date. Two of the four ships had AC starters on their A/N IDs, which told him they had been built sometime between 2140 and 2163 and carried six 50 mm lasers; a third had the AD designation, they'd been built between 2163 and 2177 and carried six 60 mm lasers, the last ship had an AE designation, it had been built sometime after 2177 and carried six 75 mm lasers. Those four ships were so badly outgunned, it was quite funny.
"Starship Earth's Hope, this is Captain Bart Pennywell, you are ordered to shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded."
Captain Stormshadow replied, "So you can take us back to earth and sentence nearly 3000 people to death because they're different?"
"I have my orders, Captain, shut down your engines or we will open fire."
Captain Stormshadow laughed as he replied, "Go ahead and fire as much as you like, we can use any extra energy we can get. I'll warn you, though, if you do fire on us, we will fire back, and I can guarantee our guns will be much more effective than yours."
"What do you mean, extra energy? I'll have you know we have the best guns in the whole solar system, Captain."
"The two big lasers that fired on us earlier, one from the moon, one from a satellite, only managed to burn a bit of the micro outer shield layer of the ship. As for guns, Captain Pennywell, we have 20 200 mm lasers and 32 150 mm lasers, over half of those are aimed at your ships."
"So you're defying my order to stand down?" Captain Pennywell asked. Captain Stormshadow's nod was all that he needed, he turned to his comm board and ordered all four of the Orbital Patrol ships to fire at will on the Earth's Hope.
Captain Stormshadow shook his head and gave the order to return fire if fired upon. The battle wouldn't last very long if they did.
Perhaps three minutes passed as they waited, then the four ships commenced firing, aiming for the bigger starship's engines.
Engineering Officer Stefan Petrovic engaged the combined electrical and magnetic field to protect the vulnerable engines. A few of the shots fired at the engines managed to pass through the fields, but caused only minimal harm to the engines and the areas surrounding them.
"Return fire!" snapped Captain Stormshadow as he paced back and forth across the bridge. Weapons Officer Tasha Smythe sat at her control system, entering orders for the rear guns to lock onto each of the four ships and fire. The result was quite stunning, twelve of the big lasers and twenty of the smaller ones all fired within split seconds of each other, all shots were direct hits on a ship's bridge, engine or weapons array.
The "battle" was over within twenty seconds, four Orbital Patrol ships severely damaged or destroyed, it was extremely unlikely they would be able to follow the Earth's Hope any time soon. Earth's Hope's engines had taken some minor damage but were still able to function quite well.
The engineering officer sent his two underlings to fix the engines, one of the four main ones would be turned off while they checked and fixed it, then they would do the same with each of the other three main engines before checking the eight secondary engines.
Repairs to all the engines took a bit less than a day, by which time they were well beyond the range of Orbital Patrol's fleet.
The crew for each thirty year shift was split into two parts, each group would be on duty for a half day, then rest the second half of the day.
This continued with only minor problems here and there, all of which were fixed within reasonable time spans, for just under 23 years according to the ship's clocks which were based on GMT or Universal time. The worst of these problems was the time where the hydroponics area failed and was temporarily closed down while the two man hydroponics team fixed the broken systems, which took just over 32 hours.
The damage to the items in the hydroponics area was fairly serious, they lost about 40% of the crops; luckily, what remained would be enough to keep them going while the current crops matured and they replaced the destroyed crops with new plantings from the ship's stores.
Well, that hydroponics problem had happened not quite nine years ago, this was an entirely different matter. They'd brought a small amount of several types of animals that could be used for food supplies like cows, pigs, chickens, etc. and some of the bigger animals were missing. That was extremely odd, as they were kept in one part of the ship, the whole ship had been scoured and the missing animals hadn't been found.
Seven cows, five pigs, four goats and eight sheep had to be somewhere in the ship, but where? The Captain was utterly stymied.
It took the crew three days to find the missing animals and the cause. Somehow, a valve that should have kept a door in the animal area from opening had failed, a door HAD opened, and the space behind it just happened to be a human sized tunnel leading back toward the engines. The tunnel was a tight fit for the cows, but not being all that smart, they just kept going until they were blocked by a sealed door.
All of the missing animals were found at the other end of this tunnel, perhaps a few meters from a locked door to the engine compartment. It took five crew members a bit over seven hours to get all of the animals back to their area, the cows had had to be led backward step by step.
The Captain breathed a soft sigh of relief and issued orders for the failed valve to be examined and fixed, or it couldn't be fixed, replaced.
The rest of the first crew's time to manage the ship passed with no significant issues. Most of the problems were minor repairs to parts.
The changeover from first crew to second was a quiet time, the first crew folks were now much older than they had been when they left Earth. The youngest of them was only a few weeks shy of her 54th birthday according to the records, and Captain Stormshadow was almost 70.
Captain Serena Elizabeth Banakell ordered her crew to their stations and the long journey continued.
Just over seven years into the second "shift", a section of the ship was hit by something which opened a two foot wide hole in the outer shell. That area happened to be living space for the crew, so they applied a temporary seal and had everyone bunking down in the hydroponics area, as that was the place in the ship with the freshest air, thanks to many of the plants using most of the carbon monoxide produced there, turning the deadly gas into carbon dioxide by the process of oxidization. Photosynthesis, in turn, uses carbon dioxide and water to create oxygen.
Repairs to the hole in the ship's side were slow, as they had to cut a piece of hull material to very precise measurements, then the two man repair crew had to put on full space suits before they broke the seal and placed the new piece in the hole. One of them had to hold the piece in the hole while the second used a hammer to tap it into place, then a small auto torch to seal the edges around the new piece.
The actual repair process, from start to finish, took just over nine hours, mostly because the people involved weren't used to the tools that were needed to prepare the new piece. For safety's sake, the area was monitored for three days to see if there were any leaks.
Once the Captain had been informed that no leaks had been detected in the 72 hour period, the crew was allowed to return to their rooms.
When the crew member whose space had been hole punched returned to their room, everything seemed to be in order, but a closer look soon showed her that a small folding photo holder containing photos of her parents had been lost, apparently sucked out into the depths of space. There didn't seem to be anything else missing, as her toiletries and small supply of feminine hygiene items were kept in a small locked chest that was bolted to the floor not far from her single bed; the bed could also be used as a bench, and when not in use, could be folded against the wall. Her small comm center, including the comm unit, desk and chair, were also bolted into place for just this sort of reason.
She wasn't happy that the photo holder had been lost, but she had brought two of them, the second was in the chest on the floor.
About five years after the hole punch incident in the living spaces, there was another serious hydroponics system failure. Like the one that had occurred on the first crew's shift, this resulted in the loss of nearly half of the crops and needed just under 37 hours to do the repairs.
After the new hydroponics system failure, Captain Banakell had the hydroponics main computers throughly checked, shunting a secondary computer system to monitor the hydroponics area. The main computer check revealed a code error; the Captain wasn't impressed, and after discovering that no one on shift at the moment was capable of fixing the code error, had a programmer woken to sort the problem out.
The programmer, a young woman named Lavender Pemberton, scanned the code, spotted several more errors and fixed them all, a task that occupied her for just over five hours. When she was finished, she returned to the cryogenics hold and was soon back in her capsule.
The next seventeen years passed fairly quietly, with minor repairs needed to one system or another, but no major problems for the ship.
At 07:36 on July 2nd, 2272 according to the ship's computers, an alert sounded across the entire ship.
Any crew members that weren't needed immediately in their departments quickly made their way to the ship's command center.
Captain Banakell activated a video screen, which showed the gorgeous planet ahead of them. Every person in the command center, and those still attending to their duties, were able to see it when the captain transmitted the video feed to the other departments.
They were perhaps a day's journey from entering orbit, and the planet below, although much like earth, was revealed to be slightly smaller than Earth, with an equatorial circumference of 21,790 miles or 35,067.6 kilometers. Watching the planet as they approached revealed four continent sized land masses, two large islands, plus perhaps a dozen groups of smaller islands scattered around the planet.
One group of islands, stretching for just over 2100 miles or about 3380 kilometers, had many active volcanoes, three were actually erupting. That group of islands was located in what would be the southern hemisphere, in a line going from southwest to east-northeast.
Captain Banakell spent several hours scanning the various continents, looking for the best and likely to be least harmed landing location. Her efforts were not in vain, she eventually found a moderately sized area, perhaps 500 square miles, that was nothing more than barren rock on the second largest continent, which was situated on the equator with about two thirds of it being on the north side of the equator.
Rolling plains could be seen in all directions around the rocky area, and a large mountain range crossed the continent from the mid-southwest quadrant almost to the eastern end of the northern shoreline. Many, many lakes and rivers could be seen from up here.
Captain Banakell knew that if those bodies of water could be seen from this distance, they would be quite large once they were down there.
The ship stayed in orbit above the planet until the early morning of July 4th.
While they were up there, twenty members of the second shift crew released everyone from the cryogenic pods, a nineteen hour process which involved each person being scanned and examined once released, then proclaimed fit for landing or held for further medical tests.
Even though it was a long process, it was a smooth one, with only seven people being held for further tests. Those tests took another five hours and revealed that there were no major medical issues with any of the seven people, so they were proclaimed fit to land.
Unmanned probes were used to check the various components of the planet's air, all results came back as within Earth normal parameters.
The orbital entry and landing proceeded quite satisfactorily, the Earth's Hope settled to the ground on the rocky surface.
The time was a few minutes short of noon on the date displayed on the ships computers as July 4th, 2272.
A minute or so before noon, a doorway opened in the side of the ship and a ramp, compacted into several layered pieces, was pushed out of the ship by a robotic arm, then the pieces of the ramp extended one by one until the ramp touched the ground fourteen meters below.
Captains Banakell and Stormshadow walked down the ramp side by side, Captain Banakell carrying a long pole with a flag attached.
When they stepped off the ramp, they moved a few feet away, then Captain Stormshadow used a hand laser to make a hole for the flagpole.
Captain Banakell dropped the pole into the newly created hole, setting it firmly in place, then both Captains turned back to face their ship.
Captain Banakell placed her left hand over her heart, then smiled and spoke to her people.
"I, Captain Serena Elizabeth Banakell, along with my co-Captain Elijah Anthony Stormshadow, claim this planet to make it our home.
"This continent that we stand on has many places suitable for us to live and thrive here. We shall not lack for water, the air is slightly different from what we may remember from Earth, but I'd bet it's a darn sight better than the recycled air we've lived with on the ship.
"With reverence and respect for the land from which we came, and with hopes for a bountiful future, I name this continent New America."
There had been a very faint breeze from the moment they had walked out of the ship, but now it freshened and the flag snapped out, revealing the pale blue cloth, two stars in the upper left part and a white shield in the lower center, with a sheaf of grain on either side of the shield.
Captain Banakell smiled at the briskness of the breeze, lifted her right arm and pointed at the flag, then continued speaking.
"It is my hope that we do grow and thrive here, but that we also remember to care for the land we live on and use.
"With hope in my heart that we will be able to live here in peace, I name this world, for now and all time, Hope's Light."
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