By Relic

20th Nov 2016

Ch1: The End of the World

The door squealed shut as the nurse finally left him to his rest. The hospital room smelled of disinfectant and the lights hummed noticeably from the ceiling. The soft beeping of various medical machines were his only companions now Robert thought with a slight chuckle, wondering just how many times in his past that had been true.

Roger was an old man now nearing eighty-five years, or would if he wasn't dieing of cancer. Despite his old age and deathbed status, there was still some steel left in his appearance that hinted at his military background. Robert thought of all the events that led him to this day.

He had grown up in the hick...uhm... great state of Mississippi, and had hated it. It had always appeared to him that ole MS had been distinctly lacking in growth (and boring as all hell) by thirty years compared to the other states, and literally lacked anything to keep him entertained growing up. Despite that (or probally because of it) Robert had thrown his youth into books, animes, and video games whenever he got a chance, anything that would distract him from his boonie surroundings. To this day he could here banjos playing whenever he thought of those times despite never seeing one played until he joined the marines (maybe it was some pychological tick he thought). He had grown up normally and played Football (not soccer!!!) like everyother boy had in his hometown (not that he was given much choice or like there was anything else to do either), he hadnt been much of a talent growing up, and he was the farthest thing from such terms as all-american or a star highschool player (he had been a lineman...an offensive lineman) and had grown to hate that sport (and those actuall highschool sportstars with it) with passion in his teen years eventually quitting before it ruined his senior year. He had been average in just about everything, grades, talent...just about everything and had grown cynical were people (especially the popular ones) were concered. However everything changed two years into college...

China had been struggling with their population draining their resources for decades and had secretly been watching its northern neighbor of Russia as she pulled herself out from the calapse of the old soviet union to the point of retaking her old place as the world's second super power. Worse the Russian's Siberia and Far Eastern territories were extremly rich in resouces that China needed desperatly.

While to the rest of the world it had at first looked as if Russia and China had been increasingly friendly to each other as Russia rised to prominence, and the NATO countries braced for yet another cold war, in secret the two nations were battling covertly with their spies and special operation units until march 2027 when open war finally broke out. China, desperate, had invaded with the largest army and airforce in the world and swept aside the pitifully few Russian units with relativity light casualties. The remaining Russian divisions dug down around the besiged city of Vladivostoc, while her navy ambushed and sank much of China's surprisingly modern navy in a three day navel battle in the straight of Korea and a following battle in the Yellow sea.

However despite their naval victories the war was going poorly for Russia. There far east fleet home port was cut off from the rest of Russia's support by half a world and their local army (such as it was and what was left of it) was cut off when China cut the trans-siberian railroad. In near desperation Russia pleaded with the United Nations and released falesified reports of China's intentions. China responded by preemptively invading Kazakstan while at the same time North Korea (despite China pleading them not too) took advantage of the confusion and invaded South Korea, Forcing the other powers into action.

The war would last over ten years and ended in Nuclear Fire over Moscow and Beijing. I had just joined the Marines after having lost my pitifull academic scholarship(thanks to you math!!) to my local community college when the war first started. At the time I hadn't realized just how bloody my future was going to be, but hey nobody cares about the ancient past (my grandsons certainly didn't). I could go on and on about my exploits and heroism, I Definitely had the medals(grimace) and scars to prove it. There were times I reminded myself of my grandfather and his tales from Iraq (been there too now that I thought of it) or his stories of his grandfathers stories from the Pacific in WW2 and Vietnam (huh, been to both of those places too aswell...Oh god I really am that bad)...I think I should be lucky nobody knew of any of my ancestors stories from the War of Northern Agression....(I think I here those banjos again).

Those cancer drugs were definitely starting to effect something I thought dryly (and Im not just talking about my hair, that had long been gone...Semper Fi). Working through the delusions and dizziness brought upon by totally ineffectual cancer drugs I tried to remember my post war memories.

With the planet spiralling into the beginnings of a light nuclear winter (ha) the worlds powers began to look to space to escape a world pushed beyond the brink. The had cause a lot of problem but it had brought about massive technolgical change, Artificial intellgence and Fusion power, along with some degree of artificial gravity and advanced electronics. For the first time it was actually possible to build space elevators and starships.(Although FTL proved so far impossible.)

With the world slipping into an nuclear ice age, the United Nations began building the first generation ships (We'll... just not mention the religious fanactics or earth first nut cases and their objections of spreading humanites filth arcross space.). Taking several large asteroids, drilling into their core and than filling those cores with methan ice harvested from the moons of Jupitor. Seal them up and focus heat from the sun via extremly large mirrors, while spinning them to spread the heat evenly, the Asteroids would balloon up nicely creating a large habitat area perfect to cram in a couple million people (Ha) along with food, equipment, seeds, and animals necessary to terraform a planet. The only problem was it would take hundreds of years just to get the nearest star...Much less one with a suitable planet (hence the name generation ships).However over the years scientist had found several worlds via advanced telescopes between 80 and 200 light years away.

In total it had taken fifteen years for the first four ships to be completed, and in that time Earth deteriorated to the point that even the radicals and nut jobs were quite about the ships. The crews for these first four ships were picked from the best and brightest earth had to offer. Scentist to man the labs and equipment, engineers to maintain the Fusion plants, lifesupport, and the Ion engines. Programers and computer engineers to help run and maintain the multiple A.I. Needed to control the ship. Navy and Air Force enlisted to maintain everything else, while army and Marines (haha Marines are Capitalized and you arn't you army pansies) (...hold up, did I just think Arn't!!!)(Oh no the banjoes are back ahhh!!! damn you southern accent!!!) ran security.

Oh course those were just from United States supplied (included yours Truly), crew were supplied from all Nations oddly that even included Russia and China (Thankfully they were seperated by ships.). Russia had provided quite a large number of engineers, farmers, and military (almost all Spetznaz and Navy). Infact several other nations provided support crew aswel including Japan, Israel, Germany, UK, and the (Republic) of Korea. China was paired with France, Swedan, Switzerland, and basically any country that had remained nuetral during the war and had the money to support the project.

The passengers had first been chosen from the families of the crew, aswell as from any ''necessary'' occupation. (ie Teachers, Chefs... Pychiatrists) (huh now that I think about it I wonder why I never saw one about that banjo noise I here whenever I think about...Oh god) (...You know other soldiers hear ringging noises from past gunfire or violent flashbacks when asleep, including me, even years later, but why am I the only one tortured by banjoes that I've only heard a few times in my life) The remaining spaces were given by lottery (Yeah sure bought outright more likely in most cases). In total each ship could carry thirty million people (if your wondering how a single ship can carry and feed that many people for centuries at end just consider that the interior habitat covers as much space a certain state that shall not be named, and is fully equiped with farms, lakes, and even ranches)

It had been a little less than fourty earth years since the ships parted company and spread out amongst the stars, with any luck several dozen more were following along in their wake or off to there own destinations, and a thought suddenly occured to him, all those people with essential skills needed to tame an alien planet, would be dead (just like he was about to be he thought) long before they reached their new. Infact even their grandchildren would be lucky to see it, and while they could teach their skills to the next generation, the actual experience, that could mean the differance between life and death, would be lost them. Furthermore...

As if waiting for that moment a Hologram projected from out from the wall before his sick bed...

The Hologram took on the form of a pretty young woman with black hair, pale skin, and a blue sleevless dress, In her hair stars could be seen, some occasionally shooting off. However it was her eyes that truly gave away what she was, because they were neon green circuity, the hallmark of all AI avatars.
"Well,Well, Well come to see me off Arty." I said recognizing her.
"I asked you not to call me that Roger." She said.
"Well your just in time, It seems I've lost this one." I said ignoring her.
"Giving up Roger, thats not like you."She replied in her unique soprano like voice.

I had known Artemisia for twenty-five years. She was a ship's AI (artificial intelligence incase you couldn't tell) however compared to most she was far more intelligent and expressive. That was because she was Quantum AI ( or smart AI or class 10 AI depending on your sci fi preferance). The height of human programming and computer engineering.
Roger had been uncomftable around her having grown up with movies like Terminater and The Matrix, but had warmed to her as the years went by,(and the fact that she hadn't Skyneted Ark 4 within the first seconds after birth had helped he thought) and over the years had formed a close working relationship when he still led ArkSec.
Artemisia wasn't the only AI on board Ark 4 but she was the only Quantum AI. Having been designed and built entirly during Ark 4's voyage (or Star "Trek" as he thought to himself heh).She was the first, and so far only AI capable of passing the Turing test and had been deemed truly sentient.
She had been placed in charge of the civilian information network, and been a major help tracking hackers and deliquents for Ark Security. He had also learned that one of her hobbies had been game design, and had majorly contributed to several hit VRMMOs and VRgames that were such a huge success in a ship that wouldn't make planet fall for another four hundred years at the earliest.

"Well unless those bioscience boys can come up for a cure cancer, I believe its finally over." Despite the heavy meaning behind his words he said them jovially.
"When he gets to heaven to Saint Peter he shall tell one more 'Marine' reporting sir I've served my time in hell. Heh heh. * cough * * cough*"

As she watched him work his way through another coughing fit Artemisia thought back to they days when they had worked together. He had an average height and broadsholders. His face had been scared in several places including ones over his lips, right cheek, and forehead he had recieved from a mortar shell outside of Vladivostoc. His appearance had come off as bulldogesh and it had reflected in his personality in the form stubberness which had done him well in his term as Chief of ArkSec..
He had been Ark 4's version of a police chief for most of the twenty-five years she knew him until his forced retirement ten years ago when his cancer was first diagnosed. Now his eyes where sunken in, his once tanned skin sickly pale and his cancer ridden lungs struggling desperatly for every breath.
Now looking at him she was heavily reminded of human's mortality. Her own father( as she thought of her creator) had died two years ago in his sleep. Along with several other humans she had been close to in her young life over the last few years. The old guard were dieing out having reached advance age, one by one. (Not if I can help it she thought.)

"You've beaten the cancer before Roger you can do it again."
"No...no not this time Arty, not this time. I can feel him now, Death, its not the first time * cough* but... Now don't look so glum Arty I look forward to it now."

Hearing his words Artimisia remembered the accident fifteen years ago that had claimed his son, or the fact that his wife had died in the war. Only his daughter and two grandsons remained to him, and he had been estranged from them for over a decade. She hadn't even bothered to visit him this time...None of which would make what she wanted to propose any easier.

"What if you didn't have to Roger?" She spoke softly.
"Heh, whats that Arty?"
"I have..." she didn't know how to proceed.
"I may have a way to save you Roger" She finally finished.
"Oh do you now?" He looked at her with one eyebrow raised.
"Finally finished that secret project you've been working on huh."

Her Avatar's jaw dropped, although in hindsight she supposed she should't be surprised he knew. Roger's own personel information network inlcuded the programmers that had helped create her and still monitored her.

"Your asking a lot from this old man arn't ya Arty."

Now daunted but she still pressed on.

"It can save you Roger, I guarantee it." she said, almost desperatly.
"Maybe, but will it really be me Arty." He said in seriousness. "Or will it be some copy a shadow living a lie."

"You'll be as real as I am Roger." She said her voice flat, than continued. "Even if thats not good enough Roger the Ark still needs you. Your descendants still need you. When we make planetfall we'll need every advantage we can get."

Roger ignored how close her reasoning matched his earlier thoughts.
"What's one more Marine Arty, I'm an old man now, and to those kids I'm just the product of Earth's barbarcy. A neanderthal that has no place here now.

Her heart sank he truly had given up." What the civvies think dosen't matter Roger, Captain Micholovich and President Earnheart along with the whole counsil supports us and they want you to help us test this." She said desperatly appealling to his since of duty.

"I doubt that is a order." He said calmly. "and while I may have never been much into religion but even I believe there is an * cough* * cough * afterlife."

For the first time Artemisia felt despair, hearing his words, the words of a man she considered almost a second father and close friend. "Please Roger." she said quitely. Suddenly his expression completely changed as he dropped his facade.

"Eh what's this, is the omni potent princess begging me." He said teasingly.

Instantly realizing he had pulled one over her she puffed up her cheeks in an expression that made her look like angry preteen.

"You, you, you." She babbled furious.

It had always amused him how emotional an otherwise cold machine AI could be. When he finally came to believed that she had actual feelings and wasn't just acting like other older AI. Over the years he had taking to teasing her on occasion just to see her reactions and this was one of the cutest he had seen yet making him laugh. Karma being what it was he soon regretted it as he delved into yet another bad coughing fit.


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