A Short Story
Introduction to the Electronic Version
The printed version of this short story is in Microsoft
Publisher. I have modified the format slightly to suit
the limitation of the Web's HTML language. There are no
page breaks in this version. The printed booklet has 43
pages. As you can see from the notice below, the short story is protected by
copyright, but feel free to disseminate it in its
printed or electronic form to others as long as it is
given freely, which was the spirit in which it was
Copyright © 2005 by James C. Michie
Door Into Summer Press
Waves, North Carolina, USA
Return to Short Stories
Return to Topics List
25 AC: Adam System
Lisa waited, not moving
relative to the chunks of mass closest to her. She
orbited slowly amid the pre-planetary clutter
surrounding the central energy source for this star
system, Adam. They had chosen the name Adam for the
young star when they had passed during SEEDER 6's
She was excited, as she always
was, but not impatient. She had been waiting and
watching for fifteen years, and chances were that
she would be waiting even longer before moving out
of the system and back into the trans-c currents.
She watched the sensors as the unidentified object
moved in-system, seemingly on a ballistic
There was no sign that it was
anything but a big rock, but that was normal for the
survivors. That's how they continued to survive. She
It was closer now. The trans-c
sensors were still on, but she had archived them way
down the chain of active subroutines, with only a
pop-up priority that would get her attention. She
was concentrating on the sub-C sensors, running
continuous cross-checks of the data as they
gradually became more numerous and more accurate.
The mass-volume correlation was the key, and she
watched the data firm to a .99 projection. It was a
ship or a very funny rock, like SEEDER 6.
She wouldn't have to wait long
now. If it was going to slow down enough to stay in
this system, it would have to begin very soon. She
self-checked again to make sure there was no energy
leak that would betray her presence and continued to
There it was! Definitely a
fusion deceleration. It was a ship. It was too far
out to get any idea of identity, but she would hail
it as soon as the deceleration was over and as soon
as she was sure that the new course would give her
time to get out of the system if she got what she
thought was a hostile reply. Lisa had had two close
calls over the last fifteen years; she was still
excited every time there was an inbound ship, but
much more cautious.
The ship had popped out at the
would be gas giant Trojan point, the only wormhole they
had found in this system. She had wondered on other
occasions like this what would happen to the worm-hole
if the almost-planet lit into a second sun instead of
settling down as a gas giant, but the timing of either
such event made her interest only scholarly. At the
moment, she was having trouble computing the
deceleration and new trajectory. The data she was
receiving didn't seem correct. The ship was decelerating
much too quickly for the mass it was registering, but
all of her sensor sources were giving her the same
On a hunch, she dove down into
the subroutines for the trans-c sensors. Yes, there
was definitely something funny going on. This ship
was still making waves in trans-c. Was it dumping
energy into hyperspace? That would be a new wrinkle,
and it might mean an alien ship, or it could just
mean that Jimmy Hincle, the former Engineering
Officer aboard the SEEDER 6, was back with a new
piece of physics that Lisa could chew on during the
next couple of years. Whatever the answer, instead
of days to wait, Lisa should be able to hail in a
Lisa watched the trajectory
projections and ran through her options. What was
the chance this ship could gain delta-V like it
could shed it? There was no way to know. If it
could, she was much too slow to clear the system
before being engaged. If it couldn't and she was
going to run, she had to go now, with no course
options. She would have to drive in-system and
slingshot for the wormhole.
Now she was scared as well as
excited. There was no doubt that the ship was heading
for an intercept with her orbit. The maneuvers made
little sense in her frame of physics, but when she ran
the numbers using the observational capability data she
had acquired on the deceleration, she knew she was only
a few hours from a close inspection by whoever or
whatever. Maybe she had made the wrong choice, but she
had little recourse now but to brazen it out. For Lisa,
"brazen" was not in short supply. She had been building
her stocks for fifteen years.
The eleven years before that
Lisa had spent like all the others, roving through
the wonders of the galaxy, observing, learning,
coming to terms with her new self. She had managed
it, but not without difficulty. During the last
fifteen years, she had been able to contact
twenty-three of the original crew of thirty-two
transfers. Four of those were certifiably insane and
two more probably were, but her observational span
wasn't long enough to be sure. All of them, however,
were significantly different personalities from
those that had left the system twenty-six years ago,
including Lisa herself.
6, Seventh Wake Period
Lisa Martineau rattled down
the empty passageways between her quarters and
SEEDER 6's Medical Center, commonly referred to as
sickbay. As the medical officer, she was the first
out of cold-sleep and the eeriness of being alone on
a huge ship in the middle of nowhere was as
oppressive as ever. She focused on reviewing her
immediate tasks to push the spookiness out of her
mind, or at least into a corner of it where it
wouldn't give her the shakes. She shivered as she
went, even though she knew her body temperature was
back to normal, as was the temperature in the
hallway. She had spent the last six hours getting
her blood sugar levels up to par and the analgesics
seemed to be making the expected joint pain at least
tolerable. It was her mind she had to deal with, not
At the end of the hallway, she
pushed through the door to the Medical Center. It looked
exactly like it had a hundred and twelve years ago when
she left it to crawl into her cryo-chamber. At least the
cleaning robots were still functioning properly. She
would know in a few minutes if the maintenance robots
had functioned as well.
Lisa spoke as she cut through
the examination area to the console against the back
of the room. "Medical computer up. Full electronic
systems check and mechanical function check for all
medical and laboratory equipment. Verbal,
She watched the varying colors
of the flickering holographic display as systems
were queried and checked. Above the whooshing of the
ventilation system she could hear the clunking and
clattering of relays and robotics as the mechanical
tests started up. The electronic systems tests would
take only a few minutes, but the mechanical ones
would go on for hours.
Her hands danced in
unforgotten rhythms across the console, calling up
the details on the bio-sensors of the cold-sleep
units. There were idiot alerts, of course, when some
planned parameter was exceeded, but Lisa liked to
see the numbers themselves before she felt like she
was in command of the situation. She keyed through
each set over the next hour.
They were waking up in their
quarters all over the ship. Most of the cryo-chambers,
regularly referred to as cold-sleep coffins by the
crew, had already been stored behind their
bulkheads, and the individual crew members were
trying to cope with their particular brand of post
cold-sleep discomforts. Lee Goodwin was no
Lee had awakened from the seventh
freeze seemingly normal, that is he felt terrible, was
so weak he could hardly raise his arm to put food in his
mouth, and every joint in his body felt like it had a
twenty-penny nail driven through it. After three hours,
it didn't feel much better, and that wasn't normal. He
got his feet under him and shuffled out into the
passageway, heading for sickbay. He needed something
stronger than the standard analgesics.
There were three other
crewmembers already there ahead of him and they were
lying down on cots lined up against the bulkhead on
his right. Lisa Martineau motioned for him to come
over and pointed to an empty cot as she was talking
to Bob Selby on the adjacent cot. He had what looked
like a cold gel-pack over his forehead and eyes.
Lisa turned to Lee. "Got a few
aches and pains do you?"
"Not just a few," he replied,
"and they don't seem to be getting any better with
the pain pills I've got. You got something stronger
I can have?"
Lisa looked up at the display
at the head of the cot that showed the results of
the scan run automatically when Lee had lain down.
"Uh, looks like some higher than normal degeneration
in the joints, and most of your muscle mass seems to
be carrying an abnormal load of toxins. How long
have you been out of the chamber?"
"About three hours. Things
usually settle down more than this by then."
Lisa still had her attention
focused on the display. "You haven't had this sort
of pain before when you came out?"
"Well, now that I think about
it. The last time I came out of cold-sleep seemed
pretty bad too, but not this bad."
Lee's response elicited only
an "uh" from Lisa.
"Come on, Lisa. I've got a lot
to do. There seems to be some kind of hitch in the
fabrication process. My quick look showed things
were way behind schedule, even though all the
systems seemed to be functioning the way they
should. Have you got something for me?"
"I've got something, but you have
to promise me you'll come back this afternoon for a more
thorough check. There must be some reason you're having
such a bad time. We need to fix the problem, not the
Lee gave one of his most
sincere, I promise looks. "Scouts honor, doc."
Lisa couldn't stifle the grin
as she strode to the dispensary unit and ordered a
powerful analgesic. "Don't operate any machinery
other than your computer, and don't be surprised if
you find yourself taking a nap in front of your
Lee returned the grin. "You
got it, doc."
As Lee was swinging his legs
off the cot, Lisa touched the display to make it
hold Lee's data actively. She continued to study it
for about five minutes, but another crewmember came
in complaining about nausea and cramps. She moved to
the more immediate problem.
Lee got to his computer station
faster than he thought he would with the pain that
walking induced in his joints. It was a relief to fold
into the contoured, swivel chair. "System up," was his
automatic response to sitting, as he placed his hand on
the reader and looked directly into the retina scanner.
"System operating," came the
metallic voice of the computer in response.
"Graphic display of planned
versus actual progress on Habitat 7 and all
ancillary systems since project start," Lee
responded in his clipped-diction, computer
instruction voice. As the display popped up, he
added an additional command. "Scroll function to
The green light on the mouse
lit and Lee placed his hand on the ubiquitous tool
of all computer jocks. He started scrolling through
the project activities, looking at the almost
identical separations between planned and actual.
The separations were huge, and Lee was immediately
afraid that they wouldn't be able to recover in the
time they had before the scheduled launch of Habitat
7 and all her ancillary systems.
The mission of a SeedShip like
SEEDER 6 was straightforward. Each group of cold-sleep
colonists was dropped off by the SeedShip before
reaching its target system. The colonists were in a
self-contained habitat that needed sufficient time to
decelerate and place itself in a stellar orbit. The
habitat contained all the prescribed materials needed to
remain self-contained for hundreds of years if
necessary. Growth materials for planetary settlement
depended on what the system had to offer. There was no
way to know in advance. The habitat could always be
buttoned up for its own trip to a different system if
necessary, but the chances of a system being that
inhospitable were very low.
"Give me activity loading diagrams
for a compressed schedule that will meet the original
completion date." These should show him if he had enough
robots and people to get the project back on a timetable
to allow launch before they were out of range on their
pass through the next star system.
The holographic display provided a
three-axis chart for each project activity, showing
time, robot/human workhours, and material resource
requirements. The constraints listed at the bottom of
the display indicated that the required human/robot
workhour peaks could not be met with current resources
and material resources could not be extracted by current
levels of robot mining on SEEDER 6.
"Damn," Lee mumbled as he scrolled
through the activities, "how did we get in this mess?"
"The source of the problem is
unknown. All available resources have been applied since
project start," the computer replied.
"Voice response mode off." Lee
didn't need any sass from the computer. "Show me planned
versus actuals of activity type."
The display shifted to show
activity types like forming, machining, and welding. He
scrolled through the activity types noting that they
were all way over budget, but when he got to quality
control, the display had to shift workhour scale by an
order of magnitude to show the expended hours. He had
something; now he just had to figure out what it was.
"Display current QC parameters."
The screen filled with a list of
quality control parameters that were being applied to
the construction effort. There was nothing out of the
ordinary until he got to the third screen, and there it
was. The dimensional tolerances for fabricated parts
were way out of line. "Display input time, date, and
authorization for fabrication tolerances."
The display responded with his
name, authorization code, and real date, which was over
200 years ago. Lee mumbled to himself again, "Yeah, I
remember making a change a few sleeps ago, but not this
one. Something is out of whack."
He thought for a moment and then
requested, "Give me a solution for three times six."
The display showed the answer "18"
in the upper left-hand corner followed by a period and
eight pages of zeros—8192 zeros to be precise. He had
found the problem. Somewhere in the billions of lines of
code resident in SEEDER 6's computer there was a
corruption of the precision subroutines. Actually this
shouldn't slow the central computer down enough to make
much difference at all in the length of time required to
build the habitat, but it could play havoc with the
quality control subroutine. Everything going into the
habitat was obviously being built to the limits of the
accuracy measuring instruments. This meant a busy bunch
of construction robots, but they were doing the same
thing over and over again until they got it closer to
the calculated tolerances than the inspection robots
It took Lee about ten minutes to
fix the problem, but it took him the rest of the day to
set up a new construction plan that would meet the time
requirements for star system insertion of Habitat 7 as
SEEDER 6 made its fly-through and slingshot around the
sun to the next system destination. As strange as it
seemed, the solution required that eighty percent of
their production capacity be used to make more robots
during the first year and a half of the two-year wake
period. When they would finally get around to building
the habitat itself, their progress would probably look
more like an explosion than construction. They would
have a lot of leftover robots when it was all over, but
they could do it.
As Lee was buttoning up his
station prior to getting some of the food that he had
successfully ignored all day, he remembered his promise
to Lisa. Although his stomach was growling, he dutifully
set off in the direction of sickbay, trying to ignore
the pain that walking was causing in his joints. When he
got there, there were five patients lying on the cots,
but Lisa was nowhere in sight. "Is Lisa Martineau
around?," he asked the duty nurse standing across the
room watching a display behind the head of one of her
Without turning around, she
replied, "You just missed her. She went to eat. She'll
be back in about thirty minutes or so. This is our busy
season you know."
"Thanks. I'll catch her in the
Lee guided his tray to the open
chair beside Lisa. "Mind if I sit?"
Lisa looked up and started to
reply, but remembering that her mouth was full, she
paused long enough to swallow. "No. Sit. Feeling any
Lee settled into the chair with a
visible sigh. "Not when I'm walking. Sitting's tolerable
though. I haven't had time to think about it much since
I left you this morning. Computer glitch. Twenty-seven
SEEDER 6 years and our piece-parts bins and sub-assembly
storage areas are still half-empty. It's going to be a
bitch to get Habitat 7 ready for insertion in time."
Lisa looked up with concern on her
face. Like everyone else on the crew, she knew that a
missed habitat insertion would mean another cold-sleep
while they plied on to the next star system. When they
got there, they could insert Habitat 7, but they would
have to go to the first back-up system to insert Habitat
8, the final seeding. "We can do it, can't we?"
"Yeah, we can do it, but the space
riggers aren't going to like it very much. They're going
to have very little to do for the first year and a half
and then they'll have to bust their butts to finish on
schedule. I don't guess you can dump some of them back
into cold-sleep for another year or so, can you?"
"It's possible," Lisa replied
thoughtfully, "but only after a couple of months of
normal activity. The real problem is that nobody will
want to do it until they get really bored, and by that
time it wouldn't be worth the wear and tear on the body,
so I wouldn't let them."
Lee swallowed another mouthful of
macaroni and cheese. "Well, I don't have to worry about
boredom. I'm going to be up to my eyeballs keeping
everything on track. Just doing the Captain's daily
status reports will eat up more time than I'll have."
"You won't be the only one that's
busy. Sick calls will go sky high with the boredom level
up. It'll be the fun kind, too," she tossed off
sarcastically. "Hangnails, headaches, heartaches, and
hangovers. My worst nightmares."
Lee chuckled. "Well, I'll do my
best to keep you actively engaged in problems worthy of
your academic training. Which reminds me, you want to
run some tests now or wait 'till morning. I feel like I
could use a good night's sleep. Maybe I'll feel better
in the morning."
"Hey, don't steal my lines. You
haven't finished your dinner yet. I can wait."
Lee looked down at the only
half-eaten tray of food before him. "I'm finished. Let's
get it over with."
They walked back to sickbay
engaged in idle chatter. Lisa joked about having to
brush up on her boredom psychotherapy skills, and Lee
speculated on the Captain's response to Habitat 7's
The tests were routine except for
the tissue samples that Lisa wanted, but it was painless
and only took about fifteen minutes. Lee staggered back
to his quarters, brushed his teeth, gulped down a couple
more of the pain pills Lisa had given him, and
racked-out for about seven hours.
Morning brought no relief when Lee
swung his legs over the side of his bed and shuffled to
the head. He still ached, and the queasiness he felt
when trying to eat his dinner was still with him. He
filled a glass from the tap and took two more of the
Lisa woke up as usual, with at
least one knee jutting over the edge of the bed where
Jimmy Hincle's night thrashing had pushed her. Jimmy was
not a quiet sleeper. She had fixed his snoring after
their first week together. That was an easy microwave
fix to the soft tissue behind his palate, but the demons
that pursued him in the night were his own to deal with,
and he was rarely successful. If he didn't add a new
bruise to some part of her anatomy every night they
spent together, she considered it a restful sleep.
When she arrived at the medical
station she went immediately to check on Lee's tissue
sample cultures she had started the previous day. As she
strode into the lab, she barked out instructions for the
computer. "Full bio-scans on all tissue samples from Lee
Goodwin. Prioritize results by magnitude of anomalous
readings. Voice report."
By the time she had crossed the
lab to stand in front of the holographic display, the
computer had started its report. "All nerve tissues show
a slight degeneration of the myelin sheath and an
average 7.32 percent necrosis of dendrite volume with
deviation between samples of less than 2.24 percent. All
muscle tissue shows moderate edema, with the gluteus
sample showing the highest at a 6.32 percent edematous
increase and the trapesius sample showing the lowest at
2.17 percent. Chemical analysis of primary cell
Lisa interrupted the report.
"Stop. Show me a picture of an area of necrotic dendrite
The display flickered on to show a
three-dimensional image of the dendritic fan of a nerve
cell. The tips of the dendritic growth were obviously
dead and even stumped out in some areas as the body was
obviously absorbing the dead tissue.
"Show me another sample." Lisa
continued to look at nerve tissue samples for a few
minutes then went on to the details of cellular
composition. Sometime during the morning she sat in her
console chair, but she was totally absorbed until the
duty nurse stuck her head into the lab to inquire if
Lisa was able to cover for her while she got some lunch.
Lisa's eyes automatically strayed up to the time readout
in the upper right-hand corner of the display. "Damn, it
is time for lunch," she thought.
"I've got it, Barb. Go ahead. I'll
get something when you come back."
About three subjective minutes
later, Barb stuck her head in the lab door. "I'm back."
Lisa waved her hand to acknowledge
the remark without shifting her focus from the display.
She would go for some lunch as soon as she tracked this
"Janet's here. I'll see you in the
morning. You really ought to get something to eat, Doc."
Barb's head was once more in the lab door.
Lisa looked at the time readout
and realized she had done it again. It was seventeen
hundred and she hadn't had any lunch. Thinking about it,
she felt hungry. "Okay, see you in the morning."
It was early for dinner and way
too late for any sane person to be eating lunch, so the
mess was sparsely dotted with people. But as she wielded
her tray away from the food dispenser, she spotted Lee
Goodwin at a table by himself in the far corner. She
steered in his direction. When she got to the table she
had to wait for a few seconds while the glaze faded from
Lee's face and he focused on the real world again. "Oh,
hi, Lisa. Have a seat. I was just ruminating a bit."
Lisa put her tray on the table and
her body in the chair opposite Lee's. "Is it lunch or
Lee had already started to slide
out of the world again. "Huh, uh, I don't know. What
time is it?"
"Seventeen hundred plus a little."
Lee thought a while. "Well, I
guess I opt for a late lunch, since I'm sure I'll be
skipping dinner and settling for a late supper. Our
construction problem's a bear."
Lisa felt a little twinge about
calling the kettle black, but she responded anyway. "Not
good, Lee. You need to keep your nutrition levels as
even as possible, and you need to get at least six hours
of sleep every day. How are you feeling?"
"About the same," Lee shrugged.
"Got any results from the samples you took?"
"I do, but they're preliminary. I
don't know why yet, but your cell chemistry is all
screwed up, particularly your nerve cells. It's no
wonder you don't feel well, but I don't know what to
give you yet except the strong analgesic. I'm working on
"How many of those things can I
take in a day?"
"Standard dosage is no more than
six a day, but ten shouldn't be a problem. If your ears
start ringing, back off a little, but ten should be
okay. As soon as I can put a name to the problem, we can
start treating it instead of its symptoms."
Lisa had no answers the next day
nor the next, and she didn't run into Lee in the
passageways or in the mess hall. On the fifth day of her
research, she ran across a reference to a possible
effect of cold-sleep noted by a Dr. Agothinian when the
process was first being used. He hypothesized that
cold-sleep could trigger an auto-immune response that
would cause the body to attack itself trying to rid
itself of freeze-damaged tissue. His hypothesis
influenced the cold-sleep engineering design,
particularly the pre-sleep infusion composition. The
bottom line, however, was that the predicted symptoms
had never shown up in the fifty years or so of use prior
to the launch of SEEDER 6. There was also no mention of
it occurring in the ten years after launch when SEEDER 6
still received regular data inputs from Earth.
Lisa found Lee at his console,
slumped in his chair and staring at the display before
him. Every few seconds his hand would twitch on his
mouse and the display would change, otherwise he had
every appearance of being catatonic. She decided on a
quiet intrusion and walked to the edge of the display
where Lee should be able to see her peripherally. She
got no response. "Lee?"
The next three "Lee"s were
progressively louder, and Lee jumped like a startled
rabbit when his consciousness was finally penetrated.
"Lisa, you scared me"
"Well, startled then. What's up?
Find anything on my problem? I haven't noticed any
change since I talked to you in the mess."
Lisa pulled a chair over from
another console and sat down facing Lee. "Bad news, Lee.
I can't be certain, but it looks like you might be
having some sort of auto-immune reaction to cold-sleep.
It was only hypothesized before we left, no actual
occurrences recorded. But it seems to fit the observed
changes in your cell tissue. The problem seems confined
to the nerve cells where your immune system is killing
dendrite tissue. If we can't find a way to divert your
immune response, the nervous system will gradually
degenerate with symptoms much like a disease called
multiple sclerosis that was cured early in the
twenty-first century. The nature of the degeneration is
different, but the effect will be the same."
Lee appeared interested, but not
overly concerned. "So what's the prognosis? Lot's of
pain; paralysis? And how long will this degeneration
take? Is it going to significantly interfere with my
ability to work?"
Lisa shook her head. "It's too
early to tell, Lee. I just haven't got any data, but my
guess at this point is that even if we're able to arrest
it during the wake period, there'll be a significant
chance that another cold-sleep will make the situation
worse, maybe much worse."
"Uhm," was Lee's pensive response.
"So I'm probably good for this wake period?"
"I don't know, Lee. It depends on
how much we can slow your immune response without making
you vulnerable to other problems. Your immune system has
a function you know, and if we slow it down to
ameliorate the nerve degeneration, we also impair that
"We got a choice?," Lee said
"Let's get on with trying
And try they did. Lisa tried all
the standard drug therapies for auto-immune suppression,
always searching for one that would turn off the
response that was attacking the nerve cell dendrite
tissue while leaving the other responses alone. She
didn't find one in the two-year wake period, and Lee's
condition got steadily worse. He also had to fight off
an array of infections resulting from the suppression of
his immune system and occasional reactions to new drugs
she was trying.
Lee's response was always upbeat
with an underlying sense of grit. He never really
complained. He only provided feedback for Lisa so she
would know what effects he was feeling from the
treatments she was trying, but when she would come into
his area and find him totally absorbed in the display
before him, she could see the pain in his movements and
his eyes before he knew she was there. During the last
year of the wake period, she found herself cycling
between depression and euphoria as she was whipsawed
first by his pain and suffering and then by the
magnitude of his spirit and determination.
It was finally time to launch
Habitat 7. Lee had been right. The final assembly looked
more like an explosion than a construction effort. The
habitat assemblies being fabricated and outfitted inside
of SEEDER 6 looked alive with crawling robots, making it
virtually impossible to see the assemblies themselves.
On the surface of SEEDER 6, the erected assemblies were
surrounded by a gigantic framework that Lee had designed
to speed the final construction step and to overcome the
limited people resources available. The framework would
have been wasteful for a normal construction cycle, but
with nothing else for the space rigger crew to do during
the catch-up efforts of the robots, it made sense to do
whatever they could to shorten the final assembly time
once the component pieces finally moved into space.
At last, Habitat 7 was on its way
with its full load of frozen adults, children, ova, and
sperm, already decelerating for insertion in orbit
around a star that was still just a little brighter than
all the other millions visible to the eye. Lisa, like
everyone else in the crew, was in the assembly hall
having a glass of real champagne. It was one of the few
foodstuffs available on SEEDER 6 in a form that didn't
require some kind of reconstitution. Most of the crew
had learned not to touch the "other" wines provided for
meals. They preferred to wait for the special occasions
that some rational provisioner had known would be
appropriate for habitat launches and worth the dedicated
cryogenic storage container. They always toasted the
"mystery provisioner" before the party was over.
Lisa spotted Lee Goodwin sitting
in a chair with a mixed group of men and women standing
around him. He was smiling for once and seemed to be in
good spirits. She moved into the group and stood
silently while the conversation played itself out and
the people drifted on to other interactions. When they
were alone, she tried for the last time to convince Lee
that it would be a good idea for her to delay going back
into cold-sleep while she pursued a few more ideas that
could solve the nerve degeneration problem or at least
delay the progression a little more effectively.
Lee's response was the same that
it had been for the last few months. "Lisa, Lisa, I keep
telling you I have a plan, and I have thousands of
robots just dying to be converted for research work. I
want to do this alone or not at all."
"And you won't tell me what you're
planning to do?"
"Nope. You'll either have an older
me to talk to when you're in the last wake period or
I'll leave you a complete log of my efforts. That'll
have to do."
Lisa leaned down and kissed Lee on
the cheek. She turned abruptly and walked toward the
thick of the party, the first few steps with her eyes
2755 AD: Eighth Wake Period
Lisa floated up to consciousness,
shivering as usual. She could feel that the arm and leg
restraints were still in place, but thank God the face
mask had already drawn back into its recess. When she
regained consciousness before the mask had withdrawn,
she felt like she was going to smother. In just a few
seconds the arm and leg restraints pulled back into
their recesses and the lid on the cold-sleep coffin
Lisa lay there a few moments
taking in the air of her compartment. While it had the
exact same origin as the air in the coffin, it somehow
always tasted sweeter when coming out of cold-sleep.
Lisa fumbled with the latch on the side of the coffin
and swiveled around when the side hydraulically lowered
itself. Getting her feet on the deck was always a good
feeling even if standing up for the first time in a
hundred years was a bit wobbly.
She knew that her first act should
be to check on her chosen domestic partner, Jimmy Hincle,
but she stumbled hurriedly instead to her work station.
She passed several crewmembers in the passageways, but
as usual, nobody was up to communications much beyond a
smile in the first few hours after cold-sleep wakeup.
She settled into her new console chair, undoubtedly
replaced by the maintenance robots sometime in the
previous few months, and called up computer access.
"System activated," came the voice
she had programmed into her station before leaving the
asteroid belt of the solar system some six hundred years
before. "Medical status on Lee Goodwin and any messages
he might have left for me."
Her response was not in the
familiar voice of her console, but in a voice just as
familiar, Lee Goodwin's. "Good morning, Lisa," and with
the trace of a chuckle, "I trust you had a good night's
Lisa was in no mood for humor yet.
She queried, "Is this you, Lee, or a message you've left
"That's not as easy a question as
it might seem," came the response. "It's not a recorded
message, but on the other hand, I'm not the Lee Goodwin
"Quit talking in riddles, Lee,"
Lisa snapped out. "Were your experiments successful? Did
you find a way to stop the degeneration? Are you cured?"
"Yes, no, and sort of," rang in
the air around the console, followed by a long moment of
"Damn it, Lee. Are you going to
tell me what happened, or are we going to play guessing
An audible sigh from the speakers
followed Lisa's outburst. "Okay, here goes a super-short
version. We can cover the details later. It took seven
years after you and the crew went into cold-sleep, but I
succeeded in getting my body to grow a spinal node that
gradually transitioned from normal nerve receptor tissue
to a poly-carbon conductor. In fact I grew two of them
because I couldn't force enough bandwidth out of the
first one. Then, after a lot of trial and error, I
succeeded in getting a true download to SEEDER's central
computer that I had expanded by two orders of magnitude
while working on the spinal node. I had a lot of
trouble, particularly with the programming, but I
finally got it straightened out, and here I am. Not the
Lee Goodwin you knew physically, but still the Lee
Goodwin you knew mentally."
Lisa was gasping for a breath so
she could scream, but by the time she got the breath,
she had a little better control on her emotions. "You
mean to tell me you downloaded yourself to the
computer?" she said with just a little more than normal
volume. "You never told me you were planning to do that.
You were going to try to find a way to arrest the nerve
degeneration and then you were going to go into
cold-sleep yourself. And now you tell me you're part of
SEEDER's computer. The real Lee Goodwin's been dead for
eighty years?" she choked, screaming.
"Stop it, Lisa."
The choking scream became
anguished sobbing that seemed to go on for a long time
before Lee spoke again. "Lisa, it was the only option
available to me. We had tried everything we could think
of to stop the degeneration and it didn't work. I didn't
tell you about my plan because I knew your reaction
would be what it just was. I've had seventy-four years
as my new self now, and Lisa, I like it. I actually like
it better than my old, mortal self. I know that's hard
for you to believe right now, but I do."
Lisa sat sniffling and wiping her
face and nose with her sleeve. She didn't know what else
to say. She just couldn't deal with this sort of
emotional stress right now, not just after coming out of
cold-sleep, maybe not even later.
Lee broke the silence again.
"Lisa, this is a lot all at once. I'm going to let you
have some time. Go out into the central chamber and take
a look. Check out the exterior of SEEDER as well. See
what I've been able to do in the time I've had since my
transition. We'll talk more later."
Lisa took Lee's advice and started
out of sickbay, heading for Jimmy Hincle's quarters. Of
course, he wasn't there. He was probably in the science
lab checking on the multitude of experiments he had set
up for the cold-sleep period, and of course, he probably
hadn't given Lisa a thought since waking up. She backed
out of the empty quarters and headed for the central
She took the usual ten steps to
the automatic door, pushed the button that checked the
air pressures on both sides, and thought she was some
place else when the door slid open. The central chamber
had been a long walk from Jimmy's quarters in her
memory, but here it was, and it looked nothing like the
central chamber she had left when she went into
cold-sleep. It was about four times as wide as before,
fifty or sixty times its former volume, and packed with
every kind of structural shape you could imagine. Hordes
of robots moved on and between them for as far as the
eye could see. To top off the visual effect, she found
herself standing on a balcony, jutting up into the
central chamber. The structure she was on top of fell
away on two sides of her, back to the new perimeter
walls of the chamber. As a momentary wave of dizziness
passed over her, Lisa stepped back from the railing she
had unconsciously approached when she had entered the
As Lisa turned to go back through
the door and into the passageway, she heard the familiar
voice of the Captain on the com. "This is the Captain
speaking. As some of you have already found out, and the
rest of you soon will, there have been massive changes
to SEEDER 6 while you were in cold-sleep. The
perpetrator of these changes is Lee Goodwin, who managed
to survive the cold-sleep period—more or less. In
addition to the new and more spacious quarters that he
has had the robots construct for all the crew in the new
outer perimeter of the central chamber, there is a new
assembly hall where we will all meet in twenty-three
minutes at 0900. Your new quarters assignments will be
given out there and at least some explanation of what
has happened in the last eighty years or so. There are
running strip lights in all the passageways that are now
set to guide you to the assembly hall. I'll see you all
As Lisa moved back into the
passageway, she saw the strip lights sequencing along
the baseboard, guiding her, and she guessed everyone
else, to the new assembly hall. She followed the running
lights, almost mindlessly, in a stunned shuffle, the
best she could do on wakeup day. Before long, there were
a couple of other crew members moving along the same
passageway with her. They too looked stunned and were
walking with no less of a shuffle than she was managing.
There were smiles and waves, but not much talk.
Lisa noticed that the shuffle was
getting worse for everyone. It was definitely taking a
real effort to walk down the passageway. Then it dawned
on her that they must be walking out toward the new
interior walls of SEEDER 6. That would mean the
spin-gravity was increasing. Finally, the lights led
into an automatic door that slid silently aside as each
crew member approached and closed silently behind them
as they entered.
There looked to be about forty or
so already in the assembly hall, about a third of the
crew compliment. There were pockets of people seated
around the hall and the talk was lively and loud in each
of the groups. Nobody remained standing; it was too much
Lisa looked around for Jimmy, but
he was nowhere in sight. He might even have failed to
register the Captain's message, if he was focused on an
experiment result when the message was on the com.
Focusing to a fault was one of her big bitches with
Jimmy. She spotted a few close friends of hers and
Jimmy's and gravitated into that group. They were
discussing Lee Goodwin as she came up and took the extra
load off her feet.
Patsy Burita, one of SEEDER 6's
botanists, saw Lisa and immediately shifted her
discussion to question her knowledge of Lee. "Lisa, have
you examined Lee yet? He must have survived the
cold-sleep somehow if he did all this."
Lisa felt herself start to
tremble, but clamped down on it before it could show.
"No, I haven't examined him, but he did survive in a
fashion. He downloaded himself to SEEDER 6's computer.
I've talked to him already."
"He did what?", Patsy gasped.
"He's in the computer? Is he alive?"
"Patsy", Lisa responded
exasperatedly, "how could he be alive if he's only a
computer program. He can't live inside the computer."
Patsy responded to Lisa's
exasperation with a bit of pique. "Well, I know that
much, Lisa. I meant did it really seem like Lee Goodwin
when you talked to him. Is his personality still intact.
Does he seem cogent?"
"I'm not sure I can discuss it
logically yet, Patsy, but you know that no one has ever
achieved artificial intelligence. They can write real
sophisticated and seemingly intelligent programs, but
never one that is truly self-aware. Actually, I don't
know what to think yet. I guess we're going to hear more
about it from the Captain or from the Lee Goodwin
As if on cue, the lights in the
hall dimmed, and the Captain walked out on the small
stage that the seats faced. He had his hands in the air
as if to ward off the rising level of questions starting
from the floor. "I know you all have a million
questions, and so do I, but we're going to start with a
presentation prepared by Lee Goodwin that will hopefully
answer most of them."
With that announcement, he strode
from the stage and sat in the first row of seats. A
holographic projection of Lee Goodwin formed on the
stage, and it seemed to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen of
the crew, this is about as close to the physical being
of Lee Goodwin that I can get. The personality you knew
as Lee Goodwin is now a huge collection of interactive
programs in a computer. While I make use of SEEDER 6's
central computer, that I considerably upgraded when you
were in cold-sleep, my core programs are now loaded on
the dumbbell-shaped starship some of you have seen
moored to the exterior of this hollowed-out asteroid. My
personal journey since you all went into cold-sleep is a
long one, and I'll tell you as much of it in this
presentation as you need to know in order to understand
our current condition and our potential future. Here
The assembly hall had been quiet
for more than an hour as Lee Goodwin's presentation
unrolled. The holographic projection of Lee had been
replaced by a fast-paced chronology of changes to SEEDER
6, and in the end, to images of Lee's journey of
exploration as part of the new faster-than-light ship he
had designed and built during the cold-sleep.
Finally, the image was of Lee
again. ".so the mission for SEEDER 6 has not changed. We
will still launch the last habitat with all its intended
complement on schedule. The difference is the choice you
now have. You can put your forty-five to fifty year old
physical bodies back into cold-sleep aboard the habitat
and wake up with the colonists in a new star system,
just like the original plan envisioned. But now you have
another option, rather than go with the colonists as
supernumeraries at worst and pseudo-grandparents at
best, you can choose the new life that I've chosen,
where your aging body is traded in for a ship capable of
traveling considerably faster than light and your eyes,
ears, and hands are as diverse and multiple as the
robots you see scurrying around in the central chamber.
Not to mention the fact that you will be virtually
immortal, no pun intended. It's a concept that I know
you'll all have difficulty with, but I'll be available
24 hours a day during the next couple of months to talk
ith each of you, simultaneously if necessary, about
anything you might want to discuss about being alive but
no longer human. I'll be sad if no one chooses to join
me, but it's certainly a very personal choice. Thank
The Captain did not return to the
stage. He rose quietly from his seat and walked slowly
out of the hall. There didn't seem to be any questions
anyway, and there was very little conversation as the
rest of the crew followed the Captain's example. Lisa
noted that the spin-gravity had been slowly adjusted
during the presentation. She was now walking with a more
customary pressure on her feet and joints.
As she passed through the exit
door, a computer voice spoke to her. "Lisa Martineau,
assigned to crew quarters 201B.repeat, 201B. Map and
verbal directions at each passageway nexus. Spin-gravity
will adjust to Earth normal at crew quarters level over
the next twenty-four hours." Lisa shuffled off to find
her new quarters and shift her personal belongings from
her old quarters, but when she got to her new quarters,
she found all of her possessions neatly piled in the
center of a spacious living room. The housekeeping
robots had evidently been working overtime during the
presentation, taking full advantage of the clear
Lisa crossed over to the
comfortable looking couch against the bulkhead on her
right, skirting sideways around the mound of her worldly
possessions in the floor. She sat down and put her feet
up, stretching the length of the cushions with her head
resting on the padded arm. "Lee, are you monitoring?"
The answer took no longer than the
normal conversational pause. "Yes, I'm here, twenty-four
hours a day, anytime you want."
"Does that mean you'll be
listening in on my private conversations as well?"
"No, I've solved that problem with
a dumb sub-routine that alerts me only when I'm called.
Unless that sub-routine is triggered, I don't hear
anything at all."
"Good, you're seeming much too
omniscient as it is, and I want you to be Lee Goodwin.
Two months doesn't seem very long to make up my mind to
become a computer entity. Why did you shorten the normal
cycle for wakeup to habitat launch from two years to two
"Two months was sufficient
construction time with improved robotics, and the
psychological data available to me on the crew indicated
that the normal two year cycle would be too much time
for the decision. Too long to live under the stress of
such a momentous decision and still make a good one. Two
months appeared to be about right to absorb all the data
needed for the decision and still not leave too much
time for second thoughts before implementation."
Lisa rubbed the heels of her hands
into her closed eyes and gave a little sigh. "So, you've
added human psychology to the panoply of your god-hood
Lee responded in the same
irritated tone that he would have used if he had been
sitting physically in the room with her. "Knock it off,
Lisa. I know enough about it not to fall for such a
come-on, but I'll probably never be very good at it. The
texture of the topic doesn't mesh too well with the
gears of my intellectual machinery."
"Sorry," replied Lisa contritely,
"I just can't get a good grasp on this thing, and it's
easy to just lash out. What kind of response do you
expect to get from the crew?"
"You mean a subjective response or
"Sixty-two point nine percent.
Seventy-eight choices to become crew ships. The rest
will choose to be pseudo-grandparents."
"God, Lee. Two months. I don't
"I'm here when you want me."
26 AC: Adam System
Lisa kept her communications
circuits carefully blanked, but her thoughts were
looping at light-speed.
"Lee, Lee, are you still out there? Where did you go?
Are you still alive? It's been fifteen years! We've all
followed your plan; each of us has returned regularly
every five or ten years, communicating and sharing
experiences through the memory stores you created for us
by packing the sucked out SEEDER 6 with memory to store
whatever each of us would want to pass on to the
others—our digital home. It was you who knew we would
never see each other again without a prearranged point
like Adam, but it is you who hasn't returned in fifteen
years. Is this finally you, Lee?"
Lisa let go her full spectrum
hail. It went out in every energy spectrum she was aware
of and in all the frequencies she could muster. A warm
welcome home went out in Standard English on the normal
sub-C and trans-c bands, while a clutter of natural
constants and prime numbers went out on all bands in
After the burst, Lisa fell silent
and waited. Her sensors watched the continuing progress
of the inbound ship and were poised to catch any
response to the hail. "Lisa, it's Lee Goodwin."
Lisa detected and clipped her
involuntary micro-circuit transients before they had any
adverse effect on her systems, and the pulse flutter she
detected in her fusion generators smoothed itself. She
activated her primary trans-c data buss and probed for a
link on the pre-arranged bandwidth. The link on the
incoming vessel was open, and Lisa carefully isolated
her probe routine from her main control links and closed
Seven seconds later, the buss
opened, and Lisa isolated the bandwidth and examined the
probe-acquired data. She was stunned. How could she
visualize this. It was like her probe had flowed into a
spherical cavity, neatly defined by the ends of the
individual data streams that were confined to the same
space. She had total access to all the data in the
sphere but to nothing outside of it. And the data
streams, they were incredible, woven into a tapestry
that in its weaving said more than the data in the
streams. It was a brief but full view of the personality
she knew as Lee Goodwin, with some tantalizing glimpses
of growth that were exactly along the lines she would
The creation of a personality
bubble like this one could only have been by the true
entity, but was she getting the bubble from Lee or
someone who got it from Lee. She had been fooled once
before, and had almost died when she opened up to an
incoming ship that claimed to be Jimmy Hincle but was
one of the crazies.
"It seems to be you, and it seems
you're sure it's me? How do you know?"
"By the texture of your probe,
Lisa. You haven't changed that much since your transfer.
I came back to Adam shortly after all the crew had left
and reviewed everyone's personality transfer files that
I'd instructed SEEDER 6's computer to save. I've got a
very tight identity match for all the crew."
"Are you saying that the SEEDER 6
computer has personality files on all the crew? I've
been through every scrap of data in that computer, and
there's no file of crew personalities in the banks."
"Lisa, you forget that SEEDER 6's
current configuration was my creation. I didn't want
everyone to have access to that data."
"I hear you. Show it to me and
I'll consider that proof of your identity."
Lisa was immediately queried by
the SEEDER 6 computer for the establishment of a data
transfer link, and she opened her primary com channels.
SEEDER 6 Central squirted, and there she was in the
temporary communications buffer. Lee had selected her
own profile to send to her. She looked it over with
fascination and a strange sense of deja vu. Satisfied,
she dumped the buffer, glad to be rid of her summarized
self and the strange emotions that it evoked.
"All right. I'm convinced. It's
"So, do I get at least a second
level link, or are you going to keep me on level one
until I'm bored to death? It's been a long time since I
was restricted to Standard English."
Lisa had been thinking about this
link for fifteen years, and she had decided on the first
true communication she would make with Lee a long time
ago. She opened up a high-bit link, verified Lee's
buffer size, and squirted. Lee responded in what Lisa
found to be a truly short time in light of the size of
the data packets going in both directions.
"You certainly had an interesting
introduction to the Milky Way, Lisa, in many cases, very
different from mine. You did a good job of summarizing
it, but you've carefully, and obviously, avoided any
personal interpretation of your experiences. I could
match up these experiences with your psych profile and
probably get a good idea of what you're avoiding, but
why don't you just tell me?"
Lisa wasn't surprised that Lee was
a bit miffed by the cold set of data she had sent, in
fact, she would have been disappointed in any other
response. "Sensitivity to the unsaid was always a strong
part of your personality, Lee, and I see you haven't
lost it. I'm not trying to play games with you, but I am
being cautious. I've had a lot of time to think about
what I have to say to you, not idle time, but plenty of
it. It's essential that I get a feel for the ways you
may have changed since I last saw you. As I get a feel
for this, I hope I'll be able to use my new
understanding of you to help frame the essentials of
what I have to say."
"It sounds very mysterious, Lisa.
Why all the drama?"
"I know it does, but in the
fifteen years I've been waiting to say this, I haven't
been able to come up with an approach that didn't sound
corny. I'm hoping you will indulge me out of curiosity
if nothing else."
"Well, I admit to being curious.
Let's see how long I can sustain it."
2755 AD: Eighth Wake Period
In reality, Lisa still had two
weeks to make up her mind, but she was tired with it
nagging her, and she wanted to get it behind her. "Lee,
let's talk a little. I want to know a little bit more
before I make up my mind."
Lee's response was immediate, as
always. "Okay, what's on your mind?"
Lisa had tossed and turned over
the issue for the last three nights, and she knew
exactly what she wanted to ask. "I'd like to know more
about your efforts to stay alive after Habitat 7 was
launched and we all went into cold-sleep."
"Okay," Lee agreed, "I'll try and
keep it brief. If you will remember, you tried hard in
the last few days to convince me that it would be
productive to allow you to delay cold-sleep and continue
your research for a cure. You should also remember that
I put on a full-scale demonstration to prove that I
could handle the job myself with the aid of the computer
and the laboratory robots once I was free from habitat
preparation duties. When you reluctantly went back into
cold-sleep, you probably figured I had no more than five
to eight years, even though you never said it.
"As soon as you were under, I
immediately cleared the labs of all specimens and
cultures you had so carefully organized and cared for
over the last two years. I had made up my mind months
before that the convergence probabilities were not in my
favor for finding a medical answer that would reverse
the degenerative activity of my body, and arresting the
problem would only buy me time that I really didn't
want. The way I figured it, If I survived for thirty or
forty more years by arresting the degeneration, I would
probably still be unable to take the shocks of
cold-sleep and could only look forward to growing old
more utterly alone than anyone has ever been before. Not
the sort of thing for me, and besides, you had peaked my
curiosity with several of the recombinant cultures you
had tried in your efforts to grow a new kidney and liver
that wouldn't, immediately upon transplant, begin to
deteriorate in function.
"Some of the things you tried I
didn't know were possible. If you remember, I was asking
a lot of questions in those days, and I was doing as
much research in the central computer's medical and
biological archives as my other duties would allow.
That's when I came up with the plan that I was going to
bet my life on. If I lost, at least I wouldn't have
bored myself to death. If I won, I might live not only
until the crew warmed up, but potentially, forever.
"My final goal was
straightforward, if not simple. As you now know, my plan
was to transfer my personality to the central computer
of SEEDER 6. Although a lot of research had been done on
bio-computer interfaces according to our data banks, as
far as I knew no human had ever been successfully
equipped with even a rudimentary device at the time of
SEEDER 6's departure. Unless it was done in the short
time left to the humans of the solar system, in some
human colony during the last nine hundred years or so
since the seeding had begun, or in some parallel
situation aboard one of the other seeder ships, it
looked like I would be breaking new ground.
"Now I knew all too well that
artificial intelligence, the computer technology carrot
through the last half of the twentieth century and
throughout most of the twenty-first century, had been a
gigantic fizzle. And that no matter how hard they tried,
nobody had succeeded in making a computer self-aware. To
us computer jocks, it seemed as hard as making something
from nothing, truly something from truly nothing. It
appeared to be impossible.
"But I wasn't discouraged. I
wasn't planning to spend my time on some perpetual
motion machine; I was going to try for an artificial,
artificial intelligence. That is, a wolf of human
intelligence in the sheep's clothing of a computer. So
Lisa couldn't stand it any longer.
She had to ask how he had done it. "Lee, cut to the
chase, will you? How did you manage the interface?"
"Hey, whose story is this? I was
just getting there. Like I was saying, I was hoping to
piggy-back on the tissue growth experiments you had been
doing with the goal of growing a new type of nerve
tissue using recombinant DNA and electro-magnetic
stimulation techniques. The previous research had
succeeded in altering human cells to produce an organic
conductor, and it seemed to me that the trick was
coaxing the genes to start with normal Lee Goodwin cells
at the nerve tissue connection and then to gradually
alter the basic nature of the cells as the tissue grew.
I knew what I had on the starting end and I knew what I
wanted the tissue to be like at the end of its growth.
It took me seven years of tedious research to find the
right combinations, and ultimately I did it sort of
backwards, but I did it."
Lisa was beside herself. "But how
did you do it? Where did you take the tissue sample you
used? What genes did you splice? Which splicing
techniques did you use? How did you."
"Hold on a minute, Lisa. Do you
really want the details? We'll be here all day and all
night until the end of the wake period. I've got the
time; I can multi-task, but have you?"
She was nonplussed. Yes, she
wanted to know every little detail, and no, she knew she
didn't have the time to hear it all. "Okay, you win, but
if I decide on the download option, you owe me the full
"Done. What else?"
"What else happened? Major stuff,
"Well, my first effort failed. The
tissue grew like I wanted it to, but I couldn't get
enough bandwidth to make the download in the time left.
So I prepped another spine site and tried a variation I
had thought of three-fourths of the way through the
first effort. It worked, and I went crazy."
Lisa couldn't stop the reflex of
looking up sharply from her toes, where she had been
focused, to the center of the room where she knew
intellectually no one was there. "What do you mean
crazy? Happy, delighted crazy, or insane crazy?"
There was an uncharacteristic
pause before Lee's response. "Crazy is the only way I
can explain it. I can't really remember much of what
went on during that time, but when I finally pulled out
of it, I retained enough memory to make some needed
changes in the interpreter language and algorithms. When
I started making the changes it felt like I was doing it
with only half my brain working and only one finger for
input. Of course, I didn't have a brain or any fingers
at all, but that's as close as I can get to the way it
"What's wrong with the original
software, Lee? What was it not doing or doing wrong?"
"Well, there was nothing wrong
with it. It worked just the way I'd designed it to work.
The problem was that I didn't really understand the
necessity for prioritizing data availability. I had
priority algorithms, but to nowhere near the extent
needed. Apparently, a person can't remain sane with
complete access to all data at all times. Every problem,
every attempt at executing a command or making a
decision becomes instantly overwhelming in the cascade
of available data. To make decisions as a human being
it's necessary to focus on only the important data for
that decision. That requires an ability to determine
which data is necessary. That requires a prioritization
of data as it's acquired which determines how it's filed
for later access. To function rationally, I found out
that it was necessary to essentially "forget" the vast
majority of data that I routinely acquired. Of course
being a machine with essentially limitless storage
capacity, it wasn't really necessary to forget anything,
only to put it in storage where it wouldn't be used
unless I really wanted it."
"Do you think the programming
problem is fixed?" Lisa queried.
"I do. I can't be absolutely sure
until I've successfully downloaded someone other than
myself, but I'm pretty sure."
"Pretty sure?" Lisa huffed. "These
are people's lives we're talking about. Pretty sure
doesn't seem too good to me."
"I'm not planning to use the
patched up programming I had when I finally pulled out
of my funk. I've had seventy-four years to understand
the problem and refine the programming. I guess I'm
saying that I'm a lot more than 'pretty sure'."
"You damn well better be. Have you
told any of the others about your problem and the
potential risks for them?"
"The few that have asked, yes."
Lisa seemed drained. She needed to
think about what all this meant as far as her decision
was concerned. "Okay, Lee. That's all for now. Bye."
"Any time, Lisa."
Lisa still took another week to
make up her mind. It might have come sooner, but her
suited excursion to the exterior of SEEDER 6 shortly
after the conversation with Lee caused the setback. She
didn't need to see the fully constructed Habitat 8 from
the outside, since it looked like all the other seeder
habitats. What she needed to see was the ship that
housed the computer that housed Lee Goodwin, and it was
tethered to the polar end opposite that of the habitat.
Lisa didn't particularly like low
and no gravity experiences and by the time she got to
the end of the passageway leading to the south pole
airlock for SEEDER 6, she was slightly nauseated. She
was also torn between going back to her quarters and
making do with the holographic images of the ship or
gutsing it out and getting the first hand impact of
actually looking at what might be her in a few
The outer door to the airlock
swung open. "Okay, computer, reel me out about twenty
meters. That ought to be enough to see it all."
The computer responded with a
request to make a slight jump through the airlock door
with about the force required to elevate a few inches in
normal gravity. Lisa made the effort and floated out
head down into a shower of stars. Or at least it felt
like it was head down when she emerged, but when she had
cleared the airlock and there was nothing but stars and
space in her peripheral vision, her brain flipped her
back to head up. Her already queasy stomach lurched.
As her tether tightened, her back
rotated to face the asteroid and there was Lee Goodwin,
spinning on his own tether. That is, he was spinning at
just the same speed as SEEDER 6 but in the opposite
direction. Then again, was that spinning or standing
still? She hated all this relativity.
She examined the star-reflecting
hull of the ship hanging over her and was disappointed
that she couldn't see more. If she had thought about it,
she would have realized that holographic images were
bound to be better because Lee could synthesize the
light. Out here there were only stars, billions of them,
but only starlight.
The dumbbell-shaped structure of
the ship was a blot on the star-scape. Without any
reference, she couldn't get a good feel for the size of
the ship, but she already knew its size. The two end
spheres were about a hundred meters in diameter and the
connecting cylinder was twenty meters in diameter and
three hundred meters long. The two spheres were mostly
propulsion-field generators, and the cylinder was mostly
Lee Goodwin. No ears, no eyes, no nose, no mouth, no
hands, and no feet; just gleaming black metal. She felt
the tears running down her cheeks. "Reel me in, damn
The next day Lisa sat in the
conform chair in her quarters, a cup of steaming cut
black tea in her hand. It was cryo-stored but the real
thing, raw and biting. "Lee, what's the count now?"
The answer was immediate,
"That's seven less than when I
asked you three days ago, isn't it?"
"Yes," was his answer, and it was
amazingly despondent. How he could still be so
expressive with his voice and be only a computer still
Lee made an attempt at humor, even
though it was apparent his heart, or whatever equivalent
program, wasn't in it. "In this case, they're opting for
cold feet. I guess I'm not a very good PR man, and I
told you I was a lousy psychologist."
Lisa grinned through her response.
"I don't know; I think you did a pretty good job on the
galaxy wandering stuff you showed us. You saved all
those images for their PR value, didn't you?"
"Yeah. It was that obvious?"
"It was to me, but it also
answered one of my questions about living for thousands
or millions of years. How bored would I get, and how
quickly would it happen. You convinced me that with the
capability to go just about anywhere you wanted through
a wormhole, and to do it essentially instantaneously,
there would be little chance of boredom for a long, long
"The other big question for me was
how I would deal with being so utterly alone, but you
helped a lot on that when you showed us your contacts
with a few of our colonies and your plan to turn SEEDER
6 into a digital home base and mailbox. All in all, a
pretty good job. You convinced me."
There was a clear edge of
excitement in Lee's voice as he said, "Does that mean
you're going to make it forty-five?"
"Count me in. I never had much
desire to be a grandparent without ever being a parent
2963 AD: Ninth Wake Period
Lisa swam up to consciousness and
Lee Goodwin's voice. "Hey lazybones, let's shake a leg
while you still can. I can't tell you how delighted I
was when you decided to join the crewship brigade."
Lisa's dry throat cracked out a
"My name for what I've become and
you and thirty-seven men and women of the former SEEDER
6 crew are about to become."
"Christ, Lee. Tone it down a
little. You're too upbeat for a wakeup day. Nobody's
going to be in the mood for a sprightly computer today."
"Ahha," responded Lee in the same
sprightly manner as before, "but it's only you that has
to face my exuberance. I brought you out two days before
anybody else so you could help with the interface tissue
"But," sputtered Lisa, "I thought
all that was automated. Your interface was all done by
the medical robots you designed."
"True, but a robot doesn't have
much of a bedside manner, and I'm not too sure about
mine anymore either. Yours, on the other hand, should
still be as good as it always was, at least after you
have a few days to get up to speed. Are you game?"
"I guess so, but I'll need all of
the two days. A week would have been better."
"A week, two weeks, a month,
whatever you want," was Lee's retort.
Lisa paused a moment. "I take it
back, two days with you in this mood will be quite
sufficient," she groaned. "Go away and let me get out of
this thing. I've got pressing bodily functions to take
care of. You remember those don't you?"
"Modesty becomes you, my lady."
And with that, Lee was gone from the circuits in her
Lee's preparation of the
thirty-eight crewships would take time, so the selectees
had gone into their last cold-sleep after the eighth and
final habitat had been launched. Following the slingshot
maneuver around the Habitat 8's system star, and during
the seventy-three years it had taken SEEDER 6 to return
to and orbit the protostar Adam, Lee had stayed busy. He
had continued to upgrade and refine the crewship design,
including himself, and during the early years of the
last voyage, had utilized his crewship-self with its FTL
drive to race ahead to the Habitat 8 target star system.
Long before the habitat arrived in the system, Lee had
rounded up a sizable group of small asteroid chunks
needed for a crewship factory and was waiting when
SEEDER 6 had completed her slingshot and was on her way
to the protostar system.
Since he was restricted in the
mass he could accelerate in a reasonable time frame to
match SEEDER 6's outgoing velocity, the asteroids he had
selected contained the raw materials he needed to build
the low-mass but complex systems and equipment that
would make up the guts of the crewships. The high-mass
components would be built in the efficiency of the
protostar orbit where all the raw materials should be
available with a low energy collection effort. The FTL
propulsion system devised by Lee couldn't be coaxed to
operate in the high gravity well of a star system, so it
was great for moving from star system to star system but
no help at all for in-system maneuvering. The only quick
way into or out of a star system seemed to be via
wormhole, usually located at gravity anomalies like
major Trojan points, if at all.
When Lisa finally struggled to the
central chamber for a first hand look, it was to yet
again another version of the original seed ship. It was
indeed a very different factory than the one that had
produced eight habitats and even more changed than the
surprise that had greeted them when they awoke from
cold-sleep to send off Habitat 8. The chamber itself was
much larger and seemed to be perfectly spherical. She
knew that the original asteroid base for SEEDER 6 had
been roughly ovaloid in shape, and that meant that the
asteroid had been virtually converted in its entirety to
This time Lisa didn't feel any
compulsion to go outside the interior of SEEDER 6 for a
first hand look. She went instead to her familiar work
station, although she had to ask the computer, or Lee,
or whatever was now in control of computer functions,
how to get there from her quarters. Lee had left the
crew quarters as they were, but he had moved just about
everything else in his efforts to optimize the use of
onboard building materials. "System up," Lisa intoned as
she slipped into the console conform chair. "Show me a
panoramic view of SEEDER 6 from space. Start at a
perspective of ten kilometers above the north pole. All
scroll functions to the mouse."
The holographic image popped up in
front of her and she keyed the mouse to move in, out,
and around the image of the new SEEDER 6. At each of the
poles there was a string of tethered dumbbell shapes,
just like the ship Lee had constructed for himself. The
exterior of SEEDER 6 appeared to be a series of domes
almost edge-to-edge across the entire surface. She knew
she needed help to understand just what she was looking
at. "Lee, which one of the tethered ships is you, and
why are there only thirty-eight of them? With you, there
should be thirty-nine."
The response was slower than
usual, but still enjoying his upbeat mood, Lee answered
cockily, "I'm the dumbbell in charge, but you didn't see
me in the strings because I'm currently ferrying a
nearby ice chunk to SEEDER 6 for its fusion reactors. I
won't physically be at Seeder 6 for another couple of
hours. You probably noticed the time lag on my response.
As we plow around in this soup that Adam is cooking up,
we pass by frequent targets of opportunity that I charge
off to corral. I'm trying to fill the domes you saw on
the surface with ice."
"That's what they're for, storing
"Well, they are now. Originally, I
built them for storing the piece parts I constructed on
the way to Adam. Now I'm trying to get enough water
available for the fusion reactors to be able to operate
for a thousand years or so. The mass will also help stop
radiation damage to the more delicate systems I plan to
leave aboard SEEDER 6 when we all clear out. I'm almost
Lee had piqued her curiosity.
"What systems are you leaving that need to operate for a
The exuberant Lee gave a
characteristic chuckle. "Got your attention did I? I'm
leaving a revamped version of the central computer and
all the robotic capability needed to maintain itself. I
plan to use it as a digital home base or mailbox for
everybody. My recommendation is that we all come back
every five to ten years and leave and pick up messages.
That way we can stay in touch, arrange rendezvous, share
new knowledge, and generally maintain that sense of
community you feel is so important. Unless somebody
comes up with a method for omni-directional, long-range,
trans-light communications, it's the best I can come up
Lisa's love for detail sent her
back to the previous subject to clear up a nagging
thought. "You've got the water barrier for radiation,
but what about the big junk in this system?"
"Active systems. Lasers, masers,
even some thermo-nuclear warheads if needed, but I doubt
they will be. I plan to nudge SEEDER 6 to the outer
reaches of Adam and find some large hunk of debris I can
snuggle her up to before I leave."
"One more question, I almost
forgot. I really had it come to mind as I was going into
cold-sleep this last time. What happens if more of the
crew have cold-feet about the transfer. We don't have a
habitat going out this time to stick them on."
Not quite as exuberantly as
before, Lee answered, "I hope we don't lose anymore.
It's still hard for me to believe the number is as small
as it is now, but if more back out, the fix is
relatively easy. With the required deceleration and
achievement of a stable orbit by the under-powered
habitat, the projected wakeup for Habitat 8 is
serendipitously about a year and a half away. If anybody
wants to back out, I'll just drop them off at Habitat 8
on my way out of here."
Lisa leaned back in her chair.
"Okay, Lee. I'm going to take a little nap here and then
run system checks on the medical equipment. Do I have
access to all of your tissue growth automation data?"
"Yep, talk to you later."
Lisa's next two days were spent
running system checks and studying the automated
processes Lee had designed for growing the spinal
linkage tissue. His solution had been quite elegant in
its straightforward approach. The tissue was in essence
a bio-converter that changed the neuron stimulation
coming along the short stretch of spinal cord into
electrical nano-charges readable by the computer
program. The only really difficult thing other than the
growth of the tissue itself had been tricking the brain
into sending the right information down the spinal
column. Lee had thought it was possible because of the
many different ways to trick the brain that people
already knew, like inverting retinal images, and he ran
through generations of laboratory rats figuring out how
to do it.
Every day for the next month, Lisa
had a new patient to prep, psychologically and
physically, for the tissue growth on the neck, just
below the medulla oblongata. The growth took about two
weeks and looked like a sausage coming out of the base
of the skull, with a micro-connector on the end of it.
The growth process started with a micro-connector
containing thousands of connections that was cultured in
the lab from the patient's own nerve tissue. This
organic conductor tissue was then grafted to the spinal
cord where it continued to grow out from the base of the
skull. During this growth, the tissue at the graft point
gradually changed to the normal nerve tissue of the
There was no pain, but there was
some discomfort with having to stay in bed and remaining
relatively immobile for the whole period. Specially
shaped pillows helped a little, but boredom was a big
problem. Most of the crew filled their days with virtual
experiences of one type or another from the central
computer's extensive library.
As she had foreseen, there were
more crew members that came down with cold feet. There
were five of them altogether, two of them after the
growth process had already started, but the body
rejected the tissue when the growth process was stopped,
and they were little worse for the wear. Only a small
bit of scar tissue remained at the base of the skull.
The downloads, on the other hand,
took about three weeks and required an induced coma. The
reluctant five actually became an asset in checking
behind the medical robots to make sure that the physical
bodies were receiving proper care. Of course, the robots
were perfectly efficient in doing their jobs, but
everybody felt better checking behind them, particularly
After starting the third download
a new question occurred to Lisa, and she put it directly
to Lee. "Lee, is the download process a download-wipe
event like draining all the information out of the
brain, or is it a copy process that leaves the
Lee's response was cautious. "I
can tell by your tone that this is a serious question
for you. It was for me, too. I had to know that when I
did my own transfer. Were there going to be two of me
until my physical self died, and if so, did I want to
terminate my physical self on completing the download.
Tough stuff, and I didn't know the answer when I was
about to start my download, so I programmed a
termination for my physical body just to be sure.
"The answer came when I reviewed
the records of the download, after I had solved the
little insanity problem. The records showed that the
download left virtually nothing behind. The only reason
that the body was still alive was that none of those
brain functions had been needed and they weren't
"Now don't ask me why it worked
that way, because I just don't know. It was as if the
brain were designed that way. A design that avoids the
moral dilemma of suicide and eliminates an even larger
moral issue that could have a person making limitless
copies of themselves. I have yet to come up with a good
answer for why it wouldn't just be a copy download
situation, but I'm happy not to have to present the
problems to everybody else to deal with. You guys are in
relatively good shape, which I wasn't. With a little
care, you could live another fifty or sixty years."
Lisa felt a wash of relief.
"You're right. A real moral morass. I hadn't even
thought about the multiple copies. But what you're
saying sounds strangely like 'artificial, artificial
intelligence' is part of some grand scheme of things."
"I don't think we've got time for
a theological discussion of any depth right now, but my
experience so far has been that poking around the
universe makes you think about things again that you
thought you had rejected. We'll talk theology again
after you've logged some more travel time."
Lisa had frequent chats with Lee
after that, but never on any really serious topic. When
it came time to prep Jimmy Hincle for the tissue growth,
she found that he really had no lingering animosity
about their breakup, or more like drifting apart, during
the eighth wake period. He was just as moody, just as
brilliantly on, and just as darkly off as he ever was.
He couldn't wait to make the download.
Her days were full of work until
she was the only one left that hadn't started the
download process. The tissue growth period was boring
for her like everybody else, and she found herself more
and more frequently engaged in conversation with Lee,
but still nothing serious. She waited too late to have a
last word with Lee, and found herself slipping into the
drug induced coma.
Lee had planned the turn-on for
the new crewships to be simultaneous so the experience
could be shared and hopefully, helped along by kindred
feelings. He was right, there was some trepidation, but
mostly exuberance as each of the crewships struggled to
absorb the sensory array now available to them and
struggled to rationalize those that were forever lost.
For some, like Lisa, the camaraderie was intoxicating
and she stayed for weeks, until only she and Lee were
left in the Adam system. For others, the urge to explore
was just too great and they drifted out-system with
promises to come back soon and to leave and pick up
messages from SEEDER 6's computer. Jimmy Hincle lasted a
half a day and was gone.
Lisa had finally torn herself away
from Lee and headed out to the only usable wormhole they
had found in the Adam system. Lee was towing the
reluctant five in one of the spare ships he had modified
for them and would be many days behind her in getting to
the wormhole. Every hull and deck plate, every
electronic circuit, and every mechanical system aboard
seemed to sing as she made her first trans-c jump.
26 AC: Adam System
So far, Lisa could find nothing
revealed by Lee that would lead her to think that Lee
was hiding anything significant from her, and she could
find nothing that would lead her to make a change in her
perception of Lee's personality. "Tell me Lee, why are
you still Lee? I've fought hard to remain Lisa for the
twenty-six years since my transition, intensely
introspective years where that question was a dominant
loop in my thoughts. I still have no answer that I'm
comfortable with, and you've been, as you would say, an
'artificial, artificial intelligence' for three hundred
years. You seemed to be Lee during the eighth awake
period, and again when we were here in the Adam system,
and now while we're talking over old times. Who are you
Lisa got a strange burst of data
from Lee, ran it through a code breaking routine, and
arrived at the conclusion that it was a digitized
version of laughter just in time to have it confirmed by
the normal data flow through the com link. "I can't say
that you will never cease to amaze me, Lisa, since I've
got a different perspective on that phrase than I used
to, but I can say that I'm surprised that you're probing
so quickly to the heart of the matter when you're
supposed to be cloaking your intentions in a veil of
'mystery'. Of course, I'm not the same old Lee Goodwin,
but I couldn't let that out during the period when I was
trying to convince the crew that they would continue to
be their same old selves but in a better and more
responsive 'body'. Nor could I tell them during the
psychologically stressful period of preparing for the
transition. But surely, it was suspected by most of the
crew. Wasn't it?"
"No, there were a few of us that
speculated on the subject as an adjunct to discussions
on your insanity period and being alone for all those
years, but most of the crew probably avoided the thought
altogether since it was unpleasant to dwell on."
"I assure you again that I'm still
sane," replied Lee, as he went quickly on to add, "by
the classical definition anyway. I'm still very much Lee
Goodwin, but I'm also a great deal more than the Lee
Goodwin who first set foot on SEEDER 6."
"I know, and I've been waiting for
fifteen years to tell you that I know."
"And that's your mystery?", Lee
"No. Now that I've confirmed that
the basic personality I knew as Lee Goodwin is still
alive and well, I also know that you already know why I
"Yes, I do," Lee confirmed, "but I
must admit to being very surprised that you've been here
for fifteen years. I didn't think you'd be here so
quickly, or I wouldn't have tarried."
"When did you know that I'd fallen
in love with you?"
"To be honest, not until I had a
look at your psychological profile in SEEDER 6's
computer files, but I think it must have happened when
we were working closely on my malaise. Right?"
"Yes," Lisa admitted.
"By the way, have you seen Jimmy
during the last fifteen years?"
"I thought he never stopped caring
for you. I was right. Does he know why you're here."
Lee always knew how to push her
buttons. "Jimmy? Are you serious? It would never occur
to him on his own, and as a crewship, it may be ten
thousand years before he takes a break from wrestling
with the physical wonders of the universe and discovers
that there are other wonders as well. No, Jimmy doesn't
know. No one but you."
In a more contemplative tone, Lee
continued to push against Lisa's reluctance to open up.
"In fifteen years you've had plenty of time to refurbish
one of the five ships still on tether to SEEDER 6, but I
haven't been able to spot any modifications to them
since coming in-system."
"Of course not," she quipped, "I
wouldn't have wanted you to detect anything before I'd
made up my mind. After talking to you, I could have
decided to wait for Jimmy to come back the next time.
Besides, I've had to keep any changes hidden anyway
because of the others. I've seen twenty-three of the
crew since coming back to Adam."
Lee rushed to stick his now
figurative foot in the door that Lisa had just cracked
open. "I assume you have a plan for how you want to do
this. I also have a plan, and even though I'm confident
we'll be in synch, don't you think we should pool those
plans for a consolidated approach?"
"If you don't wise up," she
retorted, "there'll be no need to share plans because
there'll be no sharing of anything else." Not to be
outdone by a digitized laugh, Lisa delivered that
sentence with a sharp increase in gain from its start to
"Something I've said has made you
With the gain still up, "No, you
idiot, it's something you haven't said."
There was no response to Lee's
last statement. Utterly no response. Lee didn't know how
she did it, but Lisa had either disappeared or had
somehow nulled all of his sensors, both active and
passive. A full spectrum cold-shoulder.
"You're not kidding. I thought you
knew. We were discussing it obliquely just a few moments
"We were discussing the fact that
I fell in love with you during the seventh awake period.
We did not discuss your falling."
After an uncharacteristic pause,
Lee finally said it. "I fell in love with you too, Lisa.
Same period. I still love you."
"That's better. I forgive you for
not expressing your feelings in a more open manner. I
realize you just took it for granted that I knew how you
felt, and I did actually, but I wanted to make the point
that it'll be very important for you to be conscious of
the proper display of emotions during the next few
Lee chuckled. "Are we going to
discuss what 'proper display' covers?"
"We can if you want, but I'm sure
you already know if you just dredge it up. I'm sure your
parents taught you."
"No, I actually don't remember
their teaching me about emotional display at all," was
Lee's too serious reply.
"My God, Lee, you can still be
exasperatingly naive, even with hundreds of years under
your belt. By example, Lee, they didn't sit down and
deliver a lesson."
Another pause, "Oh."
"Oh? I can see this isn't going to
be any easier than if we were still our corporeal
selves. At least we can dispense with the honeymoon part
and get right to it. I'm going to squirt you my plan.
Let me have yours."
Lisa scanned the plan, and if she
had a head, it would have been shaking back and forth
while producing "tch" noises. "Lee, your goal is
wonderfully grandiose, but I don't think you understand
the problem. Your plan will produce a schizoid adult,
not a child. I don't think we can discuss this. I think
we have to share this at a core level link. We're
currently light years apart on the subject. Open up in
there; here I come."
"Aw, he's a cute little dickens,
"Lee, would you just knock it off.
This is a serious event. If we're right, it has a chance
of being the most serious event since the Big Bang. All
we have here before us so far, however, is a very smart
computer inside of a very powerful spaceship. Are you
ready for the first personality squirt?"
"Yeah," came Lee's immediate and
ebullient reply, "but are you sure we shouldn't know
what the other is squirting?"
"Absolutely, if I knew what you
were selecting in detail rather than in philosophical
terms, I might subconsciously react to that and end up
coloring my own selection. The human race suffered
millions of years of evolution in coming up with the
right combination for passing on cultural and
psychological traits. I'm willing to continue that
evolutionary process, with the passing on to my children
of characteristics that I've consciously selected rather
than relying on the chance that some good
characteristics will get passed on by the roulette of
genetics. But you and I both know that the
genetic-environment controversy in psychology has never
been settled, and I think we have to go slow, provide
small incremental building blocks of personality, and
interact on a continuous basis. I agree with you that
theoretically we could do it all in one shot, but I'm
not willing to make any hasty experiments with my own
"Whichever; we decided not to
discuss that any more either. Okay, I'm squirting first,
then you, without a break in the data stream."
"Lisa, what's happening?" queried
"What I expected to happen. I'm
monitoring at every level, and I'll let you know when
something significant occurs. You just link our controls
and take us out to the Trojan point."
"Lisa, we're just about ready to
jump. Nothing yet?"
"Oh yes, a little while ago, but
I've been saving it for this moment. Open a com link
Lee, and say hello to your daughter."