Personal log entry
Callum F. Cook
Civilian Medical Officer
Research Vessel Ganymede
After nearly sixteen months on this drum, we should finally catch our first scans of the Alpha Centauri system tomorrow.
Despite what scientists back home preach to the Committee, I remain skeptical of our finding anything of significance out here. Our xenobiologists and cartologists still insist the Centauri system is our best hope of finding another Earth-like planet. Unfortunately, my past dealings with certain SciCom representatives cloud my faith in their complete honesty. The feeling that some funding-starved Space Agency lobbyist had a thought and ran with it has hopefully not shaken my faith in the "Sykes" too much.
Over the past several days I have spent much of my free time reflecting on the historical significance of our mission, more so the history before it. I've been digging through historical archives, the world that was mid twenty-first century Earth and the time of Project Unity - an inspirational yet naive sobriquet for such a massive and dangerous undertaking.
Obviously, most today find it impossible to imagine living in the society of 160 years ago, a world riven with such turmoil - such adversity - such ignorance. The "man-made apocalypse" mindset was so firmly entrenched in the human psyche back then; overpopulation, the blurring of national identities, natural resources literally being fought over, wars large and small, the repercussions of perceived moral disintegration...a world incomprehensible.
Desperation alone seemed to drive Earth governments into this all-or-nothing project - this "Noah's ark" to the stars. Nearly forty thousand people were chosen over several years, willingly submitting themselves to a mission that had more basis in hope than in science. But then, who could blame any one of them for believing their world, their entire existence, was teetering on the edge of extinction? With the safety of sixteen decades of history behind us, one can easily feel incredulous, horrified, and even judgmental toward those people. With the stress humanity was under back then, it's ironic that war was not...
The sound of an electronic double-chime halted Callum's dictation. He instinctively touched a backlit control button on his desk and the words on his holodisplay instantly turned into unreadable symbols. He muttered "Door," and a smaller display appeared over his now cryptic journal.
The image quickly formed the round, dark brown face of Assistant Science Officer Dr. Koushik Mitra. Callum read his demeanor in an instant; a mild intensity clouding his features, eyebrows pinched ever so slightly, jaw set a bit tighter than usual. Clearly he seemed to have something interesting to tell him. At least Koushik thought so. He could get a little too excited sometimes even over the most mundane discoveries. But his passion and work ethic had infected the other scientists just enough to keep them sane during this long voyage.
"Enter," Callum said with a tired sigh.
The door glided open and Koushik propelled himself into Callum's small quarters, his left shoulder nearly colliding with the opening door. Four quick strides had him standing directly in front of Callum's desk. His intense face peered at his portable display pad, right hand tapping the icons as he sifted through information. Callum watched for a whole minute as Koushik continued dissecting his data, seemingly oblivious.
"Right then," Callum finally said. "If that's all you have for me Koushik I'd like to get back to my..."
"I've run this at least a dozen times," Koushik interrupted in a soft voice. "Obviously something different but it doesn't make sense. I made Vaughn run a complete diagnostic on my station and everything was fine...not a tangle in the system...cross referenced my compilations with Dr. McKibben's data from yesterday...there is something different about it. It's just..." Koushik punctuated his exasperation with a sharp exhale.
Callum leaned back in his chair. "Well, no offense Koushik but you are the Science Officer's right hand man. How could I possibly be of any help to you? If that's what you're implying?"
"Indeed that is what I'm implying and I take no offense," Koushik answered, never looking up. "As long as you take no offense to the fact that this impromptu meeting of ours means that I have exhausted all other options."
"No offense taken," Callum chuckled.
Koushik continued working as if the conversation they just had never took place.
"Koushik," Callum finally said, "would it be possible for me to have a look what you're working on? I feel I could be of greater assistance if I were more…involved."
Koushik finally looked up and his demeanor quickly changed. "Of course, of course. I'm sorry, Callum. You know what happens when I run into an unexplainable discovery. I'm as oblivious as a newborn infant. Is your terminal still on?"
"Yes. Code in two-four-one."
"Have a look at this."
Koushik pulled a nearby a chair over to Callum's desk, opposite him and keyed in the code on his PDP. After a moment the image on Callum's display bounced then transformed into a duplicate image of Koushik's display.
"This area here -" Koushik emphasized the point by circling it on Callum's display - "is my current mystery. As you know, one of our many methods of data acquisition on the space ahead and around the path of the ship is by radiating a low yield E-field at a constant rate in all directions."
Callum nodded. "White noise."
"Precisely. It's used to reveal ultra-high EM spectrum frequencies different from the anomalies we have logged so far. From my analysis, this anomaly appears to be some kind of fusion reaction. A highly localized fusion-based discharge."
Callum looked up and eyed Koushik with a distinct lack of surprise. "I'm no expert on what you do, Koushik, but I do know localized fusion deposits are hardly spectacular in space. It's like someone throwing a handful of gravel at you. You're guaranteed to get hit by some of it."
"Yes, yes! But those fusion deposits can be explained by spacial correlations, the activity of the stars around them..."
Koushik stopped and glanced away shamefaced. As usual, his excitement had inappropriately gushed forth yet again. He started once more, the words coming at a thoughtful, less frantic pace.
"This fusion anomaly is not necessarily unique in its makeup, at least none that I can detect, but in its location."
"Where is it located exactly?" Callum asked.
Koushik tapped his PDP and Callum's display morphed into a real time star map. The display showed the trinary star system of Alpha Centauri then zoomed in until a replica of the Ganymede appeared in the center of the display. A portion of Alpha Centauri's "Earth" planet Chiron was visible on the left, Ganymede on the right. Koushik's problematic fusion anomaly, still circled, hovered between the two.
"It's ten hours head of us, about twenty-three degrees above the solar plane," Koushik finished.
It was a little odd; not completely out of the realm of possibility but definitely an interesting find. As Callum zoomed in on the area in question, the image shifted and Koushik's calculations appeared on the right side. Callum pondered them as they slowly scrolled upward.
"Yes, I see what you mean," he said after a time. "But again, Koushik, I can offer you little more than confirmation of your findings."
"I believe you could offer me more. I was hoping you could run these calculations through that analyzer program you are working on..."
"...and come up with a schematic model of the anomaly," Callum finished. "You know this isn't the first time one of your science team has wanted to use my little prototype program to explain one of your unexplainable discoveries. Your team tends to give it more problem-solving power than it actually has."
"Callum, I really believe it could help my analysis."
"I know you do and so has everyone else! You realize this program has had a zero percent success rate with those who have used it, right? Koushik, this little program is just a side job I've been working on since this mission started. It's a spare time hobby. It's eventually going to be a medical supplementary program to assist in early spotting of mutation patterns in RNA sequences used in our genetic modification programs. It might even be able to assist in nano-replication. Possibly."
Koushik frowned. Personal rejection he could manage but impediments to his research hurt much more. "The program could still be used to spot distinct patterns on space anomalies could it not? If you input accurate information I'm sure the..."
Callum stopped Koushik with a raised hand. "Dr. Mitra, you're giving me a real ego boost here and I appreciate it. All I'm saying is that I have doubts that MicroForm will be able to formulate an accurate simulation. It's still very much a work in progress."
"I see," Koushik said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "So, you believe this to be a waste of time then?"
Callum gave Koushik a doleful look. "No, Koushik, I'm just saying that I don't believe my programming hobby will give you the answers you seek - and I'd never insinuate your work to be a waste of time. You know that."
Koushik looked down, defeated and troubled by his sensitivity to this rejection. Callum was a good man and he knew the feeling was mutual. Koushik's patron at the University of Oxford had once joked that Koushik would eventually become a great scientist, but he would be an awful diplomat.
After an extended silence, Callum finally let out a long, frustrated sigh.
"All right, Koushik. It does appear this anomaly of yours may be...unique enough to warrant a little more study. I'll give you three hours, no more. Some of us actually enjoy sleeping. I'll run it through my program, see if there's anything worth mentioning and transmit my conclusions to you by 0230. Okay? And I swear to you if you have night terrors or bed wetting or some other phobia crop up at any point on the remainder of this mission I'm not going to help you."
Koushik stood up so quickly his chair almost tipped over. His dampened spirits instantly soared back to their usual childlike exuberance. He grabbed Callum's hand and shook it forcefully causing the bones in Callum's arm to pop slightly.
"Of course! Three hours is more than I could ever have expected. Thank you, Callum. Thank you so very much! I won't forget this. Never, ever forget it!"
Callum pointed a menacing finger. "I mean it, Koushik. Night terrors. Phobias. I'll prescribe a pacifier and a blanket but that's it."
Koushik was too excited to retort. He simply rubbed his hands in delight.
"Will you be awake in three hours?" he said as Koushik began to leave.
"You know I rarely sleep," he yelled back at Callum. "There is so much to discover!"
Callum smiled and shook his head. If I had a coin for every time Koushik said that...
Hypothesis, research, discovery, breakthroughs, truth; the beauty of the scientific method; extrapolation and experimentation - concepts that flowed through Dr. Koushik Mitra's being (soul, if he believed in such a thing). They were as sure and corporal as the blood that ran through his veins.
Unlike many of his peers, Koushik did not strive to discover the scientific portal that led to immortality. With the advancements in genetic engineering and nanotechnology over the past twenty years many scientists were succumbing to the immortality craze. Their excitement had caught the attention of most Earth nations and funding was becoming more and more generous, private and public.
To Koushik, human immortality in its purest form was an irrelevancy which he was convinced neither existed nor could be achieved. There was no absolute, no Omega; there was only beautiful, delightful discovery. Such portals merely open up another universe of unknowns.
Koushik had bumped heads with many colleagues over the years who were not comfortable in his belief of discovery without end - expiscor infinitus someone had dubbed it.
Most merely blew him off; others were outright contemptuous and branded him a hypocrite, a scientist tainted with an unhealthy dose of philosophical nonsense. It was posited to him that if there truly was no end to discovery was that not a type of immortality in itself?
Koushik claimed that this expiscor infinitus was indeed his religion which, of course, all but destroyed Koushik's credibility to many. "The unknown wonder is the true center of science," Koushik had argued. "This unknown creates an emotion in all scientists and is something we all share. It is this emotion that drives one to understand, to discover. If one no longer feels this emotion, this need to comprehend order, this craving of knowledge to understand something that may be impossible to grasp then is he not 'dead'? Is this emotion not a form of religiosity? I am not the first to believe this way. Einstein said as much."
This was the main reason why Koushik was the assistant to Chief Science Officer Dr. Rhona McKibben and not the Chief Science Officer himself. The military had no problem with his beliefs. They recognized him as a brilliant scientist and tenacious researcher, but many in Science and Research saw his work as intellectual pap. His methods were unorthodox, his conclusions and theorems were simple. What really aggravated his peers, however, was that he was either nearly always right or that his conclusions were so unerring they were practically unassailable.
But Koushik never dwelled on his personal status. There was too much to be done; and by the time he had walked through the darkened, curved corridor back to his workstation on the research bridge, any thoughts of his personal shortcomings had evaporated from his mind.
His main terminal and a trio of holodisplays lit up the moment Koushik sat in his chair. After a brief flicker of color the main display quickly found its way to his troublesome fusion anomaly. Images flickered and moved across Koushik's face as he sorted though the data stream.
He had no idea why he was doing this again. He had crunched this data over and over again and continued to hit the same brick wall.
Let it go, Koushik. It's up to Callum now.
He pursed his lips in thought, then tapped a few icons. A long list of projects appeared on the display and he began scrolling through them. He selected a heading titled CASSI: Chiron Atmospheric Study of Solar Interactions, a future joint research project he and Dr. McKibben were planning to begin once (or if) they established a foothold on Chiron. He exhaled, cleared his mind, and began inputting equations, hands dancing over his displays as if he were conducting a silent orchestra. Five minutes later Dr. McKibben interrupted him.
"Dr. Mitra, why are you still working?" He jumped slightly as her clear voice echoed in the darkened, empty bridge. "I ordered you to get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow and I'm going to need all my people in top form."
He fought the urge to continue working and with difficulty turned toward her. Dr. McKibben's face and upper body glowed in the glare of Koushik's terminal giving her features a garish, somewhat malicious look. Her officer tunic was unbuttoned and hanging limp on her shoulders, a white undershirt showing through, her slightly gray hair pulled up in a ponytail. She wore loose fitting pants of a light material and a pair of gray slippers. It was obvious she had been sleeping.
"Yes ma'am, you did. Work relaxes me, Doctor," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Well, your working doesn't relax me, especially tonight," she said firmly, but in a familial tone of two people who had worked countless hours together. "I've got all the SciOp terminals rigged so I know if anyone is in here working instead of resting and I won't have my Number One performing at anything less than one hundred percent. We're making history tomorrow, you know. Foundations will be started in our honor. Monuments will be built honoring our achievements. Babies and university buildings will be named after us."
Koushik smiled. "As long as I am able to continue researching, I'll be happy."
"Overachiever," she muttered with a smirk.
She looked past Koushik to his terminal and the CASSI project he was working on. Her voice raised an octave.
"Jesus, Koushik, are you working on CASSI probe formulas? CASSI is still just a proposal, not a project!"
She threw up her hands and growled in frustration. "All right, that's it. Get the hell out of here."
"I mean now, Doctor!" she exclaimed. "When you begin working on projects that aren't even projects yet, it's time to take a break."
"Beat it! I'm serious!" She sharply gestured to one of the bridge exits.
Koushik began to rise but apparently did not move fast enough as an exasperated Dr. McKibben firmly grabbed his arm and forced him out of the way. She hovered over his terminal, fingers stabbing at his icons.
"I'm locking you out until the morning so don't try sneaking back in here after I'm gone."
She stopped long enough to point a finger at him, emphasizing each word with a short jab.
My dearest love,
I find myself on this night, the eve of what has come to be known on the ship as Discovery Day, unable to focus on the mission. Instead my thoughts are about you; but then, you are never far from my thoughts. Neither time, space, distance or any combination of these will ever be able to separate my love for you. I know I have said what I am about to say countless times before hoping, in vain I'm sure, to make things better.
I know this long time away from you, the longest I've ever volunteered for, is hard for you. I know because I feel exactly the same. I understand if you have come to resent me for it. You made your feelings quite clear after I informed you of my decision to go. At first, I didn't think you understood what I was trying to do but only later realized you weren't angry at me for my decision; it was because you couldn't bear to be apart from me for nearly four years.
You have always supported me without fail in whatever choices I have made in all things. You know that I do not make these choices lightly or without carefully considering how it will affect you, how it will affect us. It has been almost two years now and at times like this I often wonder whether this choice was indeed worth it. I attempt to justify my decision with the knowledge that when I return my time with the military will be over and I can finally spend the rest of my days doting on you. I have looked forward to that day for a very long time.
I was grateful to hear that you are feeling much better after the Nubot injections. Wes tells me it has nearly wiped out all traces of the infection. I am confident the clinic is finally on the right track and that when I return we will be able to take that long overdue trip to the mountains. Wes keeps me updated on your progress as much as he has time for. I very much appreciate his efforts to meet with you and I'm sure it helps you to see a friendly face from time to time. With all he has taken upon himself regarding this mission, Wes' free time is precious so as his subordinate I try to make his life as easy as I can. Also, and against all reason, the man is still a rabid fan of the Manchester Ramrods so I do have a certain level of pity for him since it must be hard to carry such a burden. It's the least I can do.
Please tell Prue that I miss her very much and that I am not disappointed about her decision to not pursue a military career. In truth, it does sadden me a bit but her life is not mine and I will neither influence nor coerce her into doing something she has no desire to do. I only hope that the choices I have made throughout my career have not tainted her beliefs or caused her to doubt the necessity of such a position. Military life is not as glamorous as it is in Science and Research but it is vital and no less important despite what our "friends" in the media say. She's only fourteen years old so who knows what her decision will be next year? Tell her that whatever she decides to do, even if it goes against my belief or yours, be the best at what she does. Tell her that her father will always be proud of her.
I just spent five minutes staring at the holo of you on my desk. Words can't express how beautiful you are. Did you know that I still keep the holo running after I retire for the night? I'm sure you think it's silly. I do it because it makes me feel as if you are watching over me as I sleep. I do it because your face is the last thing I want to see when I go to bed and the first thing I want to see when I wake in the morning. I do it because it reminds me that there is something unbelievably beautiful waiting for me at the end of this very long trip; someone who was given to me by God, who apparently found me worthy to be blessed with such an incredible wife, mother, partner and friend. You are the woman I have always wanted. You are the love of my life. Thank you for marrying me all those years ago and completing what was incomplete in my life. And, yes, I DO know the date of our anniversary.
With endless love,
Commander Ramirez coded and sent the transmission then poured himself a glass of water before preparing for bed. Despite the significance of tomorrow's workday, Ramirez was going to have little to do for a while as primary control of the ship would be turned over to Rhona. Whatever miracles or disappointments that Chiron would reveal tomorrow would be for Rhona McKibben and her science team to deal with. Now that the military had done its job of getting everyone here in one piece, and testing their most recent spacecraft design in the process, the scientists would perform their job of researching Chiron with the thirty surface probes Ganymede carried.
That's their expensive contribution to this mission which they insisted had to be done. They complain about the military spending our shared budget on spacecraft design and the power sources to run them while they demand larger funding for terrestrial probes and research equipment. How are they going to test their beloved probes and research goodies if they don't have a starship to get them where they want to go? It's one of the laws of spacecraft design: there is never a single right solution but there are always multiple wrong ones.
It was the age old argument between the military and the scientists who had morphed into their own respective semi-political class over the decades. Despite their differences they had still managed to claim more successes than failures. That was testament, and good fortune, to the outstanding leadership and cooperation that SciCom had managed to forge over the years. SciCom was still infected with its share of uncompromising fringe elements but they had either learned to bite their tongues, compromise, or get voted out by Committee majority when their tenure was up.
A lot of people still admire the 'liners, though. I guess I'm guilty of that, too. Or am I blessed with it? I guess it depends on who you ask. I call it 'sticking to your principles' while too many in SciCom call it 'inflexibility'.
A soft chime echoed through the room. Ramirez touched a control on his desk and a holo of Rhona McKibben appeared. Her appearance elicited a frown but his curiosity got the better of him and he allowed the door to slide open. Rhona strode wearily into the room.
"Evening, Rhona. It's pretty late for you to be traipsing about at this hour, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. I'm just stopping by for a minute. I had to put my kid to bed."
Ramirez chuckled. "Your 'kid' broke the curfew, did he?"
Rhona sighed. "I love Koushik dearly. He's one of the best colleagues I've ever worked with but I swear it will be a miracle if I don't shoot him head first into space at some point on our way back to Earth. He's like some mischievous little brother running around behind my back when I'm not looking, getting into trouble."
"You know we've got two more years of this, right?"
Rhona gave him a pained look. "Please, don't remind me."
Ramirez motioned for Rhona to sit which she did. He offered her something to drink but she politely declined.
"Well, I could give him a reprimand if you'd like. Write it up in an official report, that kind of thing. Nothing harsh, just a slap on the wrist."
Rhona rubbed a hand across her weary face. "No," she finally said. "It's nothing that calls for that kind of action, not yet anyway. If his perfectionist ways didn't bring in such marvelous results I'd probably be more inclined to your thinking."
Ramirez nodded. "We have let discipline become a tad lax these past few months. Probably not unexpected with a trip of this duration. Maybe it's time we began reasserting it again...in small increments."
Rhona shrugged noncommittally. "Perhaps, in time. I'm sure most of the crew are growing tired of my constant nannying regarding sleep and sticking to routine."
"I'm not one of them, I can assure you. The amount of quality sleep one gets in space has never been the best. It's a valuable reminder to the crew aggravating though it may be."
Rhona gave a slight smile. "Thanks. Being the Sleep-Nazi is the least I can do. It's hard enough being isolated from your loved ones and friends for such a prolonged length of time. We are definitely testing the limits of psychological stress on humans. If nothing else, this trip to Alpha Centauri may succeed in revealing the effects of extended space travel on the human psyche. I'd be interested to see how well the crew have acclimated back into their normal lives a decade from now."
Ramirez took a sip of water. "I've heard that a few on your team are now co-habitating together. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's wise? Many of them have...well, real families back home."
He caught her mildly startled glance which just as quickly sought solace in the less penetrating confines of a Ganymede replica hanging on the wall. It puzzled Ganymede's military commander who, after two long years, had learned to read Rhona very well.
"One of them has taken a strong interest to your logistics officer. Both of them are married back home," she said flatly.
Ramirez set his glass down feeling the prickliness in her tone. "Rhona, I'm not passing judgment, I'm not singling out your science team, and I'm not blind to human nature. I was merely asking from a concern for the crew's well-being. The bonds they have created here are now stronger than those they left behind. Surely it will be difficult for those bonds to be broken when they return home. Should we attempt to put an end to these relationships for the sake of the mission and themselves?"
"Most will begin to reacclimate to the lives they left behind but some will never be able to go back. Bachelard, Peabody, Patten and a few others have open relationships anyway so they'll survive this relatively intact. Then there's Hendrix who thinks he is God's gift to...well, everything. He's a charmer, though and he's wooed about half of the women on my team. Fortunately, most of them know what he's all about but you can't blame them for wanting to feel desired even if it is a fantasy. I know of two, a man and woman, who don't want to be involved and even feel extremely guilty about it, but they miss their loved one's so much and the longing is so unbearable they look for relief in each other. Dr. Cook has prescribed abortives to half a dozen crewwomen in the past five months."
Rhona turned back to Ramirez. "It's complicated, Rafe. There's still so much to do and we have such a long way to go that it tends to breed a sense of uncertainty about the future. What's happening here is a result of humans trying to hold on to something familiar in a place that is as alien as it comes."
Ramirez nodded, took another sip of water. "I do feel a certain amount of sympathy with those who have given in to their loneliness. Heaven knows it's been difficult for me as well. You too, I'm certain." Rhona merely gave a curt nod in reply. "Still, I can't help but feel a little disillusioned at how these relationships have blossomed over the past several months. Nearly all of them have made some sort of commitment to someone else. It just seems like a kind of...betrayal." He abruptly waved a hand in dismissal. "As you said, it's complicated. I guess we all try to survive in the best way possible, don't we?"
"There's no 'best' way to survive in many situations," Rhona said. "There's just survival. Besides, not all of us have your noble ability to remain so loyal to those we hold most dear."
Ramirez's eyes narrowed. That was a jab. Why is she throwing this back at me. Why the deflection?
"I'm glad you find my values amusing," he said.
"Oh, I don't find them amusing. Not all of them." Rhona showed him a mischievous smirk. "I admire your commitment to your wife and to monogamy, outdated and restrictive though it is. I admire your adherence to your spiritual beliefs, irrelevant though they are. I admire your pledge to serve the military and your willingness to lay down your life for something greater than yourself though that quaint chivalry has very little relevance in today's world."
Here we go. Ramirez sighed heavily and laid his glass down. "Are we really going to do this right now?"
Rhona went completely innocent. "I'm merely commenting on how much I admire your values."
"Yes, I'm fully aware of what your definition of 'admire' is."
"Rafe, come now. You make it sound as though I mock them. That's not the case at all. I find them out of touch and indefensible but, regardless, they do carry a certain charm."
"I won't apologize for having principles and sticking to them. If someone wishes to misinterpret my values as some sort of benchmark that somehow proves my values are superior that's their problem. My values define who I am, nothing more."
Rhona leaned back stroking her chin, smirk still etched in her face. "No need to be so defensive, Rafe. You're among friends here. But aren't you, on some level, attempting to implement your beliefs regarding the crew and their current behavior?"
Ramirez couldn't stifle his chuckle. "I think you may want to brush up on SciCom's rules of conduct, specifically the 'Fulfilling the Military Service Obligations' section. If the military desires, they can punish these crewman severely for their present acts. At a minimum they would be dropped in rank or possibly have their pensions reduced or eliminated altogether."
"I see. So we're running to the regs manual for justification now?"
"I'm reminding you of our duty as officers. This isn't some social experiment on human nature, this is a scientific research mission funded, after much arm twisting, by the military. In fact, if I remember the quote correctly, this mission was 'indispensable and a moral imperative as humanity has shown itself to be self-destructive.' Isn't that what you said in your first proposal to SciCom?"
Rhona shifted. "Yes, it was. I'm impressed you actually read it."
"Four years is a long time if you're not prepared. I like knowing things about who I'm going to be working with and how they think. Besides, I'm always eager to know what you Science guys are thinking."
"If need be. But mostly because I'm curious of what discoveries Science is making. You have some very bright, talented people. I recognize and appreciate that even though I may not subscribe to their philosophy."
Rhona's demeanor softened but her jaw remained firm. "Thank you, Rafe. Of course, I feel similarly towards the military. There are many bright minds and forward thinkers there. It's good we can work together at a time like this."
It's a shame you don't mean a word of what you just said but working together with clenched jaw is better than not working together at all, I suppose.
Ramirez nodded in recognition. "So, shouldn't we attempt to work together on this issue, personal ideologies notwithstanding?"
"Draw up your proposal at your convenience and I'll consider it," Rhona said in a tone that made it clear she no longer wanted to discuss it.
It was enough. "Thanks, Rhona."
For a while both of them sat in relative silence. Ramirez's mind drifted between thoughts of home, sleep, what he would write in his proposal, what discoveries tomorrow would bring, and numerous other small details that plagued every commanding officer. Rhona's mind focused on calming thoughts, sleep, her very busy workday tomorrow, Koushik...
...and the hologram of Rafe's wife, Davia.
Rhona had seen her many times in the months leading up to the Ganymede launch, mostly at official SciCom functions and always with Rafe at her side. The holo must have been a recent scan because Davia's curly red hair was mid-length. She was still fair skinned with somewhat small blue eyes, short with a narrow build and somewhat thin though that may have been a result of the recent infection she had acquired. Even in the hologram, though, Rhona could see that glint in her eyes and the unfailing trust in her face. This may have been a holo only meant for Ramirez but she could see the love emanating from her likeness. She remembered seeing it everytime she was with Davia and Rafe.
Davia was by no means a hopeless romantic, swooning over every gesture of her beloved. She may have been small in stature but she was far from weak. She was what Rhona considered the epitome of a military wife; independent, adventurous, adaptable, and mentally tough. She was opinionated which did not endear her to everyone she met, but she was honest which certainly did. Rafe's daughter Prue and Rhona's son Patrick even went on a date once though nothing ever came of it. When she and Ramirez were chosen as Ganymede commanding officers, Rhona was curious if Davia would approve of the partnership. It was an odd feeling as Rhona would have never given it much thought otherwise. But in the relatively brief amount of time they had spent together Davia's sincerity had affected Rhona in ways she didn't fully understand. It was as if she didn't want to disappoint Davia or for Davia to feel anything less than complete trust in her. Davia simply had that kind of aura about her.
She wondered if Davia would be disappointed in her now.
"How is Davia doing?" Rhona finally spoke in a quiet voice.
Ramirez looked up, at the holo, back at Rhona. "Oh, she's doing much better. The injections are working as hoped so I expect her to be fully recovered within the next couple of months. It's been a long time coming but she's a fighter, as you know."
Rhona remained quiet for a long moment before finally saying, "Do you miss her, Rafe? I mean...really miss her?" She already knew the answer.
"Every single day. As far as Prue is concerned, well...to semi-quote Euripides the older I grow the more dear is my daughter. She's got her mother's strength for sure...small but mighty."
"What about her father? What has he given her?"
"She has my stubbornness," Ramirez chuckled. "Everything good comes from her mother."
Ramirez sensed a twinge of melancholy from Rhona who continued focusing on Davia's holo-likeness as if searching for something.
He attempted to break the tension. "How is Don? The last I heard he was scouting out a new location for the new house he's planning to build for you two when we return."
Rhona blinked. "I'm sure he's doing fine. To be honest, I haven't contacted him for nearly a month."
"Oh," Ramirez simply said. "Well, you have been quite busy the past few weeks."
He knew it was weak scrutiny to something he sensed was far more complex but now was not the time to broach it.
"Yes," she finally said, rising out of the chair. "Forgive me, but I'm growing a little tired. Big day tomorrow and all that."
Ramirez rose from his chair as Rhona began to leave. "Of course. Goodnight and good luck tomorrow. We'll begin our deceleration into Chiron high orbit in a couple of hours. Ganymede will be ready, no need to worry."
"I'm not worried."
Rhona cast one last glance back at Davia's holo before she walked out. "Tell Davia I asked about her and that I hope she continues getting better."
"I will. Thank you, Rhona."
But the doors shut behind Rhona before Ramirez finished his statement.
Koushik, of course, couldn't sleep. He had a fusion anomaly on his brain.
Dr. McKibben was right. He desperately needed the rest. He had been working for nearly thirty hours and needed to give his body a chance to recharge. He entered his spartan quarters, sat on his sleeping cot, and stared at the floor. His mind continued running experiments, forming questions, sorting data.
He shook his head sharply. He got up, quickly threw off his clothes and took a long, hot shower. Other than rinsing thirty hours of filth off his body the shower did little to quiet his mind. After finishing, he returned to his cot and sat there naked except for the towel wrapped around his waist. His empty gaze returned to the bare floor. Again, his mind became excited.
As he lifted his feet off the floor to tuck them under the sheet, he paused when his eyes fixated on his terminal at the opposite end of the room. He stood up and began slowly walking toward it, quietly, as if the terminal would somehow be aware of his presence and stubbornly refuse to work the moment he touched it.
The terminal automatically activated when he sat in his chair. Koushik's eyes immediately darted to the entrance to his quarters, half-believing Dr. McKibben would burst in and verbally assault him the moment he tried to access the database. When he convinced himself this fantasy would not materialize, Koushik tapped the icons that would connect him to his terminal on the research bridge. Dr. McKibben said she did not want him working on the bridge so he reasoned he could work here instead.
But the log in process was the only thing the terminal would let him do. The moment he attempted to enter the science database the screen went dark. The terminal emitted a brief buzzing sound and the computer spoke:
"Entry denied for...Dr. Mitra, Koushik, assistant science officer. Terminal locked by authorization...Dr. McKibben, Rhona, chief science officer. Please consult with...Dr. McKibben...to regain access to science database."
Defeated, Koushik slumped in his chair as the terminal repeatedly reminded him that he had been outsmarted by Dr. McKibben. She knew him too well. Of course, Koushik wasn't that hard to read so predictably single-minded he was. Koushik began to chuckle.
He stood up, the computer stopped mocking him, and he rolled into his cot. As he lay there, Koushik realized his mind was now quiet. It had been a long time since his mind was this still.
The lights in his quarters dimmed to near complete darkness and the music of Mozart's Serenade No. 10 began to fill the room.
A low, rhythmic thumping resonated at the edge of Koushik's consciousness. His mind reasoned the noise was either an F.T.L. reactor spike or the footfalls of someone running down the corridor. He thought he heard a muffled voice call out his name.
Soon the room quieted once again and Koushik eventually drifted back into a slumber. A moment later the intermittent thumping returned, clearer this time, followed by the loud whispering of, "Koushik! It's Callum! Are you in there?"
Koushik sat up in his cot well before his mind had registered what he had done. The darkened room made focusing difficult and he uttered "Lights, half," illuminating the room enough to chase off the vertigo. He uttered another command and Mozart fell silent.
Outside the door, Callum noticed the quieting of the music and said in a much louder voice, "Koushik! Open up! I've got to show you something. You aren't going to believe it!"
Koushik covered the distance to the door in three haphazard strides, lazily slapped the door entry panel, and sat back down on his cot. This time, it was Callum who shot into the room tapping his PDP, a mixture of wonder and excitement on his face.
"Koushik! Friend, you aren't going to believe what MicroForm found. I'm pretty sure it's a legitimate find. The program is far enough along to be fairly accurate. It's a minor miracle, really, how MicroForm made this correlation. You can blame that happy accident on my leaving the -"
Callum looked up from his PDP and for the first time noticed Koushik was sitting on his cot instead of at his terminal.
"You were asleep?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, I actually was," Koushik croaked out.
Callum laughed. "Well, that makes two breakthroughs in one day! I've been trying to contact you for the past ten minutes but I can't seem to get through to your terminal."
"You can't," Koushik said, rubbing his eyes with both hands. "Dr. McKibben has banned me from all bridge and terminal access. I guess she locked me out from both transmitting and receiving."
"Ah, so you were grounded then?"
"I thought those days were all behind me. So, what did MicroForm find?"
Callum sat roughly on the cot next to Koushik.
"I know where your fusion anomaly originated from," Callum said quietly. Koushik's eyes locked onto Callum.
"When I began running MicroForm, I neglected to instruct it to limit its search to just the anomalies we have logged so far. Prior to this, I had been doing some reading up on the Unity mission...just to pass the time. I got a little nostalgic the closer we got to Chiron. Anyway, I accidentally left numerous links open to technical archives on the Unity herself...the materials used to build her, blueprints, engineer formulas, things like that. So after MicroForm went through Ganymede's mission archives, it went off the reservation and began digging through the historical archives looking for a match to the schematic it created of your fusion anomaly. It found something."
Koushik was alert now, his breathing shallow as the implications of what Callum was telling him became clear.
"Are you saying my anomaly...that MicroForm made a correlation between my anomaly and the Unity itself?"
Callum, grinning, didn't answer. He tapped his PDP and the display went holo, growing large so Koushik could see all the details. Two computerized schematics appeared opposite one another. Callum pointed to the one on the left.
"This is the waveform of the Unity's fusion reactor output, taken right from the archives, created by the chief research engineer himself." Callum pointed to the schematic on the right. "This one here is MicroForm's interpretation of your anomaly."
Koushik scowled, confused. "But, they don't appear to be the same."
"I didn't think so either. At first I chalked it up to a bug in the program." Callum raised a finger and held it in front of his face.
Callum placed his finger on the right side image and rotated the schematic. Koushik's eyes went wide. The two schematics were nearly identical. His mouth fell open and he looked at Callum stupefied.
"I believe you may have found the Unity and if those colonists actually made it here, my friend, you just rewrote human history."