This story is to be more of an AAR narrative. The general premise is that Earth managed to survive past 2060 and launch a research mission to Alpha Centauri nearly 160 years later in order to discover if humans are indeed capable of existing on an alien Earth world.
The game I am basing this on will be crossover involving Galactic Civilizations 2: Twilight of the Arnor using the seven main Alpha Centauri factions (custom races can be created in the game). I am a fan of the whole Alpha Centauri genre, both games and books, and was always interested in taking the ground-based factions and hurl them out into space. I don't claim to be the know-it-all of Alpha Centauri. I just liked the sci-fi aspect of it.
Thank you for reading. Comments welcome.
Personal log entry
Callum F. Cook
Assistant Signals 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 xeno biologists 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 clouds 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, moreso the history before it. I've been digging through historical archives, the world that was mid-21st 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. Extreme 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, chosen over a period of 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 perdition? With the safety of sixteen decades of history behind us, one can easily feel incredulous, horrified, even judgmental toward those people. With the stress humanity was under back then, it's ironic that war was not...
Callum's voice was cut off as the soft tone of an electronic double-chime interrupted his dictation. He instinctively touched a backlit control button on his desk and the words on the thin, opaque display instantly turned into unreadable symbols. He muttered "Door," and a smaller display zoomed in, superimposed over his now cryptic journal.
An image quickly formed and the round, dark brown face of Assistant Science Officer Dr. Koushik Mitra appeared. Callum read his demeanor in an instant; a mild intensity clouding his features, eyebrows pinched ever so slightly, jaw set a bit tighter than was 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 quickly propelled himself into Callum's small quarters, his left shoulder nearly colliding with the opening door. Four quick strides and he was standing directly in front of Callum's desk, never once acknowledging Callum or asking to be seated. His intense face peered at his portable display pad, right hand randomly tapping keys as he sifted through information.
Callum leaned back in his chair and watched him. He watched him for a whole minute. And Koushik continued dissecting his data, seemingly oblivious.
Moving as if to stand, Callum finally said, "Well, 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 said 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...I can't..." His voice trailed off, exasperation punctuated by a sharp exhale.
Callum slowly settled back into his chair. "Well, no offense Koushik but you are the Science Officer's right hand man. I fail to see where any problems you are having...I mean, how could you expect me to 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."
"I understand. No offense taken," Callum nervously chuckled, trying to force a bit of levity into the somber air. "Doctor," he finally said, "would it be possible for me to observe what you're working on there? I feel I could be of greater assistance if I were more - involved.
" Koushik's demeanor changed and he immediately became more human. "Of course, of course," he said, reaching over to a corner of the room and rolling a low chair over to Callum's desk, opposite him. "I'm sorry, Callum. You know what I turn into when I run into an unexplainable discovery. I am as the vampire needing blood to drink. Is your terminal still on?" Callum indicated that it was. "Have a look at this."
Koushik touched a button on his PDP, waited for a moment, then removed a clear, elongated cube attached to the side of his display. He reached over and placed it into a recessed area on Callum's desk, the same width and dimension as the cube. The image on Callum's terminal bounced slightly then transformed into a duplicate image of Koushik's PDP display.
"This area here -" Koushik emphasized the point by circling it on his display, which simultaneously appeared on Callum's terminal - "is my current conundrum. 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...'white noise' if you will, to uncover ultra-high EM spectrum frequencies different from the anomalies we have logged so far."
Callum stared at his screen, absorbing what he was seeing, eyes narrowed in concentration. "From my analysis of this anomaly," Koushik continued, "it appears to be some kind of fusion reaction. A very highly localized fusion-based discharge."
Callum looked up from his terminal, eyeing Koushik with a distinct lack of surprise. "I'm no expert on what you do, Doctor, but I do know localized fusion deposits are far from 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," Koushik excitedly answered, abruptly straightening in his chair, his enthusiasm making him instantly appear younger. "But those fusion deposits can be explained by spacial correlations, the activity of the stars around them..."
Koushik clenched his mouth tightly and glanced down. As usual, he was over-explaining things. He started again, the words coming at a slower, more thoughtful pace. "This fusion anomaly is not necessarily unique in it's makeup, at least none that I can detect, but in its location."
"Where is it located exactly?" Callum asked.
Koushik made a few taps on his PDP and Callum's display morphed into a realtime starmap. The display zoomed in to the binary star system of Alpha Centauri, then closer still until a replica of the Ganymede herself appeared in the center of the screen, pulsating slightly. Koushik moved the starmap a bit, a portion of Alpha Centauri's "Earth" planet Chiron just visible on the left of the screen, the Ganymede near the right edge. Koushik's problematic fusion anomaly, still circled, hovered near the middle. "It's ten hours head of us, about twenty-three degrees above the solar plane," Koushik finished.
Indeed it was odd. Not completely out of the realm of possibilities, but definitely a rare find. As Callum zoomed in on the area in question, the image shifted to the left of the screen and Koushik's calculations appeared on the right, slowly scrolling upwards. Callum pondered them as they moved. "Yes. Yes, I see what you mean here," he said after a time. "But again, Koushik, I can offer you little more but confirmation of your findings."
"I believe you could offer me more. You are well established as one of the brightest cryptanalysts on the ship. I was hoping you could run these calculations through that wave analyzer program you created..."
"...and come up with a waveform schematic," Callum finished. It wasn't the first time one of the eggheads on the Ganymede wanted to use his prototype software to substantiate one of their unexplainable discoveries. And every time Callum ran their data through the program they remained unexplainable. The scientists tended to give it more problem-solving power than it actually had. But it did give Callum a sense of pride and, though he would never admit it to anyone, a mild ego boost.
"I'm flattered, Doctor, and thank you for your confidence but I have strong doubts as to whether MicroWave will be able to formulate an accurate simulation. It's still very much a work in progress."
Koushik leaned back in his chair thoughtfully stroking his chin. "I see," he said. "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."
Mentally kicking himself again Koushik looked down, shoulders slumped. "I know. I know this well." Koushik was often troubled by his inability to grasp the subtleties of etiquette. His mentor at the University of Oxford had often joked that Koushik would eventually become a great scientist, but he would forever be an awful diplomat.
After an extended silence, Callum finally let out a long, defeated sigh. "All right, Koushik. It does appear this anomaly of yours may be...unique enough to warrant a little more study."
He straightened himself and scooted his chair up closer to his terminal, arms laid on either side. "I'll give you three hours, no more. Some of us actually enjoy sleeping, you know. I'll run it through my program and see if there's anything worth mentioning. I'll transmit all my findings to you by 0230. Will that be sufficient?"
Koushik stood up so quickly his chair rolled back until it softly struck the bulkhead. His dampened spirits instantly soared back to their usual childlike exuberance. "Of course, 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!" He leaned over the table, grabbed Callum's hand and shook it forcefully, causing the bones in Callum's arm to pop slightly. Callum smiled despite himself and shook his head.
"Will you be awake in three hours?" he said as Koushik began to exit the room.
"Of course!" he exclaimed. "You know I rarely sleep. There is so much to discover!"
If Callum had a coin for every time Koushik had uttered that phrase...