Voices of the Past

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Across the Universe

Copyright: Beth Revis

For Robert and Maria Martin, as for nearly all of the colonists, the reanimation process had gone as smoothly as possible. They woke up in adjacent hospital beds, frail but healthy, attended by a highly professional team of nurses. Once conscious, they smiled at each other across the divide between the beds and thanked the doctor in charge, a pretty woman easy to distinguish from her staff by her lighter skin and auburn hair.

"Is Amy here, Doctor?" asked Bob, his very first question. "Amy Martin, number forty-two?"

Maria held her breath for the answer. The last thing she remembered was seeing her daughter turn white with terror at the sight of her being frozen. She and Robert had argued about it so often, both ambivalent, torn between leaving their precious girl behind and bringing her into an unknown world.

The young doctor, mid-thirties at most, frowned at the floppy plastic sheet in her hands for a long moment before answering. Her hazel eyes, when she raised them, were full of concern.

"Sergeant … Doctor," she said, addressing them both by their titles in an awkward stall for time, "I really don't know how to tell you this, but … "

"She turned back, then," said Bob, lying back in bed and closing his eyes with a sigh of disappointment. "I thought so."

Ironic, because he had been the one to leave Amy's trunk empty and urge her to stay.

"If that's her choice – " Maria spoke up defensively, only to be stopped a hand gesture from the doctor.

"No … no, that's not it. Now, please stay calm," she added, speaking slowly to make up for her Godspeed accent and to soothe the obvious fear in the couple's faces. "It's a complicated story. I think you'd better read it for yourselves."

She passed a floppy to each of them, showing them how to activate it and access the ship's database. She smiled shyly as Amy's picture, followed by a column of text, lit up the screens.

Maria read her daughter's story with aching eyes and a growing sense of disorientation. It read like a dictionary entry from several decades ago, with facts and figures and hyperlinks in boldface – which was exactly it was.

Martin, Amy

Sol-Earth Era: 2011-2038

Godspeed Era: 0-524

Origin: U. S. A.

Status: Nonessential Cargo (0-450); Citizen (450-524)

Life on Sol-Earth:

Amy Martin was born in Denver, Colorado to Dr. Maria Martin, a geneticist, and Sergeant Robert Martin of the U. S. army. Her interests included running, photography and history. Due to her parents' essential status in the construction of Godspeed and her age (17, a minor under Sol-Earth law), she was granted permission to come aboard as one of the Hundred Colonists.

Life on Godspeed:

In 450 G. E., sixteen-year-old Elder unplugged Martin's cryogenic chamber, prematurely reviving her. Along with Harley (Painter) and Chief Medical Officer 11, he helped her to acclimate to life on Godspeed and the loss of her parents. Together they investigated the crimes of serial killer Eldest 12/Orion (who had been unplugging stasis chambers in a vendetta against the military portion of the Colonists) and leaving discovered the Plague Conspiracy of 200 G. E. and opposed what they saw as the corrupt leadership of Eldest 11, the last to govern the ship according to the Eldest System. Eldest 11 was killed by Orion, whom Elder placed in stasis in order to await the verdict of the Colonists upon planet-landing.

Martin and Elder became running mates in Godspeed's first ship-wide election, which they won on January 12, 451. President Elder and Vice President Amy Martin went on to govern the ship for two terms of four years each, supported by a Council of ten Feeders and Shippers each. For a complete list of Godspeed's Presidents since 451, click here). The reforms they made, most of them initiated by Martin (including democracy, the banning of Phydus, the formation of the Security Guard and the conversion of Trailer Block One into a prison) were so comprehensive that their term of leadership is now known as the Reconstruction Period.

Martin married Elder in 453. Once their term of leadership was over, they became Recorders and Instructors, making it their life's work to rewrite the historical database of the Recorder Hall, which according to Martin had been unjustly censored by generations of Eldests. Their son Harley Martin was born in 457, the first child on Godspeed registered with both a given name and family name since the beginning of the Eldest Period – one of the many Sol-Earth customs Amy Martin is credited with re-introducing on board. Other innovations include annual holidays (Thanksgiving, New Years' Day and Launch Day, her personal invention, which after her death became known as Amy's Day), photographic art, recreational physical activity and the aforementioned changes in leadership methods.

Martin died of age-related causes at the age of ninety-one in 524, followed ten days later by her husband. Their memorial service was held in the gardens outside the Hospital, where a bed of tiger lilies is kept in Martin's honor to this day.

For further reading, see the following:

Reaching For The Stars: A Memoir by Elder

White Lies, Gray Truths: A History of Godspeed, by various authors, edited by Amy Martin

This Neverending Journey by Victria

As she read, Maria clapped her hand over her mouth to cover a sob. It was too much. She couldn't even understand most of the article – Plague Conspiracies, Eldest Systems – but from what she could make out, two revelations hit her with overwhelming force.

First – her daughter had lived a life worth living, a life to be remembered and celebrated even after her death.

Second – her daughter was dead.

"Oh my God," she whispered. "Oh my God … "

A gentle hand took the floppy from her nerveless fingers. She looked up. Robert, shaky as he was, had crossed over to her bedside and was holding out his arms, the heartbreak in his green eyes mirroring her own. She buried her face in his hospital gown and sobbed.

"She always did love to run," her husband murmured, thinking out loud in a numb, absentminded way. "I suppose … I suppose she just ran ahead of us. Like she always did … You think she's waiting for us to catch up, maybe? With her ponytail and her earbuds on, smiling, like hey, slowpokes, guess what I found?"

It was a beautiful image. She could picture Amy running down a path in some green park, her red hair glowing in the sunlight. For the life of her, she could not picture Amy as the venerable old lady the article described. Had she suffered from Alzheimer's like Maria's own mother? Had she walked with a cane, or was the medicine on this ship too far advanced for that? Had she been happy with her unknown husband for all those years?

"It looks like she was a hero," said Robert, rather teary-eyed himself as he glanced once more at his own floppy sheet. "Did you see this? She brought down a killer and a corrupt government. With this Elder, whoever he was. So if she hadn't come with us … "

This ship's society might be completely different. It was the butterfly effect – one person was enough to change the course of a civilization. And in a flash, Maria remembered that this killer had been targeting –

"The military," she said. "This killer, he was after the military … they saved you, Robert. They protected you while you were frozen."

She kissed her husband with a sudden intensity, terrified by the possibility of waking up alone and fiercely grateful to have him there with her.

Letting go, she heard a quiet footstep behind her and turned around. It was the Doctor, carrying a pice of paper (real, folded paper, which Maria hadn't expected from the future) and a brown teddy bear with a green ribbon around its neck.

"I thought you might like her back," said the Doctor. "She's been in the family for generations. I even put a patch on her once."

"Thank you … "

Maria held the bear cautiously, a thousand memories of Amy's childhood rising from the worn-out fur. Amber, yes, that was the name. She smiled.

"And this," the Doctor held out the paper to Robert, "This was written by your daughter just after Elder came to power. It was kept in storage for you."

Robert unfolded the letter and read it out loud in a steady, but very quiet voice, as if reciting a sacred text.

"Dear Mom and Daddy,

By the time you read this, I'll probably be dead. I was unplugged too early, and the Chief Medical Officer says it's too risky to put me back in stasis. Please don't blame the boy who unplugged me. All he wanted was someone his own age to talk to about Earth, which fascinates him. He had no idea I wouldn't be able to go back.

His name is Elder. He's the new leader of the ship and an amazing person: brave enough to question authority and wise enough to live up to his own ideals. He believes in honesty, which is why he confessed about the unplugging even though he knew I'd be mad at him. He has a short fuse like me, but he never hurts anyone, and our fights are even kind of interesting (especially when we make up). He's my best friend on this ship, bringing me tiger lilies, holding me close when I need it. Of course it doesn't hurt that he's cute, in a multiracial chocolatey way. I wish you could meet him, especially you, Daddy, because you both have experience with command. Also you'd enjoy his sense of humor.

It's not so bad here, even though the enclosed spaces and recycled air take a lot of getting used to. They have these weird genetically modified farm animals, like cow-pigs and giant fat rabbits, and you get your food delivered through a tube in the wall, like the replicators in Star Trek. People don't wear Star Trek-type uniforms, though (sorry, Daddy), instead they sew their clothes by hand, which makes them look like Renaissance Fair costumes. There's a library called the Recorder Hall where they keep all the books, paintings and art made by people on board. My favorite artist is named Harley. His favorite subject was koi fish and he made them look like underwater jewels.

What I really miss is the sun, but since we can't get it, Elder and I sometimes stand by the release hatch to watch the stars. That helps a little.

I miss you both almost more than sunlight. Sometimes I imagine unplugging you both, waking you up so we could be together, but I know that would be wrong. Centauri-Earth needs you, so make it work, okay? Make your colony a beautiful, peaceful place where our descendants can be happy.

I hope you don't mind, but I took The Art of War out of Daddy's trunk and Amber, the photos and the crucifix out of Mom's. I think I understand Nana's faith a little better now.

Love always,

Amy."

Robert looked up from reading the letter, right into the Doctor's greenish-hazel eyes. The letter had called Amy's face and character so clearly before them all, it was obvious what they had missed before.

Here was this young woman, with green eyes and auburn hair on a monoethnic ship, whose family had passed down Amber and who looked more emotionally affected by the letter than even Amy's historical status could explain. Maria glanced down at the name tag embroidered in orange stitches on the Doctor's white coat. Dr. Stella Martin, Chief Medical Officer.

Stella caught the direction of her eyes, blushed and held out her hand.

"Grandmother ... Grandfather. It's an honor to finally meet you."