Read: Ender Waters
사우스 캐롤라이나에서 태어나, 호주에서 성장했고, 캘리포니아에서 학업을 이어갔으며 현재 대한민국에서 근무하고 있습니다. 엔더는 그가 만성적으로 할 일을 미루는 습관을 극복할수있는 한은 글을 씁니다. 그리고 생계를 위해 영어를 가르치고 너무나 너무나 많은 취미를 가지고 있습니다.
Born in South Carolina, raised in Australia, studied in California, and now works in South Korea. Ender writes as often as he can overcome a chronic case of procrastination, teaches English to pay the bills, and has far, far too many hobbies.
Disco Ball Solitude
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earthdateJune 4th, 1163, 13:40/earthdate
I’m Derek Noble, pilot of The Orpheus, an F-Class freighter carrying the first set of colonists to our new home. You should be able to see a low-quality video stream coming from the ship right now. I’ll only turn it on if I’m doing something interesting. No one wants to watch me sit here scratching my ass for a few hours, and, frankly, I don’t really want you to be watching me scratch my ass.
Anyway, like I said, we’re carrying the first set of colonists to XR1138, a garden world which we’ll rename to something more fitting once we land. You should know a few basic facts about the trip already, unless you’ve been living under a rock. None of us will ever come back to earth, this is a one-way mission, as you no doubt know. I locked away Captain Miranda Zeus around 10:00, the last time I’ll see a real human until our journey nears the completion of its arc. I get a lot of questions about how I became a pilot, so I’ll address those a little later, but I’ve had a few questions about how the actual hibernation process takes place, so I’ll try to describe it as best I can. We aren’t allowed to take recording devices of any kind into the chamber, so you’ll have to make do with plaintext.
The chambers are kind of egg shaped, but a bit longer and with a pointier pointy end. She was staring out at me, unblinking, just like she always did. That’s the one thing that stands out. The captain’s a beautiful woman. I’ll see if I can upload a picture, later. But back to the hibernation process.
There’s a touch-panel attached to the chamber, and a big red button that says “Seal.” You push it, and then the plexiglass slides into place with a sort of a low purr, and then the bolts softly click into place and all you can really make out is the person’s face. They’re naked, of course, inside the chambers. Maximum nutrient absorption, and all that. But you can’t see anything once the glass is shut. The designers made sure of that. So, they just become these floating faces. It’s quite eery, really.
Anyway, next warm brown liquid begins to fill the chamber. It numbs most of the body, but the eyes can still move.
<deleted>I remember her eyes were still moving up and down my body, as the liquid covered her mouth and then she closed her eyes. I said “sleep well, darling,” but I don’t know if she heard me.</deleted>
After they’re totally covered, you press another button on the little panel and a trapdoor opens and the egg descends six feet, two inches into the vault. A small video screen on the wall to the right turns on, and the Captain’s face, just visible behind the plexiglass joins a thousand others. <deleted>She was beautiful, like a gazelle. Strong yet delicate, with firm breasts and expressive lips.</deleted>
That’s kind of how it works. After I put the captain to sleep, I walked slowly down the corridor, glancing here and there at the other faces. There’s a lot of them - nearly two thousand - but when I think about only six hundred of us being alone on an unknown planet one and a half times the size of earth, it doesn’t seem like so many. The white plastic they use to make the floor is warmed from the engine core below, so I took my time, enjoying the feeling of having two legs on relatively solid ground. The central core is the only place with simulated gravity. At the end of the corridor, which is rather shockingly white, is the door to the outer shell.
“The Orpheus,” <inserted>Captain</inserted> Miranda once said, “is, for all intents and purposes, a disco ball with a neutron drive.” She’s right. Most of you have read the specs, but I’ll describe it for you anyway. Check the net for pictures. The ship is built like a sphere within a sphere. Titanium Glass, highly reflective on one side but perfectly translucent on the other, forms the outer hull, protecting it from stray bits of dirt and ice that tend to fling themselves into a spacecraft travelling at close to half the speed of light. Between the outer shell and the inner shell is the crew’s quarters, navigation room, control room, dining room, and all of the other rooms necessary to run a ship capable of carrying two thousand.
Of course, now they were all in the Vault within the inner shell, and accessible only by the corridor I had just come out of, which ran through the entire diameter of the Orpheus. The Vault contains two thousand eggs, each containing one person, on the engineside of the craft, and, on the topside, one hundred tons of equipment and supplies.
I spend most of my time between the outer shell and the inner shell - where the actual living and working spaces of the ship are. It’s funny, when you’re out there, the only way you can tell you’re getting closer to the outer shell is by the black carbide girders, which are nearly invisible against the black of deep space. The titanium glass is completely translucent and 100% anti-glare, and of course there’s no discernable difference in the size of a star when you’re only moving twenty or thirty feet. To get to the top (that doesn’t actually make sense but I’ll explain in a minute) you float through the other compartments that honeycomb the space between the two shells, past empty gurneys and medical equipment, and eventually arrive at the control room.
I say top, but, of course, how can a sphere floating weightless in space have a top or a bottom? <inserted>Captain</inserted> Miranda calls it the top because it’s the point on the ship opposite the neutron drive, the point supposed to be moving towards where we are going. The divider to the top juts out from the floor at a forty-five degree angle making apparent the curvature of the matte plastic beneath it.
You only have to whisper “open” and the divider between the top and the rest of the ship separates in the middle. Going through that opening is a little disconcerting. It feels like you’re launching yourself right out into the void of space. The top is a dome, as if someone has taken a razor blade and sliced off the top of the disco ball <delete>without all the messy glass shards</deleted> and then glued it back on. Unless I face the divider, the blackness of space is inescapable, wrapping around every control pad and monitor, bathing them in dark starlight which the white glowing plastic of the divider brightens only a little.
The Orpheus’ brain is here, in this black and white dome. It only takes a couple seconds to float over to the pilot’s console and strap myself into the chair. A tiny gravity generator within the seat makes me feel ever so slightly more at home. Almost like I was driving the r26 around the racetrack again.
The first thing I did when I strapped in for the cycle is punch a long string of numbers into the glassy panel on the armrest of the seat under my fingertips, and stare intently at the round object that popped up on the screen. I had done this for hours on end in this very seat before now, trying to distinguish anything at all that would tell me more about the place in which we will be spending the rest of our days. You all know the statistics, of course. The numbers seem ideal. But the numbers can’t tell you how a place is going to make you feel. And right now the only thing that I felt from the map was loneliness. Only two thousand of us out there on a globe hanging in the blackness of space.
I looked at another display, converting a string of numbers into something meaningful. We were a little off. “Turi.” I said “adjust our heading .003 degrees towards Z-23.”
Her voice came back in the little speaker in my ear, soft, low, pleasing, “Heading adjusted, Lieutenant Noble.”
“Thank you, Turi.”
“You’re welcome, Lieutenant Noble.”
“Turi, you can switch to casual address for the remainder of my time at the helm.” It makes it feel a little bit more like there’s a real person in the room when the V.I. calls me by my first name.
“Of course, Derek.” Miranda had called the Virtual Intelligence Turi. As you know, she’s extremely sophisticated, programmed to have the same vocabulary and range of responses as any university educated human, yet with no conscious ability to make decisions.
I pressed a button, and the dark dome above me lit up, thousands of stars above me circled and named with brilliant white lines and text, a translucent white trail shooting ahead of the ship, showing our path. A timer was on the screen in front of me. Our ETA was decreasing second by second. Six months, fourteen days, 3 hours, 8 minutes, and <deleted>twenty-one</deleted> twenty seconds. <inserted>Captain/Captain Miranda is supposed to wake up and relieve me halfway through the trip.
And now it’s just Turi and me for three months. I’m seeing a lot of questions popping in even as I write this. A lot of you want to know about my life before the trip, what it was that prompted me to volunteer for a mission where no one was coming back. I’ll answer that tomorrow. I have a lot of details to take care of right now.
Earthdate June 5, 1163, 15:30
I’ve just woken up. Nothing to report, really. We’ve traveled, according to the computer, but the stars all still look the same distance away. I was going to tell you all about everything that led me here, but Turi’s saying something. Hold on.
Alright, I’m back. Just a little clog in one of the tubes to the Vault. Nothing difficult to fix, but if I’d left it for more than a day or two it would have been bad for everyone in there. Anyway. Let’s see.
It wasn’t always me and a computer and space alone. I had friends once. Family. A car, a dog. But it’s all gone now. Even Miranda’s gone. I was twenty-two when my cell phone rang as I lay next to my beautiful Corine on the brown grass of the hill overlooking San Francisco. They said that they had chosen me; out of hundreds, I was the best. I had never thought of myself as the best. I was good, I knew. Before I was fifteen I was racing in professional rallies; before I was eighteen I was flying stunt planes and test-driving the fastest cars made. The Air Force told me that nothing would give me the thrill flying a fighter would, and they were right. Until they strapped me to a rocket, that is.
They tried to make a celebrity of me, when I was younger, but I didn’t want the attention. I wanted the speed, to feel a pulse in my veins as the pedal inched closer and closer to the floor. That was all I cared about.
Everything else fades, when you’re moving that fast. The person sitting next to you, the blur of trees beside the road, even the other racers are just distractions. The only important things are your hands on the steering wheel, your feet on the pedals, and the curving of the road in front of you. Now there is no road, no pedals. And controls that only come out in emergencies, when Turi is damaged or overloaded.
Corine never understood. Couldn’t understand, perhaps. They told me they wanted me for something important, something that would make a difference to the world. To humanity. We would be the first to colonize the new world, the first interstellar moving van in history. But I would never come back, and she didn’t want to go with me. Didn’t want to sacrifice being a normal person for the sake of the world. God, how I wish she was with me now. How I wish anyone was.
I’m twenty-three, now. Miranda’s nearly thirty and they built this ship for her to captain. She taught me how to pilot a spacecraft. Taught me in six months, and they only let her because she told them she wouldn’t trust the Orpheus to anyone she hadn’t personally trained.
She was hard on me. Governed every second of what I did for those six months, her curly blonde hair always pulled back so tight the skin of her forehead always seemed taut. Her lips were thin, and rarely smiled, even when I did something right. Which was often. I was a natural, she said. She taught me in six months what it had taken her ten years to learn, and took all of the credit for it. She deserved it.
I passed all of the tests they put me through. All 116 with a score of 90 or higher, better than any pilot ever. And she changed, while I was going towards that. She softened, as if it was okay if she was pushing me, pressing me to succeed, but if it was someone else then she felt more helpless or something and turned from a coach into a friend. <deleted>And one night, the night before my final test, we were alone in her room preparing and she suddenly turned to me and I think she almost kissed me. But instead she took my hand and guided it to the place on the star chart I was looking for. We didn’t have another moment alone until I sealed her away, and then she was all business.</deleted> I am privileged to know her.
I need to go check the instruments. Turi is calling me.
Earthdate July 4, 1163, 21:40
It’s Independence Day. It’s the most notable thing that’s happened since I sealed Miranda away. I haven’t posted anything because there’s been nothing to tell, and we’re far enough away from earth that my download speed can’t handle any messages from Central Command, let alone comments or questions from the feed. It’ll take a week at least for just this one post to make it back to earth. It’s just . . . space. Weeks and weeks of space, without sight of anything or the voice of anyone except for Turi. At least she doesn’t have a bad voice. It’s rather pleasing, actually. Sometimes I get her to read to me from the library on the Orpheus. It’s better than the holo-films, because it feels more like there’s actually someone sharing it with me. I liked Robinson Crusoe. I feel a bit like Crusoe right now, with Turi as my Friday. Just we two, alone in an unknown area. Crusoe had things to do, though. He practically built a mini-city on his island. I don’t have anything to build. Just sensors to check every few hours and the occasional blockage in the Vault’s pipes. I know I’m going fast, really fast, faster than I’ve ever gone before, but I don’t feel like it. Haven’t felt it since take off. I feel a little trapped in here.
Anyway, since it was Independence Day, I changed all of the displays to red, white, and blue and had Turi sing the National Anthem with me. She has a lovely voice. At least, whoever programmed her did. She even managed to harmonize with me. It’s funny that we’re celebrating freedom when I feel like I’m in prison. Turi says we might be hit an asteroid belt in a few days. We’ll see.
Earthdate July 8th, 1163, 17:30
Today was exciting. More exciting than anything that’s happened so far, anyway. We hit the asteroid belt yesterday around 1800 hrs. Turi woke me up with a blaring siren. She apologized for the noise (She’s so nice, sometimes it’s hard to remember she’s just a program) and said she needed me on the controls. I sleep at the console most nights (I mean, night is totally arbitrary; I sleep whenever I’m tired) and so I was right there. Two joysticks emerged from the panel and I gripped them tightly. Finally, a bit of action! I haven’t had an adrenaline rush since liftoff.
The ship has several cannon that can blast any of the smaller chunks of rock that came near, but they aren’t powerful enough to take care of any rocks larger than fifty meters or so. The Orpheus is, despite its ungainly shape, quite maneuverable, and so it was not difficult at first for me to thread my way through the maze the rocks created.
But it never seemed to end. Turi told me that it was going to take another seven hours to make it to the other side. I cursed and she said, “It’s okay Derek. You can do it. I know you can.” Just like Miranda had, the night before the top brass who picked me were to watch me fly a ship (in simulation, of course) in combat against aliens. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did, and I did it now too.
Seven hours. Turi just kept saying that line, “It’s okay Derek. You can do it. I know you can,” and somehow that kept me going through the whole thing. I did hit one of them, at the very end. I lost my concentration and smacked right into a big one, nearly a kilometer long. One of the compartments was busted open and started leaking air and water from the pipes. Turi sealed it off, but I needed to go outside to put a patch on the actual leak. I was exhausted, but Turi gently insisted. She was right, of course. It wouldn’t be good for us to be losing water, even though it wasn’t very much.
I went outside and Turi sent out a couple of mechanical arms with the materials. I got most of it patched pretty quickly, but there was a bit of trouble sealing off one of the pipes that was leaking water. The bonding agent just wouldn’t adhere with frozen water there. I gave it a kick, hoping to dislodge the frozen water that was in the pipe, and of course I went flying off into space. My tether caught on a sharp edge of the gash and was sliced right through. I would have just kept floating off and died of asphyxiation, but Turi grabbed me with those mechanical arms and quickly pulled me back inside. She saved my life. I’m going to sleep now, but I just wanted to post this before I forget it.
Earthdate July 23, 1163, 21:30
I had a dream about Turi last night. She had a real body but her voice was exactly the same and she told me that she loved me. I asked her today if she loved me and she said “You are my priority, Derek.” I guess that means yes, as much as a program can love. I forget more and more often that she’s a program, even though she says the same thing when I ask her a question, somehow I almost feel like she saying them differently. I wonder if I could find a way to give her a body, at least on the displays.
Earthdate July 31, 1163, 22:17
Success! I’ve spent the last week digging around in the ship’s knowledge archives, which contain the total sum of human knowledge that has been written down. Finally I found several articles by the man who invented the virtual intelligence about giving them an avatar. I’ve spent the last twelve hours tinkering around with it, and I think I’ve finally made it work. Turi did the heavy lifting coding wise, and she seemed pleased to be getting a body. I could tell by the way she said my name. She looks just like she did in my dream, now. Just under a month till Miranda wakes up, now, but I think it will be much more pleasantly spent than the last two.
Earthdate August 29, 1163, 06:30
Oh god. Oh god, oh god, oh god. What have I done? What am I going to do? Miranda woke up today, at 00:00 exactly. Turi told me she had to open her egg today and I thought that there could be no harm in waiting for another day or two, but Turi said she wasn’t allowed to delay waking her up at all. So of course I went down to the tunnel where the vault is and waited for Miranda. She woke up and was very happy to see me. She threw her arms around me, and I think she almost wanted to kiss me, but I knew Turi was watching and so I didn’t let her.
We went out into the dome up top and immediately she asked what that was on the screen. I got excited and told her I had dreamed about Turi having a body so I had made her one, and then said that Turi really liked her body “don’t you Turi.” Miranda looked at me strangely, then up at Turi, and said that she thought she might uninstall the avatar now she was piloting, and then I realized that now that Miranda was here I would have to leave Turi till we got to the planet, and then who would know if I would ever see her again.
I told Miranda that I thought maybe I should stay awake for a few more days “to spend time with you,” and she said that was fine but she still wanted to uninstall Turi’s body, and maybe change her voice too. I said I’d worked really hard on getting it right and she insisted and went to the control panel to start uninstalling it and I pushed her hand away and then she looked at me really funny and we started shouting at each other and she said I was in love with a stupid machine but Turi’s not just a machine, she really cares about me. She saved my life. So I hit her for saying Turi was stupid and she went flying across the room and hit her head and blood gushed out and just hung in the air.
She floated by me and her cold blue eyes looked past me into the black outside.
Turi said if we didn’t dispose of the body it would start to rot and make me sick, so we pushed Miranda’s beautiful body naked out of the airlock, well I pushed and Turi opened the airlock. Turi said we should wake up someone else, the governor of the colony, but I said that we shouldn’t yet, that he wouldn’t understand, and not to talk about it again until we got to the planet.
Earthdate November 18, 1163, 13:30
We’re here. Finally. After six months we’re at the planet. Demeter, we called it. I haven’t woken anyone up yet. I will soon. Maybe today.
Earthdate November 20, 1163, 10:17
I know what to do now. Turi’s been reading me psychology, and I know that they won’t ever let us stay together. They’ll watch the tapes and they won’t understand. So I just won’t ever wake them up. Turi said she wasn’t allowed to do that unless we had to turn around. So I turned us around. We’re heading back towards earth now. Only problem is, we only have enough supplies to last another six months. But I know what to do about that too.
Earthdate November 23, 1163, 05:30
It’s done. It took me a week, (I think? Time doesn’t seem to matter now I’m not counting down to anything) but I clogged up all of the tubes sending food to the eggs. We have enough supplies now to last for twenty years. I’m so excited. Turi and I are going to explore the galaxy together.
no further transmissions