Echo-1: Part 7
Imagine if you could blink and read and retain every book at your local library. It was like something was added to me, but more like I had only just realized what I had always known. I had complete knowledge of the ship, its mission, and current status. My new body was a sophisticated, agile, and durable learning machine designed to maintain large-scale spacecraft. I was the true master of all knowledge pertaining to the neural transmitter. I knew every feature and detail about them. I could go to a primitive planet and mine ores and forge one from trace elements if I had to. Given any amount of modern machinery, I could assemble one and connect it to any computer. I understood neural transmission like I had invented it.
I myself had a built-in transmitter and perfectly understood how to communicate with Jonas and the shipboard computer system. Which I instantly accessed and derived all knowledge of myself, the Jonas Earth simulation, and how it was I tripped the exit protocol from within.
Jonas, wanted me to literally be the hands he didn’t have and help him with any issues that might arise with his transmitter.
I was on a spaceship, a galaxy class cruiser with a supernova dark matter core drive. It was five thousand kilometers long, a thousand kilometers wide, and just over five hundred Earth years old. It is like flying around space in a ship slightly larger than the continental United States and about 600 miles thick.
Its shell was an ore based metal fiber of incredible strength. Its vast interior is made of various metals, stone, organic materials, and a decent sized ocean. The center of the ship was all water. There were two rainforests, traditional modular living quarters, the engine section, the supercomputer, and plenty of storage. There were four major highway systems for moving around the vessel and one giant water loop.
The water ring was mostly used by the whales when they didn’t feel like talking to each other. The water ring was also used to generate oxygen and filter the environment. It had multiple entrance points connecting to the central sea. The ring is also the migration path for millions and millions of ultra-violet rainbow squid. They breed and glow and change color and eat all the little electro crabs that thrive in the filtering system.
Some say the most desirable cabins are not the ones with views of deep outer space, but the ones with views of migrating rainbow squid.
The ship had several names in several languages. The natives of the Crionus Asteroid belt, where the interior was completed call it the Banga, probably for the tremendous thumping sounds that endlessly emit from the supernova dark matter drive. Deep space miners from the twelve planets around the Crusher red dwarf sun mastered the ability to harness the power of dark matter released from a dying star to drive their huge cargo ships some 30 thousand years ago. It’s a tricky procedure involving a micro black hole, a force field, a serious containment unit, and a hell of a getaway ship. Needless to say, if you are anywhere within a kilometer of the drive core not only will you hear the sound, but the percussive force would smash your eardrums to pieces. Assuming you have eardrums. Hence, the Banga.
17.6 billion registered passengers were all in cryo-sleep. The passengers were traveling from the first to the second arm of the spiral galaxy known as the Milky Way. They were generally humanoid from the various planets of the seven major systems on the first arm. We also had a complement of 150 million pets, livestock, and various other flexible lifeforms traveling on board. Some passed through generations as we travel, others curled up with their owners in cryo-sleep.
This group was all heading to a newly discovered paradise; a system on the second arm with 27 early cycle inhabitable planets. The journey would take roughly a hundred years, of which two years will be spent traveling through a wormhole.
The crew was mostly robots, synthetic humanoids, and a ragtag bunch of deep space junky cowboys who don’t mind living out their lives on a spaceship. We also had a battalion of Zero-G commandos. They were state of the art killing machines with warrior personalities. They generally only wake up to drill, run maneuvers, and kill everything that moves. The commandos had a squadron of mid-range galaxy fighters, extremely agile, fast, and well armed. However, they preferred to wear robotic armor combat suits, good for fighting inside and outside the airlock. They were extremely effective against any kind of run in we might have with undesirables or pirates while on our journey.
Then there was the navigator and ship’s captain, Jonas Phiseter III, great grandson of Jonas I, our previous navigator now in retirement.
Jonas was a 19-meter long Sperm whale who had recently celebrated his 102nd birthday. Just a kid really. He has been at the helm the past 75 years. Jonas was connected to the ship’s central computer via a neural transmitter. He literally thinks and then the ship does. He had full control of navigation, life support, and communication. Extremely vocal creatures, whales, it’s as if they have so much going on in their big brains that they feel the need to share it.
Jonas had a very active imagination and was probably one of the best programmers in the known galaxy. He’s a classic computer nerd. He mastered the use of the neural transmitter at age 2 and proceeded to spend the next five years of his life playing chess with the supercomputer. He holds the fleet record for number of times beating it. At 9 years he was ready to take the captain’s role but instead chose to work on deep ocean exploration in the 5th system (which has over 300 liquid worlds). He personally scanned and mapped 17 water worlds, battled octodrones, saved a species of blue penguin from extinction, discovered and cataloged 3,472 new species of aquatic life, and successfully mated with an outer ring Mysticeti blue whale. Their son, Jonas IV, was a rising star in the liquid planet terraforming project.
Jonas tended to stand out from his fellow whales on sight. He had seven large white scars raking down his left side and his fluke had faded red tattooed tips. He was the first whale to test the artificial cetacea breathing apparatus and used it to go to new record depths for extended lengths of time. He’s also rather notorious for doing a ship to ship jump through open space with his eyes retracted and using the artificial breather. He was able to take over navigation of a ship who’s captain had become fatally ill. He held a triple doctorate degree in astrophysics, marine biology, and computer science. Jonas had the rank of full Captain and was decorated countless times, even knighted on one world.
Whales have existed in space for a good long time. There are different species from different worlds. Some have better natural skill sets than others. In the case of Jonas, he was the direct descendant of Earth Sperm whales. They make fantastic space navigators because of their natural oceanic migratory instincts. Sperm whales from Earth have the largest brains of all galactic species and they adapt to technology very quickly and with great expertise. They also have the nifty natural ability to sleep with one side of their brains at a time, allowing them to be functionally always awake and on duty. They are never so happy as when they are traveling vast distances, mapping out the way in their amazingly complex cortices.
Though they have deep emotional and intellectual abilities, the adult male Sperm whale prefers to spend large amounts of time alone, control their own destiny, and relish a position of authority. They fit the psychological profile for a starship captain to a tee.
In terrestrial waters, Earth Sperm whales had developed excellent echolocation abilities to navigate the ocean depths. When they are connected to a ship’s sensor array they amplify this talent. Underwater they use sounds waves, in space they use light waves, but their brains process the material information all the same. They don’t even need star charts. They just feel their way around the galaxy.
Sperm whale captains boast such navigational skills that they consider weaving colossal space freighters through asteroid belts after slingshotting off gas giants at 200,000 km/hr and not even hitting a single piece of space ice larger than three centimeters, a child’s walk in the park. It’s as though their ancient ancestors, knowing they were born to fly, doffed their legs and took to the weightless oceans where they could grow in size and skill.
Jonas, as I mentioned, was a computer nerd, a genius really. His specialty was creating virtual environment simulations that go beyond your wildest dreams. Their detail and depth surpass everyday existence and lure you into a reality so lush that you’ll never want to stop. He wrote a flying program for the underground people in system 3 that became the national pastime on the planet.
Cryosleep passengers generally choose to go with total unconsciousness. It’s like you have one dreamless night, then you wake up a hundred years later, but you only aged a day. It is ill-advised to let natural REM sleep occur during extended suspended animation as there have been multiple documented cases of space madness taking over, resulting in a type of insanity not easily shaken and/or death. On shorter trips, there was a myriad of simulation programs available to distract the mind and tickle the memory afterword.
On trips of the length we were on there weren’t many options, as they would require a huge amount of maintenance and monitoring. You don’t want 17 billion people waking up all the time. However, on this particular crossing, the passengers were lucky to have a captain with diverse programming skills. A program called One Hundred Year Lifespan ran on the Banga, which allowed the cryo-sleeping individuals to live out an entire life of a sentient creature of their choice.
Normally you chose the gender and were assigned an ideal humanoid form, but on this trip, we had the option of choosing a cetacean. About 30% of our passengers chose the whale’s life. They would spend the next hundred years swimming the seas of a breathtaking pristine blue world. The program started with a perfect birth and allows individuals to freely control the outcomes of their entire life and ends with a peaceful death surrounded by loved ones. In the program, people have choices but were ultimately guided along a kind of perfect life, so they can’t really go wrong. Passengers will awake from cryo as themselves, but with the memory of a pleasant and wonderful past life dream.