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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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… previous verses …
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Everybody – what everybody there was, anyhow – turned out for the fourth landing as it was likely to be interesting.
Corporal Max, now General Max due to the way it’d all shaken out, was right there at the front of the observation line. He was wearing his heavy, light blue environmental suit with recirculating oxygen and his visor was on the polarized telephoto setting as he scanned the lavender heavens for the oncoming spacecraft. The rest of the five-member council was right there with him, similarly attired. All of them had been on that first vidette. All of them had been non-coms. And all of them were now generals.
That first vidette had followed decades after probes identified the planet as a New Earth with a nearly identical atmosphere, mass, gravity, and magnetosphere. The planet was 28 light years from earth; each flight would take 63 years to arrive. The vidette contained 100 rangers in stasis, a few robots with the materials to construct robot printers and incubators, plus a small robot lander that would construct a proper landing field for the larger ship. It successfully entered orbit around the planet, then begin waking the rangers who would direct the initial operations, preparing the world for the huge colony vessels to follow at yearly intervals.
Eighty-two of those 100 rangers had died in stasis. Only two of the surviving 18 were officers, neither of them over the rank of captain. So far as they could tell, within each stasis tube various feeding and medical ports and conduits had become detached from their occupants during flight. A message was sent back to Earth to that effect, but it would take 30 years before it arrived, and as the vidette had been 63 years in flight, every one of the half dozen supply and colony ships to follow at yearly intervals had already launched with the same stasis tube design flaw.
A proper colony site was identified, the robot lander established a landing field, the vidette successfully landed. Infrastructure operations were mostly automated, so the few survivors were still able to direct the robots accordingly; 18 survivors at first, then 17, then 16, then 15 and so on, because the planet was covered by an unexpected new bacterial life humans had no immunity from. Plus, turned out this sun, a slightly different class from Earth’s, produced a heretofore unknown harmful radiation not filtered out by the planet’s magnetosphere. There were 12 survivors left by the time the supply ship arrived, by which point they’d learned to wear environmental suits and filter the atmosphere.
Each spacecraft was designed to be completely disassembled. The raw materials for the new colony, including housing, were taken from the ships themselves. The spidery robots, more and more of them, successfully accomplished the task, disassembling each before the next arrived, reassembling some of it as housing and stacking the rest of it as raw materials for the 3D factories and robot printers.
The first colony ship arrived with 1,000 settlers, mostly medical personnel and technicians. Eight-hundred-and-twelve of those settlers arrived as corpses.
The second colony ship arrived with another 1,000, mostly agronomists and engineers. Six-hundred-and-ninety-three were dead.
The third ship landed with 1,000 public specialists (i.e. politicians and civil servants), educators, and planetary surveyors. Nine-hundred-and-two dead bodies were systematically loaded into the newly built crematoriums.
After spying the fourth ship descending though the sky, General Max turned and looked back over his shoulder at the colony. The landing field was on a slight rise, so he could see the entirety of the colony stretched out across the teal plain; housing for the 4,000-plus humans the robots were programmed to provide for, factories, greenhouses, laboratories, a hospital, a civic center with classrooms and a theater. Also an outdoor amphitheater, parks and athletic fields that had never been used. In the two years since their arrival, the medical specialists had never figured a way to vaccinate against the planet’s harmful bacteria, so every structure had to be sealed tight and the air recycled with negative pressure. Nobody got to play outside without a heavy environmental suit. The agronomists had yet to grow a crop under the influence of the harmful radiation, which the researchers had not devised a method of blocking. All the livestock and poultry, meant as breeding stock, had died. Everybody lived on an algae-mush, which everyone hated but was the only viable food source they could come up with. Max looked over the factories populated mostly by robots, the 4,000-plus houses, less than 600 of which were occupied, and the empty parks and fields; a ghost town spread over a greenish-blue land under a lavender sky.
He watched the new spacecraft, it’s bright white thrusters, slow itself and float onto the landing field. He wondered how many of its 1,000 colonists were still alive. He felt a sense of hope, even expectation, not so much for the survival rate as he had no illusions about that. These were the artisans, the artists, and the writers; the tinkerers, the inventers, the dreamers, and the imaginers. And he knew, just knew, however many of them there actually were, what they would say about this world would ultimately be what created it.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.