And All The World Will Know – Chapter 1

Ship’s log, September 17, 2108, ship’s time 18:00 hours, Commander Reese recording:

Routine day, with the exception of another fistfight between two crewmembers.  Manfredi and Parmenter had a disagreement over which vid-disk to watch next, and it came to blows in the crew lounge.  Manfredi got a busted nose, and Parmenter received a minor skull fracture due to a blow from a chair. Both men were given medical treatment in the infirmary. Manfredi was treated and released; Parmenter will be in the hospital for approximately two days while the nano-docs repair the crack in his skull. Neither wishes to press charges, which is probably for the best anyway.  Such incidents are becoming more common.  We’ve been in space for sixteen months, and although each crewmember was rigorously tested by the shrinks before we left Earth, there’s still only so much togetherness men can endure before cabin fever sets in.  The head office provides adequate entertainment — full library on disk, a good stock of videos in all genres, the holo-arcade, bowling alley, etc. — but it all starts to wear thin after so long.  When ships rendezvous, we can swap disks and videos and visit briefly to see some new faces, but it’s never enough.  Humans need to get out and walk on something earthlike every so often – see trees and hear birds sing and taste water that hasn’t been recycled hundreds of times — or they start to devolve into a brutish mindset.  I know that it’s been bugging me too.  I’ve been in the service long enough — maybe too long — to be tired of it.  I want the trees and grass too — mountains and an endless blue sky and a long, white sand beach.  Maybe someday — someday soon — I’ll have that.  But I’m only 57 — retirement’s still nearly two decades away.  Ah, well…  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, September 22, 2108, ship’s time 18:09 hours, Commander Reese recording:

Another routine day.  Unless you want to count that I broke the shipboard high score on Pentartris and that we’ve had the chef’s meatloaf surprise twice this week.  The surprise may be that anyone would dare to call whatever’s in that stuff “meat.”  Aside from that, it’s the same old day-to-day on board the Good Ship Bon Chance.  There haven’t been any new incidents of cabin fever-related violence for two days, but I can feel something isn’t right.  There’s a tension in the air…something you can’t see or taste, but maybe kinda smell — a staleness in the air, like somebody, pissed on the floor and it wasn’t properly cleaned up.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m not a religious man, or I’d be praying that when that shoe drops, it doesn’t blow the lid too high for us to nail it back down in time to save us and our cargo.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, September 27, 2108, ship’s time 18:06 hours, Commander Reese recording:

Maybe I should try praying more often.  We may have had a gift from Providence.  Shortly before 15:00 our long-range sensors detected a strong signature of presarium.  We changed course to investigate and immediately the readings began to climb.  Within a short time, they were pushing the needle off the dial, to use an old expression.  Our cargo, 700 million metric tons of platinum from the Aldebran mines, is extremely valuable, but that much presarium would bring the Company approximately 120 times that price.  Our commission for safe delivery would make every man on ship wealthy enough to buy his own planet.  Compounding this good fortune is the fact that we’re nearly three weeks ahead of schedule for our rendezvous with the Argent, so we have enough time to investigate the presarium lead.  If it turns out to be good, we can call in, dump our current cargo, tractor load a full hold of presarium, and still meet the Argent only a few days late.  If the readings turn out to be a ghost, we’ll make our appointment in plenty of time and have only lost a bit of fuel for our troubles.  A very worthwhile gamble and the sudden idea of wealth enough to make us each rich beyond anything ol’ King Midas imagined in his most fevered dreams should have a distinctly positive effect on the crew.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, November 1, 2108, ship’s time 18:02 hours, Commander Reese recording:

Things just keep getting better and better!  As we followed the trail of presarium-scent, growing closer to wherever the source may be, our sensors have begun to pick up other signals.  It’s too early to be sure, but preliminary readings look like…plant life.  If the signal’s true, we may be heading for an Earth-like planet.  Assuming it pans out that way, there’s essentially three possibilities:  an Earth-like world with no intelligent life, an Earth-like world with primitive intelligent life, or Earth-like with advanced intelligent life.  The first two might mean a chance for the crew to get off the ship for a bit — have a little R and R.  That could be just the thing to alleviate some of the tension around here.  Will keep thinking good thoughts.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, November 3, 2108, ship’s time 18:00 hours, Commander Reese recording:

There can no longer be any doubt:  we’re on an incredibly strong track of presarium, and the sensor readings indicating Earth-like conditions are getting stronger too.  We’ve increased the gain on all our radio wave receiving equipment on the chance we’ll pick up electronic transmissions from the planet we’re headed towards.  That would indicate life with technology at least equivalent to early-20th century Earth.  So far, nothing.  But I note that the crew seems to be brightening up — I’ve observed more smiles and a few chuckles at mealtime.  I’ve also heard a few comments of the “what I’m gonna buy when I get back home” variety, and these guys aren’t talking about a cold beer — more like buying an entire brewery, or a different one for every day of the month.  Even the imitation coffee the Company packs on this ol’ tub tastes better nowadays.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, November 12, 2108, ship’s time 18:11 hours, Commander Reese recording:

The first glimpse of the sun that lights the world, which the crew has dubbed “El Dorado” happened at 11:09 this morning.  It’s no more than a minuscule diamond-bright chip in the absolute blackness of space, but it is most definitely there.  Still no radio signals, but the life sign readings are stronger than ever.  Navigation anticipates we’ll be able to actually see color in El Dorado before day shift begins.  That sense of something wrong in the ship has changed.  No more buzz like an indefinable, felt-but-not-seen static tingle in the air — now it’s a pleasant sort of hum that permeates the air.  Of course, as the commander of this mission, I’ve got to keep a wait-and-see attitude about it all.  It’s my job to worry, and I am worried.  As much as the crew is anticipating what we’ll find on El Dorado if it turns out to be bad — either false readings on the presarium or, even worse, that the readings are accurate but the deposit’s impossible to mine for some reason. Tthe disappointment and anger the crew will undoubtedly feel may be the spark to reignite the powder keg.  No wonder I haven’t been sleeping too well the past few nights.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, November 14, 2108, ship’s time 17:49 hours, Commander Reese recording:

El Dorado has come into view.  It’s a beautiful, little world, green and blue and alive.  All readings are that it’s 85% covered in lush vegetation, like the rain forests that used to thrive on Earth.  There are also signs of advanced animal life — the planet is dotted with ruined cities, conquered and absorbed by the jungles from which they’d been hewn at some past age.  While we can’t see them from this distance, our preliminary scans indicate the structures were huge by human standards — thousands of stories tall, square miles wide — immense buildings, clustered into cities that must have spanned millions of acres.  We don’t know what sort of life forms lived here, but our resident anthropologist theorizes a hive culture, reminiscent of bees or ants back home, on the basis of so many individuals living in such close proximity.  But we may have an opportunity to investigate that theory further.  It looks like we’ll be staying on El Dorado for several weeks.  The presarium reading is sky-high, literally millions upon millions of tons of the stuff; El Dorado is filthy with it!  This is beyond doubt the richest find of presarium in history, and as we’re the ones who discovered it, by galactic treaty law and by the rules of the Company, we’re entitled to a significant percentage of any money gleaned from the discovery.  We, the crew of the Bon Chance, are going to be disgustingly rich.  With the technology on the ship, we will be able to mine the mineral and fill our hold in approximately two weeks of landing.  Then, once we’ve packed presarium into every square meter of available storage space and contacted the Company to stake our claim and file the ownership papers, we’ll head out to keep our rendezvous with the Argent.  There we can hand over the equipment we’re taking to them, do a bit of visiting, transfer a few crewmen who are heading further out or coming back in, and start the trip back to good, old Earth.  I suspect once we reach home there will be a lot of the crew quitting the Company.  We’re all rich enough now to do whatever we want, be whatever we want wherever we want, for the next hundred lifetimes.  We will be preparing to land on El Dorado about 2100-hour ship time tomorrow.  Recording ends.

Ship’s log, November 15, 2108, ship’s time 18:06 hours, Commander Reese recording:

This will be my last entry before we land on El Dorado.  We’ve done three orbits of the planet, reconnoitering the situation, and have detected nothing that could indicate a threat.  There appear’s to be three major oceans, five large landmasses, two temperate poles, and the gravity is only 80% Earth normal.  The air is pure, with a slightly higher percentage of oxygen than home, but it’s clean of pollutants.  There are readings of animal life in great abundance, birds and fish and numerous mammalian forms in the jungles.  A few spires from ruined cities poke up above the green canopy, like signposts — or maybe gravestones.  We’ve selected a landing site now, a grassy prairie that will be large enough to set the Bon Chance down without upsetting the local ecosystem too badly.  ‘Course, once we determine the best place to start tractor-stripping the soil to get at the presarium, we’ll be messing things up down there anyway; but if there’s any way to mine without doing too much damage that’s what I’ll order.  Just have to see what’s doable.  Recording ends.

Continued tomorrow…