Chapter 7: The 10 Year Mission – Year 2 (Part 2)

Chapter 2 continues and everyone asks themselves what can go wrong next.

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And here’s the second part of chapter 7. Enjoy.

(…)

Considering that Prometheus was launched prematurely by several months, how was the ship performing at this point in the mission?

(Chief Stevenson) Well, thankfully, pretty darn well. The boyos over at spacedock put together a pretty fine ship for us regardless of launch date. Ya see, space is really big and when there really isn’t a budget, you can go nuts with the size of your ship, and that’s what we did. Prometheus isn’t your average Spacefleet starship after all. No, this lady we flew was a full blown explorer. When you don’t need to hold a lot of crew or rockets, you get to fill it with really cool stuff like 3D printers and foundries. So the ship was only a teeny bit bigger than a heavy cruiser, it picked way more cool toys and we could live out there on way longer.

Yet in the very beginning of your mission you continued to run into problems that seem to stem from bad design or a small armament. Wouldn’t you want to switch those out in hindsight?

Nah, Captain insisted on an armed explorer going out there, not a battleship with some labs on it. She had a mighty fun shouting match with the design office over it back when she was appointed. We still got to put up a good fight in those early years. We just put in a lot more effort than the kids these days. Our engineering bay was way more important for the missions and also allowed me to play with so many cool toys and build stuff for missions.

What can you tell me about the Minefield Incident?

The minefield was fun. Oh yeah, we almost got killed when we stumbled on that, but we got out with one hell of a story to tell. Then again, I’m still wondering how we flew into a tiny minefield in open space…

Because it was cloaked?

Well, stealth cloaked, not really invisible cloaked. Was kind of an interesting mission. Those mines attached themselves magnetically to our hull, so the Captain and LT Yuedan went out to out it off.

Was it standard protocol for the Captain and a Senior Officer to do bomb disposal?

Well, back in the day Spacefleet had this old tradition from back in the olden days about important stuff going to important people. Took them a while to remember that it wasn’t the Apollo or Ares Mission days anymore and that the crew had more than a couple of people in it, but I once forgot that we had Marines on board when I almost killed myself getting some intruders electrocuted, so who am I to judge? …But yeah, that was a fun mission with the mines. Sure, we had to cut the LT’s arm off, when the mine rolled about a bit, but we got it off the hull and then the people showed up that lay the minefield and let us out, and Doc Pill grew the LT a new arm until the next adventure happened and it looked all brand new like nothing happened, so it was all good.

I was more thinking about the fact that it was the first time contact was established with the Vadvaude years before TAS Osiris met them.

Well, isn’t really a first contact. Didn’t really meet them until later.

But you met the people for the first time that would dominate your ship’s mission for the next three years. It was their minefield, you saw their stealth ships, and you even spoke to them over the comms, how is it now a first contact?

They didn’t even introduce themselves with name and face, so how is it a first contact if we can’t say “Hi, we’re the Vadvaude, eat lasers, human scum” and we’re like “Hi, Vadvaude, we’re the humans, AAAAARRGH!”? See, that doesn’t count.

(…)

So what about the time that the Captain’s hamster got ill and she spent the entire night in sickbay with you trying to get it better?

(CMO Troughton) Oh, that never happened, we just took some acid. Didn’t much care for it… Next question.

(…)

How would you sum up your second year in space?

(Commander Cobenzi) Adequate. The crew performed satisfactory. I was starting to be less scared whenever we encountered something, knowing that the crew would not do something stupid or overreact. In many ways it was quite tranquil.

(Lt. Yuedan) Better than the first. We were allowed to go on a lot more missions and a lot more varied missions. My people appreciated that. It wasn’t just the usual go-to away teams anymore and that gave some of my Marines a chance to earn some necessary experience. Other than that I always liked when we were actually needed on a mission, even though the year had more lulls than the previous.

(Chief Stevenson) Real fun, like that one time when I got pregnant by a board game… no wait, that was just Doc Pill’s birthday drugs, never mind…

(Lt. Commander Prisha) We were establishing a routine. Which was nice. There was a lot of boredom though, I cannot really deny that.

(CMO Troughton) Only time I committed genocide. Thankfully nobody brings it up anymore other than uppity historians… But yeah, it was kinda boring.

(Commander Arroway) There is no denying that the people back home were starting to lose interest, which is probably what you are trying to reference. We had established a routine, true, but that is nothing to sneer at. A routine is good, it allows one to get anticipate a lot of things going into it, because we’ve seen things before. A valuable tool in anyone’s arsenal, but it does not read or report as well as something brand new. The true irony is that everything was still new, just that it didn’t look like it anymore. In many ways our second year is one of our most adventurous considering the new things we saw, though there were some slumps in between. And, frankly, it wasn’t on us to entertain the masses back home, we were doing our job, not entertain the Sol system.

Prometheus’ journey has always been one that the colleagues of the histoire contemporaine department have always called “varied”. Similar to our exploration of Prometheus’ first year of service, we must once again come to the conclusion that there was no mission that cast an overarching shadow over the year. It was both fascinating in its implications for later missions, for the character studies that logs and oral history present us, and yet it was when interest in deep space exploration started to subside back in the Sol system. How can we bring these two ideas into contact with each other?

In many ways, Prometheus was becoming a victim of its own success. As we have now heard from numerous crew testimonies, Prometheus was no the underdog, to steal a term from art critics and academics, but at the top of its game. There were no serious consequences, long-term at least, to any of the things that happened in the first two years. The nature of Prometheus’ way of exploration meant a lot of down time in between solar systems, due to the fact that hyperspace travel is not in any way equitable to the days of sailing navies, which still prevail in the mindsets of many people. Personally, I have always found the early adventures of Prometheus most exciting as a young man hearing about them, but I was already a student of history and my contemporary history professor always taught with Prometheus as an example. In many ways we see existing patterns and early events that shaped things to come. Sometimes you can also get lost in the details as you live through a period of history. A year might stretch on and on because not many events happen you consider significant. Maybe a country has a coup in January and over the next few year starts jailing and firing members of the opposition and we don’t realize until December that a former democracy is disappearing in dictatorship. This is the burden of contemporary history, the ability to notice the smallest of patterns, and it is wonderful, but I can see how it can appear tedious for people seeking thrills from adventure stories like in days gone by. The novelty had worn off of the deep space mission, it had become normalized.

Summing up the first two years of Prometheus’ service, it was a more innocent period. While historians from all over the Sol system and also our esteemed colleagues overseas have started to refuse labeling galactic history into pre- and post-Actium because of the implied terrancentric nature of the term, it does seem applicable to still refer to it when it has its uses, like in our case. Many of us have not lived through the period even with our impressive lifespans today, so we have a tendency to only see the big events in history and try to see them in sequence, always forgetting that history is not about the big events. It’s about the small details. That is the true beauty of our discipline: On a macroscopic scale we see the story of Captain Kate Connors and her brave officers exploring new worlds. We see a Captain that grew into command, who made mistakes, but learned from them, and improved steadily, the story of a crew on swashbuckling high adventures. And yet when we go on the microscopic scale we see something more remarkable than that: Better than any character study or exciting action report immortalized and re-enacted for dramatic flair in vids, we see the story of a young species coming into contact with so many remarkable new species, unlocking the secrets of the universe, and learning. And when we turn the perspective away from our terranscentric point of view something just as wonderful in the stories of the species we so rarely thing about because Prometheus will be gone after a few weeks.

It is ironic, that we always speak about Prometheus when talking about the Deep Space Program, because while they are the most flashy elements, the ones that “made history” as phrased by someone who would never want to be caught dead on a historian symposium, we so rarely pay homage to the people who truly made it a success: the colonists, scientists, soldiers, engineers, who followed in Prometheus’ footsteps. The name Prometheus, many have argued, was not the right choice for the ship. I have always found the name Pathfinder more applicable to the true role that Prometheus was supposed to play. They were the explorers and cartographers of space for humanity. Within months more ships followed in its wake. Colony ships, construction barges. Gunboats and freighters. Whenever Prometheus left for a new adventure, the true stories began on the planets they left or above it when our second wave of explorers arrived. Our first extra-solar colony was founded in the Proxima Centauri system six months after Prometheus first explored it, a colony now amassing ten million inhabitants.

This is the story of Prometheus, I am aware of this and have tailored this section accordingly, but it would be intellectually dishonest to not mention the great deeds that form our society and inform our policy, both foreign and domestic, to this day. That was not to the work of Prometheus and the people we remember as heroes. Kate Connors is a remarkable human being and remembered for her work, both good and bad, and so is her crew, but as exciting as their adventures were, they were not the people who founded colonies, built space station, and established embassies on the planets Prometheus made first contact with. Focusing solely on the adventures of Prometheus, their wacky stories, is a disservice to not only the legacy of our pioneers and frontiersmen, but also of the true service Prometheus did for humanity in its first years of service. Before they saved us from destruction they helped build our present. For what is considered a “boring two years” before the exciting stuff happened, is naïve about the bigger picture.

As an interim summary, it can be said that just simply telling the story of Prometheus proper is not the story of Prometheus. This is why I did not simply start with the launch of Prometheus. The launch of Prometheus was, in many ways, its own interim summary: a story which began in when Louisa Jiwe took a break from her studies to think about five-dimensional travel, a journey that took her through decades of developments until finally the test flight was a success and led to the successful first contact with the Vaude. It is the story of a world coming together, of the word Terran coming to represent all the countless people, regardless of species, that trace their history back to the planet Earth. And so I decided to conduct my interviews, instead of just relying on the work of predecessors like Rear Admiral Chen and Commander Hobbs. I commend their extensive interviews on which people like me can rely on to interpret the evens of decades past, but none of my predecessors have bothered with interviewing the first generation of interstellar colonists about the impact Prometheus had on them. Consider this remedied now. 2173 might have been a lackluster year for Prometheus and people interested in galactic swashbuckling, but it was a great year for Terrans. Governor Avasarela, first regional governor of the Proxima Centauri system, had this to say when I asked her about the events of 2173:

It was a brilliant year for us. We were already waiting to jump at it when Prometheus finished the preliminary reports. Earth was overpopulated, after all, even after all of the years of colonizing the Solar system. In many ways colonizing Mars, the Jovian moons, and building closed ecosystems with our O’Neill Station project was a good dry run for our interstellar colonies. So only a few months after Prometheus launched, humans, and Android-Terrans alike, reached Proxima Centauri. It didn’t really matter that the planets themselves were not inhabitable for humans. The sun shone bright and there were natural resources and water alike to be found in the system. So we began constructing Mureybet Station. Construction went quick. We had brought most modules from home and were able to build our first station within six months. Around June 2173 we were able to harvest the first crops. Colonists arrived from Earth later that year and by December we were able to reach the 100.000 inhabitants milestone. A barren system now had a population, an industrial base, a port of call for Hanse merchants, and of course a Naval base for gunships, system defense ships, and cruisers alike. The Leonids didn’t bother us like they had Prometheus, they were following the ship, and even then our defenses were strong, probably why they never made a move, considering they just wanted to say hallo anyway. It wasn’t completely safe, sure, but then what is? More people die every year on Earth from transportation incidents than die violently in space or on colonies in the last fifty. Proxima colony quickly served as the launch point for new expeditions into the systems explored by Prometheus, early 2174 actually. Don’t get me wrong, nothing would have been possible without Prometheus leading the way, but Lewis and Clark didn’t settle the West, if you get my metaphor.

This interview was cut together from a week-long correspondence with the retired Governor. And while the word of a single source is nothing in terms of evidence to support ones grandiose claims, there is more than enough to be found in chronicles and economic reports to do just that. The Solar systems economy had been in a long slump back in 2167 after the Solar Frontier had been officially declared settled 5 years prior. Terrans no longer had a purpose, so our economic output started to slump. It was only a massive public works project in the Deep Space Project that finally gave us a new mission: settle throughout the galaxy. Celebrating the colonists and pioneers that settled the frontier and built relations with alien civilizations Prometheus opened the door for, is not putting down Prometheus a peg. It validates the project and the dedication of the crew. Mythologizing a small group of people and uplifting them among so many more is no celebration at all, it is boring, to put it in a single word. The real history of deep space exploration over the last century is not the story of a single ship or even an entire service. Traversing seventy lightyears in two years, nine first contacts, fifty missions, they are nothing to sneeze at. But what is more impressive, fifty missions by a ship designed with the best and brightest of Terra crewing it going on a highly publicized mission, or colonizing ten systems in less than two years, settling close to fifteen thousand colonists in less than fifteen months? It’s a trick question, both are the same impressive achievement: focusing the industrial capability of an entire Solar system in peace and prosperity for the greater good. We owe a debt of gratitude to all the brave and adventurous Terrans that decided to not only go boldly where no one had been before, but who also decided to stay there.

Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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