By the fifth century of our voyage the number of Immortals had reduced by half, which had been unexpected. Most of the ones that died had done so because of unforeseen side-effects of the Treatment, and due to suicide following descents into madness and misery. Extreme longevity was not for the mentally weak or unstable. The enhancements delivered by the Treatment did not extend to the mind, it seemed.
The Immortals that fared the best were those that devoted most of their time to intellectual and scientific pursuits. All of those involved in the vast literature and art archives, physical and digital, seemed highly content with their roles, as did those responsible for music and imagery. I was thoroughly absorbed in my astronomical studies. Those that focused on the social and engineering aspects of our ship seemed to suffer the most.
Direct communication with Earth had always been rare, and by the start of the sixth century of our voyage we were receiving and transmitting messages no more than once per decade. It was towards the end of that century, and after almost thirteen light-years of travel, that we received what was to be our final official communication from Earth. Wars on our home world and its larger colonies throughout the Solar-System, about which we had received only brief reports over the previous century, had grown in ferocity and the end of civilisation appeared inevitable. Too many had undergone the Treatment, and too many of them had been unsuitable. There was insanity at the very heights of power.
Within that communication was a private message for me. It was from King William. His reign of six-hundred and ninety-eight years was at an end. Britain had been destroyed, as had its territories on the Moon, Mars and Callisto. There was no kingdom left. From a safe location away from the Earth he had watched the destruction of thousands of years of human achievement. He had despaired as vicious engineered diseases spread across nations and continents and as blinding fires consumed millions of his people and billions of others around the world and beyond.
He would head in our direction, he said. He and his staff would die as supplies dwindled, but his ship should one day arrive at the star system for which we were bound. He asked that I look out for it and take care of the artefacts of British history within it; artefacts that he had chosen himself from his homes in London, Windsor and at Elysium Mons. I must indeed have been an important acquaintance of the King to receive such a personal message, but even then I could not recall quite why. Despite that I made a special effort to remember his request, and to ensure others acted on it should I not be able to do so myself.
After receiving that message I remember focusing a lot of my instruments towards Earth’s system hoping to detect signs that the situation was improving. But within a couple of years of that message all signs of radio activity from Earth and the Solar-System ceased.