Two centuries later we began our deceleration phase – a slow seventy-year long procedure that would put our vast ship into orbit around the star 40 Eridani A, and on course for an eventual close approach of our destination planet, Carna, a decade later. I remember that period as one of the more exciting times on our voyage as the other Immortals and I, just over thirty of us now, and all in excess of nine-hundred years of age, began the preparations for the education, conditioning and disembarkation of the colonisation generation, all of whom had yet to be born. Two probes, sent ahead and now in orbit around Carna, were returning encouraging data confirming our choice as a good one. The planet was teeming with primitive plant life with much of the land masses covered in dense forests. Animal life seemed almost non-existent on land, which would hopefully enable us to introduce our farming livestock with few problems. The planet’s oceans were a different matter, with strong evidence suggesting that they contained a diverse and well-established animal hierarchy. Carna was proving to be very similar to the Earth during its Devonian period four-hundred million years ago.
The information from the probes was used during the planning and education phase as the colonisation generation matured.
More than three hundred colonists landed during our first flyby of the planet, along with enough preserved supplies, fusion generators and habitats to feed, power and house them during the first crucial years on the surface as they cleared and irrigated land for cultivation. Hundreds more joined them every few years as our ship returned. When the last colonists landed more than thirty years after the first there were over five-thousand of them down on Carna, and the second generation of those born on the planet already numbered several hundred.
We were pleased.
The Immortals, as demanded by the mission parameters, remained on the ship. And we were content with that. Whilst the colonists had been conditioned from birth to head down to the planet we had spent all but the first five percent of our long lives onboard and we had no desire for that to change. Saying that we had become set in our ways would have been an extreme understatement.
A crew of almost eight-hundred mortal humans remained onboard to service the ship’s needs, and to ensure its ability to sustain the Immortals so that observations of our new colony and the surrounding star system could continue for as long as possible.
It was one of those observations, just over three-hundred years later and as the thriving colony’s population reached eleven million, that I detected the object first entering the 40 Eridani A system. I watched with great interest as it slowed and entered a long elliptical orbit of the main star. A vague memory of the message I had received centuries ago prompted me to retrieve it. I immediately requested to the other twelve Immortals that we alter our ship’s course to rendezvous with the object. They initially refused, and for the valid reason that it would make our flybys of Carna far less frequent. It took many months of deliberations before my passionate pleas finally persuaded them that it would be in all our interests to learn more of this visitor, especially if it was King William’s ship. It would give us a glimpse of Earth technology centuries in advance of our own, and provide us with new directions for research, and potentially new ways to advance the colony.
It would be another five years before that rendezvous took place.