As the Aeolus colonies developed I made sure I devoted a reasonable amount of time to my astronomical studies. I made extensive surveys of the SCR 1845-6357 system, logging details of all the system’s planets, moons, asteroids and comets. Such information would be of immense use to the colonies on Aeolus if and when they developed space launch technology.
Of course, I kept a regular close eye on Earth and the Solar System. The Royalists were maintaining their control century after century, with no sign of any rebellion that would end their draconian rule. I continued to decrypt any transmissions I intercepted. One of their generation ships had reached its destination and set up a colony with its own Royalist council in control. I could not work out where the colony was located; the Royalists were using different designations for star systems. The system had been given the rather ominous name of ‘Dominion’. I passed the information on to Carna, although it was likely they already knew. Thankfully, there was still no sign that the Royalists had launched ships in our direction. Hopefully we would be left alone, at least until the civilisation on Aeolus was able to put up an adequate defence.
My communications with Carna were rare. I would receive updates every decade or two, and I would occasionally respond with details of our progress. Despite the limited messages it was good to know that their civilisation was continuing to go from strength to strength, both economically and technologically, and that the Royalists had not made another invasion attempt. Over the centuries since our arrival at Aeolus, Carna had made significant improvements to their space flight abilities, particularly their Alcubierre technology which had been minaturised significantly. They no longer required the huge containment spheres I’d seen on Captain Croi’s ship eight-hundred years ago, and the technology was now able to produce directional gravity fields which removed the requirement for ships to have rotating sections. Carna’s Alcubierre generation ships had colonised three more planets. Humans were now present in twelve star systems. I remember spending considerable time pondering that achievement. It was incredible to think that all of them, bar the one colonised by the Royalists, were the direct result of our ship’s initial success at Carna, and all accomplished in just under four-thousand years. I wondered just how many more systems would have been colonised had Earth and the Solar System not been consumed by war.
Just a few years before our colonisation of Aeolus reached its seven-hundredth anniversary I detected an object entering the SCR 1845-6357 system. I immediately identified it as artificial and for a while I feared that it was a Royalist vessel. But then a message from the small ship, and subsequent long-range observations, confirmed its origin as Carna. Its captain, a man named Samsu Joic, sent an enthusiastic greeting expressing his wish to meet in person. I remember feeling overjoyed at the prospect, and accepted immediately, even without consulting my fellow Immortal. I must admit to being a little suspicious as to why we had not been given advanced notice of the ship’s arrival. Still, it had been over nine-hundred years since I had received Nance Croi, my last visitor, so it became the focus of my attention. I ordered a team of mortals to prepare for the visit. The guest quarters, the same ones used by the crew of Captain Croi’s ship, were sanitised, refurnished and restocked. I then had to wait with some impatience for the ship to arrive. Questions whirled around my mind. I can only describe my mental state as one of giddy excitement.
Two months later I watched at a viewing port with the other Immortal as the small ship drew alongside ours, illuminated by our floodlights. We marvelled at the small size of the ship, no longer than thirty metres. It was a sleek and aerodynamic design with a non-reflective hull, and with a small oval bulge at the bow and stern. The reason for such a design was undoubtedly to enable it to fly just as well within an atmosphere as without. More and more questions popped into my consciousness.
After the ship’s crew, only six of them, was settled in onboard our ship I and the other Immortal invited Captain Joic for dinner. After appropriate sanitisation he joined us in our arboretum, where we all sat amongst the foliage and enjoyed a meal of rare meats and vegetables. We talked for several hours, and consumed all the wine the Captain had brought with him. I was curious why such a small ship and crew were sent on a voyage that would take decades. Conditions must have become unbearable for such a length of time. It turned out that the advances made with their Alcubierre technology were greater than simple miniaturisation. The journey of twenty-five light-years had been completed in only fourteen months. I was stunned. It was nothing short of revolutionary, and explained why advanced notice of the captain’s visit was not given. And the captain’s ship was one of many, all constructed within the last half-century or so since the faster-than-light improvements were stabilised. Most of the ships were visiting Carna’s colonies around other stars, often acting as glorified couriers to significantly speed up progress reports. Some were on extended exploration missions to star systems much further afield, and two were on clandestine observation missions to Earth and the Royalist’s colony at Dominion, which turned out to be Tau Ceti, using traditional Earth designations. It was an odd choice of star system, given the amount of dust and debris there. Any habitable planet would be at significant risk of regular bombardment. But the Royalist colony there was not, it seemed, interested in a single planet. They were interested in asteroids and dwarf planets, and their colony had been spread across more than a hundred of them. They were there to manufacture more generation ships. Their colony at Tau Ceti was nothing more than a shipyard. The Royalists obviously had huge ambitions for their interstellar empire. Fortunately they still did not possess even basic Alcubierre technology, which meant that any ships they launched would take centuries, even millennia, to reach other star systems. Because of this the captain urged us not to worry, and he assured us that Carna would be keeping a close watch on all Royalist activities.
For quite a while we discussed our challenges and successes on Aeolus, which impressed Captain Joic. He was genuinely amazed at the achievements of the colonists considering the exceptionally harsh surface conditions. I informed him that we would be making a close flyby of Aeolus in seven months and he was welcome to stay to see the planet for himself. He thanked me and said he would discuss it with his crew.
And then the subject of the conversation shifted to the captain himself. I had already judged him to be an unusually calm and patient man, with a maturity of thought that I had found almost non-existent in any of the mortals I had befriended. It was therefore not a complete surprise when he revealed that he was more than nine-hundred years old. He had been one of the first to receive immortality treatment on Carna after being offered a place on the Immortal Council on the generation ship that was to head towards the galactic core. Unfortunately an accident that almost killed him, followed by a prolonged illness had forced him to leave the council. He was left behind on Carna when the ship eventually embarked on its journey. Despite such misfortune he remained close to the generation ship programme, and worked for centuries as the key contact with Carna’s interstellar missions. For the other Immortals travelling towards the galactic core he became a familiar and welcome voice as the centuries wore on. I found myself wishing I had had such a contact on Earth after we had undertaken our first journey and on Carna as we had embarked on our second.
The Captain said he had been curious about our endeavours for many centuries. He been interested in ancient history and had spent a great deal of his academic time studying Carna’s early period; from the first days of the colony to our departure for Earth and our need to divert to Alpha-Centauri and ultimately to SCR 1845-6357. He had wanted to contact us for many centuries but the monitoring of us was performed by a completely difference section of government to that devoted to Carna’s own interstellar missions. It was not until he transferred to the advanced Alcubierre fleet that he was in a position to do so. He had spent almost half a century lobbying the government for permission to visit us before he was given the go-ahead.
I was curious about his interest in us so I asked him what his motivation was. He placed a small display device in front of me. It was showing an image of a family. After a few moments I recognised it. It was the image Nance Croi had sent to me following her return to Carna. The young girl in the foreground, to whom I had paid little attention before, was Captain Joic’s mother. Nance Croi, standing right behind the girl, was his great aunt. It was very pleasing indeed to be told this. The captain told us of his memories of her and how she had often told stories of her time as a captain, especially of her time with me. She had told him of the great kings and queens of England, and that I was a related to many of them, and to King William VII who was buried in Londinium. It was comforting to hear that the king’s burial site and monument were still standing and were well maintained. Nance Croi had died shortly after her one-hundred and twelfth birthday: an impressive age for a mortal, and long enough for her to have received my final message.
Over the next few weeks we discussed many issues, including the astonishing improvements that the engineers on Carna had made to their Alcubierre technology. Travel at close to fifteen times the speed of light was now possible with small spacecraft, and up to six times the speed of light on even the largest ships. Indeed, the first generation ship with the technology was due to launch within a decade. I was keen to know a lot more detail but unfortunately Captain Joic was unable to satisfy me. The technology was classified as secret, which was understandable considering the potential threat from the Royalists in the Solar System and their expanding empire. There would be no possibility that the colonies on Aeolus would be able to benefit from it. But that would have been premature anyway as they still had not showed much interest in developing even a basic space launch system yet. Their focus, quite rightly, had so far been on developing technology and processes that would enable them to survive comfortably in the extreme conditions of their planet. That had largely been achieved. It was time for them to start thinking about expanding their activities beyond their home planet.
I was delighted when Captain Joic announced that he and his crew would stay for our next close fly-by of Aeolus. I told him of my desire to have the planet’s colonies develop a space travel capability. I suggested that he could speak with the governments of the three continents to discuss the achievements of Carna and provide suggestions on how Aeolus could work towards similar success. The captain agreed.
Aeolus now had a sophisticated planet-wide media network utilising fibre-optic cabling spanning the continents via their train tunnel system. I contacted the government to inform them of Captain Joic’s presence and his wish to address them and the wider population. There was a mixed reaction to this, which I expected. The conservative elements of the government believed the whole idea to be irrelevant and a waste of time, but I quickly gained the support of small but significant number of senior ministers. As I had hoped, the scientific community reacted with excitement. I had kept them aware of Carna and its technological superiority over the centuries and they were keen to make the most if this opportunity.
A month before our closest approach to Aeolus Captain Joic’s ship headed away from our ship on a course for the planet. Just over two weeks later it entered a geostationary orbit almost directly above the planet’s largest city. As we passed by and headed away I monitored the first broadcasts by the captain. They were, as I’d hoped, quite inspirational. He spoke in detail of the history of spaceflight on his world, and of the vast benefits Carna had gained from its initial mining and colonisation efforts within its own star system. He went on to explain their interstellar colonisation efforts, and their remarkable success with faster-than-light propulsion.
And then he urged Aeolus to do the same.
Captain Joic’s charismatic performances, broadcast to the whole of Aeolus, proved to be a pivotal moment in the planet’s history. Sensing wide public support, the governments of the planet’s three colonies agreed to jointly fund the construction of an equatorial space launch facility. I was incredibly pleased, and a little relieved, at the outcome.
Three months after arriving at the planet, Captain Joic made his final broadcast. Surprisingly, and to my delight, he devoted the entire broadcast to the history of Earth and Carna, and it’s relevance to Aeolus. He spoke first of the very early civilisations on Earth; the Babylonian, Assyrian and Roman empires, and then the industrial revolution and the expansion of the British Empire. He then focussed on the technological revolutions that followed that ultimately led to the colonisation of the Solar System, Carna, and eventually Aeolus. He also devoted some time to explain my history and royal connections to those ancient times, which embarrassed me somewhat.
Although he focused on the positive aspects of history he did not forget about the negatives. He covered the devastating war in the Solar System that destroyed civilisation there, and the rise of the Royalists and their oppressive empire. He urged the government and the population of Aeolus to become more aware of the activities beyond their planet and star system to ensure that they are prepared for the possibility of unwelcome visitors.
After four months at Aeolus Captain Joic’s ship left orbit and docked with us for a few days prior to its return journey to Carna. The day before he left, over dinner, I congratulated him, and thanked him for his tremendous efforts. I expressed my desire to meet with him again one day, and he reciprocated. I wished him and his crew a safe journey home.