[Historical preface: This is the text of the message that the members of the First Thousand were greeted with when they awoke in orbit around Nueva Vivienda. The text does not accurately portray the depths of despair evidently felt by May Nelson. Listening to the actual audio of the message is a truly harrowing experience.]
I am first to wake from deepsleep; first ever to look down from orbit onto the surface of a new planet. Humanity’s second home and potential salvation Nueva Vivienda floats over my head. My life’s work is complete, my concepts vindicated, my labour successful.
I am filled with despair and hatred.
Mankind has attempted to head out to the stars before. In starships of ever-increasing size and complexity, we have sailed forth. A half-dozen ill-fated Titanics have launched; none reached their journey’s end. Telemetry has taught us that the strange tides of the universe have created a more flotsam-strewn ocean than any we have heretofore sailed. The bigger the ship, the greater the likelihood of encountering some stray piece of cosmic debris, of being breached or beaching broken-backed on some hostile reef.
And so we changed tack; took a new approach. Fully a thousand of us set forth from Earth in our flotilla of tiny one-person pods. We swarmed into the universe, tenuously distributed across a volume of space a few cubic light-milliseconds in size and locked into a perennial, intricate dance around the larger but multiply-redundant and geometrically-dispersed beamed-power ‘hubs.’ The swarm—so our thinking went—would be resilient in the face of any obstacle smaller than a planet and even then the light and nimble components should be able to manoeuvre out of danger.
Rejoice! Our thinking was evidently correct! The status board in front of me shows a bright sea of green and blue markers. Nine hundred and ninety-eight pods have survived. Nine hundred and ninety-eight colleagues and friends are slowly awakening.
The engineer in me joyfully labels those two lost pods a practically insignificant loss and rejoices that we have beaten the odds. Few of our simulations even hinted at the possibility of such success.
The rest of me, wife and mother to the occupants of those two failed pods, is overwhelmed. Shaken to my very soul. I have brought us all to a new world and given it a new future but triumph and joy are denied to me. I look up at the blue-green orb that was to be my future and now want no part of it.
Nueva Vivienda is your future, not mine.
It has been trivial for me—one of the few ‘superusers’ in the project—to alter the programming of my pod. I have given some thought to creating a fiery end for myself in the planet’s atmosphere or to diving into this system’s sun but I refuse to bequeath a single one of my atoms to this hateful system. I am heading back along the path we have taken to get here, to lose myself as my husband and daughter have been lost. I dare to believe that our atoms will find each other within the interstellar wind and we will join in death as we once did in life.
May your hope remain alive within you all.
[Historical note 1: May Nelson’s pod has never been found. The tragedy of this terrible event is of course that both Alan and Irene Nelson’s pods were perfectly intact and the assumption is that May’s pod was the only one to suffer a problem. As one of the foremost families within the First Thousand, the Nelson family is to this day a major force within Nueva Vivienda. Historical note 2: What compounds the tragedy is the modern awareness that extended deepsleep has a strong unbalancing effect on a person's emotions and decision-making faculties. Life on Nueva Vivienda would likely be greatly different if May Nelson had only waited for a short while. The chances are great that she would then have taken a less emotional, more rational path.]