As the years moved aft and the Argos proceeded onward, life among the crew ranged from easy and smooth to contentious and angry, and back again. It often seemed they were getting closer to falling apart when something, or someone, caused a fundamental shift in colony perspective that settled the issue. They experienced an occasional death, most by suicide, and the births had more than made up for the losses. But a malaise was always present as background noise. None of the first generation was ever far from thoughts of Earth, and what their species had done to bring its destruction. Memories thought buried had a way of erupting without warning, and depression, anger, and once or twice, violence, were inevitable. None aboard was immune, save the second gen, some of whom were now in their forties. Several of this group had already entered stasis, and more than sixty percent of the first gen who’d been awake from the start were now in long sleep. Those more recently Awakened were finding that the intervening years had left most things unchanged, but the dreams and memories of home remained unabated.
In the thirty-fourth year of the voyage of Argos, the ship began its deceleration phase. It would take nearly as long to slow as it had to attain maximum velocity. Now, in the fifty-second year, sensors and the ship’s human astronomers were steadily focused on the Epsilon Eridani system. Eleven planets had been detected to date, with three in the habitable zone. One, dubbed Blue, for its apparent color, was within less than one quarter AU of the comparable zone for Earth. The others, one closer in, and the other less distant than Mars had been from Earth, showed signs of atmosphere. Dubbed Green and Pink, respectively, they were thought to be more promising candidates, but Blue remained the primary focus until it proved otherwise unsuitable.
There had been no detection of intentional radio frequency or other signs of active habitation of a more advanced type, but this did not rule out current inhabitants. The Argos would need to get much closer to make that determination. Green and Pink, equally quiet, showed substantial levels of compounds associated with water, iron, and helium, as well as lower levels of other chemical compounds. Blue indicated water was present, though in lower concentrations than the other two. They would have to wait another six or seven years to get clearer pictures, but in the desire to speed that process, decided to launch one of their few high-speed probes. The ship’s current velocity would give the probe a good initial boost, and the probes own fusion drive would kick the speed to three times that of Argos. The probe would reach the middle systems nearly three and a half years before the Argos, and boost the ability of the crew to make critical decisions. In the meantime, life continued its sometimes rocky course aboard the starship.
Next: Chapter 12 - Errors In Thinking