From Deep Time, created by Matthew J. Wellman and David V. Stewart. Written by David V. Stewart. You can find Matt’s blog here: http://thespiritualvoluntaryist.blogspot.com/
Malcom Macbeth stood on the iron walkway extending into what he called the “nose” of the ship, likening it in his mind to one of the mechanically propelled airships that humans used before they had made the leap to space. A glass nose, complete with fire turret, and a glass belly and tail, used to defend the mighty airship as it delivered it’s precious cargo of living fire. That time in history seemed so brief to him now, but the flick of a finger before men abandoned armored flight and mass death for speed and pin-point accurate murder. The centuries between the rise of agriculture and man’s escape from his home were a short span of years, yet more intriguing to him than the entire history of planets conquered since. Part of Malcom yearned to see the planet of his people’s birth, to see what had become of the ancient ruins- the castles and cathedrals his ancestors had built- but he knew there was no going back to the waters of awakening.
He loved more and more to stand in the “nose” these days, even though his ship was shaped nothing like the old flying fortresses of the ancients, and this point was just one of many forward-looking positions on the massive clan ship Icarus. The clear bubble surrounding the walkway allowed him a greater than one-hundred and eighty degree view of the cosmos as their vessel pushed its way through deep space. It was beautiful to him, and he breathed deeply knowing how few men were ever permitted to grasp the infinite glory and emptiness of space from such a perspective.
The stars looked strange compared to their dim twinkle on a planet, when one was not hurtling forward at nearly the speed of light. Here they blurred like small streaks around him, and yet they also appeared still and tranquil. They appeared in various shades of blue and indigo, based on how directly Icarus was travelling toward a given star, and as Malcom looked off to the left and right he could see the stars shift to white, and finally red as the ship moved away from them.
The light filled his green eyes, and in the peace he was able to remember… so much to remember, so many millennia of change on countless planets to consider and evaluate, and then predict. When he was younger, Malcom used to retort that the only thing predictable about the human race was its unpredictability. He’d seen dozens of societies rise, fall, and rise again over the course of countless generations since he spoke such, and now he had a different perspective on mankind. One in which, like the weather on a water planet, everything had its cause and effect and everything occurred in cycles, if you could only stand far enough back to see it all. And Malcom had stood back, in a way only the other clan leaders could say they had, and even then, he wondered if they spent as much time thinking on it as he.
He took everything in the human disposition into account when he left a world. Plans upon plans. Contingencies upon contingencies. Even so, like the weather, sometimes there were anomalies, unforeseen events, like a summer storm upon a desert plain. In the centuries between departure and return, he knew almost anything could happen, even if the probability was incredibly low. At the end of every journey, when the quantum gate was completed, and the ship would jump back instantly to the world they had left just a few months earlier from their own perspective, Malcom would hold his breath, wondering, and praying, that he would not pass through to find the old planet had singularized and become a second Earth; stagnant, inhuman… dead. Returning to find a world as such once was too much for him. He had paid dearly for his imperfections, and he still wore the platinum band on his left hand to remind him that he was not a god, even if the planetside people revered him as such. Eventually, clan Macbeth would truly be able to account for all the irregularities of humankind.
It was hard to believe that with all the things he had seen, and all the many years that had passed before his eyes, worlds dying and being made anew, mankind spreading over the stars, that he had celebrated the his sixty-fifth ancestral birthday just two months prior. He felt so much older than that. The life of his race was like a picture gallery, showing slow change quickly. He ran his hand through his short, grey hair and pondered: I watch the whole of man live and die in cycles they are nearly oblivious to, and yet I never noticed my hair turning grey until it was already done doing so.
He fingered the ring on his hand and remembered her. The smell of her hair as if she was in the nose with him, watching the blue and indigo stars streak and fill their eyes with wonder. He would never find another like her again. In all the universe there was only one Deidre, which made their son all the more precious to him. Even if his heart could allow him to find love again, it would never happen. The ships were populated by the clan for a reason. When you spend a hundred years traveling to a new world, you must leave everyone you love behind… or take them with you. Any woman that would come aboard Icarus would have to fall in love with him in the few weeks that he would allow his clan’s vessel to stay in orbit around a world. He could not leave his ship behind. He had to keep moving. Keep traveling.