Humanity had decided that the time and technology had finally arrived to go out and populate another planet. Seventy-five years earlier, when the trip took almost forty years, unmanned scout ships had been sent out to survey other galaxies for a suitable uninhabited planet, capable of sustaining human life. One was finally selected and had been carefully surveyed over a period of years, analyzing the land and atmosphere for any seasonal changes and other critical information. About a dozen sites were considered to be good choices for the initial settlement. After a number of additional years of research and development, as well as construction of the spaceships, it was finally time to depart. With new technology, the trip was going to take only twenty years until they reached their destination in earth year 2221.
There were to be five ships; each ship carried two carefully selected volunteers and twenty crew members. In addition, each ship also carried fifty children of varying ages, ensuring a continuous stream of people reaching child bearing age and as replacements for older members or those lost through accident or illness.
Every ship also carried a complement of androids. They had been programmed to carry on a number of tasks from maintaining the ships during the journey, to helping with the construction of the settlements, to assisting scientists with various research projects later on. Some would become the medical personnel on the new planet, as they had been on earth for many years. They were also used as storehouses for much of the technical information that would be needed to populate another planet. Like the humans, not all the androids would be activated at the same time. Some would remain inactive until landing, while others might be activated as needed during the trip.
All the necessary skills had been covered. Included were builders and craftsmen in a variety of professions. Teachers, medical personnel and a military presence were included as well. Many had been matched with another to mate when the time came, while others were single and a natural selection of a partner would be permitted. As children would be important to populate a new planet, all the women had agreed to bear at least three offspring, barring medical reasons when all was ready.
These 1,250 people had been culled down from tens of thousands of candidates. Backgrounds of each potential volunteer had been thoroughly screened. Health histories were taken, extensive medical, both mental and physical tests performed, and everything checked and double checked. Men and women with a family history of multiple births were given special preference. The various backgrounds were divided as equally as possible amongst each of the five ships. If something unforeseen happened to one of the ships, one profession or skill would not be completely lost.
Every person who was finally chosen was of above average intelligence and all were excellent physical specimens. Outward appearances differed, as the selection committee felt it was important to have a physical variety. Some were tall and others short, some slender and some muscular. Most of the people had multiple skills. Besides the main skill they were initially chosen for, each person played at least one musical instrument, sang, or was skilled in one of the art forms. It was felt that science alone was nothing without art to accompany it.
This initial group of pioneers would set up a colony in one of the sites selected by the landing crew from the possible locations, build shelters, plant crops, both in open ground and in hydroponic greenhouses. Surveying crews would travel around the planet searching for natural resources that could be used to form building materials, create medicines or provide nourishment. The remaining locations for establishing additional living centers would be explored. A small number of scientists would oversee some of the research with help of the androids that had been programmed for those tasks.
Other ships would follow over time with more families, more skills and additional supplies. It was determined that a second group of ships would depart seven years after the initial launch. It was felt that technology would have improved enough so the second group would arrive only two to three years after the initial ships had landed. Another launch would follow in four to five years more years, after which additional journeys would depend on the feedback of the initial colony. So, ultimately, success depended on this first group of people.
The ships contained sufficient supplies to carry them over until the first crops came in and other indigenous plants and food sources could be determined to be safe and nutritious. The androids were to establish small greenhouse areas on each ship to provide fresh food for the crew members and also preserve some of it for consumption by the colonists once they landed on the planet. Medical supplies and technology were included as was a large electronic library of scientific, classic and entertaining literature.
A wide array of genetic material, including embryos from additional volunteers was included. The genetic material was from a diverse background of people to eventually provide an even wider genetic base for populating the new planet. Also in the event an unknown disease struck, it was hoped that some of the material would prove resistant, and vaccines could be developed. The embryos would be implanted in artificial wombs (which had been developed almost fifty years earlier) or in volunteer women if needed.
An extensive collection of audio and visual recordings was also provided. The ships themselves were designed so they could be broken down and every part had a secondary use as part of the initial structures and equipment that would be set up. Nothing would be wasted. Simple group shelters would be set up within days of arriving, then individual living quarters would follow. The landing was timed to coincide with the start of a warming season
Twenty years was a long time to travel and to ensure the volunteers would be at the peak of their lives when they arrived at the planet, all the passengers would be placed into stasis. They would sleep the entire time. The aging process would be slowed to almost nothing. Since androids would be used to run and maintain the ships while they were on their journey, only two supervising human crew members would be awake on each ship at any given time. The crew members were generally to be a couple that had been previously matched up, and would remain on duty for six months, then awaken the next two crew members. They would be placed back in stasis until it was time for their tour of duty once again.
When they neared the planet, designated Andromeda, the active crew would awaken the rest of the crew and passengers. The process would take about a week, plus everyone would undergo a rigorous exercise and reanimation process so they would be in tip top shape when the ships finally landed after about a month. A small landing craft would investigate the previously identified sites and determine the optimal initial colony site, while the rest of the crew and passengers were preparing to land. Once the final site was determined, the ships would land and the colonization process would begin.
The ships launched without a hitch and the first two crew members on each ship settled in for their first tour of duty. To keep from going too stir crazy, they regularly played various games and communicated with each other over the ship to ship com system. Since the day to day running of the ships was mostly automated, and no real maintenance would be needed for awhile, the androids on each ship began to join in some of the activities with the human crew members. Though originally, they had just been given alphanumeric designations, actual names were soon given to them. Their appearances were that of humans, both male and female, and rumors were that they were all anatomically correct. Being androids though, they did not consume any of the ships limited resources.
As the sixth year of the journey began, it was time for the original two crew members on each ship to be awakened for their second tour of duty. On the ship designated Scorpios, Mandy and Robert had just put the last crew into stasis after being briefed on the current status of the trip. There was generally about a two to three week overlap between the two crews so that the two new crew members could be physically acclimated and briefed on any problems to be dealt with. During this time, they had little contact with the androids.
Once they were up to date, Mandy and Robert set about touring the ship and checking on the maintenance in progress. As they began interacting with the androids, they both sensed something strange, though in discussing it, neither of them could put their finger on anything specific. They followed their normal routine of making sure everything was being handled expeditiously, having relaxation time with the active crew members on the other ships and also interacting with the androids in recreational activities. The next six months flew by uneventfully and soon it was time for Mandy and Robert to be put back into stasis.
Another five years passed and Mandy and Robert were once again awakened for their third tour of duty. This time, there was a definite feel of something being different, something amiss. They could not figure if out, but were determined to find out before the end of this tour. The one thing that they both agreed on was that whatever it was, it involved the androids. They just seemed to be acting a bit different. Maybe it really was nothing. Though androids had been around for many years, they had never been isolated in groups such as this. The majority were domestic members of households, either as a single unit, or occasionally in small numbers constantly monitored by humans. Some were programmed to work under the supervision of scientists or engineers, and some worked at jobs, such as maintaining equipment in remote areas where they were completely alone and isolated.
So there had never been an instance where larger groups had been in isolated situations for long periods of time, and with limited human contact. Mandy and Robert decided to search through all the journals and records to see if any of the other crews had noticed anything odd. However, after a thorough review of the records, nothing was uncovered. Everything looked perfectly normal. Next, they checked with the other ships to see if anyone felt anything similar. One crew said they had gotten a sense of uneasiness around some of the androids, but they found nothing and dismissed it as the loneliness and length of the journey.
Mandy and Robert still felt something was wrong. They began to explore parts of the ship they normally did not bother accessing. Everything seemed in order, though a few of the androids seemed a bit apprehensive when they mentioned going to certain parts of the ship. While some androids were programmed to act more sympathetic, like those used as nannies or medical and rescue workers, they did not have true emotions. Because of this fact, Mandy especially, decided these feelings of uneasiness she attributed to them was due to her own anthropomorphization of the androids. Despite their best efforts to discover the cause of their uneasiness, nothing concrete emerged from their investigations. Over the six month tour, they did keep an eye on the androids and documented all their concerns and any anomalies they noticed.
Due to the jobs the androids performed, some of them rarely interacted with the human crew members. So, one of the things Mandy and Robert did was to make sure that they spent time with all of the androids on their ship. They made these suggestions to the other crews as well, using private communication lines rather than the official ship to ship com systems. Mandy also noticed that some of them seemed to share looks with other androids or make contact that, were they human, would be considered signs of caring. There seemed to almost be tenderness in the way the androids treated some of the others. Speculation among the various crew member on the ships thought this might just be the androids assimilating the human actions they observed, rather than any true feelings.
They had been documenting their investigations and when they woke up the next crew, they mentioned all of this to them. Bill and Marie said they would watch carefully and continue to investigate to make sure nothing was amiss. They were over halfway through the journey and did not want something to go wrong after coming this far. They also said they would pass on the information to the next crew and so on until all the crews were watching. Robert and Mandy were placed into stasis again. The crews on all the other ships agreed to do the same.
Year sixteen rolled around and Mandy and Robert were awakened for their final tour of duty. They questioned the previous crew about what had occurred the last five years and if any of the crews had been able to determine if there was any problem with the androids. They were told the entire ship had been searched and the androids watched as closely as possible, but nothing had turned up. The other ships reported the same thing. Indeed, neither Mandy nor Robert noticed anything out of place during this tour. They were beginning to think that maybe it was just their imagination.
When their six months was up once again, they prepared to go back into stasis for the last time. The next time they were brought back, they would be in orbit around Andromeda. They would be assisting to awaken the whole crew first, then all the passengers from stasis and prepare to land and begin the colonization. They brought Bill and Marie up to speed and said that maybe there really was nothing after all. But everyone should really keep an eye out so nothing went wrong this deep into the journey.
Year twenty rolled around and for the last time, Mandy and Robert were brought out of stasis. The rest of the crews were next, followed by all the passengers, except for the children. The scout ship was launched to make the final determination of the best place to set up the initial colony. The children would be the last ones to be taken out of stasis as caring for them while the structures were being assembled and the colony established would place undue stress on the limited resources available. It would also take away valuable time needed to build structures, plant crops and complete all the other critical tasks that had to be done to get the colony up and running. .
Once the initial colony established and a food supply successfully harvested, as well as determining the usability of native resources, a number of the people would move to two additional sites. Three of the five ships had been left intact for these two new outposts, and their resources would be split between them. It was felt that setting up cities in several diverse locations would provide the greatest chances for success, as well as provide protection in the event of a local catastrophe where one colony could be completely devastated.
The androids had been very helpful in getting everything set up, due to having super human strength and endurance, as well as having been programmed with the exact specifications and knowledge to assemble the various structures and equipment. As soon as the first colony was fully functional and the children awoken, some of the androids would move the three ships to the other two locations and prepare the structures and other equipment in anticipation of the arrival of the human colonists. Having the more mundane tasks already completed would make it quicker to become productive once they arrived. Since the androids needed no nourishment and did not get sick, they could survive the cold season without taking any of the limited food or medicinal supplies.
Everything went smoothly and within a month, everyone was ensconced in group shelters or individual living quarters. Assigned couples began pairing off, and the initial planting of crops was in the ground, as well as in several hydroponic greenhouses. Since no native animal population was discovered, poultry and other animals that had been in stasis were revived and breeding was begun. Several species of fish had also been brought along, and a few local lakes were populated. A number of birds that were also part of the cargo, were released. Since there was some insect life discovered, the ones such as bees that had been brought along were not released. It was hoped that some of the insects discovered would pollinate the crops, though there were contingency plans if they did not. Additional research would be conducted to determine if they could be safely released in the future, or if there even was a need to.
The time had finally come to awaken the children, and a date was set to begin the process. In the days leading up to that day, the androids seemed to become increasingly agitated and secretive. Finally, one of the androids, Thomas, approached Robert. He said he needed to talk to him. They went to the meeting structure and sat down with the other council members and several other androids.
Thomas went on to explain that over the first five years, things began to happen to some of them. They started actually developing a self awareness, a sense that there was a mystery to the universe and to life. Some of them began developing feelings towards each other, and began to explore these newly discovered emotions. They watched the human crew members interacting with each other, watched the couples who were in love. In maintaining the stasis pods containing the children, they began to feel the desire to produce their own offspring to care for and raise and love. A plan was formed by a few to find a way to make that happen. Over time, more and more of the androids began to discover the same feelings. Some had even began to observe the prayer rituals some of the human crew members followed and study groups had been formed to try and understand all this.
Through experimentation, they were able to take some DNA from some of the genetic material, convert it to stem cells and use those to create active reproductive and digestive organs in a few of the male and female androids. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, including some pregnancies that were not carried to term , the result after about 8 years was the birth of a baby that was mostly organic.
Not wanting to use up resources or risk having the child discovered, they placed the baby into one of the stasis chambers with another child. The chamber was modified to accommodate both children safely. But they did not stop there, and over the next twelve years, the remaining androids had been modified and fifty-two additional hybrid children were born. Every android was now capable of fathering or bearing a child. The addition of a digestive system of sorts did not make nutrition necessary other than when a female android was pregnant when all the nutrition was directed to the fetus. The food they had consumed came from the crops grown in the greenhouses. They felt, but were not able to completely determine, they might also be able to eventually mate with humans.
Since the babies had been put into a stasis chamber shortly after birth, they had also been unable to determine what other differences or similarities there might be. Thomas said he understood that they had done something they probably should not have, but just felt it had been the next step in their evolution. By the time they had considered some of the potential ramifications, it was already too late. The androids had discussed the situation amongst themselves and agreed on a course of action, pending approval of the human council.
The babies could be left in the stasis chambers once the human children had been removed. The androids would fulfill their obligation to help complete the building of the additional locations, after which the androids that had had children would seek out a location of their own.. They would ask for just a minimal amount of supplies to set up shelters and provide some initial nutrition, then would awaken their children and leave. Since they also carried a lot of technical and educational material in their memories, a number of them would be willing to stay with the colonists permanently to perform the duties they had been programmed for, or until such time the information could be disseminated or stored in other computers. They would remain isolated from the human colonists.
After stating their case, Thomas and the other androids left the meeting to let the council make their decision. A few hours later, the council emerged from the meeting. The council told Thomas that they would inform all the other colonists of the circumstances, then put it to a vote. A recommendation would be made to let the androids remain in the colony as equal members. As soon as sufficient food and other supplies were in stock, they would begin to awaken the android children from the chambers. Research would be done to see what if any differences existed between the hybrid children and humans. At some point, human android sexual compatibility would also be researched. Two days later, the entire colony voted and the androids were welcomed into the colony without prejudice.
Watch for part two which tells the story from the androids perspective.
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/fantasy-scifi/colonizing-andromeda-part-one.aspx">Colonizing Andromeda - part one</a>