Source: It was a solid transceiver meant to last a long time
Significance: It was the only link Outward-Bound had with Elysian Dawn
When the Outward-Bound company launched Elysian Dawn, the great generational starship, the agreement was that those on board would never have any communication from Terra or anyone else until they had settled on their destination planet of Magellan 16. All the same, Outward-Bound did pledge to receive regular reports; they just wouldn’t respond. Four board members, designated The Faceless Four, were tagged to monitor the reports. One of them, Landon Chavez, obeyed the very letter of the agreement. He made sure they would receive the reports using a special transceiver. He certainly didn’t promise to listen to every one. When he thought he could get away with it, he locked the transceiver into a dust-proof stasis box, and hid the key. At some point after that, he died, leaving the other three board members, Cornelia Conti, Tomas Ash and Samantha Woo, to carry on.
All was normal until, eighteen years into the starship’s journey, it crashed on an unknown planet and sent out a distress call.
Cornelia Conti was on duty at the time.
She focused on the partition that hid the old transceiver. She had no idea why she should have jumped at the first burst of static. This was not unusual. It happened from time to time. When it happened on her shift, her mind simply noted the facts. Report time. I wonder how many babies by now?
She hadn’t bothered to decode a report in years. It was too laborious. The transceiver had once been state of the art, but in nearly two decades it had drifted into the realms of vintage, and the translator had to run double-compatibility mode to sort out the old-fashioned code.
The transceiver had only one function, and that was to send and receive reports to the Elysian Dawn mission and these, being in a silent code, never impinged on anyone’s attention beyond the first, and usually only, crackle of static. Even that was muffled since the thing itself was locked into a stasis box behind a fireproof partition.
Cornelia made a decision that was going to change her life. Instead of leaving things alone, she decided to check the transceiver.
She reflected that she was ashamed of her part in the Elysian Dawn saga.
It occurred to her she could not be the only one to feel shame. Chavez, for all his cold logic, was the one who set the transceiver to silent code. The first few reports from the starship came verbally, run through the voice synthesiser so station monitors could marvel without laborious transcription. The novelty soon wore off for, as agreed, reports were dry and factual. Many consisted of two words: ad lib, which presumably meant everything was progressing as scheduled.
At some point, between the growth of bored indifference and his death last year at the age of seventy-six, Chavez had disabled the automatic voice. He locked away the transceiver for protection.
Maybe the old equipment was failing. If so, someone must do something quickly. The colonists had been promised their journey would be monitored. Eighteen years in was far too early for system glitches.
Cornelia did something quickly. She managed to get the silenced transceiver out of its safe box (which involved working out where on Earth Chavez would have hidden the key) and then getting it to work and, for the first time in over eighteen years, making direct and forbidden contact with the pioneers on Elysian Dawn.
She managed to talk to Eduard Balm, the duty com-tat, and later, to his son Edsen, but although the good old transceiver carried on, its opposite number on Elydian Dawn was glitching. All too soon, the transceiver fell silent forever.