A Message to Mermen

by Jay Hova

The time had come to wake the colonists from their 325 year nap. I was the only inhabitant of the ship who had not been slumbering in liquid helium at 3 degrees K. The computer had released me from the Klienman Stasis Field three months earlier so I could prepare the reanimation equipment and direct the approach to the star Sucilitur and to its one habitable planet. The stasis field, though complex and expensive in construction costs and power requirements, was necessary for one person because the deep freeze was found to cause some disorientation and memory loss on waking.

We were the first interstellar colony ship. The planet had been found, checked out and the information transmitted back home by robot probe. The Federation had started sending out probes in '32, shortly after the interstellar hydrogen ram-jet became a crude but workable reality. There were rumors just before we left that another probe had found a habitable planet but another colony ship wouldn't be ready for three or four years.

While in a two-hour orbit, the ship's elaborate instruments and a trip to the surface refined the robot's findings to give the planet a .943 + .005 ESQ rating, with no intelligent or incompatible lifeforms. The shuttle boats were ready to transport the two hundred colonists to the surface along with their tools and animals (also in deepfreeze).

Several "subversive" sociologists at home had said that if we didn't get an interstellar colony on it's way by the turn of the century we probably never would. We didn't beat that by much. They felt the development of fusion power accelerated the decline of human values and freedom of thought. If your vehicle or culture is already out of control and going downhill, more power won't help.

I put the first ten frozen colonists into the re-animation units and started warm-up procedures. Their organs began to function normally when given the proper stimulation and their EEGs developed within reasonable expectations. Everything seemed OK until they were fully awake. They seemed to have all the instinct and drives they were born with plus those which became apparent later in life, but nothing else. The long period in deepfreeze had apparently eroded virtually all memory of their past life and therefore their whole personality. Mentally they had in effect just been born.The scene was rather sickening for a while and I put them into normal hypno-sleep as quickly as possible. I processed another group of five, monitoring their mental development from the start using the Edu-Path tutoring machines. There was never an indication of mental activity much above the level needed for body maintenance.

Actually the possibility (or certainty?) of something like this had been foreseen by the project scientists back on earth. That was one reason we had the Edu-Paths and the well-stocked computer memory banks. If they were willing to send out 200 people, perhaps knowing that they were killing their individual minds, might they also have biased the information in the memory banks in favor of their own value systems?

In any case I would have to attempt to "reprogram" whole new personalities for these colonists. Obviously I would have to start with rather limited versions but perhaps I could elaborate later on. But I was faced with a mixture of moral problems. Should I try to create, as close as possible, a typical blend of personalities such as they might have had when they left Earth? Should I give them the same set of cultural taboos or just the ones I felt were valid? Should I just give them the minimum basic knowledge for survival and let them evolve on their own? Should I concentrate on giving them philosophical or technological skills? Should I send off a message to Earth put the revived colonists and myself back in suspension and wait 27 years for a reply? By then the colonist might have lost even more brain function.

Was I wanting to play God with human lives? Wanting, hell, I was forced into it. The closest I could come to doing otherwise would be to leave them permanently in deepfreeze or wake them and let them die as vegetables. After all, parents play God in raising their children. Anyway, by my definition, they were no longer living humans. They were Homo Sapien bodies but with virtually zero mentality. Now I would have to be the single parent of 200 people.

I started off by programming one of the colonists as an assistant and a philosophical sounding board. Her name was Mermen. Well after all I'm human too!

The answers to most of my questions should have been obvious. I wasn't about to give them values I didn't believe in or let them take several thousand years to get back to the intellectual level they had when they left Earth. I simply followed my own values which are pretty much centered around "The Search for Truth" as the ultimate "goal" in life, with communication and the resulting consciousness or awareness as the main means, and "If it feels good, and the later effects will probably feel good, do it, and if it doesn't feel good and doesn't seem necessary, don't do it."

With Mermen's help I managed to get all the colonists programmed with basic survival skills and transported to an ecologically isolated area on one of the major land masses. I avoided giving them any knowledge of their former home so that at least they had no transition problems in getting used to a new environment. We transported the animals and most of the simpler farming tools down along with some of the Edu-Paths and began slowly raising the level of technical knowledge and philosophical wisdom.

The Edu-Paths were easy to use. They were cylinders a foot in diameter, about six feet tall, with antennae branching from the top. They adjusted to the neural network of any brain underneath the antennae and radiated "pathons" directly into the memory centers. They were powerful as well as dangerous machines.

Now you have to keep in mind that this had taken about six years of somewhat ghoulish and very lonely work. Though I tried to give them a variety of personality types, what could I really give them except different versions of myself? After awhile I got pretty tired of listening to simpleton versions of myself all the time. I decided to get away from them for a year or so and explore some of the rest of the planet. I put up a hypno-pathic fence around a shelter containing the Edu-Paths and delicate higher technology equipment. Then I left in one of the shuttle boats.It was a bad decision all the way around. I only became more and more depressed. After about thirty days I ended up back at the colony.

Apparently the meat of one of the local equivalent of snakes had some psychological effects. Some of the colonists, mostly women, had become immune to hypnotics. They had been using the Edu-Paths and picking up a lot of ideas from the dead end culture back home, which I should have erased long before.

At this point I broke down. I guess it particularly bothered me that I could see part of myself in everything they did. I proceeded to gather most of the equipment, including much of what they had already learned to use, and put it into one of the large domes we had constructed. I mounted an automated laser rifle near each door, which would burn down anything that moved within line of sight. Then I returned to the ship, taking Mermen with me.

The colonists were at a level where they could survive on their own. It seemed not too much could be done for them until they realized that their newly-gained information was useless in their new environment, or for that matter in any rational culture.

I sent a message off to Earth - OK, so I didn't tell them every- thing. With the ship at rest in orbit, using protons scooped in from the solar wind, I could apply enough power to the stasis field that it would hold both of us. I told the computer to wake us in a couple centuries.

When we awoke there had been no answer received from Earth. Perhaps the rebel sociologists had been right and Earth was no longer capable of responding.

Many of the original colonists were still alive as a result of the longevity gene treatments we had all received. The duration of its effectiveness had not been known when we left. They had split up into several camps and many were practicing what little they had learned about warfare. In fact some were spending most of their time preparing for attack or defense.

I visited them several more times over the next few thousand years. I even let myself get involved in some of their destructive games, but with much superior knowledge and equipment.

Eventually I decided to create a false set of memories and false identity for Mermen and blend her in with the others. I didn't realize at the time that she was pregnant and that she had also become immune to hypnotics and remembered much of the special training I had given her, which she passed on to her son.

I stayed in stasis then for almost twenty centuries. At least, by then I found the people much more interesting. I decided to come and live on the new Earth for a while. (The name Earth must have come from me mentioning it frequently to Mermen.) First I programmed the ship's computer to take up an orbit around the sun so that it wouldn't be discovered by the more developed technology. I gave myself and a few others some mild hypnotic conditioning to create a background and compatible personality for my anonymous infiltration of Earth.

Apparently my conditioning wasn't that thorough because I haven't blended in that well. Like a lot of other misfits, I've often felt like I was different from other humans and the rough outlines of my story have been coming back to me over the years.

I have reason to believe that Mermen was alive in the sixth century, even in the 1900's, and may still be alive today. Mermen, or whatever you call yourself now, if you or others of the original colonists read this, I hope you will understand the strain I was under and the problems I faced.

Translations, in case you missed something:

We had arrived at a planet of the star we call Sucilitur from the star you call Rutilicus (spelled backwards). ESQ stands for Earth Similarity Quotient. I, Jayhova, gave life and consciousness to the first two hundred people. I developed their personalities in my own image. I gave them a special place to live, with animals and "the good things of life". I prohibited them from partaking of the fruits of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" without my supervision. Under the influence of the meat of a serpent they ignored my prohibition. I got angry and separated them from those things that made their lives pleasurable. I set an "angel" wielding a flaming "sword" to guard the access. I left them to fight the environment on their own and returned to the heavens. The first people lived a long time. I returned in later times and in my anger brought about various catastrophes. Mermen, to whom I later gave the name of Mary, bore my son. From her he acquired much of my advanced knowledge. She, with her special knowledge, later took the name of Merlin, and even later, Mormoni, the angel that met with Joseph Smith, the Mormon founder. The word "earth" must have survived from the time of colonization.

(The original purpose of this story was expansion of paragraphs seven and eight, creating my own Utopia. It started with a writing class exercize to begin a story with "The time had come..".)

Send me your thoughts.
Dan Robinson, danrob@efn.org, Eugene, Oregon
My home page: http://www.efn.org/~danrob/