They got me through subdermal registration. I’d taken the precaution of digging the chip out of my arm, sewing myself shut, and letting it heal. Only thing is I didn’t take into account the nanos. As I tried to make it past customs, the nanos showed up on my scan like a thousand tiny internal bees, buzzing and moving through my circulatory system. None even at my arm, where the chip released them as a last ditch effort, but all throughout the rest of my body.
It’s a three strikes and you’re going to penal situation. Funny, no one’s played baseball in a couple hundred years, but the phrase still remains. Some things just stick. Anyway, they asked if I had anything to say about the nanos. I kept my mouth shut, but I was already incriminated. My parole officer gave up on me. Recommended I go to penal.
It’s a generation ship. Built to last a thousand lifetimes, and with the capability of sustaining all of those lives through nanosleep. No need for cryo or preservation, because the nanos do all the pruning at the cellular level. You could wake up a thousand years in the future and be just the same as you were when you went to sleep.
This ship has me thinking of Australia. Legend goes that before Austrolasia, Australia used to be its own continent. There used to be an empire called The Brits, and they sent their nastiest to a penal colony in Australia. (Still feels weird saying Australia instead of Austrolasia.) Anyway, move the clocks forward a couple decades and you’ve got a fully functional country born of the descendants of criminals.
Wishful thinking to compare this ship to Australia? Maybe. Either way, you wouldn’t want to be on board. They don’t have much in the way of actionable punishments other than The Hole.
They can’t execute you, but what they can do is keep you in nanosleep indefinitely. Rumor is that some of the guys have been in The Hole for hundreds of years. Hard to tell who, because when you peer through the thick glass of their pods, you see nothing but the standard issue morphsuits. Nothing to give them away like state of dress. Can’t judge by haircuts either, because they’re all bald. Nanosleep does that to you after a while. Like in the old days, before they cured cancer, people used to say you’d go bald just like that. No eyebrows, nothing.
So I got into fights. Out of camera range, away from patrols. I got guys so pissed off that they’d attack me in plain sight later on, get detained and put into nanosleep. Somehow I got through without so much as a slap on the wrist.
You forget faces after a while. I wish I could say that’s a reversible side effect, but it’s not. The disease is time itself. Your wife, kids, parents… All of them go away. Tabula rasa. Just wiped, man. Nothing.
It’s easy to get institutionalized if you’re not proactive. Dudes staring out the windows, watching as we blueshift from the ship’s speed. Their heads lolling, holes for eyes. We call them Husks. Might be a fate even worse than permanent nanosleep.
I keep myself busy. Read every book I can find. When after a few years I finish all the books in the ship’s scant library, I write my own. Work with the prison librarian to bind them by hand, produce covers.
I start my own library. The librarian helps me out with a number of volumes, but I supply my own, too. Most of them fiction, but some old books from what I can remember. I read, we fly. To where, nobody knows.
We’re not meant to know where the destination is. I ask the librarian. He flushes like the first time we met, when he wasn’t yet sure that I was one of the “good guys.” Funny term, that one. Everything is relative, not just time.
I read up on Einstein, find out about the idea of time dilation. Of something moving so fast that time is slowed down relative to it. Works with supermassive black holes too, but it’s more feasible for humans to get a ship going that fast than it is to make it out of a black hole alive.
It’s to the point where six months aboard a ship traveling at nearly lightspeed would be a thousand years back home. We’ve been blueshifting for months. Who knows what’s back there on Earth.
It’s hard to keep track of time, but one day we reach it. A nearly barren, inhospitable desert planet. We all hop off, stretch our legs like it’s been nothing more than a long car ride. We enjoy being in spacesuits for the first time. This is penal. This is a new home. So why does it feel so familiar?
I run the library for weeks before it hits me. I sneak out at night. Wait for a sandstorm that will cover my tracks. And then. And then:
Gleaming in the distance, planted in the sand. The Brooklyn Bridge. Spanning from one desert plateau to the other.