Chapter 1: A New World
2431 - UCRS [United Colonies Research Ship] Galileo - Orbiting LV-639
The view from orbit was nothing special. The atmosphere, whilst habitable, was impossible to see through. There was cloud, cloud, and more cloud. But the colony was already being set up down there, and the atmosphere processors, not that they were crucial, had been set up a year and a half ago.
Science Lieutenant Dennis Weyland, related to the founder of the company, stood on the cold, dark bridge of the ship, the creased features of his face barely illuminated. The lighting was poor, the ship’s systems still booting up. The rest of the crew were still emerging from their hypersleep; Weyland had entered the cryo-tubes in a fresh uniform, ready for when they finally arrived.
He had a good feeling about this planet. Something told him that there was something important down there to be researched. Anything. He was at risk of losing his rank if he didn’t find anything soon. Maybe his good feeling was just optimism.
A few footsteps sounded on the metal staircase behind him; lights sprang into life on the bridge as the flight crew showed up. They left Weyland to stare out at the planet as they took up their positions in front of numerous computers. Beeping filled the bridge as the crew brought up readouts; voices filled the bridge as they relayed the information to the captain who had been first – besides Weyland – onto the bridge.
‘Flight time: three months, captain.’
‘Engines still online, captain. Cooling systems are at optimum.’
‘Systems ninety-seven percent restored, captain. Non-essential systems only systems offline.’
‘We are in orbit of the planet, captain. Ship is stable.’
When the crew went quiet the captain gave a single nod and said, ‘Very good. Carry on.’
Weyland was fascinated, this time by the crew, the entire scene drawing his attention away from the impenetrable cloud cover. They were so ordered. Disciplined. Collected. A model for society. If only his scientists worked together so well. Maybe then he would get his research done.
Instead they were always arguing about whose findings to use, or who had made the correct calculations. In fact, they spent so much time arguing that they rarely had time to make findings or calculations.
He sighed and prepared to leave the bridge, turning to the captain as he went. ‘Keep up the good work, captain. I want to get down to the planet as soon as possible.’
‘Very good, sir,’ the captain replied, turning his aged, gaunt face towards the Science Lieutenant. ‘Once systems are at one-hundred percent we should be able to get you down there.’
Weyland silently thanked the captain; he descended the steps slowly, slightly groggy, and decided that it was probably time for some breakfast.
The mess hall was full of life. Crew members and scientists, recently woken from their hypersleep, filled the tables. Food filled the metal trays in front of the men, and conversation filled the room. From afar it was almost impossible to hear the words, as countless voices merged together, forming little more than white noise.
At one of the many tables sat a small group of scientists, most of them quite young. They were from a number of different colonies, and were of a variety of Earth-based ethnicities. Yet what they all had in common was their uniform: black trousers and blue shirts underneath a white coat, with the logo of Weyland-Yutani printed on the left breast.
One of the scientists at the table sat in a wheelchair; he looked remarkably similar to Science Lieutenant Weyland, though younger, and his position in the wheelchair made him appear frail.
Of all the scientists at the table, only one seemed perplexed. The youngest of the lot, Doctor Raymond Trent, sat with his chin rested on his hand. His eyes did not move from the Weyland look-a-like, and for some time everyone ignored his gaze until, finally, one of the other scientists, brown hair cut close to his head, spoke up.
‘What’s got your attention?’
‘How come he’s in a wheelchair? I thought we had the technology to fix that kind of thing,’ Raymond replied, not shifting his gaze.
‘He’s not your usual person,’ the young scientist said, smiling. ‘Sometimes the technology just isn’t available.’
Raymond frowned. That was barely a helpful answer. ‘What’s so different about him?’
The wheelchair-ridden scientist made eye contact with Raymond and smiled. ‘You must be new here,’ he said, his speech pattern almost robotic. ‘My name’s Bishop. What’s yours?’
Raymond cocked an eyebrow and looked at the other young scientist for a moment. When all he received was a questionable glance he looked back at Bishop. ‘I’m Raymond.’ He was unsure what else to say, so said nothing, hoping this Bishop character would continue.
‘You see, Bishop is a bit…old-fashioned,’ the young scientist explained. He laughed, as did most of the other scientists at the table. ‘Tell him, Bishop.’
Bishop smiled and leaned forward. ‘Well, Raymond. I come from a…different time.’
Raymond frowned. ‘Are we going to play riddles, or are you just going to tell me?’
There was more laughter around the table.
‘Are you aware of synthetic people?’ the young scientist asked.
Raymond shrugged. ‘Kind of. There are usually a couple in a colony, aren’t there? And they look kind of human…’ His eyes snapped back to Bishop. ‘Wait…is he? Is he?’
Yet again laughter filled the table, this time from Bishop as well.
‘I am,’ Bishop replied, smiling. ‘I was modelled on one of Lieutenant Weyland’s ancestors. The resemblance is uncanny, isn’t it?’
Raymond sat, stunned. He had no idea there was a synthetic on board. There was one thing still bothering him, though. ‘If he’s a robot…’
‘I prefer the term artificial person,’ Bishop said, smiling. He absently picked up a piece of bread, offering it around the table. One of the scientists took it from him gratefully.
‘Okay…if he’s an artificial person…then why is he in a wheelchair?’
Bishop smiled. ‘There was an…incident. My lower systems malfunctioned, and no one knows how to repair them.’
‘Oh…’ Raymond swallowed and absently lifted a piece of bread to his mouth. Biting down on it he felt suddenly awkward.
The mess hall doors opened and the Science Lieutenant walked in, heading directly to get a tray, proceeding to select different foodstuffs for his breakfast. In response to his arrival a number of the scientists in the room got to their feet and headed to the doors, some leaving food on their trays.
Amongst the scientists that prepared to leave were those at Raymond’s table. The young scientist he had talked to helped Bishop, pushing his wheelchair along a short distance as the electric motor sprang to life.
‘Hey, where are we going?’ Raymond asked, almost panicking.
‘We need to get to work. The boss is here, so we’ve clearly been here too long,’ the young scientist replied. He smiled and beckoned for Raymond to follow. As Raymond caught up he smiled and asked, ‘So what project have you been assigned?’
Raymond took care not to step too close to Bishop’s wheelchair. ‘I don’t have a project on board. I’ve got the indigenous life project. What about you?’
‘Once I get down to the planet I’ll be working with you, but until then I’m studying the effect of these frozen rations on the human body.’ The young scientist smiled. ‘I know your name…but I don’t think you know mine.’ He absently looked down at his coat. ‘None of us seem to have name badges.’
‘Unfortunately I don’t,’ Raymond chuckled.
‘The name’s Frost. Jerry Frost. Pleased to meet you,’ the young scientist said, extending his hand.
Raymond found it difficult to shake hands whilst walking, but managed it and smiled. ‘I look forward to working with you, Jerry.’
‘And I you.’
As they walked along the corridor they passed a window, and took the opportunity to look at the planet below. They both had a good feeling about this assignment, for some reason or another.
A voice suddenly sounded over the speakers. ‘Attention all crew and passengers. We are preparing to enter the planet’s atmosphere and land near the colony. Please remain in your designated areas.’
‘We had better be going,’ Bishop said from nearby, turning to address Raymond and Jerry. ‘We really don’t want to be out in the corridors.’ He smiled knowingly. ‘They get pretty hot.’
Jerry nodded in agreement, and they hurried along the corridor towards the laboratories.