by Orson Scott Card
Saving the human race is a frantic business. Or a tedious one. It all depends on what stage of
the process you're taking part in.
Ram Odin was raised to be a starship pilot. It was his father who adopted the Norse god of the
sky as his surname, and it was his father who made sure he was absolutely prepared to go into
astronaut training two years before the normal time.
Every bit of surplus wealth on Earth had been used to build humanity's first interstellar colony
ships; it took forty years. Under the shadow of moondust that still blocked out more than a third
of the sun's rays from the surface of the Earth, the sense of urgency flagged only a little.
Everyone understood how close the human race had come to extinction when the comet swept
past Earth and gouged its way into the near face of the moon. Even now, there was no certainty
that the Moon's orbit would restabilize; astronomers were almost evenly divided among those
who thought it would sooner or later collide with the Earth, and those who thought a new
equilibrium would be achieved.
So all who had survived the first terrible years of worldwide cold and famine dedicated
themselves to building two identical ships. One would crawl out into space at ten percent of
lightspeed, with generation after generation of future colonists living, growing old, and dying
inside its closed ecosystem.
The other ship, Ram's ship, would travel seven years away from the solar system and then make
a daring leap into theoretical physics.
Either spacetime could be made to fold, skipping ninety lightyears and putting the colony ship
only seven years away from the earthlike planet that was its destination, or the ship would
obliterate itself in the attempt . . . or nothing would happen at all, and it would crawl on for nine
hundred more years before reaching its new world.
The colonists on Ram's ship slept their way toward the foldpoint. If all went well, they would
remain asleep through the fold and not be wakened until they neared their destination. If nothing
happened at all, they would be wakened to begin farming the vast interior, starting the thirty-five
generations that the colony must survive until arrival.
Ram alone would remain awake the entire time.
Seven years with only the expendables for company. Once engineered to do work that might kill
an irreplaceable human being, the expendables had now been so vastly improved that they could
outlive and outwork any human. They also cost far more to make than it would cost to train a
human to do even a small part of their work.
Still, they were not human. They could not be allowed to make life-and-death decisions while
all the humans were asleep. Yet they were such a good simulation of human life that Ram would
never be lonely.