The Arrival Trio

Matthew A DeBarth
7 min readNov 8, 2021


Parts One, Two, and Three

PART ONE: Titania Keil, Citizen

Titania stood on the starboard observation deck of the generational ship Arvad, watching what was to be their new home slide into view from behind as the ship finished its final deceleration burn.

She thought that she should be feeling something big, something more befitting the monumental scale of what was happening. Their arrival here was an event more than a century in the making. It would be the change of a lifetime for all the pioneers aboard.

But she wasn’t sure how she truly felt about any of it.

Her family had been on this ship, on this voyage, for nearly a century and a half. She hadn’t been born when her great-grandparents had set out from a dying Earth and an already overcrowded Solar System on this long voyage. She hadn’t been born yet when it had all gone so very wrong before the Arvad had even reached the relative safety of the vast emptiness of interstellar space.

Aside from being knocked off course in the long-ago early history of the start of the voyage and that unfortunate bit of ugly business twelve years ago, it had been an uneventful voyage – an uneventful life for the generations of voyagers.

And all four of her pioneering great-grandparents, her born-aboard grandparents, and her mother… none of them had lived long enough to see the voyage through to its end.

But now, the living voyagers were finally here. This was not to where the Arvad had initially set out, but this was where they were going to remain. After generations had lived and died aboard the ship, it was now time for generations to live and die here. They couldn’t go any further, and they certainly couldn’t go back. They were here in Adalia and would continue to be, come what may, for the lifespans of Adalians yet unborn.

Titania sighed. As she looked out onto her new home, she felt like just about the most useless person in the Adalia star system. In the unforgiving survival economy of their new colony, everyone needed a job.

She had dutifully trained for hers for her adult life. She was the Arvad’s Chief Hydrologist – an expert on rivers, lakes, and oceans – and she was watching the Arvad pull into orbit around the dry and barren asteroid named Adalia Prime.

Out of the five completely uninhabitable planets in the system, only one had an ocean. It was not an ocean of water but a boiling acid that was comprised of a toxic slurry of chemicals. The second planet was a tiny hot fast scalding rock orbiting much too close to the star, and the remaining three were gas giants. None even remotely suitable for life.

She frowned. This arrival would mean a new way of life for her. For all of them. Not a life aboard a ship, nor one on a planet. Instead, a life among thousands of separate tiny asteroids, spinning and tumbling beneath the endless, eternal night sky.

She could be anything in this new world. Well, anything but what she already was, at least.

PART TWO: Scott Allen, Miner

Scott sat in his chair at the big circular table in the Arvad’s Prime Council chambers, still working on his notes long after the meeting had been adjourned and everyone else had left.

Well, he thought of it as his chair, but the name plaque in front of him still had “Titania Keil, Chief Hydrologist” written on it, whoever that was. Scott, a pragmatist, didn’t know and he didn’t care. She was off the Prime Council; he was on it. As soon as the planetary scans had come back, everyone stopped caring about liquid water overnight, and his knowledge had gone from being of only minor importance to vital for their survival.

Scott Allen was a fourth-generation asteroid miner, great-grandson of the man who had dedicated his life to turning the Solar System’s asteroid belt into the vast generational ships that had fled out into interstellar space in every direction. For this, he had been given a berth aboard the Arvad, but not for him. For his son.

His great-grandfather had also been Scott Allen; Scott was named after him.

It had been Allen-mined ore, ice, and fissile resources that had built the Arvad herself, from her massive hull all the way down to the very chair in which Scott Allen the Younger now sat.

The Prime Council had expanded Scott’s mandate from building the minor orbital infrastructure needed to launch the occasional satellite to… well, everything.

All they had were asteroids, and so that was what they were going to have to use.

Volunteers had been pouring over the data coming in from the teams manning the Arvad’s scanners in shifts around the clock. Out of the roughly quarter-million asteroids in the belt between the orbits of planets B and C, plus the two Trojan groups orbiting in lockstep with C itself, the volunteers had identified between ten and twelve thousand of the most promising asteroids. They wouldn’t know for sure what they had until they completed their scans of the asteroids, but at least it was a start.

Scott had been intensely training his crewmates, advising them on which asteroids to target. It was vital to have as many asteroid miners ready to start work on as many asteroids as promptly as possible. They were in a race against time, a race for survival.

Orbital mechanics was a precise art, and even the Arvad’s navigators would struggle to assess the swirling mass of thousands of individual orbits. It had more in common with a whirlpool than the Arvad’s orderly flight plan.

But Scott had been raised to this by his father and grandfather, and his grandfather had learned it from Scott Allen the Older back in the days that the Allen family had first perfected the art of asteroid mining.

He’d turn this crew into a workforce of asteroid miners.

PART THREE: Rutherford Andrews, Builder

Rutherford drifted forward through the zero-gee storage space along the keel of the Arvad, growing increasingly dismayed by the carefully packaged colonization supplies bolted to the massive backbone of the vast generational ship.

Allen and his amateur asteroid miners had already been through here and had pulled anything they deemed useful, leaving scattered holes along the keel, like missing teeth in a jawbone.

And now, as the Arvad’s Quartermaster, whatever was left was his problem. The whole ship around him was already slated for salvage, so this all had to go. Rutherford could faintly hear the long keel softly vibrating as teams further aft cut engine clusters away for reuse.

He read the labels on containers as they came into view, even though he also had a comprehensive list on the tiny screen in his belt pouch. He already knew what he would find down here at the heart of the ship intellectually, but there was something more tangibly concrete about witnessing the colossal waste of it all in person.

Six massive cargo containers in a row with progressively larger classes of boats for operating in everything from little ponds up to the sheltered edges of oceans. A single much larger container with a huge dredging barge. None of them would ever so much as touch water. Ever. All of them were only useful as scrap.

He moved further along, reading labels with dismay. “Single Pilot Microlight Observation Plane.” Useless. “Twin Pilot VTOL Light Cargo Plane”. Useless. “Heavy-lift Cargo Zeppelin (Automated)”. Useless! Without an atmosphere to push inward against the envelope of lifting gas, it would just instantly explode in a cloud of rapidly freezing helium, which was a real pity since Rutherford harboured a private love for airships. He had imagined completing his Quartermaster duties and semi-retiring to the life of an airship merchant in the days before the planetary scans had come in. But not now. There weren’t ever going to be airship merchants now.

Now all of this was useless. Everything, just useless.

The following section completed the trifecta of vehicles with container after container of electric land vehicles. These at least would have some minimal use on airless asteroids. Or would be once their air-filled rubber tires had been removed and retrofitted with solid ones. But not one of the vehicles was airtight, so they would all have to be operated by people in bulky spacesuits.

Which was one thing they needed more of. An order of magnitude more of. But in a chicken-and-egg problem, the pioneers needed to land on the surface of Adalia Prime first before they really got going on making them, because Arvad was a colony ship. It was already operating close to the limits of its life support capacity just dealing with the air, water, and food needs of the people aboard. They could not operate heavy industries inside here. They would all die choking if they fired up even a single one of the heavy smelters inside the ship.

Rutherford grabbed a handrail as it floated by, pulling himself up short in a full stop.

The smelters. They were designed for use on a planet. They assumed a breathable, oxygen-rich atmosphere. Rutherford couldn’t use them on the asteroid anymore than he could on the Arvad. Instead of choking the pioneers here, the furnaces themselves would choke there.

He swore, turning around and heading back past the rows of useless vehicles again.

He needed to melt them all down into usable metals. But to do that, he would first need to design an enclosed life support area that could be built around each smelter on an airless asteroid, so they could melt the metal to make new smelters that didn’t require such precious treatment.

“Forget chicken-and-egg,” he muttered in the cavernous hold. “First, I have to invent the eggshell.”