by Bill Cox
Excerpt from the “Rough Guide to the Human Galaxy”, 2480 AD edition.
The third planet of the Wolf 359 system was christened “Hirk’s World” by the people that settled there. It was colonised by members of the Church of the Holy Decalogue, an offshoot of the Christian faith with a strong belief in the primacy of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament.
In particular, believers adhere strictly to the third commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”, and in a break with the Catholic mother-church forsake all imagery of their creator and saviour. Indeed, they go further, believing imagery of any living thing to have a corrupting influence upon believers.
With this knowledge, visitors to Hirk’s World are often surprised by the three-hundred-meter high statue that greets them as they leave the spaceport. If they ask the taxi AI about this colossus, they may be further astonished to find that the subject of the statue is Edward Hirk, a lowly engineering technician on the colony ship “God’s Promise”, the ship that delivered the faithful to their new home. To find such a splendid memorial for such a humble personage on a planet where such representation is frowned upon seems to be a mystery indeed.
Further enquires of the AI will yield little, as the Church like to keep their historical knowledge to themselves and tend to shun computer databases in favour of written records. However, upon exploring the capital city Horeb, one will find additional images of Edward Hirk scattered around the city, adorning most public spaces and even churches.
The explanation lies in a moment of heroism exceptional in galactic history. Hirk was an engineering technician on the “God’s Promise” during its decade-long journey to the Wolf 359 system. As the journey entered its final phase and the massive ship began to decelerate from light-speed, a catastrophe occurred. Malware that had lain dormant during the journey was activated and corrupted the ship’s systems. The spacecraft went into failsafe mode, sealing off individual sections and locking Technician Hirk in the engine compartment.
The malware had succeeded in forcing the reactor system to eject its coolant into space, leaving the ship facing a runaway nuclear reaction that would have destroyed the vessel and its fifty thousand occupants. Locked in the engineering compartment, with no access to coolant or any usable fluid, the situation looked impossible for Hirk to solve. Disaster seemed certain.
However, as the faithful tell it, God inspired his servant Hirk, who, utilising only a first aid kit and some plastic tubing, was able to pass enough fluid into the engine compartment to cool the reactor and so prevent a nuclear explosion. The sacrifice of Hirk, who gave his eight pints of blood for the lives of thousands and the survival of the ship, is forever honoured by those he saved, the sons and daughters of Hirk’s World.