Generational Ship Blues, p.1Doug Cosman
Generational Ship Blues
Copyright 2014 Doug Cosman
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Cover Art by Doug Cosman
The solar rod running down the heart of the gargantuan vessel slowly glowed to life once again marking the commencement of a new day. It began just like any other day, only this was one I'd been dreading since being given this duty assignment more than ten years earlier. I looked up through the galley window and watched as the little lakes and rivers began to shimmer all around me.
“Russell!” came a voice from behind me.
I turned around to see my partner Justin walking through the galley doors.
“Good morning Justin, what's on the docket for today?” I asked in a failed attempt at humour. We both knew what had to be done today.
“Don't be like that Russell... " he replied coldly. "I don't like it any more than you do. But it has to be done.”
I knew the logic behind it and why it had been practised on the ship over the centuries... but part of me just felt wrong about it.
“Staying for breakfast?” I probed looking up at Justin standing over me.
“We have a lot of work to do," he answered, motioning for me to join him. "I want to get there early today.”
I took a last gulp of my chamomile tea and quickly caught up with Justin as he exited the galley. Leaving the metallic structure behind, we walked down a narrow paved path through a grassy park in the middle of our residential sector. The warmth of the light felt good on the skin. We both seemed to be enjoying the scenery even more than usual this morning. After a few minutes we arrived at the transit hub and boarded the waiting transport bound for the Capital Sector, the seat of power in shipboard affairs. We took our seats just before the magnetic train departed smoothly and silently from the terminal. I gazed out the window as the train wrapped up and around the landscape, watching my home sector come into view above and behind us before sliding out of sight. How many? I wondered to myself. How many had to die this time?
A woman’s voice snapped me back to reality: “Arrival at Capital Sector in one minute. Please have your Ident Cards ready.”
The train came to a gradual halt as the magnetic polarity was reversed and we arose to exit. We made our way up some stairs along with a small crowd to the security terminal. As we approached the booth I noted the extra security presence today. Expecting a riot? I joked to myself.
“Ident Cards please gentleman,” ordered the black-clad security guard.
Justin and I complied and handed him our cards.
As he swiped the cards through the reader I asked: “Whats all the extra security for today?”
“Nothing to get alarmed over gents, just rumours about some troublemakers that’s all,” he replied.
I gave Justin an inquisitive look but he only shrugged and gave me the same look back.
“Very well gents, everything looks good here. Just a little additional screening today if you wouldn’t mind making your way through the threat detector matrix.” The guard said routinely, pointing to a secondary screening station.
I'd only visited Capital Sector a handful of times but I'd never seen so many people sent through secondary screening before. Before I did something stupid like protesting this inconvenience, I felt Justin’s hand on my back motioning me away towards the queue.
“Secondary screening?" I asked Justin. "I thought we checked out clear?”
“Ah, don't worry about it," he said in a pragmatic tone. "Probably just something to put the government at ease over those rumours. We'll be fine.”
As we approached the threat detection matrix, I gazed out and saw our train departing from the terminal. Making its way further down the landscape and looping back around overhead. I lost sight of it as it passed behind the solar rod. I rubbed my eyes as we shuffled forward for our turn through the machine.
“Step forward please sir and walk slowly through the gate,” commanded another guard.
I walked through with no problems and was soon followed by Justin. No alarms had sounded so I sighed a little relief as we exited the checkpoint. This day was already going to be hard enough.
“All clear gentlemen,” confirmed another guard motioning us on into the public square. “Enjoy the Capital.”
We walked leisurely down the concourse towards the square.
“Enjoy the Capital... ha... there’s no joy for us today right?” I asked looking over to Justin. He stared at his watch and looked quickly over his shoulder to the left and right. “Everything alright?” I queried.
“Huh?" he responded. "Oh... yeah sorry, I'm just not quite sure where we need to be.”
“Its okay," I told him. "I've been to this meeting once before, just follow me.”
Every decade each sector sent their two Population Prosperity Officers to this meeting. Last time I had been in Justin's shoes. It's an unenviable task but one that had to be dealt with for the good of the ship. Finite resources and energy meant sometimes someone had to make the tough calls before things got too far out of balance.
“Just up here on our left,” I said as we ascended a few steps. “And there she is... the Ministry of Popular Harmony” pointing out a three level structure with a white facade.
Popular Harmony, I thought to myself, in charge of parks, playgrounds, ponds... everything that keeps the population content... and oh yeah, death.
As we entered through the revolving glass doors I recognized some of the other PPO's talking to a woman at the front desk. Motioning to Justin we went and stood in line.
“Good Morning gentlemen," she offered. "How can I assist you?”
“Residential Sector Seven PPO's,” I responded as we showed the secretary our Ident Cards. “We're here for the Decennial meeting.”
“Of course sir," she confirmed. "Just follow the hall on your left and take the lift two levels down.”
“Thank you,” I replied kindly as we collected our Ident Cards and walked towards the hall.
As we walked down the hall Justin turned to ask me a question: “any advice on what I should expect?”
“Hmmph... just relax," I grunted. "We're going to be discussing the ships future needs and how best to ensure our ongoing prosperity. All the other PPO's will be there and we basically just need to hash out a plan that everyone can agree upon.”
“Hash out a plan?" Said Justin looking astonished. "You're talking about peoples lives here not some vid game!”
“Calm down,” I countered. “Don't you think I know that. Look its not easy but if we don't come up with a plan here life on the ship won't be sustainable. We have to weigh the options, food supply, water, air, energy consumption... everything has to be kept in a balanced state or no one on the ship will survive to reach our destination. We need to consider the contributions of every individual, their net costs and benefits to society. I wish there was some other way but there isn't... its just that simple.”
Justin stopped and pulled me to the side of the hallway: “What if there was another way?" he asked. "I mean sure, we keep the balance here in the Habitation Section but who among us really knows when we are going to arrive at our destination?”
“Just what are you saying?” I asked him curiously.
“Look... I'm saying that we don’t exactly
“Are you out of your mind,” I responded sharply. “You know the Control Deck is inaccessible to passengers.”
“We just need to find out where we are going and how long until we get there is all I'm saying," he continued. "Hell, they keep us in the dark back here and this ships been travelling for hundreds of years. Aren’t you at least curious? I mean, what if we're almost there? The ship could support a few thousand more passengers for a few more decades then. Why does anyone have to die before their time?”
Justin had a point. Why needlessly execute thousands of people if we were nearing our destination? The problem was we didn’t really know where we were. Our whole world consisted of the Habitation Section, and once people moved to the Command Section they didn’t come back. My interest had been sparked.
“Alright alright,” I said. “I hear what you're saying... and I have to admit I'm curious. But just how did you think you're going to get any of this information? You cant just stroll up to the airlock, knock and expect them to let you in. There's just no way Justin... no way.”
The corner of Justin's mouth hinted a
Generational Ship Blues by Doug Cosman / Science Fiction have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes