Archive for April, 2013

April 20, 2013: 2:42 pm: Pavaria, writing

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming,” said the woman in the grey flannel suit. “I’m Cynthia Wong, Chief Administrator of the Non-Aligned Space Administration. We know a lot of you have heard rumors and leaks about plans for a colony ship or ships. We’re here to let you know which of those rumors to believe,”

The room of 50 or so reported laughed appreciatively.

“To make our official announcement, I’d like to welcome the head of the project, Captain Damiao Corallo.”

Polite applause greeted the young man in the nation-neutral uniform of NASA’s vestigial military arm. The uniform was a barely modernized copy of the US Air Force uniform from which NASA had once grown. The current US Air Force wore nothing like it.

Captain Corallo looked much too young to lead an important project like this. But he met the skeptical reporter’s gaze with a steady intelligent look.

“Thank you administrator. Thank you members of the press. No, a wayward teenager from Sao Tome did not accidentally steal the Captain’s uniform, I am Captain Corallo.” The press laughed and what little tension there may have been, broke. He was certainly a charming man.

“They needed a young man because this project will take decades. In short, we plan to build and launch 6 colony ships on long-term, one way trips, delivering a total of 100,000 humans to identified habitable planets.”

The room erupted in applause. All the rumors had pointed to this ambitious plan.

“This is NASA’s answer to the World Contingency Challenge, put forth by the United Nations in response to the ongoing crisis. We believe the crisis is solvable. But we also specialize in space travel. And we have received partial funding already and are confident we can achieve full funding for this project.

“We are making this announcement at the start. So many decisions have yet to be made. But the goal is clear. Build vessels to take large numbers of humans safely to live on other worlds.”

The Captain paused to let that sink in. The room was silent.

“Thousands of years ago, Scandinavians moves through the oceans in longships. They made incredible voyages, reaching distant shores against incredible odds. These will be our modern longships. They will voyage much farther than any human endeavor but they will carry the same spirit. To survive and to explore.

“We honestly have spent most of our time up until now securing basic financial backing. Insuring the continuation of our nickname the “No Amount Sent Away” agency,” snickers. Nobody really called it that anymore. It wasn’t that clever to begin with.

“And i’ve stated our goal. But I will take questions. And most of the answers will be ‘we don’t know yet’ so be prepared.”

Reporters asked the usual questions and Captain Corallo delivered the promised answers. A few details such as dates for future announcements were given but not much.

Finally an aging reporter that had kept silent raised his hand, catching the Captain’s eye.

“Ekachai Ratanaruang, from The Guardian. What will the names of the ships be?”

The Captain got an odd look on his face. “They will not be named until they are ready to launch. That will be my final press conference, should I live that long.”

The Administrator appeared at the Captain’s side at that point thanking him and shaking his hand.

“That’s all the time we have for questions right now. Luncheon is set in the outer conference hall. And I’ll be leading a tour of our Kenyatta headquarters for those who haven’t been here before. Thank you again for coming.”

: 12:26 am: Pavaria, writing

The old man was winding to a halt and the reporters began to fidget and jockey to get the first question.

“… Which is why the four longships that will serve as colony arks will be named,” and here he beamed as he saw the reporters caught out mid-fidget. They had not been told they would get the actual names of the arks. “The Qiu, Majira, Zima, and Primavera.”

“Now, I can take a few questions.”

Most of the reporters were caught trying to make sure they had capped the name announcement. A bright young reporter in a fashionable tan moodsuit caught the old man’s eye.

“What can you say about the government on the arks. Will it be a military dictatorship as many have described it?”

Not so bright after all, sighed the old man to himself.

“The longships are in fact ships. They need a crew and that crew needs to be qualified. And it will need to train the next crew. And in cases of ship wide emergency it needs to be able to command operations for the preservation of the ship. So the highest officer on board will be the Captain.

“However, when the Captain is not ruling on a ship matter, he will be restrained by the council of settlements. A small council with one elected representative from each settlement area. They will elect a council head who will act as executive in non-ship matters.

“That council will also appoint judges tasked with reviewing the decisions of the council and the captain and resolving grievances. Too much democracy in an environment this constrained could lead to inadvertent disaster by the untrained. Too much dictatorship and the society will revolt and collapse. We believe we’ve struck a balance.”

“It’s a typical three-part check and balance system with a weak executive then?” Said the reporter without looking up from note-taking. Maybe some brightness in there after all.

“Exactly,” the old man snapped. “Except,” and this made the reporter look up. “Once the ship launches, we can’t control it any more. They can decide to switch their government the moment they’re out of orbit.

“So the real answer about what kind of government they’ll have, genre actions down the line when the arks finally reach their destinations, is, we don’t know!” The old man smiled. He wished he was going with them.

April 17, 2013: 4:29 pm: Pavaria, writing

“So are you going to Observation Night, Munji?” she asked.

“Ugh,” was all the tall dark-haired scientist could manage. He had both hands in a tub of viscous fluid. Tracy couldn’t tell if he was reacting to her or the fluid.

“Is that no?” she wrinkled her nose.

He pulled out his hands, thankfully revealing gloves and began to rinse them off. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “It just seems like a cruise ship sort of thing to do. I wouldn’t have done something like that back on Earth. Why change?”

Tracy shrugged. “I think it’s nice. Our first chance to all get together and see the star we’re headed to.”

“Our descendants. Our long distant descendants are headed to. We’ll be recycled a million times over by then,” he corrected, taking off his gloves and starting to put away his tools.

Tracy took a seat up on one of the counters across from him and watched him work. She giggled, “Yeah OK. But you make my point. We’ll be part fo them sort of. It’s the whole reason we’re here.”

Munji paused. “It’s true. I wouldn’t have signed up for this one way trip to the grave in space if I didn’t believe in it. But I can go look at the stars anytime. The trains run several times a day you know. And then I can stop at the park along the way. Take it at my own pace instead of on somebody else’s schedule.”

“I don’t like the park. There’s a bear there. Why’d they put a bear in the park? Anyway you wouldn’t be looking at the stars alone this time. That’s the point! Imagine if all 10,000 people on the Primavera show up! It might be the only time we all stand together as one. Certainly the first time. We’re the founders of a new society Munji. Don’t you want to feel a part of that?”

Munji finished putting away the last of his things. “I feel a part of that every day. Besides, won’t it throw the ship out of balance if we all stand in one place?”

She knew he was kidding. “Oh please. Even if we all crowd together and jump up and down at the same time, it might register as a seismic event ont he Bridge but it wouldn’t do anything to this ships course and trajectory. You know how much non-human matter there is in this behemoth. What about that?” she pointed at the tub of fluid.

Munji made an ‘oh right’ face and picked up the tub to put it in a storage compartment. “Thanks. That would have spoiled and I’d have lost a day of work.”

“So thank me by taking me to Observation night,” she grinned.

Munji shrugged. “Fine. For one night I’ll surrender myself to the plans of the most gigantic cruise ship int he known universe. It will be fun to see it along with everyone who’s fathering this future race. Who knows if they’ll ven be humans still by the time they get there.”

Tracy slipped her hand in Munji’s as they left the Lab.

Some time later

Trella sat on the edge of the metal road on the boarded of the north Wildlands. Everyone told her she was nuts to venture out there alone. All manner of wild animals and mutants roamed the wildlands from North to South. Many people had been injured or killed there. But she couldn’t help herself. Those people had ventured into the wildlands. She just sat on the edge. She loved climbing the metal road where it rose in the air like a bridge over nothing. And nothing could get up there to get her without her seeing ti coming far away.

And the real treat was getting to see the skyline of Fisher Heights. The abandoned city stood on top of the highest point in the wildlands, separating north from south. She longed to visit there, but she wasn’t headstrong enough to go there alone. That would truly be dangerous. But someday. Somehow, she’d find someone as intrigued as her and they’d venture in to find the secrets. Some folks talked that the abandoned tunnels under her hometown of Vash somehow connected to Fisher Heights. Agains, not something you wanted to investigate on your own and without proper defenses.

“Excuse me,” a voice said shocking her so much she almost fell off the bridge. “Is this the way to Vash? I’m headed for the Hope Night festivities.”

Trella was on her feet almost screaming. “How in god’s glass did you sneak up on me like that!”

The man looked suddenly very embarrassed. “I’m so sorry. You were so lost in thought, I should have realized. My apologies Lady.” The man gave a bow of formality. Trella finally noticed he wore a white coat and the braids of a Captain’s Man.

“You’re a priest! Are you from Thelb?” her eyes widened. Vash had priests but they were all from Vash, ordained in the far away priest’s city of Thelb, and returned home to serve. A visit from a real priest of Thelb was a rarity. And this one had braids which meant he was in the Captain’s service! A high-ranking priest indeed.

“From Bridgeton actually,” he stammered. “I was ordained in Thelab though, of course. I’ve been there many times. The train still runs there.”

She noticed he pronounced Thelb funny with an extra syllable at the end. She tried to rememebr that so she could say it right and impress people in the future. Who it would impress, she hadn’t thought through.

“Pardon my manners,” she returned his bow of formality and held her head down waiting for him to say the words to release her.

“It’s OK. I’m not very good at being a priest. They warned me about that when I got them to let me travel here. Told me I was foolish and likely get killed. Um, so you can look at me again.”

Trella slowly looked up. He was an odd priest. She risked a question since he didn’t seem to follow the usual priestly rules. “Did you say you actually saw a train? A real train? Did it really run underground?”

He laughed a little. “Not only saw it but got inside and rode in it. A few times actually. But it’s all overland on that route. No tunnels for me. I wasn’t ill.”

She didn’t know what to make of this last bit but didn’t want to appear ignorant, so laughed at what she hoped was some kind of jest.

“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to startle you. But I hope to get to Vash before dimming. It is Hope Night, yes?”

She nodded. “Yes, you’re just in time. Dimmings not for a few rotations yet, and we’re less than a half rotation from Vash. I live there. I should probably be getting back anyway. I can show you the way if you like?”

“I’d like that very much,” the priest smiled. “I was hoping not to have to view Hope Night alone,” he ventured.

She looked at him again. Was he asking her? “well nobody ever views Hope Night alone. That’s the whole point. We gather to give the hope point our energy so that it grows bigger. But I’d be happy to accompany you there too,” she got nervous and almost whispered, “if you wish.”

The priest just nodded as they began the walk to Vash.