We knew it was coming for one hundred and fifty years and we still couldn’t do anything about it. It was the end for all but the tiniest fraction of us. Those of us lucky enough to be chosen would be taking the hopes and dreams of everyone else along with us. The time between the warning and the departure wasn’t wasted by any stretch of the imagination, but you can imagine how motivated people would be to work on the project knowing that they would never be able to take advantage of it personally. There were even acts of sabotage. Imagine someone so desperate that rather than send someone else on, they would condemn the entire race to death. Of course, this kind of thing had been foreseen and taken into account by the planners of the project, and the sabotage caused barely a dent in the overall pace.
It wasn’t until we got within a couple of years of finishing that things started to get really out of control. Those who weren’t chosen started not showing up for work in large groups, causing huge slowdowns. Fortunately, this too had been predicted, and all the work that was left at the end was finishing details – little enough that most of it could be completed by those among the chosen few who had technical skill in those areas (and you can be sure that every area of expertise was represented in the group).
We had been shuttling up to the vessel for a couple of months prior to the departure, but the day we were to leave, there were still some who hadn’t come aboard. As with any enterprise this massive, there were some snags, but eventually, everyone was where they needed to be, and those few who had attempted to stow away were sent back.
Speeches were made, a real, actual bottle of champagne was broken over the bow of the ship, and the gargantuan engines were fired up. I wasn’t old enough at the time to remember the day, but I’ve been told the stories – we lined up at the viewports while the massive ship shuddered out of Earth’s gravity well, leaving behind doomed billions to the fate the unstable Sun had in store for them in a few short years.
I ran along the concourse on J deck, heading home. School had let out early for the day, in preparation for the celebration tomorrow. Tomorrow would mark the 8th anniversary of Launch Day , our departure from Earth. In 8 years of constant acceleration, we’d made it past the orbit of Neptune – four and a half billion kilometers in three thousand days – not bad, considering the mass that had to be moved.
I skidded around the corner of the corridor that led to the block of apartments where my family lived and ran right into one of the Ship’s blue-uniformed officers hurrying on an errand of his own. He glanced down at me, and his stern face broke into a smile.
“Be careful,” he warned me. “You don’t want to run into someone carrying something fragile.”
I nodded my agreement, then trotted off down the hallway at a slightly slower pace. I glanced back over my shoulder to see the officer watching after me. Quickly turning my head away, I ducked down a side hallway and out of sight. I waited a couple of minutes, then glanced back around the corner to see if the officer was still there. He wasn’t, so I continued down the hallway to my actual destination: home. As friendly as he’d seemed, I didn’t want to get on the bad side of any of the Ship’s officers. A hierarchy had established itself in the few short years since we’d left Earth, and given that my parents were mere maintenance workers, I was definitely in the lower echelons of Ship citizens. Anything that I did wrong would reflect badly on my parents and we could lose what few privileges we had.
The Ship’s complement was a society unto itself. Sure, we had a charter that delineated all the rights and responsibilities of those aboard, but we were already 4 hours away from radio contact with Earth, and the only authority on board was that which had been established already, namely, what those who commanded the ship said, went. From what I’d seen, this wasn’t always a bad thing, but it sure wasn’t always a positive, either.
I headed home at a slower pace, keeping an eye out for more officers and other kinds of trouble. I got home and slipped in the door. Our home was modest, but not poor. We’d been able to bring some furniture from our home on Earth, not that I remembered it well. The Ship had always been home, as far as I was concerned. My parents were both on-shift and neither my brother nor my sister seemed to have gotten home from their schools yet, either. I had the apartment to myself for a little while. I took advantage of this to turn the wall-mounted TV screen to one of my favourite programs. Being youngest had its downsides, and one was that I always got last say in what was showing on the screen. The only times I got to watch what I wanted were when there was nothing else on that someone else wanted to see, or times, like now, when I was home alone. I’d tried petitioning my parents for my very own screen in my & my brother’s room, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Requisitioning a TV screen for a third child was not high on my parents’ list of priorities, especially since I was the reason they almost didn’t make it onto the flight.
They never talked about it, but I’d heard enough at school to know that the ship’s charter included strict provisos about population control, and my status as a third child had made it questionable whether my parents would be allowed on board. I’m not sure what got them on in the end. It can’t have been any particular skill set needed, since my parents both worked fairly low-end maintenance positions. Perhaps there had been a lack of children in some other area of the ship. All I knew is that we’d made it on board despite my presence, and so making a fuss over their third child was not something my parents were likely to do.
As I sat on the old green couch in the living room, listening to the TV with only part of my awareness, my mind wandered. I’m certain that everyone who made it on board wondered at one time or another what was going to become of family and friends they’d left behind. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of a star suddenly deciding to be unstable, but the Sun had done just that. Strange readings that hadn’t made any sense had been interpreted by an at-the-time visionary solar scientist. His findings had at first been ridiculed, then when predictions that he’d made about the sun’s activity started to come true, his findings had been studied, and eventually, confirmed. It’s then that someone had floated the idea of an ark, of sorts. There was no way that we could have stabilised the Sun, so enough of us had to leave the area it would shortly devastate. The next three generations had mostly dedicated themselves to a project that would not, in all likelihood, benefit them at all personally.
There had been a lot of resistance to the project at first, starting with people who didn’t want to believe the evidence plainly in front of them. When the big governments started to get on board, there were some citizen riots, and some deaths. Enough people were thinking right that things started to happen, though. An asteroid was towed to Earth orbit, hollowed out and fitted with reaction engines. Scientists from every discipline studied the problem of how to outfit a ship that would outlast its first occupants, for it was to be a multi-generational ship and everything possible would have to be done in order to keep it running as long as possible. The trip to the nearest habitable planet would take many generations, and the ship couldn’t give out halfway there. There would be no coming back to re-provision, either. The ship and its occupants had plundered the Earth to save as much of it as we could. Six million souls and as many species in embryonic cryopreservation as we could find. No, our departure of Earth was nearly as devastating as the coming solar cataclysm on those left behind. No wonder people had tried to stow away, or stow their kids somewhere on board. No wonder people who hadn’t made the list had been angry enough to attempt sabotage. Fortunately for us, and for the human race and all the animals and plants we carried with us, none of these attempts had been successful.
I sat lost in my thoughts on the couch when the door opening startled me. My sister was home.
“Hi, Moss,” she called out as she spotted me.
“Hey, ‘Belle,” I called back. “You get out early, too?”
“Just a little bit,” she replied. “It was apparently up to the teacher, and my last class is geo-trig. My prof’s just a little too in love with cosines to let us go a lot early.”
I chuckled a little. “Do you think Aric will get out early, too?”
“I doubt it,” she called back from the kitchen, where she was rummaging through the fridge. “He’s got all 4th year classes now, and those profs are really strict, ‘cause they’re trying to get the kids in their classes to pick something to do after grad.”
“Right,” I nodded to the top of her head, “But Aric already knows what he wants to do after grad.”
“I know,” ‘Belle said to me over the open door of the fridge. “But there’s a bunch of guys in his class that have no idea, and the prof can’t exactly let some people go early for Launch Day and keep the rest behind.” She rolled her eyes at me, then went back to searching through the food.
I turned my attention back to the program on the screen, but when ‘Belle sat down next to me with a handful of snacks, she grabbed the remote away from me and flipped over to an infotainment program that bored me. I got up and headed to my room, knowing that I wouldn’t
** Author’s Note: Ended in the middle of a sentence, yay me! Anyway, this one was explicitly set out as an allegorical retelling of the story of Moses, with Moss eventually leading the oppressed of the generational ship to the “promised land” of a habitable planet. Not sure why I didn’t write more, though.
The reason there are three stories marked 2007 is that I attempted a couple times during the year to get a novel going, but bailed on both of the attempts (A & B), as well as the officially “WriMo” attempt.