The name is provisional and may well change when I’ve edited and come up with a better name for the ship.
I came up with an idea a while back when talking to my four year old son, about the kind of things you discuss with four year old boys, and let it bounce around in my head a bit before I put finger to keyboard. I haven’t finished it yet as I’ve had a lot on recently, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait for the twist, but this is what I have so far, unedited and possibly a bit on the raw side…
It had been three long years since the alarm had sounded. In that time every resource available had been drawn upon, to build mighty ships capable of carrying enough of the technical and scientific classes, animals, plants and knowledge away from the earth to find somewhere to settle and create a new, habitable planet. Perhaps one which would be a good enough distance from any asteroid belts to minimise the risk of a similarly catastrophic meteor strike to the one which was currently threatening the end of existence on this small blue-green satellite.
Hank still wasn’t entirely sure why he’d been picked as one of the “chosen ones”, a geologist by education his main interest was palaeontology, Precambrian for preference. It was a bit of a niche field of study but for some reason it had taken him away from his laboratory and his rocks and placed him here, amongst the intelligentsia and those with special talents.
There were some upsides, of course. For one thing when the town sized meteorite actually hit and wiped out an estimated 95% of all the life on earth he would no longer be there for the resulting swings in climate and environmental upheavals. There was also the fact that he would be heading off into the infinite blackness of space, it was what every child dreamed of and what many adults aspired to, but he wasn’t so sure it was as exciting when the crew was 2,000 strong and he wouldn’t have anything to do with pressing the buttons that changed course, accelerated or slowed down the Pathfinder, as the ship had been unimaginatively designated after a six month worldwide brainstorm.
Another advantage that he hadn’t originally thought about was that the average age of the people picked for the mission was 23, Hank being slap bang in the middle of this range, which meant that the other crew members were similar to him and, in a lot of cases, seemed to be quite attractive. He wasn’t sure that anyone in the government had thought about this, let alone the sexual tension that would be created under these circumstances, a couple of thousand frustrated scientists, engineers and, generally, geeks, who weren’t really used to hanging out with the opposite gender, let alone being stuffed together in a flying box not a lot larger than a decent sized tower block. Still, Hank had always been more comfortable than most others in his classes around women and hoped this would give him a bit of an advantage, when it came to finding something to do on those long, or in fact constant, nights!
The proximity was also leading to tensions of other sorts and on more than one occasion Hank had entered a room to be greeted with angry silences from the engineers and aerospace technicians who were attempting to get the machine ship shape, so to speak, before it was due to take off in less than 24 hours’ time. Just now though, this was none of Hanks concern. He had got hungry early tonight so had made his way to the eating quarters at seven o’clock, instead of his usual nine. He’d always been a bit of a night owl and that didn’t seem to have changed after leaving university.
What a difference a couple of hours made, there were people from wall to wall and the conversation bounced off the ceiling and was almost deafening in its intensity. Hank headed for the food bar and got himself some salad and something that vaguely resembled meat, then looked around for a seat, they seemed to be in high demand and he had to jostle through the crowds of bespectacled people to wedge himself unceremoniously between a thin, drawn looking man and a curvaceous woman, both of whom looked slightly uncomfortable at his incursion.
He started eating but slowly became aware of the conversation taking place around him. The man was trying to speak quietly to a muscular guy across the table, but the volume of people and conversation made this difficult. Anyway what they were talking about sounded like it should have been more confidential. ‘One of the rocketists,’ this was the slang for the “actual” rocket scientists, ‘was telling the flight planner that he didn’t think the materials they were using were man enough to take the strain, said they were better before we went all biodegradable! Apparently a thousand years ago we’d have been using carbon fibre and metal, instead of all this plastech and polymet shit. It wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t returned all the non-recyclables into the earth, let alone the fact that it seems to have upset the tectonic stability of the planet.’
The talker’s compatriot leaned back in his chair and placed his long, thin hands behind his shiny head. ‘Last I heard they were worried about the lateral stabilisers. My guess would be that we’ll get into space and start spinning like a Ferris wheel. On the bright side at least we might make ourselves some artificial gravity in the process.’