Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Generation Ships

"I'm soooo bored," Bertram said, stretched across one of the chairs in the starship's lounge.

"Me too," Helena said.

"Remember when zero-g sex was exciting?" Bertram said.

"Yeah," Helena replied.

"Want to do it again?"

"Eh. I'd have to walk all the way down the hall to the control center to deactive the artificial gravity."

"I could do it," Bertram said, not sounding particularly motivated. "It's disgusting how uninteresting that is. Remember why we volunteered for this? Because we never had any time alone?"

"That's why you did it. I did it because of your dad's robe in the mornings when he'd stomp from the bedroom to the bathroom. That was flannel only in the academic sense, in the pragmatic sense it was mostly air. He was divorced anyway, why didn't one of the married couples get the bedroom?"

"Because of that noise that you'd hear coming from his room. My older brother told me that's why my mom divorced him."

"That's not genetic, right?" Helena asked.

Bertram evaded the questions. "There's gotta be something to do on this ship. I've read all the books and watched all the movies until I've gone cross-eyed."

"I think we still have some early 21st century literature that we haven't skimmed," Helena said.

Bertram waved his hand dismissively. "Literature my ass. If I wanted to fall asleep I'd just go to bed."

"You're right. They really did a shitty job of supplying us with things to do. How many more years of this?" she asked.

"Thirty-three."

"We're going to turn into Robert and Patricia," Helena said.

"Remember the week of stories that we heard after they'd woken us from stasis?"

Bertram grimaced. "If I had to hear one more story about Mr. Scruffles, one through four, I was going to take a long walk out of a short airlock."

"All they had was those cats and each other."

"The cats seemed to be entertained. When I my maintenance checks I still discover some expertly-hidden treasures."

"Do you remember the diary of the maintainers before Robert and Patricia? 'If Charlie makes that sucking noise with his teeth after dinner again I shall have to staple his face to the outside of the ship,'" Helena said.

"They all went mad."

"I don't want that to happen to us," Helena said.

"It wont, I promise," Bertram said.

The next day, Helena slept in because there wasn't much else to do. She ate breakfast slowly, watched the same documentary about the colonies of Io as she had almost every other morning for years. Or tried to. The video skipped, chopped and eventually stopped working altogether, displaying a "resource not found" error on the tv. She turned it off, finished her breakfast, and went to go find Bertram, who knew the entertainment system better than she.

She found the door to the workroom closed, and knocked. "Bertram?"

"Don't come in," he said as she opened the door.

He stepped between the doorway and the worktable, which did nothing because what he was working on stuck out around him like a spiny halo.

"I said don't come in. I'm working on a surprise for you."

"Well, I'm already surprised. What is it? It looks like a sea urchin," Helena said. It did: a thick next of spines radiated from a central sphere. Wires were strung across it.

"It's an antenna. I want to see if we can pick up some kind of broadcast from the colonies. Something fresh."

"What the hell is that?" she asked, pointing past Bertram to the wall, where several panels had been unattached and their contents eviscerated and scattered around the floor.

"Oh. That. Well, I needed a few parts that I couldn't find in the rummage bin, and I kinda figured that it wouldn't matter if I took 'em out of the ship. There are so many redundant systems and there's not much important stuff up in this part of the-"

"Howdy, pardners!" the ship bellowed. "I've done jettisoned them there stasis pods!"

"Ship," Bertram said, "why are you talking like that?"

"Aw shucks, I seem to have misplaced my other dialect modules!"

"And what did you say?"

"Hey there, little lady, I said that I ejected the stasis pods like so much built-up chaw juice!"

"W-why would you do that?" Helena asked.

"Because, little lady, sometimes a body goes a bit crazy when they get a solid knock on the noggin!"

Bertram took a big step to the left. Helena leaned around him and saw a big, scuffed pipe wrench.

Helena's glare would've melted the heat-resistant panels on the hull of the ship.

"One of the, ah, one of the parts wouldn't budge and, er, I had to use a little, um, a very gentle, minor bit of force," Bertram said, gaining much interest in the tops of his shoes.

"I almost fell off my horse from the blow, little lady, and I don't mean to be a yellow-bellied snitch!"

"So, Ship, all of the stasis pods have been ejected?"

"As sure as my horse is footsore after a long cattledrive, little lady!"

"Are the colonists in the pods...dead?" Helena asked.

"No," Bertram said, before the Ship could practice its colloquialisms, "the stasis pods are self-sufficient and don't draw off of the main power, anyway. And they emit a radio signal."

"They do?" Helena said.

"Yes," Bertram said.

"Then I'm in charge here, and we have to go find them! Will your antenna work to pick up their radio signals?"

"Yes!" Bertram said.

"Then go affix it outside of the ship and hope that I don't lock the door behind you. Ship, chart a course to the nearest pod and get flying!"

"Let's rope us some stasis pods!"

The Moral: according to a poorly understood principle of faster-than-light travel known as the Kinkadian Transformation, all books subjected to the enormous energy necessary for FTL speeds will eventually undergo a phase change into Thomas Kinkade novels.

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