Wednesday Afternoon on HMS Barnacle Goose
A Generation Ship Story by jinnis
The emptiness of space lurks behind the observation window, threatens to creep into Mel's heart and soul. She pulls her companion back and turns away, aware of the devastating effect prolonged exposure to the vastness of the universe may have.
On lower deck, behind med, lies the corner of the ship called the bin, the place where severe cases of space sickness end. Mel has no intention to join, but young Betty is heading in this dangerous direction, with her continuous reading and endless questions about space, the ship's functions, and their destination.
Mel reactivates the blinds and picks up her stitching, willing Betty to join her. Nothing like calming embroidery to while away an uneventful off-shift afternoon. But the teenager hates stitching. Instead, she picks up her pad to read. Well, better than stargazing, Mel reckons.
Her gaze wanders fondly over the works of the ancestors decorating the room. It's her burning wish to produce a piece deserving a place in this display, one day. An artwork to be remembered for eternity. Mel sighs. Her goal lies far away in the mists of the future.
Human migratory ship Barnacle Goose, like her sister ships HMS Arctic Tern and HMS Manx Shearwater, left Earth on the bold quest to colonise a new planet. That was twelve generations ago. Twelve generations of dedicated embroiderers left hardly a wall in the living quarters unadorned. There are panels showing legendary Earth landscapes, galleries filled with portraits of famous humans and gracile animals, fantastic flowers and beautiful butterflies.
Mel dreams of creating a tall ship sailing into the setting sun. It's a demanding task, for a woman who never has seen nor will see an ocean. Neither does the concept of sailing make sense to her. But she likes the colour combination of an old picture stored in the digital library. One more time she recalls it on her personal screen, drinks in orange, blue and violet hues before she chooses another thread to stitch a wispy cloud. Betty and her unhealthy interest in science and engineering have slipped her mind.
Derek leans back in his chair and contemplates the words glowing on his screen. Sometimes, he doubts his choice to follow the path of the believer.
The words of the prophet are written on the subway wall.
What does this message mean? With a heavy sigh, he stands up to retrieve another glass of liquid courage, his consolation when duty as the spiritual leader becomes overwhelming.
After half a glass of his favourite relaxation cure, he returns to the screen. From time to time, messages pop up in his personal channel. At first, he thought them a hoax. But soon he learned the cryptic texts conveyed important information. It started with a quote he traced back to an ancient religious book called Exodus.
Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.
Young Derek, then a command trainee, talked to the captain about the disturbing message. Captain Marc shrugged it off. But the next day an asteroid shower battered HMS Barnacle Goose. They lost two maintenance workers on outside repair shift. And Derek won the dubious title of theological ship's counsellor.
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