From The Hood : Carry On Captaining

Its lonely at the top, but the view is grand
by Lyndon Hood

Captain’s log, the generation ship Can’t Be Worse, 28 July of the year 164 Post Launch.

I’ve been thinking about the subject of holidays for people who are in charge of things. As you know, this subject is quite important and I think I’ve pretty much nutted out —

Oh hello. Scanner Technician Davis. To what do I owe the pleasure?

You think we’re what?

Oh, pish. This vessel has been travelling along smoothly for generations – particularly smoothly in the last few years though I say so myself – and I happen to know we have never once been hit by an asteroid, so put your mind at rest. Good day.

Where was I? The thing, it seems to me, about holidays, is that it’s very important – probably even worthy of public attention – if someone takes a short holiday when things are going badly, but if things are going well one can take all the holidays one wants. Or to rephrase: it’s fine for me to take a holiday but —

Back again are we?

99% of all your instruments agree that we are going to be hit by an asteroid? Here, let me see.

Well this is just a bunch of numbers isn’t it? I mean, who’s to say what it all adds up to? Now, I’m not a so-called instrument technician myself but I can’t help noticing that this device here isn’t indicating we will be hit by an asteroid in any way. I know it’s a microwave oven. It’s an extremely reliable microwave oven and I find it very convincing. Do you perhaps want to eat your kibble cold for the rest of the trip? I thought not.

Davis, I am entirely aware that the trans-spectral arrays are the most accurate tool we have for discovering what is going on in the space around us. But you have to make some allowances for common sense. I couldn’t possibly take evasive action with this level of uncertainty. I expect you just want more funding for the scanner division.

Do you think you’re captain or something? Your job is to relay scanner data, not tell your commanding officer what to do. I think I know better than you how to run a ship. This is a very, very big vessel and it’s been accelerating steadily for 154 years, and you don’t just go tweaking the course on a whim. It would take a quite unacceptable amount of fuel.

OF COURSE I know where we’re going ! What has that got to do with anything. No I DON’T have to tell you. One more word and you’re on reprimand. Also, make a note, I want to give that microwave oven its own talk show. Good day.

That said, when one is in charge of important things a space vessel containing the last remnants of humanity, what is even better than a holiday is being able to relax as you go. Don’t take it too seriously. Have all the fun you can. Things won’t get to you nearly so much if you avoid caring about them. Davis, I can see you there. Stop standing the doorway trying to terrify me with your puppy-dog eyes and explain yourself.

What is it with you and asteroids?! This is a vast ship, Davis, we won’t destroy it by driving it into one asteroid. No not even a really, really big one. And I expect there’s a lot of iron in this asteroid of yours? See. Always on the lookout for building materials. Speaking of building, think of the immense boost to the construction industry if there is widespread damage. People will think I’m an economic genius.

Could we catch it? Yes, but could we perhaps develop some kind of asteroid-catching technology before it arrives? How far off did you say…?

Ten minutes? I thought you said it was twenty?

I don’t care if that was ten minutes ago you need to get your facts straight before you come interrupting your captain when he’s trying to record his diary! I said I would reprimand you, Davis, and reprimand you I shall. But first I think you need a little history lesson. Are you a student of history? Too wrapped up in your knobs and dials, eh? Well let me give you some perspective.

Humanity, Davis, survives. We survived global warming, which was when the climate of planet Earth began, for no obvious reason, to get hot enough that the things we had done to survive up until that point became inconvenient. We survived the Self-Defence Wars. Have you really not heard of the Self-Defence Wars?

It happened like this: There was a time when it was the thing to do to say that certain specific countries “had the right to self-defence” – irrespective of what other attacks or provocations they may have made, or how egregiously un-self-defending or illegal the actions they undertook in the name of that right.

What? No, it’s not like “for economic growth”. What has that got to do with anything? Stop interrupting, you mìght learn something. So. Eventually first this country’s opponents and then every other nation noticed how this “self-defence” thing worked, and so in due course the entire community of nations attacked each other. In self defence. The resulting global conflagration was described as ‘regrettable’.

Perhaps you know them as the “Trying-To-Get-Some-Food-Because-There’s-Either-Not-Enough-Water-Or-All-Our-Crops-Are-Being-Washed-Away-What-Happened-To-The-Weather Wars”.

Anyway: shortly after that, humanity also survived abandoning the planet and flying off in a more or less random direction on a generation ship – a generation ship which, as I’m sure you do know, they called Can’t Be Worse.

And how, Davis, did humanity survive these things?

If there is an asteroid coming we will deal with it in the grand tradition of our forefathers: We will ward off disaster with the power of belief, Davis, as we did in olden times. We will assume that the future will not be substantially different from the past. And, Davis, everything will basically be okay. For example, I am quite confident I will be fine.

Oh very well then, everyone can have decompression suits. Go see to it. What? Of course I’d prefer not to be hit by an asteroid. Do you want everyone to asphyxiate? Off you toddle then.

You know what’s as good as a holiday? A silly hat. That’s why whenever I see a silly hat I —

I say! What was that?

Hell-ooo? Bridge? What was that big banging shaky crash thing?

Oh. And how did that go?

I see. Well then. Abandon ship everyone.

Hm. So. Hello hello captain’s log: If it should turn out that the last vestiges of humanity have been destroyed on my watch, I think the record clearly show that there was nothing we could reasonably have done to avoid this unforeseeable tragedy. But if our species does survive and someone discovers this record, I want it noted that Technician Davis’ reprimand still stands. Proper discipline needs to be maintained.

Still, not to worry. I’m quite sure something will turn up.

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