1034 words (4 minute read)

Chapter 2

Three months into my job as a communications officer and I think I’m finally becoming comfortable with the position. There have been some stressful situations.  I still tense up whenever a Mil-ship’s beacon appears on my board, but I’ve gotten to know the com-officers on most of the bigger Mils and it’s not hard to cut through the hyperbole that they can’t help but use.

 This morning is no different. I slide into my com chair and put on my gear. It’s almost routine now. My panel lights up with the beacon from ‘Forty Seven- Ay- Nine Bee’, a bot-ship. You can tell by the ship name. Years ago Bot ships stripped themselves of their original designations and switched to a numeric naming system. The computers that run most of the systems on those ships decided that it was a much more logical system than naming a ship after what they considered random historical figures. So the ‘Claudio Frances’ became 47-A9B and 174 other vessels also had their names transformed into similarly creative monikers. They expected every other ship in the fleet to follow suit but the trend began and ended with the bot ships. It seems people really liked the history and identity that came with their ship’s names. Over the centuries, a lot of the bot ships reverted back to their original names, and others became a hybrid of the two designations. Forty Seven Ay Nine Bee wasn’t one of them. It was steadfast in its logic and that was evident in the computerized voice that came through the system.

‘Cassius, SN-192-1A, please transmit personnel manifest for upcoming Fleet Conference’

 ‘Hi 47, how are you this morning.’ Just because I was talking to a computer doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be cordial. Also, I enjoyed joking around with the botships. It was strange, but it took me a while to find out that they actually have a sense of humor.

 ‘Cassius, SN-192-1a, the rotational speeds of your vessel and 47-A-9B are not consistent so the mornings do not coincide. This vessel is currently in it’s evening cycle’

 ‘Oh really? So do you have a hot date lined up 47? ’

 ‘This day’s heat index is consistent with the average. It is neither hot nor cold. Please transmit personnel manifest for upcoming Fleet Conference’

 I spin my chair around towards Barry. ‘Hey, is the Conference manifest ready to be sent? 47-A-9B is on the line asking for ours.’

 ‘Yeah, they’re the ones hosting it this year.’ Barry walked over to me and pulled up the manifest document from the secure files.

 I hit the transmit button and immediately got a response.

 ‘Thank You Cassius, SN-192-1A. See you soon.’

 ‘You’re welcome 47. Transmission End. Hold on, what do you mean See you soon?’. But I had already closed the channel.   

Barry put his hand on my shoulders. ‘I have good news, and I have bad news.’

‘Wait a minute.’ My heart is racing, both from fear and excitement.

‘We’re sending you to the Fleet Conference to represent the Cassius’.

 This is incredible. This is horrible. It’s definitely unexpected.

 ‘I don’t know what to say. Why me? I mean, I’m the newest person in the division. I just got here a few months ago and now they’re sending me to represent Cassius at Fleet Conference?’ Hearing myself say it outloud didn’t make it seem any more real.

Barry stood beside me, ‘Look, you’ve done a great job so far. You have a natural talent for communications and people have taken notice. Sending you to Fleet is the higher ups way of saying they see you going places. Hundreds of years of diplomacy at the Fleet Conference has kept the human race together and you will get to be a part of that’

 ‘Okay, now you’re just screwing with me’

‘Also, no one else wants to go. Fleet Conference is the most boring thing ever devised by the human race. And you’re the new guy, so you get the spot.’

 Fleet Conference is a gathering of representatives from all of the vessels in the fleet to decide on supposedly important matters that affect every ship of the fleet. According to the history lessons we’re all taught, when the Journey first began, there were constant disputes between the ships. Skirmishes would break out over trade agreements. The fleet would almost come to a standstill because of disputes over navigational changes. Basic cultural differences would cause untold tensions. After the LastWar, where 12 vessels were destroyed, taking with them 32 million lives, people realized that something had to change. The Fleet was all that was left of the human race and it would be tragic to go extinct over what amounted to petty squabbles. The Fleet Conference was created to settle any major disputes and make major decisions. And it worked. It worked extremely well. So well that there hasn’t been a war in  hundreds of years. It also means that Fleet Conferences have become more of a burden than a grand democratic organization. Now, vessels are almost completely self sustaining and self governing. There’s little need for the Fleet Conference to interfere with anything. So the result is that the Conference has become a rote exercise where representatives sit in a room and decide on nothing. Actually, it’s been decades since anyone with any real authority has shown up at Fleet Conference. Now it’s all seconds who would need to confer with their leaders back on their ship before making any real decisions. So it’s full of people in rooms who can’t make any decisions, talking about all of the decisions that they aren’t there to make.  But we still do it. Partly because it’s kept the peace all these years. But I believe the bigger reason is to remind everyone that we’re still together. We’re still the human race. That’s why I was excited to hear that I was going to represent my ship at Fleet Conference.

 But still, it was going to be so boring.   

Next Chapter: Chapter 3