Thinking about James's question
about stories with generation ships that don't have spectacular failures of mission, and the subesquent claim by some of his followers that you don't get a story unless you have mission failure.
Ron and Don and Lina are poking at their futures. Don's got it stitched: Lina's not so sure: and Ron's ready to declare himself mass for the compost.
"It's not that hard," Lina says. "There's seven hundred and thirty-two of us in Approaching Track, and there's seven hundred and eighty possible slots for us to step into, counting the Long Training and Waiting List slots as well as the Short Training and Immediate Opening slots. There has to be something there that appeals."
Ron makes a face. He hasn't told anybody that there is something that appeals, it's just not on the lists. Anywhere. There's only one person at a time who does it, and that person has just taken on the job, and she's healthy, sane, young, and happy in her work. There's no way that he'll ever do it, not in this lifetime. The one lifetime he has.
Other than that, what he'd really like -- he'd really like to travel. He used to say so, until he got tired of hearing the obvious answer. "You are
travelling, Ronnie, we're all travelling, every minute
of every day
we're passing vast distances of the universe."
Yeah, right, and all he got to show for it was different coordinates when he looked up the generation ship's position. The view never changed. The air never changed ("you should be glad of that, kid," his big sister said, "because if the air changed you might only know about it for a few minutes."). And the people never changed. Not really. Individuals replaced each other, over time, yes. Somebody died. Not very often. Somebody was born. Not very often, and usually in small drifts, several at a time, so they would have a cohort.
Like Ron and Don and Lina, who were part of a larger cohort of fifty age mates, within a still larger group of close age grades -- three hundred of them within several years
of age, almost half of Approaching Track -- everybody older than infancy and not yet tracked in their adult jobs. The ones not yet locked in.
Ron didn't want to be locked in. He wanted to be moving, getting out, seeing things different from his little world. "It's not natural to live like this," he said. "We evolved with five hundred and ten million square kilometers of surface area to move around on. Not counting the air or below the surface of the land and water --"
"You'd better not count it," Lina said. "We didn't evolve burrowing and diving and flying."
"You only even know those words from history," Ron complained, with an air that implied that this somehow proved whatever point he was making.
"So what the hell do you want?" Don said, finally impatient. "You want to go back in time and stay the fuck back? You want to get in a little pod and take off on your own? What?"
"I don't know," Ron said. "But I sure don't want to be trapped into some stupid little job counting cleaner viruses my whole life like my mother."
Ron's mother had already told Lina's mother how worried she was. "He's just like Sandy," Seesee said. "I hoped and hoped he'd be different, but it's not like that at all."
"He's different," Maxine said. "He's much smarter than your brother was. And much more restless, at a much younger age. Ever since he could walk and talk."
"You're not making me feel any better," Seesee said. Sandy was a terrible tragic story. He went off the rails in his late teens, and by the time he had succeeded in figuring out how to destroy himself, he had put the whole ship at risk several times.
"But somehow, Ron seems more stable than Sandy was. I don't know how he could be more restless and still more stable."
"Seeming never tells you much."
Lina's face shimmered before them. "Momma, find Seesee -- oh, Seesee, come on over to High Jade, hurry, before we have to call Cleanup! It's Ron --"
"What's he done?"