Baboons In Space
This is the voyage of the starship Humanity. It’s never-ending mission: to take people where people should never ever go
The following transcript is the last message received from Starship Hope, transmitted on March 4th 2088.
So it looks like we’re not going to make it to the four-year mark.
Must have seemed like a smart and stable genius idea to someone, I suppose. Build a big tin can, put three hundred people inside, point it away from the sun. What could possibly go wrong?
Personally I blame the fact too many people spent their time staring open-mouthed at CGI sci-fi and no time whatsoever reading books about actual real things. But hey, who can blame them? Fantasy is always better than reality, right?
So the first problem, as everyone knows, was the solar radiation. Turns out that stuff really matters, at least to the forty-seven people who died slow lingering deaths from so many different kinds of cancer. Which we couldn’t treat in any way because, well, we’re inside a tin can surrounded by empty space with the nearest hospital millions of kilometers behind us and no way to turn around.
But hey, at least those forty-seven got off lightly. A lot of us wish we’d gone in the early days too.
There’s a special kind of madness that comes from knowing your life depends one hundred per cent on everything working perfectly. Because, let’s face it, nothing ever does work one hundred per cent perfectly. Imagine laying awake at night wondering which of the many complex sub-systems we depend on totally is going to fail unexpectedly. And wondering if we’ll have what we need to improvise a temporary repair. That stuff keeps you up at night, especially when night is all the time out here.
And hey, who could possibly have known how much a few hundred people would come to hate, and I mean absolutely hate, eating their own recycled shit and drinking their own recycled pee? For years and years and years into the future forever. Until we die, when we’ll be composted down and recycled into food for the next generation. That’s something to look forward to, right?
The problem with the people who gawped endlessly at Star Trek was: they ignored the fact that it was all fantasy written for kids. The characters looked like real people but they had all the real people parts removed from their psychology.
Turns out, when you’re trapped inside a small tin can in the middle of an endless deadly vacuum filled with lethal radiation that’s killing you slowly, you can get really tired of seeing the same faces and hearing the same noise coming out of their mouths day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
So it’s no surprise that some bad stuff started to happen. And equally no surprise when we reacted like real people always do: we panicked and stopped thinking entirely.
That’s how the gangs got formed. If you weren’t in a gang, you were fucked. If you were in a gang, you were fucked. We fought over territory, over access to the recycled shit-crackers, over everything. Turns out we humans are pretty good at improvising nasty little weapons out of anything we can get our hands on.
The upside: plenty of material to compost to recycle into new food.
At least when we were in gangs we’d get out and roam the corridors, protecting our turf and taking care of any opposing gang member stupid enough to get caught. Then the virus came. Sure, it didn’t actually cause much harm but hey, we’re only people, right? So we all panicked some more and locked ourselves in our quarters and covered over the ventilation ducts so we wouldn’t breath in the virus we’d turned, inside our heads, into an existential threat.
And sure, plenty of us suffocated in our rooms and plenty committed suicide but hey, that’s a small price to pay for the luxury of indulging in mindless panic. Our last medic ran the stats and apparently we saved three crew lives by panicking. Shame a total of sixty-one died because of the things they were doing to save themselves from the virus. But hey, that’s how it goes when you’re human.
So now we’re down to eighty-six of us left, according to the biosigns monitor. But that could have been rigged. I mean, you wouldn’t believe the conspiracies going on around here. Some of us are convinced we’re not in space at all but inside some secret government experiment. Others point out that we’re in zero-G but that doesn’t cut it; I mean, maybe those government scientists worked out how to create zero-G on Earth. It could happen, right?
A variant of this theory is that we’re being studied by a race of aliens who want to know the best ways to probe us.
Some of the people in my area think there’s a pedophile ring being run by the opposing gang; they want to do a big raid tomorrow to free the thousands of child-slaves being held. I’m on the fence here. I mean, I want to free the child-slaves too but I’m fuzzy on how they got there. Maybe it’s true that they were smuggled on board before we left. I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.
Maybe we shouldn’t have killed the captain and the senior officers. I mean, democracy sounded real sweet, especially when we were all riled up because she told us we couldn’t cut the life support systems in order to build a huge indoor laser-tag facility. Most of us were totally behind the idea that a tiny elite shouldn’t tell us what we can and can’t do. But maybe we didn’t expect the fact that Joe McClunky would get elected Supreme Leader and that his first order would end up suffocating more than twenty people before we turned the life support systems back on.
But the McClunky people say no one died, it was all fake news spread by the people who hate him because he’s a genius. So maybe that’s true. Fact is, no one knows any more.
You could say the rapes and killings weren’t the best side of human nature but realistically that’s who we are. And as our Leader says, if you don’t want to be raped and killed then you shouldn’t get yourself born in the first place. Sounds reasonable to me.
By the way, do you know how empty space is? Really fucking empty. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing out here. Nothing at all. So why did we do all of this? I mean, what was it all for? Even living in Cleveland is better than being in the middle of infinite nothing forever and ever and ever. Nothing sucks. Big time.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where this is all heading and I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere I want to be. And besides, do you know how cooped-up you get after being stuck in the same small tin can for nearly four years?
So I got me a plan: I’m going to open the space lock and take a look outside. As the primary and secondary systems broke a while ago, maybe because of the fighting or maybe because that’s just what complicated systems do, it means when I open the door all the air will rush out of our little tin can but hey, there’s a price to be paid for everything, right?
I sure do hope the view will be worth it.