31 March 2013

Do you have a ticket to ride?

Planning for the Escape - and those who can't.

In my previous post, I gave an overview of the situation where a planet's populace must escape an inevitable collision with a comet. Fortunately (at least, for now), I was not referring to Earth but to the planet Ghoupallesz which is the setting for much of THE DREAM LAND Trilogy. Oh, it's just fiction, some may sigh in relief, but that is exactly the point: fiction gives us the means of testing theories, role-playing scenarios, practicing before we need to do the real thing.

It may be appropriate, or simply a weird coincidence, that this post falls on Easter weekend when many people around the world worship their savior and hope for salvation. Saved from a lifetime of bad choices? Or saved from an invading planetoid? Aside from questions of why God would allow a comet to destroy the Earth---or a flood, for that matter---we can still consider how society, its people and its priorities, would react when such a disaster is due.

Today, I wish to offer a sample of THE DREAM LAND Book III to illustrate one problem a futuristic society may encounter: how to deal with mass hysteria, diminishing productivity just when it is needed most to prepare for evacuation, and how schools would prepare children for their future roles on a new home world. The following excerpt is from Act III of Book III. It's still under construction, but you may get started on Book I "Long Distance Voyager" right now and Book II "Dreams of Future's Past" will be available in the summer.

[Background: Gina Parton (a.k.a., Jinetta, Queen of Fenula), the female protagonist from Book I and "long lost love" of Sebastian Talbot (a.k.a. legendary warrior Set-d'Elous) has stumbled through the wrong interdimensional doorway, thus arriving in the far future when the planet is facing total annihilation with the approach of a comet. All resources in society are directed toward preparing to evacuate the planet---at least for those who can fit on the spaceships! To provide for her two children, Gina takes a factory job....]

The first task Gina was assigned to do was put the small silver disk squarely into the slightly larger silver tube and insert a pin. then make sure the disk would spin freely within the confines of the tube. Once satisfied, she put the item back on the moving conveyor and returned her attention to making another one. It had a complicated scientific-engineering-astrophysics name she hated trying to say. Part 17-A-67009 was what she called it instead.
After a few months of making that part she was advanced to a more complex part, then again after a few weeks to a very sophisticated part which earned her the right to sit at a table covered in tiny boxes of tiny parts and assemble Part 8518-G-161695 one after another. In a typical shift of 80 peth—a peth equaling about 18 minutes, she kept teaching to her children so they would be prepared for life back on Earth—she could produce between 90 and 100 of the devices, each consisting of 38 components. She had no idea how the part was used but she was good at making them and won praise from her supervisor.
At least she was able to get work, earn food rations if no wages, and have a quaint place for her and her children to sleep at night. Her children, Zaura the precocious blonde probably in appearance an 11-year-old in Earth time and Xix the boy who became an accident of her escape journey and who was dull and expressionless, had both been assigned to an education facility. More like indoctrination, thought Gina, but she had no choice in this society. Schools did not meet formally any longer; instead, educated volunteers taught what knowledge and skills would be needed in the future aboard the vehicles that would save them from annihilation. They were taught gardening, mostly. Boys were drilled in engineering skills, and girls were taught the wonders of fertilization and reproduction. It was believed that every maiden would need to produce five offspring, preferably by five different males, in order to continue the community once they all disembarked on a new world from what was being called the xænafi—‘ether ship,’ for it was believed that outer space was filled with an invisible substance called through which a vessel would move with resistance. An old tradition. Yet the name stuck: xænafi, or in the meta-sense of a multigenerational spaceship, the honorific was applied, thus xænafaxii referred to the whole project to save Ghoupalle-kind from an undeserved fate.
The schools also taught about the proper use of the colored bôb medication system, to which she secretly objected. She needed to keep her wits and focus on her delicate task. No room for sedation or anti-depression drugs or something to feign comatose calmness for the anxiety-prone. Regular warnings were sounded throughout the day: “If you feel troubled, now is the time to pop a bôb” or “The administration recommends black-bôb today; if you do not have black-bôb available, two blue-bôb will be sufficient to get you through today’s anxiety” and “Due to the latest astronomical report, administration recommends popping one black-bôb now and a second black-bôb after the evening meal for maximum calm.” Often right in the middle of the shift a co-worker would break down and sob, overcome by thoughts of the end days to come.
No, they can’t have the population in a panic, thought Gina, remembering her first day on the job when as soon as she stepped outdoors a coworker directed her attention to the sign advising her to pop a white-bôb now and a green-bôb after the evening meal. There was not much for an evening meal, anyway, consisting of tubes of this, crisps of that, something labeled ‘vegetable substance’ and another labeled ‘hearty grain’ that looked like someone’s vomit. Worse tasting than the food rations she had bartered for with those five miners...what, almost two years before? The green-bôb also repressed hunger, thankfully. That schedule was to be  followed with a red-bôb after the morning meal and a pink-bôb upon arriving at one’s work station. Of course, she did none of that and lied about her consumption patterns. It was voluntary although when properly bôbbed the average worker could meet maximum production and thus gain recognition and promotion—and extra food rations. She worried about what her children were being taught about the drugs, however. The school provided miniature dosages of blue- and green-bôb, and purple-bôb was recommended for unruly children. They had tried silver-bôb with her son, trying to spark him out of his innate dullness, but he remained unresponsive. Teachers remarked on his larger than normal head and lack of hair. One of them believed he resembled, especially with his olive skin, one of the so-called ‘miracle children’ legend had foretold for the end times. Other teachers thought he was wasting resources and suggested to Gina that he be put to sleep. She feared for him, wondering which day an accident might befall him.
Someday soon she would have to leave, she contemplated as her fingers assembled the parts automatically. She had stumbled into this world through the wrong tangent and now that she was, as it were, back on her feet, she needed to keep moving. So what if these people around her were doomed? She did not need to be here to witness it. So what if they were convinced a comet was on its way to destroy the planet? She could escape with her children—back to an earlier age here on Ghoupallesz, well before any comet would arrive, or all the way back to Earth. Zaura could fit in easily enough there; she was an accurate copy of her mother: smart and golden blond. Her son Xix, however, would likely be deemed mentally disabled and not have much of a life on Ghoupallesz or on Earth. People would be kinder to him on Earth, she considered.
But where to find the tangent to exit this future place of doom? 

Not everyone on a planet will fit aboard a dozen spaceships, no matter how large the ships can be made or how tightly spaced the personal capacity might be. Mass panic would ensue: those knowing they will not be able to get aboard the escape vessels and those who believe they will or should be allowed aboard yet do not have a ticket and are scheming or working hard to try to get aboard.

Unlike the portrayal of a similar situation with massive "arks" in the film 2012, where there was no need for respiration devices, etc., those who had a place aboard were the rich who had funded construction and their personal retinue. When escaping to space, especially with the expectation of colonization, favoring the rich and famous would limit those who had knowledge and skills actually useful to to the survival of space arks.

The series of medications portrayed in THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" not only calm the populace but also enable them to perform their work in more efficient, productive ways, thereby making success more likely. For the average worker, of course, what motivation could there be to work hard to make things that will help other people survive? More money? Bonuses? A pat on the back and a sincere "thank you"? How to keep such workers working when they know years in advance that they will not be allowed aboard the escape vessels?

There will always be a limited number of tickets. Are you worthy of a ticket? What would you do for a ticket? Or would you prefer to stay behind and watch the comet come on in?

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

1 comment:

  1. Lies. A Lottery. Raffle off tickets, and offer everyone who loses free euthanasia...

    Just trying to think like a Fenulian(?)queen....