Storm before the Calm

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 16•11

1 day Ago

Commander Shelly Combs sat at the long brown table, a pile of paper slips in front of her, 25 adults sitting and watching as she counted each slip, slowly.

“Remember,” she cautioned them, “the 11 who get the most votes will be the governing council. The 1 among those 11 with the most votes will be Mayor. Any ties will be broken by the candidates who did not make the council. Everyone understands that, right?”

Alicia sighed heavily, “We all understand the process, Commander. We’ve memorized the speech you have given it so many times. Please, let’s just get it over with.”

“Alright, alright, don’t get huffy.  You know you don’t have to watch me count them all… this is going to take awhile.”

“I think we would all prefer to be sure the process was fair and accurate. Not that we don’t trust you.”

“Of course. Let’s see… 1 vote for Alicia Evans, 1 vote for Tom Harvey, 1 vote for Sam …”

3 Weeks Ago

“Hello, Mr. Kendall. May I sit down?”

“Hello. Mrs. Evans, yes? Please have a seat.” Alicia sat down on the bench across from Jacob Kendall. The cafeteria, with its open spaces, broad tables, and plentiful seating, had become something of a commons over the coarse of the trip. Jacob had managed to claim this particular spot as his territory by working on small projects here everyday. Currently he had the pieces of several broken radios spread out before him. He had quickly become the ship’s civilian handyman. “If you are here to campaign for my vote, don’t bother.”

“Oh, why is that, have you already decided who you are voting for?”

Jacob looked up at her, smiled, and looked back down at his work, “I suppose you could say that.”

“That’s rather cryptic.”

He let out a long breath, set down his tools, and looked her in the eyes. “I wont be voting for anyone, Mrs. Evans.”

“Why would that be? Don’t you care about who your new government will be when we arrive on Mars?”

“Mars is a large planet. I have no intention of being ruled by any government. That is one of the reasons I came on this trip, a chance to be truly free.”

“We need to have some sort of order, some type of service provider.”

“With all due respect, ma’am… you need that, I don’t. All I need is land, air, and water. I can take care of the rest. If I wanted someone telling me how to live, eat, and behave… I could have stayed on earth. But thank you for asking me for support.”

Alicia sat back, she sat quietly for a moment unsure of how to respond to this polite but unsubtle rebuff of everything she considered normal. “What if you have a fire? Or get robbed? Or injured? Without a social network what will you do?”

“I’ll put it out or rebuild. If someone tries to rob me, I will kill them. If I get injured, I will fix myself up or ask my neighbor for help. I’m not opposed to interacting with other people, I just don’t want to be ruled by them.”

At that moment a man dressed in an expensive blue suit stood up on a table towards the fore of the cafeteria, “Excuse me! Excuse me! My name is Davis Longheed, and I am a candidate in this election. On Earth I was corporate administrator. When we land on Mars, as our President told us, there will be no society, no structure at all, we will need to impose order on a chaotic environment. I have experience creating a well ordered environment. In the coming days I will provide more details as to my plans. I just wanted to introduce myself today and let you know that I am the candidate who can help you bring order to our new world. Thank you.”

Jacob nodded his head towards Longheed, “That, Mrs. Evans, is what I was hoping to leave behind on Earth.”

“He may not be very eloquent, but he isn’t wrong. We will need to create order from chaos.”

“Why? There is no chaos on Mars right now. We will bring the chaos with us. And neither he nor you offer order. What you offer is the imposition of some people’s ideals of how things should be upon others. Is it really too difficult to just let everyone live as they will and cooperate when they will?”

“Some of us like having the permanent cooperative of government and don’t see it as imposition.”

Jacob sighed, “That’s fine. Form your colonies. But please do me the courtesy of allowing me to go off on my own.”

“Very well Mr. Kendall, I give you my word that if I am on the council I will protect your right to go off on your own. You may wish to consider that before throwing away your right to vote. Others may not wish to give up their control. Good day, sir.” Alicia stood up and walked away. Jacob watched her go and then turned to look back at Longheed shaking hands and flashing a plastic smile.

2 Weeks Ago

“Excuse me, Captain Archibald?” Turning around he spied a slender, attractive, black woman approaching him from the aft section of the hallway.

“Yes? Can I help you ma’am?”

“Yes, sir. My name is Alicia Evans, I’m a candidate in the elections, and…”

“I’m sorry ma’am, Alicia was it? I’m sorry but I have to remain neutral in the elections.”

“Oh, no. Of course, I didn’t… that’s not why I wanted to talk to you sir.”

Archibald looked at her. She looked back him. Nobody spoke for a moment. Finally the Captain broke the stalemate, “and you did want to speak to me about…?”

“Yes, yes, umm, well, people are talking sir, about the engine problems, but nobody really knows anything. I’m sure you know how dangerous it is to have people talking about stuff they don’t know anything about, sir. So, I was hoping you could provide some more details about our situation.”

“I wish I could, but nothing significant has changed since my announcement. The engine is malfunctioning. We have temporarily relieved the problem, but not solved it. If we can’t solve it, we will die. We are working around the clock on the problem. I suggest you continue with your normal routine and just trust in us to solve it. There really is nothing else to be done.”

“Sir, people like to feel they have some control, that they aren’t just helpless victims. Especially these type of people who are willing to colonize a planet. If you could at least keep us a little more in the loop, perhaps…”

“Ma’am, every minute I spend keeping you in the loop, is a minute I am not spending on fixing the ship. I know it’s scary, we’re scared too. You’re just going to have to trust in us to do our best and to be honest with you. I’m sorry I can’t give you a better answer, but I have to go now.”

“Yes sir, thank you for your time, sir. Good luck.”

“To us all.”

 

Present

 

“Lt. Saunders have you made those corrections to the solar sails the Chief recommended?” Captain Archibald, sitting in his command chair, looked up from the crew reports in his lap for the lieutenant’s response.

“Yes, Cap. Applying the final tweeks now, sir.”

“Tweeks?”

“Aye, sir.” Saunders looked over his left shoulder, shoulder length blonde hair swinging about his round head, “It’s technical space pilot talk, sir. You may not be familiar with it.”

Archibald slapped his hands down against the files, “Was being a smart ass part of the requirements for positions on board this ship?”

“It was on my application, Sir.” Chief McNally sauntered into the fore cabin, smiling his cocky smile.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in the engine room?”

“No, sir. I’m done there. Ahead of schedule, actually. All we need to do now is clear port side decks 9 and 10, confirm they are sealed, and then open the hatches. I can open the hatches from here with the push of a button. I also bought us a couple of extra hours by bleeding more CO2 into the ship.”

“I thought you said that would kill us.”

“It would… if we weren’t about to open the hatches and restore the recycling process.”

“Right. Okay, well everyone should be in the cafeteria awaiting election results, and those decks should have been cleared yesterday. I’ll make another announcement to clear decks 8 through 11.  Sergeant Dillan, take 3 men and search and secure P9 and P10. Report back when you are done.”

“Aye Captain.” All 5’1″ of Sergeant Dillan turned and headed out the door at a brisk a pace.

“He is an energetic little man, isn’t he?”

“Mock him all you want, but if I had more like him I’d probably have more hair.”

McNally looked at the top of the Captain’s head and smirked.

Results

 

Captain Archibald stood upon the walkway looking down on the assembled passengers. He paused for a moment before speaking, looking into their expectant faces. So many lives, helpless, in my hands. All set out to take control of the futures but none can get there without me. And if I screw up, none of them get anywhere, they’ll just drift in the endless vacuum of space for eternity. Good God, how did I end up here?

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have 2 announcements for you today. First, about the ship.  We have solved the immediate problem. Our lives are no longer in danger…” Thunderous applause erupted from the bay. People began to hug and cry and scream for joy. The release of tension that had filled the ship, as everyone had pondered the potential disaster but no one had been willing to speak of it, was physically tangible.  “… although, although!” the crowd began to quiet down, “Although, it will take 6 months longer to get to Mars than originally planned. I also wish to caution you, again, not to open the portside doors to decks 9 and 10. Doing so will kill us all in a horrific manner you do not wish to imagine.

“For our second announcement I will allow Commander Combs, who has worked so hard on this, to present.”

Polite applause echoed the chamber as Shelly stepped forward, “Hello. The election results are in. We have our 11 victors and they are undisputed. Your 10 council members are,” Shelly paused and looked about the room enjoying the added anticipation, “Longheed, Smith, Vernandi, Chang, Braxston, Hughes, Smull, Rufe, Bronivitch, and Morris. Your 1st Mayor on Mars colony is.. going … to… be… Mrs. Alicia Evans! Congratulations everyone, govern with wisdom.”

Applause again echoed about the room. A few people stormed out, but most people were happy with the results. An impromptu party began as much to celebrate the election as having avoided disaster. Those passengers who had brought musical instruments along began to play, and the first dance party in space was held on March 23, 2026.

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