Prompt: Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?
“Stop!” I yelled out.
My father put his hands over my mouth trying to silence me, but it was too late. I had already busted into the council meeting and interrupted their gathering.
I brushed his hand away saying, “You know this is wrong. There are innocent people down there and we have an obligation to save them. We can’t just abandon them! We have to try.”
The five council members looked stunned by a 14-year old and her father bursting into their council meeting unannounced. The council meetings aboard the Constellation were off-limits to the rest of the crew. I knew that there was an emergency meeting being held today about a distress call from Earth because my mother is a councilwoman and let it slip to me and my father.
I quickly scanned the room and my eyes met my mother’s. She sat on the far left end of the table and her eyes showed anger. I was not supposed to be here and I’m sure I’d get chewed out later. She also glanced to my father standing behind me and I’m sure he was conveying a message of “I’m sorry but I couldn’t stop her. She’s your child.”
“What is this interruption?” Mr. Graham asked.
Mr. Graham was the eldest council meeting and had been a member since the founding of the Constellation. The Constellation was a spacecraft similar to the International Space Station that houses the remnants of the human race as it orbits the Earth in between the ravaged planet and the lifeless moon. He was the key architect and engineer who came up with ways to capture other satellites and add their parts to the Constellation creating more space for the increasing population. He was also responsible for mechanical repair and keeping the lights on.
“It seems that we have an unwanted visitor.” Miss Stars said looking from me to my mother and then back to me.
Stephanie Stars was the youngest member of the council at age 22 and was one of the first babies born on the Constellation hence her “original” name. She was a very candid spokesperson for the younger generations aboard the Constellation before winning her council seat. Normally she would be considered my representative, but her disdain for my mother makes her unwilling to represent me in the Constellation’s government.
To her right sat a middle aged man about as old as my father who serves at the principal of the Constellation’s school. He is in charge of education as well as records. His name is Mr. Bryant and he is the newest member to the council taking the seat that was once held by my father. It was a very close election and lead to some bad blood between him and my family.
In the middle sat an older gentleman, named Captain Buckwilder, who used to be in charge of NASA 30 years ago before the world fell apart and we had to escape to the stars. The Constellation was his idea and he was given control of the Constellation almost immediately after leaving Earth. This also gave him a permanent seat on the council till he either steps down or dies.
On the farthest left was my mother, which I mentioned before, and she had also been on the council for a long time only behind Mr. Graham and “The Captain.” She was mostly in charge with distributing resources like food, clothing, bedding, toiletries, etc. to all the people living on the Constellation as well as being the public relations coordinator between the council and the rest of the ship.
“Young lady,” Captain Buckwilder started, “this is a closed meeting. You have no business being here.”
“The people down there! The distress call. You have to help them.”
He sat back in his chair and reshuffled the papers that was laying in front of him. “Young lady –“
“Right… Rosie, I understand that you are worried about these people. Even though this information is considered classified.” He said giving my mom a sideways glance. “But as you know we have set a precedent. Two years ago we were almost wiped out by a super-virus after rescuing 50 people from the Korean peninsula. That almost doomed the entire Constellation. Since then we have determined that is too risky to send people down and bring people back. We don’t know what could happen next. And anyway, we have already determined that large pockets of humans on Earth are not possible.”
“But… the message. They said they had 85 people. Women. Children.”
Again Captain Buckwilder gave my mom a sideways glance. Aparently that was classified too. He cleared this throat and spoke. “It is likely they are lying about their numbers to make their situation seem more desperate. Overall a rescue mission would cost too many resources and wouldn’t be worth the effort.”
He looked from side to side at the other council members for support.
“Now we must vote to make it official. All in favor of ignoring the communication from Earth say Aye.”
“Aye!” Four members answered.
“Nay.” My mother said.
“The ayes have it. Meeting adjourned.” Mr. Buckwilder rose from his seat and exited through the doors in the back of the room. I was crushed.
This isolationist approach was one that was proposed shortly after the Constellation left the Earth even though early on Captain Buckwilder had promised that we would maintain a connection to the people stuck on Earth. Most people aboard the ship accepted the fact that we couldn’t risk the safety of the Constellation for people on Earth and the high cost of the time, resources, and man power it would take to keep on communications with Earth. However some people like myself, my mother, and my father believed we should keep communications with Earth and save as many people as we could. The thought of cutting ourselves off from Earth was quite difficult for some aboard the ship. We had to deal with a lot of suicides during the first few weeks it was implemented most of which were people who had family on Earth when the Constellation launched. There were also talks of mutiny and even revolution among some but a representative government was implemented within the first few weeks of the Constellation’s orbit around the Earth and that seemed to quench most of these radical ideas.
Two years ago a group of people sent out a communication to the Constellation from what was called Korea and it was decided that a large group was worth the effort. The scouting brigade, which is the closest thing we have to a military, was sent down and brought up 50 out of 117 people deemed “worthy” to live on the Constellation, but they brought along with them a superbug that the people of the Constellation were not immune to. This wiped out about one-third of the Constellation’s population and shut down any more talk about opening up the Constellation to the people of Earth. This decision also cost my father his council seat because he was such a huge supporter of bringing them to the space station. I feared that my Mom’s seat was also in danger following the epidemic, but she won her seat back by a narrow margin thanks to the connections she has made with the Constellation community.
I thought that this new broadcast would reopen the discussion about returning to Earth especially if this group was able to live in such a big group. We knew that there are small groups of scavengers all over the planet but a group this big was supposed to be impossible. Unfortunately the council didn’t see things like I saw them. There were people down there and I needed to help them.
After the meeting I didn’t need any help finding my family’s quarters. I slammed open our door, slammed the door shut, and then threw myself on my bed. I’m not proud to admit this but I cried. I’m sure it was loud enough that the neighbors could hear. These were cramped spaces with a small amount of wall between one room and the next.
I snapped to attention at the sound of someone knocking on the door.
I got up and opened it revealing our neighbor and my best friend Michael. Michael is a sixteen year old boy from Africa who came with his mother and three sisters, but the previously mentioned virus killed his mom leaving him to care for his sisters alone. My family had basically adopted them and they spent a lot of time with us.
“Hey Rosie. I heard you crying. Are you ok?”
I went back to sitting on my bed and Michael came into my family’s room and sat down on the floor. I was rubbing my eyes trying to make my tears stop.
“There was a communication from Earth this morning. A big group of survivors. But the council voted to ignore their distress call.”
“Oh.” Michael picked at his fingernails which was something he did when he was uncomfortable.
“Oh? That’s it? That’s all you have to say.”
“I’m not sure what to say, Rosie. I didn’t think there were any big groups of survivors.”
“Yeah I didn’t think so either.”
“Let me guess. Your mom voted for while everyone else voted against?”
I just nodded my head.
“Your mom is a good person, Rosie. She cares. But sometimes caring is not enough. There has to be a plan. Logistics.”
Michael was really into math and science in school. Destined to join the engineers before his mother passed and he dropped out to take care of his sisters.
“This isn’t a math equation, Michael. We are talking about human lives. People who need our help!”
“I know Rosie. You want to help. But sometimes it is out of our hands. The council decided. We can’t do anything. It’s not like we’re scouts.” Michael stood up and left the room. Michael was a machine guy. Not a people guy even though he tried hard with my family and his family. Situations like this made him nervous and he often left the room when things got heated or emotions ran high.
I felt devastated by the news and although I knew Michael wasn’t good with emotions, I did hope we would stay longer. Even though he didn’t say much, his words had given me an idea. I was not powerless and I was determined to help the people of Earth. I was beginning to think of a plan.