‘Collision Course’ – A Short Story
A short story of 850 words, and an excerpt from a future book.
Our mighty spacecraft The Odyssey entered the Oort Cloud. Aboard this vessel is every living thing on Earth, just like Noah’s Ark. From the deck, I saw a storm of comets in the distance. Though the swarm of scattered comets appeared small from my vantage point, I noticed that they were getting larger.
Suddenly, I heard the screech of grinding metal. The ship rocked slightly as it entered the domain of the frozen flotilla. Though I believed that the vessel could veer away at any time, I sensed its slow but gradual acceleration toward the biggest boulders of ice. Where was the captain?
Why was he not acting? Was he intentionally ignoring the clear and present danger? With great haste and even greater uncertainty, I frantically searched for crew on deck. I found one officer — a scout — who claimed that he was aware of the peril. He directed me to the crow’s nest, where ten other scouts acknowledged the danger but denied the urgency, even though the ship carried precious cargo.
I was then led to the bridge, where the captain was conspicuously absent. Only the second mate — who lacks the authority and experience to change the vessel’s course — was present. I asked him about the captain. The third-in-command exclaimed, “He is asleep in the royal suite and must not be disturbed for any reason!”
Angrily, I confronted the crewman. “We — the seven billion passengers of humankind — have invested in you — leaders who possess all of the necessary qualifications and relevant knowledge — tremendous amounts of our hard-earned money to prevent disasters like this! Don’t you at least have the decency to use the power we gave you to protect us — as well as yourselves — from this long-foreseen and very real threat?”
The second mate shrugged in silent indifference, indignantly refusing his legal and ethical responsibility to answer the question. The captain — the ship’s highest-paid and most-knowledgeable public servant — was still conspicuously absent. He was snoozing while the vessel’s imminent and long-term futures hung in the balance.
I asked the second mate again — one last time —, “Can’t you see that you are squandering our last chance to change our fate?” He exclaimed (in spite of the irrefutable evidence) before walking away, “All claims of danger from approaching or nearby comets threatening us are lies, pure lies spread to turn you against us — and nothing else!”
After I left the bridge, I noticed a group of at least twenty fellow passengers. They, too, were concerned about an inevitable collision with the largest comet. Frustrated by the crew’s lack of willpower, they tried to alert others about the clear, avoidable, and impending catastrophe.
“For the past five days,” the group’s leader explained, “we astronomers have tried to engage as many passengers and crew as possible as sincerely as possible with boisterous speeches about the math and science of these comets — which have predictable paths — and why they are so dangerous to all of us aboard. At least a billion people are extremely anxious — and vocally so — about what could happen to our ship and our species if nothing changes.
However, they feel powerless and know not how they as individuals can fix the situation. An even larger number is not even aware of the danger. Some (including most of the crewmen), even had the nerve to publicly deny that these comets exist!”
I responded, “Those who are aware must start a movement. We need to share our concerns with the captain and crew, who appear to care nothing about their responsibility to prevent our seemingly inevitable destruction. They only want to keep their jobs — and our money — to the bitter end.”
A highly-respected British historian — our movement’s second-in-command — added, “Our current situation is strikingly similar to what happened to Her Majesty’s Ship, The Titanic”, in 1912. More than 200 years ago, the trans-Atlantic liner crashes into a giant iceberg; it sank and killed all but 705 of the 3500 people on board.” He continued, “Just as our captain is sleeping when he should be steering the ship away from comets, The Titanic’s captain, Edward John Smith, repeatedly ignored stern warnings from multiple nearby vessels about icebergs.”
The historian concluded, “We must soon mutiny to take control of The Odyssey: Its crew has abandoned us. If we do not or cannot, we will meet the same fate as The Titanic and be destroyed. However, this time, all that is left of Earth will perish with us.”
Our group’s leader clamored, “Join us! Let us act together while we still can. We must and will change our fate before it’s too late.”
From this Titanic Moment onwards, I shall press forward with my fellow passengers — humanity’s greatest hope — and we shall secure for us a bountiful future!