The past few days have been busy with family time over the holiday. Regretably, I haven’t been able to write, however today, I have delivered the 4th installment of The Ship. If you’re new to the story, you can catch up by with Parts I, II, and III.
We had been meandering for a few hours towards the curious object, when the androids finally started sending back information.
“Oh… Jade! Look at this!” Opal exclaimed.
She displayed the findings of one of the androids on the main screen of the bridge. It was the measure of its atmosphere.
“It’s got oxygen!” I said.
“Not just Oxygen!” Opal replied, “but nitrogen and… well, a bit less carbon than we’re used to but definitely enough for us to adjust to. Jade, it’s almost perfect!”
“Anything on the surface temperature?” I inquired.
Opal, scanning through the readout, mumbling off various facts of the object said to herself,
“I think it’s a planet, it doesn’t seem big enough to pull us into orbit this far away from it. There must be something else….” she trailed off.
“Opal!” I said a little louder as she snapped back from her thoughts “surface temperature?”
“What? Oh, no not yet. They’ll take multiple reads from different areas on the surface to get a range of temperatures. That’ll take awhile. It’s got water though, lots of it from the looks of it… Oh! and land! Jade! What if this is it?”
“Oh be serious. We were born the ship and we’ll die on this damn ship.” I replied.
Opal rolled her eyes at me. What if it was? I thought to myself. What if we could actually get out of the ship. I mean really get out of the ship and feel the grass on our feet… and animals! Real animals?
“Where’s Ansel?” I asked Opal.
“I’m not his keeper.” she responded, “Why don’t you just call him?”
I glared at her but picked up the phone and waited for him to answer,
“What is it?” Ansel answered.
“The androids have started sending back information on the rock. The atmosphere is tolerable for us and it’s got water and land.” I said.
“Is that what’s pulling us into orbit?” He asked.
“We don’t think so. Opal said its too small and too far away to be pulling us in. She said there’s something else out here. She thinks we’re on the outside edge of a solar system.” I explained.
“Well, this is exciting. I’ll be right there.” Ansel said as he hung up the phone.
I began setting in the coordinates to head directly to the rock. At the very least, it’ll give us something to look at. If it has water and land, maybe it has plants and that would be amazing to see; everything is dead in space outside the ship.
“Oh my god!” Opal yelled as Ansel came into the bridge. “The average surface temperature is about 15°C with ranges of 58°C to -88°C!”
“That seems extreme,” I said.
“No, it’s probably the variations of temperatures from mountains and the poles and then along the equator of the planet. This has to be a solar system and the rock’s in the sweet spot.” Ansel said.
“Should we wake everyone? Tell everyone?” Opal was almost giddy with excitement.
“How many people do we have fully immersed in the Simulation and how many do we have that are fully in reality?” I asked.
“Most of them are in the Simulation. There’s only… 100 fully in reality and maybe another 20 to 30 more that sort of divide their time between the two. The other 800 or so are fully integrated into the Simulation.” Ansel said.
“Send a message to those who divide their time between the 2. Tell them they need to come back if they’re in. The rest of the people here, let’s gather them in the library and tell them.” I said.
“What about everyone else?” Opal asked.
“They made their choice a long time ago,” I said.
“What about…. what about my parents and my family?” Opal cried.
“You can make your own choice, Opal,” I stated and left the bridge.
I waited in the library for everyone to gather. I knew Opal was angry with me and I knew it would be difficult for her to decide to stay on the ship or to check out this planet. The planet could sustain us, based on all the information we have, but there’s only so much we can get from an android. We have to send expeditions and frankly, I’m tired of this ship. I’d give the people who are here the option to go with me or stay here.
Ansel came in and sat down next to me and asked, “What are you going to say to them?”
“I’ll tell them what we found and let them decide if they want to go or not,” I replied.
“What are you going to do with everyone logged in?” He pressed further.
“I don’t know. They can die for all I care.” I responded.
“You don’t mean that,” Ansel said.
“Why do you care?” I asked Ansel, “You already told me it’s possible to shut everyone’s life supports off and kill their bodies. They would just be downloaded to the Simulation. It’s where they want to be.”
“You’re right. I know how to end everyone on this ship without them ever knowing it but, that’s me. We’re talking about you. I don’t care if you kill them or not. I do wonder if you can handle the guilt that comes from taking life, though. Can you live with yourself? I know there’s evil in the Simulation but we both know that’s not all.” Ansel said.
“There are casualties of every decision,” I responded to Ansel.
“Listen, I’ll support you in whatever decision you make. Kill them or don’t just remember you’re the one who has to live with yourself at the end of the day,” he said.
A silent tension had settled between us when I asked too loudly, “So what do we do then? Just allow anyone to come with us? People like your parents?”
“I don’t know the answer,” said Ansel “maybe ask what everyone else thinks we should do. You don’t have to make every decision by yourself. This affects us all. You’re seriously going to expect people to choose between their loved ones and a planet that may or may not kill us? What about Opal?”
Opal walked in and avoided eye contact with me. I could tell she had been crying. She sat down next to Ansel and said nothing.
“Opal…” I began.
She cut me off, “I have nothing to say to you right now.”
I looked at Ansel who shrugged his shoulders. Everyone else started to file into the library.
Until tomorrow, friends!