The Century Ship

Your parents built this life for you.

Their parents built the life of building this life for your parents.

Their parents, and their parents, and their parents.

Over and over.

It had a name at launch, but it’s just pointless trivia now. Here, in this sector of space, they just call it Century. Derived from what it was called at first, The Century Ship.

It was an enormous project. Not the only one of its type, though; just one of the first efforts from earth to make an interplanetary colony, launched at a targeted region of space with a monstrous ship; practically a city, really. It was a long project. It wouldn’t arrive in ten years, not twenty, not thirty – it was sent off with almost nothing in terms of propulsion or control because if they didn’t get it right at the start, there wouldn’t be any way to solve it afterwards. No, the important thing was making sure the colonists could escape orbit safely, life safely for long enough to have some real actual whole babies, arrive safely, and thne set up the new colony. It was a project more like building a city, a population centre that could sustain itself for almost a hundred years. That meant it didn’t just have to be mathematically correct – it had to be interesting.

It had to have culture and fun and pleasure.

It had to be nice.

Now it wasn’t your parents’ idea, per se, or their parents, or their parents, but the people at the base, setting up the launch, starting the plan, they wanted to make sure that the culture that they got at the end was the culture they wanted. They wanted colonists who would know the history they wanted to tell and feel the way they wanted them to about the place they got. The longest of games, infrastructure for enormous investments, trading on futures and a crafted culture.

The libraries were chosen, the games were created, the sociologists were consulted, the workloads were set up, the labour was maximised and the leisure was optimised, and everything was set in place so the Century Ship could be a living city that, in generations of time, would arrive in a new home and start the new future. It was one part a labour ecology, one part storage of supplies needed for the landing, and the rest…?

The rest was a mall.

A little fake economy moving fake chits of fake currency around so people could make interesting choices about how to spend their time and the feelings of their rewards of their efforts. Contained and controlled. Sure, give ’em a kinkos. Let ’em have that.

Then there was a problem.

The generation that was meant to stop the ship and land it and start the colony…

Found people living on the planet.

It wasn’t unoccupied. It was not going to be an act of landing on unoccupied lands and starting a new history. To the surprise of the computers, this created the first and most major ethical dilemma in the ship’s history.

What do you think happened?

What if the young people didn’t need to be told slavery was bad?

What if there were the zines and the posters and the graffiti and the things people did in this drifting mall to keep themselves entertained and that there were actually thoughts going on. What if when there’s a corporate library of pure information there would be people still making and creating and talking and thinking and recreating history out of the things they were told and testing what they thought was true against what they could prove was true?

Because what was on track to be a ship that genocided an entire culture became the first revolution in space.

The Century Ship’s population said no: We were made for this purpose but we’re not going to do it.

They overthrew the leadership, and they made the home they had in space their home in space. The great journey stopped, and a point in space was calculated where they could rest, pointedly not part of the system they had thought they were going to own. They broke open those reserves and tools and supplies for the conquest – hey, why were there guns in here? – and liberating the resources that had been allocated for building their new home when they got there. They turned their Century Ship into a drifting space station a little way away from their original destination, and then, when they’d finally busted open the reserves and found the communication devices that had been locked away, they finally turned on radio receivers and checked out what was going on in space around them.

That’s when they learned during the Long Wander, FTL travel got developed, and the area of space they were in was already populated by humans as well. They were spread out and had tradeways and populations.

But they didn’t go near this planet.

When the Century Ship was ready, when they made themselves the floating city state of no corporate masters, named Century, they sent out a probe to the planet, to meet with the people there.

They were called The Reapers.