The readings were nominal.
“Okay,” Flynn Briskhelm said, slowly lowering a small scraping tool into place. “Go ahead and bring us around just one degree.”
There was a deep vibration in the metal beneath Flynn’s feet as the large exploration vessel nudged ever closer to the walls. It was slightly unnerving, and Flynn checked his anchor points once more to make sure he wasn’t going to disconnect.
His visor suddenly flashed a warning.
“You’re bringing me in too close,” he said, grimacing at the thought of being smashed against a bulkhead. “Go slower.”
“Sorry,” Ruby Rose replied, her voice shaky even over their radios. “Attempting to slow the approach.”
Another alert on Flynn’s visor flashed.
Acceleration Limits Exceeded.
“We’re moving too fast,” he chimed in.
“I see the same alerts you do,” Ruby said, sounding more annoyed. “Just let me—”
There was a loud bell and Flynn let out a heavy sigh.
“What happened?” Ruby asked.
“You would have just shaved off your right wing, me with it, and half the drone arm.”
“Reset and we can go again,” Ruby ordered.
“Before lunch?” Flynn asked. “No thanks.”
He heard an audible groan from inside the cockpit of their simulated craft and couldn’t help but smile. Ruby wasn’t the pilot, Flynn was, but Olivia had finally given in to demands from others that the roles needed to be diversified. There had to be multiple pilots, and multiple mechanics, or the loss of a single crew would set the program back by months.
“None of this matters,” Ruby said as she started to climb out of the cockpit. “Olivia is right anyway. If we did end up losing a crew, there’s no way the community will let us fly another one.”
“Maybe,” Flynn admitted. “Maybe not. Better to be prepared.”
“I just can’t stop thinking about all the talk in town. Can we really afford to waste time forming a government when we don’t even know the world around us?”
“Can we afford not to?” Flynn asked. “Our little community isn’t little anymore. We’re having problems keeping eyes on logistics. We’re going to need some kind of order.”
“You’re one of the main six,” Ruby said. “Why aren’t you involved in all this?”
Flynn shook his head. “That’s not for me. I’m a poster boy pilot, not a leader.”
“We’re on an alien spaceship. We shouldn’t waste time with governments.”
“In defense of the community, until we figure out anything about the ship, this place is our home. We’re here, like it or not.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “Things were fine.”
Flynn shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
“You really like saying that.”
“So what’s for lunch?”
“We could take a trip to town for some lunch from Chef Lafayette?”
“Big spender,” she said with snark on her tongue. “I don’t have any fresh ingredients to buy his food.”
Flynn looked at her with a knowing smile. “That doesn’t seem fine to me.”
“Oh shut up.”
The two laughed and then started down the hall together.
“Ration bars?” Flynn asked.
“Always,” she replied.
The town hall had always been an interesting structure for the community. It didn’t house any living quarters, but was still one of the largest spaces in town. So far, Samantha Valentine and Rayland Walsh had been using the building as hubs for their work, which seemed like a waste of space to some citizens, but never drew enough criticism to warrant corrective action.
The first floor was a large lobby, with one office, occupied by Samantha most days, and a large meeting room for town forums. The second floor was Rayland’s personal office. The third floor housed a large conference room for more private meetings. As Rayland had wanted to keep most of the discussions private, he had selected this room for their meeting.
In attendance were five of the main six; Rayland, Bryan, Oliver, Caleb, and Olivia. As always, Flynn had decided not to attend. In his place, Olivia had brought David Nash. Outside of that group, John Davis and Samantha Valentine had been asked to attend, both because of their major impacts on the community. Rayland had asked all of them to attend as quickly as possible, and they had responded accordingly.
“First,” Rayland said after waiting for everyone to get comfortable. “Welcome to what I suspect will be a monumental meeting. I have called everyone together to discuss the recent developments in our town, stemming from Bryan’s interview with John and exploding after Oliver’s monetized menu.”
“Forgive us if we’re out of the loop,” David Nash said, his arms crossed. “What is there to discuss, exactly?”
Rayland frowned, but then gave a simple shrug and turned to Bryan. “This is your thing.”
Bryan stood, smiling at the others, and then pulled out some note cards that he had prepared for the meeting. “A few weeks ago, Chef Lafayette completed what I consider to be a live test of pushing our bartering system to the extreme. It worked. People used the existing system to pull together resources for their own interests. They also demonstrated a communal spirit in their efforts, openly sharing for a chance at some of the Chef’s delicious foods. There were, however, some major issues.”
“Primarily,” Oliver chimed in. “All the fruits and vegetables they traded with me spoiled faster than I could turn them into food. I had to start giving meals away just to prevent waste.”
“The surge of supplies being funneled to Oliver nearly caused a shortage the next week, as well,” Bryan added.
“So drop the monetized menu,” David suggested. “We don’t need it.”
Oliver shook his head. “I’m keeping it. People came out of the woodwork to taste my meals and the response was amazing. They need variety and I want to offer it to them.”
“For a price,” Caleb said, not bothering to look up from a clipboard he was holding.
“I’ve practically lived on ration bars since I woke up,” Olivia countered. “They’re packed with all the dietary requirements we need, and bland or not, they keep us alive.”
“Well, some of us aren’t robots,” Samantha chimed in.
Olivia looked to Samantha and gave a slight smirk. “Right. I should have known. Some of us are just lying sacks of—”
“Now, now, we’re all friends here,” Rayland said, stepping between Olivia and Samantha. “Ration bars are key to our survival. I suspect they’ll be a part of our diets for years to come. This doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t allow alternatives.”
Bryan nodded along and then tried to retake the conversation. “The long and short of it is that the barter system works in the short term, but it’s starting to fail us as our numbers inflate. The town didn’t grow fast enough to accommodate the new arrivals. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage that is widening each day.”
“So how do we fix this?” David asked, his voice signaling genuine curiosity.
“Two things,” Bryan answered. “The first is a new currency, backed by the local government of this town. With buy-in from this group, we can use a tax and payment system to filter the currency into the hands of all citizens.”
“A simple payment, required by all citizens, which can only be paid in our supported currency.”
“How do citizens get the currency?”
“Explorer missions?” Olivia asked.
Rayland gave a confirming nod. “That’s one example.”
“What about citizens that don’t have currency?”
“Easy enough, they’ll need to use the existing barter system to trade.”
“So a new citizen could use currency to trade for ingredients or supplies from some of the established citizens, who can continue to focus on their activities, like farming, without the need to bother with town-sanctioned jobs.”
“So what’s the second thing?” Olivia questioned.
“A functioning local government to back the currency. We need a town council, a mayor, and so on. Right now, as Oliver has happily pointed out, we’re just six people who woke up.”
“We would need to have an election,” John suggested.
“It makes sense,” Rayland agreed. “Everyone in town is intelligent enough to handle the responsibilities if they wanted to run. The six of us aren’t automatically due any power.”
“The real question,” Samantha chimed in, “is if anyone has any major objections. None of this is going to work without support from the main six. You all have to agree this is the right direction… all of you.”
Her stare locked on Olivia, who met her eyes and only grinned.
“She’s not wrong,” Rayland added. “This is a speak now or forever hold your peace situation.”
It wasn’t just Samantha looking at Oliva now; it was everyone.
She closed her eyes for a moment and then let out a long sigh. “If a government is what you want, a government you shall have, but I will reiterate that my interest lies beyond this town. My goal is to find out the truth of the world ship that we live on. To explore and understand it.”
“Well said,” David Nash added. “Which brings us to our next topic of discussion…”
“Next topic?” Rayland asked.
“Our first major exploration mission,” Olivia said, throwing down the blueprints for her latest creation. “And the missions that will follow.”
With the meeting concluded, the group started to filter outside of the town hall’s lobby, but as John was beginning to leave, he felt a hand come down on his shoulder. He turned to see Olivia looking at him with a small bit of concern.
“The people liked learning about our launch vessel?” she asked him.
“That went over very well,” John assured her. “People loved it. I think they loved it more than I could have ever expected. You made my popular by proxy.”
“There will be more news soon,” Olivia said. “Not related to me, but perhaps worthy of distribution to the masses. We expect to send Explorer One out for its first field mission within the next few months. I would like, once that mission is concluded, to publish information about it for the community to review. If this new government is going to be run by the citizens, then they should see our vested interest at work.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” John said.
“Perhaps, if you are up for it, you would be interested in coming to the Grid when we perform the launch?”
John nodded vigorously. “I would, of course, love that.”
“Good,” Olivia said, briefly smiling. “I’ll leave you to handle all of this government nonsense. We’ll be in touch soon. Thank you again for your work John. It means a lot.”
As she walked outside, John couldn’t help but feel like he was on cloud nine. Getting a compliment from Olivia was a special treat, no matter the situation.