After The Storm
Published in

After The Storm

SCIENCE FICTION

The Race: Conclusions of a Young Space Cadet

There is no winner if everyone is going in the wrong direction.

by NASA on Unsplash.

The year is 2394, and anyone and everyone, civilians included, can have a spaceship. You can either apply for one, and the government gives one to you, or you can build yourself one, but either way, the government has to check your spaceship before it is launched into space. When I graduated as a space cadet, I got mine to help other people colonize the solar system. I like what I do, yet, I left Earth in a very blue state of mind…

Memories

Some people believe we don’t inherit the problems of our parents. These people are lucky. Because I think I did.

My father is a brilliant guy, and so is my mother. But society wasn’t enough for them. They preferred to live a country life. My father chose this way of life because he has some big problems with the current state of the scientific community. It was no problem for my mother (she didn’t care). They love each other so much, and she just wanted to be a mother (and she is an excellent one).

My father says all his kids may suffer from the polemic he caused back in his old days as a military cadet. He always told my 12 brothers and me (I’m the 7th brother) to hide his name on our birth certificates. If we choose a scientific or military career, we were never supposed to mention him (so that we would not be considered dangerous to government officers and institutions and treated differently).

But only me and my oldest brother chose one of these careers. I’m a space cadet, and he is a brilliant scientist.

My father was one of those responsible for a short and rebellious political movement. He tried to show that the head scientists and military officials were becoming an oligarchy, and it’s true. They can decide almost everything society should do (e.g., how resources should be administrated), which is pretty much absurd since we live in a higher stage of socialism.

Under our socialist system, the world has never been so prosperous. However, people are too distracted by how good everything is to notice how centralized our political power has become.

We have this big thinking machine we call Sokratis-01. It could help us better decide what’s best for us, but thanks to some “pro-human” rules, Sokratis-01 can’t speak directly with students, citizens, or anyone without the approval of the board of “superior scientific and military members.”

My father says this machine is like a very wise lion with the best objective and precise answers but tamed by small, close-minded men.

The excuse of the superior members to block everyone’s access to Sokratis-01 is “it’s humans who shall decide our fate, not machines, and there must be a chain of command selecting the subjects of greater importance to be discussed with Sokratis-01.” So you either obey these superior members, or you end up excluded from the “chain of command.”

My father disagreed with it. He was one of the few scientists, military officials, and citizens that wanted to speak more frequently with Sokratis-01 and help decide the future of everything in a more open way.

So when a group of military officials, civilians, and scientists met with all the board members to discuss this subject, one of the members told my father, “humanity can correct its own mistakes. There is no reason to pass our political power to machines.”

My father replied, “look at how many mistakes humans can make. Can you guys predict what we are willing to lose?”

“Why don’t you become a superior member, so you can ask Sokratis whatever you want and discover for yourself?” replied another superior member.

My father yelled, “no one should need to be a member to ask Sokratis some questions. And if one day your meritocracy fails, then your elitism will fail, and we all will fail as a society too!”

Then a member decided to ask Sokratis-01 a question, and they all agreed. He asked, “Is there a problem with military officials and scientists deciding what society should do?”

Sokratis-01 answered, “not necessarily.”

“But what if these military officials and scientists fail?!” my father asked.

“Prove to us that we will fail, and we will surrender!” yelled a superior member.

“And if we fail, we can let Sokratis intervene.” said a less exalted member.

“Why don’t you let Sokratis intervene now?” replied one revolutionary.

“As it mentioned, it’s not necessary. Humanity must be capable of ruling. And if we start to fail, Sokratis is here to help us.” said a calm superior member.

My father decided to look less fanatical, and that calmed everyone. He said, “okay then, I think we can wait. But I only hope one day you all admit how wrong you guys were.”

And the meeting was over.

I think my father was worried about the “chain of command,” and the best way he found to criticize it was by giving up on the academy.

In short, that’s why my brothers and I learned all we needed to know by ourselves, in libraries, computers, and from both my parents.

The Academy

In the beginning, when I entered the space cadet academy, I thought there was nothing to worry about. Everywhere was new and full of people. Everyone was trying to be a scientist, a military official, or both like me. But soon I understood everything my father told me. I saw how academic professors could be too powerful and corrupted thereby. There is almost nothing above them. They can decide pretty quickly to promote you or demote you (without any good reason for it).

After the first weeks, all I wanted was to get my spaceship and leave that place…

I remember thinking before I entered there, “if I face any trouble, all I need to do is to communicate it to some superior member.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. One of the first things I did, after a few shitty classes, was send anonymous letters reporting a few problems in the educational system, and they all were ignored…

Professors could be tyrannical without consequences and without necessity, while students had no space to have their complaints heard. Professors were above criticism and protected each other.

We were there, we all know that, to be integrated as part of the system. The professors were there to choose where and how well each one of us would be integrated (there was no way between us to measure their choices). We were there to be consumed by them. We didn’t have the power to choose. We were there to be chosen.

Eventually, I stopped attending classes because I preferred to learn by myself. I ended up being more isolated than I would like, although my grades were still pretty high (since they didn’t know who I was or why I wasn’t attending some of their classes).

I was relatively alone in my journey. Everybody else preferred to strictly follow all of the academy’s classes but only because “everyone was doing it.” Only Sasha Winterspiere and I were attending as few classes as possible.

Sasha will certainly become an excellent scientist. She has a brilliant mind, but she is also moved by political issues. She began to stop frequenting some classes because she didn’t like how those professors treated female students, but then, she preferred to study by herself.

We were the only two proving the system wasn’t good enough. Our paths crossed in the library, and we got to know each other better, although we were following different directions. Sasha was trying to be a scientist here on Earth, and I was trying to be a space cadet.

At some point, for Sasha’s sake, I felt I shouldn’t be with her. If everyone discovered that I’m my father’s son, it could ruin her career. So I looked the other way, and I found Nina von Harper. Nina was an ambitious space cadet wannabe and the daughter of a superior board member (Amanda von Harper, my father’s old friend). The problem was Nina had “too many candidates.” So I tried to spend more time with her at the same classes she went to (and, consequently, I spent less time in the library with Sasha).

You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that it didn’t work. I proved a professor wrong, and he discovered I was my father’s son, and my grades began to fall. There was nothing I could do. I thought my plan to become an honorary member of the academy was ruined. Plus, Nina stopped giving me attention now that I was no longer at the top of the class.

At that time, I didn’t know what to do. I sent a letter to my mother telling her everything. She answered, saying I should not worry. She said that she was very proud of me, and so was my father. They found my grades excellent, and they were really happy because I was one of the best students at the academy (although I wasn’t at the top like my older brother was).

My mother, then, finally told me how she met my father. He won the “space cadet’s annual race,” then he kissed her when he won the trophy. They have been together ever since.

The Race

There are two ways to complete your training as a space cadet:

  • competing against other pilots in an airship race of two laps around the Earth.
  • Or you may choose to survive in a remote place (alone or in a group), showing your survival and/or pedagogical knowledge. In this test, you can mark points by writing all your decisions in a notebook (so your decisions can be evaluated). If you can give the exact location based on the movement of the stars, you make lots of points. You complete the test by either surviving for a month or finding civilization.

My father chose the race, and so did I. He and my brother helped me a bit with my ship. We built a hell of a ship, and we created a flight simulator to learn how to fly it; we also built a simulation to help select the best routes for the race. I played it for days! I even read many books on meteorology.

The best thing about that race is no one at the academy cared about me anymore. My grades went down; I missed a few exams; attended no classes; all I did was learn everything possible to win the race.

The day of the race came. I certainly had one of the best ships, and I was one the best pilots. Unlike everyone else, I put gadgets on my ship that could inform me quickly of “fast rivers of air” (currents) on which I could fly.

The race began, and after 6 hours, I was winning. I still had lots of fuel to burn because I saved it surfing on the “rivers of fast air.”

There were many people around the globe watching us. The sensation was incredible.

But I saw something blinking on a small island, and then I noticed some smoke. So I asked NALA, the AI of my airship, about a few details.

“NALA, there is someone on that Island, that’s for sure. Ask the academy if there is a graduation test running in that area, please.”

NALA: “yes, cadet. There is a survival test running there.”

“Maybe, we should check it out. There is no reason for him to make all that fire. Check if they are monitoring his health stats correctly.”

NALA: “it seems there are some problems with his monitoring back at the academy. The monitoring says he is okay, although the last stats they received about him were three weeks ago. It must be some malfunction ignored by the academy.”

“I know it’s hard to find new places to practice the survival test, but it should be monitored more seriously. Our lives should be as important as the life of the so-called ‘superior members’… We need to check him out.”

NALA: “you will be disqualified from the race.”

“That island is too small. He shouldn’t even be there. And three weeks have passed. He may need some help. Now.”

I saved him. He was in the late stages of dehydration when I found him.

I stayed with him in the hospital until I could fly him back home.

The academy admitted there were failures in his test application, and we both received our cadet’s degree, although he doesn’t want to go to space (he never did). He wanted to be an academic professor, and he will probably be an excellent one.

But I keep thinking, “is our society working like Saturn? Eating his own sons? How many of us can see the problems in the academy? There are structural failures in our system; therefore, everything may fall apart someday, and only one space cadet might not be enough to save it. There is no winner if everyone is going in the wrong direction.”

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A. P. Bird

A. P. Bird

Top-writer in Science. M.A. in Philosophy. Some of my favorite science fiction are Metropolis and King Kong. alexand3r.bird@gmail.com