The One Mission
by Patricia Russo
They were the last rats on the ship, but the ship was not sinking. Its propulsion units were self-maintaining, self-repairing. The best-designed part of the vessel, the proton scoops and energy converters would keep the ship going and going, even if every other system failed.
Ages ago, they'd had a captain, and prior to that a different one, and before that another. They agreed on that much. The accounts of what had happened to the last captain varied from tribe to tribe. The Hydroponics claimed that a message had been received from home just before the comms died; the message had taken a long time to arrive, and when the last captain decoded it, she killed herself. But everybody knew the Hydros were heretics. The Med-U's said the last captain had died during an epidemic, which the Med-U's had barely been able to bring under control before everyone perished. They were such self-aggrandizers, those Med-U's.
It did not really matter.
Only the mission did.
And the mission continued, despite all obstacles. The protein cultures had become contaminated two generations back, and the Bioengineers had been trying to regain their status ever since, battling with the Environmentals for equipment and supplies. A war now and then was to be expected. As long as everyone stayed human, even killing was permitted, if it served to preserve the mission.
Staying human was the essential factor.