Generations ago, a caravan of humans left Earth and set out for a new world. Knowing there was no chance of reaching a habitable planet within their own lifetimes, these would-be pioneers built a fleet of ships designed to sustain multiple generations of humans, carrying their descendents through space until they finally reached their new home.
Of the fifty ships that started out from Earth, ten now remain with the Fleet. The descendents of the original colonists have flourished aboard their ships, hurling through the darkness of space. But with over fifty thousand people sharing space and with no way to escape each other, conflicts sometimes arise. Recently, these conflicts have been exacerbated by a blip on the ship sensors. Something lies in their path...not a planet, but an alien fleet, the like of which they've never encountered. Contact is expected within a year.
As news spreads of the discovery, the various inhabitants of the ships react with fear and hope and speculation, and the ten captains struggle to come to a consensus on how to deal with this discovery and what it will mean for the people they're responsible for.
Life in the Fleet
Running the ships requires a lot of people, but nowhere near the full ten thousand found on each ship. Thus the population of the Fleet is divided into two groups: crew and passengers. The groups are semi-hereditary, with the children of crew members being given technical training while the children of the passengers are sent to study the skills that their records say will one day be necessary on their new world. Relations between the two groups are often tense, with the crew viewing the passengers as parasites and the passengers viewing the crew as arrogant tyrants. A few people manage to bridge the divide, working as doctors or hydroponics farmers, performing non-crew tasks that both sides recognize as necessary. And a talented few have arisen to prominence fighting the biggest challenge aboard the ships: boredom. These are the great artists of the Fleet, and they wield influence over both sides.
The other group of passengers with power are the geneticists who are responsible for creating each new generation. Working with the limited genetic pool of the Fleet--and drawing on the extensive gene banks that they carry from Earth--the geneticists design each new baby, planning for the needs of the Fleet and swapping genes between ships through their own network that by tradition stands separate from all politics and interference.
Formal power in the Fleet is divided between the ten captains, who are chosen by the senior members of the crew, and the ten mayors, who are elected by the passengers from among their numbers. The Fleet Charter outlines the responsibility of each, but in real life the lines are often unclear, and the two sides frequently jostle for power, fighting to steer the destiny of the Fleet. The exact relationship varies between the ships, and the obvious alliances are not always the ones that form. Mayors ally with mayors, but also with captains, and where a captain on one ship may work cordially with her mayor, a captain on another may plot to rig the next election.
Life aboard the Fleet is tightly controlled--it's the only way to ensure survival in the depths of space. All activities, from recreation to reproduction, are governed by strict rules. Some of the more adventurous inhabitants chafe under these rules, but most of the population acknowledges their necessity, even if they don't always agree with the specifics. But even in the Fleet, there are ways to get around the rules if you know what you're doing. Theft and violent crime are rare, but an underground exists for those who know where to look, and the forbidden can be acquired...for a price.
With the discovery that they may not be alone in space, the many fissures in Fleet society have started to widen. Some worry about the survival of the Fleet, some fear the threat to their power, and some hope for change that will benefit everyone. All that's known for sure is that after generations of relative stability, everything is about to change.
|Tari Sasaki is the captain of the Amaterasu, one of the ten ships remaining in the Fleet. Pragmatic, fair-minded, and tough-as-nails, Sasaki has only been captain for a year and is still settling into her position. She's the most junior captain in the Fleet and is still learning how to play inter-ship politics, but she's picking it up fast. Within the ship, she's respected by the crew and--remarkably--well-liked even by the passengers, who appreciate her fair treatment. She has some very strong ideas about the best way to deal with the impending contact, and is working on figuring out how to win allies to her way of thinking before a final decision is made.|
|Grey Alexander is the elected mayor of the Amaterasu. He's a political animal, but a principled one. He's deeply concerned with the people who have been left disenfranchised by the system, and recognizes that even before the discovery of the alien fleet, things were not as stable aboard the ships as they appear. He served his first term of office under the previous captain, with whom he frequently disagreed. Alexander is enjoying having a new captain who's more open to alternate views, and he's working on gaining support for his ideas by helping her learn how to play politics with the other captains. At this point, he's still neutral on the upcoming contact with the alien fleet; he's waiting for more information before he decides how to deal with it.|
|The geneticists are a secretive lot, and Doctor Ava Walker is no exception. Chief Geneticist on the Amaterasu, she keeps her own counsel and takes her responsibilities to future generations very seriously. She's married to a senior engineer--one of the few successful crew/passenger long-term relationships--and has two children with her, both with impeccable genetic profiles. She likes the captain, is suspicious of the mayor, and avoids dealing with either of them more than she has to. Unknown to her spouse, the captain, or the major, Walker is one of the leading proponents of the geneticists' secret, centuries-long project to create a superior breed of humans. This plan is a secret that she'll die--or kill--to protect.|
|Devon Wright is a poet and musician--one of the most popular in the Fleet and highly influential with the passengers and junior crew. He's a childhood friend of Alexander, and shares his concerns about the role of the passenger. But where Alexander believes it's possible to work within the system, fixing the structure of the Fleet to make room for everyone without throwing out the Charter, Wright believes that all-out revolution is the only way things will change. He's been collecting allies on the other ships who feel similarly, and many of them believe that the upcoming contact is the opportunity they've been waiting for.|
|Ana Griffin is the Chief of Security aboard the Amaterasu: competent, organized, and by-the-book. By tradition, Security is considered part of the crew, which is a source of longstanding discontent among the passengers, who tend to see Security's role as one of protecting crew members first and keeping the peace second. Griffin's fierce loyalty to Captain Sasaki does little to dispel this image, although she's generally fair to the passengers when she doesn't believe the captain is at risk. Early in her career she helped put down an uprising against the previous captain, and consequently she's insistent that Sasaki follow proper security procedure, and spends a lot of time developing intelligence contacts so that she'll have early warning if another uprising is brewing. This suspicion carries over to her reaction to the alien fleet; she thinks they should steer clear of it, even if it means changing course.|
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