They met in the observatory, all twenty-nine of the crew members that were currently alive, that were “up and about” as Marcus liked to say, that were not stored and awaiting their turn to maintain the journey of millennia. Dem, short for Demetri, was the last to arrive as he had the farthest to travel, ten miles from the other side of the Wellspring, and the rails were down for maintenance. They did not select a more centralized meeting place because this had always been where the crew gathered to make important decisions, and it had been Dem’s choice to move to the head against the wishes of the others, so the decision to still use the observatory was also passive punishment against the rogue who had abandoned their society.
Marcus liked to say they were the Council. When Dem settled himself into a chair facing the Environment with his back to the others, Marcus said, “Wonderful, the Council is assembled. I’m glad everyone could make it.”
Dem scoffed. “We’re not a council, idiot. We’re not selected from anyone else on this ship. It’s just us. So you can stop with the council bullshit, you glorified janitor.”
The others shifted uncomfortably. Each in their own way agreed with Dem about Marcus’s self-aggrandizement, but they also didn’t see much harm in letting him have his fantasy if it motivated him, if it gave him purpose. He was a natural leader, and the others had to admit, they liked thinking of themselves as the Council too. They liked being the stewards of a world; it made them feel like gods.
But Wei also liked Dem, and he was fairly sure that he was the only member of the Council that felt that way. He thought he was funny and the most intelligent human being alive, though that only meant being smarter than twenty-eight other people in the universe. Wei had been the only person to remember Dem, in fact, when the decision to gather the Council was made. The others had forgotten he was out there, living on his own on the far side of the ship where the prow plunged through a sea of infinitesimal particles riding a galactic wind. The others had not cared if Dem came or not. He was no longer a part of them; his opinion was unnecessary. This was a decision to be made by society for society, not by or for peripheries.
“Demetri, let us discuss your opinions on the Council another time,” said Marcus in his best, most placid tone of mediation. “I know we are all busy right now, and we would each of us very much prefer to be in the midst of our duties, but we have a new duty now to which we are all bound, as we shall see. Li Wei, I give you the floor.”
“Thank you, Marcus,” said Wei, getting out of his seat and stepping into the center of the clustered chairs. He noticed Dem had turned around in his chair to face him, now looking at least vaguely attentive. “I’ll just be brief so we can, uh, get talking about this. Last night I was having this dream, well, I mean I was sleeping and something woke me up. I felt something moving in my bed, and I looked, and there was this insect thing.”
Some of the others gasped, some murmured with disbelief.
“I looked it up. Pedia said it was a centipede, actually could be poisonous.” Wei held up his hands. “I know. No, I’m positive. So, right, you can see we’ve got a couple issues here, so let me just lay them out for discussion.”
“Wait!” Marcus sprang from his seat and ran past Wei, past eye-rolling Dem, to a closet beside the edge of the observatory’s glass. The closet door slid open with a push of its button, and after a moment of rummaging Marcus withdrew an easel and carried it over to Wei.
Wei could see Dem shaking his head and glaring at him, but Wei could only shrug and watch helplessly as Marcus struggled to extend the back leg of the easel from its locked storage position. When he got it to stand independently, he stepped to the side of it and bowed slightly. “Please continue, Wei.”
“Right, well…OK, so our issues. In order of importance. Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the order I’m suggesting here. First—” Marcus leaned around the easel and tapped a bullet point onto the front with his finger. “First, we’ve had an Environment breach. According to Wellspring, this would be only the third breach ever recorded.” He waited for Marcus to finish writing this point out with his fingertip, the easel automatically translating the handwriting into a more legible font.
“Second, this might be just as important, but I think the first one is more immediate…but still, second, the breach was undetected by Wellspring. So, the safeguards that are in place, I would say they failed us, so we want to take a look at that issue I’m thinking a-sap.
"Third, probably not as important but I think it’s a little disturbing, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But, like I said, according to Pedia this centipede was poisonous. And yes, yes…I am absolutely sure it was identified correctly. Poisonous. So, we need to figure out why Wellspring created this insect, first—so I guess subpoint ‘a,’ Marcus—and second—subpoint 'b'—we need to figure out what other, if there are other, particularly dangerous animals and insects Wellspring’s making.
"I guess that’s it.”