Our multi-generational ship, the UAE Epoch, has been cruising through space for four hundred years now. I suppose it’s fitting that I take on the role of captain on our quadricentennial year. I am the first gender-fluid captain of our ship, after all. We’ve come a long way since our ancestors in the United Astral Exploration unit first left shore so many generations ago. Back then, there was a lot of fighting. It was hard for our forebearers to blend so many different cultures together on one tiny vessel. People fought over religion, race, gender, and sexual orientation. For a while, it seemed like they might cause their own extinction. But, time really does wonders for one’s spirit of teamwork. The thought of the vacuum of space being the only place they could escape probably didn’t hurt either. It’s much different when you have a planet with thousands of miles of open land, as opposed to what is, in comparison, a sardine can floating in space.
In the past century, the people on the Epoch have gotten along and had resided and worked among each other in relative peace. There is still the occasional conflict, but differences in appearance and beliefs among the people usually don’t come into play in arguments anymore. I’m an exception, of course. For all of our advances in tolerance and acceptance, it’s still hard for people to accept someone who presents as a male on one day and then presents as a female on another. It’s even harder for them to accept a person like that in a position of authority. I’ve heard more than a fair share of derisive terms about people like me, many of which date back to the earliest years of the voyage of our vessel. They’re prejudices that most people ignore because they think that such things don’t exist in our peaceful modern society. The friction that so many of the crew have given me upon my ascension to the rank of captain is living proof that we’re not quite as advanced as we think.
I look at the ship’s counselor, Maria Corben, the woman to whom I am confiding my innermost thoughts. I realize that, if anyone would understand my situation, it is her. She is even more of an exception to the rule of content among the crew than even I. She has green scales instead of skin and has yellow eyes with black pupils. Everything else about her appears completely human, from her long red hair, and full red lips, to her button nose and oval face. She also has a figure that I would love to have on my feminine days. Though her appearance suggests otherwise, her parents were both human, as we have yet to encounter alien life on our journey. She is part of what is known among the people on the ship as a ‘splicer baby’.
Thirty years ago, some of our scientists began experimenting with gene-splicing techniques. It was supposed to help with cures for diseases, but some people began using them on themselves. It was extreme body modification, a way to make them stand out from the crowd. It worked on that front, a little too well. We didn’t have animals on the ship, only animal DNA, but people were able to splice themselves with that. Most chose vicious creatures, such as reptiles, like the mother of our counselor. They also chose lions, bears, and even more extreme modifications such as rhinos. The people on the Epoch were frightened of their newly remodeled brethren, and tensions rose to levels that our ship hadn’t seen since it first departed from Earth four hundred years prior.
Those people who had used gene splicing on themselves were sentenced to prison terms for illegal use of the technology. Our best scientists worked to find a way to reverse it, but their pursuits were fruitless. It seemed to be a one-way process. Gene splicing was eventually completely outlawed. Shortly afterward they were released back into the general populace. It was hard on them, but, as the other people on the Epoch realized that they were stuck that way, they didn’t give them a hard time. At least, not physically. However, old fashioned racism was brewing. It was something that our ancestors had worked so hard to overcome, and once we were confronted with people we hadn’t seen before, we were starting it right back up. People began referring to them as ‘splicers’, and viewed them as inhuman. Unfortunately, once the ‘splicers’ had children, it was discovered that the spliced genes were dominant, and the children would inherit their traits. They also would inherit the racism against their parents. Terms like ‘splicer baby’ were among the first wave of that.
Like with their parents, adults weren’t mean to them in public. However, when in private, they saw these children as less than human and imparted that belief into their own children. As for these children, the young can be much crueler than their parents, so they did not show courtesy to their peers with spliced genes. The insults were just the tip of the iceberg, as the bullies would beat these children, as their parents made them believe that they did not deserve to live. The teachers were at a loss as to what to do, as the ship hadn’t had this kind of violence and hatred on-board in over two centuries. They would send these children home for a week or more like an out of school suspension.
However, their problems weren’t resolved, as the parents of these bullies felt their children did nothing wrong. In a number of cases, the parents even went to the administrators of the various schools on the Epoch to get their children back in classes and expressed their bigoted belief in-person. The school didn’t want this kind of atmosphere, so at first, they tried segregated schools, supposedly to keep the children with spliced genes safe from harm.
Maria was one of the first children to attend these schools. She, along with the other spliced gene children and their parents, was treated badly by both children and adults in public, as the adults felt that the segregation had validated their views. The captain, my mother, was brought in to try to find a peaceful resolution. It was decided that, although the segregated schools were made with good intentions, they did more harm than good.
The schools were once again integrated, but the damage had already been done. Maria and her peers were still routinely mocked, and she was constantly told that she couldn’t amount to anything in her life simply because of who she was. That is the reason why she studied and worked so hard to become a counselor. She wanted to prove that she could be someone important, and she could use her position to spread compassion and show that people who were the product of gene splicing weren’t any different than anyone else.
That is the main reason why I was so relaxed in my mandated counseling sessions, as we both shared that trait in common. I was routinely mocked in cadet training, with my peers telling me to pick one gender and stick with it, and many others telling me I was just changing genders for attention. When I became second in command of the ship, people had insinuated that I had gotten my position simply so the captain could put up a veneer of inclusivity, because my mother was once captain of the ship, or because of a mixture of both. I knew that I had gotten through because of hard work and determination, and tried my best to ignore the accusations of others.
After many more years of hard work, I was now captain of the ship, and she was the head counselor. We both knew that our positions wouldn’t be the easiest because of who we were, but we both felt that we could make a difference in our settlement in our positions. We were both still the same people we had always been, and we didn’t let our hardships change that. That was what made us both strong people, and that was what was the most important. We knew that we couldn’t change the opinions of everyone, but if our demeanor and aptitudes made even one detractor believe that it was possible that we weren’t so different from everyone else, that alone would make everything worth it.
It was at this point that I took my mind out of its reminiscence and brought my thoughts back into focus on the matter at hand. I was here to talk with Counselor Corben about the present, as there was no need delving back into our pasts, and it was certainly not worth it to worry about the mistakes of our parents. We had both accomplished our dreams and were both new in our positions of power. We certainly had a lot to talk about in regards to the present, so talking about the past not only is pointless, but potentially harmful, as it would take away from our limited time allotted as captain and counselor to talk about the here and now.
I began to tell her about my first week as captain, and how surprisingly dull it had been, when the ship’s alarm went off. It seems that I had just jinxed myself with my comments, as when I got up and headed out into the hallway, I was confronted with a truly disturbing sight. This is something that not even my mother saw on her time on the ship, and was certainly something I thought that I would never see. The entire senior staff wing of the ship was now in the process of a full out brawl.
I ordered the crew to stop, but it was to no avail. Maybe the staff doesn’t respect me in my role as captain after all. Maria tried to get them to stop as well, and I thought at first that her attempt had succeeded. However, after everyone stopped fighting they all eerily turned their attention towards her. They shouted that everything was the fault of her, and people like her, and at once I understood what had started this brawl. The hatred of splicers had bubbled under the surface for several decades, and I had just witnessed it boiling over.