41
$\begingroup$

Starliners are huge colony ships. They carry enough equipment, building materials, embryos, colonists and nutrient rich rations to permanently establish a sizeable colony on a far-flung world. Although they’re big, they aren’t designed to act as generation ships. Instead any perishables (like people) are stored in 100% safe stasis modules (trust us, these things never cause psychosis or mutations) and running the ship day to day is entrusted to a helpful non-AI computer system (also 100% safe: guaranteed not to try murdering the protagonist with welding drones, and with no concerns about it trying to take over the universe)

However the ship designers know that there may be unforeseen emergencies. So every ship has a Troubleshooter (despite the name they rarely actually shoot the trouble). This individual is highly trained, augmented, decked out in Freeman class hazardous environment gear and given administrative privileges for every part of the ship.

They are also the only person ever woken by the computer en-route. No matter how bad things get, no matter how far outside of acceptable parameters things are, nobody but the single Troubleshooter wakes. There is no backup. No redundancy. This is, for some reason, intentional.

The question is why this would be so. Much like the drivers in this question: why would the people launching the colony ship not opt to include or wake multiple specialists in case of trouble?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You could have it be a single troubleshooter, but that person must enter a specific command in a computer somewhere outside of their pod within a certain amount of time or the system will fail-over to awaken the next troubleshooter. Also, once the troubleshooter is up s/he can awaken specific others as needed. That seems to maintain "one Troubleshooter" but avoid the frame-challenge issue below. $\endgroup$ – WBT Apr 26 at 16:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ if they can preform high level maintenance then they can wake people up regardless of what the main computer wants. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 26 at 17:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I recommend watching the films "Pandorum" and "Passengers" for some theory inspiration and why a single passenger troubleshooter is not a good idea. $\endgroup$ – JoshDM Apr 27 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JoshDM Having seen both I’m aware of the problems (though both ships weren’t meant to have solo troubleshooters). In fact the story I’m writing revolves around ‘Who is responsible when the decision to only have one person was intentional’- hence the question of ‘why would someone do this when it’s patently a bad idea’ $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 27 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Could it be to preserve resources? The whole idea of cryonic space travel is to reduce resource usage, and so having more people awake at any time might use up more resources than they are able or willing to spare. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Daly Apr 27 at 10:31

36 Answers 36

1
2
1
$\begingroup$

While there are some good ideas here, I don't think you should try to explain how it is a sound practice on a technical level - it most likely isn't. What I haven't seen anyone suggest yet is that you could instead make the practice a cultural artefact.

As a real world parallel, according to custom in ancient Greece when a man returned victorious from the Olympics the people of his home town would knock a hole in their fortifications, to be covered symbolically by the strength of their champion. If your story takes place far enough in the future, a shift in values could mean that there is similar hero worship around your troubleshooter.

Maybe the colony ships originally woke up various kinds of experts, but over time they shifted to smaller and smaller teams of cybernetically enhanced troubleshooters. Not necessarily because it made more sense, but because it was in vogue, and that's what the passengers of the time would expect. As the legend around the troubleshooters expanded with stories of their skills and accomplishments, we got to the point where relying on a single demigod with every upgrade under the sun became not only reasonable, but obvious.

Of course that all relies on this system having worked so far, since a few public failures would make people reevaluate their traditions. Perhaps the incident in your story will be what it takes.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ And now I’m just going to have to give the Troubleshooters designations based on classical heroes. Excellent! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 28 at 7:39
0
$\begingroup$

The protocols only allow to wake trouble-shooters that are enlisted to be able to fix the trouble the computer has diagnosed. Of course, there are multiple redundant trouble-shooters who are able to fix the same problem (everything else would be crazy right?). However, to keep that redundancy only one expert with the right field of expertise is allowed to be awake at the same time... If the computer decides it’s just a problem with the engines, only one engineer is woken up. If he can proof that the problem needs a programmer, the computer will check the request and might approve to wake the requested personnel.

When you are on a trip for 100+ years you won’t waste your 10 engineers for a single problem… Use one and if he gets damaged or lost you could use another one… You don’t open multiple boxes of ice-cream before the first is finished either…

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

One aspect more:

procreation

If you wake more than one troubleshooter, they might find it to be an easy life to procreate and make children. Even if all of them are from the same sex, some might decide to change sex and procreation starts.

Then you have a whole boatload of illegal passengers founding little tribes and villages and using up ship resources when you finally arrive. Or you have a dead ship if they used up everything.

If the journey is 50 or 100 years, they might be shot at the time of arrival. If hte journey is 1000 years, the founders of the viral civilization never fear consequences.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Your troubleshooter is the last resort backup troubleshooter after the normal team(s) of troubleshooters have been killed or unable to be revived for some reason or other.

They could be the last-resort fail-safe housed in some ultrasafe location, or maybe even in a smaller vessel tailing the main colony ship.

This will be more realistic than having a single troubleshooter from the start. There would definitely be multiple levels of redundancy in a ship like this.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Resource allocations.

It's an extremely expensive procedure computationally to slow metabolism and maintain precise environmental conditions to put someone to sleep instead of turning them into a popsicle. Maybe that's not so bad because you have a nuclear reactor on board and the process only consumes one billionth of a percent of the power needed by the engines.

However, you might be using massive amounts of other resources waking those people up. Awaking from deep sleep incurs a huge metabolic penalty on the body. They will need days of nutrient rich foods to slowly come back. And then when they're awake they still need to eat. Your ship is optimized to carry frozen people and doesn't have the resources to feed hundreds or thousands for more than a couple weeks.

I'd argue it seems strange to only have one designated emergency person though. Perhaps you could spread out several to different parts of the ship and have a defined waking order so you're not up the creek if the only maintenance guy has been dead for 1500 years because a MOSFET shorted and shut down the power supply to his pod.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

A starliner would be a very valuable vessel. If you get a team of troubleshooters, it would take only one to eliminate the others and commandeer the vessel for personal gain. Perhaps the starliner owner only wants to trust one person.

--OR--

There already was such a fiasco, and a rogue worker took out the others. One troubleshooter managed to get into the system, use admin privileges, and select one replacement troubleshooter as a last resort. You can then add a suspense part to your story, since there is another troubleshooter out there who's conquered the entire starliner and may or may not know of this innocent replacement's existence. You could make a whole good story out of that.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
2

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.