The distant future. An ancient ark ship flies through the void of space. So long has passed that even with cold sleep, none aboard ever called a planet home. They soar through the black on the back of a tame singularity kernel, wrestling with the very essence of the universe to drive them ever forward towards the world they seek to build.
Morning and evening, these wanderers remember their mission within the vastness of the universe, vowing forever to keep it forefront in their mind and to embody it in their actions. That same mission is carved on the doors of every airlock, bulkhead door, and access panel. They pass it to their children and their children’s children, remembering it always by the elaborate blue braids at the corners of their uniforms.
At the end of fourth shift on day six, all work ceases. Day seven’s duty roster is always empty. At shift’s end, all rest: tools down, and terminals off. This cathedral in time is only for rejuvenation. Everyone knows this safety measure. A day of rest ensures that the ark’s automated systems operate reliably without oversight. And a universal mandate for rest and recreation ensures that they perform even through peak loads. And, of course, it’s essential for wellbeing and moral. What more reason could one need? Which is not to say that nobody has every worked on this sabbath. Over the millennia, 14% of emergencies have begun while nobody held the watch. Key crew are ready to act if a hazard emerges. Survival trumps rest, when it has to.
Nobody knows the meaning of the rituals which mark this day. They are powerful transitions between work and rest even if the ancient syllables are strange and their modern translations somehow stranger. Candles have given way to other lights, and boxed spices bear little resemblance to their ancient ancestor seeds grown in the ground. The intoxicant of choice is derived from solid state synthesis, and food’s precursors require much less hydroponics space than any grain. Alien concepts like fruits, vines, or soil have been replaced with blessings over the life support web and the biomedical fabricators, thanks for the scrubbers and the recyclers. And always, always, deep respect and awe for that killing vacuum filling the void beyond the hull.
For one week a year, crew work not from stations or quarters, but only from designated shelter zones, shuttles, and escape vessels. Core systems are left on standby; only emergency resources are used. Everyone is fully shielded from cosmic radiation, but most can see the stars through plex windows. One day a year, regular work is replaced by cross-training on other disciplines. A full four shifts of intensive study ensures some measure of skills redundancy and resilience in the face of injury, illness, or accident. These rituals are just prudent preparation, after all. Ancient practices by which these people mark time in the wide wilderness of the void.
Forty thousands of forty thousands of years, and these people stay the course towards a land of milk and honey which none of them will ever see, making a home here along the journey, as we all do.