Once there was a mighty civilization that lived on a dying planet. The sun was growing larger and the planet was overheating to the point that living there just wasn’t possible for much longer. Fortunately, the civilization had already built a colony on another planet, far away from the growing sun.
Unfortunately, the colony planet was on the other side of the galaxy. There was only enough time to make one trip. And so, the civilization threw all its resources into building space ships and gathering resources for the journey.
The politicians all promised that there would be room for everyone on the spaceships. Everyone was calm as they began to plan and pack and prepare. Eventually, it was time to load up the spaceships and send them on their way.
The trouble started when there were only three spaceships left. The last group of people on the list had nowhere to go. The spaceships were all full.
The group hurried over to the largest, newest spaceship before it could take off. The leader of the group, an older man who had done a lot of good for his community, called for the ship’s captain to come meet with them. After a long wait, the captain met them at the staging area just outside the ship.
“You have the biggest, newest ship. Won’t you make room for us so that we aren’t left behind?” the man asked.
The captain frowned. “My ship is loaded to capacity. Regulations say that it isn’t safe to add extra weight beyond the maximum recommendations. I will not risk the lives of those already aboard.”
“But if we’re left behind, we’ll all die. Can’t we ask some scientists if there is some way to redistribute the load to safely add a few more passengers?” the old man pleaded.
The captain shook his head. “It was scientists who designed the ship and decided on the safety standards after numerous tests. They were experts on this ship. Why consult anyone else? I’m sorry that I cannot help you.”
He returned to his ship, and sealed the door. The warning lights came on and the group hurried out of the staging area. The large, shiny new spaceship took off and left the dying planet behind.
The group turned to the next ship. It was as large as the first, but older. It had traveled to the colony planet more than once, and was considered a safe, reliable ship.
The leader of the group called for the ship’s captain. The captain met with them at the door of the ship. “Will this take long?” he asked. “I’m already behind schedule.”
The leader pointed out the group behind him. “Could you make room for our group? The ships are full, and if we’re left behind we’ll all die.”
The captain shook his head. “I’m sorry. My ship is old, and it’s completely full. I know what it can handle, and I wouldn’t risk adding any more weight. It just isn’t safe.”
The old man looked back at his group. “Can’t you leave something behind? Surely you can make room for at least some of us? There will be resources to make up what was lost when you arrive at the new colony.”
The captain sighed and ran his hand through his hair until it stood on end. “I’m sorry, I really am. Unfortunately, we’re already behind schedule. We just don’t have time to take inventory again and debate what we could leave behind. I’ve gone over the list so many times. I’m afraid that we just can’t help you.”
He closed the door and the warning lights went on. The group hurried away as the ship took off. Only the smallest, oldest ship was left. Feeling almost hopeless, the group approached the ship.
The leader called for the captain. The captain met them at the door. “There are people left here?” the captain asked in surprise. “Did you know this is the last ship?”
“Yes, we know,” the leader said. “Can you make room for us?”
“Of course I can,” the captain said. “If you’re left behind, you’ll all die.”
The captain called for a few of his officers. “We have to make room,” he told them.
“With extra people, we won’t need all those blankets,” the first said.
“Blankets don’t take up much room,” the second pointed out. “Let’s rip out the chairs. We can sit on the floor.”
“We can throw out our shoes and hats, too,” the first said. “Who needs those in space?”
“We don’t need doors.”
“We don’t need chocolate.”
“Let’s not get crazy,” the captain said. “Of course we need chocolate. Get rid of the bed frames and tables instead.”
The crew and passengers spent the next few hours building a towering pile of things to leave behind. The ship was still a little heavier than expected, but the captain wasn’t worried.
“If we can make it out of the atmosphere, the rest is smooth sailing,” he assured everyone.
They huddled close during countdown. The ship took off. As they sped through the atmosphere, everyone in the ship could hear the captain quietly tell them through the intercom, “We can do this. Our ship can do this. In a few minutes, the worst will be over. We can do this.”
He was right. The ship made it through the atmosphere just fine. It was a little uncomfortable crossing the galaxy without tables and chairs and bed frames, but at least there was chocolate.
The passengers and crew of the little-ship-that-could went down in legend. Great leaders and inventors and heroes in the colony planet could trace their family lines to the people who traveled there on the little ship.
Many years after the voyage, a researcher interviewed the last surviving passenger, who had been a little girl during the journey. “Why do you think so many great innovators traveled on that particular ship?” the researcher asked.
“We knew that we could do anything. The captain told us so, and he was right.”