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Abandon Ship!

The great ship had served its captain and officers (although not so much its crew) well for years, but it was beginning to show its age as it sailed into new waters quite different from what had been seen before. It had been necessary for many years to apply patches to the hull, to build extra structures onto its once clean form, and on several occasions it had been close to sinking only to be saved at the last-minute.

By now many people were wondering whether they should look for a whole new ship. But the senior officers were against this. They had spent years extending their cabins and it seemed wasteful to lose all that hard work.

The changes threatened the basic stability of the ship because the luxurious quarters were built on the upper levels and had almost caused it to capsize on many occasions. It was only through the establishment of an extended class of stabilisation experts who spent their lives moving dead weight from one part of the ship to another that disaster had been avoided. But the resources required for this had added so much weight to the ship that it had sunk dangerously low in the water.

A solution to this had been found too. It was to reduce the space available to the lesser classes of crew. Those who kept the engines running, for example, needed little space because they spent more and more time in the engine room itself. And as they worked longer hours fewer engineers were needed meaning that some could be thrown overboard to save even more space.

Some of the engineers were uncomfortable about their colleagues being disposed of with so little thought but the more it happened the more they realised how dispensable they really were, and those on the upper levels of the ship obviously could see the “big picture” so much better than a mere engineer could, so very few complained.

The commanders looked at their work and saw that they had solved the complex problems and rewarded themselves for producing such an efficient solution by extending their living quarters even further. After all, if they had to work so hard they deserved some privileges.

It was important to plan for the future so the captain had posted a lookout. According to best practice the lookout spent the day reading predictions of what storms might be expected. There was also some assistant lookouts, a media adviser, and several administrators who helped keep the process running efficiently. The people filling these essential roles all got big cabins because it was important to encourage the best people to do such an important task.

The predictions were produced by the best experts in the area and clearly stated that the ship would correct itself based on the forces it encountered in future. Everyone knew that it was important not to interfere with the self-correction processes of the ship.

There were some lower ranked members of the crew who claimed to know better. They were often seen in uncomfortable places that no true professional would go, like near the top of the mast, looking through obscure instruments like telescopes.

Their warnings could not be taken seriously by the captain because they could never agree on what exactly was ahead. Sometimes it was rain tomorrow, other times a storm the day after. Or they might predict a storm which didn’t arrive until a bit later than was predicted. Why would any competent captain change course based on such unreliable advice when the official lookout said everything was OK?

In recent times some of the lower echelons of the ship’s crew had to live on the deck because all the spare cabins had been bought by those who, through hard work and dedication, had accumulated more wealth. Seeing these people spoiling the previous tidiness of the deck upset the officers and they wondered why the cabin-less people had allowed themselves to get into that situation. Even after more cabins were built they still lived on the deck. No one could figure out what had gone wrong.

The ship wasn’t travelling as quickly as it used to but a lot of efficiencies had been gained by outsourcing the management of the engines to another group on the ship who had previously been in charge of the captain’s drinks cabinet. The senior officers were confident that the management skills this group had were clearly more important than any knowledge of engineering and the great improvements seen after the change clearly showed this was true.

The time the engines were on-line had reduced from 99% to 50% but that was considered acceptable when the streamlined management was considered. The engines were now being run by less staff and those that remained also were paid less. Why this scheme of expert management hadn’t been in place all along was the subject of many discussions around the captain’s table.

Some alarmists had claimed that fuel for the engines was getting low but using excess combustible material from the lower decks had kept them going with the same efficiency as always. The idea that eventually the fuel would be gone was considered ridiculous by the captain. After all, hadn’t the current system worked well for years?

At the end of the day, despite all the negatives heard from those who didn’t bother to participate in running the ship like it was, things were going well. Solutions to all the minor issues which had been identified were being considered by panels of experts, and abandoning the ship was totally unnecessary. Despite the sleek new ships which were often seen on the horizon there was no need to abandon the ship which had proved itself so reliable.

So the ship sails on, sinking lower in the water every year. The new models sometimes seen are starting to look a lot more attractive. And some of the crew wonder if maybe, just maybe, it really is that time… time to abandon ship!

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