A Win for Hughes, but the Alliance Loses

The decision from the Nomination Committee this week to recommend Duncan Hughes to command the Alliance’s Seeding expedition should come as little surprise to anyone who has attended to the recent history of the Alliance’s offworld adventures. For those of us, like myself, who remain skeptical on the merits of this expedition, it was a given from the outset. Hughes’ presence in the Seeding process and his constant, tedious encomia and hagiography on the Seeding, coupled with his undeniable expertise at offshore construction made him the ideal candidate. Combine this with his non-military background, his working-class background narrative, and the general fecklessness of the Nomination Committee and the alternate candidates, and the outcome was clearly preordained as soon as Hughes’ name appeared on the short list.

It should be said that in fairness, Hughes’ talents as an administrator are unmatched. Before his flight into politics and the quixotic vision of an offworld colony under the NSA flag, Hughes had a career in naval construction and offshore development that would have been enough for three men with healthy senses of self-satisfaction.

As a coalition builder Hughes was underestimated. When the North Sea Alliance referendum on Seeding was announced, the public was polled strongly against. Hughes put together a motley collection of academics, tradesmen, and defence technocrats, and marched under a media campaign banner that neatly cleaved the Green/Resilience coalition of thirty years’ standing in twain. That alone would have been enough for a politician with an appetite to make his legacy.

But Hughes is not a man of ordinary appetites, it seems. Hughes has already done much, and done it with a stoicism that pays tribute to Scotland. Not content with establishing himself as a model citizen of the NSA, he must now be the de facto king of a new planet.

NSA is now committed to our most expensive internal project to date, and to an old Green Resilient like myself, it is anathema. To my mind, NSA chose the better course eighty years ago when we renounced our Seeding program the first time around, a deed of political courage I would rank up there with voluntary de-nuclearisation and the popular relocation of Amsterdam. It was, I thought, a profound rejection of the false promise of saving humanity by abandoning the planet that has sustained us. Any Seeding program pulls too much from the people of this world, in favor of a slim dice-roll of survivability on a world never intended for human habitation. Crop salvage, disease prevention, education – all these are more worthy programs than the colossal gamble of Seeding, sold by confidence men with their technoprogressive flim-flammery.

The public will likely never know the final energy and resource costs of Hughes’ grand exit from the Earth that sustained him. I would warrant that an old construction foreman like Hughes probably knows the metal-equivalence of his project to the gram, and the energy cost to the joule. Mind that we, the public who will carry this burden, will not be able to partake in this bounty. It is reserved for the Sea King of Two Worlds and his courtiers.

So I will not congratulate Duncan Hughes on his good fortune to having engineered his desired political ends. But neither will I denigrate his capabilities. His departure robs the NSA of vital resources, most especially a shrewd and cunning mind which might have solved greater problems for more people on his home world.