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“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s the way it is.”
The voice emanating from the speaker in front of the man was sympathetic but firm; the man struggled to maintain his composure.
“Both of your children passed the qualifying exams exceedingly well, but due to limitations in crew capacity…”
Even with the cold logic programmed into it, the computer that was labeled with “Appeals” had the grace to pause for a few seconds before continuing.
“Your son had the more optimal genes, you see, and that was the ultimate deciding factor. It’s harsh, I know, but to maximize the overall health for future generations anyone, and I stress anyone, harboring potential diseases cannot qualify.”
The man attempted valiantly, but failed, to keep his tears from escaping his eyes.
Silence reigned supreme among the multitudes. Heads were bowed, and parents muttered quietly. Somewhere, someone sobbed gently. And yet the silence was only an illusion, for if one listened carefully, the screams and gunshots from the mobs outside echoed faintly, their violence held back by the faceless lines of stoic soldiers and riot police. Amid the throng, the man stood in front of the starship with his daughter held close to him. His daughter, on the other hand, was quiet, thinking about something, her eyes intently observing her younger brother, who was in the midst of a crowd of similarly young children.
“Daddy, why can’t I go?”
The man swallowed. An argument that he thought had been resolved back home was apparently far from being resolved. The man could see from where he stood his son fascinated by how something could possibly be even that large, craning his neck back for a better look.He forced a smile, and looked down at his daughter.
“Because, sweetheart, it’s a trip only your brother can go on.”
The little girl sniffed indignantly at the extremely inadequate answer.
“But why not me?”
The blare of a siren caused everyone to look towards the silent behemoth, saving the man from having to answer. Figures in dark uniforms began to organize the disorganized children into orderly lines; the lines began to move through the gigantic doors that had opened. A dark-suited figure detached himself from the rest and made his way towards the man, who he recognized as a long-time friend. The man smiled, this time without having to fake it, and extended his hand. The other took it in a firm handshake and gave the man a quick hug.
“Watch of him, will you, Paul.”
The other man known as Paul Trummel, one of the few adults to be able to leave on the starship, gave a sad grin.
“Naturally. Take care of yourself and your daughter.”
A shout forced Paul to give a last perfunctory wave and then turn back to his charges. The lines were almost all within the starship, so after a brief stab of panic the man found his son again. He watched his son turn and try to find his father, but he managed only a quick farewell wave before being swept by the flow into the yawning maw of the starship. Something wrenched inside the man’s heart. Next to him his daughter, who did not entirely understand the situation but had guessed the truth subconsciously, whispered goodbye with tears that she did not know were there.
Finally, the last of the diminutive figures and their dark-suited charges disappeared into the looming starship. As the bay doors slid seamlessly shut, sirens from hidden recesses began to wail, as if lamenting the departure of the first and last starship. The crowd was ushered behind transparent blastproof walls, and it was there that the man watched the gantries retract from the starship, its engines ignite, and the resounding muted roar that filled the cavernous facility and shook the ground. Slowly, but ever so gradually, the ship gained speed as it lifted off the ground, discarding the auxiliary rockets as it rose gracefully into the air. Soon, what had been a massive starship was now nothing more than a tiny and extremely bright dot in the sky, arising into the heavens. The incessant roaring soon faded into a purr and then stillness. For a while, nothing moved nor made a sound. Even the mobs raging outside had fallen quiet.
Turning his head away from his daughter, the man tried to hide the tears that slipped down his face. But it was a needless thing to do, considering that her eyes were entranced by the rapidly receding glow of the starship. He told himself that it was for the future of humanity, that the space his little girl would have taken up on the ship was instead filled with someone better qualified.
Someone more optimal.