With the muddy weather and her stupid waitressing job, London wasn’t as much fun as she’d imagined. Why, the customers never even looked at her! Back home she’d be cozily gossiping over the counter. Here was that cute fellow again: she bet she could wake him up!
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or an erotic massage?
He looked up, startled.
Just kidding, she smiled. We do have delicious muffins…
He blushed. I’ll … I’ll have some of those, then. And some tea.
Thanks. He smiled shyly as she put down his steaming cup. I’m… hmm, I’m Patrick. What… What’s your name?
* * *
The 100 word challenge for grown-ups at Julia’s Place: …tea, coffee, hot chocolate or…
Falia was resigned to her mission. The thankless task of checking out possible new worlds traditionally fell to the most junior member of the Interplanetary Relationship Bureau. It was probably a false alarm anyway, and even if it wasn’t there was nothing she could do beyond data gathering, worse luck. To remove temptation, scout vessels simply weren’t equipped for landing.
After the autopilot had maneuvered her ship into orbit, Falia set to work. Satellites made tapping into data sources seem like child’s play. She was excited to get her first glimpse of a new species, have the ship’s computer navigate through the jumble of languages, and dip into it’s strange culture. But her excitement soon turned to dismay at what she found.
Morality. The planet was infested with it. Preachers of morality raped children; others murdered in the name of family values. Those whose very existence offended the reigning moral code were despised and persecuted; those unwilling to accept it reviled. Where two moralities clashed, hatred and violence inevitably followed: the slaughter of innocents on the way was defended by moral leaders.
On the way back Falia tried to shake off her feeling of revulsion. How could anyone value rules over sentient beings’ feelings and needs? Her report would go through the usual channels, though the outcome was clear. After the Bureau had slipped up with Silema-β, only narrowly avoiding the first interplanetary war, the ruling on a morality-ridden planet was inevitable.
“It will be fine, It will be fine.” Edith repeated her mantra. She was on the way to the medical center with her mate John, to receive their baby’s test results. It was their third attempt, the first two hadn’t passed the eugenics review. Maybe their genes just weren’t good enough.
The tube coasted to a stop. A woman and a child were waiting on the platform. Edith flinched as they got into the car. Clearly there was something wrong with the child: it’s awkward walk was painful to watch. She saw the mother looking at it with fierce protectiveness as other passengers turned away and some got up and moved away.
As the tube surged forward again, Edith instinctively put her hand on her belly. Suddenly she wanted her baby, whether or not it measured up to some arbitrary standard of perfection. It was hers, theirs. Even if it didn’t, there was no reason to be ashamed, no reason to hide.
Maybe the reason you rarely saw disabled people anymore wasn’t the huge success of mandatory genetic screening. Maybe they were simply pushed out of sight by the contempt and disgust they were met with.
She gave the child’s mother an awkward smile.
* * *
T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: If natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the means by which the process of evolution unfolds, is eugenics wrong?
Cavern put the phone down slowly. After thirty years on the job, he didn’t need telling a summons to the White House wasn’t good news. When crisis after crisis hit, protecting the quality of drinking water suddenly became an important job.
More than an hour into the meeting, the cards were finally on the table. The president was instructing him to introduce antidepressants into the water-supply.
Cavern looked down. “It won’t work.” he said quietly.
“How do you know that?” the President asked. “You haven’t tried it.”
Cavern could hear his voice from a distance. “They did. Nearly thirty years ago.”
There was a stunned silence. The Defence Secretary was the first to recover: “So what was their solution?”
Cavern swallowed. “Soda,” he said weakly, “they put it in the soda.”
He would learn later that he was in a hospital and an accident with the wiring had erased his memory. In the beginning the doctors were hopeful his memory would return, but in the meantime he needed to start from scratch.
He was a quick learner. Walking, eating with a knife and fork, and brushing his teeth were a breeze. He loved mathematical puzzles, and once he had mastered “See Spot run”, he quickly became an avid reader.
When the doctors pronounced him as good as new, he went home to his family and his job. He did his best to settle in, to do the things he was told to do. But as often as not, he didn’t see the point. He hated the noise, and was puzzled by the empty conversations.
One day he took a boat, and sailed for the horizon.
I inched forward, holding my breath. Don’t look, don’t look. My eyes flickered downward, and I gave a little lurch. I was falling.
Get a grip! a little voice inside me growled. People are staring! I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Everything’s fine, the voice breathed.
After a while the idiocy struck me of standing by one of the most spectacular sights of the world – with my eyes screwed shut. Come on, the little voice coaxed. With an effort I opened my eyes: first one, then the other. I looked at the cliffs opposite. Breathtaking.
Time was running out. He had put off the decision as long as he could.
Engrossed in the project he had asked strangers their opinion. The fuzzy answers annoyed him: what use were they? He studied ancient books and their sweeping judgements made him angry: it was just words. None of these philosophers had known the responsibility he faced.
It was up to him to finalise the program. His hand would flip the switch. Future generations would thank him – or curse his name.
We have many needs, he thought. Big ones and small ones. Some we all share, others are peculiar to ourselves. Sometimes we value one more; another time we valued it less. Not all our needs are met, indeed, some may never be.
So that is what he taught the machines. They would preserve life. They would consider needs varying in individuals and over time. They would do what was possible to restore the scorched earth. But when the planet was habitable again, they would relinquish their power.
And give mankind the freedom to make its own mistakes. Again.