Thursday, November 5, 2009

110 Over: To Save the One or the Seven

cold, cruel needle
bouncing and dipping
beneath your comfortable, transparent
little plastic dome - what cares
have you? or follies? or fears?

the laws are clear: 

emergency vessels have limited fuel
total mass must be x exactly
thus, and no more
or ship and pilot will perish
along with precious cargo: medicine 
to cure a half-dozen,
dying men
 on the surface of a frontier world.

mass is > x
> by 110 lbs.
the weight of death.
the pilot has one option (and
this is also the law): jettison the "dead weight"

to put the needle back to center. but …

it was just a girl...
frightened but happy
she wanted to see her brother
sooner than the transport
would allow her
she stowed away on the EDS before it launched
away from the transport.

she did not understand astrophysics and
fuel to mass ratios...all the precise measurements
she could only cry
her words haunting the pilot
ringing in his ears, pleading
as he confronted her with her fate.

i have done nothing to deserve to die!

and ringing again
after the lock cycled
and closed...
on the hard vacuum of space
and the harder choice of colder calculations -
x was exact again
and no more.

(The classic story "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin inspired this. A pilot is forced by ship weight restrictions to eject an 18-year old stowaway into space.)

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