by Robert J. Guenther © 2002

Hal gripped his folder, turning his fingers white. Meticulous preparation had gone into this proposal-it must be accepted. Anxiety pricked his mind. The seamless metallic hallway gave the illusion of standing still even as he forced himself to take one step at a time. Familiarity with the route did not shake the unease. This was the hallway's intended effect. The one he sought had designed it this way. His superior was an impossible man. Hal's journey ended at a door so skillfully worked into the surrounding wall that it would be missed unless one knew where to look. The door was another subtle message. He remembered it well. If you cannot know to find me, how can you handle that which you seek to create? Details are the key. Hal had missed it the first time. He didn't repeat mistakes. Designers never did. There were too many opportunities to make new ones.

The ancient man furrowed his gray, shaggy brows and frowned in disapproval. His disgust was growing by increasing degrees as he flipped from page to page in the stack of documents before him. Upon completion, he raised his eyes to the man sitting across from him whose fingers had found some odd fascination with the back of his ear. Realizing the old man's eyes were upon him, Hal straightened himself then leaned forward expectantly.

The old man spoke, "This is your proposal?"

"Yes, Father." The way the old man had asked the question unnerved his son. This mood was familiar, and this scenario had been played out before.

"Did you review this before you handed it to me? Are you aware of the weak design of this system? Where are its defenses? How do you expect it to form, much less last for very long?" "I believe my report addresses those issues."

"I believe it doesn't," a wrinkled hand slammed the documents on his desk. "In fact, I'm not sure it addresses much of anything. And you want to introduce life this time? You are not ready to handle the delicate balances of what you seek to create." He rose from his seat and strode to the room's sole transparent wall unit, opening it to reveal a sprawling sweep of stars. "Are you aware of how few of these points of light support life-sustaining planets? Are you aware of the miniscule fraction of these planets that go on to be inhabited by intelligent life? You do not yet grasp the subtleties necessary. You think you have taken great care, yet once again you are more preoccupied with the evolution and development of the intelligent life rather than sustaining its existence. Your proposal contains talks of messiahs and secretly introduced technological leaps-"

"But Father, I believe I can create the first intelligent life capable of reaching other life on other planets. My creations will be able to survive the life of their planet and beyond. Perhaps one day they will evolve into space dwellers. I have put this in their genes, and-"

"Enough!" The elder wheeled upon his son. "They will survive the life of their planet? Any life you create will be obliterated countless times before it becomes more than a few cells. Your system's angle of orbit brings it too close to too many black holes, and it spends too much time in the densest parts of the galaxy. Your sun needs to be smaller; you need larger planets to catch asteroids before they wipe out all the life on your planet; and you need more interior and exterior planetoids to help maintain a safe orbit for your planet. Such basics should not elude you at this point. Your ideas on life and its development are well conceived, and may one day work. However, your life will not last long enough to evolve to that point. Your arguments are noted. Request denied."

Hal's mouth opened, then closed before any words left it. He wheeled and stalked angrily from the room as his father's gaze turned once again upon his window of stars.

x x x

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