My work on Gliese 581: The Departure continues and here is another chapter preview for you to read. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave your comments, I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter!
Tens of Tens
Dr. Anthony Vogt bowed his head and rubbed his temples. The conference room table was strewn with coffee cups and stacks of folders and the room was in an uproar. It was the third meeting for the selection team in charge of the final selection process for the crew of Calypso. The first week had gone smoothly, but last week and this week there had erupted an ongoing argument into the question of whether there should be a representation of the major religions of Earth in the contingent.
The room had divided itself into three factions, those of faith, the atheists, and those who felt that there was some kind of balance to be made. Dr. Mendez was of the first variety, Dr. Lowenstein was quite clearly in the second camp, and Anthony found himself in the third. As for the other five members of the team, two had left in disgust moments ago, and the other three were positioning themselves on either Mendez or Lowenstein’s side of the argument.
Sal Mendez and Oren Lowenstein stood toe to toe, red-faced and shouting.
Sal looked as if he were courting a coronary. His eyes bulged and his large beefy hands were curled into fists. He was tall, as well as wide, and looked as if he could stand to lose a good fifty pounds. His black hair bristled, and sweat flew from the tips as he shook in rage at the suggestion Oren Lowenstein had just made. From his neck up, he was bright red, except at the forehead which was actually starting to look purple. “We are nothing without God!” he shouted at Oren.
Oren was slim, also dark-haired and despite the size difference, he did not look afraid of the larger man in the least. “Oh yes, and whose God do we speak of? Hmm? The God whose Jews killed Christ? Or perhaps the Muslim’s Allah, who has extremists at every corner?” His eyes snapped with anger, “Better yet, let’s send the Mormons, shall we?”
Anthony tried to intervene, “If we could just…” Neither man paid any attention to him.
Mendez was a good man, but he was also a devout Catholic. And he had been known to argue, rather vociferously, for hours in support of the duality of faith and science. Lowenstein, whose father had been an Orthodox rabbi, was an atheist to the core and unafraid to call others, especially his fellow scientists, fools if they professed any sign of faith or belief in a higher power.
“God will judge the godless!”
“Do you believe in the tooth fairy and Easter bunny as well?”
“To send a man out into the stars without faith to guide him is sacrilege!”
“Perhaps we should also bring hexes and make sure everyone knows how to ward off demons!”
“ENOUGH!” Anthony’s bellow cut through both men’s shouts and startled the rest of the room into silence. The abrupt silence allowed Anthony some respite from his pounding headache, but he knew he had very little time before it started up again. “We will show each other respect, and that includes all faiths or lack thereof.”
The folder that had started today’s argument was that of Jacob Carter, age 44, a brilliant and respected psychotherapist who also held a doctorate in Ethnobotany. His age was close to the cut-off – one of the decisions early on by the Board had been that all applicants would be young, allowing for the physical advantages and adaptability of youth to adjust to the higher gravity and challenging circumstances of the new world they would be presented with.
The Board members had agreed that the maximum age should be 45 years at time of departure.
But Jacob’s age was not of particular concern. He was one of the handful of ‘over forty’ age applicants, yes, but it was his recent conversion that had sparked controversy. Applicants were given extensive physical and psychological tests as well as essay-type questions designed to elicit as much personal information about the applicant as possible. Under Personal Beliefs he had candidly written about his decision to attend seminary and become an ordained Methodist minister five years before. “It is my dream that I may take the word of God to the stars, as a comfort to those of faith in the darkness of space.”
A man who not only professed his faith but was interested in proselytizing? This revelation had raised Lowenstein’s fur, and he had said something disparaging about the religion, setting off Mendez.
“Look,” Anthony continued, ignoring Mendez’s labored breathing, the man looked closer to a heart attack than he was comfortable with, “This is about choosing the tens out of the tens.”
Sal’s face was slowly reverting from the alarming purple hue to a slightly more subdued red. Oren’s face, while never as red as Sal’s was also beginning to relax, “Jacob Carter is a ten out of ten,” he snapped, “despite being a…” he frowned slightly, “Methodist.” He couldn’t resist a roll of the eyes.
Anthony jumped in quickly, “Yes, he is. He fits into our needed skillsets – his addition will make five total individuals with degrees in the various areas of botany and the only one with an ethnobotany degree. His abilities as a psychotherapist are well known as well. He has served as a crisis counselor during the Narine conflict and has passed all of the physical and psychological tests with flying colors.”
His eyes ran down the summary page, then flipped to the back half, “Family history is negative for any mental illness, early death, or inherited diseases. His bone structure is optimal and his heart is good. Dr. Carter has also expressed an interest in studying oceanology and assisting Fuller in exploring the anomalies reported in the Decca Strait and, while he does not have any children, is fully functional and willing to either pair and reproduce with a suitable partner or adopt from an unrelated source carried by a surrogate.”
He looked back at Mendez and Lowenstein. They had both slipped back into the plush armchairs that lined the long conference table and seemed to have settled down. Mendez was still pink and Lowenstein was pretending indifference as Anthony had read out loud to them.
Anthony continued, “Let’s put him in the final 400 and move on, shall we? All in favor?”
The five men and women present each voted for Carter, even Lowenstein, who couldn’t resist adding, “At least he’s a Methodist,” he stared dismissively at Mendez, “which means he is relatively reasonable.”
Mendez’ face flushed red all over again.
Anthony sighed, next on the agenda were the couples and young families who had applied to join in the quest to Zarmina’s World, including twenty gay and lesbian couples. After such a ridiculous fight over religion, Anthony was dreading the inevitable conflict over gay unions.
He opened the first folder, “Jack Dunn and Kevin Edmonds, ten year partnership, one four year old adopted son. Jack is a videographer, historian, author and experienced sailor. Kevin is well versed in communications, and has studied extensively in Africa and South America on native building materials. It also notes under education that he has a minor in entomology and he has expressed an interest in cataloguing new species once we are on-planet.”
A murmur from the far corner of the room had begun immediately after hearing the names. It seemed that the homophobic contingent was now rearing their ugly heads. Anthony sighed in resignation and turned his attention to the elderly female board member. Might as well get this over with now.