“What will it be like on Mars, daddy?”
Kelley’s father walked to her bedside after turning on the nightlight. He sat down at the end of the bed.
“Oh, it’ll be everything they say on TV—everything and more. NASA has already made a yearlong series of successful trips there, leaving behind men and supplies to get to work. It will take a long time, which is why they want to get started as soon as possible. Do you know what they’re working on, Kel?”
“Yeah!” Kelley piped up, her eyes glowing with both apprehension and wonderment in the semi-dark room.
“What are they building?”
“A col-ny!” she exclaimed. “Mrs. Lyons from school taught us all about it!”
"Oh really?” her father leaned back, nonplussed.
“Yeah daddy! A col-ny is where a lot of people go to live somewhere else. She also told us that Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, and that it’s red and really cold but by the time the first people get there the builders will have made it so we can live there!”
She drew a deep breath.
“Wow, that’s very good!” he responded, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll bet you’re going to miss school pretty soon, huh?”
“I guess so.” Pensively, she thought about all her schoolyard friends and neighborhood kids that she would miss. It was likely that she would never see them again. She spoke up, quietly, “Why can’t the other kids come with us, daddy?”
Her father didn’t answer.
“Why are we the only ones who can go?” she persisted.
“We aren’t the only people who will be going, you know,” he answered self-consciously—he would need to choose his words with care.
“Daddy, tell me why nobody from school can’t come with us,” she asked. Her father hoped against having to answer such a question tonight.
He cleared his throat. “Kelley, the folks at the Eugenics Board said we would be necessary people for the future of humankind. Don’t think that they didn’t want them to go. Instead, think of it as our privilege to go. You should consider that a blessing.”
He smiled warmly, patting a heavy hand on her forehead.
“What about mommy?” she looked into his eyes, searching for a suitable answer. For a split second, his persona almost faltered, repressing his heartfelt opinion for another time.
“I know this will take a bit of adjustment, sweetie,” he replied softly, looking away at a picture frame of their happy family. “Mom understands how… important… this is to us, and so does James. We’re very lucky, you know. Mom and James would want us to go. Please think of it that way.”
“Why did this happen?” she asked, the faint hint of disappointment in her voice.
“Well, it would be too hard to explain to you tonight,” he said. “But a long time ago, before my father, and before his father, and before his father’s father, people learned how to build giant things out of the Earth’s resources. They were wonderful things that helped us live the way we do today. But over time, these resources started to run out.”
“Like when in school we learned how to take care of the garden, unless you don’t get to use it any more?” Kelley piped up. She was such a bright child.
“That’s right,” her father continued. “Well, over time, we adults didn’t learn such a valuable lesson. So now we have to start fresh."
“They call it New Eden, Kelley. It will be a beautiful place, and you’ll make lots of new friends, and you’ll grow up into a fine adult. And if they ask about Earth, if they ask ‘What was Earth like?’ Do you know how you’d answer?”
“Sure daddy,” she replied tenderly. “It was a beautiful place.” Sincerity effused from that statement.
“It sure was, Kelley,” her father replied, betraying a shaking voice that Kelley may or may not have noticed. “Please, get some sleep for tomorrow. It will be a busy day.”
“Good night daddy.”
“Good night, honey.”