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It was at 11:59 this morning today that Morris turned ten and I turned fifty one. There was a brief celebration over in central, a bit of cake (a rare treat in these parts), and a little song before everyone on board went back to business. Morris was taken to get his physical updated by Nurse Christine Applegate, and I just shut myself inside of my office to get caught up on paperwork. I tried convincing myself that this was downtime, but at the very least it was an escape. An escape from him, from Morris. I told Nurse Applegate earlier this week that she should preform Morris' physical on her own and she gladly obliged for the sake of "life experience."
Having her say “Yes” to that task was probably one of the highlights of my last decade or so. I needed a break from him, it was my birthday after all, and now I have my chance to be alone for the first time in a long time.
Things seemed awfully quiet from across the hall where Nurse Applegate was taking Morris' physical, but I just kept to my chair, looking into my screen. I saw no need to worry about nothing. No news is good news. I began work on yet another request letter to the government in the vain hope of receiving an early retirement. Thanks to some strings being pulled by my former colleague, Don Macgregor Jr., I probably won't be able to do so until I'm nearly 70.
Macgregor had already saw to it that they'd cut my pension. I've concluded that he did it out of bitterness. If he couldn't get what he wanted, then he'll make me suffer. Years after graduating from the academy, Macgregor and I began working on separate interstellar projects. The newly formed Unified Government green lit my radical experiment and left Macgregor to find other work. That incident left a great impact on old Magregor, I think. As much as Macgregor has damaged my career, something he wrote to me years ago sticks with me. At the time I merely ignored it, but as of late I find myself reading it more and more often. I even took the liberty of scrawling it out on paper and taping it to my screen.
“Project Star-Children, Mr. Richards, is a reckless and frivolous experiment. A true waste of Government funding if there ever was one. No good can ever and will ever come out of studying the growth and development of a human being within the confines of a space station. Regardless of advances in technology the entire project just seems cruel. And on the morality side of things, I believe that such an experiment is wildly unethical in regards to the specimens involved. It may be for the good of mankind, but surely the quality of a human life, a child in particular, must count for something.”
Perhaps Macgregor had a point, I lost faith in this project not long after it had started, but part of me still wants to believe that he was just upset that I was more successful than him.
I jumped at the sound from across the hall, but I stayed put anyway. No news is good news, but I decided to change that policy a bit. Any news is no news, if that makes any sense.
But Morris' wails and the wet splatter of his footsteps drawing closer were starting to get the best of me.
“Morris, come back!” Nurse Applegate cried.
Something was knocked over, a desk perhaps, and Morris shrieked.
“No Doc-tuh Appuh-gate!” Morris squealed.
Doctor Applegate. She insists that she is a doctor, and despite evidence to the contrary, I'll call her that. Even though to me she will always be Nurse Applegate, always be Christine. Morris of all people has caught on to this already.
Morris now was clumsily pounding at my office door.
“Stay put Richards, just stay put,” I thought.
“Mis-tuh Rick-car … lemme in pwease. Rick-car...”
“Stay put, keep still,” I mumbled.
“For God's sake Richards, just let him inside!”
I gave in. I reached for the wall panel and pressed 'Open.'
Morris stood nearly nude in the doorway, his mangled figure even more visible than usual. His face was large and swollen, his arms were long and stringy, the fingers were slim and nearly resembled talons. His legs, the worst of all, curved sickly inward and were complimented by his bony, webbed feet which both caused him to limp. To top it off, Morris has been regarded as mentally defective and unstable. Despite this has has had the longest life and highest IQ of any of the star children. He was gawking at me now in his own special way.
“Richards, it's Morris, he...bit into one of the vials, I'm so sorry,” Nurse Applegate said.
I looked to Morris. He was grinning his malformed, gap-toothed grin. A yellow fluid drooled slowly out of his mouth.
“Shit,” I said.
“What should we do?”
I looked to her.
“It could be poison. Do you think that I should take Morris over to 11.8, Doctor Applegate?”
She smiled weakly at the acknowledgment and said 'Yes.'
I grabbed Morris' cold, leathery arm and dragged him over to room 11.8.
11.8-Decontamination. Chemical showers, eye washes, and shelves upon shelves of sharp, sterile equipment lined the walls. The pod was here in 11.8 as well and the pod was practically in mint condition. They tell us to save most medical waste now. They say that wastefulness is impractical. They say a lot of things down there, on Earth. Things that most of us wouldn't even have considered. I've tried telling them that recycling waste is impractical. But they foil you, they'll always foil you. Always watching, always ready to peek, even all the way up here you're not immune. Though they, down there hunched over their machines, cannot deny what they see. They always see, always. I decided to put on a show. What they see from the cameras and what they hear from me will be enough. It's movie magic, I tell you. I'm doing what I have desired for years. I'm putting an end to it. Morris got out from under my grip and shambled over to the pod and sat right in it. He gawked at me. I smiled wickedly. If things were going the way that they seemed to be going, the day just may be mine.
I opened the first drawer and pulled out a long needle. I quickly filled it with what I assured Morris was "sleepy juice." He still flinched at the sight of it as he does with any medical instrument. But I pinned him down long enough to give him a good shot in the arm.
Morris was sobbing, but his sobs were growing slower, weaker.
Only a few minutes or so now.
He seemed almost sympathetic in a way, just a little. I needed a way now to dispose of Morris when his "sleepy juice" fully kicks in.
The pod was designed to dispose of deadly waste as quickly and efficiently as possible. It does so by firing itself and its contents into the vastness of space.
"That's the ticket," I thought.
“Why...my...here, Rick-car?” Morris asked.
But I wasn't listening. I was feeling the wall for a control panel, and found it rather quickly.
“Just hold tight, Morris,” I said.
And I pressed 'Activate.'
I looked out of the window to see the pod zooming out into the beyond. And then...
The last of a decade of nearly identical failures now...nothing.
“Happy birthday, Morris," I said.
I contacted government officials that evening to report the death of Morris. Final cause of death, as I told them, was a hemorrhage of the cerebral cortex. The same diagnosis that all of the star children received after their passings. And it was the same diagnosis, that they believed. Project Star Children was no more, at least for me anyways. I was relived of my position as head doctor and engineer and returned back to Earth. It's not much different from when I had left. Technology just seems shinier and a hell of a lot more expensive. It's starting to seem as if we have peaked in that sense. Then again my father said the same thing before he was taken away for his final processing. God, I miss him.
Christine was finally give the title of doctor not long after I left. Good for her, I say. There was a big celebration over at central. If only I was allowed to see that in person. If only, if only. As for Morris, he's probably still out there in his pod, soaring through the vast nothing that is our universe. Even if he has become...nothing.
I've kept mostly to myself as of late, quite a feat considering all of the cameras around. I told myself when I returned that I never would be heavily involved with others outside of my small group of friends. The government or any of the science officers haven't heard a peep out of me since Project Star Children was discontinued. They haven't asked for anything from me anyways. Perhaps for the best. But I made a small exception last night. I dusted off my device and messaged Macgregor but a single word.
He has not written back.
I end this night like I had with so many others in the days before Project Star Children. The days before Morris, the days before even Christine, alone with nothing but a bottle of red wine and my thoughts. I once tried to hide my thoughts, I later tried to share them, but now I just try to ignore them. It's for the best this way, I suppose. No news is good news.