”Hannah! Please, open the door! We should talk. It’s been two days!”
Andromeda keeps pounding on the door to my room but I barricaded it with a chair. I don’t want to speak to her, to anyone. They killed everyone! How could they? As soon as we had been back here and they had given me a room, I had locked myself in.
Since then, Andromeda is trying to get me to come outside and talk on a regular basis. But I don’t want to hear what she has to say. I hear her leaving and the corridor in front of my room is silent again. My stomach growls. When was the last time I ate? Really ate? It’s been a while.
I look at the door, contemplating if I should go outside. It would mean that I’d be able to eat but also that I’d finally need to speak with Andromeda. My stomach growls louder. It’s obvious what my body wants. I sigh and remove the chair to open the door and leave the room.
No sounds come out of the direction I remember as the cafeteria. I have no idea what time of day or night it is but I guess it’s not one of the usual meal times. Will they have some food for me anyway?
As I enter the cafeteria, I see a single woman behind the food counter. When she hears me entering, she turns around.
”Oh dear!”, she calls out. ”One hour earlier and I would have had something warm for you. But now?” She looks around. ”I can make you a sandwich if you want. How does that sound?”
”A sandwich? How on Earth … Mars … are you having sandwiches here? How do you have bread?”
The woman chuckles but doesn’t answer. Instead, she opens a cupboard and takes out a loaf of bread. Real bread with a crispy, dark crust. She then proceeds to cut off to big slices and adds several vegetables.
”I’m sorry”, she says. ”No butter, no mayonnaise, no meat. We have many plants but didn’t manage to bring any animals except for some bugs we need to keep our plants and soil healthy. A cow just didn’t fit into the spaceship. Have a seat, eat.”
Somehow, I feel like she’s joking and not joking at the same time, but my growling stomach keeps me from thinking about it too hard. The woman hands me the sandwich and I bite into it. It crunches. When was the last time something I ate actually crunched? All the pills and processed astronaut food was either swallowed whole or really soft. I didn’t think I’d enjoy crunchy food this much ever.
Chewing very slowly I watch the woman return to her duties. She seems to be cleaning. Or is she only acting like it to make it not seem like she was waiting for me? Geez, I’m way too paranoid.
I turn around, still chewing. Andromeda stands in the doorframe. She looks tired. Worried. Guilty.
”Can I sit down?” She asks. I grind my teeth but nod. She sits down on the chair across from me. ”I wanted to explain …” I interrupt her by raising my hand.
”Let me finish my sandwich first”, I say. ”Good food should not be ruined by bad conversations.”
I finish my sandwich in silence, postponing my last bite. Andromeda becomes more and more visibly nervous, but she controls herself. At last, I swallow the last bit, wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and then lean back to cross my arms and look at her.
Andromeda takes a deep breath.
”I know you don’t approve of what happened back there”, she says.
”Of course I don’t! Why would I?”
”Yes, yes I know. But let me explain why it was necessary. They were dangerous.”
”All of them? Sure not! It was only a small group who tried to dispose of the sick people. And even if you think those who didn’t do anything were guilty too, the sick surely weren’t!”
”Actually, it’s not about that”, Andromeda says. ”Sure, it confirmed what we already knew, but everyone who comes from earth is dangerous. Well, maybe not everyone, but we can’t really determine who is safe without a proper genetic screening. And I doubt your people would have agreed to that.”
”Genetic screening?” I echo. ”Why would you want to do that? How do our genes make us dangerous?”
”Certain genes are a risk factor for higher aggression”, Andromeda explains patiently. ”The MAOA gene for example. Back when we left earth, people called it the warrior gene because a defect often resulted in aggressive behavior. But it’s not the only gene linked to this.”
I stare at her, eyes widened.
”You killed everyone in there because they might carry certain genes?”
”Yes. We couldn’t risk it. There is always a certain percentage of people who carry the genes, even if they’re asymptomatic. Allowing your people to stay and maybe even procreate with our people would have meant spreading those genes. Our ancestors have been screened for them, to ensure only peaceful individuals would join the mission. Your crew wasn’t.”
”That’s bullshit”, I blurt out. ”Just because someone has a risk factor for being aggressive doesn’t mean they will become aggressive.”
”Sure”, Andromeda replies, ”but our ancestors had studies that showed that up to 50% of factors for aggressive behavior are genetic.”
”That sounds very vague”, I say. ”Also, it leaves out the 50% that aren’t genetic. What’s with those?”
”Nurture over nature or nature over nurture? Yes, there were debates about that. In the end, we decided that eliminating any risk was the safest way.”
”I’m a risk”, I say, my voice devoid of any emotion. ”I’m a wildcard, you don’t know how I will turn out, what genes I carry.”
”True. But it’s easier to look out for one single person than for hundreds of them.”
”That’s disgusting. Just disgusting.” I stand up. Then I remember something. ”Not all spaceships have yet arrived. What will you do if the others reach Mars?” I ask.
”They won’t”, Andromeda says. ”After what happened, our technicians created an interference signal which will cause any future spaceship to crash if they come to close to the surface. I’m sorry.”
Without another word, I return to my room.
Got a scientific topic which you want to see as a story? Leave me a comment!
You want to support scientists on Steemit? You are a scientist on Steemit? Join the #steemSTEM channel on steemit.chat and connect with us!
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math