My Generation by D.I. Jolly  (Part 1 of 3)

Maxi’s parents were two of the smartest people on earth, so were obvious choices for the first group sent to Mars. They were instrumental in the design and building of the terraforming Dome that helped create the liveable gardens and gave humanity the opportunity to live and farm off  planet. For all their achievements they would always tell you that there greatest was Maxi, the only child to be conceived and born on Mars. When they discovered that Maxi’s mother was immune to the Martian plague their academic mind told them it was their duty to have a child and try to recreate the anomaly so that they could create a cure. The idea was sound and would have worked if enough people had survived the pregnancy, but by the time Maxi was born her parents were the last surviving members of Mars, and had lost all contact with earth. By the time Maxi was 5 she and her mother were alone, and by age six it as just Maxi and the automated farming droids. She was taught to speak and read by the Dome’s virtual intelligence computer. When puberty hit she was alone, and as her body continued to grow and change she continued to be alone. What she couldn’t learn from the computers she tried to glean from the favourite of the original settlers. She learnt about romance, and love, anger and angst, but most devastating of all was that she learnt that there had once been other people. Her memories of people were so distant and dreamlike that she didn’t know that the portrait of the happy couple in the main lounge were her parents. What she did about them was how much she resented them. She’d found the log explaining why they’d decided to have a child in the minds of an extinction level crisis and all she could think in reply was ‘why, why have me, why would the last two people alive decide to have a child. Why would they condemn her to be alone?’

By age fifteen she hated her parents, whenever she found their names attached to articles she would discard it and read something else. She refused to look up any additional information about them, what they did who they were and her only wish was to have someone real to talk to about it. What she had gotten in the habit of ding as she grew up was talking to the VI, the computer voice which was created to help the settlers navigate around the Dome, stay on schedule and find each other. Its voice was soft and vaguely feminine, programmed with only a limited selection of replies, but it didn’t matter if the computer replied.

“The answer to that question is outside my given parameters.”

To every question she had, to Maxi it was a robust conversation, but despite a heavy dose of imagination attached to every word, she still looked forward to the time, once every 687 days when she would wake up and VI would say.

“Maxi, today is your … 8th birthday. Your special birthday breakfast will be waiting in the dining room in … forty-five minutes.”

Since she was near 12 by earth standards these words made her both smile and cry, she wasn’t exactly sure why at the time, but through reading the book brought by the settlers she’d learnt about people coming together to celebrate special days. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, it also brought with it a flood of frustration.

“Why do you have to tell me things like that?”

“I am programmed to maintain all resident’s schedules to ensure efficacy and moral.”

“How does telling me it’s my birthday help my moral when I’m alone.”

“The answer to that question is outside my given parameters.”

Maxi sat up in bed and crossed her arms feeling the frustration slip away.

“Well, then what good are you?”

“I am programmed to maintain all resident’s schedules to ensure efficacy and moral, I can also help you locate any other member of the crew within the Dome.”

“Oh yeah, so where is everybody?”

“You are currently located in the sleeping quarters, room 794.”

“And what about everyone else?”

“You are currently the only person in the Dome.”

“And outside the Dome.”

“The answer to that questions is outside my given parameters.”

Maxi frowned up at speaker but let the conversation go, and decided to start her day.

“What is for breakfast today.”

“For special breakfast today you will be having plankton jacks and mixed vegetables.”

“How is that special when it’s what I’ve had for breakfast every day?”

“The answer to that question is outside my given parameters.”

“Does that mean I can have it in the library instead of the dining room?”

“The answer to that question is outside my given parameters.”

“Awww, thanks VI you’re the best, and, and I’m sorry I yelled at you it’s just a weird day for me, you know?”

“The answer to that question is outside my given parameters.”

Maxi smiled up at the speak.

“You’re the best.”

“You’re welcome.”

With that, she jumped out of bed and headed for the shower room. She’d learnt from the safety information videos to take off her clothes and stand on the yellow dot with her arms above her head. The shower then scanned her and sprayed cleansing foam on key areas and quickly washed it off with lukewarm water, and dried by warm air. She then rinsed her mouth with oral cleaning fluid and put on her standard issue Dome jumpsuit. From there she grabbed her breakfast from the dining room and hit the library. The library was a collection of real books brought by the settlers and a few consoles and portable screens which were connected to a massive digital library. As a room, it was one of the highest points in the living space with a single wall-sized window which overlooked the growing fields which took up the majority of the space in the Dome.

Maxi was mostly through ‘The Never-Ending Story’, she’d read it twice before but it brought her comfort and knowing her birthday was coming she felt she needed something comforting. If you asked her she’d tell you that VI was her best friend, but books were her true love, they comforted her, they taught her how to feel and when she was scared and alone and VI couldn’t offer enough the kind of support she needed, books were there to pick up the slack. Today, however, over all others, the words seemed to be losing their potency, the comfort she was after just wasn’t there and her mind kept falling back to her conversation with VI and the idea of outside the Dome. She’d never really thought about it before, but now she wondered, could she go outside the Dome? Could VI stop her if she tired? And where were the exits, if they existed.

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