©2019 C. HenryMartens
Watching the line of tiny people walking down the NASA Space Center hall, Gunnar Samuelson snickered. He always found humor in the sight of so many short people in a group. His towering height of six feet eight inches and his intimidating weight of almost three hundred pounds made him feel like a giant among men, but in the company of his students, he felt enormous… a giant… and powerful. The feeling was seductive, and he had succumbed to his baser instincts more frequently as time passed.
He couldn’t help it, he guffawed loudly, thinking of how these people sat in his classroom, every leg too short to reach the floor, tiny feet kicking in the air.
Several of the people in the rear of the group turned to look, and he noticed their grimaces as they recognized him.
Gunnar didn’t care. The little weaklings would be gone soon enough. Another six weeks and they would be launched on the spacecraft designed for their tiny dimensions, a cost-cutting measure that allowed for a full complement of just under a thousand in a ship that would have weighed almost half again as much if carrying average-sized people.
Looking back at the big man laughing at them, several of his students wondered how the big man they all called “Ogre” behind his back had become a NASA astrobiologist. Because astrobiology was a necessary discipline required for their journey and future colonization of a far planet, those that were required to sit through Professor Samuelson’s lectures learned to rue their time under his thumb.
Several harbored a deep and abiding grudge.
Lift off was flawless, and Signer Carlson heaved a heavy sigh of relief. Signer had risen through the ranks to be chosen Ship’s Captain, and he felt the weight of his responsibility even as true weightlessness engulfed him for the first time. He was determined to keep a journal and intended to make it as genuine and honest as possible.
The transition was going to be interesting. None of his crew had ever been to space, but they were the survivors of a rigorous selection process. Every soul on board was advanced from an original group of over five thousand individuals. Each of the original group was pre-selected from the general population for intellectual competency and genetic health, but the culling process had done its best to be sure each of the remaining crew was mentally stable and especially mentally tough. A several-generation voyage was no place for weak people.
And then, of course, there was that other thing. No one on board could be over five feet tall, weighted heavily toward those as short as possible. The average man on board was four foot seven and a quarter, and the women, four foot four and a half.
Size mattered on a ship designed to travel great distances between stars.
The voyage progressed as expected. In the beginning, the first-generation astronauts had trouble adjusting in several ways. Artificial gravity took some getting used to. When the soil-free gardens experienced a loss of fertility, people complained about the lack of variety in fresh vegetables. Perhaps the most surprising discomfort was getting used to being normal height. Even after the ten-year training period required on Earth, in environs crowded with small people, individuals had troubling thoughts as they adjusted to being in a population devoid of giants.
Occasionally, there were conceptions that promised a taller person than the ship would comfortably accommodate. As everyone was allotted a single birth, these pregnancies were terminated early, and another conception opportunity was encouraged. After several generations, tall genes diminished.
Ten generations into the voyage, more or less, the ship was fast approaching the intended destination. All evidence suggested a thriving ecology, the seed ships having spread their germs over the preceding two centuries. There were even signs that primitive plants were already spreading across the coastlines.
People were getting excited.
“I was reading through my grandfather’s diary last night.”
Purdy Kantor turned to listen. She smiled at Willor Carlson, melting his heart.
“Your G’pa was the first Captain, right?” Purdy asked.
“Yeah, and of course he was born and educated on Earth, so he wrote a lot about his life there. I came across some interesting ideas.”
Purdy stayed silent but encouraged Will by smiling.
“He talked about how he was short.”
“Short? Why would he say that? In school they never mentioned anything.”
Will hesitated. The information he was about to share was startling.
“Well, apparently people on Earth were big.”
“Big? What do you mean? How big could they be? You mean tall? Because your G’pa said he was short?”
Rolling her eyes, Purdy seemed unconcerned. Maybe even lacking belief.
“Yeah, taller. The people on Earth averaged over a foot taller than us. Some of them were even two feet taller.”
“Wow,” Purdy’s eyes got big, “How did they live like that? Didn’t they bump their heads a lot?”
Laughing, Will explained what Purdy must have forgotten about planetary living.
“Ha, Silly Girl… they lived with a sky. They could even climb mountains. Remember what the robo-teach said about being out-of-doors?”
“Oh yeah, now I remember. But heavy limerky, those people were really tall!”
“Limerky, yes!” exclaimed Will. “We would all be short. And there were some bad things about being short. Short people were penalized and even made fun of.”
Furrowing her brow, Purdy considered. She didn’t like what Will was suggesting.
Reassuring Purdy, Will explained that he was going to meet with the current Ship’s Captain. He had already made the appointment. His Grandfather’s journal would inform the current generation in ways the robo-teach had failed.
“As you all know, I’ve shared Captain Carlson’s private thoughts with everyone here.”
Perusing the seated Ship’s Legislature gathered in the conference room, Captain Melody recognized the concerns expressed on every face.
“It seems we have a decision to make. The stored embryos supplied by Earth are all genetically larger than us, the ship’s complement. After reading about the torture short people endured at the hands of tall people on Earth, especially at the hands of that Ogre fellow that has embryos stored on board, I’m going to suggest we either terminate them all or just continue storing them. Our current population only varies three inches in height, male and female. There is no height discrimination. There is no “short man syndrome” as the former captain describes. But if we reawaken tall people, there will be problems.’
“Our geneticists assure me that we have enough miniature-by-Earth-standards animals that we can be a viable colony without awakening the full-sized livestock that would be problems to handle, so we will awaken the ponies, small cows and pigs, etc. as we deem necessary. We’ll also awaken full sized chickens, ducks, and turkeys, etc. but probably not ostriches or rheas. In any case, this vote isn’t really about the animals. Those decisions can wait for later discussions.”
Captain Melody hesitated. The vote would determine not only the future for their own children but also the success of much of the effort Earth had put into saving their own progeny. The captain hesitated because either way, the decision would be sad. But with confidence, he continued because he already knew what the vote would be.
“So, fellow citizens of a new civilization and society… a yes will be in favor of a world with our current genetics and our current heights as the norm. Nays will be a vote to reawaken the tall people and introduce them among us.”
“All in favor?”