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Eve's Father

Miriah Hetherington resides in the heart of Borg Space (Redmond Washington) with her husband, three daughters, two cats, and a dog. Her short fiction has appeared on the Drabblecast.org, in the Urban Green Man anthology, and in Penumbra eMag. Miriah's infrequently assimilated blog can be found at miriah.net.

In the shadow of SciCorp's Public Relations building, Kai leaned on his cane and waited for the press conference to end. A sea of reporters separated him from his daughter Suukyi, standing proudly on a podium with the other twelve colonists.
Twelve brilliant, highly trained, and fertile Eves; earth's Adams would be represented on the colony ship by a sperm bank.
Doctor Calvin, SciCorp's founder, took the microphone. Each person in the crowd between Kai and his daughter was like one of a hundred decisions he'd made to put his vocation ahead of his family. Suukyi's wife Tasmin had assured him it was not too late to cross the gulf, but he had to do it now.
Kai tried to recall the euphoria of his greatest success; the breakthrough that made the Modulated Alcubierre Effect Pulse drive possible. Back then, worldwide media declared his team the Einsteins of their age. He'd become a celebrity: Doctor Kai Hakura, the father of interstellar space travel.
Kai shifted painfully, his muscles and joints unaccustomed to standing for extended lengths of time in earth gravity. He could have taken a seat onstage, but had chosen anonymity.
Sometime during prototype development, Suukyi grew up. Her mother left him to accept a position aboard the Europa research station. Instead of attending Suukyi's graduation ceremony from SciCorp academy, he'd presented a proposal for a MAEP drive ship to the SciCorp board of directors. She'd barely spoken to him since, and now his window of opportunity was about to close permanently.
Doctor Calvin announced the press conference was over. Security ushered the colonists through a guarded door. As SciCorp staff began herding reporters out of the compound, Kai limped across the square, intent on reaching the door before it closed.
Kai nearly collided with a woman who stepped in front of him and shoved a microphone in his face. "You're Doctor Kai Hakura, right? The father of interstellar space travel?"
Trapped by a handful of reporters that had escaped the herd, Kai watched as the door closed behind the last colonist. He responded out of habit and duty. "The MAEP drive was invented by a team driven by the vision of SciCorp's founder. Doctor Calvin brought together a wide range of experts. Theorists, applied physicists, engineers, and even a theologian. No one person--"
A man wielding a camera interrupted. "So you blame Doctor Calvin for sending your only child into space? How do you feel about saying goodbye to her forever?"
Like the worst father on Earth. "Suukyi Hakura is an adult, capable of making her own decisions. She volunteered. My daughter is a hero."
Security extracted him from the wave of reporters and escorted Kai to the reception hall where colonists were gathered with their families to say their final farewells. A buffet table and festive balloons decorated an otherwise somber room.
Tasmin held his granddaughter, Genji. The family Suukyi was about to leave behind on Earth. This was his legacy. His daughter was about to make the same mistake he made.
As Kai crossed the room, the hum of a dozen conversations was replaced by quiet, broken only by his cane's rhythmic impact on the hardwood floor. Spouses and parents of the colonists glared at him. A few, SciCorp employees themselves, bowed. He saw his own discomfort echoed in Suukyi's face. Kai was an outsider here.
Tasmin shifted the baby and hugged him as though Kai were only her spouse's father, and not the father of space travel. "It's good to see you again, Kai."
"And you, Tasmin."
She pulled out a chair and placed Genji in his arms as soon as he settled into the seat. At six months old, his granddaughter had Suukyi's eyes and smelled of talcum powder. Kai cuddled Genji against his chest, recalling the fierce delight of holding Suukyi as a baby. How had he given that up?
A room full of solemn faces turned back to their own families and conversation resumed. Tasmin had worked her magic. He was one of them--a father and grandfather--there to say goodbye to his daughter.
Suukyi crossed her arms over her chest and glared down at him. "I'm surprised to see you here, Doctor Hakura. Will you be attending the launch tomorrow?"
Kai winced. "I wanted to speak with you beforehand." Genji grabbed his ID badge and pulled it toward her mouth.
"You can't stop me." Her voice wavered uncertainly. She didn't know he'd given up his position as SciCorp's Chief Technology Officer. "There's nothing you can say to make me change my mind. I accept the risks. I know I can never come back."
Tasmin's jaw clenched. It would be hard for her, raising the baby on her own without Suukyi. Kai longed to offer his support, but he knew Tasmin would honor Suukyi's wishes and refuse.
"I just want to say, I understand," said Kai. "You are making the same choice I made, between responsibility to family and to the wider world. I want you to know that the failure I regret most--" His voice cracked. Kai gently pried his damp badge from the baby's mouth. "I wish I had been a better father. The father you deserved."
The baby whimpered, and Suukyi took her from his arms. She and Tasmin fussed over Genji together. Another family about to be broken. Because of him.
The empty place in Kai's heart momentarily filled by his grandchild went cold. He did not belong here. Kai struggled out of the chair and turned to leave.
"Dad," said Suukyi.
Kai stopped. He couldn't remember the last time she'd called him that. Suukyi cuddled Genji to her chest, Tasmin's arm around her waist.
Suukyi kissed Genji's forehead and whispered, "Do you think she'll ever forgive me?"
Kai hesitated. He wanted more than anything to say yes, but instead he told his daughter the truth. "That will be Genji's decision to make someday. I hope so." Would Suukyi forgive him? "I'm proud of you, daughter."
Suukyi and Tasmin's eyes met, and Tasmin nodded.
"Dad," said Suukyi, "after I go, Tasmin and I want you to help raise Genji."
A second chance.
Kai Hakura, father of Earth colonist Suukyi Hakura, embraced his family.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, July 10th, 2015

Author Comments

This story grew in the space and time between two other stories (one about Kai and one about Suukyi). I was thinking about three things: 1) the viewpoint of a hero's loved ones, when s/he goes off on an adventure and leaves them behind, 2) how often we become like our parents, complete with both the traits we admire and dislike about them, and 3) sometimes all that is needed to find redemption is the courage to make a sincere apology and the grace to forgive.

- Miriah Hetherington
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