By Elizabeth Willsmore
“How will we choose them?” The air in the room seemed to thicken with the leaden weight of that question, each syllable hitting the walls like waves pounding the shore. For a moment, Anya and Susie just stared at each other, unblinkingly, before the latter reached over and grabbed a sheet of paper from the stack strewn haphazardly across the desk in front of them. Scribbling deftly, Susie made two columns split evenly down the middle, which she labeled accordingly before handing both the list and the pencil to Anya.
“Clarke Industries has classified intelligence on everyone being considered a member of the Dome project,” Susie began, never taking her eyes off Anya’s face. “Each individual is given a 5-digit identification number, under which their private information is stored in our database. If you write down 5 numbers and 5 letters, I can enter them into a random generator, and whatever two thousand five hundred results we get will be the ID numbers corresponding to those who will be given the option of living in the Dome.” Susie’s voice was strained, almost as though her voice-box were encased in ice, the thick structure muffling an otherwise clear stream of air.
At the last suggestion, Anya felt the familiar knot begin to roil and twist in her abdomen, flipping upside down to the same rhythm of the waves the day the Sea Wall collapsed. Seeing the former’s discomfort, Susie placed a cool palm on Anya’s hand before continuing to speak.
“It’s all completely randomized, you’d be picking numbers and letters, and not people.” Here Susie paused for a moment, gently squeezing Anya’s hand before continuing. “There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this, but at least this way, everyone you’re choosing from theoretically will have an even chance.”
Anya stared back at Susie, her eyes flitting down to their now clasped hands, before moving back up to fix on the latter’s dark, intense gaze. “Alright,” she whispered, her eyes glistening, reflecting towards Susie the underpinnings of preemptive guilt. Instinctively, Anya reached up, gently tucking a single, silky strand of black hair that had fallen from its strict bun back behind Susie’s ear.
“But if I do this,” Anya began, her hand still resting lightly on Susie’s cheek, “then I need you to help me design the Dome. After all,” here the same sad smile crossed Anya’s features as she continued to hold Susie’s gaze, “it’s going to be half Mer too.”
“I found it!”
Susie’s breathless cry echoed around the concrete basement as her heels clicked rapidly across the floor towards where Anya stood, transfixed upon a series of blueprints, drafts, and figures scattered in haphazard order across the work table. As the former arrived, her heart beat thumping like the quick pace of a war drum, she laid a sheaf of blueprints in front of Anya, the pages slightly crinkled and greyed with age.
Squinting, Anya drew in a sharp breath as she realized what Susie had lain in front of her. “Gramps,” she murmured, immediately recognizing the small, neat handwriting clustered around various parts of the design, the entirety of which, Anya realized, formed a rudimentary outline of the Dome. However, while most of the blueprint was meticulously annotated, explained, and diagramed, the middle of the Dome remained starkly empty, the unfilled space glinting harshly beneath the basement lights.
Suddenly, Anya remembered another blueprint of Gramps’, a square parchment hidden at the bottom of a large pile they’d looked through earlier depicting what was best described as
“A pump,” Anya murmured, eyes glinting in recognition as she realized what was missing from the blank space, what Gramps hadn’t had the technology to design, but that would surely be a feature in her own iteration of the Dome. Eyes blazing with purpose, Anya turned to Susie, and for the first time since starting work on the Dome, a radiant smile spread across her lips.
“What we need to make the Dome sustainable isn’t a filtration system,” Anya’s voice crept up half an octave as the notion began to dawn on her. “We need to build a pump, one that can stand in the center of the Dome, probably in some sort of plaza area, where the radius at any given point from the Pump’s center to the edges of the Dome is the same length.” Susie looked on in curiosity, eyes burning in concentration, as Anya rifled through a series of papers before pulling up the small, square parchment she’d recalled earlier.
“If we build the Pump up until it reaches the top of the Dome, we can use it to siphon in seawater and use Gramps’ algorithm here to transform H2O into breathable O2. But,” here Anya paused, absently tucking a russet curl behind her ear as she gestured to the blank space on Gramps’ blueprints, then to the same area on her own. “A Pump that powerful requires a lot of energy,” Anya began, brow furrowed in thought. “Too much to run all the time. We can design it so the people who live in the Dome will have Oxygen Harvests, once every month, where the community can gather, both to reflect and meet about Dome business, but more importantly so that every soul living in this place will understand the sacrifices made to keep them alive.”
Anya glanced up at Susie, who had stood motionless throughout the explanation, dark eyes unreadable, their depths so obscure that for a moment Anya almost felt as though she were lost in them.
“Well,” Anya whispered, her voice clear and soft as a spring breeze. “What do you think?” Without blinking, Susie turned her gaze up from the blueprints until it rested on Anya’s eyes, the dark intensity in them palpable. The whisper of a smile crossed fleetingly over Susie’s face.
“Recycling molecules from the sea to become breathable air,” Susie began, her lips twitching slightly. “It seems, Anya, that you can play God after all.”