Coffee Break Read – Too Late

It was too late to make a difference, too late to save the mother they had abused.
Guthrie had known since he took the Director of Resources position at the Federation in 2166, ten years ago, that his efforts to slow humanity’s ravenous desires would most likely fail. They were too attached to the conveniences of the modern world. He glanced around his office, noting that he was no different with his antique cherrywood desk and livestream hologram projector and AI secretary.
Sighing, he took a sip of whiskey. How had humanity spiraled so far down this path? He had at least been hopeful of slowing the inevitable. But even that seemed impossible at this point. One man, no matter the title, was no match for such a united and opposing mindset—especially when so many in power sought only to reinforce ideas that coaxed people into a false sense of reality, one where mining materials in space would make all the problems go away. Nothing to fear. Business as usual. It was progress.
The magic word that turned the public’s attention away from the wake of devastation they so wanted to ignore.
“Sir, you have an incoming stream from General Hawkins.”
The cool voice of his AI broke his thoughts.
“Accept the stream.” He sat up and adjusted his uniform as the holographic bust of a grey-haired man projected over his desk.
“Good afternoon, Director.”
“Afternoon, General. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Well, I suppose there’s no point beating around the bush on this…”
“It’s finally happened,” Hawkins said. “We’ve found a host.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Couldn’t be more serious.”
Guthrie sat forward. “You mean to tell me you’ve found a suitable host and have taken the time to study it in enough detail to be absolutely sure? How am I just now hearing of this?”
“I wasn’t about to tell you before we had made, as you put it ‘absolutely sure’, was I? We’ve had several failed potentials over the last two years, so you can imagine my reservations. And beyond that, this is highly classified. Only a handful even know about it, and we intend to keep it that way. Up until now, you didn’t need to know.”
“You’ve always had a way with words.”
“It’s not my job to charm.”
“Point taken.” Guthrie took a sip of his whiskey to let Hawkins know he had no further comment.
“As I’m sure you will already know, the necessary steps going forward will need to be handled very carefully. If this gets leaked…”
“Indeed. Who has made the discovery?”
“A man named Mathew Hodgson. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”
Guthrie nodded. “I have. Brilliant man.”
“That he is.”
“But surely he doesn’t know where our intentions for his discovery truly lie?”
“Of course not. He’s under the impression we are only interested in data. Which, of course, we are—we are just more concerned with the practical applications of that data.”
“Can you link me a report on this ASAP?”
“Already have. Your secretary should be forwarding it to your handheld as we speak.”
“Excellent. I won’t lie, this news is hard to digest. I knew we were expending a lot of resources in our search, but a part of me thought it was wasted effort.”
“You and me both,” Hawkins said. “But this is nothing new for humanity, is it? We have always found a way. And I suspect we always will. I suppose that is the prize you earn for reaching the pinnacle of evolutionary success.”
Such arrogance made Guthrie shudder internally. He didn’t quite know how to respond without giving away the anger Hawkins’ last words had generated within him. That spark of anger led his thoughts back through their conversation. Words like ‘host’ and the deception of a brilliant man, whose agenda was purely academic, made him ashamed of his position and his peers. The way power manipulated the mind was truly frightening. But maybe he was overthinking this. Maybe he was just an idealist. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t understand where General Hawkins was coming from. This really was humanity’s last hope.
He just wished there was another way.

From Contact (Instinct Theory #1) by Ian Bristow

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