Short Story: The Choice

This is an original short story written by Mike Coville. This story can also be found on Wattpad. I hope you enjoy and please leave a comment with any constructive criticism or praise (or both if you really want to make my day):

Bailey Price was a young assistant that never questioned his mentor’s decisions, until today. “Do you know what you have here?”

Toby Walker was a brilliant researcher for the United Earth Defense Coalition that never questioned the purpose of his work and provided his director with everything he discovered, until today. “I do, and that is why I don’t know if I can turn it over to Simmons.”

Toby stood facing the window that allowed him to see the spaceport just outside his laboratory. He had been working in space for so long he couldn’t remember the last time he actually stepped foot on the planet he was working so hard to save. Watching the ships getting re-fueled and re-armed used to inspire him to want to build the best weapons he could so that those ships could eventually be used for something more productive than war. Today, he had that weapon and he was not sure he wanted to ever see it used.

“But Toby, you could help end this war quicker and save the lives of millions of servicemen.” Bailey waved his hand across the three dimensional holographic image of a DNA string that was definitely not human, setting a video sequence into motion. From the left, a second DNA string faded into the image and started to merge itself with the first string. After the two strings collided, bits of the first string started to disappear and the corresponding bits from the second took their place.

“It would end the lives of an entire civilization.” Toby dropped his head and his chin touched his chest. He had worked for the last thirty years to find a way to protect the people fighting off the invasion and the best way to do that was to find the quickest way to kill the enemy. Until then, that resulted in improved torpedo technology or more accurate lasers; but none of those were as deadly as the missile payload he had developed this time. “I never thought it would come to this.”

“What do you mean? Weren’t you the one that always told me, ‘Bailey, the only way to repel these monsters is to make sure their losses are so high that they would not be willing to pay the price to conquer Earth?’ What higher prices is there than the one this missile would call for?”

Bailey left the presentation as it started to replay the effects of the super weapon and he approached his friend to gaze at the star ships floating past the window. Toby could feel a loving hand on his shoulder, offering comfort and emphasizing the importance of their conversation. “How many of those men out there will never make it back? We have an obligation to give them a chance to do so.”

Toby snapped his shoulder back to shrug off his friend’s hand and quickly turned to walk away from the window. “You don’t think I know that?” Bailey jumped at the thunderous tone. As Toby regained his composure, he settled in to his computer chair next to the holographic protection, but he was not focusing on the image floating in front of him, instead he was looking at the pictures on the far wall. “We have all lost a lot because of this war and I want nothing more than to see it end today.”

“I didn’t mean it that way, Toby.” Bailey said with a crack in his voice. “We all loved your brother and miss him.” Bailey walked over to the picture on the wall of a young man in military uniform. “Jason’s death affected us all, and I would not use it to justify anything; but how many brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers will have pictures on their walls of lost family members if you don’t turn this weapon over to Simmons and UEDC command?”

“I know, that doesn’t mean that it makes it any easier to turn over my research.” Toby moved from his chair to approach the projector and unplug the memory key that contained all the information needed to produce his weapon. “It seems strange that such a little thing can hold the answer to our quest to save lives… or to cause such devastation.” Holding the key up at eye level, his eyes narrowed with thought, “Yet, all I have to do is press the erase button and everything is lost for good.” Toby rotated the key to look at the small red erase button used to protect sensitive information from failing into the wrong hands. He felt a smirk come to his face at the idea that his director’s might be the wrong hands.

Bailey walked over to stand in front of Toby; he had a sad expression on his face, something in his eyes told Toby that he had bad news. “I already told Simmons that you had something to show him.”

Toby’s eye widened in surprise, his face grew warm with anger. Bailey quickly added, “I didn’t know what you had, but you sounded so excited when you called and then I passed him on my way here. He doesn’t know what you have to show him; I just said that you may have had a breakthrough in your latest research. You should go talk to him; He could help you understand that producing this weapon is the right choice. You know, help you put your mind at ease.”

Toby placed the key in his pocket and began walking toward the door. “Your right, I need to talk to Director Simmons personally.” As he approached the doors and they slid open to allow him to exit the laboratory, he stopped. Without turning around, Toby said, “I hope you’ll stand by me no matter what I decide, Bailey. You are my closest friend and our work together has been the only thing keeping me sane during this war. I will either give this key to the Director with all my research on it, or I will push the button before I get there. But, either way, I hope you will understand I will do what I feel is best.” Without waiting for an answer, Toby walked out of the room and began the journey to the Director’s office, knowing exactly what was on the line with the one decision he had to make.

The Director’s office was not much different than any other office on the space station. Toby approached the door and it announced his arrival to the room’s occupant. “Engineer Toby Walker is here to see you, Director.” A recorded feminine voice sounded from a small speaker hidden in the door. The Director must have been expecting him, because the doors immediately slid open.

The director was sitting at his desk as usual; “So, Mr. Walker, Bailey told me you had a breakthrough in your latest weapons research that could change the momentum of this war.” Director Simmons called out across the room. “Let’s not waste time, give me your memory key and let’s see what you have.” With his hand outstretched and waiting, he added, “I know Jason would be proud of you today.”

Knowing that Jason would, indeed, be proud of his decision, and with a smile on his face, a true sense of satisfaction that he was making the right choice, Toby Walker handed over his memory key.

I hope you enjoyed this short story. Look for more to come. If you are a user of Wattpad, please go to my story and rate it, and while you are there you can follow me. If you do not use Wattpad… why not? Go check it out.

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Until next time…

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