Chapter Thirty-Seven

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Briggs picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip. The bitterness made his lip purse. He reached for the sugar, added a spoonful and slowly stirred the dark, steaming liquid

Clairbourne shifted his weight from one foot to the other and cleared his throat.

"Sit down, Clairbourne, your fidgeting is irritating me."

"Thank you, sir,"

Briggs took one last glance at the document in front of him. It didn't make good reading. Coal and oil reserves were at their lowest in eight years and the wet summer had played havoc with cereal production. Tough decisions were going to have to be made again and these ones were going to hurt. He closed the file and opened another. A picture of Hannah was clipped to the underside of the cover; his daughter. The initial shock of discovering he was her biological father had subsided. Now he found himself in the unusual position of beginning to have feelings for the girl. Maybe not fatherly love, but he felt the distinctive warm, self-satisfied glow of pride; that his very own genetic material had produced this bright, spirited and most importantly perfect young woman.

For over thirty years, Briggs had strived for perfection; working tirelessly to remove the flaws and iron out the kinks in his society. He hadn't created this segregated place they lived in, mirrored the world over. That had been done generations earlier, during the days when the Western world had prized equity over all else, often fighting wars to remove division. Slowly the East followed suit; as their countries prospered, their populations demanded more, and more was produced. For the smallest period of time, consensus was reached around the world. All agreed that no belly should ever be empty, no one should die of a treatable illness, every child had a right to an education and no one should suffer fuel poverty. But equity for all came at a cost. Many knew that deep down it was unsustainable, that there would be trouble ahead. No one expected it to happen so fast.

A two year cycle of extreme weather phenomena, a world- wide flu pandemic and a sudden and unexpected drop in oil production became the tipping point. Equity was okay when there was enough to share around, but suddenly there wasn't enough food, medicine and fuel; soon there wasn't enough of anything. The countries of the world turned into squabbling toddlers, shouting "mine" when other toddlers wanted to play with their toys. Many, once highly populated countries ceased to exist, as the stronger nations wrung the weaker ones dry of their natural resources. Eventually, division and segregation was welcomed back with open arms. As his predecessors before him, it was now Briggs responsibility to ensure that his country would never come so close to annihilation again. Resources would be managed and those most deserving, those most likely to breed success would be rewarded. His society was 'survival of the fittest' in action. His perfect Hannah was going to be more than just the poster girl for his society going forward.

"So, how did she do?" He finally turned his attention to Clairbourne.

"In the full health and biometric screening, Hannah's score is exceptional, beyond all our recognised parameters."

"Excellent, continue." Briggs smiled; there was a lot was riding on this information.

"As for IQ screening, I've never seen anyone perform my tests with such a high degree of functionality. She is scored at the highest centile for logic and reasoning and Hannah has excelled again in every area...

Briggs clapped his hands together. "I knew it!"

The Professor paled and quietly added, "Except one, sir."

Briggs looked at the Professor with a murderous stare. "What?"

The Professor's breathing was now fast and shallow; his hands shook as he looked at his notes again.

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