Thales and Hanno had both reached the appropriate age, seven, for the gene testing to take place. It was mandatory for all, as the space program needed every person with the proper genes that it could get. Aletia was one year younger than the twins, so would have to wait one more year. Pytheas remembered the day that he had gone in for the testing with his parents and brother. It had been the worst days of his life. He had looked forward to it with trepidation, half-expecting that he would be rejected, but inside him was a hope beyond hope that the tests would show he was a spacefarer. What came back was the worst possibility he could imagine.
He remembered every aspect of that day, as he and his brother Aramaes waited with their parents in that bright office with some others, most of whom were not pleased to be there. It had been a bright day, cloudless, with a steady breeze. His father had tried once yet again to cover that purplish splotch behind his head with the green paste, and it had dripped onto the back of his shirt, leaving a stain. His mother had remained pleasantly fragrant, radiat throughout the entire affair. Pyhtheas had worn a shirt that he felt had rightly demonstrated his hope, one with the logo of the space progrma upon it, a souvenir he had picked up when visiting the launch pad only a year before. Aramaes had worn a plain brown covering, seemingly disinterested in the affairs that were going on.
The doctor had returned beaming, and Pytheas remembered standing in his sight, thinking only one thing. He had the gene, and he was come to reveal to him the good news. He saw the doctor pass by him and stand before his parents, "I have good news, one of your children has the gene sequence. He will be immediately enrolled in the flight school, you should be proud." Pytheas was so deliriously happy he did not even bother to wonder what more he had to say, but his ears heard the words anyway.
"Which one?" his father had asked. His father had always been a practical man, always looking at things for what they were. Pytheas wondered if the man ever had a dream other than to raise a working family, and to keep them together so that they might do the same for their families.
The doctor looked back at the clipboard he carried with him, tracing one claw down it's pages. He then looked at the children, and Pytheas could see before he heard that the man was looking not at him, but at his brother. "Aramaes. Aramaes is the one who has the gene sequence. Your other son Pytheas is perfectly normal and will be pursuing a normal educaion."
Pytheas was destroyed in that single moment. He had run from the room in shock after only moments. He did not remember where it was that he had gone, but he remember the stern scolding he had received from it after they had found him the next morning. He had nearly frozen out in the desert night, and he wondered at times whether it might not have been better to die there instead of to live on in this mockery of existence. How could fate have chosen his brother, with no interest in the stars, over him? How could it have selected Aramaes? He, Pytheas, was the one who had yearned for the stars all his life, and now to be told they were beyond him, was a blow so fundamental, that he still carried it with him. That night, as he shivered on the desert floor, he felt that the stars were the eyes of some benevolent power trying to comfort him. He looked at the stars, which for him that night shined one last time. They spoke to him words of comfort, words which now he could no longer remember. He needed the stars now all the more, and they denied him even that.
Lethia looked over at him as he drove to the building where his life had been destroyed. She was obviously concerned with him, he could tell that. Something inside of him told him that he should not be so depressed by the mere sight of this building. Perhaps one of his children would be so fortunate as to venture into the stars, and he could live out his fantasy vacariously through them. Perhaps he would grow hair too, he though glumly. Both were impossible for him or any other human. There was no understanding of the world of the stars unless oe experienced it first hand. No account was detailed enough, no earthly experience that could rpepare you enough. It was something that had to be done by oneself.
After arriving, they were sent to a waiting room. Pytheas was glad that it was different from the one that had been where he had been informed that his dreams were a sham. Plus the doctor was not the same one form his memories, and had no recollection of who he was. Aletia lie sleeping next to Lethia as Hanno and Thales were taken through a doorway that was similar to where he had gone. Pytheas grimaced, and lay down upon the cushions that were there, letting his legs and tail stretch out behind him. He tried not to brood, but what else could he do?
Almost in answer to his question, Lethia placed a magazine in front of him. "Here, I thought you might like something to read." she told him, her mouth shutting, the dark of her eyes regarding him with a warmth that he felt touch his heart. Itmelted just enough for him to nod, "Thank you."
He had only read through half the pages when Hanno and Thales came back through the doorway. Both were feeling their tails. Pytheas opened his mouth in amusement. They would be sore for a few days, but then it would fade like any physical injury. Neither of them he noticed seemed to excited. This offended him in some respects. He felt the irony of his brother being chosen over him in their indifference to what might happen. How dare they? How could they mock what he flet so deeply and personally?
Now wait, they are just kids, a part of him reminded himself. How could he expect them to know what he felt? He couldn't, so he was being irrational. He should not be taking this much offense at their ignorance. He should read more of that magazine and not tihnk about what tey were doing or acting, or about his problems.
After finishing the magazine, and rereading most of it, the doctor finally returned. Pytheas looked into his face, and saw that the quality of brightness that the doctor who had destroyed his life was missign from this doctor's face. It was the face of one who had something over and over again, and he did not like saying it. Pytheas didn't hear the words he siad, but felt a sort of sniping joy at discovering that his children, who were so disinterested in space, would be put into the same life that he was in. This joy quickly faded into resentment, why was it just him that had to suffer? Why could this suffering be lifted from him, and be putupon another's shoulder?
As they were leaving the building, Lethia looked into his face, and then let her lips part slightly, revealing her teeth to him. He knew she was angry with him for the way he was acting, but how else was he supposed to treat such news. She then spoke to him in short crisp words, "Stop hating them. Not every one can go, accept it and live the life you have. Love the ones who share it with you, for we have to go with you no matter where you go. Do not take us down the road of depression."
Pytheas felt a bit of shame at her words, and his eyes looked to the sand beneath his feet. He felt it between his toes, felt one grain lodge between his scales. He grimaced at that, it would take nearly a week to get out, and by then would be all swollen and irritated. "I do love you, I just so wanted to go." His voice trailed off, he could no longer find words to describe his pain.
"I love you, Pytheas, I really do. I don't want you to destroy our family because of this. Please don't." Lethia's stern demeanor melted, and her cheeks rose, the reddish streaks comign once again to life. He lowered his head once more, and nuzzled her affectionately. She at first did not give him regard, but then after a moment, she returned the nuzzling, and then stepped away from him,and climbed into their hov, ready for the ride home.
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