Genre: Post-apocalyptic science fiction
Type of Short Story: Novella
Summary: When the imminent collapse of the world’s food system threatens to all but eradicate the human race, it’s up to nineteen-year-old Liang Zhang to determine which of his company’s employees will live and which will die.
Liang and the other Job Creators have only weeks to choose which of their staff and families to move into the domes, the last refuges on the barren planet. Despite their best efforts, the Job Creators are unable to keep their selection project under wraps, spurring violent protests against the privileged few.
Now, Liang must race: against starvation, against insurrection, and against his own conscience.
“Like what?” Liang asked, rather belligerently.
“Like whether the top one thousand represent the best allocation of our resources.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Ali sank into a chair as well, pinching the bridge of his nose. “There’s a reason why I want a complete list of every employee and their family members. I know for a fact that at least two of Sheila’s top staff have children with special needs and…”
“What the hell are you saying, Ali?” Liang recoiled in revulsion.
“Our resources will be limited,” Ali sighed. “And Contributors’ family members comprise the future staff of Zhang Agritech—or haven’t you thought about that?”
“Of course I have! But…”
“Look, I know you’ve had to shoulder a lot at a young age. And if I were in your shoes, I’d also hate feeling like everyone is treating me like a kid. But you also need to acknowledge that people like me have experience, that we are going to have insight you haven’t yet developed. It’s not a knock on your age or your intelligence. It’s just reality.”
Stunned, Liang sat silently for several minutes, trying to process what Ali had said. “So, what you’re telling me is, not only are we going to determine which of our staff gets to live and which has to die, we’re also going to have some sort of…standard for whether they’re worthy of living in the dome?”
“There’s a difference between being cruel for the sake of being cruel and being cruel for the sake of being practical.”
Liang shivered with disgust. He could no longer stand the sight of Ali’s face, and he dropped his gaze to his hands, which were weaving jerky circles over the surface of the conference table.
“Let me put it to you this way,” Ali said softly. “What if the resources required to keep one special needs child in good health could be spread amongst five other children? Are you going to choose saving that one child over saving the other five?”
As Ali’s words penetrated his unwilling ears, Liang felt a growing sense of detachment from his body. The room, Ali, even his own body couldn’t possibly be reality, because there was simply no way reality could have suddenly become so much worse. Was there?