You do understand: It has to be your choice.
They never stopped telling me I was free to leave. They told me while they were still wrangling asteroids out past Mars; they told me as they chewed through those rocks like steel termites, bored out caverns and tunnels, layered in forests and holds and life-support systems rated for a longer operational lifespan than the sun itself. They really laid it on after that L2 fiasco, when the singularity imploded during final testing. Not a whisper of cancelling the project — even though the magic upon which the hole thing rested had just eaten half the factory floor and a quarter of the propulsion team — but in the wake of that tragedy they seemed to think it especially important to remind me of the exits.
It’s your decision. No one can make it for you.
They drove it home even when I laughed in their faces. I didn’t have to point out the obvious: that I’d been trained and tweaked since before I’d even been born, that they’d groomed my parents as carefully as they were grooming me. Thirty years before I was even conceived, I was already bound for the stars.
Knowing all that doesn’t change anything, of course. I can’t take my eyes off infinity. I want the stars, I want to revel and thrill to the glorious endless isolation of deep space. No other aspiration has ever been worth a moment’s thought. So what if I was built that way? It’s what I feel; I don’t know any other way to be.
Still. We’re a civilized society, yes? You don’t draft people against their will, even if the very concept has been a laughingstock for the better part of a century now. They give me no end of opportunity to back out now because there will be no opportunity to back out later, and later covers so very much more time for regrets. Once Eriophora sails, there will be no coming back.
It has to be my decision. It’s the only way they won’t have blood on their hands.
Still, when they held open that mutual escape hatch one last time, I don’t think they were expecting the answer they got.
“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “Give me a month. I’ll get back to you.”