A Cup of Joe
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He was used to people smiling at him, of course.

He was the Chosen One for this time, after all. The Master Computer had picked him, out of all the males, to be the Father of the Next Generation. He was special and kept apart from the others, but that was how it worked for the Chosen Ones. David didn’t know, therefore, why the woman caught his eye.

There was nothing extraordinary about her – she just looked like a normally attractive woman, not too young, not too old. Shoulder-length brown hair pulled back into a simple ponytail, blue eyes, average height, average build. She was dressed like a worker, but not a high-ranking one like a Technician or an Operator. He couldn’t place her work by her clothing, though – most of the lower workers wore blue jeans and white t-shirts, many carried shoulder packs, and there was nothing unusual about hers.

He thought that it must have been because she smiled at him.

The Mother of the Next Generation was still growing up. In about a year she would be ready. He’d heard it explained that the females chosen were normally very beautiful and as young as the norms of society would allow. This was because the Master Computer had chosen attractiveness as a key trait and because the younger the female, the more eggs she would have for fertilization.

Males were required to be older, late twenties at the youngest, so that they would have matured into their bodies fully. David knew that he’d been chosen in part because he was considered one of the male ideals – tall, strong, handsome. But he was also considered intelligent and clever. At least he was told this daily by the Mother Board, the heart and soul of the Master Computer, and so he believed her.

But the woman hadn’t smiled at him as if he were a masculine ideal, nor as if he were bright and witty, nor as if he were the most important man in the world. She’d just…smiled. A normal smile, as if she was merely being pleasant to a stranger passing by.

This intrigued and bothered him and he didn’t know why. He turned to watch her walk down the street. She didn’t look back, didn’t seem in a hurry – she’d passed him as if he were no one special, only just important enough for a smile she might give to anybody.

David was on his free time, the part of the day when the Mother Board allowed him out to mingle with the common folk, to explore parts of the Main City, so that he would have better understanding of where his offspring would live, what they would do to support the Master Computer, why his role was so important. He’d been going to visit the Old Park, but decided to turn around and follow the woman instead.

As he quickened his pace to catch up with her, a small voice in the back of his mind mentioned that this was the first time since he was a little boy that he had ever chosen to do something spontaneous and out of the norm, and he wondered again why he felt compelled to listen to the feeling that made him want to know why he was nothing special to this woman.

She went into a coffeehouse. He knew that coffeehouses were frequented only by those on the fringe of society. He automatically registered that she couldn’t be an Engineer, nor a Bureaucrat, and it was unlikely that she was a Teacher of the Generations, either. And she was certainly not a Programmer.

He hesitated at the door. While it wasn’t strictly forbidden for him to mingle with the common people, he wondered if he would be causing a problem by entering a lower-level establishment such as this one. But then he decided that he would use this experience as a way to solidify the need for his role in the world. The small voice in his mind mentioned that he was creating an alibi and suggested he ask himself why he felt one necessary, but he ignored it.

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