This is the thirteenth section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Laurence stared at the window out into the murky blackness. Brief lights flashed in the distance and for a moment Laurence was sure he saw something, something alive, something organic. He thought back to his trip up to this space station and how alone he now felt. Peace and quiet were what he needed not that he’d had any of that in the past decade or so, too much to do, too much to prove. Well he thought staring out into the blackness beyond, the hard work is done now; time to reap the rewards. Lights twinkling in the distance made him think of looking up at the stars as a child and now he was up with the stars.
“Ah there you are” came the familiar voice, “what are you doing lurking in the radiation shelters, there’s no storm or anything”
“Trying to get some peace.”
“Fine fine I’ll take a hint” said Laurence “I’ll let you off for today.”
“You’re a true gentleman.”
Laurence looked out the window “gosh the stars look pretty”
“They’re not stars” said Laurence
“What else do you expect to find out of a space station window”
“Stars in space don’t twinkle, good lord man I thought you were a veteran of space travel and I was the green recruit.”
“Then what are they?”
“Lights in the water tank”, Laurence saw the familiar blank expression “you know the water tanks that surround the radiation shelters?” he tried pausing again to see if the thought registered. “Also used for basic food stock and environmental stabilization. Any of this ring a bell?”
“Sure there was something mentioned in school once.”
“Fine well now you know.” Laurence looked around for a seat and settled on a nearby bench. The cold metal of the seat stung through his clothing. “I can’t believe how dirty it is down here though.”
“Well no-one comes here except in an emergency, what did you expect?”
“I don’t know, couches or something, food vending machines, beds, anything but cold empty walkways covered in dirt.”
“Well I guess it would have been one of the first things built and last things anyone cares about on a day to day basis” said Tom
“It just amazes me that elsewhere on this station plants are treated almost like fine art, but yet here is by far the largest part of the biosystem yet everyone ignores it.”
“You bally well haven’t travelled in space before have you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Down here is like any other cheap spaceship, sure it’s safe and provides us with food, but it’s not nice is it?”
“It is to me, I grew up in Sutemia, surrounded, cocooned in fact by the sea, it’s amazing how much this place is like my childhood home. Except for the lack of people of course.”
“Ha, you’re an occer! You should have said.”
“Born and bred, no I guess that was what directed my career, every second seeing the magnificent ocean, an abundance of life while all around me people were trying to build out into the oasis with cold steel and glass. I wanted us off that planet and polluting space instead where nothing would mind. So that chose what I studied”
“Hang on though Sutemia is an old oc-post, they finished building it decades ago didn’t they? How can you have been brought up there while they were building it?”
“You dropped your accent then” said Laurence
“That one the one you put on”
“Steady on old chap you’re loosing it”
Laurence again eyed up Tom but decided to let it pass. “Fine, whatever, be whatever you want to be just leave me out of it” at this he turned away and walked down the corridor
“There’s nothing down there you know” shouted Tom after him “Just more corridors”
Laurence said nothing and kept walking stopping only to peer at a school of fish as they swam past the window.