09 May, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 3:1

This is the first section of the third chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

“I was wondering when you’d show up.”
“Spiffing to see you this morning as well”
“Well I guessed it would have been you who booked the seat next to me”
“I’d hate for you to get lonely, besides I still know hardly anything about you yet.”
“Then my job here is done” replied Laurence grabbing a serviette and adjusting it on his lap.
“How can one so young be so good at being so evasive?”
“I’m only evasive about myself.”
“Yeah I noticed that, you’ll bend my ear about your work, but that’s just to shut me up isn’t it, it’s not about yourself.”
“You know I’d love to make some comment about kids these days not respecting their elders and being too nosey.”
“Privilege of age for me I guess.” said Tom signalling for the waiter.
“Something like that yes”
“I’m still angry with you about that whole you storming off yesterday you know”
“I was going for the comedy exit, you laughed didn’t you”
“You left me to pay the bill.”
“I’ll get today’s then.”
“That’s not the point I know you’re a poor student.” a thought occured to Tom “Well ex student. Well Nobel prize winning student, how many millions is that worth again?”
“Enough to pick up the bill from today I think.”
“Fair enough, extra drinks for me I think” he waved his hand for a waiter again.
“You know I just don’t get it.” mused Laurence “Why do they work here?”
“Who?” asked Tom frantically waving his hand.
“The waiters” replied Laurence “They could be living the life of Rayleigh on the Habitat, everything provided for them, so why are they here?”
“I guess they like the social side of it, it’s certainly not because they take pride in a job well done if I have to try and attract their attention this hard.” he dropped his hand in exhaustion.
“Well if you think you can do it better do it yourself is what they always say.”
“Why do you do the job you do then?” asked Tom “it can’t be that exciting.”
“On the contrary it’s fascinating to make something new, that’s why I stay off the Habitat, sure you can build anything you want there if you know the right people but they’re so hard to find, they’re all like this waiter, supposedly there to help you but disappear when you need them”
“Hang on you said you’d never been to the Habitat, how do you know what they’re like?”
Laurence paused for a moment taking a drink of the water that had been set at the table. “Stereotypes I guess, so why do you do what you do, why aren’t you at the Habitat?”
“It’s all a fixed gravity there, sure it could have variable gravity but it doesn’t bother or at least it won’t let you. Never mind trying to get at the freefall sections at the hub it jealously guards those. I had some colleagues who tried to sneak into some unoccupied spaces in the hub during a visit there. They arrived on the transport at the hub as usual and snuck off before getting into the elevator down to the plate. Well I’m not saying the drones soon found them and held them at gunpoint but...” he let his voice trail off.
“But they did.”
Tom almost jumped forward in his seat in what looked like glee, “They did” he said conspiratorially “and it hasn’t let anyone try it since”
“See this is my problem with the Habitat you don’t own the ground you live on”
“Since when have humans ever done that when there’s someone around the corner with a large pointy stick?”
“What?” asked Laurence
“You know what I mean, medieval surfs didn’t own their own land and could be chased off it at a moments notice because it was more profitable for the landowner to use that land to farm sheep instead of whatever the peasants grew”
“Oh I see,” replied Laurence somewhat wearily “Where is this flaming waiter anyway?”
“Don’t know old chap.” Replied Tom waving his hand in the direction of the waiter again “So how long’s the stop at the next hub.”
“About an hour I think, they don’t like to keep anyone there longer than they have to, they never finished building that last transfer station so although it has its full complement of ships docking at it, the habitation and garden areas were never finished. Here however was over specified at a time when there were dozens of stations competing in LEO, so the best place to park people waiting for transports to the outer orbit is these stations.”
“Seems very inefficient”
“It is, but still cheaper for the station owners than finishing the outer stations. Cheaper for us? Well that’s another question.”
“How do you know all this stuff as a space rookie?” asked Tom “You’re supposed to be an occer not an expert on all things orbital habitat related.”
“Well you pick things up in my business.” Replied Laurence “Anyway so did you have any luck with those ladies last night?”
“Not really no” replied Tom, “Do you remember a time in your life when you were hungry, you know really famished, genuinely not eaten for several days?”
Laurence considered this for a moment “No”
“Well that’s me with sex and women.”
Laurence looked Tom up and down as if he had just stated that he was the solar system’s richest man. “Not sure I’m with you, but you were with a couple just the night before weren’t you?”
“Exactly, I’ve not been hungry for a long time. These days I’m well fed and can have desert on any occasion I choose. Yet somehow I miss those moments from my youth when I was genuinely hungry and then had the revelation of a starving man taking a bite of bread. Nothing tastes sweeter than the relief after a fast. And believe me you can’t emulate that feeling of desperation then satiation. That’s it with kids these days, always well fed, never know hunger, never know true relief that you will live tomorrow thanks to this.”
“Hey I’m single” said Laurence not sure himself why he was quite so annoyed “Look can we stop talking about this subject I’m not entirely comfortable with it.”
“I know I know a young man out into the big world by himself for the first time, so many opportunities so little time. Or even worse in your case, so many opportunities but no idea how to exploit them. That must be driving you crazy.”
“Let’s just say I’m not used to the effect of these hormones and leave it at that.”
“Look you’ve got a choice, and you have plenty of access to any number of – shall we say electronic substitutes”
“As do you.”
“But it wasn’t always like that, where I grew up they hadn’t got around to that yet, you could only watch what you were interested in. ”
“I didn’t think things were that bad as an occer, I know your economies took a hit as did the rest of the world with the arrival of the habitat and the departure of everyone else, but I thought things had recovered in the last couple of decades even if we aren’t so short of space anymore that we need to be under the sea”
“Yes, you’re right I guess, I guess my parents must have just been a bit old fashioned to not have stuff like that on hand.”
“Very old fashioned not to have proper entertainment facilities in the house.”
“It kept my mind focused. Not much time for entertainment, well it was my entertainment, why make things up when you can do something real.”
“What do you think I do that’s so unreal? Bounce around walls?”
“You said it not me.”
“Humm, there really mustn’t have been many people down there if this is how you talk to people. Still I wouldn’t have it any other way old boy, you’re a real refresher you are.”
“Again, this time with sincerity” Laurence tried to keep his voice deadpan
“You really are trying my patience.”
“Sorry, too far that time?”
“No not you, the waiter, sorry old chap kind of talking to myself there.”
“Come on if we wait any longer we’ll miss our boat out of here.”
“That’s not due until tomorrow”
“Your point?”

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