AFLOAT ABOVE A FLOOR OF STARS
Revali liked the alter while he was in it but he always came out of it feeling like he was slipping out of an unsettling dream. He could see the change in Kemen’s attitude as his baseline personality emerged and the temporary personality faded.
Kemen was sitting at the oversize desk in the medical room, staring at the big screen that told her the state of all his systems and subsystems. She had been eyeing him while she monitored the screen but she fixed her eyes on the numbers when his expression and his body language told her he was approaching his default mode.
Was she lamenting the loving, companionable male who had kept her company for the last thirty-five tendays? Could he blame her? He had felt a mild sense of loss the last time Kemen had shed her alter.
”You’re right where you’re supposed to be,” Kemen said. “No anomalies.”
She stood up. She was a tall, well proportioned woman and she was willing to look imposing when she thought she needed to.
“I’ve made up my mind,” Kemen said. “I’m not going to do the ceremony. I can’t do it.”
Revali looked up at her. She had obviously acted while she could tower over him but he didn’t stand up.
“I think I need to spend a little time alone,” Revali said.
“That’s a final decision. I wanted to tell you right away.”
They were now 882 days from altitude. They were supposed to spend the entire 882 days in their baseline personalities. 882 days wasn’t eternity. But it wasn’t tomorrow either. The argument wasn’t over.
Kemen had become his shipmate because Revali’s fundraiser had told him he had to take her. “I can’t do this without the Desha money,” Ulvan Gorbav said. “Benduin Desha is the only person I’ve encountered who’s willing to put up serious money. The small donor appeal has gotten us to forty-nine percent. I can guarantee that’s as far as it’s going to go. Everybody agrees you’re peddling a beautiful, poetic idea. But Dama Desha seems to be the only person in the solar system who thinks poetry deserves real money.”
Ulvan applied the honorific dama with his usual mixture of irony and respect. He spent a lot of his time with rich people. He had even become one.
“But I have to take Kemenangan See if I take Benduin Desha’s money,” Revali said.
“Kemenangan See is number three on your list. Her research aims may not be world shattering but my consultants tell me they’ll add a respectable scientific purpose to the project.”
“Does Dama Desha know Dr. See wants me to alter myself for 80 tendays?”
“She does. And she also knows Dr. See will be altering herself for 80 tendays if you accept the agreement. Dama Desha thinks that’s a wonderful idea. You will each experience another way to be human.”
Revali shook his head. “I would be perfectly happy if we did the entire trip in our baseline personalities. I’ve Iived with three women who were autonomous self-governing individuals and I never felt the need for anything else.”
“But then you’d be practicing your lifechoice and demanding Dr. See practice it with you for the whole thirty-six year round trip. I’m afraid Dama Desha has decided the personality alterations are an important aspect of the whole project. She’s also said she would be willing to consider funding if you gave yourself a long term modification for the entire round trip and traveled with another man.”
Ulvan noted the flicker of emotion that traveled across Revali’s face. Ulvan had made a major alteration in his own personality near the end of his first century. He had never been able to deal with women, he claimed. They were a complete mystery. His life had become much simpler and happier when he had changed his sexual preference.
“That doesn’t appeal to you,” Ulvan said. “Believe me, getting along with another male is a thousand times easier.”
“I think I like the tension created by significant difference,” Revali said. “Does Kemenangan See have any reservations about the ceremony?”
“She’s an ambitious young woman. You’ll be giving her the big breakout she’s looking for. I don’t know how she feels about all this unity chatter but I don’t think she’ll let a little recitation get between her and her future.”
Copyright 2017 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
Home | Science Fiction | Music Writing | Essays
Bio | FAQS | Writers | Friends and Relations | Quotes | Bibliography