Romance in Extended Time is another episode in the life of a character based on the18th century adventurer Giacomo Casanova. In each story, the hero visits a different part of the Solar System and copes with a personal problem created by advances in science and technology. In this story he travels to Mercury and confronts the emotional quandaries created by extended lifespans and genetic enhancements. For more information on the Casanova stories, see installment four and installment five of my literary memoir When I was Writing.
ROMANCE IN EXTENDED TIME
I didn't hear the three missiles strike when they landed on the rear wheel of our vehicle. The missiles were drops of plastic with just enough mass to make it through the air and they were moving at a relatively low speed-- about ninety meters per second, I would guess. On a low-gravity planet like Mercury, a modest muzzle velocity will give you all the range you need for most practical purposes.
At the moment the missiles hit, I was lounging on a reclining chair, under an awning that protected me from bird droppings, falling insects, and other woodland indignities. I was taking some pleasure in the fact that my accommodations were a sizable improvement over the closets spaceships offer their passengers.
I was traveling at a leisurely pace through an idealized temperate-zone forest composed of well spaced, aesthetically varied three hundred meter trees. My conveyance had been purchased from an owner who had stocked the refrigerator and the wine chest with a connoisseur's selection of prefabricated food and wine. The fabrication unit situated near the rear wheel had been equipped with programs that could produce several hundred items that were supposed to be just as palatable as the champagne I was currently holding in my hand.
On my left-- where I could give it an occasional politely conversational glance-- there was a face that displayed an intriguing interplay of two themes: sensuality and alertness. Ling Chime's features were round and fleshy, but her genetic designer had tempered the fleshiness with a sharp nose, high cheekbones, and eyes that seemed to be constantly dancing around the landscape. On my right the Elector-- Ling's employer-- was dispensing genuinely entertaining gossip about the world of the arts. I was even willing to admit that the Elector was just as attractive as Ling was, in her large-scaled, arm waving way.
The whole scene was permeated, in addition, with a pleasant touch of the exotic-- the light that created peculiar, inconsistent shadows under the trees. The ecodesigners had created a park-like environment, but the light was a constant reminder that the only thing protecting us from the full blast of the sun was a wall that was so thick and milky it diffused the small percentage of the sunlight that slipped past its molecules.
At that time-- it was 2089, according to my records-- the Mercury habitat was still something of a wonder. On the Moon, people still lived in stand alone cities dug into the rims of craters. On Mars, they were still arguing about the rights and wrongs of full scale terraforming. On Mercury, I could peer through the trees and observe the giant towers that supported a globe-circling greenhouse, three kilometers high and twenty kilometers wide. From space the habitat had looked like a thin white band that circled the planet at a sixty degree angle to the equator. Eventually, according to the developers, the urbs built into the towers were supposed to house a billion people.
"My drive wheel has developed structural defects," the car said. "I am instituting repair procedures."
Ling was the Elector's business manager-- the factotum who took care of her employer's practical affairs, while the Elector concentrated on the creative efforts she considered the primary purpose of her life. Ling didn't miss a beat as she turned around in her chair and rested her finger on the car's main screen.
"Give us the details," Ling said.
The car had already slowed to a stop. "The drive wheel has developed three large cracks," the car reported. "Continued stress could result in collapse."
The Elector threw back her head. The electronic bracelets on her left arm flickered and rainbowed as she gestured at the landscape.
"I thought you told us this was a new vehicle, Joseph."
"How long will the repairs take?" Ling asked.
"Approximately ten minutes."
Copyright © 2000 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
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