Author : John K. Webb
This was not South Carolinian white sand beach. He’d instructed Jacobson—the spherical little Dispensation Drone with its twitching antennae and the prying, bulging crystalline eye—to direct them to a nearby exoplanet with a white sand beach. Corporal Weyer had nicknamed Jacobson “Jacobson” one day prior because he’d found it amusing; apparently, this minor betrayal was the drone’s version of a comeback.
“You are not satisfied with Exoplanet-Arlington-XC57C? My scanners indicate that your blood pressure has risen to one-twenty-seven over eighty-two, which while being within normal parameters—“
“I’m sure you find this funny,” said Corporal Weyer, folding the pre-deployed polycarbonate surfboard under his armpit.
“Exoplanet-Arlington-XC57C is the closest approximation to what you described, sir.”
“The sand is black andesite, you can barely call it sand—“
“Blood pressure has increased to one-thirty-five over eighty-six—“
“—and you think it’s funny, don’t you?”
The drone fluttered in circles around his head, humming a tuneless song in its tinny voice that served as response, and with that they began walking down shore, Weyer’s footsteps disappearing almost instantaneously in the hot, rubbery black “sand.” Then, looking on the horizon, he noticed something.
“I haven’t seen one wave, Jacobson.”
It was true: the planet’s ocean, large enough to swallow all of Earth’s landmass, stretched as an infinite sea of mint colored glass, the light green color owing to sprawling colonies of undisturbed deep-sea algae that’d originally been confused with methane gas emissions, from the orbital imaging.
“The planet’s wave articulation—“
“My only day off and you take me to a planet with no waves?”
“—occurs once every three hours. The next wave is due in fifteen minutes.”
“Care to tell me my blood pressure?” Said Corporal Weyer, stepping into the water. It felt like a river bottom, layered moss-slick stones that if not for his boots would have been quite painful to walk on.
“Blood pressure is—“
“Shut up, I was joking.”
“May I remind you that the re-appropriation of TEDI material for the purposes of constructing a surfboard is a gross misuse of company material?”
“You just did.”
They went about a hundred yards out before Weyer activated his surfboard, the object no larger than a briefcase unfolding into a twelve foot long solid piece of polyurethane. The Corporal lay flat on his belly, the board unmoving atop the featureless expanse of alien ocean. Like antarctic whiteout: a shimmering flat Nothing. Jacobson hovered overhead, providing a measure of shade, scanning with that great, bulging eye.
“No lifeforms detected,” it said helpfully.
Charleston was his home—at least, it had been, before he’d entered the Deep Sleep and drifted several million miles away. For the first time in his career he allowed himself to wonder if the city still even physically existed, or like every other memory simply lived on in collation and correlation: water is water, beach is beach, whatever the chemical components. Cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
“You know what paradise is, Jacobson?”
“An existential conceptualization—“
“This is it, this is paradise. Nothing but ocean and beach, oldest thing there is.”
A bump appeared on the horizon, what the orbital images showed as a solid wall of water rising hundreds of feet high, straddling the planet, the result of unstable tectonic activity. The wave was finally coming.
“I take it all back. This is perfect. Jacobson, thank you.”
The drone hummed merrily, “I wouldn’t trick you.”