Author : Craig Finlay
Stella was watching the blue plastic ice cube fall from her hand to the glass at quarter-G, about 2.25 meters per second. D-deck in the outer rings had the most gravity. And the emergency hatches on d-deck, recessed a further 5 feet out, actually delivered a little more than quarter G. Sometimes she laid flat on her back there, tried feeling the extra ounces she weighed.
A shadow fell across the glass on the floor in front of her. She looked up and saw Andrew peeking over the side of the hatch wall.
“Why are you drinking alone in an emergency hatch?” He asked.
“I like watching how it splashes at highest-G.”
Andrew looked around. No one else in the deck. The floors sloping up and away a hundred yards either side.
“You’re an odd duck, Stella.”
Stella laughed. “You’ve never seen a duck.”
“Sure I have.”
“Not a real one.”
“No,” he admitted.
They were silent a minute.
“This is the closest we can ever get to being in a gravity well,” she said.
“That’s probably best,” Andrew said. “I don’t think our knees would much appreciate it if we suddenly made them carry four times as much weight.”
Stella stirred her drink with her finger. Watched the light in the brown liquid sluggishly recover. “Our bodies,” she said. “So much taller and skinnier than our parents. There’s no place else we could live.”
“Well there’s no place else we’re gonna live, so that works out, too.”
She laid flat on her stomach and pressed her nose to the small circular porthole. All stars faint and equal, slowly arcing.
“Is it?” she said.
Andrew sighed. “You okay, Stel?”
Stella rolled over. “They never asked us, Andy. We were born here and we’ll die here. We’ll do the same to our kids. We won’t ask them if they want it either.”
“That’s why they call it a generational ship, Stel.”
“And it never occurred to them that that meant several generations of slaves?”
Andrew’s mouth worked a bit. Through the porthole behind her he could see the windows of Main Section, soft and blue and always. They had the illusion of rising as the ring continued its eternal 32 minute-long rotation.
“We’re not slaves, Stel.”
“We might as well be. We can’t leave.”
“People on Earth used to couldn’t leave, either.”
“Earth had a hell of a lot more room, though.”
Andrew laughed. “You’ve never seen room.”
“Exactly,” and Stella stretched long, and Andrew watched her shirt pull up over her stomach, which fell away between her hip bones.
“Besides,” he said. “You tested out engineering. I tested out sanitation. Count your blessings. In a year we finish school and you’ll be learning how to run this place. I’ll be scrubbing it.”
Stella fixed her eyes on the boy. “It’s all the same, ship, Andy. We’re all going the same way.”
“Exactly!” Andrew slapped both hands on the rim of the hatch, and hopped upright. “Now come on, you. Zero-G soccer.”
She looked at him a while, backlit by the track lights. His knees the widest part of his legs, his mop of hair and high cheeks.
“No,” she said. “I’ll stay here a while. Find me later,” and rolled back onto her stomach.
Andrew sighed. “Fine.” He turned to leave, then caught himself.
“No one ever got asked. Remember that movie about the slums? People got born there, too. They didn’t ask to be, but they were, and had to deal with it. So we live here. We keep this place going so in a few hundred years it gets somewhere. Just the way it is.”
Stella lay there alone for some time, watching the lights of Main Section leave her sightline.
“Yeah,” she said aloud. “That doesn’t make it right, though.”