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Universal Equilibrium



‘Life in space is aberrant, an unnatural situation. We shouldn’t be here,’ the man said, staring at the bedroom ceiling.

‘Where should we be?’ she replied.

‘On our home planet! Earth!’

‘Earth? I was born in Jovian space. Would you call my birth unnatural?’

‘Absolutely.’

She glanced at his naked body with a disapproving gleam in her eyes. Suddenly, he didn’t seem as attractive as he had earlier.

He continued. ‘Out here, everything conspires to kill us. If it’s not cosmic radiation or random sunflares, it’s our own bloody technology. Just last week, a transfer module went berserk on its way to Phobos. Twenty-five died.’

‘Yeah, I heard. Very sad.’

‘ Do you know, Iliana?’ He turned to face her.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Cooked to death! The life support broke down and temperature inside the module shot up to sixty degrees celsius within five minutes and stayed there for ten hours. Cooked!’

She shifted her gaze and pulled the bed sheet over her. ‘I’m not comfortable talking about this. We’re in a space station, after all.’

‘Sorry. I get carried away sometimes,’ he said in a quieter tone, bringing a hand forward to caress her thigh.

‘What I mean,’ he continued, ‘is that humanity’s expansion into space is a fallacy. Not a right. The universe abhors abnormal situations and quickly regains equilibrium by rectifying them. It’s called universal equilibrium. We need to understand that things are going to turn bad for us soon…’

Oh gosh, why do I always attract lunatics? She thought to herself as she leaned over to search for her clothes.

‘...also, humanity went to space to find freedom. Instead, it found the opposite,’ his voice grew more agitated. ‘No one in space is free, Iliana! Just look at us, entirely dependent on everything to stay alive in this tin can. The air that we breathe. The food that we eat. The water we drink. Heck, even our own waste needs to be treated. We’re dependent on everything up here! I certainly can’t wait to get back to Earth.’

‘Have you seen my underwear?’

‘And all these colonists on Luna and Mars dreaming of independence. Bah! As if such a thing could be possible. Yes, you can find them in science fiction stories: Martian republics, Jovian federations, and other glorious alliances. Grand visions of blossoming space societies living independently from the madness that is Earth. But they're just stories we tell ourselves. It’s all pipe dreams. No one is truly free out here.’

‘Do you remember where you threw my bra?’

‘Last month, I heard a group on Mount Olympus openly talk about starting a revolution. Could you believe it? Overthrowing the very system that provides them food and shelter!’

‘Ah, there it is.’

‘Doesn’t take much imagination to know where these imbeciles are heading.’

‘You’re on my top,’ she said as she nudged him to the side, noticing his body odour.

‘To think that people want to raise families here. How can they be so blind?’

She stood up, putting on her top. ‘What about the Trojan colonies?’ she asked.

‘The hidden colonies of Jupiter? ‘Yeah.’

‘Bah! Fairy tales,’ he said, waving a hand.

‘Really? Loads of people believe they exist.’

‘Well, of course, they do.’ He shot her an exasperated look. ‘It’s so bleak out here, a bit of romanticism mixed with a dash of freedom, and you have the perfect element for escapism.’

She held his gaze. ‘And Freyja Seeger then? How do you explain her rise as the leader of the Trojan colonies?’

‘Fabricated.’ A slight smirk grew on her face. ‘Is that so?’ ‘Seeger’s just a myth. A made-up hero of our times.’

‘She’s a beacon of hope and freedom for everyone.’

He shook his head and sat up.

‘Anyways,' he said, 'Let’s pretend the Trojans do exist for the sake of argument. They’re outliers. What they’ve done can’t be replicated.’

‘How so?’ She replied while picking up her trousers from the floor.

‘You said it yourself. They’d require an exceptional person in the likes of Freyja Seeger, if she did exist.’

‘History has shown that people can be inspired by far less.’

‘Another way of saying that people are fools.’

‘I don’t consider seeking freedom a sign of foolishness.’

‘Look, Iliana. There’s no hiding the fact that the intricate dependencies linking space settlements to Earth’s economy would make it practically impossible for them to cut off ties.’

‘Not everyone shares your view.’

‘Not everyone studies the solar economy as I do. Regardless, if the Trojan colonies exist, which they don’t, they seem to live in total isolation. For all we know, it might be hell living there.’

‘Maybe,’ she grimaced as she pulled up her trousers. ‘But at least they’re free.’

‘I don’t think living on a puny asteroid in a sect-like society is people's vision of living in space.’

She frowned. ‘Why not? Isn’t building a new society the true vision of freedom?’

‘If the Trojans were truly free, we’d hear more about them. Surely, there'd be those who’d want to reach out.'’

She put on her socks and gave him a half-shrug. ‘Maybe they know better not to.’

‘I don’t buy that for a second,’ he said as he clasped his hands behind his head.

‘Look, all this is interesting, but I’m returning to my sleeping quarters. It’s cold here.’

‘Oh really?’ he said with a surprised look. ‘I didn’t know you were leaving so soon. I can increase the temperature in here if you want.’

‘And get cooked alive! Ha! No thanks,’ she replied with a bitter laugh.

‘Well, I’m sorry you’re leaving. Should we, er… keep in touch?’

She gave him a forced smile. ‘Let’s leave this as a one-night stand.’

‘Right.’ he said, scratching his hair. ‘Well then, enjoy your first trip on Earth, Iliana.’

‘Adieu,’ she replied as she opened the door.

‘Hold on! I don’t even know your proper name. Iliana…?’

She turned around and looked at him with proud eyes, ‘Seeger, Iliana Seeger.’


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