Chloe went to work. As a second-generation colonist, she was born on the ship and she knew the whole thing top to bottom. They used to run all over as kids, despite the grown ups’ protests. Now that she was in her twenties, it was her turn to scold the little buggers that did the same.
“Get outta here, damn you!” she spat at the kids, waving her mop at them menacingly.
They stuck out their tongue and ran circles around her one last time before running off to bother someone else.
Chloe sighed, propped herself up on her mop. She would have to do the whole thing again. The job was pointless, if they wanted to, they could ask the drones to do these chores. But the colonists needed something to do, and apart from the very important jobs like mechanics and hydrofarmers the rest simply went on the jobs rota just to find something to occupy their minds. It was a special kind of hell, knowing that you were stuck inside a spaceship that literally, physically could not turn back right now after reaching this speed, and that you were only the first generation, a mere ancestor of those glorious future colonists that would reach the target planet.
Nothing mattered along the way. All they had to do was survive. Sure, space was dangerous, and sure, they could get a hull breach and get wiped out in a fraction of a second and this titanic endeavor would all go to waste, but people couldn’t live with that kind of danger looming over them. They simply ignored it. It was like Terry said to her when she was terrified of him going out during a thunderstorm. ‘Yes, baby,’ he had said, ‘I might get struck by lightning, the chances are small but they’re there. However, I can’t live my life in fear. So I’m gonna go out now, and I’ll call you when I’m back.’
She waited those agonizing minutes while he got home from work in that thunderstorm. Chloe kept watching the Earth TV channels that reported on the damages and the weather.
That thing scared her shitless.
There was no weather inside the generation ship. Everything was monitored, calm and slightly cold. There was a microclimate inside the hydrofarms, it had a breeze sometimes. Mostly it was humid and once, Chloe saw a tiny cloud forming in the middle of the rotation axis that had no gravity. That was funny.
But nothing like those thunderstorms!
When Terry finally got back, he replied to each one of her two hundred messages. He was so patient with her, whenever she went nuts like that, or when she couldn’t understand the Earth’s problems and situations. For example, Chloe couldn’t possibly imagine a life of abundance. She had gotten him to recycle his old tablet, he wanted to just throw it away! On the ship, they threw nothing away, it all got recycled. And the 3D printers could fabricate anything, even the latest tech and dresses from Earth if you got someone to send them to you, but the materials were extremely limited.
Chloe mopped the floor and watched it as it dried. The kids didn’t come again to step all over the corridor.
She was done for today. She checked her messages. Her sister sent her something silly she found on the net. Her mother wanted her to bring back tomato juice from the shop. Her cousin wanted to hang out. No messages from Terry.
Karen went to the café the next evening, just in time to see the afterburner sunset. Terry wasn’t there. She felt a pang of guilt, about ruining Terry’s romantic night. Yes, he basically sat there all alone watching up at spaceship farts, but still.
It was romantic.
Two people in love who had never ever met in person, and who had no chance of ever doing so.
The more she pondered this situation the better it fit her thesis idea. It was brilliant, nobody had ever done such a thing, nobody. Analysing this kind of long-distance relationship? Attempting to bridge the gap?
So it was right in her alley.
Karen swiped up and loaded Terry’s social profile in her augmented reality. She could contact him directly, but she decided not to bother the man any more. Instead, she created an ARO, an augmented reality object that was tied to a specific location. It was like leaving a note, but on the veil. If Terry came back here, which Karen was sure he would eventually, and if he wanted to, he could open the message and read it. She put on a silly animated cat that said she was sorry, and typed out the message on the virtual keyboard, effectively tapping her fingers on the bare table.
When she was done, she stood up and left the café before the sunset was over.
End of third sunset.