Their intercourse was slow, but steady. Chloe went on about her day, and every few minutes, her comm chirped and there was a text from Karen. They added each other online and Terry footed the bill for Karen’s subscription. Beaming messages into the outer reaches of the solar system wasn’t exactly covered in your usual cellphone plan. Karen was very thorough, wanting to learn all about them.

“Tell me if you’re tired or anything. ‘Cause I have more questions.”

“To be honest, I like getting this off my chest. You know, having someone to talk to about my relationship that isn’t my stupid little sister.”

“You don’t talk to her about Terry?”

“Oh, we do. But her response is usually a snarky comment or something that makes me wanna strangle her. She’s too young anyway, what does she know?”

“I see. And how about other girlfriends? Aboard the ship, I mean.”

“Nope.”

“Touchy subject? It’s okay if you don’t wanna tell me.”

“It is kinda touchy, yes. But there’s not much to say. I don’t really have any friends up here. We used to hang out with a couple of girls back when we were little, but as soon as they were twenty or so the AI had them pair up and make a couple of babies. It’s all planned and everything, trust the machine. Whooey sounds, you know?”

“I see. That must have been hard, Chloe. I’m sorry you grew apart.”

“Yeah, pretty much. They have their families now, their husbands, their babies. We stumbled on each other with Suzie a few months ago, but we really had nothing to say apart from tickling the baby she was holding.”

“Since we’re on the subject, and I know it’s a touchy one, don’t you want to make a family?”

“You mean since I’m in a relationship where it can’t physically happen? Yes, I do. But not yet, you know? I’m still too young. I was glad the AI didn’t choose me to breed, I would have to obey, and I’ll tell you, it would SUCK.”

“That’s probably why it didn’t choose you. They’re very good at picking up behavioral patterns like that, especially in a controlled environment.”

“That’s one way to call our tin can where our every fart is being monitored and recycled.”

“I know. It sucks that you didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

“It is what it is. I guess I think too much. I watched Suzie, the one with the baby, and she was always so aloof. Never arguing the bigger stuff, she just lived her life, limited as it is in here. It never bothered her that she would never go anywhere else that the ship, that she wouldn’t meet anyone else that wasn’t still in his diapers.”

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“I get it. Well, inquiring minds are needed for the colony, it just sucks to be in the middle of the relay chain.”

“Exactly! It’s a relay race, and I’m stuck in the second spot. My entire purpose in life is to receive the baton and pass it on to the next girl, because the colony is all that matters. Nothing I do has any meaning whatsoever. Nothing. And nobody cares what I do as long as I don’t fumble and drop the baton.”

“Do you talk to Terry about these things?”

“I used to. He’s a good conversationalist, but the nihilism of these discussions made us both depressed, so I just stopped, I guess.”

“Chloe, that’s so sad. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Karen. It’s nobody’s. That’s the problem, I can’t be mad at anyone. I just drew the short straw in life.”

“Tell me about something fun aboard the ship.”

“Fun… Well, the aquafarms are fun. There are so many smells, and the plants, there are even some flowers! One day I got to pick one, a farmer let me have it. I put it in water but it only survived for a couple of days, tops. Then it withered and died so I recycled it.”

“Do you have that part of the ship where there’s no gravity?”

“Oh, yeah! In the middle shaft. It rotates, but the middle makes a smaller arc so it never gets to push you to the floor. You can freefall in the middle, it’s lots of fun! But it made me lose my breakfast the last time I tried it. It’s been years. Actually, it was when I used to hang out with the girls. Time flies, even in here.”

“Why don’t you try doing that again? The freefall. I think it would be fun, the way you described it.”

“Nah… It’s silly, kids’ stuff.”

“Well, do it for me. I’ve never done it, I’m stuck in a gravity well!”

“What do you mean, do it for you?”

“Well… Since I’m offering to be your surrogate, you can get a taste of what it’ll be like the other way around. My whole idea was for us to link up and you giving me instructions on what you wanna do, and I’ll perform it in the real. So, why not try it out the other way? I’d like you to go to the central shaft and experience the freefall for me, and record the whole thing so I can enjoy it all the way back on Earth.”

“You, lady, are quite pushy.”

“I just think it would be fun for the both of us.”

“Oh, it’s okay. I like you. Fine, Karen. I’ll do the silly thing, but only because you didn’t get to play around in zero-g when you were a kid.”

“Yay!”

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