by Paul D
This is the way it has always been done.
|MB for First place science fiction round of "The Writer's Baker's Dozen Contest" September 14th, 2013
Milton Longstreet left the vac with his son Adam. They stood in front of Saturn's space port. "Why do I have to do this?" Adam complained.
"It is called tradition, and it is good for you."
"Really? Like castor oil?"
Milton laughed. "Where did you get that?"
"On the vid. Where else?"
"You have your nan-glas?"
"Dad, I'm wearing them. Never leave home without them--remember?"
"Yes, I've told you that a million times."
"Make that ten million. I also have two spares in my lev-pal."
Milton looked at the huge container that hovered just behind his son.
"In my day, we were limited to a much smaller container."
"Dad, my stuff barely fits. I just hope it doesn't get lost. I'll never survive."
"Remember to vid."
"Dad, really? You and mom have worn out my eardrums already."
Milton laughed as Adam disappeared into the port. He would be away on Pluto for a year. He and Jeannie didn't tell him about the accommodations or the mines.
A short time later, a light flashed at the side of Milton's nan-glas. He tilted his head, and a vid came up of his son. "Dad, you would not believe these Self Contained Units. They are like coffins."
"You know space is very limited."
"Yeah, but still--coffins? It's so creepy."
"You will be in stasis. You won't mind at all."
"I'm not exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of being frozen like a turkey for this trip. Not that I could jump anyway."
"Son, your humor is almost funny"
"Humor? Whose joking?"
"Son, you'll be fine. Thousands of kids make this trip every day."
"Okay, the techs are here now to start the stasis process. I'll talk to you on the other side."
"Okay, love you."
* * *
A week later, a light from Jeannie's nan-glas appeared. She tilted her head and saw a vid of Adam. "Hi, Sweetie, how was the jump?"
"I remember nothing of the jump, but man am I cold. I feel like I'll never be warm again."
"No worries, Dear, stasis is always like that. By tomorrow, you'll be fit as a fiddle."
"What's a fiddle?"
"It is an archaic instrument for playing music."
"Like a beat vid?"
"No, you hold in it your hands, use a stick to bow it, and make music."
"A bow? Wow! That sounds so primitive."
"The natives of Earth used them."
"That explains a lot. The ship will arrive at the port in eleven hours. I'll vid when we arrive, mom."
"Okay, talk to you then, Sweetie. I love you."
"I love you too."
* * *
"Dad, I'm at the school. Why didn't you tell me my room was a coffin?"
"It's a SCU, son."
"Did you know we have a common changing and bathing area?"
"It has always been that way."
"Yeah, well I hate having my butt hang out for everyone to see."
"Son, if you have seen one butt, you've seen them all."
"Dad, there's a no butts hanging out policy everywhere but here. It makes no sense."
"No more construction is allowed on Pluto. Space is extremely limited. You are fortunate to have a SCU to yourself. Shared units are extremely cramped."
"My SCU has two names on it. I thought it was a mistake. This can't be right."
"It's okay, son. It's only for a year."
"Dad, the other person is a girl."
"Of course, where do you think I met your mom?"
"What? And you're telling me this now?"
"Some things are best discovered on your own."
* * *
Late Monday night Jeannie opened a vid and saw Adam. "Hello, Sweetie."
"I just got back from the mines. Another surprise you forgot to mention. Did you know it's not under a dome?"
"Of course, Dear, a dome would not be cost effective."
"My environ suit is okay, but why does it have to be so form fitting?"
"Honey, I'm not an engineer, but I'm sure there is a reason for everything."
"Tailya my SEU mate is also my work mate. Do you have a clue as to what form fitting really means?"
Jeannie laughed. "I'm sorry, Love. SEU mates always work together. It is one of the rules on Pluto. You must work in pairs--never alone."
"The mine-bot we operate is way cool. It's hard to believe how much work it can do in a day. Why not use an AI-bot?"
"Dear, you should know the answer. One AI would cost as much as all the other mine-bots put together."
"Yeah, I know."
* * *
A year later, Milton and Jeannie were at the space port. Adam was coming home. "I am so pleased that everything is working as planned," he remarked.
"I agree, Love. Look, here they come, and he's holding Tailya's hand. Isn't that sweet?"
Milton and Jeannie embrace Adam and said, "Welcome home, son."
They both laughed and said, "Insync."
"Mom and Dad this is Taliya. She will be living with us for the next five years."
"Milton beamed, "We know, son."
"Of course, all the colonies are so small that potential wives must come from other colonies. A marriage works best when both people know each other. Your year on Pluto gave both of you time to become friends. Now, for the next fives years, you will have more time to develop your friendship and marry if that is your desire."
"Mom, don't tell me. This is what you and dad did?"
"Of course, Sweetie, this has been the tradition of the colonies for more than a thousand years."
"Why didn't anyone tell us sooner?" Talia asked.
"It is called need to know," she replied, "which is another tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years."