Harry and Allyson rode the cable-car to the outer most greenway with Mark Chapman’s remains bagged at their feet. They passed the Somerset estate on the northeast side of the ring and headed towards the area between the terminals for mines one and two. Harry felt uncomfortable, but Allyson seemed totally unperturbed. Harry wasn’t used to death and wondered just how much of it Allyson had seen. However, he didn’t want to ask her. He was enjoying her company and didn’t want to start a conversation that might drive her away. On the journey, he watched her watching the buildings and jungle of Nova-3 pass by.
“You must have seen that all a thousand times before,” he said when she looked back to see how he was doing.
“Probably more,” Allyson answered turning in her seat to face him.
“Do you mind my asking why you chose the greenway up here to the north?”
“Father liked to come here and walk along the walkway at the northern most part of the city. It looks out on the emptiest portion of the great void. The stars are so far away that it would take someone traveling at maximum speed almost a month to reach the other side. He said he liked it because that part of the sky was like no place else in our arm of the galaxy. He said that it made him feel special. There was a tree just off the walkway that he used to like to sit under and just stare out into space.”
Harry leaned across her and looked out under the overhang of the cable-car’s roof. He sat back up shaking his head. “I try not to look up,” he said.
“Why not?” Allyson asked.
“The sky is so different from the sky on Earth Prime. Nothing looks the same. There are no reference points for me to hitch my mind to. It reminds me of just how far away from home I really am,” Harry said.
“You really love Earth Prime,” Allyson said.
“It’s not that I love the place,” Harry said. “It’s that I love the meaning that my life has in that place.”
“Your life would have meaning where ever you were,” Allyson said.
“Would it?” Harry asked.
“Of course, it would,” Allyson said. “You would adapt yourself to whatever place you were in, like you’ve done here.”
Allyson signaled for the cable-car to stop. They dismounted and Harry carried Chapman’s remains into the lush undergrowth following Allyson on a path that only she could see. She led him to a small, tree covered rise that gave them a clear view over the walkway and out into the night enshrouded planet.
“We used to come here and picnic,” Allyson said. “It was quiet and remote and we were never disturbed although you can hear the tube for Mine-2 as the air pressure builds up behind the car. Father used to say that it reminded him of an animal moving through the trees.”
“A caged animal,” Harry said. “Caged and restrained and made to do our bidding.”
“Isn’t that a little cynical?” Allyson asked.
“Not cynical... pragmatic,” Harry answered. “A month ago, I was sitting at my desk tracking the movements of hundreds of mechanical devises, all on assigned routes, carrying all kinds of assigned commodities, to all points of our known compass. It’s not my job to tell any of the carriers where to go or when to get there. All I’m allowed to do is log in arrival times, departure times, cargo manifests and make sure that the ones scheduled to arrive at Earth Prime arrive on time and with all their cargos intact. I am merely one piece in the great cosmic machine that is mankind; one cell in the great celestial body.”
“It’s depressing when you put it that way,” Allyson said.
“Yes, it is, isn’t it,” Harry said after a moment.
“Do you still feel that way?”
Harry thought about everything he had seen on his trip so far. “No. Out here, the rules that govern the rest of the galaxy don’t apply, yet.”
“Maybe they never will,” Allyson said.
“Wouldn’t that be something,” Harry said.
“It would be like finding alien life,” Allyson said.
“Are you proposing to upset the Dawkens Theorem?” Harry asked.
“That it would take an infinite universe with an infinite number of stars with an infinite number of planets to reduce the probability of life originating on one of them to just ONE... yes,” Allyson said. “We already have.”
“In what way?” Harry asked.
“You said it yourself. Your rules don’t apply. We are living so far from the control center of everyone else’s existence that we can choose to do or be whatever we wish. Evolution.”
“You’re dangerous,” Harry said laughing. “Where did you scatter your father’s remains?”
“Here at the base of the knoll,” Allyson said.
“Would you mind?”
“Of course not,” Allyson said. “It’s a lovely spot and I’m sure father would love the company.”
“He never heard Mark talk,” Harry said.
Harry scattered the nutrients around in the lush growth then climbed back on to the small hill and joined Allyson who was sitting down and leaning against a small tree. As he sat down, Allyson moved over to allow him to use the tree as a backrest, then she leaned in and rested her back against his chest. Harry put his arm around her and held her firmly against him.
“It is beautiful up here,” Harry said.
“I thought you might like it,” Allyson said.
The two of them sat there for several minutes in silence. The wind from the terraforming plant gently rustled the leaves around them. Harry stared out into space at the stars. He attempted to connect them into familiar patterns but was totally unsuccessful. Allyson was right. Everything here was new. Even the sky. This was like no sky he had ever seen, nor was ever likely to see.
After several minutes Allyson said, “We’re going to have to leave soon.”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“It’s scheduled to rain in an hour.”