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An Interstellar Love Story

Server 0215: Activity detected.
Surveillance Footage and Sub-Lingual Neuronal Feed Data
Human Diaspora Project
[Code: A3b- Access by tier AAi coded personnel only]
Time point: 03:37:48, 04/23/2168
Subject Chip ID: 0546JC55

It was sometime in that dead zone after three AM had passed. Even in a crowded city like mine, no one was on the streets below me. The lights of the auto-running buses still lit up, but I knew they were empty. Even the early shift workers wouldn’t appear until four thirty or so. The sidewalks rolled along, merrily empty of their rush hour burdens. I sucked in a deep breath through my slightly puckered mouth. It felt like silt filled water was slipping into my lungs, the dampness slicked the back of my throat. Clouds were rushing by me, boiling in the sky. They felt abnormally close to the surface and just a little dangerous as they rolled across the moon. The moon took up about half of the sky and was achingly bright tonight. Although I can vaguely remember it being a small thumb sized disk in the sky as a kid, it had been pulled in a closer geosynchronous orbit years ago to make transfer of several cities to its surface easier and cheaper. After all, a bunch of rock is easier to move than whining citizens.

There was little else to do this late—using any of your electronic devices could result in being tagged as an unusual sleeper—the same with going anywhere using your credit chip. Too many nights of that and you were in for government mandated Dis-Regularity Habits Counseling. I did not fancy government ‘counseling’ and so I would end up going for walks on the roof on nights when I woke up at some point in the dead zone and no amount of scientifically proven white noise buzzing out of my Sleep-E-Z could soothe my aches. My room was empty; I’d never been much of a decorator, and with the clock blinking 3:30 in the morning, the space seemed to echo whatever feelings were leaden weights on my chest that night. The roof of the complex I lived in was about one mile wide, and three-quarters across. I might pace it three times, and spend about that times two lying like I am now, belly up towards the sky waiting to feel tired enough that fatigue drowns the unsettled feeling in my chest.

Server 8221: Activity detected.
Surveillance Footage and Sub-Lingual Neuronal Feed Data
Human Diaspora Project
[Code: A3b- Access by tier AAi coded personnel only]
Taken at 03:37:14, 04/23/2168
Subject Chip ID: 100498CJ

I was at work late again—someone had to babysit the whirring machinery in case it caught fire. There was a 1 in 700,000 chance for every 4,000 scenarios it ran that a connector would short in the Artificial-Air, and 1 out of 10 of those would lead to a minor fire. Data was insufficient on the probabilities of automated response failing to extinguish any such blaze, and my labor was cheap enough so that I was being paid to do mindless babysitting of a non-AI machine as a precaution. The computer was running equations on the mutations in common human pathogens that could occur under the SOLA-Shield, an almost delicate-looking knit of fibers that held the air in like a fishnet around the moon’s surface. It let in its own array of radiation that differed from Earth, so the good scientists of CURE-IT pharmaceuticals wanted to get a leg up on what drugs would catch the mutations bound to occur next, especially after the last bout of solar staph infections back in November.

I ran several more equations across the computer terminal where I was sitting. I was bored, and often ran equations for my side job when the computer main wasn’t too bogged down with data. For now, the hologram screen was running the calculations in the three dimensions I could see, and the dialog from the monitor assured me that though my puny eyes could not make them out, calculations were going just fine in the fourth as well. I looked out the small vapo-lock window that was in the corner of the room—someone on the Science of Rooms board had said INNOVATION needs windows, so the company squeezed a cheap one in at the last moment of construction. The earth was filling the entire frame, a swirling nexus of greens and blues and whites. It seemed so colorful—the purposely aseptic grey moon was dismal when the earth light didn’t reflect colored shadows on it.

A dialog box appeared and flashed green. My data run had finished.

There were 15.4 billion people, give or take – the exact number was constantly loaded in to the equation from the main Human Census databank. The geographic area of human population distribution was entered as another factor—areas of living space and a coefficient for relative distance from a random equatorial point. I went on faith and good advice that age is a factor, and applied a covariate constraint for age within 20-year age ranges. HLA types and symbiotic microflora so far implicated in mate selection were another region of precedence in the calculations—increased points for scientifically proven paired phenotypes, points lost for asynchronous pheromonal genes. After that, a few variables were thrown in with numbers accounting for a small 5% of selection preference based on cultural partner pairing precedents—after all love was supposed to have some mythic ability to concur all obstacles. For reference purposes, the population in 1856 was used a control, and the same parameters were held.

I wondered if it was true; that there was someone out there for everyone? It was a quaint notion that I’d heard time and time again. But I couldn’t help but think that even if someone really meant just one person is out there for everyone, had the chances of meeting that person grown so astronomically slim with the enormity of the human population? I wonder if that’s what made so many people unhappy in love—they never found that one other person. I calculated again for one person, then supposed that there could be maybe three that were doppelgangers in the sea of human faces – all but indistinguishable. I did not particularly like to think that I was one of three me’s, but it was possible. Only assuming a one in 5 billion chance is actually pretty generous estimation of individuality, but again there were 15 billion people. I ran that set of numbers again.

My back of the envelope calculations were resoundingly in favor of the reduced-diversity, pre-space condition of the human race allowing love. There was a 105 greater chance of the desired two people meeting in my 1856 scenario, even persisting that only 3 doppelgangers or their one representative person are the true love of one said other person (and that person’s doppelgangers). That number drops to 106 reduced chance if you think that people really are unique and the doppelganger argument is rendered invalid.

I tapped idly through the equations I had written. Even I knew all I was doing was just trying to justify my own feelings of emptiness with even the most ideal people I had been with, paired based on friends’ advice, government theorems, or pure chance. It nagged at me; despite my best efforts, I always would end up awake late at night, with someone’s arm over my chest. Woken up by some weight heavier than a still sleeping arm on my ribs, staring at the ceiling willing sleep and feeling nothing but that dull ache. I clicked the equation screen closed, ignoring prompts to “Save this untitled document?” and quavering computer warnings that “All work will be lost, do you really want to close?” It was three in the morning, and nothing good ever comes out of thinking past midnight. I turned my attention to a second document and tapped away. I wrote a column in a women’s magazine. It was a way to earn a few extra dollars and my employment here, at some place with a vaguely clinical sounding name, was all the credentials I needed to string the hopes of millions of readers. Besides, it funded my expensive habit of indulging in the occasional luxurious piece of non-synthetic food. All that I had to do was write what I knew the readers wanted to hear. They wanted to know it was not too late for them, that they were sexy and bound to find the perfect man. So I typed away about how the increased population meant numerically more men to find, screw, and summarily try to tie down. It contained a few statistics from the census bureau to add more of an air of credibility; there were 15 million 6’5” men of Italian descendent between the age of 20 and 25, and 40% of men between 20 and 40 were single, etc. If the byline ran next to an image of a model with soft squinted look in his eyes, a pantomime of desire aimed at the camera, it would be pinned to every woman’s mirror. I labeled it with a bold title—‘There are MILLIONS MORE HOT MEN than EVER BEFORE!’ and sent it off to my editor.

A bit about the author:

Kelsey Rebehn is a medical student with a B.S. with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from St. Lawrence University. When she isn’t out running or playing frisbee in her free time, she enjoys writing short stories. Visit author page