The mess hall is empty as I come in. It should be; we’re on a night cycle now: limited lighting in the interior, windows open to the endless black. Out here in the Rim it’s more black than anything. Tonight is a free-floating night, engines down to conserve fuel and no gravity from acceleration. Everyone should be strapped into their beds, except of course the pilot, watch and engineer.
I turn and draw as the door opens, light bursting on, lighting the crotch of one of our passengers. I keep the light where it is and look down; he’s turned around in the micro-grav and floating the halls upside-down. It was the Priest.
“Wait, I thought the night-lighting was on the ceiling?” The Priest didn’t get into space much.
“No, Father. The day-lights are on the ‘ceiling’, night-lights go on the floor.” I don’t lower my gun.
He turns himself around and I follow him with the light. “What’re you doing outside of your cabin?”
“I couldn’t sleep, and now I’m hungry. Is that a crime, Watchman…?”
“Thomas. No, Father. Just most people don’t like floating about when they haven’t been in space much, ‘specially not on a cargo rocket.”
“Yes well, the body must be cared for in order to conduct God’s service.”
I make a noise of agreement and holster my weapon. After floating over to the storage bays, I grab three food-packs and lob one, gently, at the Father. It travels slowly, an uninhibited straight line; the Father catches it but didn’t brace himself against the door, and starts tilting backwards, he ends up horizontal to the rest of the room. When he comes back his eyes are scrunched up, looking upwards and to the left. He is frowning, his hand rubs his stomach.
“Not particularly. Seems I have yet to develop my space legs though… It’s amazing how complicated technology has made things.”
“We call them null-legs.” I don’t particularly want to engage the Father in conversation. I made that mistake once and found his views too old-fashioned to be any good.
“Wasn’t technology supposed to make things easier, to make our lives more comfortable?” He doesn’t seem to care that I have duties to attend to, or he is unaware. “Yet for every new technology, for every new vista that opens up, new challenges remain to face us. New controversies arrive at our doorstep and beg to be solved. People make problems by progressing forward.”
“No, people make progress. We change, we grow and we change again until we die.”
“We have explored the multitude of the Heavens, and yet people go hungry and die. Magic fuels our flights through the stars, and yet we cannot learn to accept those who are different from us, who choose different lifestyles. Perhaps our progress should solve the problems we already have instead of making new ones.”
I float back to the door he is standing in, “Sometimes, we don’t choose to adapt, Father.” My hand reaches out and pats him on the shoulder; this time he braces himself.