young astronauts in love

kirk israel

chapter 1

space... the... frontier

not the final frontier, probably. but it's a frontier and it's pretty big

i'm an astronaut. always had been.

the academy was... pretty great actually

i got my degree, and my first assignment

i'm a federation technician, first class

my first assignment was on GHIBAL 3

GHIBAL 3 is the famous home of the ghibal anomaly

and ghibal city, set up for the scientists to study the anomaly and the corporations hoping to cash in.

it was even more of a happening place back then!

it was a long journey there

you can only ionski a few hundred times before it gets old

finally we were there!

unfortunately my assignment wasn't the city

or the suburbs

or that area surrounding the suburbs

it was an outpost. scanner outpost gamma-222.

a monitoring station, for technical reasons as far as possible from the city and the anomaly, the anomalyobverse.

little glitches were happening all the time.

that's why i was there! one of the most qualified technoplumbers in the history of humanity

i had a few small rooms, 'net connection, coffee maker, a GIANT PILE of spare parts...

it was lonely, but with minibreaks to the city and holocoms with old classmates, not too bad.

chapter 2

The setup on GHIBAL 3 was kind of odd

There was so much we didn't know about the anomaly, it really kept the scientists busy, and some of the lawyers

sometimes they had to do research the outposts. there was a minilab for them, with its own coffee maker.

then, one day...

lydia showed up

lydia was one of the lab-scouts. THE fastest jetter i had ever seen

the scientist-scouts were the elite of the elite.

and lydia in the lab... her specialty was this unspace stuff i could just barely get the outlines of

didn't stop me from trying though!

techs are supposed to ask questions, and she was pretty patient

and so it rolled on... lab-scouts came and lab-scouts went.

my own work was pretty interesting, and i had a few side projects

for a while i had a theory she was showing up more often than her research demanded

it was tough to tell. her stuff was pretty obstruse. and it wasn't like i was the only lab she stopped at.

probably i was just projecting

women! or maybe just people.

compared to them, circuits were cake.

maybe her research was about the kind of complexity i'm thinking of

circuits:on, off, mu. you don't understand something, you set up testcases, you can isolate your assumptions and test them...

i've always been pretty easy to read

one time it was near the holiday break. we were talking schedules.

"had you noticed how often i'm here? i've virtually had to make up a new branch of anomaly wave dynamic to justify my trips here."

"i'll bet you say that to all the techs!" i said

no, she hadn't

chapter 3

those were some great times

we figured out how to schedule leave time together

cities look better when you're with someone

something about the bigness, the aspiration, even a medium university / corporate / federation city like this one.

i mean, small change compared to what humanity was aiming for with the ghibal anomaly

but like the old wisdom says, "the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

but it's the little things. knowing where to get a good raspberry lime rickey

touching hands at the theater

hanging out with friends as a couple

even the shamelessly goofy stuff. thanks to the anomaly, we were able to watch the sunset every direction at once

still, there was a lot of work to do. the anomaly obverse beckoned!

it was a long drive back. luckily, neither of us needed to actually drive...

time passed. she had to make her rounds, but gamma-222 was really becoming her base-away-from-base.

and my side project was coming along

actually, in retrospect, i think the project helped catch Lydia's eye, the months before

nothing too ground-breaking but I was proud of it...

it was looking to be the most advanced 'bot on GHIBAL 3, all made from my giant pile of parts,

finally it was time for the full AI/body connection and powerup...

something wasn't quite right...

"RUN!" I shouted.

luckily, lydia didn't need to run

back at the minilab there was a universal kill switch

guess i know why fed regs require the cutoff circuit... no one thinks they're building a frankenstein!

later the post-mortem revealed it was "anomalous" radiation and the virtual synapses.

actually, years after that lydia wrote her dissertation on the interaction.

chapter 4

but just then the robot incident had left us a bit shaken

and quite a bit turned on

i kept making "robot buddies", but kept them dumb-ish, below the critical synaptic threshold

and lydia's research was deeper than ever.

for her birthday, i made her a robot pet UFO

i think she liked it

a lot. it followed her constantly!

her birthday gift to me was kind of harder to explain...

it was kind of a combination anomaly/holo of the two of us

it's unique, in a strict use of that word. i'm not sure you could make it anywhere besides the anomaly obverse!

during minibreaks, she showed me how to enjoy the planetside... nature stuff i'd never really looked at

at these times, i was happiest.

as far as i can tell, so was she.

but nothing gold can stay

she got her orders. assignment at tylon academy. the big leagues!

we took one last trip to the city

at the sodashop, we had a talk

"i don't know, jake... maybe it's the difference between you and everyone else."

"...the astronaut thing is so temporary for them..."

now, we still write and holo sometimes. she hasn't found anyone new.

so there's still a little hope. not a ton.

she left, but deployments in the federation are funny things, and the anomaly still has some unplumbed depths.

i'll say this, i learned more from lydia than all the other lab-scouts put together.

Also available:
director's commentary edition
roughcut, b+w doublesize edition