You may recall that a couple of months ago, I posted this entry, the first part of the first chapter of a novel I was rather ploddingly writing. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to writing the rest of the chapter, although I’m still not entirely certain where I plan to go with it. I have some general idea, but it may be a while yet before I manage to get it working properly.
Seventeen years he had been in exile; seventeen years spent hovering pointlessly at the first Lagrange point in between the Earth and the Moon, surviving off vegetables grown in his hydroponic garden and dreaming that the world was still mundane. It was a miserable existence, perhaps, but at least he was alive, and where there was life—allegedly—there was hope.
Plasburg was waging a constant battle against the laws of physics, and he did so with the cold methodology of clockwork. Up here, there were neither friends, nor enemies, nor clients, nor family members to impose external demands upon his time; if he wanted (or needed) for something to be done, then he had only himself to ensure that he did it. As a result, he had become, by necessity, a creature of habit and followed a routine incessantly.
Most of his days were spent in ritual, like the monks of old. In space, there were always things which needed to be checked, maintained or repaired, and he performed these duties assiduously. Twice daily, he made his ‘rounds.’
He began, of course, by visually inspecting the diagnostic sensors himself; if these were not working properly, then it would be absolutely useless to do anything else. After painstakingly examining all of the hardware circuit board by circuit board and running three separate diagnostics upon the software just to ensure that everything was in working order , he would proceed to his next phase; checking up on his power supply.
A constant supply of energy was the lifeblood of any space station; on this space station, power was provided by a system of twelve fusion microreactors, powered by hydrogen diligently collected from the interplanetary medium with an auxiliary system of solar cells. These he tested using the diagnostic sensors—and again, somewhat more cursorily, by eye.
In the same fashion, he would inspect the protective systems: the laser shield to guard against micrometeorite impacts; the nanoscreens to neutralize the cosmic rays that otherwise would slowly kill him. Next, the synthesizer unit, with its army of microscopic robots, which he had used to manufacture clothing and replacement parts. One time, about six years ago, the synthesizer unit itself had broken-down, and he had found to his horror that he didn’t have the parts in storage to repair it, or any means of manufacturing them. Thankfully, he had kept a cool head, and cannibalized parts from the life support systems to serve as makeshift replacements. This had allowed the synth to run well enough to manufacture a slightly better replacement, which he had then used to manufacture another replacement and so on, until after five generations or so, it was back up to its peak performance. The unit had given him no trouble since then, but he had made a point of keeping at least one spare handy for everything in the unit. Finally, he would check-up on the environmental systems; the hydroponic garden which granted him the gifts of food and oxygen, the light, the heat, and of course the centrifugal motors which provided him with gravity so that his skeleton wouldn’t slowly atrophy away.
After completing his rounds each morning, he would then go to the hydroponic garden to acquire breakfast; fruit and protein pills (as assembled by the synth from recycled organic molecules. It was all he ate these days, though he tried to vary the fruit). After seventeen years, he had all but forgotten the taste of meat—though, on rare occasions, he still dreamt of steak dinners—birthday parties with his friends and family. He would wake up crying after such dreams; on a few occasions, he considered self-medicating to keep the dreams away, but ultimately decided against it.
Having finished his breakfast, Plasburg would adjourn to the gymnasium (or the room in the station that he had arbitrarily designated as being the gymnasium) and exercise for four consecutive hours until his bare muscles were slick with sweat. At fifty-two years old, he was in the best physical shape of his life. For a time, he had counted his impressive physique as being a mark of pride. That was back when his exile was still a novel experience, when he still regarded his very existence as being an act of rebellion against the Gods themselves. Back then, he had called himself “The Last Free Human,” a suitably heroic appellation which, while accurate, had been tailor-made to get him through the day. If he was the last free Human, his reasoning had gone, then surely he owed it to himself to be an impressive specimen of Humanity. But one day had piled upon another and after a while he’d started to wonder (perhaps while looking a little too hard at his reflection while he was lifting weights): if I’m the last free Human, why do I feel like I’m living in solitary confinement? After a while, he quietly dropped the title. He still, however, went right-on exercising, out of spite more than anything else.
Lunch always consisted of vegetables and a slightly different type of protein from the kind that he’d eaten at breakfast. He’d once tried to use a random number generator to give him a different artificial flavouring for the protein each day, but he’d discontinued that experiment after it became obvious that most flavours crapped-out by a random number generator were terrible; so he made yet another concession to monotony.
His afternoons were spent exercising his mind; for four hours after lunch, he would work on different kinds of puzzles; riddles, math problems, word games, crosswords, sudoku, kenken, trivia (as if there was any other kind of knowledge in this day and age)…he liked to think it kept him sharp. Then came supper (two types of protein in greater quantities, coupled with a reduced portion of vegetables—a sort of cruel parody of the meat-and-potatoes dinners that he had grown-up with), followed by another four hours of reading. At first, he’d vowed to read all of those great classics that he’d never gotten around to reading; he rapidly found, though, that most of these weren’t at all to his taste (he’d been about a hundred pages into War and Peace for the last twelve years), and so these days he read mostly trashy paper-back thrillers and biographies of famous people who no longer mattered. He masturbated only once each day, directly before going to sleep; this wasn’t out of personal shame (which is impossible to maintain for long in the absence of others), but out of practical necessity; Plasburg wasn’t convinced he would ever do anything else if he didn’t strictly regulate this habit.
So it was then. Prayer; rounds; breakfast; exercise; lunch; riddles; supper; reading; sleep. Day in, day out, with the inevitable regularity that once had marked the tides. The Last Free Human living out of spite at the end of the world.