Valerie eats her breakfast slowly.
“What about you? Tell me about Oursulaert?”
Val shrugs, “what do you want to know?” She lays down her fork and knife and takes a swig of juice, “Oursulaert has no less than sixteen stations and no habitable planets. So us spacer kids—and most everyone was a spacer—spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth. For school events, field trips, social functions…” She smiles, “if you wanted to cause me a flashback you might get me in a shuttle with manual controls. None of that fancy capsule stuff. I also never set foot on a planet before I was sixteen.” She sets her elbows down on the table and supports her chin on her interlaced fingers, looking at her interlocutor. “There couldn’t be origins more different than ours. Maybe that’s why I think you’re special even though you think you’re not. What you’ve accomplished is admirable to me.”
“You went between stations for parties… as a child?”
“Isn’t that crazy? Well, I never thought of it as crazy, really. And not exactly for parties. But we did take the occasional weekend away.”
He shakes his head and smiles.
“Your geography is that of hills and valleys and rivers. Mine is moons and asteroid fields”
“A hill you can just walk over.”
“Oh, we did a lot of walking inside the stations. And crawling in airducts to get to forbidden places.”
“The soft underbelly of the station. I was fascinated with how it kept us all alive. Come to think of it, life in Syndicate must be very similar to how I grew up, what with that Fed ban on planetary colonies. But there many systems have a single station. That must feel like a prison.”
“There’s nowhere else to go.”
“In Oursulaert there was always somewhere else to go. We also communicated with kids on other stations by radio. Got us around parental controls on fluid routers. But several hours of round trip can make conversations a little odd. So you can see that becoming a capsuleer was maybe the path of least resistance for me. But you, my friend,” she wags her finger at him, “you are something else.”
He leans back in his chair, “Do you still have people in Oursulaert?”
“I do, but most people I knew have scattered across the Federation and beyond.”
“I suppose that makes sense for people who warp to parties.” He ventures a smile.
She smiles, too, “I suppose so, yes. And you, do you still have people back home?”
He ponders this before shaking his head sadly. “No, we’ve let all that go.”