Some more about Pam and Kirk…
Kirk Fuldheim got a hot chocolate in a thermo-mug and returned to his bunk. He’d had a bite of supper in the galley a couple hours ago. He suspected that the crew were under orders to take their meals elsewhere if there were passengers using the galley. No one said anything but it was a pattern he noticed. If there were two or three already there when he went for a meal they dispersed fairly quickly if he stayed. If he took his tray back to their cabin they stayed. Since it was one of the few places to get away from confining space he hated to impose on them that way. He didn’t mind returning to his bunk. It could be configured like a lounge chair, and he was free to watch video or wear earphones without feeling he looked like a jerk ignoring others present. It didn’t fit any social situation with which he was familiar. The crew wasn’t there to serve him yet they didn’t have any other well defined social relationship. They weren’t like co-customers sharing a restaurant. It was awkward – at least for him. Pamela hadn’t gone to eat at all as far as he could tell. He couldn’t see that as any of his business.
At the moment Kirk didn’t have any music playing and he was reading a book rather than having it read to him. He preferred that for non-fiction. If he let a narrator drone on he found he might drift off in a thought from something in the book triggered without stopping it, and before he knew it he had no idea how long it had been running without him listening. He had no sound canceling activated, just an obscuring privacy net of a dark soft cloth material pulled across his bunk opening. He suspected Pamela made comments aloud with the same unawareness with which he drifted off in thought. Just now she muttered an ugly string of expressions he was sure she never could have learned as a good girl in a religious school.
She might be pursuing the lines of inquiry he’s suggested this morning, but the angry outbursts didn’t really tell him if she was upset at the things revealed or upset with him for giving any credence to the ravings of foreign devils. It didn’t seem like a good idea to ask. He wondered if she could be heard outside the cabin or if the Fargoers ran surveillance on foreign nationals for their government? That was something he’d expect USNA carriers to do. If so they were getting an earful.
There was a high pitched sound the eyelets for the security curtain made when you whipped it back on the plastic track as Pamela exited her bunk.
“Are you awake in there you motherless bastard?”
Ignoring her would probably just make things worse, Kirk decided. It didn’t sound like this was going to be pleasant or avoidable.
“Yes, I’ve been reading. I was concerned when you didn’t have any supper.”
That produced a quiet pause. “It is late,” she admitted. She must have just checked the clock, unaware she’d been so engrossed she’d lost track of the time.
“I’m extremely unhappy with what I am reading,” Pamela said. “This is not just a difference of perspective or cultural bias.”
“Oh?” Kirk asked, neutrally, still not certain with whom she was unhappy.
“Do you realize the Spacers think we are funny?” Pamela asked.
“I’ve seen that on parody sites,” Kirk admitted. “Things like headlines that Spacers are stealing our irreplaceable water in secret by buying health drinks, that oceans will fall a meter in the next decade as they drain it away, a half liter at a time. One hopes even the most innumerate know that is tongue in cheek.”
“I wish that was the extent of it,” Pamela said. “It’s subtle and much, much worse. Like at the end of a serious news program they will quote something from a politician that implies what I told you, that Spacers depend on Earth for the necessities of life. But after making the quote with a straight face they will look off in the air like something is flying by or outright roll their eyes and sigh, like it is beyond refuting.
“When I was a girl in school I had to deal with all the bullying and cliques anyone does. Girls are much nastier than the boys. What I absolutely hated though, was being made the object of humor, being laughed at. Now, I find not just my nation but my whole world is an object of snickering disbelief.”
“Well yeah, I wouldn’t expect the government to allow people to see that,” Kirk said.
“You realize I believed yesterday that if a Spacer sat down to a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast it was lifted from Earth somewhere? Not off on other worlds. I know you couldn’t ship that much interstellar, but in our own system. I was a fool,” Pamela said.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Kirk said. “Those commodity numbers are a little harder to gather and analyze than how many cans of drink it would take to drop sea level. In fact a lot of them are classified now that used to be public.”
“I never thought to take a hard look at any numbers, because I couldn’t imagine they would lie to me,” Pamela said.