“Before the Storm” by Robin Dunn

human in space



They said I was crazy; and I am. But not the way they think.
At 2 and a half AUs the sun is the size of a marble.
Why not send a robot? The joules expended in just keeping you watered alone hardly justify whatever intangible rewards …
Asteroid miner.
One day we’ll bring one back and drop one on the White House and one on the Kremlin. Bastille Day Deux, but not today …
Today it’s ferrous chromium poorboy docksleep under the gash of metal over my visor, half asleep and cutting in the zero gee, waiting for my wife to come up the gravity well …
I dream while awake.
Likely I will never be able to return to Earth; too little bone mass. Technically I am still a citizen of the North American union. Technically, I can still vote, by radio.
Technically, my species … oh, but my species.
What type am I.
What name shall you give, for my divide, on this crepuscular divide, between Mars and Jupiter …
My name is Roberto. I was born at 60,000 meters in a fast-orbiting geodesic; back when the UN still thought human astronauts would be good PR …
The question is never one of capability—it is never a technical question. If we can do it, we can and do—but why? And how?
If I could tell you, what I see, on an unencrypted channel …
But that’s what this is, isn’t it? I could tell you … well, you have to figure it out yourself.
I just want to describe it. How it feels. Why I came. Why I’m staying. And why I’ll be coming back with a big rock.
It’s not enough, being born. Not enough, dying. You come up, and you realize: I am this voice. The universe is listening, like a big arc-cutter, biolinked to your medulla, and every emotion you are capable of feeling is written across the stars …
That’s what they don’t want you to know. These days they don’t care how much of the reality of their centuries of lies make it out onto the street. They just don’t want you to know how it feels. This kind of freedom.
Before they cut off communications, the bureaucratic attrition was such that the only appropriate topics of discussion over the sanctioned radio link between us and the bosses were technical: this many cc’s of human shit, this many liters of oxygen, this many dekatons of raw gold, arsenic, hydrocarbons. But I could put jokes into the technical download, organize the metals by price and estimate the profit for the President, or arrange the number grid into a picture of me on the can, getting the waste sucked out.
Nerd jokes, but not idle ones. Idle hands do the devil’s work, was what my great grandmother said, and my hands are never idle. I build a star system of daylight, eternal, crepuscular, and without border, and it shall extend nearly 250,000 kilometers before I am finished, building faster all the time.
All you need is the vision. And the answer to the question: why?
Why do you get up in the morning?
Why do you put on your suit and lock your door and duck past your neighbors onto a sizzling street?
Why these obeisances to the king, and why these to the priest, and why these volumes from the community download, marked and rendered appropriate, sent holy…
Soon only those things written by the President himself will be holy, but before that day comes I will be following my yellow brick road back to you, my holy Earth, back to one AU, with a little present tucked inside my solar sails. . .
It’s like they say at the beginning of The Tempest:
A tempestuous noise.
I am the boatswain. A word that means “boat boy,” from the finest of Romantic traditions . . .
I bail and I sing, fleece over my balls. I trim and cut. I keep my eyes on the horizon, and my eyes on you, my love. Oh my love. How I have failed thee, not to come soon enough . .
I wield an asteroid. I breathe fire. My men are twenty, like ships strayed into the Atlantic sea. My mariners about me, fire.
Here master, what cheer?
Speak to the mariners. All about ye, apply the chemical shields, and bear full weight, I have activated the meteor gun and all nanological deliverance systems are being torn to fire five kilometers out.
Bestir yourselves.
No Prospero but the people.
You are the final wizard. Your magic, inside.
Heigh, my hearts! Take in the topsail! Tend to the master’s whistle!
I blow.
I blow for you.
– –
Yes, I do like to imagine. The truth is I have not given the order yet. To destroy the traditional capitols of the Trans-Pacific Northern Hemispheric Union would be a grave act, and the suffering untold. So I tell it now, in advance.
I am Lenin, playing Beethoven. For I can weep, and still push the button. Beethoven was a Romantic, he would understand. How you can weep, and still fight. The reptilian brain knows how to do it. You need not steel yourself against feeling.
It is all your have, in the revolution.
– –
Come into orbit with me, and I will show you something different from the carefully filtered daylight. I will show you eternity written on the maps I have seen in the hands of my daughter, planning out Saturn, and Europa, that old and terrible cow, and even Uranus …
Come into orbit with me. Blow, till thou burst thy wind, if room enough!
There is room enough, I promise. There is room enough for all. And we are coming.
Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, Gonzalo, and I.
My daughter Miranda.
And you, you twenty billion Prosperos.
Prospering despite the wind from the king. From the President and his many men.
Prospering despite everything they have told you.
Lean up, and catch the line.
We descend, to bring you up. Before the storm.

© 2015 Robin Dunn





Bio: Robin Wyatt Dunn writes and teaches in Los Angeles. He’s online at robindunn.com


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