“These urbanauts are everywhere,” said Starling, “like a horde of hipster locusts. They think they’re so tolerant and quirky, but just see how they act toward those they deem less ‘evolved’ than themselves.”
Trottier shrugged and imperceptibly rolled his eyes. “You say this every time we have to come down to the surface for supplies. I mean, okay, they’re kind of annoying with all the haggling and fiddling and all that, and their tendency to show off how different and tasteful they are is juvenile–but what did the Urbs ever really do to you, anyway? Plus, we need their materials for our project up on the habitat.”
Before Starling could reply, a large gray-bearded man bellowed through their discussion to one of the merchants on the other side of the bazaar. Laughing boisterously, the portly man and the bohemian merchant clasped hands on each other’s shoulders and hugged in a public display of camaraderie. “You old salty dog,” chimed the merchant, to which the big man guffawed, “that’s Doctor salty dog to you!”
And on it went, in every direction. So familiar, so showy, so open-minded, so friendly. “It’s disgusting,” Starling finally replied. “Just look at them, dressed in rags but acting like they own the place. We never should have given them the surface to resettle. There were plenty of airlocks that would’ve done the trick.” At this, Trottier recoiled a bit; noticing him, Starling look away and cleared her throat nervously.
“Look,” she continued, “it’s not like I hate them or anything, I just don’t understand them. By all rights they should have died off decades ago. Who knew that they had some sort of latent genetic immunizing capacity that would emerge before they all kicked the bucket? Now that they’ve survived here, and started to replenish their numbers, we’re stuck up there on rations while they grow fat down below.”
Trottier nodded, somewhat supportively, but not totally convinced. “I get it, okay, and I’ve heard it a million times. But what can we do about it now? Spacers can only be down here for a few hours without doing lasting damage to ourselves, even with the envirosuits on — and anyway, it’s not like the Urbs can get into orbit to do anything to mess up our home, right? That makes us superior to them, doesn’t it?”
“I guess, sort of,” lamented Starling. But she didn’t feel superior; being the captains of the sky was only impressive if those below ever bothered to look up. These Urbs only seemed to focus on the ground beneath their feet: their sacred Gaia with her healing powers, crop yields, rewilding patterns, and all the rest.
“Don’t sweat it,” reassured Trottier. “Let’s get what we need and get back before the tariff sentries clock us. We don’t want to pay double taxes on this stuff now, do we? And you have to admit, even though we can’t eat their food or drink their beverages, the ceramics and tools they make are pretty amazing.”
Begrudgingly, Starling harrumphed in a general way. “Tinkerers, lazy dolts with too much time on their hands,” she mumbled. Speaking more loudly, so that others could hear, she added: “Who cares if they can make things on this desolate rock, anyway? We can always come down and take what we want.”
No one noticed or paid her comments any mind. Business as usual continued in the port market, a vibrant display of functional wares, durable goods, and eclectic patrons. Only a handful of Spacers peppered the vista, long and thin in their Spartan garb and prominent with their smooth porcine skin. The multifarious Urbs bantered and gesticulated in myriad conversations and negotiations, everywhere.
“Let’s never come back here again,” pleaded Starling. Trottier nodded. “Whatever you say, dear…”
Blasting off from the port two hours later, the pair sat silently. No one below watched the ship rise.
Lemar Starland, hopelessly/hopefully Earthbound