by Gordon Johnson

Caution: This Romantic Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Science Fiction, Mystery, Slow, .

Desc: Romantic Story: Follow-on from "Detection", only this one is a romance.

Cold was not a factor that much concerned the Personalia. Living in space automatically meant being able to cope with very cold temperatures: space is not warm as a rule, except near stars. Anyway, machines with computer-based brains tend to operate more efficiently at low temperatures, so the Personalia and the Machinations machine races were quite happy to function in such conditions.

Temperature variations however meant a lot to those who dwelt on the surface of planets. The main criteria for surface dwellers was that the temperature at surface level remain generally above the freezing point of water.

When surface people took to space, they had this basic environmental difficulty: the temperature inside one of their own ships was likely to be excessively hot due to insulation. Such insulation was aimed at preventing the heat leaving at a rate of knots, and conversely pushing up the ambient temperate to an uncomfortable level. One other factor influenced their ship design: radiation. At times, the gamma radiation from the central star was drastically beefed up by a solar flare. Solar flares can be dangerous to biological beings, and the only solution is to put as much mass as possible between the radiation and the beings. This can be done in a variety of ways, often requiring thick shielding which was heavy and thus expensive to deploy, or use the cheaper alternative of water, which was obtainable from asteroids and comets.

Thus the ideal spaceship would have lots of shielding on the side facing the star, and the other side would be free to radiate away surplus heat building up within the ship. One could envisage a spaceship with a large tank of water on one side and radiator fins on the other side. Such an imbalance could not survive a 180-degree turn, and probably not even a 90-degree swivel of the ship. The masses would also have to match, in order to prevent an imbalance in trim.

However, if there was a ring around the ship, and this ring could freely swing the water tank on a set of wheels or bearings; and always have its equivalent radiator fins on the opposite side, the problem was effectively solved. The side with the radiator fins could also be used as a fuel storage site, to help balance the masses. All that was then required was a light/radiation sensor, and a reaction mechanism. That mechanism would ensure that the water tank was always swivelled to be facing the star, no matter what the orientation was of the ship. That assumes the ship was in a an orbit round the star. If it was heading towards the star, the personnel compartment would need to be near the rear, and if the vessel was pointing outwards from the star, the personnel would need to be kept near the nose end.

It was complicated.

Alternatively, you could dispense with the whole problem by getting a ride on the ships of the Personalia. These machine Persons being entirely space living entities, mass was something they derived from asteroids. If the ship were big enough, its sheer bulk would provide enough mass to act as protection for biological beings who were passengers. You also saved on the cost of designing and constructing your own spaceships; spaceships probably lacking in some of the capabilities of the Personalia. One could go on.

Anyway, to continue this line of conjecture, travelling with the Personalia is faster, more comfortable, and a lot less hassle than anything that Earth could come up with at present. So live with it; don't knock it.

So we return to the point about temperature. Cold remains a problem for all planetary surface-dwellers when they get into space. But cold is not the same for the Personalia. They could cope with Arctic or Antarctic conditions. Or at least the Landerships could: Base ships are not designed for landing on a planet.

Another plus point for the Landerships: their anti-gravity capabilities. This means that in an icebound environment they can cope with crevasses, glacier movements, and even avalanches. That gives them an extra safety factor to play with. On top of that, snow and ice is simply a source of fuel for them. Their efficient internal nuclear reactors provide the electricity to dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen, which get stored away as fuel and oxidiser for later.

This makes it sound as if the Personalia were way better at everything than us human beings. In some ways, this is true, but in other ways, the Personalia have their own drawbacks. They are slow in the matter of imagining new concepts, while they are magnificent in implementing these new ideas; at turning them into practical devices. They lack experience in the interaction between races. This comes from them being basically all the same person, each Person being a development from the original. Humans and other biological beings had lived for hundreds of thousands of years with the difficulty of interacting with different people, even their own spouses and children. This meant that we were fully prepared for the experience of interacting with other races encountered among the stars.

Yes, every human being is like a new race to every other human being. Mind you, being experienced in the complicated process of interacting doesn't mean we always opt for the right decision. Human history is littered with the debris of bad decisions in the form of wars of all kinds, from family feuds up to and including worldwide wars involving dozens of countries in a conflict lasting for years. However, we do get it right in many cases. There are myriad happy families, quite a few satisfied populations. A great deal of that success is down to the religious ideals that mankind sets up for itself from time to time.

Religion performs a service for mankind, as long as the religious teaching is based on toleration and love. The minute that religious authorities authorise antagonistic attitudes towards other people, and other religions, the consensus breaks down and the religion is subverted to our baser instincts; the instincts that we have spent hundreds of generations trying to avoid. On the family level, human history does not require the family to be religious, although such beliefs usually help cement the family together. The main requirement is commitment by both parties, and this can either be enhanced by love, or love may develop afterwards, as in the case of arranged marriages.

The planet Rehome, the first human colony planet, has its own unique approach to the subject of marriage. The first requirement is a written agreement by the parties concerned; a statement that they each enter the marriage freely and with permanence in mind. Getting out of such a marriage usually involves the departing partner giving up all rights to the family assets, but if the other partner has committed mental or physical violence, then it is the violator who suffers this penalty. Multiple-partner marriage is legal, but only where all parties to the marriage sign a similar undertaking; thus a second wife, or second husband, is only possible where the first spouse freely agrees to the new spouse being added, again with permanence intended.

The Rehome marriage law forces commitment on the partners. Marriage being a financial, emotional and social commitment, it is not entered into lightly. It requires a great deal of thought before anyone will willingly sign themselves into a union that punishes them should they fail to live up to that commitment.

The result is that couples take a longer time to get to know each other before embarking on marriage. Naturally, those who are not certain of their ability to commit often decide to live together until they can come to a decision on a permanent union.

But even that depends on the couple first discovering each other; and each exploring tentatively the link to another adult that might lead further. This first stage is much as it is on Earth, and varies from early friendships developing into a loving relationship, to what is referred to as "love at first sight". The latter is a ludicrous idea, for the person being viewed may be already married or in a loving relationship, and in any case may not reciprocate such feelings. It is more accurately, "lust at first sight"! Then there is the situation whereby a man or woman sees another person and feels attracted to him or her. That requires a degree of tact in approach, so as not to frighten away the object of your desire. If you are a policeman, or policewoman, and your attraction is to a suspect in a crime, things can be extremely delicate. Even when the suspect is cleared of suspicion, the ex-suspect is unlikely to be keen to chat to a former accuser.

This was the situation for Charles Addison, head of the detection branch of the Rehome Security Services. As such, he was one of Mrs Diane Kempe's deputies. He had a recognised police qualification from Earth, and a qualification in forensic studies to back it up.

The lady in the affair was Betty Farjeon, currently a waitress in the village store in a new settlement on Rehome. A brunette girl 160 cm in height, in her early twenties; slim-waisted with prominent breasts, blue eyes and a small mouth; she affected red lipstick and a forward way of speaking.

Charles, along with his boss Diane, had interviewed her initially at the store, along with a fellow employee. They later pulled Betty in for serious questioning once a link with the deceased man was discovered. It turned out that she was actually the intended victim of a scam; being set up to be accused of murder. Once the truth had been revealed, Charles escorted Betty back to her home and said goodbye. But that was work. Charles was fully conscious of the need to separate work and private life. He daren't make any overtures whilst it was a business matter.

.... There is more of this story ...

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual / Science Fiction / Mystery / Slow /