[Foreword: A short story offering one perspective about luuurrrvv, nookie and marriage in the 33rd century.
As with the other short stories on this blog the setting is the science-fiction computer game world Frontier:Elite. Knowledge of the game isn't important and the story can be read and understood without knowing anything about it. It's just an environment to experiment with different ideas, like a proverbial 'sandbox world'. A sandbox world is one that anyone can express themselves in without any consequences. It's what makes fiction and fantasy so valuable: that a world can be created without consequences.]
"Why've you never settled down? Found a woman, squatted in a hovel and raised sproglets?"
Location: Mitcheldever, Turner's World, Alioth System
Date: August 3214
Bardza and Luther were in a spartanly furnished dining room, sat on either side of a cheap 2x4 foot dining table which was pressed up against one wall. An old fashioned analog clock hung on one of the walls. The duo were sipping algae-liquor and talking about their one-ship interstellar business. They had just gotten back from a month long trading expedition to different planets in the populous Alioth system selling crates of Tesla-Resonance-Tubes (quarries used TRTs instead of TNT explosives to mine rock) to any miner who would buy them. With some of the money earned from the expedition Bardza had used it to put a down payment on a new house for him and his wife, who was presently in the kitchen making the men some lunch. The couple were in the process of furnishing the house, hence it's spartan condition.
The conversation moved off from topics such as interstellar tax and insurance policies to more prosaic matters.
"So why've you never settled down? Found a woman, squatted in a hovel and raised sproglets, me ol' mate?" Asked the 40-something, red-bearded, lumberjack-esque Bardza in his thick Australian accent.
"Me? It's not for me." Replied the 30-something, bearded, Luther.
"Partnerships, marriage, call it what you will."
"Why's that then? There ain't nothing wrong with yur tackle is there?!" Bardza joked.
"No. It's.. It's two things really. One, I got my heart broke by an android back in 3204. One of those seduction-droids that hang on the sidewalks waiting for stray Johns to pick up."
"The hooker 'droids? You mean the human looking ones?"
"Yeah, I couldn't tell the difference first time I saw her. They look identical. It wasn't until after I was rid of her that I found the truth."
"Well, I've visited a fair few brothels, but they don't have the connivin' bots in there. What're they like then, these seduction-droids?"
"They make you fall in love with them."
"That's it?" Bardza said dissapointedly.
Luther looked squarely at Bardza. "I mean 'really' fall in love with you. They've got special programming inside them that uses hard-core psychological profiling to ensnare unsuspecting humans. Inexperienced humans like me. Then they use pheromones, body language, clothing, inflection, phrases and all the rest of it to make you fall deeply in love with them. The Federation have banned seduction-droids because of the harm they do. They're like a drug-pusher who forces you to get dependent on his supply. The seduction-droid works in the same way, but with a robots efficiency."
"How long did she work her magic on you for?""
Looked down at the floor again. "Nine months. Then I found her one night getting shafted up the arse in an alleyway by a swarthy corpulent docker. Broke my heart." He had a swig of liquor. "But she tried to work her magic, you know, like human women all over the galaxy do, and claim he meant nothing to her." He shook his head and had another drink. "I managed to put some distance between her and me, a few dozen light years. The feelings for her still lingered though; for a long time afterwards. It's like falling in love with a human woman, but oh so much worse, because.."
"Because it's a seduction-droid."
Luther nodded. "Which means that they are extremely efficient and good at their job. Like they're designed to be. The designers did a top-notch job. Can't fault them for that."
"And there's no chance of you recovering? I mean, nearly all other men can get over a woman. A little heartbreak in someones life is a common thing ya' know."
"This is different. The Federation Psychological Association have even made official research into it."
Bardzas eyebrows jumped. "No kidding!"
"Yeah, it's 'that' endemic throughout the brothels. The Federation Navy have reported that it's effected the morale of their sailors."
"Well bugger me. I never would've figured that brothels could get so mechanically efficient at their job. Not like the brothels in the Independent systems. Now that's where you can get some proper lovin' with real flesh 'n' blood human women!"
Luther finished off the last of the liquor then put the tumbler on the table. "And that's one of the reasons why I can't get married."
"I hope the other's not as bleak mate. Or I might have to go and open the misses' barrel of white wine Spritzer and end it all!" Bardza said sarcastically.
"It ain't that bleak. It's quite simple: I don't like living over people."
"What d'ya mean?"
"Ruling over them, being their superior. I just feel like I'm compelled to manage other people. To tell them what to do every day. And I hate the thought of having to manage someone for the rest of my life. It'd be the end of me."
"Woah.. It must be something close to yur heart. Either that or the liquors gettin' to ya!"
"It is something close to my heart. Living with people on the level, as free men or partners in a business like we are, that I can cope with. It's the way that all men should live: as equals. But ruling over people or being ruled by people is a no-no. I couldn't stand the thought of having to, being put in the position where I have no choice but to give them orders."
"So you hate having no choice?"
"I hate being un-free. Being un-free means I have no choice."
"Is that what marriage is to you? Not having a choice?"
"Of course. If I rule over someone then I don't have any choice in the matter 'but' to rule them. I would have no options, no choice, no future. I wouldn't be a free man anymore. It would be an imposition on me; a burden. Why would a free man want that kind of life? If I 'was' put into a position like that then I would inevitably end up hating the people I ruled over. I would despise them for existing because their existence would be the cause of my own misery: my lack of freedom. They would be despised by me and therefore they would be miserable. With us both miserable what kind of life would that leave? For either of us?"
"It ain't that way with the missus and me."
"That's different. You want to rule over her. That's your choice. That's what you and her decided."
"It ain't rulin' it's more like leadin', and we're happy because of it."
"Great. That's what you want."
"But don't ya see mate. I can be her boss 'and' enjoy it at the same time. I don't see her as a burden like what you do."
"That's probably because we're different people Bardza."
"Hmph. So, what're you saying? That I like be the boss of me missus?"
"It strikes me that way yes."
"And if I'm the boss, that means that I should have fewer choices right? Like what you believe."
"Yeah, in theory."
"But I'm not."
Luther paused for a second.
Bardza continued. "And d'you know why?"
"'Cause I see her as an opportunity and not a burden. Something I can play with and use as I best see fit. Importantly, for the betterment of both of us."
"Well that's the fundamental difference between us then isn't it? I couldn't do that to another human being. I can only treat people as equals."
"Like what gods do?"
Luther was taken by surprise by the Left-Field remark. "Gods? What? I don't.."
"Like what gods do. Oh, I don't mean the big-man 'God', I mean lesser gods. You know the metaphysical structure of the cosmos right?"
"Yes. It's a three tier hierarchy." Luther gestured with his free-hand. "There's an infinite God at the top tier, like Plotinus described; then an infinite-number of finite-form gods beneath them, the gods of the old pantheon or the realm of regular physics; and then the finite-lump of infinitely-malleable matter beneath that, the realm of quantum physics."
"What do you mean 'yeah'? I don't understand what you're saying. What's your point?"
"You want to treat every one as equals right? And you have a pretty firm and unyielding character right?"
"I wouldn't say that, but.."
"I know 'plenty' of people who'd say otherwise mate!" Bardza joshed.
Luther didn't find the remark in the slightest bit funny and gave Bardza a look that said so.
Bardza decided not to force the joke and continued. "Anyway.. what it means is that you are in the second tier of existence, the tier with the fixed form gods."
"I don't have a great relationship with God I'll admit that."
"That's it then. You're basically like a god instead of like God, and want to exist with all other gods as 'free men' like you say: with no-one ruling over anyone else."
"Hmm. Are you saying that I need to get with God to be able to have a happy marriage, is that it?"
"Not just to have a happy marriage, but to be able to lead other people. To lead them. If you want to lead gods and matter like what God does, then you need to get one with God. Sort out whatever beef you have with him and then you'll be able to lead other people, like God does with the cosmos."
After the minute-hand on the analog clock had revolved several times, the reverie in the room was gently broken by the gentle 'pad-pad-pad' of Bardzas homely yet cute wife who walked barefooted in to the room carrying two plates of rice and curry, and a different mood.
"Ahh this looks smashin' luv!" Exclaimed Bardza. "I hope it's better than that batch you cooked up last week. That cuttlefish-Vindaloo. Strewth! That lot left me on the toilet for days on end!" He teased.
"Bardza!" The missus said, badly failing to stifle a grin.
"Hahaha!" He bellouously laughed. Then slapped her cheekily on the arse as she left the room. She let out a 'yelp', tittered, and then 'pad-pad-pad'-ed back in to the kitchen.
"Well tuck in mate. Best get it whilst it's still hot. We got a lot of work to do this avo. No point wastin' time now is there?"
Luther looked at the the plate of curry, picked up a fork. "No, I guess not." Then tucked in.
It was going to be a long afternoon of contemplation and work.