Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 3

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Richard was bored. He hadn’t brought anything to do with him, at least not to his room. He had not considered that access to the internet was limited during space travel. Not that it couldn’t be done, just that it was expensive, or very slow. Even though the ship itself did not have a TDD, communications used a special one for near instantaneous communication across almost any distance. Bandwidth was rather limited in a non-permanent setup, so access was limited to emergency communications… or for a fee.

Richard could have afforded to pay, but it was rather too expensive for casual use on a student’s wealth. Not that he was poor or would ever go hungry, but he only had so much in the way of discretionary funds and he would rather buy five or more books than spend the same on an hour or two of internet usage. Still, it did nothing to relieve his boredom to think about the possibility of using it.

Of course, he could always go out and meet people who were traveling with him, but that prospect was slightly more terrifying to him than jumping off a bridge. With a harness, of course. Any other way would just be stupidity or an expression of a depression he in no way felt. Not that many people from Utopia were prone to jumping off of bridges. It was a rather aptly named planet, rated one of the best places to live in the galaxy. It was nice, but it didn’t have the school he wanted to go to on it, and that just didn’t work.

The really strange thing was, Richard felt like he was two bored people, almost. It was like he was experiencing his own boredom and boredom that he wished someone else had kept instead of forcing him to experience. He needed to do something and he didn’t really care what. This was conveniently when he noticed that he was hungry again. It had only been about two hours, but he figured he might as well go eat again. He wasn’t planning to make extra meals a habit, so he should end up not ruining his health too much.

He sprang out of his bed and went to the cafeteria area. He managed to get lost a few times, mostly because he was so hungry that he was distracted and missed the signs, even though they were clearly written in Common. He would have liked to attribute his poor pathing with dizziness or just general poor sense of direction but instead he was just out of it. Part of him felt almost blind and the other part felt like there was too much light. His eyes, however, told him that everything was normal.

After a long and complicated journey to a mere fifty meters away from where he started, Richard found the food area. The smell hit him like a freight train. Well, a very slow moving one that wasn’t carrying any freight and was made out of ultra light materials. Maybe more like an overeager dog running to greet its master that it has not seen in a long time, perhaps even several dog-hours.

The hallway was again crowded. Still crowded, perhaps, since it had not been that much longer than a typical meal period time. Some people ate earlier, and some later. Apparently today he was both. He made his way down the row of restaurants to the only one with empty seats. The same one. The sign was a nice neon green, but it was in an unfamiliar script.

The cook was busy working on several meals, although he assumed they were somehow all for the cloaked figure on the leftmost of the five seats. In the second seat from the right was a Xevaronian. No, not just any Xevaronian, but the one from earlier. Had he left and come back, or had he just changed seats? How many meals a day did they eat? There wasn’t really any negative association to the speculation that they ate a lot, since he was eating at about the same times and the Xevaronian was anything but fat. Richard wasn’t even sure if they were a species that stored fat.

Richard was faced with an interesting dilemma. Sit next to the mysterious person, or the not so mysterious person. He couldn’t choose to not sit next to anyone at all. He chose to sit next to the Xevaronian, but on the end seat. That way, he wasn’t between two people he didn’t know, but instead just next to one that he had at least seen before once in his life.

After easily gaining the attention of the cook, who apparently also had eyes on the back of his head, he ordered what the Xevaronian was having. It was some kind of soup or something. Maybe a stew, but it was rather thin looking for that. Perhaps going in the other direction and saying it was a broth would be better. Then again, it probably didn’t have a word in Common, since it didn’t have much of a smell in human, either. Still, at least it had a mild, pleasant smell. This was unlike the scentless noodles from yesterday, except what he imagined.

When he got his broth, he felt that it smelled different from the other one, but he wasn’t really sure. Richard again used his imagination for the eating of this meal. This scent was rather overpowering. It smelled like charcoal, but also like fruit, and he thought of an orchard of trees burning down. A rather curious smell, to be sure. He hoped his imagined taste would be more tasty and less curious.

He took a spoonful into his mouth, and he tasted the charcoal as well as the fire that it was a part of. It was strong and altogether unpleasant, especially combined with the taste of rotting fruit. He had a very negative reaction almost involving seeing his previous meal. Fortunately, he managed to keep his expression mostly neutral and put his imagination to rest. Instantly, the smell and taste went away. The meal was extremely bland after that, but tasteless was better than the taste of fire and death. Overactive imaginations could be unpleasant. Fortunately, the meal did accomplish the purpose of filling him up.

After he left, the cook commented to the Xevaronian. “So, what’s the review today?”

“Not a positive one, unfortunately. I suspect that was due to you mixing up the quantities of the spices. It smelled pretty terrible. He noticed the difference, and his first bite said utter revulsion.”

“He ate it all though. Besides, he shouldn’t even be able to taste it in the stronger form… that I regrettably made.”

“Yes, that’s a curious thing. It is not like I can turn off my extraordinary sense of taste, and a human doesn’t even have one to use in the first place. I may just be reading into human facial expressions what I would expect of my own people.”

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