Changelessness is a Change for the Worse
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We're forever teetering on the brink of the unknowable, and trying to understand what can't be understood.



The pressure of air was the only sound heard, initially — it was followed shortly by a click, and then silence.

Adam Fristlink groggily shuffled towards his work station aboard Satellite Station Filite-SL. He lifted his arm routinely to block the sudden influx of light from pummeling his eyes, which was quickly blotted out thereafter by the automatic solar filters. As every day, he approached his console, sat down in the worn-and-torn swivel chair, and ran a diagnostic check that consisted of meticulously scanning every pixel on a screen. Green meant operational; red meant the opposite.

He often wondered why the process could not be automated — it wasn't as if SolarCorp lacked the resources or K-credits to do it. An artificial intelligence could just as easily scan for any nonoperational satellites, report them, then use a mechanical humanoid chassis to assemble and launch a replacement. Adam chalked it up to corporate bureaucracy, but his copious free time let him conclude that, most likely, they simply didn't care.

Every morning (if you could call it that), he glared back towards the far wall of the work station to stare at the sole motivational poster. It was a dead-gray color, with some cartoon characters littering the torn sides — one was a sun with googly eyes, and the rest were undiscernable. In the center ran a caption: "You are the forefront of human achievement!" Rolling his eyes, he reminded himself that the poster was over two hundred years old.

Without a sound, blue lights began to circle the console. Realizing that it was time for a break, he pushed his chair back and stood. Outside the window, now, he could see Morta orbiting below, its green and blue spirals of land and sea intertwining into what could only be called art. This is the planet he grew up on, along with the human race, being the birthplace of mankind as a whole. In an odd way, that made him feel proud — he shared the home planet of every ancestry, ever.

Of course, being the origin of the species, Morta was the most densely populated planet in the galaxy, with over forty billion people. While it wasn't much compared to the rest of the galaxy's population — estimated to be about fifty-two trillion — it still boasted an impressive statistic. Billions of lives, densely packed together around the coasts of the world, each one having its own passions, hopes, dreams, and desires. Each of those lives, searching for purpose, happiness… and for love.

And here he was, 38,000 kiloyards above it, on a space station built for one, and one alone.

He shook his head; there was no point to thinking these negative thoughts. Adam tapped the coffee button with his thumb and inserted the mug into its slot, watching as the machine slowly filled the cup with a substance darker than the shadowy expanses of space. Once repleted, he lifted the ceramic jug to his lips, and savored the taste of the only thing in existence more bitter than himself.

Setting it down and leaning back into the sofa, he stared solemnly at the telecommunicator across from him. It was offline, its screen mirroring his own face back at him. Blue eyes, black hair; blocky chin with stubble and a half-balded head. He knew few who would call him attractive. Of course, his company-assigned therapist would deny that (it was her job, after all) and insist he was better-looking than he cared to admit.

Bah. It was his only communication anyways with the outside world. He was grateful to have her, even if they disagreed on some things.

A bright blue light woke him from his meditation. It was time to check the systems. He pushed himself up, and with a grunt, began to drudge towards his work station, already preparing to block the influx of light. The pressure of air being released energized the air, and with a click, was followed by silence. He entered, his eyes scanning the room from one end to the other, before settling on the console.

On it laid a series of pixels, directly in the center, spelling out a single word that made his blood run cold.


HELLO



:




It had been three days since the incident, and Adam had almost convinced himself it never even happened.

"Adam," began Stephanie, "I think the isolation is beginning to have some serious effects on your mental health. You should really take some time off and head down to the surface."

He sighed. "It's… it's difficult, doc. I— well, I don't know. I could swear, I saw the word. It was there, I'm certain—"

"We've been over this, it was most likely an illusion from your lack of human contact. You've never been too healthy in that regard, you know. If you want my honest opinion — and professional one, might I add — you should really take off work."

He began to massage his temples. Slowly, he looked up.

"All right, all right. I'll consider it," he lied, "Thank you."

"Take care of yourself, Adam. You do important work." And with that, her smiling face disappeared from the screen.

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