“Absurd is what it is,” said someone in a pub an epoch away, “seventeen billion pounds spent on the thing, and they can’t even get a picture of the rock they’re landing on! Best of British, eh? Makes you wonder what they’re doing up in charge.”
Milosz looked up at the blurred picture on the screen, a posh woman’s voice explaining the image failure in a way that even sounded convincing to him. Before today, he’d have argued with that man, defended the project and his work and been proud to admit he’d been part of the whole thing. People like that man were part of the problem, he might have said. But after everything that happened — the Snapcode and how everyone had reacted — he didn’t quite remember what the problem had even been.
Someone brought over his food: bolognese covered in orange cheese. In some factory somewhere they’d have taken some grey or white cheddar, and they’d have put in the colour which everyone knew that cheese was. And people would see it and think how it looked like cheese, and hardly ever think about how there was something underneath. Milosz’s cheese was melting in an unappealing way, and suddenly he didn’t feel hungry at all.
“Unbelievable,” said the complaining someone again, and Milosz decided to order a stronger drink.
He looked up at the fuzzy picture of the asteroid, at the secret he was one of the only people who knew. He thought of himself on the warm and tiny speck of his planet, of the tinier speck where the only human outwith it would soon be. Suddenly he wanted the world he knew to be much larger, to blot out the vastness of space that stretched so long…