Jude and Immogen float in their ship’s sensorium, holding hands and viewing the Schwarzschild radius stamped on the star field before them. The ring of detoured light surrounds a profound blackness that whispers faintly with Hawking radiation. Jude has pondered this quantum flaw in relativity for a long time, as he has pondered death and love.
The girl behind the counter is a waif with mottled cheeks, swaddled in a blue barista’s apron. Her nametag, scratched half-bare, tells me only that she is a trainee. She offers me a timid smile, thin sparkle-glossed lips closed tight. She wears augmentation lenses, red plastic frames that glitter, a cheap pair that clash with her yellow blouse and leave her looking like a deflated circus tent. Through them, she squints at me, perhaps seeking common ground, but more likely gauging the level of customer service I’ll expect.