Chapter 2: ‘Knowledge’ [br][br]Mercury (Greek: Hermes).  Linked with the signs of Gemini and Virgo.  Attributes: Mentality, communication, organisation, knowledge, relationships, friends, family, school, nervous system and physical coordination, self-certainty, intellectual pursuit, flexibility, adaptability, curiosity, a need to exchange ideas, flighty, too many interests at once, unreliable, all talk and not enough action, analysis, perfectionism, organisation in relation to work and status, ‘rational’. [br][br]     Argus gazes out his window idly and looks into the heavy Sun looming in such close proximity, it takes up a quarter of the sky.  His eyes welcome the light as they always do, their hard liquid shells hydrating in reaction.  He blinks once–something he’s only just learned to do.  Water spills over his orbs, and he relishes the strange feeling.  [br][br]     He has heard others say the Sun is a spectacular sight to behold, but Argus finds it commonplace.  Certainly some days he steps back to take in his surroundings and thinks, What a wonderful, curious place!  But it’s his home, the place he grew up, the environment that shaped what he has come to refer to as himself.  He feels he understands the workings of it so well, it doesn’t stand out to him in any special way.[br][br]     ‘Argus, come here and eat,’ a hard but loving voice calls from the next room.  He smiles gently at the sound, then obeys its orders.  Moving into the dining area, he sees his wife, the rough rocky bumps in her craggy brown skin almost shining in the sunlight, like little drops of rain on a desert.[br][br]     ‘Good morning, Pandora,’ he greets her brightly.[br][br]     ‘You look like you’ve been crying,’ she says, pronouncing the word carefully, uncertain she’s used it correctly.[br][br]     ‘I was blinking.’[br][br]     Pandora looks at him for a moment, then falls into a small grin.  ‘You’ve always been so silly,’ she notes with affection.     ‘I’m not silly for that,’ [br][br]Argus objects playfully.  ‘I’m just a scientist.’  His wife glares at him with an expression that suggests she’s saying, ‘My point exactly.’  It’s a common joke for her.  ‘I just find it fascinating the way creatures have evolved over the millennia.  Don’t you?’[br][br]     ‘Of course,’ she says distractedly.[br][br]     ‘And I don’t know what could be more interesting than our own adaptations.  Just think!  We all start out the same, then some cataclysm occurs, the planet’s chopped down to size, we start migrating to chase the weather after the orbit’s knocked off-kilter, and today we’ve all adapted to whatever temperature we chose.’   [br][br]  ‘I wouldn’t say I chose this.’  [br][br]   ‘No, but your ancestors did, and I think they made the better choice.  Imagine being stuck in that freezing darkness all the time.’[br][br]     ‘I think it sounds kind of romantic,’ Pandora muses.  ‘Covered in soft fur, all huddled up together, fires roaring….’[br][br]     ‘Whenever I see them on the news, I think they look like mongrels,’ Argus huffs, sitting down to eat.[br][br]     ‘I’m sure we look just as strange to them.’[br][br]     ‘I suppose,’ he admits, taking a mouthful of food.  ‘This is fantastic.’[br][br]     ‘Thank you,’ Pandora smiles.     ‘Is it my turn to cook tonight?’[br][br]     ‘Yes, I think so.  Oh, by the way, I need you to take Pan to the doctor’s.’[br][br]     ‘Why?  What’s wrong with him?’    [br][br] ‘He hasn’t slept in days, it’s making him anxious.  I think there must be something wrong with his eyelids, some sort of infection.  They won’t shut properly, none of the sunlight is blocked out, it’s giving him insomnia.’[br][br]     ‘How awful,’ Argus says with honest sympathy for their son.  ‘Alright.  I’ll take him during my lunch break.’[br][br]     ‘Thank you.  I’d take him myself, but you know I have a meeting today.’[br][br]     ‘Yes, I remember you mentioning it.  Are you speaking at it?’[br][br]     ‘Yes.’[br][br]     ‘What subject?’[br][br]     ‘The nature of the Self.’[br][br]     Argus frowns, dust tumbling down his face from the new creasing.  ‘What position are you taking?’[br][br]     ‘Well…it’s intended to be a rebuttal against old Venusian theories–‘[br][br]     ‘Ugh,’ he interrupts, ‘I don’t know why we have to keep debating those.  We haven’t communicated with those people for millions of years, why should their opinions matter to us?’[br][br]     ‘Because no one’s ever come up with a definitive answer to their points.’[br][br]     ‘They destroyed themselves.  Isn’t that answer enough?’[br][br]     ‘They’re still alive.’[br][br]     ‘If you call that living,’ he grunts.[br][br]     ‘They adapted, just like we did.’[br][br]     ‘Anyway,’ he ignores her, ‘why have they always been so critical of us?  Oh, I know, our Caste System is “unfair”, isn’t it?  If you ask me, they have a backward concept of “fairness”.’[br][br]     ‘It isn’t just the Caste System; they’ve always thought everything about our society was too rigid, too lacking in artistic expression.’[br][br]     ‘We have plenty of artists, quite famous ones, in fact.  We have painters and musicians.’[br][br]     ‘Yes, but we calculate our art with mathematics, the Golden Section, geometric patterns.’[br][br]     ‘So?  We have order, rhythm.  We obey nature.  You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost call their way of thinking sinful.’[br][br]     ‘I like to believe you’re too enlightened for that,’ Pandora smiles softly at her husband.[br][br]     ‘How are you responding to the accusations?’ he asks with demanding curiosity.[br][br]     ‘I’m going to start by discussing the Sun.  I think the Venusians miss out on a great deal of understanding just by being less tied to the Sun than we are.  It gives them an entirely different concept of identity, makes them less self-assured.  On their world, people have no sense of place and duty, whereas here, people are clearly marked out into their classes.  We know our roles, we recognise them as natural and essential, no one looks down on anyone else.  No one tries to overstep any boundaries.  We are not at war with each other.  We are free and happy.’[br][br]     ‘Yet the Venusians still find things to criticise,’ Argus fills in his wife’s unspoken words.[br][br]     ‘They say we’re too easy-going and contented; that we place too much emphasis on the scholastic and not enough on the aesthetic.’[br][br]     ‘You mean, the “perverse”.’  [br][br]     ‘I reserve the right not to make such harsh judgements,’ she says firmly, for the first time her manner growing weary and somewhat distant from him.[br][br]     ‘I just find it tiresome,’ Argus says by way of explanation.  ‘We understand things here.  We’re the privileged race, close to our Father, able to see things so clearly!  When I wake up each day, I don’t worry about who I am or what I’m feeling, or why things are the way they are, or where I’m going.  I don’t even worry about the end of the year when we’ll have to move to our alternate summer home to avoid the Long Night.  I don’t care.  Those are all just natural facts of life, of the universe.  We are what we are.  Why do other people want to complicate things?’[br][br]     ‘They’re just analysing things.  You do the same thing.’[br][br]     ‘But that’s science,’ he emphasises the word heavily.  ‘It serves a function, helps us understand the world we live in.  It brings us knowledge and truth.  Our children go to the best schools perhaps in all the Solar System.  They learn the deepest of information and grow into the brightest beings one could hope for.  They recognise the truth of what they’re taught and carry it with them into adulthood, thus they are not afraid, because nothing of importance is unknown to them.  Then, we have these other worlds who claim to be our neighbours, attempting to poison the minds of our younger generation with suggestions that trivialities such as aestheticism are more important than all this knowledge we’ve painstakingly acquired.  All they’re going to do is make people confused and discontented.’[br][br]     Pandora listens motionless, then finally says timidly, ‘What if we don’t know all we need to know?  What about beauty?’[br][br]     ‘Beauty is subjective.  If you really think about it, you will see there is beauty in our science.  After all, what isn’t beautiful about the mathematical workings of the universe?  How can anyone deny the numerical foundations of every element in creation?  How can one say numbers are cold and lacking in aesthetic value?  It’s all just a matter of opinion–an opinion I’d advise you to view as dangerous.’  She says nothing, and he takes his plate to be washed.  ‘I have to leave quickly.  I’ve been so absorbed in our conversation, I almost forgot work,’ he grins.[br][br]     ‘Will you be very busy, today?’ Pandora asks offhandedly.[br][br]     ‘A little.  I have to study the comet again.  They’re getting the satellite back this morning.’[br][br]     ‘The one they sent to collect matter?’[br][br]     Argus nods as he cleans his plate.  ‘We’ve never had one come so close to us before.  This time we have the chance to learn more than we’ve ever known about the origins of our Solar System.  So I have to perform tests on the samples for the next few weeks at least.’[br][br]     ‘I wish we could see the comet,’ Pandora suddenly sighs.  ‘I know!  We can take a trip to the other side!’[br][br]     ‘Don’t be silly,’ he quietly laughs off the idea.  ‘I can’t leave work, and we’d never survive the cold over there now.’[br][br]     ‘I guess you’re right.’  She sounds so deflated and sorrowful, Argus turns to examine her.[br][br]     ‘Are you actually sad about it?’ he asks in disbelief.  ‘I’ve seen the pictures. I promise you’re not missing much.’[br][br]     ‘But it must be so interesting, and….’  She stops herself before saying ‘beautiful’.[br][br]     ‘I suppose,’ he frowns.  ‘I mean, they’re interesting to study.’[br][br]     ‘Yes, but aren’t they incredible to look at, first-hand?’ she persists daringly.[br][br]     Argus purses his lips and looks at her a moment.  Then he comes to her and folds her in his thick, craggy arms.  ‘Pandora, you’re worrying me–you’re starting to sound Venusian, now,’ he teases, and she does not contradict him.  ‘Oh, come on,’ Argus says, now almost angry.  ‘It’s just a comet.’[br][br]     ‘Pandora looks at her husband with eyes frozen open in puzzlement–and wonders how to respond. 

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