"Robin and I had a frank disagreement, you could say." Mina had a sharp look in her eyes. She was never one to hide her impatience. "You would never believe what he said."
I grinned. “Robin? Oh I think I could guess.”
“Really? Try this. I went to see him so I could borrow the lander. I had some instruments to fly. It was early evening when I saw him. He was drunk.”
“So far so good. I know about his stash.”
“Oh, I think he has a brewery set up in there by now. But that was just the start. He’s under pressure, he doesn’t like it here. I get all of that.”
“He has a theory.” She laid back and sighed. “About this whole planet.”
“One that’s always more obvious when he’s been drinking?”
“Why not?” She sighed. “You want to hear it?”
“He thinks the odds are too long. That we can’t have found a planet with breathable air, with life, with recognisable habitat and especially…”
“Of course. Especially them.” She started to smile. “He asked me if I have found any of their ancestors. He said he wondered whether they evolved just like us as well.”
“Sounds pretty reasonable. They did?”
“I don’t know! It’s too early to tell. It does look wrong from where we are. I’ve nothing to show against him.”
“So what is his theory?”
“Oh, this is the good part.” She paused for a drink of water. “He’s so skeptical he thinks we’re being fooled.”
“He doesn’t know. But he thinks he doesn’t have to. He’s sure it’s easier to trick our senses than to explain a world anything like this.”
“What, a conspiracy?”
“A lab experiment!” She laughed. “Maybe we never left in the first place!”
I cringed. “That’s quite a thought.”
“Yes, it is. But it will take a while to prove him wrong.”
She got up and left me wondering. I looked at my notes full of Anatara and everything Tani had told me, and I walked out to look at the indigo blue twilight sky. It really was quite a thought. I couldn’t shake it.
Sounds pretty much like Marie’s writing, now she’s found her voice. She and Mina seem their modern selves as well. But, as I remember, Robin was not a Scot, but a Swede; and Saturnine at that. Thus far, and I’ll admit Proteus has come a long way further than I ever planned, Robin may well be a jocular, indeed, quite stereotyped man. That’s because we have barely glimpsed his soul. Events conspire. Don’t write him off as yet. You know me and my taste in characterisation. Or shall.
What then of his theory? There’s nothing worse than when things end in “it was all a dream!” Besides, it’s a bit late now, don’t you think? His thought does have a place, somewhere in the tale, albeit in the background best. It’s just that seeing as Proteus is what it is – the world-building backstory of my tale within a tale – we already know how it ends. The only dream is mine.