Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nano post 50

Year Twenty Fifty Two

Dejah woke from a short nap to the now familiar sound of wind scraping the sand and ice over the tent. She checked her clock. Three in the afternoon. It was almost as dark as night outside the tent, and she stirred restlessly. The hab tent was made for limited occupation, usually just enough time to prepare meals and sleep, not for days at a time. There were few things inside to help pass the time.

Dejah recorded the last few days in her log, and made a few crude sketches of landscapes she'd seen along the way. She looked over satellite photos of her route, and tried to anticipate possible difficulties. The time passed slowly, but finally it was late enough that she felt she could eat dinner and go to bed without waking in the middle of the night.

The night was long, and she kept waking up. After a day of inactivity, her muscles were stiff and aching, and she wasn't tired enough to sleep through the night the way she usually did. She tossed and turned, trying to find a way to be comfortable in the exploration suit. As she rolled over, something caught her attention.

The walls near the floor of the tent were bowed in slightly. Dejah looked around the tent, and found that it was the same with all of the walls. She got up and knelt by one of the walls, and prodded the bowed area with a finger. It felt oddly solid, and with a shiver she realized what was happening.

The tent was slowly being buried.

Year Twenty Fifty

The alarm blared, and Dejah woke with a start. I must have set the alarm clock yesterday, she thought, and turned it off.

It was still mostly dark outside, but the sky was light. She peeked out of the window, and saw the bulk of Olympus silhoutted in the eaast.

She dressed quickly, shivering, and pulled on a heavy jacket. Stuffing a few papers in her bag, she hurried out of the door and locked it behind her. As she clattered down the steps, she could see other residents makign their way to various parts of the Dandelion building.

She could see the warehouse where she had dropped off her supplies two days earlier, and headed for it. The building's exterior was dark, but several large doors were open, and the light inside streamed onto the pavement.

As she stepped inside the building, she heard music blasting from a speaker, and looked around. She couldn't identify the style of music, but it sounded old; she thought she could hear guitars, and a horn section.

Eduardo approached, waving. “Hey, Sorenson! Didn't expect to see you out here so soon! Figured the jet lag would have you down for another day or two.”

She shrugged. “i never really felt lagged, and the apartment was getting boring. I think I'd rather go ahead and get to work. What's that music, by the way?”

He grinned. “You never heard rockabilly before?Man, that's some good stuff!”

“How old is that recording? It's got to be fifty years old!”

“Yeah, but the song's even older. Originally recorded in the 1950's!” He was obviously enjoying the music, and Dejah couldn't help smiling.

“Alright, so what's on the schedule for today? Or, actually, I think I'd like to draw up a schedule for the month. We've got some leeway until we get closer to the departure date.”

Eduardo motioned for her to come over to a table set up near one of the walls. There was a large sheet of paper unrolled over the surface, with a rough time line on it.

“this is the basic time line that you had in your proposal, but now we need to fill in the rest of the information,” he stated. “Now this list here,” he continued, pulling another folded paper from the pocket of his coveralls, “is a list of all of the training, sims, and excersizes that need to be covered before we head out. I expect we should sit down and plug all of these into the time line, and go from there.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Dejah said, running her eyes over the training list.

“Hey!” she heard a loud shout from across the warehouse, and turned to find a man running toward them. He was shorter than Eduardo, and had curly greying hair. “Hey, Eduardo, you weren't gonna start this crap without me, right? Because you sure as hell aren't going to just stand there and tell me what you want done when you haven't even bothered to check about what we should actually be working on.”

Eduardo shook his head, and said, “Dejah Sorenson, meet Kruiser. He's an annoying little prick, but he's also the best damn mechanic on Tharsis.”

“Tharsis, my ass,” responded the mechanic. “I'm the best damn mechanic you'll find on this whole planet.”

“Unfortunately, he's probably right,” Eduardo admitted. “He thinks it means he can get away with anything he wants.”

Kruiser reached out and shook Dejah's hand emphatically. “glad you're finally here, Sorenson, I've had enough of waiting around for something to happen. Now we'll see if you can actually get this damn thing going, or if you're just another useless over-educated university idiot.”

Oliver Thomas came up just then, and greeted Dejah warmly. She looked around the small circle. “Alright, is this it then? This is the core team?”

Eduardo nodded.

She bent over the time line and said, “Ok, let's get started then.”

It took most of the morning to reach an agreement about how best to divide up the time before the mission departed. Thomas wanted more time to run computer simulations of possible weather conditions that the team might encounter while driving the big rigs from Tharsis, Eduardo wanted to spend more time on various extraction techniques for retrieving the possibly buried Phoenix, and Kruiser had insisted on running almost constant exercises through a physical obstacle course. In the end, a plan of action had been hammered out, heavy on the simulations at the beginning, and moving to be more focused on physical exercises the nearer they got to the departure date.

“So, Thomas, you're going to be in charge of those big rigs simulations; put us through every situation you can think of with those. Kruiser, you start thinking about how you want to put those obstacle courses together. We've got the use of one entire training field, and we can always go out through the lock to the plateau. Use what you need to. Eduardo, you start getting the stuff we need for those extrication rehearsals, let's get the first one set up sometime this week, ok? I'll work on refining the time line, and setting up the plan b, in case we can't get the Phoenix out right away.”

They broke for lunch, and Dejah made her way over to the cafeteria. It was small, and there were perhaps twenty or thirty employees eating. Dejah picked out a sandwich and a bottle of juice, and sat at a small table. She had brought the list of training objectives, and was looking over it when she noticed someone standing beside the table. She swallowed her bite of sandwich quickly and looked up.

It was Scott, the receptionist, and behind him was another man, who seemed a bit nervous. “Hello, Scout Sorenson! We didn't expect you in today, but I'm glad you're here!” He gestured to the other man. “This is Nelson Madison, from our PR department. Although we know you're going to be very busy with the Phoenix project, Mars Heritage has requested that you make some appearances for them, and Nelson is here to tell you more about that.”

The nervous man sat down in a chair across the table from Dejah, and took a sheet of paper out of his briefcase. “It's good to meet you, Ms. Sorenson. As I'm sure you're already aware, this mission is a very high profile event, for Mars Heritage in particular, but also for Mars in general. This is the last of the probes that was sent from Earth to be recovered, and it's being seen as the end of an age, the beginning of a new era of indepence for Mars. Very big stuff, and there's a lot of thigns that need to be done. Here's a schedule of the events you'll be expected to make an appearance at. On the other side, you'll find information about recording dates. You'll be recording messages and a few interviews for school children all over the colonies. Even Earth is watching this one, and they're pretty excited about it.”

Dejah looked over the list. “This is a lot of dates. I don't want to spend too much time away from the project, I need to stay in the loop about all areas of preperation.”

Nelson nodded, wiping his glasses with a cloth. “Of course, of course. But these appearances are part of what help Heritage pay the bills, so you do need to be there. I think you'll enjoy it, overall. A lot of these people already know your name, because of the glider, so they're looking forward to seeing you. The first appointment is next week; the first of the recording sessions. You'll report directly to Mars Heritage for that—just go to their main office at nine on Tuesday morning, and they'll get you set up and explain about how it will work.” He punched a button on his wristband, and Dejah's comm beeped. “that's my contact information, please contact me with any questions, or to let me know if you are unable to make any of the appointments. Thank you for your time.” He picked up his briefcase, and walked stiffly through the cafeteria.

Dejah sighed, looking at the schedule. “I guess it would be too much to ask to just work on the mission and not have any of these other things.” She finished her juice, and tossed the bottle into the recycling bin on her way out the door.
The rest of the team was already off working out their plans and schedules for the mission preperation, and Dejah felt like getting rid of some of the nervous energy that had built up over the last few days.

“Hey, Eduardo!” she called.


“Is there a gym around here? I need to start getting in better shape for this stuff.”

“Yeah, there's a company gym in the next building over. Just take that path, turn right at the fork, and go through the big glass double doors. Can't miss it, just show them your ident card, they should have you on the access list by now.” He went back to poring over a sheet of information about the polar terrain, with Thomas pointing out pertinent data.

Dejah headed in the direction he had pointed, and soon found the gym. When she presented her ident card, the smiling attendant provided her with a water bottle and towel, along with a small brochure with information about the various machines available.

She decided to forgo the weight training equipment for a day, and headed toward the room that held the gymnastic equipment. “I used to be able to do some of this crap,” she muttered to herself as she opened the door, “let's see if I've still got what it takes.”

The room was set up so that each piece of equipment could be used by itself, or taken as part of a course. Dejah stretched for a moment, then decided to start with the monkey bars. She jumped up and caught the first bar, and quickly moved hand over hand to the end of the bars, and let go. The balance beam was next, and she quickly jumped to the top of it. She wobbled for a moment, then walked back and forth for a moment, testing her balance. She smiled, and quickly launched into a cartwheel, her hands and feet landing firmly on the narrow beam.

With a solid dismount, she sprinted out to the mat in the center of the room, and did a series of handsprings and cartwheels. On the far side of the room, she saw a set of rings, and grabbed them, pulling herself up until her arms were flat against her sides, and her feet well off the ground. She felt one arm wobble, then both arms swung out to the side, dropping her to the mat with a thump.

“Oof!” she muttered, her breath knocked out for a moment. A face appeared hovering over her.

“Hey, are you alright? You probably shouldn't be taking all of those things at once, you know; you could sprain something.” the young man smiled at her, and offered his hand to help her up.

She grunted, and pulled herself to her feet. “Thanks. I used to be able to do that. I guess several years of spending three days a week behind a desk have kind of wrecked my flexibility.”

“Oh, you'll get it back in no time, you were doing pretty well until the rings,” he commented. “By the way, I'm Carter.”

Dejah laughed, and shook his hand. “Carter of Mars?”

“Yeah, well, what can I say, my parents were big Burroughs fans.” He grinned, and looked slightly embarassed.

“Mine, too. Dejah Sorenson.”

“Oh, so you're Sorenson!”

She shook her head. “Everyone keeps saying that. There is no way I'm really that famous, I haven't done anything yet!”

Carter shrugged, and Dejah's eyes were caught by a dragon tattoo on his shoulder. “Yeah, well, that's kind of the point, isn't it? We're all waiting to see if you're going to be able to do it. And anyway, Bradbury is a lot like a small town, and news travels fast. And the Heritage PR department has spent a lot of time talking the mission up, so yeah, you'll be pretty well known here. Don't worry though, as long as you don't try to slack off, everyone will be pretty accepting. Names and fame don't matter too much here, just what you can do.”

She looked at him for a moment. “You seem awfully young, are you a University student?”

He laughed, and shook his head. “No, I didn't have the grades for the University, so I couldn't get a sponsorship. I ended up in a school for mechanics here, and it's really been great. I probably wouldn't have lasted in school any way, I have a hard time sitting still. I'd rather be taking things apart to see how they work.”

“There seem to be an awful lot of mechanics here. I don't think I ever met any in Spirit City.”

“Oh, they were there. You probably just weren't working in an area where your paths would cross much. But there's a huge demand for mechanics on Mars right now. There's all kinds of machines here: rovers, transports, shuttles, big rigs, you name it. And that dust gets into absolutely everything, and causes all kinds of problems, so it takes a lot of manpower to keep everyhting tuned up and running. And there are more vehicles per capita in Bradbury Dome than in any other city, so it's not too surprising that so many of us end up here.” Carter dipped his hands in the nearby bowl of chalk, and brushed the excess powder off. “Well, I think I'm going to get started on the rings here, if you don't mind. It was really good to meet you!”

“Yes, the same here!” Dejah shook her head slightly while leaving the room. He was attractive, there was no doubt about it, but she was at least ten years older.

“What a shame.” she remarked as she headed for the showers.

Dejah's arms ached as she unlocked her apartment that night, and she could feel pain beginning to settle into her back and shoulders.

“Yeah, I'm going to need a lot more exercise,” she groaned, twisting to try to loosen up the muscles. She was reaching down to try to touch her toes, when her communicator beeped, and she picked it up.

“One message,” the little screen read, “from Nathan Chandrayaan. Read now or ignore?” She hesitated for a moment, then punched the “read now” button.

The screen blinked, and several lines of text came into view.

“Hey Dej, glad to hear you go to Bradbury safely. Sorry for the way we left things. Miss you like crazy. Call me when you can. Nathan.”

She paused, feeling the old storm of feelings welling up inside again. She ran a thumb over the comm's control pad, trying to decide what to do. Finally, she tossed the unit on her bed, and resumed stretching.

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