Monday, November 30, 2009

nano post 64

the remaining weeks passed slowly as Dejah began to heal, but they did pass. Sooner that she had thought, it was time to board a shuttle to Spirit City. Max had offered the use of the Silver Hammer again, and she had gratefully accepted.

Dejah and Nathan walked up the steps to Dejah's apartment, and Deah slid her card into the door lock. It clicked, and she pushed the door open. Though the small room was clean and tidy, it had the unmistakable air of a place that had not been lived in in some time. Two, almost three months now, Dejah thought with a sadness that she couldn't quite place.

“there shouldn't be too much to pack,” she said to Nathan, as he brought up some folded boxes to pack everything in. “Let's see, I think everything in the kitchen is stuff that came with the place, so we don't have to worry about that. I'll need the stuff in my closet, the thick blankets on the bed—don't worry about the sheets and the coverlet, those came with the place—and then there's the maps and stuff...” Her voice trailed off.

“We can take the maps, Dej,” Nathan said quietly. “you may want them later for memories.”

“I know. Let's go ahead and take them. It just seems so strange to be packing them away for good now. I mean, it's not like I'm ever going to really use them again, except maybe to look at them and remember.” She shrugged. “Oh well. Anyhow, anything here in the main room that's not furniture needs to go. A couple of loads for each of us should do it.”

He nodded, and began packing clothes into the boxes, wrapping them around more fragile items to protect them.

Dejah began unpinning her maps and satellite images from the walls. She'd taken to bringing copies of her maps and research images home, and studying them in the evenings, trying to memorize the surface of Mars before she ever set foot on the road to retrieve the Phoenix. Of course, all of her preparation had not prepared her for the reality of the Aresian surface, for being so close to Mars itself. The pictures seemed almost like paintings, she thought, paintings from someone who had read a lot about the red planet, had even studied the vids and images, but had never actually been there. She sighed, and rolled up the maps, carefully storing them in a cardboard tube she'd brought along for the purpose.

In a few minutes, her belongings were packed into the boxes and stacked by the door, ready to be carried down the steps and loaded into the waiting transport. The room looked barren, devoid of any personality she had brought to it, as if her presence could be wiped away with the loss of a few material things.

Nathan came back into the small room, having deposited one load of boxes into the transport, and picked up another. Dejah grabbed a box, and followed him.

As the last box was loaded, Dejah asked, “We still have time to stop by the Dandelion warehouse and say goodbye, right?”

“Of course,” he replied. “I enjoyed talking to your coworkers when they came to visit you in the hospital, I'd like to say thanks to them again myself.”

They were silent during the short drive, Dejah lost in thought. Soon the warehouse came into view, looking as it always had, and for a moment, it felt as though she had never left.

As Nathan pulled the transport to a stop and parked it, Dejah opened her door and got out, looking up at the large open doors, half expecting to see one of the giant rigs come rolling out.

Instead, the usual noises of clanging tools, rover motors, and Eduardo's radio reached her ears. She couldn't help smiling at the familiar sound, and stepped into the shadowed building.

She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, and before she could regain her full vision, she found herself swept off of her feet in a bear hug.

“Sorenson!” she heard Eduardo shout as he spun her around. “You have no idea how good it is to see you up and about again!”

He set her down, and gave her shoulders a final squeeze before stepping back. His shout had caught the attention of Oliver Thomas and Kruiser, and the two men ran towards the small group.

For a moment, Dejah was lost in a storm of hugs, back slaps, and congratulations, before her colleagues moved back and gave her a bit of air. She came up grinning and laughing, feeling more at home than she had for weeks.

“What, you didn't really think i'd leave before coming by to say goodbye, did you?”She hiccoughed slightly, feeling caught between laughing and crying.

Thomas grinned, standing at the edge of the group. “You belong here, Dej, not in that hospital.”

“Hell yeah!” she answered, reaching up to give him a hug. “Couldn't have done it without you, Thomas. Always good to hear a calm voice on the other end of the comm.”

“What, like I'm not calm?” Eduardo protested.

“Eduardo, the only bigger drama queen in this warehouse is Kruiser when someone brings in a mistreated machine.” She slapped him on the back.

“Hey, I resemble that remark,” the mechanic grinned, brandishing a wrench. “Don't let me hear about you doing anything stupid out there, alright? You've given me enough heart attacks for one life.”

“Don't Worry, Kruiser, I don't think this body would let me get away with anything crazy anymore. I'll be lucky to get back on the surface at all, I think the home office plans to keep me pretty much under the Dome.” She grimaced.

“Like hell they will,” Eduardo said. “No one has everr figured out a way to keep you out of that red dust, Sorenson, and I don't think those white collar boys at the Spirit City office will be the ones to do it.”

Dejah forced a smile, feeling her high spirits slip away. There will be other missions for them, she thought, feeling an ache in her throat. There will other missions for them, but not for me.

An awkward moment of silence fell on the group, and Dejah knew she needed to go. The transport was waiting.

“Well...” She cleared her throat, and turned to Eduardo. “I guess this is it, then. It was a genuine honor to work with you, even if your taste in music is totally screwed up.”

He laughed, and shook her proferred hand. “Likewise, I assure you. Just wait, that style is gonna come back, and then you're going to feel like a real idiot.”

“Not likely” she smirked. “Feel free to comm me any time, let me know about all the crazy exciting things happening here in Bradbury, alright?”

he nodded, and she turned her attention to Thomas. “well, Mr. Thomas, I am going to miss you. You take good care of these two weirdos, alright?” She hugged him one last time, and whispered, “I hope you find your way back to a blue planet. I'll never understand why you'd want a world like that, but I hope you find it.”

He laughed, and returned the hug. “Enjoy your red planet, Dejah Sorenson. Don't ever let anyone take that love away from you.”

She smiled and pulled away; looking over her shoulder, she saw Kruiser standing a few meters away, and grinned. “Oh n, mister, you're not getting away from this without a hug!”

He let out a groan of protest, but patted her back gently as she squeezed his shoulders.

“You kept me alive there at the end, Kruiser. Who knew that being such a loudmouth would be crucial in the end?”

He laughed. “yeah, well, don't count on it happening again. Now get on out of here before the big shots here talk you into becoming a permanent display in that museum.”

She began walking toward the door, where Nathan stood, waiting. Eduardo called out, “Damn! Hang on a sec, Dej, we forgot something,”

Dejah turned around expectantly. Eduardo dug into the pocket of his coveralls and pulled out an irregularly shaped pendant on a thin chain.

“Thomas and I got this out of the frost up there, and Kruiser figured out how to get it on the chain.” He blushed, suddenly self conscious.

Dejah took the chain, and turned the pendant over in her hand. It had had sharp edges, but a precise grinding job had softened them slightly, and the whole thing appeared to be coated in some sort of sealant. It was some sort of manmade material, but it didn't look like any sort of synthetic jewelry she had seen. A delicate soldering job held it to a small ring that slipped onto the chain.

Eduardo cleared his throat, and grinned uneasily. “See, we figured that with everything you went through, you should be able to carry a little bit of the Phoenix with you. Well, those solar panels were in pretty bad shape, you know, all splintered and broken, there was no way we could be expected to recover every single piece.”

“you stole this from the site during the recovery? Isn't that a felony?”

He shrugged, and stuck his hands into his coverall pockets, grinning.

“You three are absolutely incorrigible,” she laughed, fastening the chain around her neck. “and I wouldn't have it any other way.”

“Now get the hell out of here,” Thomas laughed, “before you make these two tough guys all teary eyed again.”

She waved from the door of the building, and stepped out into the sunlight. The pendant warmed almost instantly.

Dejah fell asleep on the flight back to Spirit City, and woke to find Max and Nathan talking. Neither had noticed that she was awake, and she sat quietly, listening.

“I just don't think I've seen her like this before,” Max was saying, his eyes fixed on the instrument panel. “I've seen her discouraged, tired, and angry, but I don't think I've ever seen her without that fight, that fire. It's like she's not even there, you know?”

“I know,” Nathan said. “I think she thinks that everything is over, that the big thing has been done and there's nothing to fight for anymore. She knows that she'll never have another big mission—her body simply won't take it. She's almost resigned to living in a Dome the rest of her life, watching other people go out and have the adventures. It's what she always dreaded, what she was afraid of...but I don't think anyone expected it to happen because she won her fight.”

“It scares me to see that. I'm so used to seeing that fire inside of her, and it just seems like a pile of ashes now.”

“Yeah, me too. But we've been so distant for so long, I don't even know how to help her. Hell, we haven't been in the same city for two years, and things weren't going well even before that.”

There was silence for a little while, but just as Dejah was drifting back into sleep, Max commented, “the Dejah I know wouldn't really be looking for help. She's always hated feeling like she wasn't up to anything that life threw her way.”

“Maybe that's part of the problem. What can I give her, Max? She doesn't want anything from me. I told her once that she loved the damn planet more than she loved me. I said it to hurt her, but I think it's probably true. Maybe getting married was a mistake for us.”

“Maybe you should ask what it is that she needs that Mars gives her.”

It was dark when the ship came in to land in Spirit City. Dejah had been awake for the last few hours of the trip, asking Max and Nathan about things that had changed in the town while she had been away.

“It's become the fastest growing city on Mars,” Max informed her. “A lot of the University students have stayed in the city, and they're having families, and those families need schools,grocery stores, clothing name it! It's not nearly as civilian oriented as Opportunity City, but it's a lot more so than when you left.”

“You'll have to go see Dr. Livingstone sometime soon,” Nathan added. “I saw him at the last graduation, and he was so proud of you that he could hardly talk. He's already talking about how you are the model of what University graduates are supposed to be.”

The Hammer slowed on the runway, and slowly came to a halt. “Alright folks, this is the end of the line tonight. It's late but there's probably still a transport or two for hire that could get your stuff over to the house for you.”

As Dejah stepped onto the cracked concrete of the runway, she smelled the familiar scents of fuel and oil that marked every runway and launch pad in the solar system. She looked up, and saw the night sky through the dome.

“The stars look so much farther away here,” she whispered. There were more street lights than she remembered, and the city hummed with traffic though it was nearly ten o'clock.

Nathan signaled a transport and loaded the boxes and bags onto its flat bed, tying them down with elastic ropes. When everything was secure, he called to Dejah, and the two of them got into the back seats of then transport, and the driver pulled slowly out of the spaceport.

Dejah pressed her face against the window, watching the streets go by. There were more trees than she remembered, and more shops.

“It's going to take me a while to figure out my way around town again,” she commented. “Looks like all of the old landmarks have changed.”

“You'll get the hang of it in no time,” Nathan reassured her. “Most of the places you knew are still here, the areas surrounding them just look a little different.”

The transport pulled up in front of the house, and Nathan and the transport driver quickly took the boxes and bags into the house. Dejah waited until they were done, then made her way inside while Nathan settled the bill.

The house was dark, except for the single hall light that had been turned on so that they could see to unload the boxes. The building was cold, and dust had settled on everything, a thin red film that made everything look older than it was.

There were discarded sketches tossed all over the floor of the living room, and an array of modeling bricks covered the kitchen table.

“sorry about the mess,” Nathan said quietly, joining her. “I left in a bit of a hurry, and I was kind of living like a bachelor before that. I'll get it cleaned up tomorrow, I promise.”

“It's alright,” Dejah replied. “It actually makes it look a little more familiar.”

“Well, I'll still take care of it in the morning. But you're probably really tired, let's get you into bed so you can sleep.”

He put an arm around her waist to support her as they walked back to the bedroom. Dejah kicked off her shoes and socks, and slipped into her pajamas. Nathan helped her into the bed, then stood back.

“Dej...I hate to ask this, especially now, when I know you're tired, but...well, if you want me to sleep on the couch for awhile, until we're used to being together again, it's ok.”

She shook her head. “No, come on into bed, you're tired, too.”

“Are you sure? It's not a problem, I figured that there would have to be some things that we'd need to get used to again.”

Dejah rested her head on the pillow, and turned onto her side. “Come on, Nathan. Just get in.”

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