Monday, November 30, 2009

nano post 67

(this is everything I have so far, about 190,000 words. Almost done!!!)

Dejah spent most of the next few days, working in her workspace, measuring images and carefully arranging them on the wall. Nathan often heard the printer running first thing in the morning, and Dejah no longer took naps during the afternoon.

One morning, he walked into the kitchen to find Dejah already eating a quick breakfast of oatmeal and tea.

“you're up early today,” he yawned. “Something going on?”

She nodded. “Doctor's appointment. They're going to run some tests, see how much my body's healed, tell me when I can go back to work, and what sort of work I can do.”

“Oh right!” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and sat down across from her. “Are you nervous?”

She shrugged. “A little. Mostly just ready for it to be over. I'm not nearly as tired as I used to be, and I haven't needed a nap in the afternoon in three days.” She checked the clock on the wall, and jumped up, grabbing her coat from the hook by the door. “I gotta run, appointment is in twenty minutes! Wish me luck!”

“good luck!” he called after her, hearing the door slam shut halfway through the phrase.

Dejah sprinted through the streets, which were still dim in the mauve morning light. Yellow lights shone from most of the windows she passed, and the air had a pleasant chill to it. The exertion kept her warm, and she lost herself in the feeling of her shoes pounding against the ground, and the effort of keeping her breathing regular.

She saw the doctor's office ahead, and slowed to a quick walk, then stopped to stretch a bit as she let her body cool down. She glanced at her reflection in the glass door and tried to slow her rapid breathing. With a final deep breath, she pushed the door open, and greeted the receptionist with a smile.

“good morning,” the girl behind the counter said, smiling with a row of perfect white teeth. “Are you ms. Sorenson, Doctor Huston's seven o'clock?”

Dejah nodded, and the woman held out a clipboard. “Terriffic! Just fill these out for me, since you're a new patient, and we'll get started.”

“Actually, I think my records were supposed to have been transferred from the hospital in Bradbury Dome,” dejah pointed out.

“Oh, they were! We just need each of our new patients to fill out one of these here, for our records. It's just policy.” The woman's smile never faltered, and Dejah took the clipboard back to a row of oddly uncomfortable chairs by the curtained window. A few minutes later, she returned the completed form to the receptionist, and sat back down.

As she waited, she pulled back the edge of the curtain that shut out the growing morning light. A faint cloud of red dust rose from the fabric, and she wondered how often the curtains were disturbed. Apparently, not too many patients wanted to see the outside world while they waited.

“Ms. Sorenson?” dejah looked up to see a smiling nurse standing in the doorway, holding the clipboard with her forms on it. “Doctor Huston is ready to see you now!”

Dejah stood, letting the curtain fall back into place with another puff of dust, and followed the nurse into the corridor behind the receptionist's desk. The hallway was a cold offwhite, and Dejah couldn't quite identify the smell that met her senses as she walked down the hall. The nurse stood beside a door and gestured to the room. “If you'll just take a seat on the table in here, the doctor will be with you shortly.”

Dejah stepped into the room and looked around. There was a table in the middle of the room with a thin paper covering; the walls were plastered with various posters depicting healthy teeth, bones, and skin.

She hoisted herself on to the table, and sat waiting. A few minutes later, the doctor bustled into the room, eyes fixed on a clipboard. “Hello Ms. Sorenson, I've got your records here from my colleagues at the Bradbury Dome hospital. It likes like you're doing a lot better than you were when they sent you home!” He smiled and shook her hand.

“Well, I just want to run some basic physical tests. If you'll follow me, I'll get you hooked up to the treadmill for the stress test.”

An hour later, Dejah was back in the small off white room, feeling more tired than she had in a week. The doctor sat in a high chair near the table, flipping through several print outs, and making notes on a chart. Finally he lowered the clipboard, and turned to her.

“Alright, I've got most of your results here. There are a few others that I'll send out to the lab, but the ones we really need I was able to pull myself. The long and short of it is that you are one tough lady. There aren't many people who could survive what you've been through, and even fewer who could make this quick of a comeback. Seems like there's a part of you that is just determined to keep on going.” He smiled at her, and Dejah tried to return the gesture, wishing he would just get on with it.

“now, what you want to know is how much you can expect to do from this point on. There's no doubt in my mind that you can live a perfectly normal life inside the Domes. Life here is comfortable enough that you should have no problems with it. But you want to know about going back out on the surface of the planet.”

He leaned forward, and looked her in the eye. “I will be honest with you, Ms. Sorenson. I am not comfortable with the thought of you spending much time on the surface. Your respiratory and circulation systems were damaged by the cold and low pressure of the surface during your trek, and there's not much we can do about that. Under normal oxygen and pressure, you're fine. But get a small rip in a suit, or lose pressure in a tent, and you'd be gone in minutes. However, that's hardly a fair restriction to place on a Scout, particularly one of your caliber. So I am going to send my recommendation to Dandelion, that you be placed back in the field, provided that you always stay within twenty minutes of a Dome by shuttle. That distance should still allow any hospital to get to you, in case of emergency, fairly quickly. I wish I could do more, but to go any further would be reckless, and would probably endanger your life.”

He stood, and held out a hand. In a daze, Dejah shook it limply, and slid off the table.

“Your employer is covering all medical costs, so just check with the receptionist on your way out, and she'll give you the form to sign. Best of luck to you, Ms. Sorenson.”

Dejah walked down the hall and signed the form she was given without really paying any attention to it. She made her way home through the streets, which were now bright with the morning light.

Nathan came home several hours later, and found the house dark. “Dej?” he called out, turning on the living room lights. “Are you here? How'd the doctor's visit go?”

When he got no reply, he glanced through the kitchen, and was about to check the bedroom when he saw a light under the closed workroom door.

Knocking quietly, he opened the door, and poked his head inside. For the last few days, Dejah had kept her area hidden by pinning up a dark curtain across the entrance to her side of the room, but the curtain had been torn down, and lay in a heap on the floor. Dejah sat in the center of her workspace, surrounded by images of the Phoenix site that she had painstakingly cropped and joined together to make a panarama that covered the walls of her space. She had covered the light with a thin film of orange plastic, giving it the warm hues of the sun outside the Dome.

“Dej...” Nathan said quietly, and she turned to face him. The look on her face cut him to the core. “ this because of the doctor visit?”

“I can't go outside the Dome any more,” she said queitly, her voice rough with emotion. “Not more than twenty minutes from a Dome by shuttle, and no more than five hours at a time. No exploration mission is that short, that close to the Dome.”

Her voice sounded dead, and Nathan knelt by her side. “You've got to move past this, Dej. You've overcome everything else life has thrown your way, don't let this be the thing that gets you in the end.”

“I don't know how to live without Mars, without Mars the way I know it,” she whispered, tracing a finger across the image of a rocky plain. “I wish I did. I tried to be happy here in the Dome, Nathan, I really did. I wanted to learn how to be content here, to love the people in my life more than I love this cold red desert. But I just can't. I'd rather walk out into that cold and die choking on the surface than live another fifty years under glass.”

He didn't respond, but simply put his arms around her. She shook with emotion, but didn't let out a sound.

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