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Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Retired

I retired the day after I buried my partner. Eighteen years we served together. Both of us had been around the block, he on various outposts and me on twelve freighters. Then we both ended up on the Wig.

They called it that because it looked like a giant, out-of-control wig of alloy hair sprouting from a turbine head. Every power hook-up on Compset connected to our grid. The wig was life, and Mowpav and I were the night crew that kept her breathing fire.

On the night we met, he hung from his harness, a blow torch in one hand and a roll of solder in the other. I clanked my own harness to pillar 17, I remember it distinctly. I have this thing about prime numbers. They've always been good luck for me. So to start a new job with a prime gave me confidence.

Mowpav swung down and tapped me on the shoulder with his wire. "Hey, bud. How's about we work together every shift 'til we either kill each other, or find a trust."

I smiled and said, "Done."

We stuck like a weld from that point on. Mow and Hup, the stuck-brothers of the night. We took a lot of ribbing that first contract, mostly from the other welding crews who rotated all over the place. They all had kids, and would trade their own mothers for more nights off. So long as Mow and I shared a shift, we didn't care about the hour.

Neither one of us had anything to go home to. Or to lose, for that matter.

Then I lost Mow. Not to a fall, or a burn, or lung-rot. Damned fluke. He died in his bed, aneurism they said. But it was a load of medical bullshit. My betrayal killed him, plain and simple. His heart broke and his brain split apart and he fell into another place where welds always hold, torches never run out, and he can fly without falling.

I let him down and I can't ever say I'm sorry.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Meeting

The meeting ran later than a staff meeting should run. Well into the night. After all, our lives were at stake.

I wanted so much to have the epiphany that would fix our problems; the insight that would resolve the ventilation jam. My friends were counting on me to design a solution to our slow asphyxiation.

But I was out of ideas and the team had eight hours of oxygen left.

Billox suggested scrubbing the induction tubes, maybe scraping another half hour out of the system. Galma kept tapping a torx-head screwdriver against her leg and muttering curses under her breath. Marply sketched a half-dozen routing diagrams on the board, bypassing the jammed pipes and melted control systems.

But we didn't have the parts to make a new router. We didn't have enough tubing to access the good supply. Most importantly, our air support expert had fried himself when the first electrical surge toasted the system in the first place. Now Huintel was watching him in the infirmary--probably dabbing cold facecloths over his face and praying to the powers-that-be to teleport a miracle our way.

In the meantime, we met, discussed, and tried to brainstorm our way out of the shit hole we found ourselves in. Man, did I need a drink.

Saturday, 11 June 2005

Hour Glass

The customs dudes laughed at me when they found the hour glass in my luggage. After all, what good is a gravity-centric device on a zero-g spaceship?

I ignored them. My husband gave me the heirloom and there was no way I was going to leave it behind. It looks ridiculous bungeed to my cot. The sands are floating around in it, and the occasional one bumps another through the hole, but for the most part they all hang out in their own half. So I'm living the same hour perpetually.

Funny. Since when Rick gave it to me, he said he was, "buying me some time." Well it worked, honey. Now I've got all the time in the galaxy.

I bought this ticket to free me from my past. From cancer, pollution, and everything that has made Earth a pit of a place to live. I thought the change would be liberating. Yet every night, I stare at my hour glass and I miss it all. I miss my husband. I miss his grave; the last physical attachment I had to him. I miss gravity. I miss the feeling of solid ground beneath my toes and a big, open, blue sky. I miss sushi at Makka's and I miss the sound of crickets.

Crickets always reminded me that the ecosystem hadn't completely collapsed. Someone told me once that they're bringers of luck. I haven't felt lucky of late. Maybe I should've tried to catch one of the little critters and brought it along.

The customs dudes would never have allowed it aboard.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Country

It used to be that my home country defined me, to some extent, as a person. I was Canadian. I was from Canada. I was proud of my land, my people, my culture.

Now, the idea of a country is a feeble memory stored somewhere in the recess of my tired brain. Two hundred and eleven, or so, Earth years have passed since I flew out to the reaches, searching for a fresh start. My children were killed in a flood, my husband ran away with a baker, and my success as a writer fell from mid-list to the obscurity of delete bins and yard sales. No point hanging around a place where I don't belong and have nothing to contribute.

So I gave up my identity for money. All I've got now is the twelfth. That's the rank of our hunk of ore; our position within the hierarchy of raw materials. The twelfth most valuable asteroid in a belt of harvestable non-planets, three year's ride to the closest hop from the least interesting refuelling station in...where the hell am I?

I miss it. Being Canadian. It's not much to say I'm twelfth. A twelver? Twelfthish? I'd give anything for a beer made from actual grain. Or to make a snowball, or listen to a loon.

One thing we do have is mosquitos. I got no clue how they stowed aboard. They breed in the air ducts and buzz me at night, with their high pitched torture song.

Friday, 3 June 2005

Peach Pit

Thanks for the word, Rob.
*

I sniffed at the peach pit, trying to suck another speck of enjoyment from the remnant. I hadn't had fresh fruit in seven months. No matter how slowly I ate, I couldn't stretch out the moment for long enough.

A trickle of juice dotted my chin. I wiped it with my fingers and sucked them again. I popped the pit back in my mouth, ejected whatever I could, then I gripped it between my molars. I pressed, not so hard as to hurt my teeth, but hard enough to test the structure of the pit. Would it taste any of peach?

I spit it out. Holding it up to the light, I studied the pattern of ridges and holes. I remembered a math lesson from years back that talked about the golden ratio. I tried to find a pattern I could count. No thirteens jumped out at me.

I couldn't just throw it out. But eating it wouldn't serve any purpose. I could keep it, suck on it from time to time, but that would be too much of a tease. Making me want fruit more than anyone should. If only I could plant it. Grow myself a peach tree. But the soil on Tridale-2A4 was sterile and anaerobic. We shed it from our suits before we entered the facility. The only thing that came close was the endless dust, micro-particles that nothing could contain. And you can't grow a tree in a bowl of dust.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Zoo

When the Mindroins landed in Toronto, they freed all the animals from the zoo. They said it was a "rights issue". I said it was insane.

For the first time in my life, I was glad to be living in Etobicoke. The people in Scarborough started disappearing first. The lions and the cheetahs and the polar bears had to eat. Sure, the people with guns were safe, but majority of people were defenceless.

Every day I'd ride the subway, wondering if a snake or a spider would come at me. I'd heard stories about the reptiles too, crocs and the like love cold dark places. That's why I kept with the crowd. The more people around me the better. Let them take the young and the old and the sick. I stayed in the middle with my healthy peers.

I begged Julia to move in with me. She lived in North York with her parents. They had a fenced yard, and her father had a hunting rifle and that was supposed to be enough to keep her safe. I didn't buy it. The old man would panic if anything bigger than a coyote came at him. And Toronto had those before the zoo break.

I think the Mindroins planned the outbreak. If they could travel at near light speed, then they could choose the month when they arrived. In April, all the animals were mating. Plus, all the warm-climate creatures would have months to get established before winter came.

No park in the world was exempt. But once CNN ran the story, zoos vamped up security. The Bronx Zoo was probably more protected than the White House. Kinda made me wonder if the Mindroins had other plans.