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Awake (chapter 22)

Chapter 22

Siris climbed down off of the scaffolding and mopped his forehead.  He was sweating a lot and his water was running low.  He’d already checked the water tanks on the mobile habitation unit and they were bone dry.  

The motor pool was a mess.  Rovers, drones, mobile hab units, all in a jumbled mess at one end of the massive bay where they’d been stored.  This was by far the worst evidence of the tough landing that the Samsara experienced.  With the notable exception of it being torn in half, of course.

Siris snaked his way through the wreckage looking for parts that he could easily scavenge for his chosen project.  Luckily the battery fabrication station and the machining station were in better condition than the one in maintenance had been and it only took him an hour to get the two up and running.  These stations were much bigger and were designed to accommodate massive printing needs, but where serviceable parts could be easily cannibalized he did and saved the printing stations the time and resources they took to construct the parts from scratch.

He wondered if Iris worried for him and then scoffed at the thought.  She probably would only miss him for what he could do for her.  Like make a fire or teach her how to use a gun.  He doubted that she would concern herself too much about his prolonged absence, but there was a hope that she did.

His project was one of the giant mobile hab units.  

His initial purpose for entering the motor pool had been to escape, but upon seeing the vehicles waiting for him inside he remembered his purpose for making the journey in the first place.  This was it.  This is what he needed to actually make a go at living on this planet.  Besides, he didn’t think he’d get very far once he raised those giant bay doors without a mode of transportation.  Plus the hab units were solid.  They had to be to survive for so long.  He was sure they’d put up with quite the assault from his stone-aged friends.

The hab he chose was not in the best condition, but it was the easiest for him to access.  He hooked the chain back on itself and climbed out from under the jumble of broken equipment.

The motor pool was a giant playground for him and he was lost in the work, loving the sound of his impact wrench, the clink of chains, and the smell of grease.  He walked to the controls for the electric chain hoist that was suspended from a sliding beam trolley and hit the red button.  The motor made a satisfying rumble and the jumble of vehicles and drones began to groan as they slowly rose.  

A military style all-terrain buggy broke free from the mass of debris and crashed to the floor.  It landed on all four wheels and the vehicle bounced up and down on nimble shocks for a handful of seconds.  He let go of the button and the hoist stopped.  The buggy looked like it had been built yesterday.

Siris put both hands on the heavy T brace he’d found and slid it under the mass of equipment on stiff wheels.  The debris hung suspended by the hoist above him and he swallowed nervously as he imagined it coming down, but at least the T brace might slow it down before he was crushed.  It might give him just enough time to realize how stupid he had been.

He almost ran back out from under the debris and sighed when he got clear without incident.  He watched the precarious jumble for a few minutes.  Inexplicably, he gained confidence with every second that the stuff didn’t collapse.  It probably didn’t make sense, but he felt better the longer it swayed above the pristine buggy.

Finally he grabbed the electric tow cart and maneuvered it to the front of the buggy then ran around and clipped the chain to the front of the vehicle.  He came back around and hit the hoist button and he could see the front end of the buggy lift.  He shifted the cart’s transmission into reverse and pulled the buggy away from the rest of the junk with ease.

“Well, that’s a bonus,” he said to himself.  He hadn’t been after the buggy, but when it had fallen and sat as if posing in front of him, he decided he would take every blessing he could get.

He unhooked the buggy and drove the cart back under the mass of junk, then pulled his impact wrench from his vest.  He reached up and began, nervously pulling bolts from the under frame of an all but destroyed hab unit.

The cart had a hydraulic scissor lift work-bench top and Siris sent it up to where it could support the axle he was after and ratcheted a strap around it.  He then pulled the last two bolts from the axle mount and sucked in a breath as the entire mass above him shifted with the loss of weight.  Metal groaned and a few small pieces fell around him, but it settled and silenced.  He let out the breath and lowered the work-bench.

The hab units were massive and luckily, this was the only axle he’d need to replace of the thirteen.  He didn’t want to risk being flattened any longer than he had to and he was relieved when he finally lowered the jumbled mass of junk to the metal floor.

As the adrenaline slacked off he suddenly realized how weak he felt and wondered how long it had been since he’d eaten.  For that matter, he wondered how long it had been since he’d slept.

The sound of the Rossians just outside the door came to him then.  He knew that they had been relentless in their efforts to reach him but while he worked he could ignore the thumping, scratching and chanting that he heard in the corridor now.

He went to the door and looked through the small window.  Angry, ugly-faced Rossians snarled and yelled at him.

“I’m sorry about killing a bunch of you,” he said.  He knew there was probably no way that they could understand him, but the pounding seemed to lessen momentarily while he spoke so he continued.  “Really though, it was probably more your fault than mine,” he reasoned.  The Rossian in the window tilted his head and for an agonizing moment Siris was reminded of Cato.

“Actually, I’m not sure I am sorry,” he sat down in front of the door and put his back against it, feeling the thump, thump through his body as the Rossians started up again.  “You know…he was my best friend.  He liked me for me.  He didn’t know the difference between shareholder and Yakka.  He was…innocent.  And you killed him.”

Tears filled his eyes.  He closed them and water ran down his cheeks.  He felt himself drifting and then he woke with a start.  

His dreams…he had actually dreamed while he slept with his back to the door, were scary sequences with no real story.  The images floated away as the press of reality crowded into his fuzzy mind.

He lifted his aching body from the floor and went to his pack that he’d left on the floor by his project hab’s driver’s side door.

He could hear his mom’s voice yelling at him to pick up his stuff, and he smiled warmly at the two-millennia old memory.  He reached into the pack and pulled out some of the bird that he and Cato had claimed and wondered if it would make him sick since he had no idea how long it had been since that…morning?  Then he rationalized eating it by telling himself that the bacteria on this planet was a complete anomaly anyway.

Maybe the tiny living microbes on this planet were in the very air.  Maybe they were all completely benign.  There was no way to tell since all of their scientists were long dead.  He bit into the meat and felt the glands in his mouth kick in.  Siris’ brain suddenly let in all of the senses that it had been repressing to some degree and he ravenously tore into the meat.

When he was done with his meal he mopped a sleeve over his greasy lips and smiled.

“Tastes like chicken,” and he laughed at the joke.  It was a joke wasn’t it?  Maybe it had just been an inside joke between him and his dad, though he couldn’t remember how it started.  He just knew how to participate.

Every time they finished a meal that was particularly good, one or both would say ‘tastes like chicken’ in a completely satisfied way, and they’d laugh.  It was  dumb, but it was theirs.

Siris wiped his hands on a greasy towel and went to the buggy, and noticed the mounted gun on the back.  He could have sighed and been disgusted at how cynical and violent humans are to have thought that a group of colonists would need such weaponry on a foreign planet, but given the fact that they did indeed need such weaponry, he was glad the planners had such foresight.

He was soon lost once more in his work, content to fix what was broken, to make whole what was in shambles.  He began to whistle while he worked and then he thought of something and went back to his pack.

He pulled out the tablet and scrolled and pressed on the screen until all of a sudden the hidden speakers that were built into the walls and ceiling of the Samsara crackled.  He jumped up and down when Stevie Nicks blared out in the motor pool.

The computer system was still up and running in this section of the ship and with it, humanity’s database, which, of course, included all of the classic rock songs that he and his dad listened to together.

He pumped his fist in the air every time Stevie said “Oooh, baby, Oooh oooh,” and thought he was the most excited a person had ever been because of ‘Edge of Seventeen’


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