Friday, July 18, 2008

May 20th, 764 AT, Atagonia Regio, Terra del Fuego

The worst problem at the moment, here on the surface of Fuego, is the shortage of food. We have put up hectares of inflatable greenhouses, and pulverized thousands of tones of rock in the last week, using the robot earth-movers the Stevens have at their disposal. But those robots are pretty dumb, and we have to supervise them all the time- they’ll dig a few tonnes then just wait for a transport to come and take it away, instead of piling the rubble up and digging some more. If you tell them to pile the rock up that’s all they’ll do- they’ll forget about loading the transport altogether. Sometimes they’ll drive into or over part of the greenhouse, or worse still just stop and wait orders. They do an awful lot of that. And the uncomfortable skinsuits make every movement on the surface of the planet a trial.

But despite all our efforts we remain hungry. I am not too bothered by the deprivations; the pioneer spirit (or something) has been awoken in my heart. But some of the others are suffering badly. Some aren’t too well from the effects of the vitrification process; not everyone has had time to benefit from Hoyle’s dream therapy. Others, such as Harlan, seem to find the pioneering life difficult. Harlan and many others have declined to use the Stevens interface worms; they cannot therefore use the heavy equipment that the Stevens provide. Harlan is busy with medical care for the ill and the undernourished, but he complains bitterly all the time. Particularly about his lack of access to data.
“What do they think I am, a walking textbook? Every doctor has to be able to check the MedCat, or they won’t know what they’re dealing with. That’s what computers are for. This isn’t the Industrial Age, you know.”
At least he gets to wear one of the rare Starlark skinsuits, only a few have made their way to this remote location, and the Stevens are supposedly still ‘testing’ them before distributing them more widely.

In recent days Ellie has turfed me out of our shared accommodation; she has started sleeping with Gusev, the Martian. A man. I’m not entirely surprised; she has always been very closely involved with the young Dustie radicals from the old red planet. But it gives me much to think about. I am supposed to be genetically identical to her; well, there is no ‘supposed’ about it, I am well aware of my, and her, genetic make-up. Never in my life have I ever considered relations of that nature with a man. At this moment in time, with all my hormones tightly controlled, and the hunger pangs in my belly, I can barely consider relations with anyone. But if she is genetically identical to myself, does that mean that I could also be attracted to a male if the situation arose? Perhaps it is just my culture that has always stopped me. But I don’t think so.

In any case here I am, in the shared dormitory, with a dozen other exhausted and undernourished colonists, including Ania. I can only marvel at my clonecousin’s determination, since I have no energy to spare for such exertions. At night we all sleep like babies, and in the morning we awake with what seems to be a surprising amount of optimism. We will conquer and shape this new world, even if it kills us.

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