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From: Chris Maldonado <cmaldonado@voortrekker.com>
To: Sameen Lee <sameen.lee@recoveryinstitute.org>
To: Amelia Nine <anine@expeditionsupport.gov>
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Date-Local: 3 Apr 2419 23:42:19 +0000
Date: 17 Sep 2421 22:18:19 +0000
Subject: So excited to be part of things again!
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf8"

Hi, Sam! Hi, Lia! (Sam mentioned you were coming to see her at L1 -
so happy for you both! Are you there yet? I'm sending this to you
directly, so you'll still get it either way.)

The last day and a half has been amazing! I'm working hard to help
build our new bio lab, and it's going really well, even when
everyone else is in bed and I'm working all on my own. Eve made me
stop a few hours ago, though, and told me very firmly to get some
sleep. But I'm not tired! So I thought I'd write some more to you.

You know, I never realized just how big Voortrekker was? We had
plenty of holos and everything, but I never really got to see her
from outside. Even when they shuttled us aboard, there was only the
one port about the size of my hand, and I wasn't sitting anywhere
near it anyway. But she's huge! Even now, after the crash, it took
us a good few minutes to abseil down from the hull. That was scary,
but also a lot of fun! Easier than I thought it'd be with the
gravity here, too. But I was still glad to be done by the time we
finally got to the ground.

Director Soloviev and Eve met us there. Eve had water for both of
us, and we were glad she did! But trust her to think of something
like that - she's our senior surviving doctor. And she's changed
like I have, too! Well, not exactly like. She was tall even before
the change, and her new legs must be twice as long as mine. She
towered over all of us, even Director Soloviev, and he's got to be
close to two meters. I never had the courage to really try to talk
with her, even back before, and now? I could barely even say hello!

Lucky me, the Director started talking before I could embarrass
myself. He shook my hand - didn't hesitate, either, which made me
feel good - welcomed me back, said he was glad to see me up and on
my feet again, and did I feel up to getting back to work? That was
when I found out about the new bio lab, and of course I volunteered
for that right away, and we got into what we had and what we
needed, who to talk with about fetching things from the ship, and
so on.

About the Director - I think he really has changed. Back on the
ship, he was never rude or anything, but he always seemed like he
was incredibly busy. You never saw him in any of the crew common
areas, except passing through, and when you talked to him it was
like he already had twenty things to deal with in the next hour and
he was really hoping you weren't going to become number twenty-one.

But on Saturday he was actually smiling! Like he was genuinely glad
to see me, and we never passed more than a half dozen words at a
time on the ship. He asked me twice if I was sure I was ready to
work, and told me to take all the time I needed if I wasn't! I've
asked around a little, and I'm not the only one who thinks he's
different now. I don't know if it's just the crash and the bug, or
if there's something else going on, but either way I feel a lot
better about him than I used to, and I'm glad.

Eve stopped us before we could get too far into making plans. It
was all very well getting me back to work, she said, but I'd
changed more than anyone else, and I wasn't going anywhere right
now but straight to her infirmary so she could make sure I was
healthy and likely to stay that way. The Director said of course,
and I knew they were right but I still asked if that could wait.

If it could wait until it'd be someone else and not Eve doing the
exam, I meant! But I didn't really see how I could say so, and
professionally, I knew she was best qualified to do it. Just -
she's devastating, and I knew I was already blushing, and...you
both know how I get. And in any case, Jen was already saying
something to the Director about some kind of engineering problem
and did he have half an hour right now to talk about that, so it
was too late to find any excuses there.

Eve was very good about it, though. She managed to make me
reasonably comfortable by the time we got back to the hab. And it
turned out delaying wouldn't have helped anyway! She's making a
study of all of us who've changed, gathering data and working to
find out whether there's anything we especially need to worry
about. You know, basic research. Which is what I should've been
thinking about, too, instead of getting all nervous about - I mean,
I know it's just a regular thing, but it was my first time! But Eve
understood and gave me what I guess was the same advice she'd give
anyone, and it wasn't actually bad, just a little
uncomfortable. (Go ahead, laugh, it's okay! I am too.)

She gave me a clean bill of health, anyway. We talked some about
karyotyping me, but as I said before, it'll have to wait a little
while. Then she told me where to find the bio team and turned me
loose, and I don't mind admitting that even if it had gone better
than I'd expected, I was still a little glad to get out of there
before I said something silly.

We're putting the bio lab right near the infirmary, since there'll
be a lot of overlap especially at first, and I found Nandi
there. You remember Nandi - chief of the biology section, I'm sure
I mentioned her a couple of times at least while we were on the
ship? She'd heard about me from Jen, but I hadn't even known she
survived! We were really happy to see each other, too. She's got
less time for nonsense than almost anyone, but I like her pretty
well, and I think she must be one of the smartest people I've ever
worked with. Once we'd got done catching up, she assigned me to
cytology, since I did some of the initial work with the Ross bug,
and we tried calling Gareth, who's keeping track of the fetch
teams. Hand unit comms have been spotty, though, and we couldn't
get through, but Nandi said she thought he was in hydro and sent me
after him there.

Our hydro farms are clear on the other side of the hab from where
we're doing bio. That's not great, but this place went up in a
hurry, and there was nowhere closer with enough space and water
supply. On the way there, I passed through the refectory, and -
it's not a large space, but I just had to stop for a minute and
take it in, because it felt like half the colony was there or
passing through. People talking and eating, people moving gear and
supplies to where they needed to be, stopping to chat, planning
where to put up more hab space, planning how to start breaking down
debris for usable scrap, planning studies and experiments to start
really understanding what sort of planet we've got to work with
here - I even saw a couple more of us who've changed - and...

I know, it doesn't sound like anything especially amazing, just
what a working colony is supposed to be. But that's amazing all by
itself! Remember, when I went down, we were still struggling to
keep people alive (so I thought) and nobody except maybe Director
Soloviev and the section heads were thinking more than a day ahead,
at most. I hadn't been there when that changed - when people
started coming out of it, when everyone realized that no one was
going to die and there was time to start building what we came here
to build. By the time I got here, everyone was already hard at
work, and I was a little ashamed I'd been off hiding, scared of
what people would think of me, while everyone else had been doing
all this. But more than that, I was so proud just to be here, to be
part of it all!

And I decided that I'm all done with letting everyone down. Yes,
I've changed. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I wasn't quite right for the
first little while there. But I'm not scared any more, and I'm all
right now. And for all that Jen and everyone - even the Director -
have been very kind, it's time I start contributing instead of
being carried. So I got back to finding Gareth, who wasn't in hydro
after all. Letsie was, though, and he said I might want to try the
botany lab, which at least was pretty close.

I know, this is sounding more and more like a scavenger hunt! But
that's just what it's like right now, and it's actually not so
bad. We're so small that everyone is mostly pretty easy to find,
and it's actually sort of fun in a way! In the ship, our different
groups and sections tended to stick pretty close for the most part,
just because of the way the shifts were set up and everything - oh,
we all had friends and people we were close with in other
departments, but they were the exception. Here, for all that we're
each still absorbed in our own work, everyone's still part of
everything. Even me!

Anyway, I did finally find Gareth in botany, and he and I and Elva
found out some things that...I'm honestly still not sure what to
think, whether I should be afraid or amazed or both at once. I
think I'm both at once. But I'd better pick that up next time,
because if I start talking about it now I really will be up all
night, and I should at least try to get some sleep if I can. Even
if I don't feel like I need it! I'm sure Eve will ask me tomorrow,
and she'll be very disappointed with me if I didn't at least try.

So I'm going to send this, and then I'm going to stretch out in my
bunk here and see if I can't remember what it feels like to be
snuggled up between the two of you. If that doesn't help me sleep,
nothing will! I'll write again as soon as I can. In the meantime, I
love you both and miss you, and I can't wait to hear from you!

Yours with love as always - Kit.