Seven days, nine hours, sixteen minutes and about thirty two seconds. Give or take that had been how long Mashku had left to return to her husband and children. But who was counting? Rex stood in front of the roughly sawed counter top and watched the elderly Benzite male cut a large transparent bar into smaller ones, taking care to make even cuts and pieces. Colourful dried leaves could be seen frozen inside carefully and exactly portioned. Behind the man, two more Benzite’s, one male and one female, both considerably younger, added ingredients to a black cauldron sitting atop and open firepit. Jozdoz, the older male looked up and smiled at Rex before handing her two slices. Gratefully accepting his offer, Rex nodded and quickly put both in the pockets of her coveralls. As generous as Jozdoz was, he was even more fair. As far as she knew, the Benzite only gave Rex two shares of handmade bars of soap. He knew she took more baths than was allowed and said nothing. In return, she brought him an extra half dozen poultry eggs. This was how trading and bartering was done in Camp Tsisteel. The Benzite family, father, daughter and son in law, were the only Benzites Rex had ever meet that had taken advantage of the federations offer to receive medical corrective surgery that allowed the family to breathe on a class M planet without any breathing apparatus. Combined with the fact Dinren and Qaxe were not only married but also procreating together, made the Benzite family all the more odd anywhere else but Camp Tsisteel. Qaxe laid her hand across her stomach and smiled at Rex. Giving a quick wave before heading back to her tent, Rex thought Qaxe’s daughter might be born tonight from the size of her abdomen.
Passing through the rows of large communal tents, Rex finally arrived back to her “door” and pushed aside the canvas flap. Supplies had arrived earlier in the morning. Soon constructions on more permanent housing would begin in earnest. Children would need more secure dwellings and families needed more privacy. She only hoped the soundproofing would be sufficient. Rex eased herself onto the single bed and picked up a PaDD from the stack laying on the small table. Her home was modest, consisting really only the bed, bedside table, small chair and desk and a trunk with a few clothing items, most of which were coveralls for work. Only her father’s purerehua and the strange necklace she had dug up a week ago, sat in the drawer of the desk. Nothing else in the universe slowed her down.
Laying on her back, elbows propped onto pillows, she held the Padd, studying it closely, frowning, she tossed it aside and picked up the next one, only to report the pattern three more times before returning to the first. For the last month, she had been constantly repairing or replacing the same five energy packs to the relay tower. All of them should have been maintenance free for at least five years. More mysteriously, none of them had been on the same circuits. Scratching her head, Rex sat up with her legs crossed under her and spread the six tablets out in a line. Shuffling them around, she re arranged the tablets until they were all lined up in operating order. Tilting her head nearly to her shoulder, Rex blinked and straightened up quickly as she watched the circuits flickering in a pattern. Rubbing her eyes and then temples, she looked again at the PaDDs. No. Definitely not an overactive imagination. That was a name and one she was not familiar with from the camp. Who the hell was Billie?
Rex Ariki, Engineer
© 1991-2022 STF. Terms of Service