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Evening Star: Chapter Six


Note: The story herein is from the official site and should not be altered.

Isolation Edit

DAY#1

Facts: The Odgerel reached Rhyldan´s surface today. No events during planetfall. Crew ok.

>ISOLATION: Five occupants (Souza, Hounds, Kapoor, Choi, Yamada).

>STERILE: Two occupants (Decroux, Mnemosyne).

>OUTSIDE: Preliminary readings show all variables inside goldilocks. Decroux and Mnemosyne leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Planetfalling is a bitch. I peed myself. Some tough Geisha I am.

Hyun-woo and Farah threw up. Noora´s Puppy fared better, I have to give him that: he was really pale, but kept it together.

Noora´s Golem, on the other hand, seemed like he was enjoying it. Zedkay and Yaco had a blast, obviously; Yaco kept yelling “Yeeehaaa!!” with every roll of the Odgerel.

After landing, Golem and Zedkay went outside, suits on; Zedkay touched ground first, as agreed. I know it´s irrational, but I´m glad it was her, and not the Golem.

The rest of us are locked up in Isol. No alcohol down here, so we toasted with water. I think that it was considered bad luck, back on Earth; hope Rhyldan´s rules are different.

***

DAY#2

Facts: Three independent Hungate-Pohl (20 hours) show negative. Air readings: Perfect according to Dr. Choi.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux, Mnemosyne.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux and Mnemosyne both leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: I have never seen Hyun-woo happier than this. It´s contagious: all his readings are goldilocks. O2 at 21% and N2 at 78%; traces of Ar and CO2; rad, toxs and hazmats below detection level. As far as he´s concerned, we could go out there with no helmets right now.

Which means that they are all waiting for me.

Every time we comm Up there´s someone asking about Dr. Yamada. Yesterday it was Kjell; today it was both Byrnes and Kabura: “Has Naomi found something? Has she? Has she? Has she?”

As if they didn´t know that you cannot hurry biology. My tests show nothing conclusive so far, and we don´t even know what I´m looking for. Anything that can kill us, basically; anything that can kill us before we kill it.

Zedkay and Golem don´t have much to report from the outside: near the Odgerel there´s only dry land all around, and they are not greenlit to explore further. They say there´s definitely some sort of forest several clicks away. Guess that would be a good place to send the next expedition.

They have collected some rocks and stored them in the Outer Lab. They´ve also placed probes for Hyun-woo.

***

DAY#3

Facts: 3xHungate-Pohl (40 hours) all negative. Mnemosyne clone greenlit for non-suit: removed helmet 2 hours ago; all his bios within normal.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Noora´s Golem is still alive: he is out there right now, no helmet, fully exposed to Rhyldan´s atmosphere. Save from a peak of anxiety when he removed his suit, he is fine and dandy. Hyun-woo kept repeating and repeating his tests, but there´s no real need anymore: as far as Inorg Chem goes, we can breathe on Rhyldan just fine.

Guess tonight we´ll miss yet another wild party at the Northern Star.

***

DAY#4

Facts: 3xH-P (24hs) and 3xH-P (65hs) all negative. Mnemosyne clone: no changes.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Zedkay says the Golem is perfectly fine.

They have found some patches of lichen on the nearby rocks; what I wouldn´t give to put them under my micro!

Patience. Time is all we´ve got.

And I´ve just realized: I left my Odimensional box onboard.

Lack of practice, I guess; I hadn´t done my luggage in centuries, and all of a sudden Kjell wanted us down here. In a hurry and with everybody yelling to you “Good luck! Good luck! Good luck!”… that´s no way to pack your things right.

Onii chan gave it to me right before the Star launched, the Odibox. He and Mom were the only family I had left, and Mom couldn´t come to say goodbye.

Onii chan said: “Fly safe.”

And I said: “Stay safe.”

And then he gave me the Odimensional box and told me: “Here, little sister. Shake it for good luck.”

The Odi Show used to be our favourite, back when Onii chan and I were jap-speaking kids in East London: whenever there was an interdimensional rift and dwellers from alternative realities seeped into ours, Odi would go with her Odimensional box and toss in there sentient sandflies, walking dead, Fire Elementals, telepathic unicorns, anything that did not belong in here… she would then *shake* *shake* *shake* the box and they would all go back in peace to their realities and leave ours alone.

I used to have an Odimensional box myself, back then; brit kids made fun of my thick jap accent, so sometimes I would come back home in tears and grab the Odibox and toss Tom and Fran and Paul in there, because they were so mean, and Justin and Nick and Steven too because they laughed so hard at me… toss all of them in there except Kath and JD and Gina, who were always warm and kind; and then I would *shake* *shake* *shake* the Odibox until they were out of my mind and I could go to sleep.

I lost that first Odimensional box when we moved back to Tokyo; I´d say it had fulfilled its purpose because by that time the brit kids and the jap girl had grown into an inseparable gang. “The Naku Stompers”, we called ourselves, can´t remember why; me usually getting the whole gang in all sorts of troubles, Tom and Gina usually having to get us all out.

Good times, East London; good times.

But now the Odibox that Onii chan gave me for luck is sitting in my room now, up there in the Star, where it has sat for centuries.

And I´m down here.

Hope Rhyldan has nothing that needs tossing.

***

DAY#5

Facts: all H-P neg. Clone in perfect health. Decroux reports his blood samples read ok.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: It´s starting to feel a bit cramped in here, all five of us inside Isol; the surface area per inhabitant is much lower than onboard the Star.

It´s boring.

Wish I had brought more books.

Wish I could talk to Doc, too; I miss our talks. Asked for him today over the comms, but he was unavailable. Guess everybody onboard is as anxious as we are; Psychos must be fully booked.

Hyun-woo and Noora´s Puppy play one Hex match after another; it looks like Puppy has sniffed Hyun-woo´s weak spots because lately he´s been on a winning streak.

Farah sits all day in a corner, lotus-style, just focusing on her yoga and her breathing. She can stay so still that she could be a piece of furniture.

It kinds of make you wonder, doesn´t it? It´s a perfectly sound idea to land in a flat, deserted mesa where Zedkay is bored because she has nothing threatening to shoot; no big predators in here, that´s the whole point. Hyun-woo and me, we´ll do our tests as soon as we get out; the Golem is here as proof-of-concept for the Mnemosyne project, and Ralf is here to check how the Golem fares.

But Farah…?

There´s no way a sentient species will choose this dry and barren mountainous region to build a civilization; no way in hell. So why send her down here with us? Why send her to where there´s obviously nothing for her to find? If there were some old ruins nearby, or a city, or a village, we would have seen that from orbit.

Have we?

Is there anything close that we haven´t been told about?

Farah would have to check it; signs of native sentience override our directive to stay inside half a click from the Odgerel and heck, Zedkay and Yaco would just be thrilled to escort her to an alien marketplace or city or temple and verify firsthand that Rhyldan has sons of its own.

And then the Northern Star would have to leave orbit, and leave us behind…

Is that why this barren mesa has been chosen as first landing spot? So Farah actually does not find anything, and she can honestly confirm we´ve found no sons?

But, really… who cares? Farah is here only because our protocol tells Kjell that she has to be, and Kjell goes by the book, always. Chances of sons are close to nil. No need to worry about that.

***

DAY#6

Facts: All H-P neg. Mnemo clone in perfect health.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Doc Kourailen was right; during our last session, right before we came down, he told me that in the long run our worst enemy would be not germs, but boredom. It´s true: it´s getting to all of us.

Plus, it´s starting to reek; the air filters are not working properly, and they force us to rebreathe our own farts over and over and over.

Hyun-woo and Ralf had a heated argument over some foul play on their Hex game; they started to yell, Farah started to cry… Yaco had to pull the boys apart, like they were little kids.

I wonder if that´s part of what we are testing down here: how long can we stay locked up in Isol when all around us there´s a seemingly hospitable planet? Through the windows and feeds we can even see the Golem out there, without his suit, the wind on his face while we are in our cage in here…

It´s maddening.

I really needed to talk to Doc today, but he was unavailable; something has him very busy.

Yaco managed to locate Amanda on the comms for me and I chatted with her for a bit. She says things up there are no less tense than down here. Odd: we have travelled for centuries in perfect harmony, day after day after day, locked in our daily routines like laborious monks inside a flying monastery… but now that, after so long, we can finally lay our eyes on the prize, looks like the rule of Rational Thought has been overthrown by Tension, Anxiety and Fear.

Ralf allowed us to double our beta dose. That should help us keep our cool, I hope.

***

DAY#7

Facts: All H-P neg. Mnemo clone in perfect health.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Bored.

It´s cramped in here.

It reeks.

Yaco´s juju´s starting to work with Farah. She let him massage her nape and shoulders; let him put his strong hands around her neck.

Doesn´t she see his hands?

Big, strong, powerful. Trained for centuries; could kill us all in here without breaking a sweat. And he will, if he has to.

He can leave no trace.

Odd, right? Locked in here with a highly trained killer. With another killer standing guard Outside, her rifle ready.

Botch this, we need to get out.

***

DAY#8

Facts: No changes.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Decroux.

>OUTSIDE: Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Decroux leaves suited and returns to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings. No change. No change. No change.

Good news or bad news?

Good news, Naomi, good news. Change means something´s wrong Outside. Something wrong Outside means the Star will have to leave; if the Star has to leave, it will have to leave us behind.

Up there Doc Kourailen is always busy, busy, busy; I´ve asked Maritza to tell him I want to talk to him, that I need to. She said she´ll give him the message.

Where are you, Doc? Why don´t you talk to me?

Patience, Naomi; patience.

Just two more days; tomorrow Zedkay should be clear for unsuiting, and she´ll permanently move to the Outer area. Noora´s Puppy and Farah will get out of Isol, which should give the remaining three of us in here some more room to breathe.

Two more days.

If there´s no change.

No change is good. Two more days.

I miss my Odimensional box. Wish I had brought it with me.

***

DAY#9

Facts: Decroux unsuited today. Perfectly fine, all parameters normal. Clone: perfect health.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Hounds, Kapoor, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Empty.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux and Mnemosyne permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Zedkay´s in perfect health, bless her! She has moved permanently to the Outer area.

If all goes well, Farah and Ralf move tomorrow to Sterile.

Yesterday Yaco finally brought Farah´s barriers down, and they spent a busy, noisy night. Kind of a goodbye ritual, I guess… but can´t she see it? Or is it that she doesn´t want to see?

We are just canaries, and this is our coal mine. And if the miners have to go away they will abandon us down here.

Do canaries pray for no change?

***

DAY#10

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne: perfect health.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Space! At least a bit more space! Only three of us now in Isolation.

I´ve just realized I´m the only woman now in here, and quarantine is far from over. Hyun-woo seem mostly harmless, but Yaco…

But who cares? Zedkay is alive, and well, and changes are good: we have space in here!

***

DAY#11

Facts: Decroux and Mnemosyne: perfect health. Decroux has suffered from minor sunburns.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Zedkay got her some sunburns; I guess she was reckless, because UVs at midday barely reach 120 mW/m2.

Happened the same back in her school days, she says: would spend autumn, winter and spring over the books, then go outside all pale when summer vacations arrived, and always get too much sun on her skin. Says it´s nothing to worry about.

I think I have never heard Zedkay share anything about her life before the Star. Rhyldan´s sun out there must be really nice.

***

DAY#12

Facts: Decroux and Mnemosyne: perfect health; Decroux minor sunburns.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Rations are bland, only water to drink. The air stinks.

Chatted through radio with Ralf and Farah for a bit.

Ralf says he hates being inside a suit when he goes Out, but at least he can go Out.

Farah says the suit is ok; she has been examining every inch of the terrain she can set foot on, and scanning the horizon in every direction; she has found no traces of sentience, which of course is a good thing, but what thinking thing would live in this god forsaken mesa, anyway?

She also came with a nice piece of gossip: Zedkay goes outside with a tight tank top and shorts, and is all too happy to let the Golem cover her neck, shoulders and back with sunscreen. Just wait for this to be known above; a few of Zedkay´s fanbois are going to be sorely pissed off, and rumors of the Valkyrie and the Golem spending quality time together should give everybody something to talk about.

I dreamed of Earth yesterday. We were back in Tokyo, with Mom and Dad and Onii chan. We were all very sad for some reason, and nobody spoke.

I should have packed more carefully; I really miss my Odibox.

***

DAY#13

Facts: Decroux: perfect health. Mnemosyne: perfect health; starting today, he will drink water (boiled) taken from a stream found nearby.

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Here we go. Gavin will start drinking native today… the Dark has mercy on us if he falls sick.

There´s definitely something wrong with Doc: for some reason he either can´t or won´t talk to me.

Maybe Tomison doesn´t let him? It would be vintage Tomison, to do that: probably pissed off because Kjell chose Ralf as the expedition´s Psycho, so now Tomison refuses anybody from his team to talk to us.

***

DAY#14

Facts: Decroux: perfect health. Mnemosyne: perfect health (drinks native water, boiled).

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: The Golem´s been drinking boiled water by the gallons, Zedkay says. So far so good. Guess he´ll be peeing all over this mesa; maybe mark the perimeter of our half click radius.

***

DAY#15

Facts: Decroux: perfect health. Mnemosyne: perfect health (native water, boiled).

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: The Golem´s perfectly fine.

Farah says she can find no traces of sons.

Good.

No change; no change is good.

***

DAY#16

Facts: Decroux, perfect health. Mnemosyne, perfect health (native water, boiled).

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Little surprise, to break the monotony: I´m not the only one who misses talking with Doc. Bigger surprise: the other one is Noora´s Golem.

Can´t remember how the issue came up. Zedkay gave Gavin permission to explore a bit further; he found a little stream of water, running more or less hidden in a deep crack, and said some sort of little plants grow in the damp banks; some sort of moss from the way he described them. He wanted to know if I´d like for him to bring some samples to the Outer Lab; I said something about us having to start to think about names for this stuff we find; Yaco was overhearing, chipped in, and somehow we ended up chatting about nicknames.

At some point Gavin asks: “How about Doc?”

Yaco said: “Which one? We´ve got hundreds!”

Gavin said: “That´s my point…”

I said: “You mean Doc Kourailen?”

Gavin said: “Yes. There are hundreds of Doctors on the Star, why is he the one called `Doc´?”

I asked him why was he curious; he said: “He interviewed me.”

I said: “I thought Tomison had?”

He said: “No… Doctor Tomison interviewed my siblings.”

I asked: “Who?”

He said his siblings, Faye and Laura; the other two Mnemosynes. I didn´t know he called them siblings; they are not, as far as I know: the cloners used different DNA strands to bake them, and Ralf has told me the neural layers were unrelated.

Even Yaco was intrigued by this, and he asked: “Friend… no offense, but since siblings means sharing the same mother…”

Gavin said: “Yes, I know. But they just feel that way to me; like brother and sister.”

There was this long, awkward silence, so to break it I said: “Actually, it´s not Doc for Doctor.”

Yaco said: “You mean Kourailen?”

Gavin said: “He told me he was.”

I said: “Oh, a Doctor he is alright.”

Gavin said: “But why is he the only one called `Doc´, then?” Quite focused when his curiosity is piqued; he would make a good lab rat, if he didn´t like to be outdoors so much.

I said: “He is a chain smoker. I mean, was. Cuban cigars; always one between his fingers of lips.”

They wouldn´t believe me, so I said: “He was. Almost missed the Northern Star for that. He said `Not gonna lock myself up for two centuries without my D.O.C., my Drug of Choice, no´. He actually refused to sign up the enrollment papers. He wasn´t gonna come. Tomison tried to convince him, talk him into it, cajole him… no way. `No D.O.C. onboard, no Doc Kourailen onboard´, he kept saying, so `Doc´ kind of stuck.”

Gavin asked: “How come he did come onboard, then?”

I didn´t know, actually. In all our talks I never asked him; I guess questions were always Doc´s prerogative.

Yaco did know. He said: “Tomison tricked him.”

My turn for skepticism, so Yaco said: “I don´t know the details, and I´m not sure I wanna know. But I can assure you that the day after launch, Doc had to be dragged out of Tomison´s office. And I know this for certain because I was doing the dragging myself. Doc was kicking and screaming bloody murder; I remember him yelling at the top of his lungs, and I quote, `You lying mother fucker! You lied to me, you fucking son of a bitch!´, unquote. Over and over and over. Which probably sounds even worse when hurled among Psychos, with their oedipal crap and all. Anyway: Doc really seemed determined to murder Tomison, and he was trying really hard to break free from me, so I had to apply him a naked tranquilizer.”

I guess the tranquilizer part was a joke between them because Gavin chuckled; I don´t quite remember how the conversation steered after that.

Is it true?

Did Tomison really dirty-tricked Doc into coming onboard? It´s not something Tomison wouldn´t do to one of us, and then rationalize it with some doctor-patient asymmetry bullcrap… but would he be capable of doing something like that to someone from his own team?

I´m sorry for Doc, if Tomison really hoaxed him into joining the Star. But I´m sure glad he came with us; Doc´s the only person onboard you can really talk to.

***

DAY#17

Facts: Decroux, perfect health. Mnemosyne, perfect health (native water, boiled).

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Two days and we´ll mesh Isol and Sterile. Two days. Two days and we´ll be able to walk Out there in our suits.

Two days.

No changes, please. No changes!

***

DAY#18

Facts: No change

>ISOLATION: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>STERILE: Hounds, Kapoor.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. Kapoor and Hounds leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Farah and Yaco were chatting on the radio. She seemed very happy. Maybe Ralf doubled her dose.

Tomorrow we´ll all be together again. Can´t come too soon!

Please, Rhyldan, please… pretty please with goldilocks on top?

***

DAY#19

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne: no changes.

>ISOLATION and STERILE meshed. Five occupants: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Kapoor, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: We did it.

We´ve meshed the zones!

Took us all day, but we´ve done it. Nobody is in Isolation any more, just one big common Sterile area.

We went outside afterwards, all of us in our suits except the Valkyrie and the Golem. We left the shuttle just in time to watch Rhyldan´s sunset.

I don´t have words for it.

I´m glad I came.

Every little thing is gonna be all right, I know.

Rhyldan is Lady Goldilocks herself.

Sterile Edit

DAY#20

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne: no changes.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Kapoor, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Today we have roughly the same surface area per dweller as on the Star. We still have to share two bathrooms between us all in here but hey, nobody said the Frontier was a five star hotel.

The Golem and the Valkyrie are perfectly fine out there, bare skin against Rhyldan.

Putting on a suit is easy enough; Ralf helped me into it, and except for the helmet it´s a piece of cake. It does feel a bit cramped, but anyway. Now, returning to Sterile from Outside and having to go through D&D is a pain: the shower, the UVs, the what have you; and then you really need somebody helping you out of the suit. I wonder… how did Zedkay manage to do it all by herself, the week she was alone in here?

Anyway: best day in my life. Zedkay and Gavin have been doing a great job, got to give them that: the Outer Lab is full of samples.

We still cannot touch them with our bare hands, of course, but boy o boy can we watch. Hyun-woo has rocks in all shades of brow and red and gray, and I have enough lichen and mosses to start a new scientific field.

And come to think about it…

… that´s exactly what I am about to do.

Feels weird to write this, but facts are facts: Lieutenant Danielle Decroux will forever be remembered as the first human to step onto an extrasolar planet. And that little French poodle will also be remembered as the first human to actually interact with an alien species, because the little bitch did touch these samples first.

But!

Right now, with the Outer Lab as my witness, and as I zoom the image and peer into the lichens´ microstructure… Doctor Naomi Yamada, first human to ever study an alien lifeform.

I suppose planetfalling and quarantine are a small price to pay for getting my very own footnote in History.

***

DAY#21

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne in perfect health. Kapoor unsuited: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: There she goes, Farah the Rogue, to rub her bare skin against this brave new world!

She and Yaco had their goodbye see-you-later session last night, all night; today she was a bit teary-eyed, and of course going out without your suit to face an alien planet´s atmosphere can make anybody nervous, I´m not saying that. But, Doc, you should have seen her: she was sad because she´ll be out there unsuited, and Yaco will wear a suit any time he goes Out, and they won´t be able to kiss and touch for the next two weeks. I mean, c´mon, we are not schoolgirls anymore; haven´t been for very, very long.

And, damn it, Doc, doesn´t she see it? Petri dishes, that´s what we all are; Petri dishes.

I´m ok. I´m just a bit too tired, and a bit too stressed.

I should have brought my Odibox, to toss all these stupid feelings in it and *shake* them away so I could sleep.

***

DAY#22

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health. Kapoor, minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Farah got herself some moderate sunburns. Hadn´t it happened to Zedkay first, I would have been quite worried: red skin, raised body temperature, even something like a rash on her face. It´s odd, considering that her skin is much darker than Zedkay´s, but maybe that´s exactly the issue: the dark Rogue probably assumed she could go Out with less protection than the pale Valkyrie.

We´ll have to be careful about this; I guess we´ve all forgotten even the most basic outdoors survival skills.

***

DAY#23

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health, Kapoor minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Farah had to stay inside today, to avoid the sun. I stood in the Outer Lab with her so she wouldn´t feel alone, working on my lichen and mosses samples. We couldn´t have much of a conversation, me suited she unsuited, but maybe that was for the better; silent company is the best company, sometimes.

I miss Doc, that smug old bastard. I never felt like I was his patient, which I guess is the point. Boy, does he know how to get under your skin, but also knows when to leave you alone; only guy I´ve ever met that knows what boundaries are for.

Are you reading this, Doc?

Odd: I know I should wish you are not, because if you are, it means things got screwed down here. But oh how I wish you could read this now and give me one of those twisted grins of yours that lets me know that yeah, I´m screwed up… but then again, who isn´t, in this spacefaring asylum of ours?

I miss you, Doc.

I miss your wry smile, and our talks.

***

DAY#24

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health, Kapoor minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: All right, now I´ve seen it all. Hyun-woo and Ralf have actually asked Yaco to give them some martial arts lessons.

I cannot decide if it´s hilarious or pathetic; it´s like watching an eagle teaching worms to fly. I´ve heard that if both are unarmed, young, and fight by the rules, Taak overcomes Yaco twice out of three… but Yaco with a knife? He moves like a steel-tongued Cobra; it´s not even possible to know which hand he is holding his blade with. He is a good, patient teacher though, I´ll give him that. He somehow managed to prevent the other two clowns from slicing their own fingers with their knives. They were laughing all the time, the three of them.

They just don´t see it, Ralf and Hyun-woo. Or is it that they don´t want to?

I took Ralf aside while Yaco was busy reporting Up.

I asked: “Ralf, don´t you see?”

He asked: “See what?”

I asked: “Don´t you know why Yaco is here?”

He said: “Yeah… the best pilot and radio operator onboard…”

I sighed. I said: “Wake up, Ralf! Kyle Williams is the best shuttle pilot on the Star, not Yaco!”

He looked at me; damn I hate it when he puts his puzzled Puppy face.

“Don´t you see it?” I said. “We are all the best at what we are supposed to do down here. What is Yaco the best at?”

Again that lost Puppy face. He said: “I´m not better than Letty or Thomas…”

I said: “At least as good; plus you´re the only one that can walk without a cane, and can double as a Psycho if we need you too.”

He asked: “Your point?”

“We are all the best onboard,” I insisted. “The best at what we do best. Just think about it.”

He was about to say something when Yaco shouted from the Comm room: “Hey, Puppy! Your boss wants a word with you!”

He gave me one last grumpy Puppy look, and beckoned to his Mistress´ call.

They just don´t get it, Ralf and the others. Zedkay and Yaco are not here to protect us. If things go even slightly wrong, they are here to wipe us out. Literally. Wipe us out, wipe Rhyldan clean. The Star can leave no traces behind, if it has to leave.

That´s what they are the best at: best at killing with her rifle; best at killing with his bare hands.

Why can´t Ralf see it? Is he blind, or just pretending to be?

***

DAY#25

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health, Kapoor minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Ralf and Yaco stick with the training pantomime, but Hyun-woo has already got bored with it; he spent the day in the Outer Lab talking with Farah about stones and rocks and what type of ancient Terran civilizations used areas similar to this as their habitat.

Farah says that both North and South American natives made a living in mesas like this, but I seriously doubt it; I mean, we can see a forest several clicks away: wouldn´t you build your village there instead of here?

I got an extra ration of betablockers from Ralf. I guess he can be a good Puppy when he really wants to.

***

DAY#26

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Sent some images of my lichen to Kabura. So far I´ve found nothing that could tell us that these little fellows come from a planet other than Earth. I mean, this could be something somebody has just found on some rocky plain in Anatolia. Hyun-woo is running his own batch of GC-MSs to see what our little aliens are made off, but here´s my bet: will be just as any Terran lichen.

Farah let Gavin spread a ton of sunscreen over her and went Outside today. She has found nothing yet. Good girl!

***

DAY#27

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Hounds, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor permanently unsuited. All others leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Kabura confirmed my suspicions. Both the Research and the Hydroponics teams went through my scans, images and data; if they hadn’t known my lichen was from Down here, they would have assumed it was some recently discovered Terran species. Hyun-woo says the same: composition similar to our own stuff.

Guess I should have made that bet with someone, eh, Doc?

But doesn´t it feel just too good to be true?

How come everything down here so far seems like it was built for humans?

As if using Earth´s Basic Design Handbook?

***

DAY#28

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor: perfect health. Hounds unsuited: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds permanently unsuited. Those in Sterile leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Puppy´s turn today and there he goes, to run wild around Rhyldan with no suit.

He went Outside with no helmet on, took a deep long breath, then gave Gavin the longest hug. Like long-lost family. Kind of makes you wonder what´s their relationship, really; does Gavin regard Ralf as his father?

But then Letty and Thomas should also be his parents, right? Guess that´s why you were so interested in Gavin, Doc. And why Tomison and his mindwrecking crew were so interested in the other two Mnemosynes.

What´s keeping you, Doc? Maritza says everything´s okay up there. Why don´t you talk to me?

Or Gavin?

Or any of us?

***

DAY#29

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds: perfect health. Hounds: minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds permanently unsuited. Those in Sterile leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Ok, this is getting old. Now the Puppy got his skin all red and hot. Choi says we should not worry, but I´m not so sure. Ralf was careful, I know he was; I saw when Farah covered him with a think layer of sunscreen. Of course, she couldn´t miss the opportunity to flirt with the puppy all the time, but she did a good job with the screen, and Ralf even went outside with this huge cowboy hat that he must have saved during the whole Star trip just for this very moment. Still, got his face and neck all rashy and red.

Does the sun here have something our sunscreens cannot block? When I asked him, Hyun-woo literally laughed in my face and told me to take the dust off my Astronomy 101 notes. Whatever: maybe it´s because this is the first time our skins are exposed to it, but there seems to be something in the sun that affects us differently here. Although it did not affect Gavin, come to think of it. Perhaps I should ask Danio for Gavin´s blueprint.

***

DAY#30

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds: perfect health. Hounds: minor sunburns

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds permanently unsuited. Those in Sterile leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: I miss our talks, Doc. I miss my quiet lab Up there. I miss my box, and I miss my room. I haven´t had roommates for centuries; now I have two, and one of them is an elite murderer.

They just don´t get it, Doc. They just don´t get it.

Petri dishes.

That´s what we are, all seven of us Down here. Lab mice. Litmus paper. They just don´t see it, Doc. They don´t.

If I find a killer bug, we cannot stay. If any of us falls sick, we cannot stay. Dark gods forbid it, if we stumble upon some sons, we cannot stay. But of course we cannot go back Up while under quarantine: the risk of infecting the Northern Star must be kept at absolute zero. Bottom line is: if anything goes wrong and makes Rhyldan off limits for humans, then the Northern Star will have to leave the system, and leave us down here. And Kjell´s final order for us will be to wipe out our footprints.

We cannot just leave the Odgerel parked here, can we? Maybe there are no sons on Rhyldan now, but there could be in a thousand, or ten thousands, or a million years. We are the aliens; we cannot leave traces of our presence.

That´s why Yaco is in here, and Zedkay is out there: to wipe us out if things go wrong. To erase our tech footprint; that would be their last directive.

Don´t the others see it?

How I wish you were Down here, Doc. You never gave me an answer to a direct question; but at least you never pretended to have any.

***

DAY#31

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds permanently unsuited. Those in Sterile leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Asked Ralf for another extra helping of betas. Feels weird to talk through radio with someone you have just one wall away: he was Out, I was in Sterile, and I didn´t feel like going through all the trouble to suit, D&D, unsuit. It feels even weirder to ask Noora´s Puppy for permission to do something. Perhaps I just needed to talk to somebody, I don´t know.

I said: “Ralf… this is getting on my nerves.”

He said: “Hang in there, Naomi. You are doing great.”

I leaned against the partition wall, separating Sterile from Outer; I imagined he was doing the same.

I said: “Don´t say that, Puppy.”

He said: “Why not?”

I said: “Happens every time. Don´t you see movies? Things get screwed up right when they are about to get better.”

He laughed. He said: “Hang in there, Geisha girl. We are making History, not movies.” I know he was smiling; he can be sweet when he wants to, Puppy.

I said: “Hope you are right, Ralf.”

He said: “Me too.” Serious but comforting. “Everything is perfect Out here. Just hang in there.”

I said I would, and that some extra betas would help me with it, and he said yes, of course.

Then he said: “Just let me tell Yaco, so he knows you are taking some extra.”

It´s the procedure, so I said: “Yeah, sure. Thanks, Ralf.”

He said: “No problem, Geisha girl. Just hang in there.”

He is just as blind as all the others. But I like how he says “girl”. And he did give me extra betas.

***

DAY#32

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds: perfect health.

>STERILE: Choi, Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds permanently unsuited. Those in Sterile leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Everything according to plan so far. Best laid plans of lab mice and science men…

Farah has found nothing. I have found nothing. So far so good.

Yes: no change, good change.

The Valkyrie and the Golem are playing soldiers out there, and the Puppy is running along with them. She has already tested every weapon in her arsenal; apparently all her toys are deadly to Rhyldan´s rocks. Yeah; I´m sure she prays every night for this brave new world to send us some big mean hungry monster so she can shoot it while Yaco turns it into a bloody wailing mass of alien broken tissue.

Maybe on the woods to the Southwest she´ll find some interstellar cousins of our wolves, or bears, or whatever; wonder how long it will take us to make these ones extinct. But we just can´t go there to have a closer look, anyway: orders are orders, and that goes double for Zedkay. We are not to leave this mesa.

Hyun-woo´s turn to go out tomorrow, without his suit.

Break Edit

DAY#33

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds: perfect health. Choi unsuited: perfect health.

>STERILE: Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited. Souza & Yamada leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: The minute he was out there unsuited, Hyun-woo went straight to the Outer Lab and launched himself bare-handed over his samples. I mean, it was almost softcore porn, the way he touched and caressed rocks and stones and pebbles. To each his own, I guess. Now he is out in the field collecting and studying rocks as if he could, like a reverse fortune teller, tell us all about Rhyldan´s past just by reading a few lines on its palm. And he probably can, I´ll give him that: how old is this mesa we are standing on, and soil composition, and tectonic shifts and blah blah blah. More important: he does say CHNOPS looks promising; he´s been talking with Gudrun Brown, and Gudrun concurs. A bit too low on this arid patch of dirt, but should be goldilocks in the woods we see in the distance.

I told him to take care of the sun, but he paid me no attention. Ten Creds says he´ll get his sunburns for tomorrow.

***

DAY#34

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi: perfect health. Choi: minor sunburns.

>STERILE: Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited. Souza & Yamada leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Like clockwork. There´s something in this sun´s spectrum that doesn´t tan us right; Hyun-woo´s skin is all red and sore; he has a splitting headache.

Well… serves him right, what can I say.

About a week to go and I get to go out without a suit myself. Soon, soon; let´s take it one day at a time.

All goes well so far.

***

DAY#35

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Hounds, Choi: perfect health. Kapoor: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Damn it. I knew I shouldn´t have written that. Farah seems to be sick.

Visible symptoms include coughing, pharyngitis, rhinitis, and sneezing. She reports muscle and head ache, and loss of appetite.

Hyun-woo took a blood sample from her; I requested him to see if he can get anything to culture.

***

DAY#36

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Choi: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Whatever this is, Ralf has it too: head and muscle ache, fatigue, rhinitis, pharyngitis.

Symptoms are consistent with coronaviruses.

I cannot believe I just wrote that, but they are. Those are the symptoms.

Choi is running the tests for me in the Outer Lab and feeding me data; we´re looking at everything in their blood samples, but so far there´s nothing. We´ve started cultures and plated for plaques; I don't even know what to hope for.

It is maddening not to be able to get my own hands on the samples, but I cannot bring them in here without breaching Sterile. And I cannot go Out anymore; Choi and Ralf will have to be my remote-controlled lab bots.

This has become Isolation again.

Yaco and Zedkay have not reported it to the Star yet. Dark gods, let this be nothing.

***

DAY#37

Facts: Decroux, Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Dark gods help us, it´s spreading. Now Hyun-woo, same symptoms.

It´s killing me to be locked in here, but Yaco was adamant: we follow procedure to the letter.

Ralf is getting better: nothing more than a running nose. This gives me hope; maybe it´s nothing serious, and our immune system can cope with it…

… but Farah is getting worse: today she was coughing, wheezing, and had serious trouble breathing.

Ralf is replacing Hyun-woo on the tests: zero plaques so far, and the culture flasks are all negative.

What are we fighting against?

Yaco and Zedkay had an argument about reporting the situation. Odd: it was Zedkay who was against it. But Yaco is still inside the Odgerel: protocol gives him priority.

He has given me one more day. He´ll report it tomorrow.

***

DAY#38

Facts: Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi, Decroux: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Zedkay now. Nothing serious in her case, just very mild symptoms, but consistent with previous cases.

Farah is better; Ralf and Hyun-woo are stable.

Yaco had to report it, and he did. He comm´d what little data I have gathered, which basically means I have no clue what´s going on: no plaques, no cultures, not a damn thing. We are facing an undetectable germ.

Which means that shots will be called from the Star. And if Amanda or Kabura decide this is bad news, they will leave us Down here.

Botch this.

Are you reading this, Doc? Reading this as the Northern Star disengages from orbit and leave us behind?

Will Kjell allow Jenkins to clone us up there while we are still alive down here? Or will he wait, I don´t know… a hundred years, to make sure that even if we manage to pull a Crusoe, we are all dead by then?

But we won´t. What am I thinking?

We won´t survive past the Star leaving: Zedkay and Yaco will take care of that. They will shoot us, then fly to the middle of the ocean, then blast the shuttle there. Their last directive: wipe out our tech footprint. That´s what they are here for.

But that will allow Kjell to clone us immediately, right? He will. Yes, he will; Kjell will just wait for Zedkay to confirm she has finished with us; maybe wait for the Star´s scanners to pick the shuttle´s explosion right over some deep oceanic pit. Then he will greenlight Jenkins to clone us, and only then dislodge the Star from orbit.

Will Yaco shoot me? Or will he prefer to slit my throat?

Stop it.

Stop it.

Or will he just break my neck?

Stop it, Naomi! Enough!

You are right, Doc: I have to stop it. Get hold of myself.

Come on, Naomi. Stop it.

Focus, Naomi. Focus.

***

DAY#39

Facts: Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi, Decroux: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Fact#1: IgE is through the roof in blood samples from all affected. Am I fighting an alien parasite, and not a virus?

Fact#2: So far, Gavin seems unaffected. And he has been out there the longest. Maybe the key is in his blueprint?

Feelings: I cannot connect anything with anything.

They are all stable; that´s good. The Star has not left yet; that´s even better.

But Kjell won´t land unless we can guarantee him that this is not going to get worse. And Yaco is watching my every move.

What the botched dark should I be looking for?

IgE at least gives us something to work with. I´ve told Ralf to set up a pull down assay with the isolated antibodies. This has got to give us the antigen. It has to.

And Gavin. He is not affected. He has to be the key.

***

DAY#40

Facts: Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi, Decroux: in observation.

>STERILE (lockdown): Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited.

Feelings: Ishizaka-san be praised, I think I´ve got it; Gavin did have the key. Or so I hope.

Both Ralf and Choi are running separate tests for me out there. Not blood samples this time, but air particulate samples.

Are you reading this, Doc? Well… I won´t write it until I´m sure.

Wish me luck.

Wish us all luck.

***

DAY#41

Facts: Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi, Decroux: healthy, in observation.

>STERILE: Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited. Souza & Yamada leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Done.

I did it, Doc. I did it!

Last pocket you look into!

Although credit where credit is due: the E to the Eureka belongs to Gavin. Two days ago he said: “The wind has changed. Maybe that´s it?”

I asked: “Changed how?”

He said: “Much stronger than during previous days. Shifted from North to Southwest; comes from the woods, now. You can smell it in the air. I mean, you cannot, not inside a suit or inside Sterile, but Out here it smells like springtime now. Don´t ask me how I know it, but I know it.”

And of course it does; Rhyldan was approaching its vernal equinox when we landed, and that was forty days ago.

That´s the answer to this riddle: what´s microscopic, organic, but it´s not a germ? A little help: can´t dissolve it in hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid.

Yes, of course! Botched pollen!

That´s how Ralf and Hyun-woo and Farah will get their first footnote in History books, and Zedkay will get her third or fourth: they are the first cases of alien hay fever. From what we´ve seen so far, seems serious enough to require taking some precautions, but treatment is simple: about 50 mg of Pentadron work as a charm. Symptoms removed, IgE dropped down to normal in all cases. And the “sunburns” everybody was getting as soon as they unsuited, that was not the sun: it was just a mild, first episode.

I still don´t know allergic to what, exactly, but this has to be due to some cross reactive allergen that we have onboard. From Hydroponics, that´s my bet; Amanda and Kabura and Jenkins will have one hell of an allergen hunt Up there. But that´s why our Flesh Golem is not affected: he has not been exposed long enough to the Star´s ecosystem; he has only spent three months on the ship.

Which makes Gavin even more suited to this new world than any of us could have possibly guessed. The only one that Rhyldan has fully and truly welcomed.

But what matters is: this is treatable.

This is not viral.

We can stay.

We can stay, Doc. We can stay in Rhyldan.

***

DAY#42

Facts: Mnemosyne: healthy. Kapoor, Hounds, Choi, Decroux: healthy, in observation.

>STERILE: Souza, Yamada.

>OUTSIDE: Decroux, Mnemosyne, Kapoor, Hounds, Choi permanently unsuited. Souza & Yamada leave suited and return to Sterile after D&D.

Feelings: Captain Kjell called! He wanted to talk to me!

Yaco put him through. He said: “Good job, Doctor Yamada. You have solved a potentially disastrous situation.”

I just froze there. I couldn’t speak. Yaco had to nudge me so I could stammer some generic thank you Sir, thank you so much. But the Captain was really, really happy; you could tell by the way he said “Good job” at least three times. Amanda and Kabura were on the line, too; Amanda said I´ve made the whole Med crew proud.

And while talking to Amanda and Kabura, it dawned upon us: this cross reaction alludes to our biochemistry being compatible with Rhyldan´s. If the local pollen can affect us, maybe the local flora can feed us, and supplement the vegetables that Gudrun is planning to grow down here. Maybe we´ll even be able to eat the local fauna, if it exists.

And I´m in no mood for debating broad-spectrum corollaries, but… same Basic Design Handbook, anyone?

After the Captain and the Heads were out, Yaco and I were left alone in the silence of the Comm room.

He said: “You saved us all, Naomi.” Not a trace of his usual smile or swagger. He was dead serious.

Could he have done it, if Kjell had ordered him to? Murder us all, then drown the shuttle in the middle of an ocean?

I remember. I remember how Zedkay said it at the Auditorium, when Kjell announced who were the Seven: Zedkay called us expendable. She was looking at Lopez, and that´s why most people thought she was talking about the Mnemosynes. But she was talking about clones in general; she was talking about all seven of us down here.

That´s what we are, after all: disposable Petri dishes.

But healthy Petri dishes now.

Thanks to this little Geisha that could.

I told Yaco: “Guess we have the same job now, don´t we? Keeping everybody safe?”

He said: “Yes… I think we do.”

Smiling.

He does have a huge smile.

***

DAY#43

Facts&Feelings:

I´m the last explorer in Sterile right now. I´ll go out in a few moments, as soon as I´m done writing this; then we´ll mesh all the zones, and we´ll all be out of our suits.

I know I´m not gonna die: I can see they are all perfectly fine out there. Zedkay looks even better than when she was onboard: life outdoors has painted her cheeks and arms with the nice, healthy tan that none of us has enjoyed since we locked ourselves up in our space-flying coffin. The Valkyrie´s skin is now as dark as the Rogue´s.

Yaco has just left Sterile and all others are congratulating him; Farah is actually kissing him, and his huge strong hands are all over her. Noora´s Puppy is looking at me while I finish writing this. Dream on, Puppy; dream on.

So.

This is it.

I´ll be the last of Kjell´s Seven to go through Sterile´s hatch with no helmet wrapped around my head. Then it´s another forty days down here while we double-check if Rhyldan is fine for us; and if we are all still alive and healthy, about six weeks from now the Odgerel will have siblings: more shuttles will land.

Colonization will begin in earnest.

Mankind´s first extrasolar settlement.

All right…

Will any of us catch a fever tomorrow?

A real infection this time, some killer alien smallpox or RAMS or influenza? For all we know, this Mesa here could very well be some germ-free pre-Hispanic America, and there may be a bubonic plague waiting for us in some other continent.

The others are all knocking at the glass now, laughing, calling me to come Out already.

Anyway.

Only one way to find out.

Okay, Rhyldan…

Here I come.


Next: Epilogue

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