Across The Universe

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 21 (v.1) - 21

Submitted: July 05, 2018

Reads: 72

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Submitted: July 05, 2018



The thing about the hub was that it was loud, even the walls of the centre couldn't hide that.  Outside them, the noise was deafening.  Max was also suffering from the aftereffects what Ortega called unconscious sensory deprivation.  Because he was shut down, his senses weren't working, for all intents and purposes, he was mostly dead.  Now, the sounds, which would have been too loud for him normally, were turned up to eleven.


With the help of Nunia, Max walked around the centre on shaky legs under Ortega's watchful eye.  When he regained the strength in his limbs, Max was allowed discharge, but he had to remain with someone to watch over him, and he had to come back in the evening for another checkup.


"Have you considered that you worry too much?"  Max asked him, wincing as he opened the door and heard the full blast of the noise.


"Have you considered that that is what keeps you alive?"  Ortega shot back, then looked at him, concerned.  "If you're not feeling up to going out there right now, you can come back and have a lie-down."


"I think I've had enough of lying down," Max assured him.


"How would you know, you were unconscious for most of it," Ortega said, crossing his arms.  Max held up his hands and shrugged, before leaving the room.


The first thing that hit him was the smell.  Max had always been sensitive of smells, and the place stunk of new material, polysilien, and motor oil.  It was suffocating and cloying, unbearable was putting it lightly.  Breathing through his mouth, Max was suddenly looking for an exit.  Even the odd chemical scent of the desert outside was preferable to this.


Eventually he found a doorway and carelessly stepped in the airlock, punching the button to shut the door behind him, before escaping into the fresh air.  Squinting in the bright light, Max lifted his hand to his face to look around himself, seeing people both in and out of protective suits surrounding the hub.  Some were working on the building, while others were working bots to carve up the landscape, the sand turning orange as the under reached the top.  He could see they were adding something to the fields that looked suspiciously like dirt.


The hub had a protective shield that laid on top of it, and the effect was somewhat similar to a tarp being pulled tight over a log.  On four corners, there was a gentle slope that lead to the highest peak, and Max went to one of the corners and walked up a short distance before sitting down, staring off as the people toiled below him, preparing the land for the first plantings, which would happen at any moment, he suspected.


Surveying drones hovered over him momentarily, and he waved at one before it flew off, rapidly disappearing into the distance, searching for life and plant matter to document.


A person moved away from the field and waved at Max.  He could recognize Lee, and he waved back, watching as he came to the corner.  "Can I put you to work?"  Lee called to him, and Max shook his head.


"No, I'm still recovering," he called back, and Lee nodded.


"Convenient excuse," Lee shot at him.


Patting the polysilien beside him, Max encouraged Lee to bugger of from work for a few minutes.  It didn't take much more than that to get him to listen.


"How's it going?"  Max asked, when he was sitting.


Lee nodded, staring out at the work with a seasoned eye.  "Great, especially considering that it's not actually just sand out there," he said.  "It's actually a highly-concentrated mix of sand to loose grit."  Max nodded blankly, and Lee laughed.  "It's more conducive to growing, though we could have gotten it to work no matter what."


"What's that stuff you're putting on the field?"  Max asked, pointing to the dirt.


"Compost from the station," Lee answered, totally in his element.  "I tell you, after a little more than five years, quite a bit built up."


Max made a face.  "When you say compost, you mean-"


"Everything that's biodegradable," Lee said, nodding.  "Where did you think we were going to get the fertilizer?"  Max grimaced and looked away.  "Hey, we might not have singing lions, but this really is the circle of life," Lee said, then smirked, knocking into Max's shoulder.  "You've been round long enough to know everything is shit."


Covering his face, Max couldn't help but laugh.  "You make it sound so appealing, what you're doing."


Taking a deep breath, Lee scanned the horizon, and Max could almost see that he was imagining it not as a wasteland, but a land of green and plenty.  Sitting next to the botanist, Max could almost see it too.


"Do you know what this project's called?"  Lee asked, a thoughtful look on his face.  Max thought, but he couldn't remember.  It hadn't seemed important enough to remember.  "It's called the Yacouba Project, because ages ago, a man named Yacouba Sawadogo turned part of the desert into workable farmland, by restoring the land with time honoured technics and basic science."


Max lingered on that fact.  "Do you think he'd be happy to know that we named the project after him?"  He asked.  "I mean, I imagine we're doing what he did, only more extreme in every manner."


Lee shrugged.  "He probably would have appreciated if the ones who picked the name had given tribute to his family," he said sensibly.  "But that is something that always conveniently slips people's minds."  He smacked Max in the back and got up.  "Well, I have to get back to work.  Shit's not going to till itself."


Shaking his head, Max laid back on the hot roof, feeling some comfort in the warmth from Solas.

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