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The First Few Weeks - Peacekeeper fiction

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From the journal of Samuel Reed, construction engineer, Peacekeepers.
Planetfall Day in the Year of Landing (0/PD)

The mass rush to move people and equipment from the Unity to our new home, set up pre-fabricated shelters, power generators, water purifiers, environmental control units, and storage areas for our equipment and supplies has finished. Everyone appears thoroughly exhausted. Hopefully the tents will remain standing in the heavy winds that built up when the temperature starting dropping for the evening. My wife, Helen, and I share a shelter with 9 other couples. We have hung blankets from the ceiling to give each couple some privacy. We have two toilets and two showers shared by the 20 of us, and one large common room which we all use.

Day 0 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.0)

Three of our supply tents collapsed in the winds overnight. A number of us, myself included spent a good part of the morning collecting the supplies that were spread all over. I think we found all that was lost.

After lunch, one of our scientists had a proposal about building solid bricks and concrete from natural materials. Four others and I were asked to try it out and see how well it worked. We took the excavating tool connected it up to the generator from the Unity and extracted about 100 pounds of materials. We then proceeded to make the bricks and back them under reflecting mirrors also from the Unity. This worked quite well, but I think a kiln would have worked better, so I suggested it to the scientist. He accessed on his computer the Encyclopedia Britannica, Special UNS Unity Edition [EBSUE for short] (includes complete technical know-how details for all known earth technologies and was assembled specifically for this mission), checked out the information of building kilns for bricks and other ceramics. Then he recommended to the planning people that early on we construct a kiln using bricks constructed with this more primitive method and this was given the go ahead. So the five of us under his direction started building this primitive kiln to bake bricks for now and other ceramics in the future.

The cement was more difficult, we had to experiment with the correct amount of native water to use with the various minerals to find out a good mixture that set quickly and bonded strongly. When we called it quits we had two different formulas that might do it. So we tried both out and will check back tomorrow to determine how well that performed.

After dinner, the colony gathered in a number of the common rooms and aided by the communicators we obtained from the Unity, discussed what sort of government we would like to have. Many proposals were made, most in favor of a highly democratic society that protects the rights of all citizens. We elected a colony board consisting of 15 councilors and they selected from among themselves, Pravin Lal as the Commissioner for the colony. Each councilor serves for three years, with 5 positions open for re-election each year. We left to them to develop a detailed constitution for our new colony that developed in further details what we had agreed upon in general.

Another late night, I was exhausted again, first from the heavy labor from the day, and second from the debated of the evening. I will hit my pillow and be out quickly tonight.

Day 1 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.1)

Sleep like a log last night, Helen and I got up at dawn and was lucky to get right into the showers. At times, there is 4 or 5 people waiting to use of them. We got dressed and resumed our duties. Helen was working to set up some of the medical facilities that we acquired from the Unity. I for one am glad that Pravin Lal went out his way to get us the majority of the Unity's medical equipment. Helen is a trained nurse practitioner, a trained surgical nurse, and a trained metabolic expert. She will be helping our three physicians and two surgeons.

I returned to our brickworks and found that of the two samples we left overnight, one was clearly better than the other was. The five of us started working earnestly on building the kiln, a large oven where bricks and eventually ceramics can be baked to harden them. Using plans from EBSUE, we are endeavoring to create a small building, 20 meters by 15 meters, with a large oven that will burn coal. We were fortunate in that our explorers had reported a coal deposit within 15 kilometers from our site. A few workers are working on mining some coal and bringing it back to the colony. Today I spent making bricks and hardening them with the mirrors while others dug and prepared to lay the concrete foundation for the building.

After dinner, Helen & I and another couple played a couple rubbers of bridge to relax and then went to bed.

Day 2 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.2)

When I got to the brickworks site, I found others were already pumping out the rainwater that had come from last night's showers. We focused the mirrors on the ground to help it to dry faster. While we waited, we starting mixing the large amounts of concrete the foundation would require. Around 7 o'clock, we started pouring the foundation. 7 o'clock - These 18-hour days take some adjusting to. Dawn occurs around 4:30, noon at 9:00, and sunset around 13:30. So this was about two and half hours after dawn, we started pouring. We finished around 13 o'clock. Then we spent an hour, putting up tents to protect the drying cement from the storm; our meteorologist was focusing for early next morning. We put in extra effort to insure that the high winds would not pull it down.

After dinner, Helen & I and the same couple played a couple more rubber of bridge. I was lucky and got one hand with 12 hearts, only missing the 6 of hearts, and a low spade. I opened with 2 Hearts, then my wife jumped to 3 Spades, showing that she held a significant number of points. I bid 4 no trump asking her for the number of aces she held, and my wife responded that she had 2 aces by bidding 4 hearts. I was excited and decided to gamble slightly so I bid 7 hearts. Then my opponent after my wife passed doubled, I passed, but my wife redoubled. She had the Ace of Spades, so we cleaned up. All 13 tricks, a redoubled grand slam made when we were vulnerable. What a hand. The second rubber was a lot closer; we lost it by 200 points.


Day 3 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.3)

Heavy rains today, the tent we put up stood up to the rains and winds. Very limited sunlight, so the cement did not dry all day. We used the time to set-up some additional storage tents, well secured against the heavy winds. It was a wet and soggy day and I for one enjoyed my nice long shower when I finally returned to my tent.

I went to bed tonight before Helen returned to our tent for the night. I got a message that she was assisting in surgery on a critically wounded patient. He had got thrown down a cliff by the winds and was partially crushed when the machine he was working on feel after him. Helen will probably tell me more about it tomorrow. Before going to bed, I just stayed in the common room and talked about old times in Kansas and listened to other's earth stories.

Day 4 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.4)

I woke up this morning and found Helen dead asleep next to me. I decided not to wake her, so I slipped out quietly and prepared myself for the days activities. The sun was shining this morning, so we might be able to resume work on the brickworks.

I arrived at the site, and found others already trying to remove the tent we had erected to protect the foundation from the weather. The foundation had hardened, but we wondered if it was hard enough. We used the mirrors on it for a couple of hours, while we prepared more bricks. Then we started laying bricks and applying cement. We built the four walls starting at the bottom, and when we reached 2.25 meters we started stacking the bricks closer towards the center of the building. We did not finish the roof (the every closer layers of bricks), so we put the tent up again to protect the brickworks from any storms that might occur, and then we back to our shelters for the night.

Helen had prepared my dinner for me. I wolfed it down, as I was so hungry. As I just poured food into myself, she described her past and current days to me. She had had it quiet most of the day, just unloading equipment and organizing it in the shelter setup for the hospital. Around 12:30, this is late in the afternoon on our new clocks, a worker was brought in on a stretcher. He was working with one of the agricultural robots, when he got to near to the 20-meter cliff to the south of our colony. It stumbled and knocked him over the cliff, and then fell over itself. The man suffered numerous internal injuries and broken bones and was barely alive when brought into the hospital. Everyone there all stopped unpacking boxes, and devoted our attentions to saving his life. They hooked him up to a cryogenic unit and slowed his system down about 90%. Almost to cold sleep, like we experienced in the journey here. Then both regular surgeons and Commissioner Pravin Lal (in his surgical capacity), one of the physicians, my wife, 3 other nurses then started to repair him. My wife told me the details, in layman's terms, but they are too much for me to remember to put down here. They spent 8 hours repairing him, and when she left at 2:00, he was going to make it. She came home and crashed. When she woke up she found me gone, was glad that I had let her sleep. She got herself ready and returned to the hospital around 10:00. The man was doing much better. They had taken him of the cryogenic unit and had him on full life support. His body was healing, but it would take some time, so full life support would be used so as to let his body's energies go to his healing. Helen told me that one of the man's co-workers had come in to see him and told her that the robot was not damaged from the accident. The wonders of technology, the robot whose fall almost killed a man survived without damage.

We went to bed early, worn out from all the activities of the last days.


Day 5 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.5)

We both woke up on this clear sunny morning, showered, dressed, ate, and proceeded to our jobs.

We continued work on the brickworks. We finished the roof of closer and closer bricks. We then started on the oven. It would burn coal at the bottom and the hot air would travel up and around the central compartment where the bricks would be placed for hardening. We arranged for a pipe to be built to let us release some of the hot air if needed. I found out later that our pipe would feed into a water heating building used to heat up unpurified water for bathing and other non-internal uses. It didn't surprise me. Everyone seems to be trying to make the most of the little we can do. The oven was about half done, when we quit for the day.

I returned to my assigned shelter to find Helen with dinner already complete. She told me that the council has ordered everyone to take at least two days off this decurn, and at least 3 in future decurns. She wanted to take off tomorrow. I called my construction coordinator on the communicator in the shelter and got the day off as well. We played a couple of rubbers of bridge with the same couple as usual. Nothing spectacular.

Day 6 in the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.6)

My first day off started by off well. Both Helen & I slept late and when we awoken we decided to remain in bed for awhile. We got up and showered, we needed that, got dressed and ate breakfast.

We got permission to go up to the peak about 3 kilometers away. We packed a lunch, put on our breathers to survive in the environment, and left the colony on foot. We walked on land no one has every walked before. The growths, so different from back home on Earth, the colors and shades distinctly non-terran in nature. It was exhilarating and made us feel so alive. The plants were in full bloom; I take it as Spring here, a myriad of colors decorating the environment. We proceeded carefully to the top of the peak, passing a small crystal lake on the way.

The top of the peak, higher than another other point for many tens of kilometers, gave us a sight of awe, the untamed and beauty of nature at its best. Back on Earth, we had destroyed many places like this, either by cutting down all the trees, or with some form of pollution. That must not happen here. Helen first observed the formation off in the distance that resembled a wolf's head from this angle. She called it Wolfshead Peak and I suggested she tell the surveyors about it when we returned. She did and they said they would use it. It has two rocky formations on the side for the ears, and a moss covered rounded peak in the center. Truly gorgeous.

We ate lunch up here, enjoying the brilliant sunny day with no clouds in the sky. We really felt alive and in tune with the planet. We sat and talked for hours. Finally, we decided to return to the colony. We started the trek home observing more wonders on our way back.

As we grew close to the colony, we could see the pre-fab buildings and tents defining our dwelling place. It looked like a refuge camp that was set up after a hurricane. People scampering from one point to another trying to get many things done. But it is home.

At dinner, we shared our hike with all those in our shelter. Many others said they would try it themselves on their day off. It was a good day. We were relaxed for the first time since Planetfall. We slept well that night.

Day 7 of the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.7)

We went back to work today. I found that my co-workers had finished the oven, so today I and two others (as the other two took the day off) experimented with controlling the heat of the oven, and timing of the baking. After a number of near successes, we finally came up with we thought was a good procedure for brick construction and baking. We would mix the bricks outside according to the formula we had developed. Then we would put 2 dozen bricks in one slot in the oven. I know the oven does not have slots, but by allocating the total space into 5 slots, it became easier to management. We would remove the bricks from the slot, which had been in the oven the longest. These bricks have been in the oven for about an hour, and were finished. We would stack them outside the brickworks, for any that needed them to come and get. This could be done by one person and could continue night and day. We talked it over with the construction manager who assigned so less skilled labor to man it and arrange a schedule for one of us five to inspect it periodically. We did finish the day making bricks. Tomorrow we would all have new assignments.

Helen was late for dinner tonight as she had to assist in another surgery for the man who was crushed by the agricultural robot after falling over the cliff. He had developed a problem with his kidney, and they had to reconnect a number of the tubes connected to it. She knows the exact names, I don't; medicine was never my cup of tea. I cooked dinner for us tonight. Not as good as hers but it was sufficient. She was tired when she got home. It was fairly difficult work for her today. We read an old story together tonight to help us unwind before going to bed.


Day 8 of the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.8 )

Today, I was assigned to work on building the animal buildings, those building where we will raise our livestock. Using the EBSUE, we found a couple of workable plans. We discussed them with the animal husbandry expert and decided to use the more complex one, that separated the overall building into many sections including some where crops could be grow that they could eat directly. Our primary building material, bricks and concrete, with glass domes and glass windows provided light into the buildings. This task would take us weeks. So much to be done, and so few workers. Many had be recruited to start tilling the land and planting seed. Some of those would move to these buildings as they were completed. Part of the time limitation was the amount of bricks, concrete, and glass the colony could produce and they other needs for these as well. Some parts of each building would have a solid foundation with the remainder open to the ground the facilitate growing crops for fodder. We started preparing the foundations, including a solid base on which we would lay the bricks. By nightfall, we were ready to start laying the foundation, so we determined that would be done the next morning.

Helen got home early and had dinner ready tonight. Her cooking is so much better than mine. Her patient is recovering nicely now. He should be out of the hospital in a few days. We played a couple more rubbers of bridge tonight. No one really got a good hand.

Day 9 of the First Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/01.9)

Helen & I both had the day off, so we slept late and got up slowly. We wanted to go out hiking again, but no breathers were available, so we stayed inside and played a classic computer game from the early 21st century, Alpha Centauri II, with 5 people on each team running a faction. We were doing quite well as the University until we were double-crossed by the Morgans. We found out later that the Human Hive paid them excessive amounts of energy to do that to us. At that point, it was just trying to survive for the next few years. We did manage to conquer the human hive and the morgans near the end of the game, but the Gaians went on to ascension right afterwards. It was an enjoyable game. Hopefully we will not result in that amount of violence and war in our colonization effort.

Day 0 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.0)

Back to work, Helen to her hospital duties, and me back to construction. Today I was assigned to work indoors due to the limited supply of breathers. I was assigned to make tables out of native wood. We have power saws from the Unity that save a lot of time in cutting the wood to shape. One of our chemists has developed what she thinks is a good wood glue. So far she has no complaints. The native wood is very different for earth wood. Its texture is different and requires a different style of cutting to get the best cuts. My first table I made wasn't that great. It was slightly crooked. The rest came out much better. I ended up making 6 tables today.

Helen returned to work to find her patient almost ready to be released. She did a lot of test on him and they released him this afternoon. She spent the rest of her time, setting up more medical facilities. She had another wonderful dinner ready when I returned from making tables.

After dinner, one of the monks, Friar Robert McCain, SDM, came by and held a general chat and gripe session for everyone in our shelter. Friar Robert explained, that he and his fellow monks of the Servants of Divine Mercy, were assisting the Peacekeepers Council, in find out and dealing with problems in the community. I was surprised to here that half of the friars had doctorates in Psychology. It was also interesting to hear why the Friars choose to go with the peacekeepers and not the Believers. It wasn't about faith, but rather that they felt they could do more good with us than with the Believers.

It was a good opportunity to see how everyone was doing and what problems people were seeing. Some wanted to do more interesting work than they were assigned, in fact, I think everyone agreed when that was brought up. Friar Robert reminded us, that what we were doing was for the good of the whole colony. After the colony's essentials were established, then we could do what we really wanted to. Others' gripes dealt with the lack of enough equipment such as breathers. Others wanted recreational facilities. But overall people felt things were going well.


Day 1 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.1)

Today I went back to building the animal building complex. A lot of work had been accomplished since I was there last. Half of the foundations had been completed; some brick walls were in progress of going up. Some farms had been tilled inside where the buildings would be erected. I check and found out that this was OK as the crops could grow outside as well as inside, and the earlier we started them, the sooner we would have them. We were still waiting for the glass we needed to be produced, so we work on finishing the foundation and laying the first few layers of bricks. We spent all day working on this, and finally near quitting time, we heard that enough glass had been finished at the glassworks for us to work with some glass tomorrow.

When I returned to my home, Helen was not there. I had a message waiting that said she would be late and to eat without her. So I ate some leftovers. I then started reading an old novel. Helen arrived home exhausted. Today, someone came down with a flu of some sorts. They investigated it and found to the best of their knowledge, something unknown to them. They are treating the symptoms and have the patient in total isolation. They have a few tests running over night. They may know more tomorrow. I gave Helen a long backrub after she ate a little dinner. We then went to bed.

Day 2 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.2)

Today, we both off to work. I went back to the animal complex and started working on incorporating the glass windows with the bricks. We settled on triple paned windows cemented directly to the bricks. This took a little experimenting to find a good way to do this. It was tiring work, but we got one building of the complex completed today except for the glass domes. They told us that they were having difficulty get them to come out and will still working on a good technique.

I arrived back home just as Helen got home. She seemed tired. I asked her about her day. Four more people have come up with this flu. Treating the symptoms seems to be working, but not close to a cure. Maybe it will cure itself. The five that are infected are quarantined in the western side of the Hospital. Helen has to wear a full environmental suit to go in to treat and minister to them. It was draining on her. Our sheltermates, on seeing our condition, offered to cook us dinner. We gratefully accepted and ate the food numbly. After dinner we talked a while and then went to bed.

Day 3 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.3)

Getting you was difficult this morning. I wish I took today off instead of tomorrow. I forced myself out of bed, got ready to work, ate breakfast, and headed off to work. As the glassworks was still having difficulty with the glass, and I have no expertise with glass at all, I was assigned to work on our first recreation building. This building would house a large pool for swimming, as well as running tracks for those who wished to run or jog. The pool, a large hot tub, and the two changing rooms would be inside the running tracks inside the building walls, which would have glass windows to permit as much natural lighting as possible. I got the use of one of the industrial robots and put it to digging out the dirt so we could lay the deep foundation to hold the pool, and the higher foundations for the rest. I spent all day removing dirt and carting it out of the way. Someone else as this task tomorrow, so the foundation can be laid on the 5th day of the decurn.

I went home and showered trying to get the dirt out of my pores. When I finished Helen had dinner ready. Her day was more peaceful as the flu victims had recovered and were being keep overnight for observation before being released tomorrow.

We played three rubbers of bridge tonight, winning two, and barely losing the third. I think my bridge is improving with all this practice. No exciting hands.

Day 4 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.4)

My wife and I had another day off today, so we slept late, and got up slowly. Again there were not enough breathers for us to got two to go hiking, so we stayed in the shelter and watched classic videos from earth all day. A good dramas, an ok drama, a good science fiction movie based on an Ann McCaffrey's novel The Rowan, a bad romance, and finally a good romance. It will be nice when the recreation building is finished.

Day 5 of the Second Decurn in the Year of Landing (0/02.5)

We got up early and went to work today. My predict was correct, we were ready to lay the foundation for the recreation center. I spent most of the day mixing concrete for others to pour. I did help out with the pipes for the pool, the hot tubs, and the changing room facilities. It was important that we got these placed precisely as after the concrete had hardened they would be no moving them. We finished the foundation for the pool, the tubs, and changing rooms, but the rest had to wait for tomorrow. We used the mirror to concentrate the solar light to heat the concrete, so that it would dry faster. Another day of heavy work.

When I got back home, I found another one of those notes from Helen saying that she had been delayed due to a medical emergency. I wondered to myself if the flu had flared again. I made our dinners. I ate alone and watch another movie while waiting for Helen to return. When Helen arrived, I reheated her dinner, and found out from her want happened. It seems that an accident occurred among the Spartans today, that they requested help, and flew their wounded woman over to our hospital. She had been caught in an explosion and was severely burned. The Spartans did not have the facilities for proper care and they knew we did, so they used on of the personnel shuttles to airlift the woman to us. She had suffered burns on 85% of her body. We do have the latest Earth medical equipment, as Pravin Lal looted it from the Unity, and were able to stabilize her condition, and isolate her, so that she could recover. She was given the latest in skin growth stimulants, in fact used up most of our supply. She would be in our hospital for at least the next 4 decurns, and probably 10. That's a long time. I wonder how much recover she will have. Helen said only time will tell. The flu seems to have been contained. Helen was exhausted so we went to bed early.



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