...................................................................................................................................There are Christmas presents onboard since the adults are taking care of the children until 2011, some time in the spring. The official end date of the project is unclear but the adults assume that they will not be required for any longer than the agreed “off-earth” contract of 16 months. Because they’d spent a bit of time together during training the adults believe that they have an idea of the children’s tastes, but presumed too much and bought entirely science themed presents when popular toys would be more appropriate and enjoyable. Christmas day was unlikely to go down well anyway since the children, both boys, had developed a mischievous streak in the time away from their overbearing parents and had already planned an array of pranks to interrupt the holiday meal. The big feast, which was already pre-packed onboard, consists of a horn of plenty to be stuffed with a paste of blended ingredients and decorated with freeze dried fruits. The crew had not been able to stop off anywhere the entire duration in space, despite passing around seven planets. Legally, the teams already investigating the planets had used up all the paperwork allowances and the logistics would have been a nightmare. “It can’t be done” was the overall message from the communications base in the district Tower of the Upper City Harbour. As was often the case with H.Q the legal implications of the explorer’s journey clouded their innovative endeavours. The previous mission to inner space, launched in 2006, had lacklustre results after a stowaway in the cargo repository sabotaged the communication link between the ship and H.Q and none of the discoveries that were made could be reported. By the time the travellers returned to H.Q in person they had all grown older and forgotten everything. There is little reason for those onboard to use memory as an excuse this time, as each person onboard has been issued with documents and glossaries to fill in each day. There is also provided a uniform that is comfortable and suitable but not mandatory. The quality of the uniforms is fairly low as they are sewn onboard and there isn’t always a capable crewmember, but usually the others appreciate their efforts and try not to pick at the loose stitches.

 

 

....................................................................................................................................The Bloodbike is on the road since 5am and will last until around 10pm depending on the quality of blood and the type that’s put in the tank. For the engineers there are sweet peas sweating in a pan on top of the boiler, and water, for lunch. They are sitting around a central table that is littered with papers and plates but have defined the work areas around the edges of the room where the desks are longer and harder to clutter. Cleaners had originally come in every Wednesday and Friday evening to tidy up the labs for heath and safety reasons, but when the funding for the project was cut by 29 points they had to reduce to one day a week. Eventually the mess grew faster than one evening could compensate for and the cleaners were sacked with one days notice. Despite the funding shortfall, work continues well on the project and the engineers and one designer have been looking forward to a seminar that’s coming up in a few months. The night before the previous conference Juris, one of the engineers, had dreamt that their research on plant hygiene would be met with disappointment, but in reality they received a lot of praise. One of the most unsettling aspects of the Bloodbike is the sound that comes out of its muscles when particularly tensed, to achieve a tight turn or rapid acceleration. This is the first time that human muscle tissue has been bonded correctly to metal rods in a vehicle, so the sound had never been experienced before two days ago. There is a radio playing today, so any sounds that might come out of the test patches of muscle structures in the lab will either be masked or become pleasant and unpredictable variations on recognisable music. There is also a lot of industrial noise from surrounding factories and warehouses, which due to the contained atmosphere of Lower City seeps through window frames and draughty doors into homes and commercial spaces but tends to give a positive and hardworking frame of mind to the inhabitants. Sitting in the central table a bio-engineer reattaches the door handle onto one of the storage cabinets above the sink resisting the need for a laboratory re-fit.

 

 

....................................................................................................................................The underwater waste space beneath Lower City has been uninhabited for 340 years. The silt covered floor stretches one eighth of the size of the Amazon rainforest, but the seawater bed is barely visible through the curtains of weeds and underwater mists. Occasionally rocks break free from an outcrop beneath the silt and roll along the bed, dragging up unfashionable clothes and accessories from years ago.