It was always hot here, he felt, although the thermostat said differently. According to the thermostat in his quarters, (or his "bedroom" as he thought of it), it rarely strayed from 68 degrees Fahrenheit unless he wanted it to. But he felt the heat and the light soaking in and through, a haze creeping at the entrance to his doorway. He also felt like he had just woken up to an alarm, even though he had woke gently from sleep, with hours to go until he went on duty (or "went to work" as he thought of it). Time enough to sit here and stare at the ceiling.
And what ceiling did he want to think of today? "Computer" he said "Sistine Chapel". His bedroom walls and ceiling flashed, forming a complete view of the Sistine Chapel. He looked at it for a few moments before realizing that it was still showing a few signs of the last design party. "Computer" he said "Sistine Chapel, Classic", and it flashed and altered, his own face and the faces of a few of his friends disappearing to be replaced with the original figures. He should enjoy the few million dollars he had spent, but he wanted something quieter today. "Enhance image" he said, in one of his little jokes, and it zoomed in on the ceiling to life scale, slowing moving across it. In another one of his little jokes: "Computer. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot". and waited for it to slide out. He himself slid out of bed, and changed into his work uniform. He got out his tea, and then slid out his computer monitor and keyboard from the wall. He could use voice,but like most people, he preferred to type. Especially for what he was doing here. Taunting himself.
du -h /home/khawkings/badges
du -h .
He typed the rm command, as he did every morning, and then backspaced it away, drank his tea, and opened his door. Other people were coming out of their own quarters, or as he liked to call them, bedrooms. They could prepare food in their own rooms, but most liked to go to the community kitchen at the end of the dorm block. He got himself a waffle and french fries, drank more tea, and heard the people talking. Mostly complaints about the weather. A few of the newer people, were wearing badges on their clothing, something that was not exactly seen as tacky by the veterans as much as a lot of effort. After a short breakfast, he moved to the end of the dorm block, and walked outside to work.
Here it was hot. Not unbearably hot, but hot, up in the mid 30s, and humid. And the sun was up, gigantic, its yellow face screaming through the green glass at his feet. And down below, on the other side of the dome, Venus looked gigantic, and made him feel hot. Venus made everyone feel hot, even though that made no sense. And then he looked at his work...the big green tangle in the middle, breathing and buzzing. He got to the nearest elevator, along with some other people, and went towards it, the weird lack of gravity of the elevator changing into the weird lack of gravity from being away from the centripedal gravity of the outer sphere. And he opened the door towards his sector, along with a new girl who was following him. Not from his dorm block, but she did have a little holographic placard on her lapel, proudly flashing that the people of Poland thanked her. She had been here three days, and was probably still going through orientation. It would take a while before the gauss rifle fired out anything she had grown, and before anyone on earth, let alone anyone in Poland, had gained any benefit from it. She was shy, and nervous, and kept blinking her eyes, even though here, in the middle, the light was not so strong. They talked a little, she was Marissa. Not from Poland. Like most people here, she had a complicated national story. It had to do with New Zealand or Kamchakta, and she was a phycologist, not even doing production, but examining the facility for designing future beds. He felt more comfortable talking science with her, and it was interesting, and he (as usual) was calculating the cost of bringing someone from Earth to Venus because they had an odd theory about seaweed and sulfur. He shouldn't speak, he thought, as he parted from her, he was a bee keeping astronaut.
And then begin his day, a six hour shift that wasn't that different from his first job as an apprentice in a greenhouse as a teen. The same dealing with little problems, the same joking with co-workers, the same lugging around tools that didn't quite work. The fact that he had to make sure that too many bees didn't die in zero gravity seemed no different than having to wash out planting pots as a teen. He did sometimes think that every minute he spent gossiping with a co-worker cost untold amounts of money sometimes blew his mind. As well as the fact that he didn't know how many hazards he was dealing with. Something killed his bees, and it might have been the light of the sun, the minimal gravity here, or the radioactivity that was present in low levels in the plants they were growing. Radioactivity that they had been told was probably not a health concern, not for them, not in a way that couldn't be treated. He still had his entire body covered, of course, as a way of dealing with the Beta Radiation. The plants were grown in cages some distance from the walkways, they should theoretically be safe. Theoretically. No one knew, after a dozen years, what the costs of spending some months here would be. They were surrounded on every side by plants buzzing with low levels of radiation. It was easy to get lost here. The station was a mile across, which didn't seem like much, but in the warren of dense plant growth in its center, with no gravity to tell up from down, it was possible to get lost and wander around, and probably picking up all sorts of dust. Everyone got lost their first week, which was usually just for 15 minutes that seemed like two hours. Marissa the Phycologist was probably due for that soon.
They had a staff meeting halfway through his shift. Solar activity had been short lately, and the drones that skimmed into Venus' upper atmosphere were bringing back sulfur that was relatively low in sulfur-35. It was possible, the communication officer said, that it would go down soon to the point where the plants wouldn't be able to concentrate it into a therapeutic form. This was one thing that they all knew about when they had come here, and Kendron found the information helpful, although as a beekeeper, he didn't feel he had much to add to the subject of particle physics. For now, it wasn't a problem. They had a lot of sulfur-35 in process. 90 day half life from when it was gathered in the atmosphere, fed as nutrients to plants, formed into proteins, harvested, shot by a gauss rifle to earth, and consumed by someone whose cancerous cells, rapidly replicating, would consume methionine and cysteine that would bombard it with beta radiation. A gigantic chain, and all of the people in the room, doing simple tasks like pruning and trimming and applying fertilizer and counting dead bees, were the ones who had to figure out how to make it work on a schedule where everything, from lack of solar flares, to mildew, to misaligned gauss guns, could destroy the cure for cancer.
It was a lot to think about, and Kendron took an extra muffin and several more cups of tea after the meeting was over. And then went back to doing a census of bees for another two hours until his shift ended. He ran into Marissa again, and took out his device. She had, indeed, gotten lost today, but wasn't too shaken by the experience. He could tell she was also getting homesick. He knew what would cheer her up. He took out his device, and snapped a quick picture of them, in the elevator, glare of glass and tangle of vines and trunks behind him. He asked for he name and tagged her. "Wait 15 or 20 minutes, this will have millions of likes" he said. A million likes was worth a muffin, in his imagination. It was still novel to her. Phycologists don't usually get to be heroes.
He returned to his quarters (or "bedroom", as he liked to call it) and stripped out of his work uniform and got into his pyjamas. It felt a little cooler here, after the heat of the gardens. He relaxed. Six hours could be a long time. He asked his computer if there was anything new. It said he had earned the Mount Erebus badge. He asked the computer to put it on, and his bedroom became the top of Mount Erebus. That certainly made him feel a bit cooler. He looked at his computer, and scanned for the new badges. He had a few, Mount Erebus among them. He looked at the file size, and realized how small it was, that there were probably many free recreations of Mount Erebus as well. He could erase all these badges he had earned, bee keeping in an artificial satellite of Venus, and just go and download new content, virtually the same, but millions of dollars cheaper. His entire reward to be here was to fill out a directory on his computer. That and to save millions of people from cancer and other diseases, of course, but that seemed far, far away in the little efficiency apartment, stuck in a module on the outer edge of a rotating space station. It had been bothering him lately, but the counselors said that was a normal reaction. At least for today, he would take Mount Erebus as his award.