Mapping, a story for the Giraffe Call

Another one where I’m not sure where it wants to go, um, but I’ll post it anyway.

“Here’s the space-view surveys of the planet. Here’s the original plans for the first three settlements. Here’s the builders’ notes. Here’s the town records.”

If they had been working in paper, Orchid would have been dumping papers into Cauli’s arms. As it was, he was shifting files from his data tablet to hers with wide sweeps of his fingers. “And here’s the notes from the second survey team and everything they pulled up. Is that going to be enough?”

Cauli, with heroic effort, did not laugh at the little bureaucrat. “More than enough. But I need to get down there, too, you know.”

“You’ve only got two weeks while we’re in orbit here.” This was the seventh time Orchid had told her this. It was the thirtieth time she’d heard him say it altogether. She wasn’t the only expert visiting the colony.

“I know, Orchid. It’s all right. I have my tools.” She patted the bag, which constituted almost half of her weight allowance on this trip. “I have my mind. I’m all right.” If she kept saying it, maybe he’d believe her. Orchid didn’t appear to think people could live without at least three terabytes of data on them at all times. “I’ve got it.”

“All right then. I’ll put you on the first shuttle down.”

The first shuttle down held four other equally-amused specialists and three fretting bureaucrats, cut from the same cloth as Orchid. Cauli made small talk with Zeeb, the xenobotanist, until they were situated in the settlement’s town hall-slash-community center.

“Just give me a table to work with and, if you have one available, a school-aged child to give me a tour.” She’d given this speech in twenty different settlements, and generally met with little resistance. “That’s all I need.” Around her, the other specialists were saying variations of the same thing.

“You can’t.”

That was not a reaction she’d been expecting. Settlers were generally practical people.

“I’m sorry.”

“You can’t. Not with a child. You need a priest.”

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