Saturday, March 21, 2263 (Continued): I got to the training room with a few minutes to spare. There were only twenty or twenty-five consoles for trainees in the room and about two-thirds of them were occupied. I spotted Ozzie at one of them, looking ragged and bleary-eyed, and I grabbed a station nearby.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey. Where’d you go? I went looking for you when I got up but your hab was empty.”
“Couldn’t sleep so I wandered around a bit, checked things out, got a bit of breakfast. Nothing special.”
Ozzie grunted and looked like he was about to ask something else when a tiny old lady who looked like she was at least 100 walked into the room, dressed in an enviro-suit, helmet in hand, and took up the instructor’s console.
“Good morning,” she said, her strong voice reflecting barely a hint of a Spanish accent. “I am Señora Raphaela Gomez and for the next three days your butts belong to me.” She spoke swiftly and clearly, obviously accustomed to dealing with newbies like us, her manner making it perfectly clear that she was in charge. “As your Orientation Officer, it is my dubious honor to instruct you in the basics on how to survive here on Luna. To this date no one has died while in my section, and the last thing I want is for you ground-pounders to ruin my spotless record.”
Ozzie and I looked at each other and I could tell we had the same question in our minds. Died?
“This morning you will be issued Luna-standard enviro-suits, and for the next three days you will learn how to put them on, take them off, repair them, maintain them, fill them, empty them and clean them. From now on, regardless of where your assignments take you, whether it is here on Luna or somewhere else in system, your enviro-suit is the most important piece of equipment you have. Your life depends on it more than it does on anything else. Spacers who forget this simple fact never complete their contracts because they all wind up dead.”
She paused for a long moment, looking around the room, eyes boring into each of us in turn.
“Some of your training will involve going outside, so I’m not joking about the very real risk of someone dying. But before we expose you to that kind of hazard, you are going to get a lot of practice with your suits.” She smiled then, but not in a way that reassured me. “I don’t guarantee that you’re going to get a lot of sleep for the next few days, however.”
Señora Gomez went on to describe the basics of how the enviro-suits work, sending diagrams and instructional docs to our consoles as she went along. It was a lot to take in, and before long my head hurt and I felt like my eyes were starting to glaze over. By the time she called a break, I don’t think anyone in the room was in any better shape. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so dazed after a class, and we’d only been at it for a couple of hours.
“Man,” Ozzie said after Señora Gomez left the room, “I seriously need some coffee or, better yet, a packet of stims! That was intense!”
“Yeah, you ain’t kidding.” I shook my head, trying to clear some of the fuzz out of my brain. “There’s a vend close by. Lemme show you.”
“Can I tag along?” It was Kim, one of the others I had hung out with on the trip up from Earth.
Wow. Did I just say that? I’m still getting used to this whole business of not being on Earth anymore… Anyway…
Ozzie and I both said yes and we headed over to the vend where Harry and I had had breakfast. A couple of others from the class followed along, all of us talking about the class, going over how the suits worked, and grousing about how much we’d covered and whether the next few days would be this intense. Once we got to the vend I was relieved to see that some of the others had trouble figuring out how to use the dispensers, too. I shared the tips Harry had given me earlier, feeling a little less like an idiot, and earning some brownie points with the others, which was kinda cool. Then I punched up a strong coffee and looked up other stimulants. Some of the options looked pretty intense, so I settled for my cup of caffeine and kept an eye on the time. I really didn’t want to be late getting back.
When the training resumed Señora Gomez reviewed some of what she had already covered before moving on to new material. I was glad for the review because I picked up a few things I had missed. Before long we broke for lunch, Señora Gomez telling us that we would receive our first suits when we returned. I think all of us went to the vend this time, the group of us moving into it like a raucous pack of invaders. This time I noticed that there were several folks in the vend who reminded me of Harry somehow, probably older spacers like him, who moved to the corners of the room or left altogether when we walked in, all noise and bustle and laughter. We quieted down a little as we got our food and started to eat, but not much.
It was strange, but for the first time I can remember I felt like I was really a part of our group, like I belonged. Back home I’d always kind of been a loner. School always seemed like a joke, and I never fit in with the popular kids. This was different. Weird, even, but in a good way.
Maybe it was because everything seemed like a new adventure. Or maybe it was because all of us had no roots here, so we were trying to connect with the only other people around. I dunno. But for the first time in I don’t know how long I felt happy. Even if my head did still feel like it was full of fuzz.
After lunch we followed Señora Gomez to the Quartermaster where we were issued our suits. None of them were new and some had so many patches on them that I wondered how safe they were. Mine wasn’t bad, but Ozzie’s was on the scary side. He laughed it off, but I made a mental note to double check his suit… once I figured out how to check my own.
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing exactly what Señora Gomez had said we’d be doing. We practiced putting our suits on, taking them off, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of others. We learned how to read the displays telling us how much oxygen, nitrogen, water and other supplies our suits had. Then we learned how to check the seals, looking for cracks, tears, holes or other imperfections that might cause a breach when exposed to vacuum. By the time the day’s training was over I was exhausted, mentally and physically. When we went to the vend to grab dinner, we weren’t anywhere near as loud or energetic as we’d been at lunchtime, and I think I caught one or two people chuckling at us, amused by our ragged condition as contrasted with our earlier, noisier state.
I tried to see if Harry was anywhere around, but I didn’t see him, and after grabbing a bite Ozzie and I headed back to our habs to get some sleep.
All in all, it was a good day. Maybe things are going to work out ok after all.