by Peter Alexander
Caught a crawler headed north to the front. Big guy, eighteen crew, six legs. Specially designed to ford the big icy rivers in Astelplains. Had to hustle to get it. Only heard of it two days before it was gonna pass by this town, Cronston. Out in the boonies it’s hard to get anywhere. Swampy. We just finished a bit of ecodev, help control the floods a bit. Ditch digging, mostly. Heard they needed crews like ours up there just as we were getting done. Fine.
We wouldn’t’ve made it if the crawler hadn’t been late. Blew a gasket somewhere down the line. There we were, huffing and puffing into Cronston, and the thing wasn’t due for hours. Boy we had a laugh about that, along with the other crews waiting for it. Ended up hunkering down with a couple fellas, Boris, Bjorn, and Bill. Nice guys. They did medwork around town here, “repairing people” they liked to call it.
I said there must be a big push up at the front if rooted guys like them were heading up. Bjorn said do you ever remember a time when there wasn’t a big push up at the front? I grunted cause I couldn’t remember but didn’t think he was saying it right, anyways. Maybe we’ll always be fighting up there. It’s our duty, I think, to keep the work up. The revolution has to be for everyone or it isn’t the revolution. If some fellas get it and some don’t, then there is no revolution. We’d be just like them. Or something. I didn’t say any of that, though. They would’ve laughed. They always said to me, “Read less, do more, Shaska!” but I never listened. My e-reader was my most personal belonging, and I always felt my ego flare up whenever anyone else wanted to use it.
Anyways, none of us had any medwork techs. We were a bunch of ecodev and agridev fellas. Bill suggested, cause of how dangerous it is, that we’d want medtech. Him and his crew agreed they’d like to gift it to us, so we all rambled down to the Center together, figuring it would be a nice and productive way to pass the time till the crawler showed.
Now the Gift Center in Cronston is a big, beautiful building, slabs of concrete all folded in on each other and grown over with old trees and ivy. Lots of nooks and crannies in there. Crews running it were nice and helpful, the sweet fellas who always work in centers. They were real pressed at the time cause I guess a lot of other crews headed to the front had thought similar to us that now was a good time for swapping. But we found an open console and got set up.
I volunteered to go first, swapping with Boris. We sat down in the two chairs facing each other and I blushed and he laughed at that. Swapping with someone I didn’t know so well always made me feel a bit shy but also excited. He had a thick, soft-looking beard. Someone helped us strap in and hook up and get it running, I don’t remember who. I do remember how gently Boris looked at me when we made eye contact like you’re supposed to as you slip into connection.
Oh there’s nothing like the gift. Even when I’m at my lowest lows, I can think about it to remember that things can’t be all bad, and there will always be new gifts to give and receive. Boris was giving me his basic medtech but said he didn’t have any preference from me, so I relaxed and let whatever come out. It ended up being how to keep a vegetable garden, the way my mother taught me when I was a little fella, and improved over time with all my ecodev tech. Boris said later that he was real pleased to know it and he wanted to put it to use when he came back from the front.
Giving was good, and getting was good. His tech blossomed in my mind like a million million sunrises. There was the body with all its ailments, its strangenesses, its efficiencies and its inefficiencies, its boundless possibilities. There was where it often went wrong, and how to bring it back into harmony with itself and its surroundings. Stitching, setting bones, giving shots, amputations, small surgeries, giving pills, tending to sickness, cultivating health: these were the contents of the gift. It fit so perfectly with my ecodev knowledge; the ecosystem a body, the body an ecosystem. Once again the fractal beauty of the world and my role in it became infinitely clear and infinitely obscure. And there was Boris, and there was I. Sitting in our chairs, dizzy together, an hour later? Maybe less.
Next pair was eager to get started so we stumbled out of the way, past our crewmates’ smiles. Someone offered us sweet juice and crackers. The world was bright and glorious and all its people were radiant and flowing together—this was always my perception after receiving a gift. Colors smeared and sounds were the melody and the rhythm of a song in which we all participated, singing every day of our life. Boris and I came down in a quiet corner of the gardens, talking sparsely of what we had shared and breathing together. Later we were joined by Bjorn and Clarke, fresh off the gift, and then Bill and Doko and all the rest who hadn’t participated. If they wanted we would pass it to them when we got the chance.
But we were tired. The crawler would be here soon. When we were all recovered, we headed back out to wait for it. Our crews split up around then, cause Costis suggested we could refill our supplies while in town. Rations, fuel, tools, batteries, chems, meds. So we said our goodbyes to the three B’s and hit the canteens, scrounging up what was left after all the other crews had picked stuff over…
If you like this excerpt, please consider purchasing a pdf of the issue. It’s only $3 and you can order one on the sidebar at the right. You can also order a printed issue, if you prefer.