After Martha left for work Jun worked on her Estute. She could not leave the house until it was repaired, and the sooner she was out of Martha’s hair and heading towards her destination the better. She ran her fingers gently across the panel and it buzzed weakly to life. She closed her eyes and probed inside it. She slid her mind over the memory storage, the energy source, the wires and the air-cleanser. All seemed to be intact and felt whole, but only worked faintly, as if they were out of energy. She wondered with sharp fear what would happen if she could not get this thing to work. What sort of diseases would she be exposed to, she thought, remembering the reports received from the first explorers to different planets. Someone made a terrible mistake with their air-filters and they received twenty-three diseases between the five of them and three of them died a long, painful death. If Jun did not get her Estute to work properly she may suffer the same fate. The little machine was also her only route home.
What could have caused this? The people who made Estutes deliberately made them fool proof. They had their own energy source, a created black hole the size of a pin hole. They had a force field twenty-feet around that humans didn’t have weapons to break. It had an endless chemical process of cleaning the oxygen and breaking down and cleanly storing any discharge, eventually expelling it in sacks. It cleaned her body once a day. More than that, it had the teleportation that had brought her to this planet. It had dissolved her body into atoms, carried those atoms within it and traveled at twice light speed across the universe for eight years. How could it get broken? What would she do without it on this strange rock?
She carried it to the balcony for better lighting. Martha’s porch had potted plants and a metal rocking chair; Jun placed the Estute on the railing and looked at it long and hard. She had only one explanation for this, though she was afraid to face it. She thought of the fires that they had escaped from, eight years ago and what felt, like her, for a day.
She looked down at the street. This was the first planet she had ever been to. Of course as a child she had visited their moon, back home; it had trees, like this planet, and a blue sky, but from the balcony could not see any trees and the sky was a dull, metallic grey.
She really had thought that, coming to a different planet, she would have a feeling of revelation and purpose. She felt nothing but loneliness and worry for her Estute; this was a great deal more boring then she had thought it would be.
And of course a part of her was waiting.
She knew he followed her. He always kept his promises.
She wondered if she had broken the Estute in the fire; she wondered if something had happened to them during the flight that had messed with its materialization. Maybe a chunk of it was missing. She wondered if it was safe to use; in the meanwhile she would figure out what to do.
She fixed the Estute in one way: now she didn’t have to look like she was wearing a spacesuit. She engaged a small force field for diseases, with safe anti-biotics in the air and air cleansers engaged. She tightened a wire inside the projectile, a minor repair, and the spacesuit dissolved into a pair of neat straight jeans, black flats and a white T-shirt. She felt much more comfortable, and the air felt cleaner and the force field protected her a little from the noise ad smell. Slowly she sank into a chair and waited, her hands crossed across her lap and her eyes wondering among the huge grey towers of downtown Minneapolis.