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From Extreme Weather Events by Tim Jones

The Kiwi Contingent

The ninety-third woman into space was also the first New Zealander. Kate Charteris was a soil scientist with the first colonising mission to Mars. She lived in Utopia Planitia for two years under conditions of incredible hardship, diligently taking samples of the thin red dust. One day, a robot digger she was directing broke through the crust, toppled, and crushed her. So there was never much of a Kiwi contingent there.

By the time of the precious metals boom in the asteroids, a sizeable number of Kiwis had filtered out into space, taken on by the big combines on the strength of their engineering knowledge or starting up in a small way by themselves. The big metals smelters were on the Moon by then, and if you were in one of the lunar bases on business you were sure to hear those flattened vowels and rising terminals off in a corner of some bar, downing a few cold ones and discussing iridium futures or the AB's chances against Nike or the Pepsi Panthers. And if you made it to Europa, you'd find Kai Tahu fishing the frozen oceans.

When Fleischmann and Himmelmann came up with their equations, the Solar System was beginning to feel crowded. There's only so much you can do on Mercury or Pluto, and whenever a few of us got together, it was to talk about the great generation starships that were being planned, to travel for hundreds of years, slower than light, to the planets of the nearest stars. You'd never step onto those planets, but your great-great-grandchildren might. Fleischmann and Himmelmann changed all that, and soon you could jump from star to star like sheep over a gate.

So those of us with the money or the know-how boarded the new ships and took off. You'll find us all over now: skimming Epsilon Eridani's corona, building the Dyson Sphere round Vega, herding brown dwarfs together to make new suns. And here, at the centre of the Galaxy, orbiting the massive black hole that holds the whole thing together, we helped to build the Hub Station, the waypoint for travellers, the base for the next step: to travel between the galaxies.

We've got a bar called Earl's, down on the tenth level, not far from the docking rings. You'll find us there most nights, a mixture of hardened old campaigners like me and new blood straight from Home, who can tell us how the kiwifruit crop is doing in Otago and the latest on the Cook Strait Bubble. There's aliens on the Station now - twelve foot tall, five legs, nine eyes, all fluting voices and delicate gestures. Some people say we humans should forget our differences, but the Kiwi contingent down at Earl's has talked it over, and we say: bugger them.

©Tim Jones























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