Iphana retrieved the mail bag and dragged it to her living quarters. Then she set about moving her supplies into the storerooms. That would free up the hawler repair area for an exercise circuit or for her to turn off the heating to the space if she decided she couldn’t justify the fuel. Stowing it all away was going to be the work of more than one afternoon but it wasn’t as if she had other calls on her time.
She grabbed the fresh items from each cargo net first, they were bagged in bright orange to make them easy to identify. Lemons and a bundle of late greens, apples, an enormous bag of onions, two enormous bags of potatoes, and more bags of root vegetables plus the frozen meat in the chiller units that had to go straight into the storage freezer. Then the hard cured meat needed to be hung from the hooks on the ceiling of the cool room. Iphana double checked the inventory list that’d been sent by the microwave link to her printer and, satisfied that she’d dealt with everything that had to be secured tonight, began her dinner preparations.
Isolated on the tundra in the middle of the winter storm, almost completely cut off from the outside world and her link to the outside world buzzed for her while she was sautéing onions. She took it philosophically as a universal constant, turned off the heat under her pan, and answered the radio.
Sawyl’s voice crackled a little, even with the tight microwave link. The winter storm even affected communications. “I’ve two reasons for calling you tonight. The first was to make sure you’d gotten everything inside before the storm hit you.”
“I used the workshop forklift,” Iphana assured him, “So yes, it’s all inside and I’ve started packing it away.”
“Good. Secondly, we’ll be calling you twice a day for contact, at this time and at nine in the morning.”
“Check-ins at nine and six,” Iphana acknowledged.
“And we’re trying to organise a signal boost of entertainment out to you,” Sawyl went on. “I know you don’t have a screen but we’re trying to get permission to send on one of the radio programs, something with music and plays we thought.”
“Thank you.” Iphana was pleased with that and they chatted on with for another five minutes before Iphana asked, “Why do I suddenly have mail when nothing’s turned up since I came out here?”
“Ah.” Sawyl paused for a moment. “Turns out there’s been a problem at our post office. It’s being sorted out now but one of the things they found was a huge stack of mail addressed to you. Have you looked at it yet?”
“I’m saving that till after dinner,” Iphana admitted.
Back in the settlement as Sawyl wound up his talk with the stranded mechanic. Auditor Cavell turned to the postmistress, mother of the transferred Terrack, where she cowered between the two security drones and asked, “Would you have been happy to hear her plead for help that couldn’t be sent as she starved to death? Think woman, if you can’t adjust to one staffing swap to address gender balance, how are you going to cope with the changes the underground rail link will make when the railhead reaches here in five years’ time? And then when it gets to the mines three years after that? It won’t just be one son who’ll be leaving here then.”