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Normal Biological Functions
(Prompt: Bathroom)

Danziger looked up when True slid out from underneath the Dune-Rail, where she'd been checking electrical connections. "You get them all done that fast?"

"Not done," she answered, laying the meter on one of the seats. "I've got to pee. I'll be right back."

"All right." He bent over his own task again but looked up a second later. "True."


"Bio-dome's that way."

She made a face. "Someone's always in that one. I'm going out to the woods."

"Okay." He started to go back to cleaning and resetting the solenoids, but then stopped and looked up again. Thoughtful, he watched her head away from camp and behind the trees.

Tonight was going to be another cold one, so they lingered in the bio-dome after dinner. After cleaning his plate, Danziger went over and sat down next to Cameron and Mazatl, who were talking quietly.

"I'm not sure," said Cameron. "I haven't really had the chance to study the drainage patterns, so I can't be sure it won't end up in the stream."

"The soil wouldn't simply absorb the waste?"

"I haven't had a chance to look at that either. Even if it did, the waste might poison the land."

Mazatl frowned. "It's a normal biological function. How could it be poisonous?"

"Do you really want me to go into the details about composition? Besides, we're not on Earth. The biology is different here."

"You talking about what I think you're talking about?" asked Danziger.

"If you think it's about expanding the toilet facilities, then yes," answered Mazatl. "I checked stock. There's enough unused piping that I can build a rainwater-flush system."

"But we don't know where we'd send the waste water," said Cameron. "What brings you over, Boss?"

He chuckled. "Exactly that. I didn't really think about it until True told me she was going into the woods today, because there's only one bathroom in the bio-dome. The woods are fine for a day or two, but I can't imagine it will work for the entire winter."

"It won't," said Cameron. "It'll start breeding diseases and God knows what else." He turned back to Mazatl. "What about using some of those prefab building sections to build holding tanks like the bio-dome toilet's?"

"They aren't designed to hold liquid. Only to protect against it. I can't guarantee they wouldn't burst under the pressure."

"That'd be worse than leaving things the way they are now." He sighed. "I wish we had some way to treat the waste water. That'd take care of the problem."

"How were you planning to set up the colony?" asked Danziger.

"Wastewater treatment. The chemicals were in Pods 4 and 6. I've gone through what we have, but couldn't find anything else that would work. I even asked Yale to go through his files, but he couldn't find an alternative either."

Cameron was the closest they had to a chemist, so if he couldn't come up with a substitute, there probably wasn't one. Danziger thought for a second and then beckoned Yale over. "Maybe there wasn't anything in the files on systems design or chemistry. But let's run a full-database search before we give up entirely."

They didn't find it in the history files; rather, of all places, it was in information about recreation. Camping had apparently been something of a leisure activity on Earth, though none of them could imagine how it possibly held any appeal. Regardless, campers had sometimes stayed in the same place or in large groups, so they'd had to develop solutions.

Flush toilets weren't going to work. Cameron repeated his concerns about poisoning the soil, but he admitted that, done right, they could limit the scope of any effects. He found a workable location off to the edge of the campsite, and Mazatl drew up a plan for an outhouse with three private stalls.

"Our group is sixteen people," he explained. "Including the bio-dome, this will give us one stall for four people. Minimum standard on the stations was one for five." Some of the Ops crew had snorted at that — there were places in the Quads where one for ten was doing well — but everyone pitched in to dig the toilets and build the outhouse.

"Just remember," said Cameron as they finished. "Every time you use this, you have to be absolutely sure you've covered everything with dirt afterward." He pointed to the pile they'd left in one corner. A shovel hung on the wall nearby.

Baines groaned. "Might be better to just keep going out into the woods if it's only to —" he broke off, noticing that True and Uly were listening. "Um. If it's just to take a leak."

"Maybe for the men," said Bess, "but we ladies see it a little differently. True? What do you think?"

She nodded firmly. "It's real easy to make a mess, even when you're just peeing. This'll be better."

"That's right. So," Bess asked brightly. "Who's going to be the first to try it out?"

Everybody suddenly needed to look somewhere else.

"Oh, fine," Bess answered before she shrugged and headed for the door. "I'll do it. It's perfectly normal, after all."