Harun did not think she was being unreasonable. The passenger obviously felt she was, but what did she know? Nothing, Harun concluded. Nothing that was worth anything anywhere but planet-side.
â€œLook,â€ Harun said. â€œYou cannot take this much luggage. There is not much space on the ship, and that isnâ€™t going to change any on the station. You cannot bring all of this.â€ Harun gave the variety of suitcases and valises spread out on the shiny plastic customs table a disdainful wave. Harun had already emptied them all, and was slightly disgusted at the auspicious wealth of the contents. Metal eating utensils, glass picture frames, paper books.
The waste was rampant.
â€œIâ€™m not leaving my things behind,â€ the passenger said. She had a slight accent and a queer way of motioning with her chin to make a point. Neither of these things did anything to raise Harunâ€™s opinion of her.
â€œThen youâ€™re staying,â€ Harun said, folding her arms across her polyester uniform.
The passenger scanned the items on the table, fingering a few of them. She let out a diminutive sigh, and seemed to grow smaller in the hard plastic chair. â€œWhat can I take?â€ she asked.
Harun gathered up most of the passengerâ€™s clothes, a business-like scowl concealing her delight and wonder at the softness of the some of them. Not all of the clothes fit into the passengerâ€™s smallest bag, so Harun left out some of the more delicate articles.
â€œThis,â€ she said, holding up the bag. â€œThis is all you can take. The rest will have to be recycled. Things like this, though, I donâ€™t know what weâ€™re going to do with.â€ Harun picked up a doll from the table. Its painted face was done up in a coy pout, and its body was garbed in an elegant kimono. Harun was slightly repulsed by it, a feeling that intensified when it occurred to her that the doll wasnâ€™t clothed in polysatin, but real silk. â€œThe clothes we can recycle, possibly. But the bodyâ€¦.the body is made of clayâ€”â€
â€œPorcelain,â€ the passenger and her chin interjected. â€œSuki is made of porcelain.â€
â€œItâ€™s clay,â€ Harun said. â€œThis isnâ€™t even furnace kindling.â€ She was about to toss it back on the table in disgust, but the passenger yanked it out of her hands. Harun held back an unprofessional smirk as the passenger cradled the doll like a baby.
â€œThen let me take her,â€ the passenger said. â€œPlease, let me take her. You said yourself, sheâ€™s of no use here. Let me take her.â€
Harun hung her head. The people never understood. It was like talking to children. â€œItâ€™s not just a matter of use. Itâ€™s also a matter of space. That thing is clay and silk and paint. It will be of no use to you on the ship, no use to you on the station, and I can guarantee you will not make it to the colonies with it, because itâ€™s going to take up space you need for important things. And as you can see, thereâ€™s no room in your bag.â€
The passenger looked at the doll she was cradling, then at what Harun had designated as her only luggage. Setting the doll down and giving the lacquered head a reassuring pat, the passenger turned her attention to the small bag. She removed a wool jacket from the bag, rubbed the soft material up against her face, and then carefully placed the doll inside the bag. She raised her head to meet Harunâ€™s eyes.
â€œNow,â€ she said. â€œI am ready to go.â€
â€œYouâ€™re making a mistake,â€ Harun said. â€œThat jacketâ€™s made of fine woolâ€”â€
â€œAnd Suki is made of fine clay,â€ the passenger said.
Harun watched the passenger take her small bag toward the loading port. She started at the elements of the passengerâ€™s luggage. The overhead light glinted off the metal and glass in a way that was not entirely replicated by the plastic table underneath.
â€œWait,â€ Harun said. The passenger turned. â€œWear the jacket. Wear it as you board. Itâ€™ll be hot, but you can take it off as soon as they seal the doors.â€
The passengerâ€™s tight, pale face brightened. â€œThank you,â€ she said.
â€œSkin and bones thing like you, going into space,â€ Harun said. â€œYouâ€™re going to need all the help you can get, with what youâ€™re made of.â€