Warning: This poem contains some harsh language, warped perceptions, and inadequate coping skills on the part of various people. When Sam the Gardener moves into Supply Base Bounty 3D3N, Router learns the fundamental truth about neurovariant people -- "If you've met one person on the spectrum, you've met one person on the spectrum." Sam has very different needs compared to Backup, and that is just going to be awkward for everyone until they figure out how to adapt.
"Seeking a Happy Medium"
Sam the Gardener built
his first hydroponic systems
for the plants that could grow
with their roots dangling into
pipes or pools of nutrient fluid.
It was simple and fast and easy,
but it didn't work for all the plants
that people wanted him to grow.
So the next thing Sam did was
to start seeking a happy medium
that could take the place of soil.
They didn't have any soil in space,
and they wouldn't for some time,
unless or until his composting efforts
paid off and produced something useful.
What they had were rocks and junk,
lots and lots of that stuff.
Asteroids were easy for Babs and Estelle
to catch and crush down to useable size.
It was simple to turn space rocks
into the equivalent of gravel,
perlite, pumice, or sand.
It was less simple, but still possible,
to make expanded clay pellets.
Making use of the scrap materials
scattered all over the Lacuna
added more challenge.
It was easy to pry the glass out of
things like faceplates and portholes,
which could then be broken down for use.
The problem was that working with broken glass
left Sam's hands full of nicks and splinters,
and since he was grubbing in a garden,
they quickly became infected.
So then Router pitched a fit about that,
which pissed off Sam because he hated
being treated like a fucking baby.
He could take care of himself, damn it,
not like that moron Backup.
Case helped by converting a material mixer into
a glass tumbler so that they could make
"friendly" sand and pebbles with
rounded edges that didn't cut.
As Sam chatted about his successes and
failures over the ciphernet, other people began
to join in the project, which led to more experiments,
and before long someone sent him a sample of
"growstones" made from recycled glass.
They looked like lava rocks, but actually came
from mixing molten glass with calcium carbonate
to make it foam, then breaking the cooled material
into rounded chunks of useful sizes.
When word seeped through the trade network
that Cascabel wanted z-balls, Bottleneck had
the bright idea of making them out of glass
as well as metal -- tiny, perfect spheres
which would support plants without
letting roots bind to any pores.
Glass allowed more light to reach the roots,
which improved growth, which made Sam happy.
* * *
Hydroponic media include a wide range of materials. From asteroids: expanded clay pellets, gravel, perlite, pumice, sand. From salvaged glass: crushed glass, friendly glass sand, growstones, tumbled glass. Crushed glass bottles have been tested for this purpose, with positive results. "Friendly glass" has many applications, and sea glass is lovely.
Rockwool, silica sand, and sharp landscaping glass can all be hazardous. It is important to ensure that hydroponic media are safe, such as by tumbling to remove sharp edges.
Tumbled glass is safe, effective, and beautiful. You can make your own.
Glass ball bearings also have a wide range of uses. Z-balls are perfect ball bearings made in zero gravity, traditionally metal, but glass ones should work too.
Infantilization means treating someone as younger than their age/development. This can pose problems for people with disabilities such as autism. It can also spark vicious debates about whether the same action is infantilizing or empowering. Really it comes down to the fact that empowerment makes it possible for people to do more, while infantilization traps them into doing less. Router and the other neurotypical crewmen have little brothers; Backup has older brothers and needs a lot of help; so treating him like a baby brother works great for them. It does not work at all for Sam the Gardener, but neither is Sam adept at all the self-care and other techniques necessary for health and safety. They'll have to figure out some new arrangements.
Bottleneck is a neurovariant man with an interest in materials, who takes up some of the manufacturing as the Lacuna starts to produce its own goods.