Colonist Diaries for Chapter:
5. First Landing.

5. First Landing

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Historian

The sun — make that the star Alchibah — — on second thought, it IS now the sun — was just rising off to the east of the camp, over the river. Historian made his way outside the tent. Most of the others were still sound asleep. Jack the Blade and Andy were on duty. Presumably there were two others out back of the tents.

“Good morning, Historian,” Andy said, “Hanna and Marty are already up, preparing, or more likely sorting, MREs to find which ones resemble breakfast. There’s plenty of coffee, though.”

After a time, Zoe, Connor, and Bartlett joined them, aluminum cups filled with steaming coffee in hands.

Jack said, “I heard some pretty strange sounds out there during the night.”

Bartlett said, “I did, too, along with some rustling near the edge of the forest when I was on guard.”

“I suggest,” the Historian said, “that while many of the unarmed colonists remain here and, with their robots, continue to set things up, perhaps the rest of us need to break into small groups and begin exploring this new world of ours.”

Just then, Kara came out of the sleeping tent and, tapping her wristpad said, “We really do need to settle on a time and day keeping scheme. What the hell is the time, anyway?”

The Historian said, “It’s time to start a new world!”

And So It Begins…

Posted in 5. First Landing by Zoe Heriot

DNA Testing.

Oh, the excuse is plausible enough. It’s true, we don’t have a Class 3 Lab available, and yes, there is a real danger of both virusses and prions from an alien ecosphere causing us all sorts of problems.

I just didn’t expect “Genetic Health” monitoring to begin so soon, especially amongst this bunch of Anarchists. Logic tells me it’s Murphy at work, rather than some UNWG mole. Said hypothetical mole, should they exist (probability approaches certainty) would have other, bigger Fish to fry at this point.

I’m supposed to be smarter than the average mutant, but it never occured to me to bring along a vial of bogus genetic material as cover. I thought I’d have lots of time before something like this happened.

I’m still not thinking at full capacity, my hormone swings slowly damping after cryosuspension but nowhere near normal. I mustn’t make any permanent decisions when my IQ is effectively reduced. Darnit, it’s hard acting in a crisis when my intellect is so impaired.

Stall, Zoe, Stall. Maybe I can volunteer as a Lab technician and do some creative record keeping. The system they’re keeping the records on is a doddle to crack, but dare I risk false data endangering others lives? No, not even for self-preservation. I’ll have to find some other way. After all, I’m almost the same as the standard H.Sap. Human according to most medical measures, just a few things slightly askew. After the Black Market surgery, DNA’s the only thing that would give me away.
Sitting here crying, moaning about the unfairness of the Universe, wondering if there’s a place in the whole Godforsaken Galaxy where it’s safe for someone for me to exist is not an optimal course of action. It’s the ‘mones causing it of course.

Stall. Try to make yourself useful. Try to make friends, so if the secret comes out, they may not vivisect you. After all, some genetic diversity is useful when facing unknown threats. Useful to the species though, individuals can get the Rough End of Life’s Big Pineapple.

Darn I’m not thinking straight. I’ve just got to stall until I am.

A Lumbering We Will Go

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

From the “Log” Files of William Bartlett

     I had run a few Galileo landing and takeoff sims in the last four years but had made well over a hundred piloting the Surprise. Andy Stuart, having more time in type, took the drop seat and I got the co-pilots chair and the better visuals. We each ran through a couple of preflight and touchdown sequences while waiting for final loading. After Glenda Cumberland announced all on board and belted in Captain Monroe did a walk through and sent me to double check the storage holds.

     As I returned to the bridge I happened to see Janie Cantarubias sitting next to her robot R. Madame Currie, “Emycee or Emy” for short. Janie had already gotten the bots basic personality set and with the Jeep’s help a fair amount of the speaking and mannerism detail which made all bots distinctive. Out of the crate the robots appearances were all identical. On board the Mayflower we had found that fact could be extremely confusing, passing a bot anywhere and not being able to tell if it was your own without asking. We solved that problem with paint. The Jeep had on his torso, upper arms, and legs, three 2 inch wide bands. “Black, Silver, Black.” In addition on the top of his head was painted, in quadrants, a black and silver beanie. Janie had chosen Lavender, Silver, Lavender for Emycee’s colors along with a lavender cap and also painted M. C. in script right where the heart would have been. I had noticed that improvement on the Jeep also, (but in block letters), and now knew where it came from. A few of the other bots had color schemes already but most colonists hadn’t had time to get to it yet.

We locked out of the Mayflower did the inertial alignment and de-orbital burn. The Galileo had to brake for reentry, no ablative tiles, but plenty of energy to do just that.

     This was the view as we left the Mayflower and started down.

     The landing sequence was automated and plotted before we made our first burn. But the last try by Copernicus didn’t work out so well did it? Captain Monroe made the final touch down on a sandy field by a small tributary of the main river which ran North/South into the hills above the landing site.

     Standing at the top of the ramp, under a warm sun and gentle breeze, I watched Linda and J.J. Parker, their family and the Benjamins all set foot upon Alchibah together. A glance around and a few deep breaths of the incredibly fresh smelling air and back inside I went. Off loading began immediately. When the portable timber mill went rolling down the ramp I figured I had found a job for a while.

     With the Jeep, R. Asimov, and a few of the other bots doing the heavy lifting the Galileo was soon on it’s way to being empty. For this task not much teaching of the bots was necessary. All of the training files from when the Hist , the Jeep, R. asimov and I, were cleaning up after the sabotage to the Mayflower were loaded into all the other robots and we had done a lot of moving and loading besides that over the years. All that was needed was to point to an item and indicate where to take it. Soon there was a constant stream of people and bots heading away from the Galileo, up about a 1000 feet of sandy slope, and then 500 feet westward to where the tent site was to be located, and back again. There were a half dozen wheelbarrows and a couple of four wheeled carts but as yet no powered vehicles to pull them. A couple of robots on each cart and they moved along as fast as a man could walk. Two hours after touchdown the Galileo was empty. Everything still piled at the ships base had to be moved before the jets could fire again. Two hours later we watched the Galileo depart.

     A group had started laying out the fabric and supports for the first of the two large tents. Figuring that was well in hand I took an axe from a chest of tools, got the Jeep, and made a quick trip out to the nearby forest edge. I was armed with my Glock and the Ruger I used on the Goonie cruiser.

     I said to Jeep, “Pay attention to the woods and if you detect anything larger than a mouse coming in our direction let me know.” All I had seen so far were a few, small, insect like things that didn’t seem attracted to me I’d put on some standard Earth type repellant and hadn’t been bothered yet. I wondered if the Jeep’s infrared detectors worked on cold blooded life forms. The Jeeps visual acuity was much better than mine but without being trained on what to look for that might not count for much. I decided that in the future I would not to get more than 50 yards away from a source of possible hidden danger without having another human with me. A couple of swipes at the base of one of the trees told me that it was sawable and well “woodish”. That’s all I needed to know so we went right back to camp.

     I found Janie and her bot Emycee assisting Zoe Heroit and some others restacking and arraigning supplies into a semblance of order. I asked her if she could give me a hand with the mill and she readily agreed. On the way over to it I managed to get a couple of colonists I knew through the introduction to robots class to let me borrow their bots for a couple of hours. We, or I should say the bots, loaded one of the low flatbed carts with a couple of 30 gallon drums of fuel, and a five gallon bucket of chain oil, and a crate labeled logging supplies.

     I had popped the lid off that crate and checked the contents a couple of years before when I saw it listed on the Mayflower’s manifest. It contained axes, sledges and wedges, 6 chainsaws, gloves, a dozen pair of boots in various sizes, climbing harnesses, ropes , chains and all the common safety equipment along with an assortment of spare parts and blades for the chainsaws and portable sawmills. I had Emycee grab hold of the mills tongue and told the Jeep to push and follow me. Janie had two of the other bots doing the same with the flatbed.

     The “Log Trees” started growing about 300 feet to the west of the tent site and about the same distance from the raised mound 400 foot south of the tents. They ranged in height from around 70 to 120 feet. The foliage was a similar to an Earthly cedar though slightly more leaf like. The bark was smoother and browner rather than grey, rather like a very tough rind rather than a bark. The trunks of the taller specimens were 16 to 24 inches in diameter the shorter ones from 10 inches and up. They were very strait with little taper until the branching started about half way up their length. Their average spacing was about 35 foot or so. There was a minor amount of brush and low fern like shrubs along with a few smaller Log Tree sprouts growing up amongst them.

     Again telling the robots to keep a sharp lookout, for whatever good it would do, I put on the pair of boots I had broken in when I first examined the crate, and while Janie found a pair she could wear, grabbed a chainsaw, fueled and oiled it, made sure it would start, then said to the Jeep and Emy. “Watch cause this is how it’s done.” I walked over to one of the nearer, smaller trees. “First figure which way the tree wants to fall.”

     “How do you know the tree wants to fall Boss”, said Emycee, sounding remarkably like the Jeep but with a hint of Janie in the intonation.

     “Quiet for now Emy and it will all become clear. Even trees as straight as these lean slightly in one direction or another. Just figure on what side of center that is and put a notch thusly.” I cut a wedge shaped notch about 18 inches from ground level. “Make sure everyone is out of the way for this next step. Everybody move over there.” I pointed to a spot about fifty feet away. I started from the back side and cut towards the notch and in a matter of a minute yelled “Timmberrr!”, and stepped back watching the tree fall just as I had planed. Those summers cutting for the paper mill hadn’t been wasted.

     “Here’s the next part.”  I said taking the chain saw and cutting off branches. When that was done I cut the trunk into 3 sections. The first 16 feet and then a 20 and lastly another 16. The upper portion was too small to make lumber out of but would do fine for fire wood if it burned. I asked Janie to take Emy and drag some branches and the top back by the tent area and turn them over for a trial burn and start of a campfire. By the time she returned I had the three logs over by the mill and with the bots doing the lifting, gotten the first log onto the saw’s bed. There was smoke rising from an area near where the tents were to be but still no sign of the tents themselves.

     The cutting was done by a 20 horse band saw mounted on a powered trolley. First a skimming pass to give the log a straight base and the log was flipped and the cutting proceeding. Three or four sides would be cut first to insure even edges on the planks and beams which were the output. The rough cut boards, even on this new machine could vary by as much as an eighth of an inch in cut dimension. I explained to Janie how the squared up size of the log determined what size and shape lumber you would eventually cut out of it. Today I said we would concentrate on 1 ¾ in. planks four, six, eight, and ten inches wide. I wasn’t sure what we would be building yet but these sizes were standards. Tomorrow we would cut more specifically for the first buildings. When run to it’s full capacity the mill could put out a bit over 200 board feet an hour. I wasn’t long, with the bots doing the loading, unloading, and stacking, that Janie was up to near that level.

     I went back to the tree line, notched and cut another sample, then turned the chainsaw over to the Jeep. His first tree fell exactly where he said it would. He was never wrong. It must have been the visual algorithms. I had him do all the notching and I made the fell cut. With an hour of daylight left and 20 trees down it was getting dark and time to get back to the tents. We loaded up as much of the scrap wood and larger branches as would fit on the trailer, some of the colonists had already come out to gawk and take back some wheelbarrow loads, and the bots pulled everything back to camp.

     The Galileo had made its second landing; mostly with supplies and a couple of new arrivals. I saw Joe Fortson shaking his head at what he judged to be the mass confusion around the tents. At least they were up and I could smell some kind of stew and coffee brewing along with a slightly sweet aroma of wood smoke.

     I planed to have a quick meal with Janie and maybe a drink and to find out what the word was from the few people who had been scouting within 1000 yards of our camp. Then off to sleep for an early rise tomorrow. I got the meal ok but was tagged for the first of the three hour night watches.

Down By the River’s Edge

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Historian

Day One.

“Yes, Historian?” my robot, R. Asimov replied, dutifully beside me.

“I’m going to take a little stroll,” I said, “why don’t you help out sorting supplies that arrived on the Galileo this morning. I’ll be back later.”

“Yes, Historian,” R. Asimov said, “But do be careful and call me using your wristpad if you need my assistance.”

He strode off to the ramp leading up into the hold of the Galileo. Intellectually, I knew he — here I am calling it a he — wasn’t capable of actual emotions, or even of worrying about me but as I approach my 70th Birthday, alone on a new world Asimov seems a comfort. I did change his “personality” setting to “older brother” once I figured the controls out.

Captain Travis had brought the Galileo down this trip to spell Monroe and he came towards me now. Although he had seen some of the photos and videos already sent back to the Mayflower, this was his first few minutes on the planet. We first landers were, having been here all of about 20 hours, veterans of the planet!

He said to me, “It’s gorgeous, Historian, absolutely gorgeous here. I don’t suppose there’s a Galactabuck’s Coffee Shop nearby?”

“Why yes,” I said, “come with me to our luxury dining establishment, over there beyond the two large dorm-tents we’ve set up. I’ll buy you a cup.”

As we entered the tent, one of the Parker girls squealed, “Ewww, a rat!”

Rushing over to the serving area, we could just spot the tail of the rodent as it darted under the tent wall and headed to safety outside.

Hanna said, “It was a rat!”

Several colonists said in unison, “A rat?”

One of them looked at Travis and said accusingly, “What the hell is a rat doing on this planet?”

Travis said, “Well, I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn there are rats scurrying around the Mayflower. Wherever man has sailed, rats came along for the ride! One of them probably got onto the Galileo and came down with us. From there, it just followed the food.”

Another colonist demanded, “What’s that going to do to the ecology of this planet?”

I said, “What are WE going to do to the ecology? We’re here and we will impact it as we might because there’s no chance of our leaving. The native flora and fauna will just have to get used to us, or adapt to us, as we will to it.”

The Rayes and several others were standing nearby and one of them muttered, “Just great! We’re starting off a new world with guns, rats, and probably pollution. Seems like old times…”

As Travis and I wandered outside the tent, he said, “The Rayes bear watching. In the Mayflower over the past couple days they’ve formed their own little click of friends and I don’t think they’re too happy with the rest of us. There’s some talk that they’d like to be set down somewhere else on the planet to start their own colony.”

We walked east, towards the river.

“What’s the schedule for landings?” I asked Travis.

“Well, more supplies on my second run this afternoon including two of the three wind generators. They’re not big but each can supply up to 20 kilowatts under favorable conditions. Enough to power a string of lights around camp, anyway, and a water pump. The PVC pipe, what wasn’t on the Copernicus, will come down, too. The other eight porta-potties are coming, and the another 100 water drums. That will leave 70 drums left. Naturally I’ll take the empties back with me but you folks need to establish the safety of the local water quickly.”

I said, “I noticed a tall hill, almost a cliff, on the map we made, near the intercoastal waterway. The winds on top there coming off the ocean should be perfect for the wind generators.”

“That would be a good project for some of the colonists to work on. Tim Watson or Zoe Heriot come to mind as they’ve got experience with electronic stuff. We’ve got plenty of copper cable to run down towards camp. Certainly a couple miles of it. Setting up a Wi-Fi around here would be good, too.” He paused, took out an expensive silver cigarette case, withdrew one and lighted it. He continued, “Thank god you grew some of this during the trip. Finally, a planet without smoking nazies!”

“We’ll see about that,” I said, “but I enjoy a good cigar myself.”

“Tomorrow — that would be Alchibah Day Two, I guess, though shouldn’t it really be Day Three? — I’ll be bringing all the small personal tents down. Each is about 15 feet in diameter and there’s one for each colonist, even children. They can be connected together with flaps so families can actually have a multi-roomed tent.”

“What about running some steel pipe in the ship’s foundry?” I asked.

“Dr. Hibbes is working on the CNC program now. We’ll run just enough to get drilled wells, sanitation, and so forth going. It will be rough for a time because most of the heavy equipment used for mining was lost in the Copernicus. We’re down to one bucket loader, one crawler, and a few rock drills, one of which is coming here to drill for wells, sewar, etc.”

We stopped by the wide river. It was quite pretty and there were some small waterfalls to the south, rapids, and yet some rocky shallow areas making it look easy to cross it in a couple spots. The sound of the small fall was soothing, as was the planet itself. We were alone although the sound of a lot of activity drifted to us from the other colonists a couple hundred feet to the west.

“Any fish in there?” Travis asked me.

“I haven’t had the chance to actually look,” I replied, “I imagine several of the colonists will be checking that out rather quickly. I certainly see some things darting around! Actually, later this afternoon I plan to follow the river at least partly to the ocean.”

“Well don’t overdue it, old-timer!” he said with a smile.

“You too? First my robot and now you fussing over me,” I smiled back.

He picked-up a couple small stones and tried skimming them across the water. He said, “You know, I think that on the afternoon trip I’d better bring some of the battery powered heaters and more lights, too. According to Bart, it’s still early Spring here and the nights could get cold.”

“It was chilly last night for sure,” I said, “and I know we have plenty of nuclear batteries — they’re all standardized and there are cases of them. Of course, between powering robots, lights, cook stoves, heaters, water pumps, the refrigerators and who knows what else, we’ll go through them pretty quickly. You’d better keep a few cases on the ship for emergencies.”

“Well,” Travis said, “You certainly plan–”

Just then, Andy Stuart came bounding up to us and said, “Say Travis, any chance of getting sheet metal out of the Mayflower’s steel mill?”

“Hi Andy,” Travis said, “At the moment, no. It’s a small mill and with only a few of us to run it, including one young colonist, Greg Bugbee, who has some experience in mining and wants to help us maintain the Mayflower. He dreams of being a space-jockey himself. And, there’s a long list of other things ahead of it sheeting. I imagine we’ll do a run in a month or so.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well, metal piping for one, as I said, since we lost much of the PVC piping and plumbing is a priority. Secondly, we plan to modify the lifeboats on the Lancer to make them full-time vehicles. We’ll rip out four of the 10 seats to make space for cargo and other equipment. Once we reinforce the hull and increase thrust and fuel capacity on them, they should be good for hopping around the planet. Sort of like small mass-transit busses. There are a lot of parts to be fabricated. I’m afraid you’ll have to stick to native wood for your projects, for now.”

Andy said, “By the way, when do you plan to bring the rest of the colonists?”

Travis replied, “I’ll bring another sixty down tomorrow on one of the trips and Monroe will bring the rest of them the day after.”

I said, “It will be quite the tent-city here shortly.”

We all turned back to the rippling water.

Gettin Rolling

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


The new sun was just drifting above the edge of the horizon on Day 0:1 when the camp began to stir. The watch had been as boring as you could possibly hope for a daybreak shift. Broken only by a speed run down to the river for Mariana’s water sample and some animal noises, it had been gratifyingly quiet. Jack waved towards the tents and moved inside, funny that I had not said a word to him all night!

People began stirring, Hanna and the support crew was shifting foodstuffs around. Bart and Janie were getting their robots in gear dragging what would have been called slabers where I grew up. The Historian was stirring looking up on the approach vector for the Galileo as if he expected action at any moment.

I went by the coffee rig we had set up and fixed one for Mariana, and myself I did not want to deal with the before coffee version. Moving to the guard watch section of the tent I grinned and prepared to launch a kick to her backside. Predictably as my foot started back she rolled out of the bunk. “You complain because you can’t get a kick to land, I don’t get to start one.”

Grimacing she reached for the coffee, “Well of course, it’s not fair that those overdrive genes of yours should keep me from landing a well deserved boot!”

“No more so than those precognitive genes of yours keep me from starting a more than justly deserved boot!”

She gave me that innocent me look and said, “Yea, if they would just work more than a couple of seconds out! Still, the old UNWG was as scared of us as anything.”

“What do you think the effect is going to be when your DNA project lets our little secrets out here?”

She whirled from straightening up the bunk and I got the full Magic Stare, “You of all people should know better than that. Samples from here get scanned in and catalogued; they do not get examined unless someone gets sick. If they are not in my body and fender shop, I do not care and I made damn sure no one else gets those records. In case you don’t remember when you and Ash wrote the encryption algorithm for the old OPLAN database, you left your notes on the dining room table when you went out to the BBQ to celebrate. Well, I copied them. That’s what’s protecting the scans right now. As it has never been broken, I figure that’s good enough!”

I just woofed and sat heavily into the camp chair, “Damn but you are being damn serious about protection aren’t you. Well, here are the water samples you wanted. You going to stay here and work these while I take the robots and prep your lab site?”

“Yeah, I should have a preliminary for the water in an hour or so and a full report as soon as the lab is online.”

“OK I am going to go watch the landing, then police up the robots and head out. Good luck with the samples, and come and join me when you’re finished.” She just grunted, already lost up in unpacking the small water test kit.

Stepping outside I was able to watch Travis bring down the Galileo for today’s run. Damn but that guy had a smooth hand at the controls. The only one better I had ever seen was Ash but as he shared the family overdrive genes; he did not really form a basis for fair comparison. I woke up the robots and instructed them to do a self-diagnostic then wait for instructions; and wandered over to the cluster around the Historian and Travis. I was grateful to see Travis light up a cigarette and my next stop was graven in stone!

I asked Travis about the availability of sheet metal and he said it would be at least a month. That was no problem as I am looking at least three weeks lead time for the first part of my project.

I keyed my wristcomp, “Bartlett, A. Stuart; you copy?”

“Stuart, Bartlett; go ahead!”

“Bart think you can put your slab piles in one location. Believe it or not I have a use for them.”

“Andy, sure, but what use are they?”

“Bart, yall ever hear of charcoal! How can you have a BBQ without charcoal?”

Hearing a suppressed laugh, I went back to the tent where our gear was and began digging to the very bottom of my pack. Digging out the small vacuum case grandpa had given me I opened the valve. When the air in-rush stopped, I opened it and pulled out the first of the three precious packs of ancient Marlborough’s. Placing it firmly in my pocket and moved out of the tent. I gathered the robots and moved to the area on the southern area of the bluff that we had seen from the overheads. I then spent the next couple of hours instructing R. NUG and R. MYCROFT in the Manual of Arms for the M-117 Shovel. The oldest and hairiest joke of the military might have come to life. These robots really were “One Person, One Shovel, and Seven Days per Week.” It took about an hour for them to get the motions down correctly. When they did it was a sight to behold, those bots’ could move dirt. After showing them how to move the first rock that they had encountered, it behooved you to be out of range when they flung one out of the way. After about two hours, my wristcomp went off.


Taking a deep breath, I keyed the wristcomp, “M. Stuart to General Broadcast, Comm. Central please record. The water on this planet is on preliminary examination safe to consume. However, in the short term light chlorination or boiling is recommended. The native microbes contained in the water while not dangerous are foreign. For the first day or two after consuming untreated native water, you will experience what on Earth was called Montezuma’s Revenge. This will not be in the long term harmful; it will be in the short term unpleasant. Suggest that not all members of a family unit make the transition at the same time. Also, advise that single colonists have someone check on them during the first 48 hours. Good Luck and it will pass; it will just seem like it won’t.”


Grinning I went back to getting the robots to level the area they had cleared. I had no doubts that the Lab Rats would appear shortly.

Angel in the Night

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Early morning day 1 (second guard watch, night after landing).


I’ll never forget my first step onto Alchibah. Our new home is so much like Earth and yet so, well… alien. The trees and plants almost seem like they would be at home in the old backyard in Vermont. Almost.

I looked up at the night sky, at the two brilliant moons, at the breathtaking starscape and milky asteroid belt. The night air was crisp and fresh in a way that not even the mountain air of northern Canada was. Humans haven’t had the chance to mess this planet up yet. I only hope that those of us here learn from the lessons of the past and don’t make the same mistakes our predecessors had. No, here we have the opportunity to make entirely new mistakes. I laughed ruefully.

Watching the surrounding forest I hefted the shotgun and silently hoped that it would be enough for what was out there. There were some very odd sounds coming out of the darkness, sounds that definitely came from animals of the predatory persuasion. The one that stood out the most to me was a loud hiss that ended in a sort of rasping growl/howl. It was the sort of sound you’d imagine coming out of the mouth of the grim reaper’s dog. Once though, far off in the hills, there was a booming, guttural roar that quieted the raspers for quite a while. The beast the belonged to that sound was the one that made me question the effectiveness of the otherwise trusty 12 gauge.

“Quite the thing, isn’t it?” Mariana came around the corner from my left. “Being the first humans to ever set foot on another planet with life?”

“That it is. I only hope we prove ourselves deserving of the honor. I think perhaps not all of us are.” I grimaced, thinking of Buchanan and Kurt.

“I’m sorry to say, but you’re probably right. I think time will separate those that are from those that aren’t.” She scanned her side of the tents, facing away from me. “Andy and I, for our part, just want the opportunity to start a new life away from all the death we were a part of back home.”

We were silent for a while, watching the night. I had been in this situation countless times, as I’m sure she had as well. Somehow, this was different.

“So, you’re really Angel’s ‘big brother’?” she asked.

“Gabe? You better believe it. Our parents adopted him when he was just a few days old. He never talked about SpecOps much, but given how much he was able to teach me, Jaisa and the gang you two must have been damn good trainers.”

She grunted. “We were given the best to work with. Angel though, he was something else. Never seen anyone come that close to Andy’s level. Hell, I’ve never seen anyone but your brother come at all close to Andy’s level. But even with all that, he’s not a killer. Some of the people in our line of work are a little… funny in the head, let’s say. The parts of them that make them really human aren’t always there.” She paused. “Did he ever tell you why we called him Angel?”

“When I found out that was his callsign, after he left the service, I just assumed it was because of his name being ‘Gabriel.’ There was more to it?” I asked.

“Oh yes, much more. I wasn’t there, but as I understand it he damn near got kicked out of the service for that little incident. Disobeying a direct order and all that” She laughed softly. I shook my head. It sure sounded like Gabe so far. I could never understand how he made it as long as he did in the ‘yes sir’ environment of the SSEALS. She continued.

“It was supposed to be a quick in/out mission. Torch a weapons depot, set some small delayed charges to finish the job and run. The bad guys end up with fewer weapons, it looks like accidental fire and no one gets hurt. Win-win-win. Only it wasn’t that simple: part of the building was being used as a makeshift orphanage. Whether the higher ups knew that or not is (and probably always will be) an open question, but Gabe sure as hell didn’t. The second he heard those kids yelling for help he was running full tilt back into the building while the rest of the team followed their orders and got the hell out of there. He was hauling the kids out of there in threes and fours. Man, that guy was built like a brick shithouse. He managed to get all fourteen kids out before the place blew. I’ve been told he jumped out of a third story window with the last one just before the charges went.” She grinned. “So, Angel it was.”

“Wow. I never knew. That’s Gabe all over, but he sure never said anything. But then, that’s Gabe too.” I sighed, “I hope I get to see him again. He’s the only living family I’ve got left, other than the girls.” I looked up into the night, towards Sol and Earth.

Mariana slapped me on the back. “You may yet. If there’s anyone that can pull off that stunt, it’s him.”

We stood, watching the night.


The quietness of the night surrounded us until my wrist comp began to vibrate. “Connor shifts almost over. I’ll go make sure the relief is awake.” Getting only a nod from him, I went to the corner of the tent the guards had cut off with a ground cloth. Stopping to pour a cup of coffee with triple a normal load of sugar, I went to the bunk Andy was softly snoring in. With an evil grin, I launched a kick square at his read end. This as usual was not there when my foot arrived. The reaction times those gene sequences give him are the reason he goes through so much sugar and alcohol (which was to him just one more source of blood sugar). “Just once I want that kick to land”

“Get faster, pretty Lady.”

As he was getting into his outdoor garb, he started talking. “I checked the overheads before I crashed. Found the perfect place to dig in the lab. Down on the Southwest corner of the big bluff to the South is a perfect place. Safe away from the first structures, away from the road Bart is talking about and with the mass overhead to bury it if necessary in an emergency.”

I noticed that he was concealing his weapons and not putting on the open holsters.

“Why the concealment we are home now?”

“Yep, and I guarantee you that there are going to be people coming down in the near future to whom only the Cops and the Bad Guys have guns. Not, that in the UNWG there was a lot of difference; but, lets forgo the questions in their minds as to which we are. We are not wolves anymore, we are sheepdogs, it’s time to hide the fangs and let the sheep settle in! Which I might add, could you talk to Connor and that girl of his? I’ll talk to Joe and Bart. Ash already hides his so he’s no problem, even if I could get him away from that lash-up computer rig.”

“What’s got into him any way and yes, I’ll talk to Connor and his brood. If we are going to calm this down maybe, I should back off a little on the DNA samples. We are probably starting to look like the UNWG there also! Until people realize we are not even looking at them till someone gets sick, they are probably a little nervous. Bet you someone thinks we are scanning for defectives or plants; as if we could if we wanted to! We only have control scans for eight people to compare to.”

“When does distrust of bureaucracy need fuel to feed it?”

I just nodded and said, “OK, you’re right. Let’s go make the shift swap!”

When is Success Really Failure Part I

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Ash Andrews

A bedraggled figure struggled into the area where Hanna Parker was running the first restaurant/bar/common room on Alchibah from the palatial confines of a corner of a tent.

Ash groaned, “Can I have some coffee; black and strong please!”

Hanna turned to hide her stare as she dug out a packet of the old US SOCOM MRE coffee, the kind with triple the caffeine. Running that through the fast pot, she handed it to him as requested. “Pardon me if I am prying but what has got your goat. I have never seen you like this!”

Ash looked up from behind four days growth of beard and the worst case of bloodshot eyes Hanna had ever seen; “I have to give a bunch of people news they do not really want to hear. Travis and Bartlett are probably never going to trust me again and when I talk to Mariana she’s probably gonna kill me! So, it’s just a great fracking day on Alchibah. Well, Might as well get this started.”

Ash keyed his wrist comp, “Bartlett, Ash Andrews; on the next rotation of the shuttle, I need a private face to face with you and Travis. I have something that needs to go only to you two!”

Bartlett’s voice cracked in return, “Ash, this had better be good! The next time Travis will be available will be the AM landing on Day 2.”

“Good enough I’ll meet you at the landing field and it’s that important, Andrews clear.”

Hanna stared and asked, “What’s that important?”

“Oh, just the classified data base off of Pursuit Cruiser 1192; you know the one I was flying! I think I left the UNWG the Lancers DEE-HEE pulse drive as well as the gravitational grabber drive that made the Mayflower possible!”

Hanna asked in a bewildered tone, “And how in the world did you do that.”

“Well, right when Andy and Mariana were getting out of the service; the UNWG was jacking me around on mom’s health care. I wound up staying in to insure she got it. I got bored, decided to go for another PHD, and wrote a thesis on Drive design. Guess where R. J. got the idea for the grabber drive. Hell, he even tried to hire me. The UNWG quashed publication and all that got out were a few private copies. A friend of mine gave his to Hamilton. I thought the UNWG had destroyed all mention of it. Surprise, Surprise; there was a copy in that data base!”

“Oh Dear, and Bartlett is never going to believe you had nothing to do with it’, Hanna commiserated.

“Yep, and wait till I fill in Marina’s data. Oh hell, I know it’s early; but, you got a shot of anything about a hundred proof back there!”

Making Friends

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

Making Friends 00:0001:05

     Same job with a few new crewmembers. Joe Fortson came to help and his robot R. Dan Daily and two of the Parker’s bots, R. Sir.Tom and R. Maggie, replaced the ones we had borrowed yesterday. We were going to cut some tall trunks, that wouldn’t need to be squared up as columns, for a raised community building. We planned to notch for the attachment points of the floor and roof beams and cut planks for the floor, walls, and roof. No windows yet and just one door with a ladder we can pull up after we are inside. Total size about 60’ by 48’ the plan was to get the first and only floor level 10 foot up above ground and leave the underside open. We could do something with that underside area at a later date. What we were aiming for was something more secure than the tents that we could spruce up later.

     “I saw your crack about our sanitary facilities Joe. Any of the small stuff we cut is yours for the construction thereof.”

     “Gee thanks Bart, I didn’t mean for that to get out.”

     When I went to start the saw mill…. it didn’t. Overnight, what yesterday was just mildly sticky log tree sap had hardened up around the blade pulleys and saw guides. It took 20 minutes and a pint of the precious chainsaw fuel to remove the caked sawdust. We only had two small biomass converters for the fuel production and they would barely be able to keep up with the chainsaws once we were in full swing.

     While Joe and I were cleaning the saw Janie was examining the wood we had cut yesterday. She came back from her inspection, expression grim, and told us all the planks that had been stacked one on the other were now solidly glued together. Those few resting singly on uncut logs had dried to a non stick finish almost like shellac. The sap didn’t dry and stick to the log trees bark. That would mean spacing everything out and drying for a day before the wood could be stacked and moved. All we could do with what we had piled yesterday was cut it up and use it for firewood. At least, and thankful for small favors, the chainsaws were not gummed up, most likely due to their use of blade oil.

     Using the cleaned up trunk of a smaller tree we had taken to calling a Pole Pine as spacers between layers we were shortly cutting again. About that time I got a call from Andy Stuart. The signal was none too clear but I caught something about slabs and charcoal. Joe volunteered to head to the raised area to the south of us and get clarified exactly what Andy was up to. Joe left his bot “Ro Dan” to cut up the glue pile and take it back to the tent area for fire wood. After the re-cutting the wood seemed dry clear through.

     “Yo Andy, How goes it? Diggin’ for gold?”

     “Naw Joe just the Biolab, we got more gold than we can use. And between you and me the food gets cold too fast when Mariana uses the gold table setting. What we need is some supports. We’re digging into the base of the mound here to get us underground for containment but if we are going to have any substantial free span open area we’ll need shoring, cross beams, and roofing timbers.”

     “And at the rate those bots are slinging it Reaper, oops I mean Andy, you’re gonna need em soon.”

     When Joe returned and described what Andy was up to it made sense to get him what he needed as quickly as possible. We started cutting 8 foot shoring timbers and 16 and 20 foot cross beams. An hour later Joe took a chainsaw for the necessary trimming and a cartload of timber pulled by RoDan and Sir.Tom. He would have to get the cart unloaded in a hurry to keep the pieces from sticking together or to the cart itself. We had another load ready to go, mostly roofing, and Joe had not returned yet when Janie and I went back to cutting for the community building.

     While Janie ran the saw I was seeing about getting some more pole pines placed out and trying to figure a way to get the planks to stand on edge so that they didn’t take up as much space. I glanced towards the tents and noticed one of the colonists leading two robots and the other cart heading in our direction. He sent the bots and the cart my way and went over to have a word with Janie. Janie flicked on her communicator so I caught the conversation .

     “Good morning Ma’am. And with a glance in my direction. “You two are certainly performing admirably.”  He said this as R.Emy took another board from the mill and carried it to the drying stack.

     “It’s Janie”, she replied with a quizzical expression, “And your last name is Reyes isn’t it? I don’t think I caught your first.”

     “Les, Lester Reye at your service.”, He nodded his head as if it were a blessing from royalty. “I’ve just come over to pick up some of this marvelous lumber for a private building project I have in mind.”

     Eyes widening in disbelief Janie pointed at me and said, “Go talk to Bart maybe it’s your lucky day.”

     He came over to where I was working and introduced himself.

     “Good morning to you, Mr. Bartlett, and a fine morning it is, though breakfast did leave something to be desired. I am quite sure we will get the meal situation worked out in the fullness of time. Les Reye is the name, I am sure you remember me from the robot class on the Mayflower.”

     “Yes Les, and just what exactly do you want and how did you get hold of the cart while the Galileo is down and being unloaded?” I had seen and heard the ships arrival while we were cleaning up the mill. I guess a hint of annoyance , ok mild anger was creeping into my voice.

     “Calm down, calm down my good man”, in a tone meant to mollify, “It’s really quite simple. After breakfasting, and seeing so many of you laboring types working so industriously, I, along with a few like minded individuals of a more managerial and professional bent, engaged in a short discussion concerning the future direction of our small colony. In so far as it seems too early to make some of the necessary major decisions, we decided that rather than waste time later, we would pick out our building sites overlooking the river. There are perhaps a dozen choice locations with truly spectacular views and perhaps…. yes almost certainly, if you finish up early enough today, you might even choose one yourself.”

     “What the hell!”   Near speechless with amazement that was all I could choke out.

     “And while others are busy unloading the Galileo I thought to stake out my site and perhaps start construction. Nothing pretentious mind you, just two or three thousand square feet to begin with. The cart was temporarily idle so I had R. Augustus and R. Hadrian pull it over to see how you were doing and get a first load. Idle hands and all.” With that he turned to the bots and said , “Start loading boys.”

     “Stop now!! ” I screamed. The robots froze. “Reye, get out of here and take the cart and robots with you. If I don’t see your backside within the next 5 seconds you will surely wish I had.”

     He started to say something then took a closer look at my face, spun on his heels and left.

     Janie, who had come over to hear the end of the exchange said, “Imagine that.”

     “I’ll do my best not to.”, and with a grin, “I did show remarkable restraint. Don’t you think?”

     “Only for you Bart, only for you.”

     It wasn’t long afterwards that Joe Fortson returned. He told me that while unloading and explaining to Andy about the sticky wood sap problem he heard that the second, smaller sawmill, had just made it down. The lab area was much closer to the landing site than we were and so the communications passing back and forth were easier to make out. He told us he had taken his cart back to use for ship unloading and told R .Daily and R SirTom to carry the mill over to Andy so he could cut on the spot and that the bots should be back any time now.

     “Good call Joe. Let’s get back to work.”

     With only a brief stop for lunch we kept going till dusk. We left the cut wood on the pole pines to finish drying overnight and cleaned up the mill. Back at the tents later that evening I found out from the Hist that a few of the colonists were talking about setting up on the Southern continent. I described my “Discussion”, with Lester Reye and the Historian said, “I see.”, and after a pause, “It’s probably time to think about a little more organization.”

First Steps

Posted in 5. First Landing by Hanna Parker

     “Should we pick up our things and follow?”  I asked Jules as we saw the first group head away from the Galileo, north towards the point where the beach merged with the higher ground.
     “That’s a good idea, dear.  Let’s see how much luggage we can manage” Jules replied, picking up two of our suitcases. 
     I grabbed a couple of smaller bags, casting a wary eye at our two robots, R. SirTom [named after Sir Thomas More] and R. Maggie Thatcher.  We left them behind to help load and move one of the 4-wheel cars under JJ’s supervision.  Neither of us felt very comfortable with them around.  I felt like I was under a microscope as they examined and recorded our every move.  They were learning our mannerisms.  Now I’m pleased enough to have technology serve us, but I don’t want to end up serving it.  I sure don’t want those robots to end up running my world.  When I told Junior, he just laughed and said we were “old-fashioned” and would get used to it.  He said “You have to train the dog who’s the boss.”
     “We shall see” I called over my shoulder as Jules and I started following the others, who were slowly pulling ahead.  As we climbed the gradual slope the ground became less sandy and it was a much easier walk.  We had gone two-thirds of the way and those ahead of us were now out of view.
     Jules said, “Hanna… Let’s take a break.”
     “Of course, dear.  Glad you suggested it.”  As always, I was concerned about his heart condition.  It was difficult to gauge how he was fairing in the new environment, with the time change, etc.  His breathing was just a bit labored, but he appeared fine and even seemed relaxed.

     We sat down on a small rock ledge which pushed up through reddish brown soil and made a natural bench that faced the river, which was a good hundred feet below us.  The plants were somewhat similar to earth’s but different.  The grass was about mid-calf and had scalloped edges.  Colorful wild flowers of varying heights and sizes poked through the grass in small little pockets here and there.  To our one side were occasional clusters of fern-like plants with deep olive fronds sprouting from purplish-brown central stalks.  And along the river’s edge rising 15 feet or more, dense plantings reminded me vaguely of elephant grass.
     The view was marvelous.  We were silently drinking it in, and as Jules gently slipped my hand into his, “Sweetheart…” he began, “…Dark browns and greens, and a deep blue sky with cotton candy clouds drifting above.  We left our home so far far away.  But I will never leave you, Love. No, I will never leave you.”
     “Why Jules, that sounds like a love song!” I exclaimed, as I blushed and gazed affectionately into his eyes.
     “Could be” he replied with a warm twinkle.  Before the mood could linger we were startled by a rustling sound, and saw a “thing” no further than 15 feet away crossing the path and heading towards the river.  I hastily grabbed Jules’ arm and thought of the saying “If snakes had hips,” because this one did!  It had about six sets of ‘legs’ that raised it almost a foot above the ground.  Fortunately Jules quickly used vidcam to capture its image.  To our surprise, we later saw that it had a total of ten legs, in five slightly staggered pairs.  And rather than being directly in line with each other, the leg on the opposite side was about two inches further back on the body.  The creature was nearly four feet long with a slightly ovoid-shaped body that was about two inches high and an inch and a-half wide.  It had three slit eyes, high up on each side of its triangular head.  The head extended out about six inches from its first set of legs.  Long forked tongue – 8 inches long, and pointed teeth with two front fangs about an inch long.  Not poisonous, I hoped.  The Tail extended about a foot behind the last legs.  It looked our way, paused briefly, and then apparently unconcerned continued on its way.  Its coloration was mottled and blended in with the vegetation; maybe like a chameleon it would change.  We watched it weave its way downwards about 30 feet before we lost it from view.
     “What shall we call it, dear” Jules asked me.     

      After a moment’s thought I said “Let’s call it a Slizard – a cross between a snake and lizard.”
      Now refreshed, we grabbed our things and continued up the last little way.  Some of the first group was coming back towards us and as we reached the tent site Junior and Linda caught up to us.  Just in time!
     Junior directed the robots in unloading the tents from the cart, and he began gathering small rocks to mark off where the tents should be erected.   He had a rough plan in mind.  Trip followed trip bringing up supplies and belongings, while Jules and I stayed at the camp site and arranged them, taking short breaks when necessary. 
     While some of the younger folk started pitching the tents, Jules and I began to sort out what we would need for our first meal on planet.  Helping hands came from everywhere, and in no time at all, the stoves and tables were set up in the common tent.   
      Janie came into camp with R. Madame Curie.  How attractive I thought, meaning its appearance.  Now is that dumb or what, to compliment a robot of all things.  They had  piled cut up branches and small logs onto one of the carts, which R. Madame Curie was unloading near a bare depression not far from the tents.  Jules and I went over to watch, and to confirm that the wood was at our disposal.  We needed a fire for cooking, and  Janie said she could hardly wait for whatever came off the grill.  She had worked up quite an appetite.  As she turned to go back the woods west of us, we began preparations for the fire.  

    Jules had gotten a bit more comfortable with the robots, so he sent them to gather six- to twelve- inch rocks to surround the fire pit.   Using the smallest wood pieces first we soon had it lit.  They seemed to hold, and gave off a mild scent as they burned.  As the robots brought in the rocks, Jules had them placed in a six foot ring around the fire while I gradually added more and larger pieces to the fire.
It seemed like longer, but only four hours had passed when we heard the roar of the engines and saw the Galileo streak skyward on a pillar of flame.  That would mean more mouths to feed next time.
     “It sure would be nice if we could get a pot of coffee going” Jules said, but I didn’t see anything to use for a grate.
     “I know where to get one” I said, then went and took one of the upper racks from a portable stove.  I brought that along with a large brewing pot and a jug of water.  The water was soon warming and not too long afterwards the coffee was soon perking away.
     Not my best effort, but a stew of sorts made its way into the kettle and onto the plates of the hungry colonists.  Jules and I stole a quiet moment together, said a blessing, and had our first meal at the [temporary] First Inn.  Oh, if we’d only kept a better eye on the coffee overnight!

From The Strangest Places

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kurt Kellerman

I was just leaving the sleeping tent just after dawn on Day 0:2 not that I had been doing much of that lately the last few nights since we had landed especially. God knows I deserved every bit of it and Sally had ten years worth saved up but, no matter how deserved a constant flow made you want to go back to your uncaring self. Seeing one face I did not want to deal with I turned down towards the river.

“Kellerman halt,” barked the cold southern drawl of Ash Andrews. Grimacing I turned slowly around to see a face that looked more haggard and drawn than mine did.

“How would yall like a chance for redemption?”

I know my jaw dropped off my boot tops, “What are you talking about you are the last person I would expect to give me a break!”

“What, you were an asshole I told you so to your face; shoved it up your nose if I remember correctly. Anybody with an ear knows Sally’s been shoving it up your behind ever since. Guess what, I been called an asshole before also, I’m still here! And this is simple, right up your alley and bound to get you a pass from a few people especially Andy. And believe me that be one Ace you want in your hand bubba.”

I was more than a little stunned, “What is it I need to do?”

“You are going to be working in the Lab; all you have to do is run a comparison between a control DNA sample and one taken on the ship. When you find what you find I have a third file for you to see!”

“But we only have eight control samples and three of those are dead. Whose sample are you talking about and why?”

“Mariana’s and when you find what I am sure you are going to find, you won’t have to ask. By the by, I plan to be out of thrown object range when Andy finds out. He might just destroy wherever He’s at.”

“What in the hell do you think I am going to find and what’s in that third file?”

“You find the medical result you find and if I am right. The file is proof of how the UNWG altered her medical records!”

“Dear God, how?”

“I not gonna give yall a lead Yankee, if yall ain’t good enough to find it. No damn redemption in sight bubba!”

“Where are you going,” I asked.

“Landing Field, I gotta slay my own damn Dragon!” With that, he turned and left!

We’ve finally landed!

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kara

Day 2
I can’t believe I’m sitting on a new planet. I also can’t believe how much it is like Earth. While the plants look different, they are also familiar enough to put us at ease. Hell, there’s even drinkable water.

I’ve been busy helping unload the cargo and setting things up. Basically doing whatever needs to be done. Many are like me, though some have specialties that have them working on specific tasks.

Like the saw mill operation. Amazing we can cut the trees like we can at home (well, our old home). Everything went smoothly until we woke up in the morning to curses flying like bullets. Ha! That should teach us to assume that just because it looks familiar means that it will act familiar :) Poor guys, all that work for nothing.

With more colonists coming down, I was able to take a few hours off and roam the immediate area. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see everything, even though right now it mostly involves plants.

I love the wildflowers. There’s this one that has a really fat stalk with no leaves, with round “heads” of flowers. Like an allium but with multiple “balls” from the same stalk. The balls are either blue or yellow, and I saw one that has a ball of mainly blue but some individual flowers being yellow. It looks really cool.

The grass in the “meadow” is fairly long, but only knee-high so it is not too bad to walk through. I went to the forest wall and peeked in. Saw a lot of fern-like things, some green, some purplish, all mostly short. I found some pods on the ground, though not sure where they came from. They are a dark brown, round and have a fairly thin shell — I accidentally stepped on one and it cracked right open. Inside were these little beads that must have been seeds. I picked another one up and shook it, and you can hear all the beads moving around. It makes a neat sound, and might make a good rattle.

Unfortunately, the suns started to set so I had to head back to camp, eager to see more yet fulfilled at the same time. What a great feeling.


Posted in 5. First Landing by Kara

How on Alchibah did such dumb folk get here? Seriously!

I was walking to the kitchen when I overheard some people discussing homes and such. This one guy, turns out it was Les Raye, comes in and starts bitching about how they wouldn’t give him any wood to start his house.

That stopped me cold. What? House? You’re ready to start a house and we barely have a kitchen?

After he started on about how this group needs to stake claim to their land and how else but to start building their homes.

I couldn’t just stand there anymore, so I gave him a peace of my mind. I can’t give you specifics as it all happened so fast, and I barely came up for breath.

Basically, I told him there was no way anyone is ready to build houses, or even decide whose land is whose. We have far more important things to figure out, and to build, and the last thing we all need are houses.

I also said that they obviously didn’t have enough things to do or they wouldn’t even have time to think of such things. And that they better start helping carry their weight.

The looks on their faces was priceless. All gaping mouths and looking dumbfounded. Dumb indeed.

But then the “leader” (Les again) had to open his big mouth, explaining that he wasn’t the labor type and some BS like that.

I informed him that neither was I — I went to university, had a good government job, and never built a thing in my life, but what else did we expect? We knew we were coming to a new planet, and had to start from scratch. Of course there would be labor involved, doing things we had never done before! How did you get on this trip if you didn’t know that? What kind of dumbass are you?

He didn’t care for that. Young lady this, and young lady that, mind who you’re talking to.

So I punched him in the face.

Then I went back to the cargo area. I couldn’t even remember what I wanted from the kitchen in the first place.

Now my hand hurts. Had never punched anyone before (don’t even know if I did it right). But this planet is a place for firsts isn’t it?

Rats and Slizards and Growls, Oh My!

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kara

Day 2

One of the animals that loves us to pieces back on Earth, has decided to follow us to our new home….rats. I can’t believe it, yet I can at the same time. I’ve been running around trying to capture them — the last thing we need is them proliferating and destroying the local ecology (who knows what kind of impact they could have). I’ve asked those in the kitchen if we could perhaps make a stew out of them. We’ll see how that goes.

Some colonists have seen one of the native animals that they’ve called the Slizard (courtesy of the Parkers). Can’t wait to see a snake with legs!

We’ve also seen some little flying insect things. One is like a daddy long-legs spider with wings, about as big as a mosquito. And the other one is a bright blue dragonfly thing, about the same size and shape but the wings are the same blue as the body and are opaque. They like to dart back and forth to the wildflowers, and have started venturing into camp.

There’s also this strange noise we all hear at night. A hiss then a growl, but more like one sound than two. Sometimes it is a yip then a growl (same animal, or different one?).

The really interesting one we’ve only heard twice. It is a low pitched (g)rumbling sound. It rolls, so to speak, and lasts for a full 5 seconds or so. It is unlike anything I’ve heard before (though one person mentioned it was a little like a “purring” gas engine on idle but deeper and more animal-like; I couldn’t say as I’ve never heard a gas engine before).

Breakfast is often peppered with theories about what kind of animals are out there. Some are even taking bets (latrine duty being the most common exchange).

When is Success Really Failure Part II

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


After leaving the little face-to-face with Kellerman, I went to the small tent I had set up for my hide-away. I had left Andy’s array out in the sun with the solar panels open. The shorter Alchibah day was stressing the recharge system considering how I had been running the system.

The two ice cubes I had left on copy had finished as well as the latest data correlation program. I looked briefly at the results screen and froze. I really wanted to howl at the moon and bark trail like an ole Coon Hound. My answer was not there but the data showed a clear trail to what I wanted. Damn but this array was good, did Andy really know what He had built? I put the whole system on suspend to allow the charging system time to catch up and maybe get a full charge for a change. Pocketing the ice cubes, I started for the landing field intending to arrive about ten minutes after the shuttle.

Stopping in the flats below the landing field, I stopped to watch the approach of the Galileo. I knew Travis had the stick; the guy had a smoothness about his control hand that just screamed “I be Good” to another pilot. Longing for a stick of my own, I ambled over the last ridge just as Travis was having his usual confab with either the Historian or Bartlett. At my request, today it was Bartlett.

“Good afternoon Gentlemen,” I greeted them.

“Like I said Ash, this had better be good,” Bartlett growled.

I took the two ice cubes out and handed them to the two of them. “Gentlemen, I present you the decrypted database of the PC 1192; minus four pages of entries and one appendix.”

Travis looked stunned, “I thought this was going to be a much tougher decryption problem?”

I kicked at the ground and replied, “I did not beat the system I beat the user. I used the time hacks on the outside of the entry packets to determine who the Senior Officer was and it was not the Political Officer. It was in fact the Damage Control Officer. I know that scum like the pores of my skin. I have spent ten years looking for a way to kill him and get away with it. I knew his favorite keys, tried them, and out came the clear copy. I cut some very personal stuff about a person near and dear to me out and recorded the rest on your cubes.”

I turned and walked a few steps then came back. “Bartlett, I know you want to know what’s on that missing section. But, boy if yall wanna live and breathe dontcha all ever chive me on that. Cause I’ll not give yall another free shot and who’ll thatall will chafe bad is worth more to me than your damn ass!” I knew my face was the Mommas side of the genes version of Andy’s Reaper but, for once I just dindt care. I liked Bartlett but, I had to stop this here!


I paused for just a moment, staring at Ash all the while, and then said, “Let me do some thinking out loud…. Captain…. Ash…. follow me on this and tell me if I get it right. First, we have Ash’s former command database with sections encoded. Ash tells us he didn’t know that there was hidden information but readily agrees to help find out what it is. We are looking primarily for information on UNWG plans and capability.

“Second,” and with a glance again at Ash, “Ash, in remarkably short time tells us he has cracked the coding problem and presents us with all of the information, he says, except for some personal stuff on someone near and dear to him. But then specifically tells me, though it must have been for your benefit also, or maybe even primarily Captain, that I should not inquire about said information. Seem correct so far Captain?”

“Sure does Bart and continue on. I am beginning to get a glimmer.”

“Ok Captain, I take it for granted that Ash isn’t stupid and he did have time to decide how to make his presentation. He could have easily omitted the part about the personal information or claimed that there were still a few things he hadn’t been able to decode. We might not have believed him but more likely we would have and then asked him to keep working on the problem. Ash chose instead to tell us there was more information he knew about but refused to talk to me, or I think us, about what that information was. Why would he do this? Because he must think that is info that is so very important that we ought to know about it, but that if he flat out tells us what it is he would be in a world of hurt.” I paused again.

Captain Travis nodded and said, “It’s becoming obvious, keep it up I think the end is in sight.”

“Therefore, and in conclusion”, I began, “Ash has told us there is a deep and dark secret. Something concerning some one near and dear to him that we are not meant to know, except we must be meant to know, or he wouldn’t have mentioned the secrete in the first place. Well, who might be near and dear to Ash? Could it be Andy Stuart? A good first approximation. It might be Mariana, it might even be someone else we would never consider, but I think Andy works for my purposes. I, and on the good chance this information was really and primarily for your benefit Captain, should pay a visit to Andy…. and ask him what it all means! After all if Andy is not the person being shielded he just might apply the screws to find out what this is really all about. If he is the one in question, at the very least his response will be instructive. Or, since we have gotten this far perhaps Ash might have something more to add.”

And as Captain Travis beamed, and Ash squirmed, I once more looked at Ash expectantly.


“I should have known better than to try to put something over on you Bartlett. But I had to try. I actually hoped you would lash out at me as a diversion. First, the decryption is complete and accurate. Some of the documents within I am well familiar with and could use them as an accuracy verification. The UNWG is going to be here at least a year sooner than the Capt.’s or my hot guess.”

“I don’t doubt that in the least. Might it be sooner?” asked Bartlett.

“A very good chance.” Captain Travis stated.

“There is a PHD Thesis in the files, which lays out in excruciating detail the pulse phase of Lancers DEE-HEE drive, as well as the Gravity Grabber Assist Drive that made the Mayflower possible. The name of the writer should be disgustingly familiar. The missing pages while containing nothing, which will not eventually become at least semipublic; do contain information which if released improperly or maliciously could cause serious damage to our technological development. The data concerns Mariana, and if handled wrong will put Andrew William Walker Stuart into a Black Scottish rage for weeks. During that period of time Mariana will then be useless and we need them both functional. I have a plan in place to prevent this but I need secrecy to pull it off. Frankly, I was hoping for a fight with Bartlett to buy me that cover!”


“Look Ash. You’ve gotten entirely too clever for me here. We are not UNWG bureaucrats. If you need time for something to happen, and it makes sense for the colony as a whole that’s fine with me. But if you are waiting for me to decide for you what to do then I need all the information that you possess. It’s obvious that that’s not your game, and whatever you are up to I will trust it is not against the colony as a whole. Just do it! Didn’t command teach you anything? Or are you just too damn skittish? Remember Ash, I trust You. Well to a point.”

“Captain Travis, may I be excused now? I have other fish to fry. And let me know how it all turns out.”

“Thanks Bart, I’ll take it from here.”


I watched Bartlett walk away and stared at Capt. Travis with what I knew was a stunned look on my face. “He trusts me, you coulda fooled me. Honest Travis I was ready to take a second sucker punch just to keep this quiet. Now Bartlett goes all logical on me. Well, He missed his chance. I will not take another one now and for some strange reason I think it’s not Bartlett who’s gonna find that out. Sorry to take your time, if you need any assistance with the math in that Thesis just give me a call!,” with that I nodded and walked away.


I just stood smiling watching Bartlett walk away in one direction and Andrews in another and the only thought that came to mind was; Peas in a Pod, Peas in a Pod!

I Go Fishing

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

     Now, in our third day, everything was going smoothly with the sawing.  A couple of hours worth of work and R. J.P. and I had already felled more than we would be able to cut today. R. Emycee had picked up the mill procedures and was adding nicely to our racked planks. With the Parker’s bots and a few more additions from camp there was more labor here than we could use. Every thing cut yesterday was already loaded up and sent to a building location. I went over to where Joe and RoDan were stacking and asked him if he felt he could run things without me and Janie for a while.

     “No Prob Bart. Things are looking good here. Any troubles I let you know. And another thing. We‘ve got the extra robots and chainsaws so why don‘t I keep a couple of them busy cutting and clearing to the west of us, grids R2 and R3. We‘ll certainly use the lumber later but it will expand our perimeter now.”

     “You worried about something coming out of the woods? We haven‘t seen anything yet.”

     “A little, it’s early spring here and who can tell what might be awakening or maybe coming up from the south. Last night I saw some large I.R. signatures inside the tree line that could have been almost anything. Then again they were indistinct and might have been nothing at all. I sent RoDan out for a closer look and nothing turned up. Anyway if for no other reason it will eventually give us more cleared land for farming.”

     “Yeah, I should have thought of that.. And it’s too early to get careless. Sounds good to me. I’ll see ya later.”

     I next went to the mill and said to Janie, “How about we play hooky. I think It’s our turn.”

     “What have you got in mind Bart?”

     “A little fishing down by the riverside looks good to me.”

     “That sounds Great! I was talking to Connor Benjamin and I know he would like some samples from down there and it would be a welcome break from this.” Janie had worked the middle watch last night and hadn’t much sleep afterwards as we got off to early start that morning.

     Heading back, a glance to the south showed some construction progress being made up atop of the mound. Our new City on the Hill. When we got back to the tent area there sat Les and Judith Reye, Burt Buchanan and a few more who were evidently just up and starting their day. Passing near them I said in what I hoped was a friendly sounding tone of voice. “Kind of a late start guys. Daylights a wastin’, looks like a lot of activity up on the mound and some more to the north. There are a few who have started with robots and shovels to move out the rocks and to plow the hard way. Heck, you might learn to like it. And the bots are bringing in a load just about right for putting up some outhouses.”

     Buchanan glared and seemed to snarl. Les Reye said in petulant manner, “It’s the blasted 20 hour day is all. A little time and I’m sure and we’ll get used to it somehow or other.” He turned back to his wife and the rest, pointedly ignoring me as we continued on our way. I refused to be put into a bad mood

     I said to Janie, “Get what you need and I will grab my fishing gear.” Into the tent, from my smaller bag, packed so long ago back on Earth, I took out a couple of small plastic boxes. Soon back outside and we were walking towards the river.

     Another pleasant day. It was very early spring and this was our third morning on planet and still no rain though from orbit Captain Travis had said that there was a storm moving towards us that would likely arrive later this afternoon or tonight. For now though, blue skies, fleecy high clouds and a breeze just a bit stronger than we had experienced so far. It was chilly from last night and I could feel an increase in the humidity but that could have just as easily been imagination from knowing about the coming storm.

     After we reached the rivers edge I took one of the small boxes out of my pocket and carefully removed the lid and taking something out from one of the divided sections said, “Look at this Janie, it’s a Caddis Alchibus.”

     “A Caddis Alchibus?”

     “A bug!”….. There in all it’s splendor, in the palm of my hand, was an inch long plump brown body laced with purple and green threads with tufts of fur forming gossamer reddish wings each tipped with white. The shiny point of a small hook just poking into view. It was a creation I put together last night.

     Skeptically shaking her head, “It doesn’t look like any bug I’ve ever seen.”

     “Just wait and see. If there is anything at all like a fish in this river it will find it irresistible.”

     Setting the boxes down I looked at the nearer vegetation and cut a 10 foot length of one of the slender cane like growths that sprouted profusely along the shore. They weren’t new from this year but just beginning to revive from winter dormancy. After stripping off the fine fronds just starting to grow, I flexed it back and forth a few times and said, “This will be fine.” Then, retrieving the boxes, from one took a small reel, a roll of pressure sensitive tape, and a few rod guides. With Janie watching it wasn’t long till I had my rod assembled and was set to go.

     We walked a few yards upstream to a spot where the area behind us was unobstructed and I stepped out into the river a couple of feet from shore. The water was cold, clear, and almost up to my knees. “Far enough out for now”, I thought , if anything unexpected came near I might be jumping back to shore in a hurry and relying on my boots to protect my legs. A lot of people had been viewing the river for several days and none had seen anything large or dangerous looking yet but you never know.

     Letting out just a little line at a time I cast slowly forwards and back, watching the curls straighten and getting a feel for the cane pole’s flex on the back casts. A dozen or so back and forths and with the line out 20 yards I watched as the fly landed gently on the surface. It was sheltered from the rather strong current by one of the rocks off shore. The fly began slowly drifting down stream resting on the waters surface. After a while I retrieved it and repeated my casting sequence to a slightly different spot.

     Janie watched me repeat this procedure a half dozen times or more and said, “Guess there’s nothing like a fish in this river, eh Bart.” With that she took a small net and began seining and collecting small aquatic life forms and placing them in separate vials full of a preservative and dictating notes into her recorder for when Connor Benjamin would examine them later. What she was finding didn’t look much like a Caddis Alchibus, a fact which she mentioned more than once.

     An hour and a half later I had moved closer to the water fall but still no strikes. I had seen some smallish iridescent shapes darting under the surface but none had gotten close enough so that I could get a good look. I stayed close to the bank at all times. Janie had just come over with our lunch when I had my first strike. The tip of the very flexible pole twitched ever so slightly. I gave it a brisk jerk and said in triumph,” I got one.” A minute later it dangled out of the water in its full glory. The “Fish”, about 5 inches long, looking vaguely like the Slizard Jules and Hanna Parker had seen. Instead of legs though it had slightly opposed fins; three sets of them and it looked like another set was beginning to grow by the bifurcated tail. . It sparkled in the sun on top as if it’s small scales were prisms. The underside was a pale almost bluish white. It had two rows of small pointed teeth in the mouth which extended about an inch down the length of the slender body. “What I beauty”, I declared.

     Janie, not quite as impressed as I said, “Thinking of getting it mounted? Or with ten more we could fry it up and make a mouth full. Good thing I brought lunch, but I do have a sample container large enough to hold it so lets save it for Connor.”

     Only slightly deflated I readily agreed. Anyway you couldn’t say we were goofing off if we were looking for local food sources. We ate the lunch Janie had brought with her, and afterwards I went back to fishing while Janie gathered more samples. After she ran out of vials, she sat on the bank enjoying the rest and watched. She reported seeing a few more small slizards, and got a picture of one entering the water. I eventually pulled in 6 more of the same type fish things, most were larger and one was almost 18 inches long. With Janie taking pictures I let them go pending Connor’s determination on edibility.

     While Janie watched and I fished we engaged in small talk, mostly about the state of the camp and our fellow colonists and the prospects for the future. I was gradually building up to the real reason I had gotten Janie to come out here with me in the first place. I had seen that Janie’s recorder was off and I made sure that mine was, so use your imagination if you must, but I am going to omit my bumbling and fumbling conversation as I worked my way to the point where I made the tentative suggestion that it would be kind of a good thing if we sorta started living together or got married or something like that.

     After I had stammered my way to the conclusion Janie looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes and said. “Oh Bart! Why of course we should. How romantic of you.”

     The clouds had begun to build and the temperature seemed to have dropped. It was apparent rain or maybe even a late snow was on the way. We gathered our things and started back. A light rain was falling by the time we got to the tents, Mariana Stuart was standing outside of a small dome just erected, and with a glance at me turned to Janie and said, “Well, did he ask?”

     Janie laughed, “There was never any doubt.”

Somebody’s Got to Build the Thing.

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Day 0:2 was definitely looking like it was going to be a good day. The Lab Rats wanted to keep the temporary array they had going up until the containment building was finished. Simple compatibility tests for local flora and fauna did not require containment and were more important in the short term.

So I shouldered the 60 KG of Antibacterial Spray Sealant and had R. NUG and R Mycroft haul the heavy gear along to the excavation site. We were just in position when Joe Fortson wandered up and began to engage in the type of banter I swear that Cesar’s Legionnaires would have recognized if not understood. Joe finally getting down to business asked why I wanted the wood slabs. I explained to him my concept of how of how I was going to build the containment, even though I doubted that it would gives us adequate free space and that the rest really were going to become charcoal. Joe said I should hold to my plan and he would comm me if anything changed.

We had just finished squaring up the dirt walls and I was trying to figure how much space I could stabilize with the Sealant I had when Joe returned. What he had was worth its weight in gold. Rougher framing lumber I have never seen but, it had a beauty all of its own. “Damn Joe where did you cop this stuff?”

“Don’t thank me Andy,” he replied “Thank Bartlett, he’s in charge and said there is a load of roofing and flooring cuts in the next load.” He then proceeded to describe the problems with the self-gluing of the fresh cut wood and said he would be back.

I then had the Metallic Duo start on taking the cut back another 20 Ft. into the hillside. I decided to play with our lumber and gauge its real potential. Taking a shoring piece and a cross member I used the energy knife from my survival kit to cut a fresh dovetail in each. Fitting the two together, I laid them aside and started on a second pair. When I finished the second pair, I checked on the first. They might as well been metal and welded together. I once had a professor who said that every problem is really a solution looking for a place to happen.

By the time, Joe returned we had a 16 x 32 foot frame with the frame for a dividing center wall anchored into the solid dirt. Joe’s look was worth the effort it had taken.

“How the frack did you do that?” Grinning I filled him in on the method we had used. “How,” he asked, “did you get a Top Secret energy blade out of the Armory on your way out the door?”

I gave him the dumbest stare in the world, “Joe, you mean this thing was classified?” When we had both finished our laughing fits, He headed back for the lumber operation. The robots and I began laying roof and floor.

We had just finished backfilling dirt on the roof when Dave Webber and to my surprise Kurt Kellerman came up with the massive storage cell carried by two bots’.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “She’s all yours! The pipe is in place to the top of the bluff for the solar array, the pad is ready for the storage cell in the back room and the sealant is in place. Y’all have a nice day. I’m going for a walk.”

Returning to the camp, I paused only long enough to pass the robots off to Mariana and walked down to the rivers edge. I was squatting and staring off at the falls when I heard Connor’s voice behind me, “What you thinking Andy?”

“That we have this big mother of a resource out there and we don’t have the energy base to exploit it.”

‘So,” He asked, “What are we going to do?”

Without looking back I asked, “Want to take a walk upriver in the morning?”

An Old Friend

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

First watch day 0 to early morning day 1


So guard shift last night was interesting. Sinopa happened to be on the same shift as I. Of course she had noticed us by now, but we had still been avoiding each other. I think we were both a little ashamed that we were here instead of back on Earth, fighting. Oh well. That was a bridge we could never cross back over. I went over and tapped her on the shoulder.

“You still lugging that old thing around Sin?” I asked, gesturing towards the rebel leader’s .50 Alaskan. Teasing her about her grandfather’s rifle was as good a way as I could think of to break the ice.

Jai? Is that really you?” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around me. “Dear lord, I never thought I’d see you again. How come you didn’t say anything earlier?”

I guess maybe she hadn’t noticed us. How could that be? This woman was sharper than a serpent’s tooth, and she hadn’t noticed us out of a ship of less than 200 people? And she was acting like a schoolgirl. The hell was going on?

“I thought you were just avoiding us. Never mind that though. How have you been? And what the frack are you doing here?” Figuring out what was wrong with her would have to wait. “I figured you’d still be back with Gabe fighting the good fight.”

“Oh, you know me. Always want to see what’s over the next hill.” She smiled wanly. I definitely got the feeling that I wasn’t hearing the whole story. “How could I pass this up? What about you? Your old man here with the twins too?”

“Oh yeah, we’re all here. Dad wanted to give us a new life, away from all that. An open rebellion isn’t the exactly best place to raise children, right?” I grinned wryly. I had spent the first half of my life in the middle of a peaceful rebellion against the UNWG and the rest taking part in open guerilla warfare. Not exactly your typical childhood.

“You must be excited about all this; new land to explore, new plants and herbs just waiting to be discovered and understood. No human has had an opportunity like this in hundreds and hundreds of years,” she said.

“And now Dad and you and I will have the chance to explore it together. We’ll have an opportunity to truly use the old ways with the new, to do things the right way and not frack it up like we did to Earth,” I said, although part of me was already beginning to wonder if that would be possible. As we were finding out, there are parasites in human form even here.

“You sound like grandfather,” she laughed. “He really rubbed off on you a lot over the time you were with us.” She sighed.

I had really missed her. She was like an older sister, a cool aunt and some sort of mystic warrior guide all at the same time. There really was something about her that just made you want to follow her into battle. Not even Gabe had that quality in quite the same way. There was more than one reason she had become the infamous, semi-public face of the rebellion, but her odd charisma certainly had something to do with it.

We talked late into the night, long past when our guard shift was over. It was good to have her here, both for myself and for the colony. If our technology ever failed no one would have a better chance at pulling us through than she would. And lord knows she’ll be an asset when the goonies come after us.

Bitter Fruit

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Historian

I suppose it’s self-indulgent to be both recording the future history of our new world and to be making these personal entries in my log but I think it’s important that there be an official version as well as my personal version.

After Travis left me a couple days ago, Day 1 as it were, I re-thought my plan to explore the river. That could wait. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was too old to be useful. I helped some of the others clear areas for new tents, removing what stones I could pick-up. I was also wondering how a lawn mower hadn’t made it’s way onto the Mayflower manifest but one can’t think of every possible thing that might be needed.

During Day 1 and Day 2, several trends became obvious to me. First, that we already had some unhappy campers who apparently thought only of themselves and their needs and were not psychologically ready or able for the teamwork needed to form a functioning early settlement. A group of about 10 of them, with Lester Reyes and Burt Buchanan seeming the ring leaders, were already grumbling about things and wanting to start their own colony somewhere else, perhaps on the southern continent.

Second, a leader would need to be elected or selected. Perhaps a committee or even a town council. Come to think of it, what should we name this first village of ours?

Third, a system of dividing up the immediate area for homesteading, of divvying up the land would need to be devised. A lottery, perhaps?

Lastly, it’s all well and good that most are pitching in right now to get things done but some sort of barter system or even a monetary system should be devised. After all, once we’re established and I have my chickens transported down, I don’t plan on giving them or the eggs away for free for the rest of my life! I had thought about that. While I enjoy raising them, it’s also a fairly stressless sort of work that even an old codger like me could do to earn my keep and trade for other goods. Appearances must be kept.

Within a few days, I suspected we’d need to hold a meeting of all colonists to work through some of these issues.

Day 3.

It was another crisp and cool morning with some fog in the river valley. I really think we made a wise decision choosing this spot, near the mouth of a large river but on land sloping up away from it. I don’t know exactly where this slow moving river (note to self: We’ll need a name for it, as well) starts off but if it’s quite far north, as the hemisphere continues to enter springtime, there could be floods from snowmelt hundreds of miles to the north.

It seemed that several of the colonists with some initiative were building a fine looking meeting house. I thought their selection of the site on top of the bluff overlooking the river valley and the initial camp (grid square U1) was a good and picturesque choice. It was also high enough to escape any but the worst of floods.

i decided to make myself useful again and after discussing with Bart the night before what I would need, was pleased to see the components, the rough lumber for my project stacked outside the framework of the new town hall. Using one of the portable jig saws, I began cutting the parts for trestle benches for the new hall. It was rather amazing, this sort of self-sealing wood, the way the sap hardened into an almost varnished finish. Granted they were crude, but any roughness of the benches would eventually be worn smooth by the backs and bottoms of the colonists.

After lunch, Travis and Rocco found me. The Galileo had just brought the last of the colonists down. I suggested we follow the river south for a ways to see what there was to see.

One of the other colonists, Robert Bova Thompson he called himself, joined us. I had my trusty 30-30 on my shoulder and we made a leisurely stroll south, past the falls (another thing to be named!) and the landing field. We walked in silence for awhile, each of us taking in the beauty — and strangeness of our new world. Occasionally a slizard would leave or enter the water. They seemed to ignore us completely. We were neither prey nor threat, so why should it pay us any heed!

I noticed something else that Kara had mentioned, that a few of the plants had yellow bulbs, on them. I was wondering if such fruit was bitter, like our lemons. It wasn’t long before I would regret that comparison.

As we walked south, the river was wide in places, perhaps a couple hundred feet wide, and narrow in others. It was a slow mover and had worn down the rather steep banks. A future “Grand Canyon” in the making?

Travis broke our silent reverie. “So,” he said, “how are our malcontents getting along?”

Robert answered, “They aren’t. They’re bitching more than ever and contributing little to our efforts here. They want to be somewhere else, away from us.”

Rocco said, “That can be arranged.”

We had stopped by a particularly narrow part of the river [cc12]. Here, on this finger of land, the river was only about 50 feet wide.

possible spot for bridge
It would make a good spot for a bridge to the other side. I mentioned this to the others and Travis pointed out that there were several long structural steel beams lying loose within the Mayflower, to be used for future excavations in the mines. Since there would not be much of that, perhaps a couple of them would be brought down and placed, perhaps by chains dangling from the bottom of the lifeboat we had here, across the span. We could attach planking to the top of them. We decided that would be a useful project sometime in the near future.

Rocco said, with dogged persistence, “So what about Reyes and Buchanan?”

Robert said, “They want their own colony, on the other continent in the southern hemisphere.”

I said, “There’s about ten of them altogether — that I know of.”

Rocco replied sharply, “Well, fuck it. If they want to live on their own, let’s oblige them.”

I said, “I don’t know that we can spare anyone from our rather small contingent. Then again, can we afford to carry their weight?”

Rocco looked at me and said, “Hey, we can move them, their robots, their personal tents, give them a few heaters, a cook stove, lights, basic medical kit, some basic tools, even, and have them down where ever the fuck they want to be and then they’re on their own.”

Travis looked bemused.

I just said, “Hmmm…”

There appeared to be storm clouds gathering, in more ways than one it would seem. Of immediate concern were the ones to the west. We started back, taking a brief detour toward a rather ugly lone tree [Z10]. I’d noticed a couple others of these scattered about, always by themselves. The fruit on this one was a yellowish-green. The tree was squat, had intertwined, knarled branches, and nothing but some of the grass we’d noticed grew anywhere near it. It was about 40 feet tall.

Electric Tree
It was near dusk and with the overcast, I suggested we return to camp quickly.

Robert said, “Let me just pluck a couple of these fruit. Mariana could analyze them. They might be tasty!”

He ran to the tree and while standing on one of the many exposed surface roots, reached up to grab one of the orbs.

What happened next would haunt all of us for some time. There was a dull crackling sound, as of a short circuit might make, and sparks at both his feet and his hand, still grasping the fruit. His body seemed to twitch and he fell to the ground, convulsing a few times. Then he was still.

We ran over to him and dragged him away from the cover of the tree’s canopy. Travis checked his pulse and, nodding his head, proceeded to administer CPR.

I was on my wristpad calling for help.

In short time, the lifeboat appeared with Mariana, Sally, Andy and Bart.

The women went to work on Robert but it was soon obvious that he was beyond such means as we had at our disposal. Even the paddles gave no effect.

Bart had put on gloves and gingerly taken the fallen fruit into custody in a plastiglass container for further study. He examined the tree in detail.

By this time, it was dark and the rain had started. We gathered Robert’s body into the lifeboat, got in ourselves, and Andy piloted it back to camp.

I don’t think the irony was lost on any of us that we had landed on a planet that seemed to be Paradise and then one of our own had picked some forbidden fruit.

I made another, rather more somber mental note — we would have to decide where to locate a cemetery, too.

That night the rain came down hard. Travis had returned to the Mayflower in the Galileo. Most of the colonists were retired to their sleeping rolls. A few of us stayed awake, sitting at “The Bar” mixing our own drinks as we hunkered down in the smaller round tent we were in..

Bart had examined the “fruit” and determined it was more like a battery, with the roots of the tree being ground, as it were. I didn’t really understand the details but I’m sure he’ll report it in his own words.

Connor said, “I guess we need to be wary of all the yellow fruit we’ve seen around.”

I said, “It’s interesting that on this tree, what with the fruit a good eight feet off the ground…”

Andy said, “Go on, Histy.”

“Well,” I said, “Nothing else grows around these trees and some of the other plants. I was just wondering if this was either a very good offense, so to speak, you know, where by electrocuting various and sundry animals, the carcasses of the animals decompose and provide the various nutrients the tree needs.”

Bart said, “Interesting theory, Histy, but I didn’t notice any animal bones around the trunk of the tree. I suspect it’s more of a defensive mechanism.”

“And,” I said, “That brings me back to what I had started mumbling about a moment ago, before I had my thoughts fully formed.”

Connor said, “What’s that?”

I paused to get the implication set in my mind and then said, “Well, if it’s a defensive mechanism, and the fruit is so high off the ground . . . what is it defending itself against . . .?”

Nobody said anything for a while. The rain made a staccato of sound on the roof of the small tent as the wind howled outside. In one of those unpleasant kismet moments, there came a distant, second howl from the direction of the woods, above the din of the storm.

I suspect I wasn’t the only one who didn’t sleep well that night.

Trouble Comes in Threes

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

Day Three Evening

     I had gathered up my things in a second and last load and was moving them over to Janie’s tent when I saw Joe Fortson returning to camp. He was accompanied by R. Maggie and R. Sir. Tom. He had left four of the remaining robots, there were six still out there, to continue sawing planks. Joe said that he had R. Dan Daily and the Jeep stationed apart in positions where they might get a reading on what he thought he might have detected the night before.

     The rain was falling a bit harder as the three of us went into the mess tent. Joe went over to where Hanna and Jules were sitting and told Hanna that her bots were back. Hanna asked Jules to go and fetch them saying, “It’s about time they learned to do dishes.” We filled our plates and grabbed some coffee then went back over and sat at Hanna’s table.

     On the other side of the large tent Les Reye was holding court with a dozen of his cronies. I tried to tune them out but kept hearing loud snippets of the conversation. “Lack of organization…. Time to get things on track… With the right people in charge… Political solutions.”

     “Why the heck did Hamilton ever invite him along?”, Janie asked, “We need his type like we need a tooth ache.”

     At that moment the Klaxon like horns set up to signal an emergency started blasting. Then a voice over the speakers, I think it might have been Tim Watson, saying, “Bartlett, Andy and Mariana Stewart, Sally Kellerman, go to emergency channel, repeat emergency channel.

     I turned on my com and heard Captain Travis and the Historian give a rapid explanation of what had just happened. A quick on air conference with Sally, Andy, and Mariana, then I ran down to the life boat which was parked near the river in order to get it powered up. Sally and Mariana went for medical gear and Andy for miscellaneous items.

     In a shipboard emergency, if there were time for nothing else, the lifeboat would be kicked free by a small solid propellant charge and then powered up. In order to conserve energy we had it sitting “cold” just as if it had been on a ship. The power up procedure took about three minutes and when the board showed all green I radioed to Andy to ask if he wanted pickup. Instead of an answer I heard them entering the boats access hatch. As Andy scrambled into the other command seat I said, “Strap in, we go in 5…. 2.. 1..”, and then we were off.

     A gentile liftoff and I took us up a few hundred feet, just high enough to ensure we would be above any of the trees between us and the coordinates, [Z-10], the Hist had indicated, They were about a mile south and to the east of us. With the rain beginning to fall here too, it was getting dark so rapidly that I could barely see the ground or make out Rocco who was standing away from the tree and waving his arms and pointing as we arrived overhead. Andy had, with a measure of foresight, brought night vision goggles and I gladly turned the controls over to him for the landing in the sandy area a couple of hundred feet away that Rocco had been pointing towards.

     We rushed out of the boat, lights in hand, lights which Andy had also supplied, and over to the recumbent form. Andy set up a couple of portable spots. Sally Kellerman labored heroically but to no avail. Mariana and I after watching for a moment turned to the tree and took photo’s, and very, very, carefully, using insulated linesman’s cutters, samples for future examination. A half an hour later in total darkness and with Robert Bova Thompson’s body in back, Andy returned us  to camp.

     This was the third death and our third day on planet. Things couldn’t get much worse, or could they?

A New Friend

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Day 1


Ah, rise and shine! An early morning guard shift and then up at the crack of dawn. This 20 hour day is going to take some getting used to. I’m sticking to my “caffeine in emergencies only” policy though, so decaf would have to do. Gulping down the last of the cup I headed to the supply area.

After rummaging (carefully and in an organized manner) through the appropriate containers I found what I was looking for. Thick rubber gloves and tall boots, check. Specimen jars and case, check. Clear plastiglass cup and large metal spatula, check. I had everything your amateur entomologist could need. Time to collect bugs!

While this was far from my specialty, I was starting here in my investigation of the local fauna for two reasons. First, insects and their ilk get around a lot easier and are more likely to become a widespread danger (through disease, poison, etc.) than your more visible animals (rodent imitators excluded, which will come next). A well put together camp would go a long way towards guarding against the larger predators we were likely to encounter, but creepy crawly things tend to go where they want. Second, I had a hunch that the local bugs would be a tad easier to capture than the rather, er, larger specimens I was hearing last night.

So away I went, spatula over my shoulder, pack full of specimen jars, whistling some old tune I had stuck in my head. It was a beautiful day.

“Excuse me?” a delicate voice from behind me asked.

I turned around…and quite nearly took a step back. In front of me was a young woman who could only be described as stunningly gorgeous. From her yet-to-be-worn-in hiking boots to the top of her baggy blue jean cap she couldn’t have been more beautiful. She was like some sort of Asian movie starlet from the 3Ds. This could only be one of Chen-Ling’s daughters. I wondered a bit as to how suited she was to this whole colonization thing, given her attire.

“Where are you going with that…spatula?” she asked incredulously. I gave her a questioning look.

“Oh, no no, I didn’t mean it that way.” She exclaimed quickly, putting her hands out in embarrassment, “I’m looking for something to do. I don’t exactly have any special skills that would be of use, at least for a while anyway. I’m a school teacher,” she explained. “You seem to be in with the people that are getting the most done, and I want to make myself useful. So, anyway, what are you doing with that spatula?”

“Um, yeah. I can see how heading off with rubber gloves on and a cooking implement over my shoulder might make me look a bit like an insane janitor or something.” I laughed. “I’m collecting bugs, to examine them and make sure they’re not dangerous. The spatula is to scoop them up after I get the cup over them. A method tried and true in the bathrooms and bedrooms of the insanely humane everywhere, mine included, although I usually use an index card. But anyway, yes, I could use a helper. Connor, by the way,” I finished, removing my glove and offering my hand.

“Kaiya,” she replied, taking it. Ok, so a firm grip and an offer to help. Maybe I was going to have to reconsider my hasty judgment of her.

“Pleasure to meet you. Now lets go get you some crazy plumber gear of your own.” She laughed.

We spent most of the rest of the day combing the river banks (I avoided the wetlands for now, worried that they might contain more than rubber gloves and a spatula could deal with), then moving on to the open field near our landing site and the tents. We talked the whole time, reminiscing over the fields and streams of Earth and speaking of our former lives. She talked about how excited she was to start teaching again, though she hoped that the kids we imported to Alchibah were a tad less bratty than the ones she left behind (and said that if my girls and the Parkers’ were any indication, she was hopeful). I told her I could certainly relate to that, having taught martial arts most of my life and dabbled in coaching track. Despite being over a decade younger than me, I really felt like there might be a connection there, something that I had never thought I would be able to say again.

The insects (if that was even the proper classification for them) we were collecting were certainly interesting, if nothing else. Everything from tiny furry ones to crawly iridescent ones to spiky ones to flying ones to jumpy ones. The only thing really consistent about them was that they all kind of, sort of seemed like something you could find on earth, but if you did you’d definitely show all your friends. The day was generally uneventful, except for one incident near the end as we approached the forest edge. Kaiya hadn’t been squeamish or bothered by the bugs at all, which is why I reacted the way I did. And, as I found out later, it was well warranted.

We were poking around on some sandy ground near a few large rocks to the west of the landing site (S3) when Kaiya shrieked and jumped back. Before she was fully on the ground again I had the HK in hand and had stepped in front of her. I slowly backed away from the rocks, keeping her behind me.

“What was it? Some sort of an animal?” I asked, keeping my eyes trained at the darkness between and under the rocks.

“I don’t know. It looked like some sort of a giant spider. I’ve never seen anything so creepy.”

I holstered the gun and got out the cup. It was pretty big, but if this bugger was as mean looking as she said I was not going to take any chances. After a moment something skittered into view. It was “only” about two inches wide, but she was certainly on the ball in calling it one creepy mofo. It was a fast little thing too. I darted in and slammed the cup down on it, quickly scooping it up and moving back from the rocks in case its cousins were watching. I carefully got it into one of the specimen jars and, after moving back a bit more, got a better look at it. It was darting around as much as it could in the confines of the container, but it looked like it had about 15 legs, all of them very, very pointy. The coloring was, shall we say, aggressive, primarily black with deep red patterning, though the bottom quarter or so of each of the legs was an iridescent blue-green. As close as I could tell its mouth was underneath it, and it seemed to have six eyes spread around the top of its head.

“That is one freaky little bastard, isn’t it?” I commented. “Not quite as big as I’d guessed though.”

“The one I saw was waaay bigger than that. Not that that one isn’t bad enough, but I swear it was bigger than that.”

“Alright then, let’s see.” I went over to my pack and got out the Surefire. We crouched down about a dozen feet from the rocks and I turned the flashlight towards where we had seen the last one come from.

“Crap!” I found my gun in my hand again as Kaiya scrambled back. “Frack! Let’s get the hell out of here.” I shoved the flashlight and the last jar back into my pack and slowly backed away from the nest. There were at least a dozen of the things in there, the largest probably eight inches across. I didn’t know if they were dangerous or not, but I knew for damn sure I wanted nothing to do with them.

I sent out notice for everyone to keep their eyes peeled and to stay away from the area over the comm and we hightailed it back to the tents. Not exactly how I would have had the day end had I been given a choice, but I think it turned out all right. We went our separate ways when we got back to camp, but with plans to get a drink at the makeshift First Inn that night. All in all, creepies or not, it was a good day.

Community Building

Posted in 5. First Landing by Hanna Parker

As told by J.J. Parker
      I  looked around and thought to myself, “J.J. Parker, what have you gotten yourself into?”  After seeing Mom, Dad, and Linda all so busy I figured I’d better find something to do myself or be drummed out of the family.  I didn’t know that when I started  talking about the need for some kind of  building with better protection than the tents I would be playing a major role.  With the Historian choosing the site and Bartlett providing the lumber there turned out to be quite a few wanting to pitch in.  What I did was mostly run around and make sure as much as possible that things got to where they needed to be when they needed to get there.  Others more experienced with construction did the designing and building.  This is a record of the high points. 

Day 1
     It was going to be very rough looking at first but our aim was strength and  ease of construction.  The first thing we did after choosing a spot [U1] was to level  the grade.   Next we marked locations and had the bots dig the big 8 foot deep holes for the corner posts.  The building’s outside dimensions, 48 by 64 feet, set their location. These logs for the corners, 2’ in diameter and 30’ long, were the first things carried over from the forest and we would do the trimming here.  The first and only floor would be 10 feet above the ground.  Later we could do something with the open area underneath.  The walls were planned to be 12 feet high and the pitched roof would show through exposed rafters.  Very rustic.
     We have two chainsaws here at the construction site. Bartlett was using three at the big mill and Andy Stewart was using one to erect the Bio-Lab.  It didn’t take much time for the Log Trees Bark to be sliced lengthwise in several places and then peeled off.  The robots were soon doing that work.
     This is how we made the corner supports.  Starting at one end and extending for about 12’ the trunk was squared on two sides.  This would be the top section and planking attached for the raised walls.  After being shown the first one the robots did the cutting to ensure that everything was true and even.  The four corners columns took all morning, then things started going faster.  That afternoon we cut the side posts which were simpler as they only needed one flat surface for planks to be tied into.  Down the center were 6 supports to hold floor joists.  The 6 center posts were slightly larger in diameter up to the floor level then squared to 16 inches until they made roof height where the rafters would tie in.  All these columns were notched to hold the joists and rafters and wall planking.  When finished, just like the lumber cut at the mill, they were set to dry overnight. 

Day 2
     We started erecting the columns using 20 foot lengths of pole pine to raise the top ends while the bottoms slid into the prepared holes.  After getting them lined up, soil was tamped around them and they were ready for setting  the floor joists in place.  When the Copernicus crashed we lost all of our ready made spikes and nails.  We were going to dovetail the wood for strength but wanted to do more.  The discovery of the adhesive properties of the sap which ruined everything cut on the first day we landed was good for our project as we decided to glue and peg everything together in addition to the dovetailing. 

     Ladders, not a one on the whole planet.   We had some two by four side rails delivered today, still wet, and glued and pegged the rungs in place.  We hadn’t quite finished with the columns and floor supports by the time darkness arrived. 

Day 3   
     Lumber cut the previous day started arriving.  We made our pegs out of freshly debarked log tree saplings and used electric drills to bore holes for the pegs.  The construction seemed rock solid when finished.  If or when the glue showed signs of weakening we should be making bolts, spikes and nails.  The flooring and wall planks were 3 inches thick and the roofing boards an inch and a-half.  The doors and windows would go in later.  For now we would just put up solid walls on all four sides and a ladder through a trap in the floor to get us in and out.  Andy Stuart finished up the basic Bio-Lab so we have another chainsaw to use.
     Rajnar Singe fell off one of our new ladders and broke an arm.  That was exciting but delayed us less than 15 minutes as medical help arrived.  Raj was back in about two hours to do what he could one-handed. 

Day 4
     By the end of today enough of the framing is completed that half of us can go onto other things.  Now the hold up is waiting for planking.  The numbers show that we will need about another 11,000 board feet of sawn timber to finish the building.  Using most of the lumber from both mills, if nothing goes wrong, we might have the basic structure roughed and roofed in another 3 days so long as no wood gets diverted elsewhere.  Having the robots cut all the rafters helps considerably.  Bartlett is using 10 robots at the mill and another 14 are working here.  We plan to keep going round the clock till we’re done.  I am running back between the lumber mill, the supplies at the tents, and the construction site so often that my head is spinning. 

Day 5
     Things are going faster than we thought with the planking.  The robots have been able to square everything up and get it edged even before it goes into the mill for sawing.  There was a mix-up on the Mayflower and what was thought to be thin polycarbonate  sheets for greenhouse construction turned out to be five times as thick.  Just enough to make some windows for the community center that will be near as strong as the wood itself.  The down side is now we are short on material to construct greenhouses.  But most of three walls are completed and the rafters are going up. 

Day 6
     The roof is almost all in place but still a lot of gluing and pegging to do.  We don’t have enough electric drills to keep up.  The openings for the windows have been marked and as soon as a window is ready the opening will be cut and the window installed.  We had two done by noon but still a lot of very rough trim work remains.  Looks like we will finish sometime tonight.  This has really been a community effort.  Why even Burt Buchanan came over to offer some advise concerning window placement and provisions for ventilation.  Surprisingly enough it made sense and we used it.


Day 7
     Done.  Good enough for now.  I sure am bushed; I’ll let Mother know I figured out today is Sunday back on earth.  Time for a dedication.

On Somersaulting Squirrels and Conniving SOBs

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Day 2


I spent most of the day yesterday out and about with Sinopa, collecting samples of the various parts of all the plants we could get our (gloved) hands on. While we really had no reason to suspect that any particular plant was dangerous, we certainly didn’t have any reason to suspect that they were all harmless either. So, better safe than sorry, right?

We canvassed all the non-forest, non-water area (on the west side of the river, of course) from grid S to Y and 0 to 8. I’m not going to go into all the details now, especially considering that we haven’t analyzed any of the samples yet, but suffice it to say that Alchibah has no lack of intriguing plant species. We tried to collect everything we could find, but I’m sure we missed a few species. Honestly, while Sinopa and I are certainly more than qualified to look at all these plants from the point of view of traditional medicine and traditional ecological knowledge (Blackfoot and Lipan Apache knowledge, to be precise), that is only going to allow us to progress so fast. Without a botanist of some sort we weren’t going to know everything these plants had to tell us for quite a while. That was no reason to stop collecting them though. At the very least we could have Mariana check for poisons.


After my morning cup of coffee and conversation with Andy and the other last shift guards (Jack B left quickly, and haughtily, as usual) I got Aya and Arra and swung by the makeshift daycare the Parkers had set up in one of the two large tents to drop the girls off and went to find Jaisa. She had mentioned wanting to go into the forest to collect more samples today. It was great that the all kids were getting a chance to make friends. This had to be weird enough for them as it was. At least this would give them some semblance of normalcy. And hell, kids should be allowed to be kids.

After I caught up with Jaisa and Sin I ran back to the tent to grab my YCS (that’s a type of khukuri, for you non-collector folk – i.e. everyone but Jai) and the 870. On this trip I was around mostly as a grunt, so they could do their job without having to worry so much about looking over their shoulders.

As we made our way into the forest a sort of calm came over me. While there was no doubt that there were dangers to be found in there, at the same time for years the vast forests of the Canadian north had been our home. It felt good to be among trees again.

On the other hand, plants were more Jaisa’s realm. My area was animals, and my job as lookout coincided nicely with getting a good look at, and hopefully a few pictures of, some of the more mammalian creatures out there. At the end of the day there was one that really stuck out, and it was a cute little bugger too, which is nice considering that between the slizzard and those freaky spider things I was beginning to worry that Alchibah was inhabited solely by creepy-crawlies and other (by Earth standards) nasty creatures. The first glimpse I caught of it was little more than a blur flying between trees. After a bit longer I managed to spot one on running up the trunk of one of the pole pines. At that distance the best I could tell was that it was about half a foot long and was covered in what appeared to be fur of various shades of gray. My first thought was that it looked something like a squirrel or a ferret.

I finally got a good look at one as we were sitting down for a quick lunch. We were now at grid L3, having moved essentially due west from the tents. It really was slow going; you don’t really appreciate the diversity of plant life in an area until you stop for several minutes every time you see something new. In any case, the animal perched on a branch nearby while we ate. Maybe it could smell the food, I don’t know. It had six short legs (arranged in the traditional way, not offset like the slizzards’) and as I thought, it was about five inches long, give or take, and had a sort of rippled gray coloring to its fur. Its nose was somewhat rounded and it appeared to have a stubby tail and two long, thin ears which it kept flush with its back.

About five minutes into the meal, however, we all of a sudden learned a whole lot more about the little fellow. He perked up on his branch and started sniffing the air a bit. Then, without any warning whatsoever, his ears bloomed. I don’t know a better word to describe it. Expanded, perhaps? The two long, thin ears stuck straight up in the air and then spread out to the sides, so that each turned into a quarter circle significantly larger than the animal itself. The effect was comical, though somehow impressive as well. It almost looked like it had half a radar dish attached to its little head. It glanced around and just as quickly the ears were back down again.

The critter’s final trick, though, was really something else. It dashed to the end of its branch and dove headfirst towards the nearest tree (a good 10 feet away). Now, I had to assume it wasn’t some sort of lemming, but no rodent (or, in this case, rodent-like-animal) I had ever seen could have cleared the gap. As it left the branch though, its fur started to unravel. At least, that’s what it seemed like to us. In reality it turns out that what I had thought was a little stub of a tail was in fact the base of a tail that was, I would guess, over three feet long. As it neared the tree the tail whipped over its back to grab onto the closest branch. It swung off of that one and, I kid you not, did a back flip to whip its tail around onto the next branch. And away it went, somersaulting into the distance.

All three of us left that encounter with grins on our faces, that’s for sure. The other thing I have to mention is the quite odd (and potentially useful) tree we found. We were on our way back, around O4, and I was doing my usual lookout thing while Jaisa and Sin were collecting samples. I noticed Jaisa looking a little confused and intrigued examining this one tree. I hadn’t seen more than a few all day, and those from a distance. It was maybe three feet wide at the base and sixty or so high with a light silvery gray bark, and I mean that in the literal sense: the bark actually had a slight metallic tint to it.

“Dad, Sin, come here, you’ve got to check this out!” my daughter exclaimed after not too long. “The bark is soft. Well, not soft, exactly, but it gives.”

I went over to the tree and reached out to see for myself. Sure enough, when you pushed on the tree it gave a couple inches. The outer bark was rough, but not in the tree bark sense. It was more like a very coarse, fibrous leather.

Jai had taken out her knife and was trying to cut a piece of the bark off. She was having a tough time of it, so I handed the 870 to Sin and took out the YCS to see if I could have any more luck. I managed to dig the tip about a half inch into the bark, but the outer layer was tough as nails. It felt like I was trying cut kevlar. After quite a bit of finagling and pushing I managed to cut out a six by six inch square of the stuff. What we found was almost surreal. The outer eighth of an inch or so was the tough material and the rest of the half inch sheet I had cut off was pillowy soft and incredibly smooth. It was something like a cross between silk and cotton. I couldn’t believe it. If we could find a stand of these somewhere Rajnar might very well have his dream fabric, and the outer layer would find any number of uses, I had no doubt.

I looked back at the gap in the bark. Underneath the layer I cut off was another layer of the same material. I got Sinopa’s Ka-bar and stabbed it into the tree, hammering it in until I felt the thunk that meant I must have hit wood. Two and a half inches. Nice! Assuming the layers continued, and at a similar thickness, that means it must have been about five or six deep, meaning we could probably harvest the outer three or four without harming the tree.

As we were walking the last bit back to the tents I noticed Jack B a ways away talking with his four cronies. I can’t imagine they were up to any good, especially considering they were letting all that good muscle go to waste when almost everyone else was over helping put up the common hall.

“I wonder what his game is,” I said, motioning towards the little group. “He’s going to have to be dealt with sooner or later.” The other two nodded.

“Oh the hell with Jack. He’s an egotistical asshole who’s going to get his ass kicked by somebody one of these days, it’s just really a matter of who and when.” Jaisa exclaimed. Ah, my beautiful, ladylike daughter, so delicate. “Moving on, I know you both saw the tracks.” We nodded. “I know we all saw what was there, but let’s just be sure we’re all on the same page. They’re predatory, about the size of a catamount, and there’s a pack of about a dozen individuals, right?”

“I also noticed one spot where they all seemed to stop suddenly. That could be when we hear that roar up in the hills. I think it’s safe to assume that these belonged to the raspers.” I commented.

“Agreed. And they were very fast, and very agile. The shifts in the tracks were at least as quick as a wolf’s.” Sinopa said.

“Alright, I’d say we should let the others, or at least the competent ones we know well enough to trust, know about all this.” I said. “I’ll talk to the Stuarts, Sally, Travis, Monroe and Histy. Sin, you talk to Bart, Joe and Marty and Jai, tell the Parkers. No need for people to get too worried, but I think if we get that group talking about how we shouldn’t go into the woods without at least a couple armed people it’ll happen. Make sure they don’t go into specifics with people we’re not sure about. The last friggin thing we need is for some wet behind the ears yuppie starting a panic.”

“Sounds good,” Jai said. “Ah, it feels just like the good old days, tracking dangerous predators, counting our friends and looking over our shoulders for conniving SOBs getting ready to stab us in the back. I was getting worried there for a minute that living on another planet was actually going to be less interesting than living in Canada. Guess not.”

Up the River

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Joint Post by Andrew Stuart and Connor Benjamin

Day 0:3

Andrew Stuart

The pre-dawn hours of Day 3 found Mariana and I scuffling for room in the small tent as we both prepared for a long day. “Mind if I take your rifle today, it at least looks like a hunting piece?” I asked.

“No problem. I’m going to be inside the Lab most of the day piecing the racks together and calibrating the entire system. Dave and Kurt are going to haul the racks down from the temporary site and do the electrical hook up. By the way, what got into ‘Herr Dokotor Kellerman’ anyway?” She asked.

“Near as I can tell and I don’t know for sure, in order Ash, Sally, Ash, Sally and SALLY! Those two can ruin somebody’s whole week you know. Y’all have to ask Sally how many barrels she unloaded on him but I ‘spect it was about everything she had!”

Mariana’s evil smirk really wasn’t becoming to her, “Well, if she missed any I’ll be happy to ‘blige. He came about that close to chiving my behind big time.”

Keeping my face carefully neutral, I finished strapping the big Gerber Survival knife on my thigh. Picking up the Springfield, I fastened the friction sling over my neck and shoulder and stepped out to see Connor approaching. He had his ancient (yet gorgeously maintained) Garand and it looked like he was wearing his sidearm in a shoulder holster under his open jacket. Good, he’d taken the advice about staying low profile. He also had what looked like some sort of khukuri strapped to his pack with the handle over his right shoulder.

“Well Connor, if you have no objections, I am going to be watching the river and tracking our location, I’ll also call in our position reports. You take point, call the stops and do the sampling. You know more what we are looking for than I do.”

Connor Benjamin

After I met up with Andy we started upriver, pausing every now and then to stop and pick the flowers (and bugs, and weeds, and anything else I thought we might not have gotten a sample of yet). The going wasn’t as slow as before, as many of the specimens we were coming across either Jai or I had already gotten in the past couple days. After about a half a mile Andy called in our progress.

“Comm. Central, A. Stuart; who’s minding the store?’

“A. Stuart, JJ here, training some new Op’s”

“Roger JJ, A. Stuart and C. Benjamin leaving the grid Northeast from Z0. Say again November Echo from Zulu Zero”

“Comm. Central, Copy All”

We walked in silence for a while. What we all were doing is just beyond belief. It still hasn’t really sunk in. We were the first humans ever to set foot on an extra-solar planet, the first ones to ever see alien life first hand. We were also, however, the first humans to kill alien life. Part of me feels like we never should have come. What are we going to do to this planet? Its animals? Will the colonists insist that we exterminate the slizzards like we Americans exterminated the wolves and grizzlies? As much as I hate the UNWG there are some things it got right. Would we be able to leave behind the bad and keep the good, or would we simply step back in time to a different set of problems?

As we reached a bend in the river Andy called in again.

“Comm. Central, A. Stuart”

“Go Stuart”

“Party 2.5 miles Northeast of Z0, river makes 40 degree turn to due North now traveling 5 degrees off of due north and upslope.”

“Comm. Central, Copy All”

Another couple miles upriver we found just what I had been looking for. To our left was a large stand of the pillowbark trees, hundreds of them. If I was right about the bark layers regrowing then we just found enough of the native fiber to provide the entire colony with all the fabric it would need.

“Well there it is Connor, that’s what I’ve been hoping for!” Andy exclaimed.

“I know! A stand that big will give us all the fiber Rajnar could want.”

“What? Great, that’s great too. But I’m talking about that!” He pointed out at the rapids a hundred yards or so upriver from our position.

“Nice!” I said. “What am I looking at? I assume you’re talking hydro power of some sort?”

“Let me call it in and then I’ll fill in the holes, OK?” Connor just nodded, so I kept going. “Comm. Central prepare to copy complex!”

“Comm. Central, on record Go Ahead!”

“Central, A. Stuart sending locator beacon from 5.1 miles upstream from Z0. I am at the base of a constriction rapid with a fall of 25 to 30 Ft. Estimate a pressure head of approximately 250,000 gallons per minute. Brute force clearable on the west bank for a sluice diversion and slope appears to be conducive to excavation. Inform D. Webber that I have our Hydro source. Inform J. Fortson that we will need lumber support for an estimated 8 Ft radius water wheel and any potential farmers that we have a gristmill looking to happen. Break! Inform M. Stuart to get on the computer and mark this location. Whenever we figure out staking land claims I want this spot. Clan Stuart builds here!” I looked at Connor and asked, “Any questions, this is my energy base?”

After Andy had examined the rapids in more detail and I had done the same to the stand we headed back to camp. After a bit I brought up something that had been bugging me.

“So I’ve been thinking. So far we’ve found two trees that have some sort of defense mechanism for their trunk. Or, at least, they could very well be that. The log tree is capable of healing itself in a matter of hours against most cuts or gashes in its bark. The pillowbark tree goes a step farther and actually has slash resistant bark, and multiple layers of it to boot. I’m not totally sure, but it seems like there may be a large predator out there that claws trees a little too much.”

“Hmmm… Interesting theory. Not sure if I buy it but I guess it’s possible. If you’re right it would almost have to be a mating practice – territory marking wouldn’t be widespread enough.”

“That’s what I was thinking. Or I suppose it could be more random than that. It could just like to claw things. I mean, cats have clawing posts, right? Anyway, it’s food for thought. I doubt it would be the animal I mentioned yesterday – too small, for one. We should keep our eyes peeled, but there’s certainly no reason to spread this around, especially before we’re sure one way or the other.”



We were at just about the two miles out point when the brush to Connor’s right erupted. I was slinging the Springfield up as time began to slow. All I saw was about 18 feet of alligator sized body on multiple legs and LOTS of teeth in an open jaw. The first round was in the air when a little voice told me ‘Not Enough!’ so, I jacked out the second solid round and fired the third which was HE. To my left Connor had managed to shoulder his Garand, but he realized the job was already done. Not half bad for a non-Spec Ops with no out of place genes. As time began to speed back up my right hand caught the unfired round as the HE blew out the back of the head and upper neck of the monstrosity. It dropped in its tracks and Connor swore, lowering the rifle. “Shit! That’s one big ass slizzard. Mean little fracker too.”

“Congratulations,” I told him, “You were just bait for the first confirmed predator on Alchibah and an ugly sucker he is.” Pocketing the unfired round I reached down and picked up the two expended casings when Connor asked, “OK. How come I only heard one shot?”

“Well, like I like to joke with Mariana and used to with Angel; get faster! Now help me cut some poles for a Travois ‘cause I just know you and Mariana want to dissect this ugly sucker!”

‘Comm Central, A. Stuart; Advise all that we have encountered our first confirmed predator. And before M. Stuart asks, yes I am dragging the big ugly thing back!”

Just before dark, we staggered back into the camp with our energy base site and the carcass of our first predator on the end of my shoulder harness. Hanna, bless her heart came up to me with a mug I know everybody thought was booze and was really coffee with enough sugar in it to put a diabetic into instant shock. Gods how I needed some sleep!

And then my wrist comp when off with the Emergency Channel buzzer sound!

Rats in the Lab

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Day 0:3 was going to be a busy one for the Lab Rats and their main source of technical support had traipsed out into the up-country before dawn.  Mariana hoped this would be the end of the long discussions about renewable power vs colony health for a long time.  At least she had won enough concession from the hard head that he had built this place first!  Now all they had to do was get the equipment in place and calibrated as a system; easier said than done!

At least the power was already in place, the massive storage cell that RJ had planned to run a full Level 5 lab was overkill for a lowly 2+.  Dave and believe or not Kurt were due with the first two racks any minute now.

Four hours later Mariana was ready to pull her hair out strand-by-strand.  Each rack functioned perfectly individually but no two would fully synchronize.  The beautiful synchronization that Dave and she had planned to do single sample full spectrum analysis was going on its face.  It had to be a networking problem and their network genius was out of touch.  Or maybe not; “Kurt, I know this could be hard for you but we need Ash here as fast as you can find him!”  She actually felt a little sense of revenge over the look on his face.

Fifteen minuets later Kurt was in the small tent where Ash had set up his temp Data Center and explaining the problem.  “So, no two racks will synch Mariana’s right, it’s a network problem and neither she nor I are good enough at that to fix the problem.  She wants Andy but her eyes lit up and she yelled for you.  You know if we don’t get this fixed I’ll never be able to run that comparison for you!”

Ash just stared at him, “Yeah, I know.  What do you think about the problems, any clues?”

“Yeah, the network cards for those racks are scrounged from all different places.  The common source ones planned for were on the supply ship that didn’t make it.  Dave and I can make them talk but not synch the serviced devices.”

Ash actually laid his head back and howled like a dog.  “It’s a software driver timing problem that I can fix!”

“Yeah but what the hell was that sound,” Kurt asked?

“Oh, that’s my imitation of a coon hound barking Treed.  If this run I just started has the results I hope for you may get to hear my imitation of one barking trail!”

Kurt just shook his head and started walking.

Mariana had just finished listening to Andy’s “make a claim” message when she saw Dave, Ash and Kurt high-fiving in the back room.

Strolling back she asked, “I take it you clowns have a fix for our problem?”

Ash bowed and made a sweeping gesture, “Your primary array My Highness, and care to run a sample?”

Mariana merely sat down and inserted a grass sample that had been single staged to death, punched the integrated test button and was surprised when the whole array began to flash and results started rolling up on the screens.  Moving from station to station Mariana rapidly confirmed the accuracy.  “Sally, Linda Primaries are up, time to get to work!”

“Now, you smiling goons how long to get diagnostic up?”

Kurt bowed, “As that is my baby, we will call you when we are ready for business.  Ash claims it will be easier now that he knows the key signals!”

Later Mariana was listening to Andy’s “found us a predator,” call when Kurt came up and told her that diagnostic was up all that was needed were a few confirming runs but he was too bushed to do them today.  Noticing the time Mariana called it a day for the Rats and started to walk back to the tents.  Stopping to talk to several people she was just starting down the bluff and watching Andy drag something huge into the tent clearing.  She had to laugh when she saw Hanna bring out the mug to Andy; half the camp was going to think it was booze.  They would not know that she had explained Andy’s high-speed metabolism to Hanna!

Just then, the Emergency Channel buzzer started its nerve-racking noise!


Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


I glanced at the wrist comp and saw CODE 3 in glowing red letters. Glancing towards the tent clearing I was looking for Andy as I was running down the bluff. Predictably he was nowhere to be seen; I hit the medical tent yelling over the wrist comp for Kurt to get the OR ready. Grabbing up the instrument kit I saw Sally exiting with the Shock / Trauma kit. We started running for the rescue boat.


I had just finished handing the mug back to Hanna when my wrist comp went off. The glowing CODE 3 was as big a shock as I had felt lately. Dropping the drag straps I went to speed for the run to the tent. Once there I ditched the Springfield and grabbed the thigh pouch went out of the tent and back to speed. I caught up to Mariana and Sally just as they were scrambling in the rear hatch. I slid in through the command hatch and into the right seat just as Bart was starting the count. As we rose up in height we picked up the line of sight beacon that someone had put in place.

Seeing that Bart was easily clearing any obstacles in our flight path, I reached in to the thigh pouch and pulled out the goggles, toggling them for night vision I synched them to the control panel. As we began to approach a sandy spit with Rocco gesturing us in, I could see that Bart was having trouble seeing through the increasing darkness and light rain.

“Bart, I have night vision up, want me to take the bird?”

His reply was heartfelt, “Yes please, this is a bear!”

“OK, hands on; my bird, now!”

I landed us about 40 Ft. away from Rocco and as I heard the rear hatch bang open, I reached into the pouch and handed Bart one of the two Surefire lights.

Going out through the passenger / cargo area, I grabbed three of the battery spot lights stored back there and moved to the spot where Thompson was down. With Rocco and Bart’s help we had the three spots up just in time to see Sally try to jump start Thompson for what appeared to be the second time. Just then Marina grabbed Sally’s shoulder.

“Don’t knock yourself out, check this EEG!”

Sally nodded and leaned over the display, “Wow, we never had a chance; what happened to him?”

Mariana looked at his hand and then his feet and said, “Somewhere between 2 and 3 Amps right through the Central Nervous System. Fried idiot on the spot!”

From that statement there was nothing left to do except photograph the spot, plant a return marker and pack up the body. Even Histy agreed that further investigation would have to wait till morning.

As we were bagging the body, I happened to notice his shoes.

“Travis, Bartlett; come take a look at this.”

They both looked and gave me quizzical looks. “Hard leather guys with metal brads no less. This dummy was the shortest path to ground!”

It takes all kinds to try something like Alchibah and Mother Nature had just culled one who could not cut it!

Rat Hunt

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

Day 4  0:04:04:30

     The rains of the night before had ended and the dark sky was lightening rapidly in the east as Janie Cantarubias, with Kara along to help, went out to examine nearby sites for a spot to situate the windmills. The Jeep, Kara’s bot R.LeGuin, and R. EmyCee were acting as guards and lookouts. Now that the Community Center was being built the colonies lack of electrical generation loomed as a huge bottleneck, that’s a nonsequitur if I ever heard one, to rapid completion. With so little generating capacity it was important to determine the best location.

     Every day since their arrival the winds had blown generally from the north west and today was no different. With wind power one thing over all else was important, average wind speed. And without natural geographic features to tunnel the wind for you that meant getting the turbine as high as possible and keeping away from obstructions such as trees.

     The raised mound south of the tents at [T3], near the base of which Bio-Lab was nearing completion, was the highest nearby location. The trees to the west of it were being cleared and it became the obvious location. There were two portable anemometers. One was set up on the hill and Kara stayed to monitor it.  The second Janie took with her to the three other sites that had been determined as possibles. The wind speed comparisons almost always favored Kara’s location, usually by a considerable margin, and so by noon, (10:00 Alchibah time), the decision was made.

     “That’s it Kara”, Janie sent, “I’m gonna take the bots and see about getting a little more help to drag the Windmills up there. Could you figure the locations so we can get them raised as soon as we get back?”

     “Sure Janie, about a hundred feet apart and in a line facing northwest so they don’t interfere with each other. Sound right?”

     “Perfect, but stay as far up wind from the Bio-Lab as you can make it. Just in case. I should be up there in less than an hour.”

     The 20 KW generators with their associated control circuitry each weighed in at about 300 lbs. The three composite blades were 30 feet long and very light. They also came with enough scaffolding sections to raise the generator/blade combination 60 foot above the ground. Their natural output was 4000 volts so we needed a transformer to reduce that to something the robot chargers could use. Another transformer would be placed at the Community Building and the third held in reserve till we see where it will be needed most. Anyway it took one of our wheeled carts three trips to get everything to the hill.

     The total weight involved was no problem for the bots and the structures were designed for easy assembly. Our only initial trouble was making a foundation that would be strong enough to keep them from toppling. As a temporary measure we only raised them 40 feet and used the rest of the scaffolding to make outriggers for guide wires. We locked the generator hubs to keep them from rotating automatically to face the wind. If we had let them rotate the blades would have spun into the wires.

     By the time the last cart load arrived the first windmill was almost ready for operation. R. EmyCee got the honor of first charge. All three were spinning a couple of hours before nightfall. And we had started to do some digging for a proper foundation. Our intention was to dig down about 10 feet and put in a section resting on a base plate and fill it the hole. Concrete would have been nice, maybe in the future, Kara said she had watched the corner posts for the Community Building being set and wondered if we could do something similar here, but taller, so that we could get the windmills even higher than their scaffolding would allow. That looked promising. Too much to do too little time.

Day 4 An hour before sunset     

     We were done for now a few of robots with someone to supervise would continue to dig, set base plates then refill for the rest of the night. We would relocate the generators in the morning, that should take an hour or so apiece and we will keep two running at all times. Still… we were getting 70% or 80% of what we could have gotten from this wind speed if everything had been perfect and bots were charging. I was listening to the rhythmic whupp, whupp of the blades when the Jeep approached.     “Miss Janie, the Boss would like to know if you can spare some time to go rat hunting?” was how the Jeep phrased it.

     “Jeep, I told you before, drop the Miss Janie stuff and just call me Janie, everyone else does.”

     “The Boss said I was always to call you Miss Janie because it’s a term of endearment, and no matter what you said about it I am not allowed to change.”

     “Ok then J.P. But I will have a word with Bart about that later. Why didn’t he just message me instead of having you ask? And what’s with a rat hunt anyway?”

     “The Boss said his comm unit isn’t functioning properly so he had R. Daily at the lumber mill pass the message to me.” and after a brief pause, “I think a rat hunt is where one would hunt rats.”

     “Puhleezz!… I’m done here for now so call back and ask RoDan to find out from Bart where we should meet.“

     Almost immediately the Jeep responded, “The Boss says to meet him at the mess tent for dinner first. Rat hunting is always best when done after dark.”

     “I was sitting near the mess tent entrance waiting, so when Janie came in I immediately said, “Congratulations on getting the windmills going.”

     “We have a lot of really smart people anxious to help.” And looking over to where Les Reye was again sitting with the usual suspects, “And a few of another sort entirely. They do anything today?”

     “Can’t say for sure about all of em but I did see that one at the end, the one that calls himself Snitch, (what kind of a name is that anyway?), surveying the land east of where we were sawing. He stopped and said hello and mentioned what he was up to, seems friendly enough. Said his real name was Eugene Washburn but Jack the Blade stuck him with the name Snitch. He said Jack wanted to call him Stench but relented under pressure. There are some things I‘ll never get.”

     Between spoonfuls of … Yep stew again… Janie told me about her day and what she had planned for tomorrow. Then she got to the question I knew she was dying to ask but hoping I would mention first. “Ok Bart, what’s with a rat hunt?”

     “Janie when I was a kid my greatest source of pleasure, or time waster, depending how you look at it, was going to the dump to see if any bears were around. Bears weren’t uncommon but there were always rats. My buddies and I would take slingshots and pot as many of them as we could. We did it mostly in the daytime, but once in a while we would go out at night and shine a light around and see the glint of their eyes. We saw a lot of other things too, mice, raccoons, possums, deer. But it was certain if a rat was around you could find him eventually at the dump.

     Hanna has been saving me table scraps for the last couple of days in an empty fuel drum. This afternoon on the way back to camp I emptied it in a little depression between here and where Joe and I are sawing. No one has mentioned seeing any rats since the day after we arrived. A small animal like that has to eat all the time and or starve to death. Everyone has been very careful, even those guys.” I said looking at Reye, “Either the rats have found something to eat that agrees with them or they are all dead, and I would like to find out which. And besides that who knows what else we might see?”

     “Ok, when does this rat hunt start? I see the showers are up and saw wood smoke which means hot water. Do I have time? Cause if I don‘t, I aint a comin’”

     “Sure, I wouldn’t think of leaving without you.”

     An hour later we were huntin’. From the small rise above where I had dumped the bait. [R1], the sound of the lumber mill 150 yards away was easy to hear in the silence. We could even make out the sound of an occasional voice in the direction of the tents. There was more insect activity at night time and we could hear a constant light buzzing and a not uncricket like chirp. That and the noise of the wind in the trees to our west.

     I had brought along a blanket, camera and tripod, a couple of strong lights and some night vision goggles. And for safety‘s sake, especially after hearing first from Sinopa and then seeing what Connor and Andy had dragged in last night, one of the rifles I inherited from the UNWG stripped of the hi-tech gadgetry. Enough Sunday practice on the Mayflower had made its use second nature to me by now. Janie wasn’t at all adverse to going armed herself; she had been carrying discretely since our first day down.

     Each of the robots was carrying a spot and had been instructed and trained to light up and track anything they detected that was larger than a rat, and immediately broadcast an alert if they detected anything. A rat, being warm blooded, should show up like a landing beacon to the bots sensors. This was open and cleared terrain with only a few clumps of scrap timber left to burn. I also warned them to be very careful if they did light up anything to make sure not to shine in our eyes. Anything large enough to be lethal by force, even if cold blooded ought to be detectable. But then, some people die from bee stings and snake bites.

     The Jeep and EmyCee were posted 50 yards north of us and separated from each other by about the same distance. The bait pile was about 90 feet away and 15 feet below us to the south. It’s a shame that the bots programming make them useless in terms of defending themselves or others from attack but that’s how it is. I was hoping, and actually felt confident, they would be more than adequate as an alarm system.

     I had picked up my comm unit from Sabbu who told me there was nothing wrong with it. He said I must have been in a black out zone when I tried it before. Our coverage was still spotty and the bots with more power and on a different band seemed to be having no problems.

     Carter, the brighter of Alchibah’s two moons was high in the sky giving us plenty of light to see by. As I spread the blanket on the ground Janie said, “Now I see why you got me out here.”

     Pulling her down besides me I said. “Not now maybe later.” as I passed over the night-vision goggles. I keyed my now working comm and said “Anything Jeep, anything EmyCee?”

     “Nothing here Boss.” said the Jeep.

     “Nothing here Boss.” said EmyCee.

     “Geez Bart, now you’ve got Emy doing it too.

     “Hush lets see what makes a visit.”

     Janie snuggled up against me and began scanning slowly back and forth while I let my own night vision adjust. It wasn’t long, less than five minutes when Janie whispered. “I see something. Just to the right.”

     “Close your Eyes, I’ll take a shot.” I had the camera mounted on the tripod and pointed, the shutter set to go when the lights came on “Here it comes.” I closed my eyes also to protect my night vision and triggered the lights. They were on for only an instant and then darkness again. “Take a look and see if it’s still there then let’s see what we got.”

     “Gone Bart, the flash must have scared whatever it was away.”

     Janie took off the goggles and we both looked at the display on the back of the camera. It sure wasn’t a rat. What it looked like was a small slizard or his second cousin. A foot long and about 4 inches off the ground. The eyes were noticeably larger in proportion to the body and seemed to be convincing evidence for a night dwelling nature. The color was hard to judge but it was uniform and likely a black or very dark blue-black. The picture wasn’t as sharp as I’d hopped for. Next time we tried this we would need to set the lights and camera closer to the bait pile and trigger everything remotely. But at least it worked so we continued our vigil for another two hours. We delayed taking pictures on some of the sightings and caught a couple right on the pile with human type food in their mouths. They seemed to enjoy it. But not a sign of a rat.

     Off and on Janie was switching her goggles between starlight and infrared view. She said that when using infrared the creatures just blended in with the background. A sure sign of a cold blooded animal and it explained why the robots were reporting nothing.

     We saw three more of the same slizard like things, what to name it? A Ratoid?, Ratile? It looked to fill the same ecological niche. Twice we saw what I’d have had to call an Armadillo if I’d seen them on Earth. I guess I’ll call that an Aladillo for now. A body about as long as the Ratoid lizard 12 inches but much fuller and lower to the ground with a tapering tail half again as long. The tail ended in a two inch ball covered with pointy spikes. It looked for all the world like a mace and I bet it was used in the same manner.

     The Aladillo wasn’t scared off by the light. It turned it’s head to face it and slowly flexed it’s tail back and forth. “I sure would like to trap one of those things alive.” I said. “I could try to get it into the empty drum we brought the food scraps in but by the look of that tail even if it let me get close enough until we know more about it’s behavior the risk isn’t worth it. Hmm…. I wonder if the Jeep could do it?”

     It turned out to be easier than I had imagined. I called the Jeep over and explained what I wanted him to do. As he moved towards the bait pile the Aladillo we were watching went scurrying into the darkness. The Jeep reached the pile and picked up the empty drum and stood motionless. I turned off the lights and we waited again. In 15 minutes Janie let us know another Aladillo was at the Jeep’s feet. “Do it Jeep.” I said, and at the same time turned on the lights. That froze the thing for an instant as the Jeep scooped with the drum. A capture. R. J.P. had the cover on and drain unscrewed to let in air by the time Janie and I got there.

     A lot of noise was coming from inside the drum as the Aladillo must have been lashing its tail in a furious fashion. “Any damage to you Jeep?”, was the first thing Janie said.

     The Jeep replied, “I, am in fine condition Miss Janie, nothing but some scratched paint.” And sure enough there were a number of scratches on the jeeps arms readily visible and a little scoring of his composite exterior. We could touch both things up in the morning.

     “Lets call it a night Bart, I’m done in and morning comes awfully early round here.”

     Oliver, the more distant and larger of the two moons, was rising above the treeline as we gathered our things. I called in EmyCee, and we went back to camp with the Jeep carrying the drum. Thankfully the Aladillo had calmed down, at least for the time being. We announced our presence to the guard of the middle watch as we approached. While Janie went on to the tent I explained to the guard what was in the drum and admonished him not to let anyone fool with it unless it was Connor and until a suitable cage was made first.

     I sent the Jeep and EmyCee back to the sawmill, went into the mess tent, grabbed a coffee, and dumped the photos into the Encyclopedia under the heading “New and Interesting“. I also wrote up a short explanation to post with them. Next I glanced at the reporters entry to check on how the Community Building was coming along. There was a nice picture showing wall construction and another good one showing a robot, EmyCee, being recharged at the Windmill. That image was captioned “Robot Charging on Windmill Hill”, another geographic feature named. And finally I hit the showers and off to bed myself, careful as I crawled into my sleeping bag not to disturb Janie.

Division of Labor

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kara

So we’ve got three main groups now within the camp: the people who are leading getting things done, those that are helping, and those that are not.  Luckily, those of us who are helping outnumber those who aren’t.  We’re all pretty smart and don’t need a lot of supervision, once given instructions and whatnot, and the camp is coming along nicely as a result.

Those that aren’t helping may have been smart in their line of work back on Earth, but they’re morons here.  They are more interested in their life being the same as it was instead of accepting that things are different now and we’re all in this together (and equal).

There are also a couple of camps within this group: those that help a bit, but you can tell they are up to something else entirely (Jack’s posse, whom I like to call the Snakes) and those that really do nothing (Les’ group, whom I call the Howells, which is a reference to an old Earth TV show).

So the Howells keep talking about moving to another location.  Ha!  I’d love to see how long they last.  If they do decide to relocate, I think I’ll take bets on how long it’ll be until they come crawling back — that should be fun.

Day 5 Meanderings

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kara

Day 5 

The meeting hall is almost done, just another day or two.  Then I believe we’re having a colony meeting….that should be interesting. 

I was talking with Travis and some others about supplies, and they weren’t completely sure how we were doing – things have been happening so quickly that no one has been keeping a close eye on inventory.  I volunteered to help track things, and they said they’d take that into consideration.  I have experience with spreadsheets and financial analysis from my old job, so while it isn’t exactly the same, it is probably the closest thing I can find.  There won’t be much need for financial analysis for a long while!

I helped Janie with setting up 2 of the windmills yesterday.  It was fun to see more of the area, and to do something completely different.  And it was the first time I spent any real time with my robot, R.LeGuin.  It was very odd (and a little creepy), but I’m starting to get used to it.  I’m not sure yet how I want my bot to address me.  Janie’s kept calling her Miss Janie, which Janie hated, but I got used to it and it seemed like a decent idea.  It helps to remind us that they are not our equals.  Geez, that sounds terrible.  But robots make me uneasy….did you ever see that old movie AI?  Luckily these guys aren’t nearly as advanced as those in the scifi novels….and I hope they never are.

I’m going to swing by the lab and see if I can get a look at the new plants and animals they’ve collected (like the giant slizard!).  That is the most exciting part of the whole experience.  Maybe if I don’t end up with inventory or something, they’ll take me as helper over there.  But then again, not sure if I could disect anything :)

This had Better be Worth It

Posted in 5. First Landing by Kurt Kellerman

Day 0:4 Morning

I drug myself from from Hanna’s precious coffee spot over to Ash’s Data Center. Opening the the flap the only question that came to mind was, “Damn, Ash do you ever sleep?”

The Bleary bloodshot eyes in the drawn face replied, “When this is over, my gift from the Stuart genes; I can go as long as I have to. Besides after I get this data request to Travis, I am gonna have a couple of days to sleep.”

“OK, but I am going to need your help to sell this little subterfuge I am fixing to pull!”

“Sure, if it don’t take great and complicated thoughts I’m up to it!”

Motioning Ash to silence I keyed my wrist comp, “M. Stuart, K. Kellerman and secure please!” After a short pause the security light flashed on my comp as they linked and the voice of Mariana Stuart replied.

“M. Stuart and what can I do for you Kurt that requires secure?”

“Well it’s a little delicate. I need to final calibrate diagnostic and for that I need to do some known to stored DNA comparisons. The three best stored’s we have are Ash, you and Andy from your military medical records. I am at Ash’s place and he has offered me the records but I feel uncomfortable digging into them without your permission. Not to mention I would like to have about three new samples from each of you to run as comps.”

There was a long pause, “OK, sounds reasonable. Meet us at Hanna’s Place in about 10 and you can have your fresh coffee diluted samples. We are going to need diagnostic ASAP, so if this works I am for it.”

I let out a long held breath, “This will give me enough data to calibrate and the array should be certified by early afternoon! Kellerman clear!”

I looked at Ash, “I hope to God we live through this! When She finds out I lied to her we might not!”

He gave me that cold family stare, “If you are as good as your reputation, we are not gonna survive. We are gonna be plain old hero’s!”

I muttered over my shoulder on the way out, “Yeah Right!”

Going to Hanna’s place I got my samples and glory be a direct e-mail from Andy and Mariana specifically granting me access to their files. Andy’s comment was that he did not know what the laws were going to wind up being here but, setting precedence never hurt! Followed by an admonition to “Get it Done!”

Walking around the bluff to the Bio-Lab it suddenly dawned on me. Ash and I had not lied to Mariana, well I had about the number of before tests we had. But, as the quality of mine and Sally’s left much to be desired (they had been done in a UNWG lab not the regional lab Sally had been running) Ash and the Stuarts were really the only high grade ones we had. OK, I was splitting hairs. But it had been so long since I had felt halfway clean I didn’t want to loose that feeling!

Getting to the Lab I began the sequence with my own and Sally’s samples. There were some minor discrepancies but those proved to be from the UNWG lab not here. Ash’s samples showed some minor calibration problems in the allergy projection algorithms but the DNA was unusual in a small deviation in the fatigue reaction area.

Andy’s was a mind blower. When I was in college there was a discussion of the effects of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) on first responders and combatants. The professor had outlined the perfect warrior. Capable of conscious control of his reactions and metabolic speed and I was looking at it! Looking back at Ash’s I now knew I was looking at the female regressive side of the same mutation. All I could think was that Fortson had been right, I too wanted a draft choice on Andy and Mariana’s first born.

Then I pulled up Mariana’s before or stored and my heart broke! This DNA sample could never produce viable offspring. Then I pulled up her shipboard sample. Then I ran all three samples I had taken just this morning.

“A. Andrews, K. Kellerman and go secure dammit!”

My wrist comp flashed the secure light and chirped, “And what can I do for you Kurt?”

“You had better bring me that third file or so help me God I will find a way to kill you!”

His reply was a chuckle, “At last another true believer. Sit tight I am on my way and the guy you really want dead is already among the dearly departed. Ash out!”

What You Thought I Knew

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Ash Andrews

After Kurt left I finished transferring my data into the wrist comp memory and then called Travis.

“Capt. Travis, A. Andrews priority request!” The net always took long enough to find Travis that you never were sure where he was!

Eventually, “Andrews, Travis here what is the priority?”

“I have a file to send that has specific times and look angles for four separate locations in Alchibah space. Each location has between six and eight look times. It’s going to take at least three days to get all these looks, assuming Mayflower maintains current orbit!”

“Your down to only four locations?” Travis queried.

“Yep, only four spots I can not exclude. You have no idea of the sheer power of Andy’s array when it’s time to crunch numbers!”

“I am going to have to see that someday but I see results already. Your observations should be a good final exam for the sensor operators we are just finishing training. Of course Monroe or myself will check their work and redo any that are shaky. Please send the file directly to the bridge if you could. Anything else?”

“Nothing else I can think of and thanks!”

Breaking the connection I quickly made contact with the Mayflower bridge and uploaded the file. While the file was uploading I could hear the bridge chatter in the background and the excitement was rather noticeable.

With that out of the way I grabbed my kit and headed for the showers. For the first time in weeks, I had nothing to do!

I had been asleep for maybe an hour and a half when my mil-spec wrist comp went off in “Wake the Dead” mode! As I pretty well resembled that description it took 5 rings for me to answer. Kurt it seemed was quite upset. I drug my bod into my clothes and headed over the bluff for the lab!

When I got there I knew one thing the rehab project had been a successes. Kurt Kellerman was the absolute picture of a PO’d MD in his realm.

“Ash, what the hell is this crap?”

“Kurt, you tell me! Do I look like an MD? All I have is a file of code that’s buried in Mariana’s medical chip and the same code in a file I took from the chief Security Goon on the Cruiser I was piloting. The fact that He was Mariana’s EX makes it dangerous as hell. What if some asshole like Reye’s got it and claimed she was UNWG trying to hide something. I have no idea what it means or how it affects anything. You are the MD, you tell me!” There was no way I was going to admit that I had guessed roughly what it was and had been running this whole play drawing to an inside straight!

He looked absolutely stunned, “You mean you have no idea what you are looking at?”

“One more time, I am an Engineer. I am not a Medical Doctor; I have no damn idea!” Pulling out the two chairs I motioned at one and said, “So sit down and explain to the engineer.”

Kurt leaned back and sighed, “What you have is a clear cut case of altered DNA scans. Mariana’s before scans are clearly of a genome that can not produce viable offspring. The one’s I took this morning (with the exception of some vagaries in the brain areas) are of what should be a human brood mare! Someone has deliberately sabotaged her DNA scans!”

I just leaned back and groaned, “No doubt you are right Kurt. But, that deception caused a UNWG forced abortion and an active implant to prevent inception. That’s why they can’t have kids! And of course the UNWG put the active implant that can not be removed into her!”

Kurt just starred and me for what seemed an hour but, could not have been more than seconds.

“It can’t be removed but, it can be stopped! What the hell do you think got me in hot water with the UNWG. I developed a procedure in case we made a mistake. Little did I know that suggesting that the omnipotent UNWG could make a mistake was death to your career. If I only had the Radio Frequency support I had back then, I could kill this thing!”

I stared at Kurt for at least a minute, “That’s all you need, RF Engineering? Boy, you are a damn hero!”

As Kurt stared, I was calling into my wrist comp, “Reaper, Ghost; Scramble HOT. Bio-Lab, alone and Hype!”

“Kurt, you better let me handle the first part of this. But be ready for your cue and be more that ready to talk specs in a hurry!”

A Day in the Life (and then Death)

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Day 3


Dad had left early with Andy to survey upstream, leaving me in charge of my two sisters. Not that “in charge” really had anything to do with it. Truth be told, they could basically take care of themselves if they needed to. They need us emotionally, of course, but that’s different. They really are frighteningly smart, and they don’t suffer from the lack of common sense that so many smart kids (and adults, for that matter) seem to have. Like Buchanan and Reye and their slackers – brains, but no concept of reality or sense of responsibility. Hell, I’m 17 and I know more about contributing to the common good than that whole lot combined. Shit, even if they care about nothing but themselves they should help out, if just to avoid making enemies. But nooooo, they just don’t get it. God I can’t stand useless people.

But anyway, that’s not the point. I had just sat down to breakfast with the twins at Hanna’s when a girl not much older than me came over to our table with her tray. She was tiny; beautiful. Delicate. I almost laughed. She reminded me a lot of me, when I was eleven or twelve, only I’m pretty sure she’s college age. In some ways she did look her age, but she still had the innocent, carefree look I lost years ago.

“Mind if I join you?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied. “Pull up a chair.”

“Yeah!” Aya agreed. Arra chimed in, “Have a seat May.” They were sitting on either side of me, stuffing their faces with the MREs.

“Ok Arra,” she laughed, sitting down. “I will. I’m Maylin, Chen-Ling’s daughter,” she said to me. “I’m helping out Em and Liza with the daycare, which is how I know these two rascals!”

“Good luck! They’re holy terrors!” I exclaimed, mussing Aya’s hair. “Remember that time you lit your babysitter’s hair on fire?” Arra glanced at the slowly whitening young woman and winked. The poor girl looked terrified! Aya giggled and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh jeez, I’m sorry. They’re little angels, really. They could be no end of trouble if they wanted to be, but they’re really just about the nicest girls you’ll ever meet, honest.” She laughed, though she still looked a little uneasy.

I noticed Kara getting breakfast and waved to her to join us. As she sat down I clapped her on the back. “Congratulations on being the first person on Alchibah to slug one of the slackers. And from what I hear you did a pretty good job of it too. Ol’ Les still has a bit of a shiner!” I laughed.

“Pompous jackass,” she muttered. “I mean, really, houses! Houses! And if that prick calls me ‘little miss’ one more time, so help me…It did feel pretty good though,” she admitted, almost sheepishly. “The only thing I regret is that my hand is still sore. Hard headed little…”

“Oh don’t you worry, I can take care of that. Before I’m through with you you’ll be able to punch him in the face whenever you feel like it!” We all got a good laugh out of that.

We finished the meal, talking about how the first few days on Alchibah had been. Maylin also asked a bit about what I had been doing, which was kinda annoying because I didn’t really have any results to speak of. The lab wasn’t up yet, and without the lab there was little else I could safely do with the samples Sin and I collected. There were other ways of determining toxicity and poison content, but they weren’t as reliable or safe and to do them right could take a fair amount of time. So for now I had to be content with the answer “collecting plant samples.”

As we were walking over to the daycare the girls were running ahead, playing. Kara split off, towards the cargo area, waving goodbye. Maylin seemed like she had something on her mind.

“Yes?” I asked. She looked up, startled. She hesitated, and then spoke up.

“So, your dad and my older sis seem to be getting along pretty well, huh?” she asked. I don’t think my face or body language showed anything, but I was definitely doing a serious mental double take.

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, she helped him collect samples all day the day after we landed and then this morning she went and had breakfast with him before he headed out. I mean, he’s like ten years older than her or something, but I think she likes him,” she confided. Yup, this was definitely not something I had the foggiest about. Pops has some serious splainin to do.

“Huh. I dunno. I’m sure it’ll work itself out.” Hmmm…could I possibly have been more non-committal? And then, thankfully, we reached the tent. I mouthed “later” as we walked in.

As I was leaving Emily came up to me. “Do you mind if I join you for a while? May and Liza have this covered and I’ve been feeling a bit cooped up. I’m sure I can help with whatever you’re doing. I’m a quick learner.” She asked hopefully. Truth be told I didn’t really want her in my hair. She seemed nice enough, but I’m used to working with people like Sinopa and my uncle Gabe, not, well, high schoolers. But while I certainly don’t have what you’d call good social skills I knew that alienating one of the only people my age within 500 trillion miles of our new home wasn’t a good idea. So I said yes.

Our first stop was Hanna’s again for a pot of coffee, then on to Ash’s fortress of solitude. That man was working himself to the bone. I figured the least I could do was make sure he stayed fully caffeinated. I poked my head in.

“Ash? You still alive in there buddy? Got your bi-morning pot of coffee.”

“You’re too good to me girl,” he said, his bloodshot eyes looking up from their computer screen. “And you brought company! Where are my manners?” He started to get up, I presume to kiss Emily’s hand or some such silliness.

“Oh sit down you old rascal! She’s no older than I am and besides, you look like someone just killed you.” He slumped back.

“You’re no fun,” he sighed. “One of these days I’m going to find a beautiful woman around here that isn’t off limits. But until then, thanks for the coffee. Now get on with you. We’ve both got very important business and no time to waste on chit chat.”

“I’m going, I’m going!” I laughed. “Good luck, and get some friggin sleep.”

As we left the tent Emily gave me an odd look.

“What?” I asked. “He’s not that bad. And you have to understand, I’ve spent most of my life around little boys like him. They all work the same way. I’ve been one of the guys so long that Ash is a breath of fresh air after having to be around so many polite, upstanding people.”

“If you say so,” she said skeptically. “He still creeps me out, but I’ll take your word for it. Anyway, where to next?”

We headed to the landing site to meet the next shipment and pick up a couple of robots for the family. We had been holding off on getting them until now because we figured the ones that were already on planet would be of more use to the other colonists who were doing more manual labor. I also think that our independent streak was getting the better of us a bit. After roughing it for years it was going to be weird to have our own personal state of the art robots. I also needed to pick up Dad’s supply crate that he had shipped ahead and make sure everything was in order. Not that there was much we could do if it wasn’t.

I gave the two robots their names: R.Lewis (mine) and R.Eddings (Dad’s – I’d transfer ownership later). We were going to hold off on getting the twins’ until they were used to ours. After they had downloaded the accumulated knowledge of the other robots I had them grab the crate and we started back up to my tent. This whole time Emily and I were talking, about everything from life back on Earth (I was, shall we say, a tad less specific than she was) to how things were going so far to our hopes and dreams for the future.

My dad always says he’s sorry that the girls and I didn’t have a normal childhood. I say the hell with it. Sure, I missed high school and boyfriends and prom and all those other things that I was “supposed to” experience, but I certainly didn’t miss them. By and large they seem like a lot more trouble than they’re worth. Given the choice between prom with a bunch of twittering girls and drunken revelry in the northern reaches of Canada with Gabe’s Green Mountain Boys and Sin’s Fox Pack I’d chose the roughneck rebels any day. Which is why I was so surprised that Em and I hit it off so well. While I can’t really say we’ve got a lot in common, for whatever reason I really enjoyed talking with her. I almost can’t believe it, but I think I’ve actually got a friend who isn’t a trained killer.

When we got back up to the tent I had the robots put the crate inside my tent, open it and wait outside. Yup, they’re definitely going to take some getting used to. But anyway, the crate. My dad’s blacksmithing tools were there, but I didn’t bother to unpack or check them. Too much of a pain and I didn’t know enough to really do any good anyway. I did a quick check over the axe, maul and saws. All in good shape.

The vacuum sealed brewer’s yeast and the seed packets for the other brewing necessities looked to be doing fine, but I suppose there’s no way to be sure until we try and use them. I hope they work out. I love brewing beer almost as much as I love drinking it. Shame we couldn’t take any of the equipment, but I’m sure we’ll be able to rig something up. Next came the two duffels of spare clothes unceremoniously tossed into the corner. The rest of the contents I handled with quite a bit more care.

The next two things I took out were a long, thin mahogany box and a small, squat burnished steel one. I placed these gingerly off to the side. The contents of those were worth more, in dollar value and to this family, than the rest of our possessions combined. After that I lifted out the half a dozen of my grandfather’s khukuris we had managed to bring along with his bolo, placing them aside for inspection. Finally the two CTAR-45s and the two Colt Pythons, identical to mine, that we were saving for my sisters, along with the ammunition boxes.

“So you’re a quick learner?” I asked the other girl. “You ever clean a gun? No, silly question right?” I said, seeing the look on her face. “Ok, we’ll start you out with knives.”

So I showed her the khukuris; how to properly take them from their sheaths, test for sharpness, rub them down with the tuf-cloth. At first she seemed a little uneasy, but she was right about being a fast learner. Not that anything we were doing was particularly difficult, but she quickly got much more comfortable with the big knives. This was certainly no twittering teenage girl.

Next I showed her how to clean the Colts and then moved onto the CTARs myself. I could definitely see her thinking something like, “Who is this crazy girl and why is she playing with assault rifles???” Which is, I suppose, the reaction I’d get from most people if they saw me disassembling my Tavor. It requires almost no thought on my part; my hands just flow through the motions. We kept talking as we cleaned and disassembled the guns. It was almost like some sort of surreal slumber party or something. After a little while she got quiet.

“If,” she hesitated, “if I tell you something will you promise to not tell anyone?” she blurted. “I mean, not anyone?”

I paused for a moment. I barely knew this girl and she was asking for my complete confidence. This is exactly the kind of shit I thought I had avoided skipping high school. But could I really say no? We were both alone on a new world and it’s not like there were going to be friends coming out of the woodwork. I sighed. “Yes. A promise made is a promise kept. I won’t tell anyone. What’s wrong?”

“I. I’m.” She gathered herself and started again. “You remember I mentioned my boyfriend? Well, he’s more than just my boyfriend. He’s…We’re…we’re married.” The words came out in a rush now. “We got engaged then we found out he was moving away and we eloped and then we just left and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and I miss him sooo much. Oh Jaisa I miss him. He was the sweetest guy. He always took care of me and worried more about me than himself. And now I’m never going to see him again and all I’ve got to remember him by is the ring and one picture from when we went ice skating and this necklace he gave me.” She pulled a beautiful opal pendant on a delicate silver chain from under her shirt. As she gazed at the stone she slowly started to cry.

“Oh, no. Come here,” I said, pulling her towards me as she started to cry harder. “Shhh, it’s going to be ok. Shhh.” I hugged the girl, rubbing her back. This was so not anything I was ready for.

“B-b-but th-that’s not all. I’m p-pregnant. And my baby is never going to meet it’s f-father,” she cried, hugging me back.

“Shh, shhh, it’s going to be alright. Long as I’m here you two will be alright, I promise.” Now I don’t know what made me say that, but something really made me want to protect this girl. And like I said, a promise made is a promise kept.

I really am glad she told me. I don’t know what will come of it, but I feel like I’ve made a good friend, which is something we can all use.

I spent the rest of the day out in the woods tracking with Sinopa. We found several more signs of the predator we had identified yesterday, including scat that pretty much proves that it is, in fact, a predator. We also saw tracks for a much smaller animal that also appeared (based on the movement and claw marks) to be a predator as well as several animals of various sizes that seemed more likely to be herbivores. The largest of these we estimated to be even bigger than a moose, with half a dozen smaller species ranging in size from no larger than a squirrel to about the size of a large deer. Still no sign of the rumbler (assuming it’s as big as it sounds), though based on what we’ve been hearing it seems farther away than we’ve been investigating.

Just as we were headed back we heard the distinct roar of one of the lifeboats taking off and saw the glare of its engine through the trees. I didn’t know what was happening, but I had no doubt that it was something bad. I took off for camp with Sin right beside me. We made it back in a matter of minutes, but far too late to do anything. I truly despise the feeling of helplessness that inevitably settles in when a comrade falls.

Thompson, rest in peace. Rest in Peace.

Throwing Punches

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Day 4, evening


I don’t care what anyone says, those two blowhards got exactly what they fucking deserved! They were just fracking lucky that Jai took it so god damn easy on them. Next time they decide to pull a friggin stunt like that they’re going to get more than a swift kick to the groin, that’s for god damn sure!

Connor (an hour later)

Ok, now that I’ve calmed down a little I’m going to try to relay what happened as accurately as I can. If you weren’t there I’m sure that you’ve already heard one version or another of what happened, although if one of Reye’s cronies told you about it you better believe you got a biased recounting of the event. Now, I admit that I’m biased too (Jaisa is, after all, my daughter), but I assure you that this is the most truthful account that you’re going to get. Why? Because, frankly, Jaisa’s actions were completely justified. I don’t have to lie, unlike Buchanan and Reye. Ok, so, what just happened?

It was a while after sunset and Jai and I had just collected the twins from the Parkers’ daycare. Emily Parker and Maylin Yamasak joined us, as Aya and Arra were the last two kids there (Liza had already went ahead with Karyn and their parents). After we got our food we all went and sat with the Parkers and Yamasaks. The meal was going fine, though everyone was a bit subdued from Thompson’s death last night. The slackers sat off by themselves, as usual, though they seemed to be a bit more agitated than usual and certainly took a few more glances in our direction than they normally would. Maybe that should have tipped me off, I don’t know.

After a bit Jai and Emily got up to refill their water and as they did Buchanan and Reye got up as well. That did tip me off that something was going to happen, though I never thought that those two would choose to get physical so all I did was turn around in my chair to watch. They seemed much more of the arrogant verbal abuse type. Maybe all these days with absolutely no physical activity had gotten to them. Maybe Reye was still smarting from getting his ass knocked down by Kara the other day. Whatever it was, they apparently decided to pick on someone they thought they could push around. Big mistake.

The dumbass duo walked in front of the girls, blocking them from getting to the bar. Jaisa sighed. “Yes? Was there something?” she asked.

“Yeah, there was. You seem awful glib for someone who just cost a man his life.” Reye said.

“Say what now?” I could tell Jaisa already realized what they were talking about. We had talked about the same thing last night – she had been kicking herself for not catching any of the electric plants in her survey. After we figured out which were which earlier today (with myself, Sin, Jai, the two Yamasak girls and several others combing the entire area we had previously searched) we realized how they had been missed. The two smaller, flowerlike ones had been pulled up by their roots on the initial pass (thus bypassing the mechanism) and Jai had been lucky enough to clip a branch off of the shrub without brushing any stray leaves. But that certainly didn’t stop the slackers from jumping to conclusions and flinging accusations.

“You heard me young lady. You were in charge of finding the dangerous plants and you didn’t,” Buchanan shouted, stabbing his pudgy little finger at her. “That means that you killed him!” I got up and took a step towards them, but Jai quietly motioned me to stay back.

“I have killed men,” she said quietly, “but I am not responsible for his death. Here,” she motioned towards an empty table, “let’s sit d-”

“And what about y-” Reye started. His hand had just started to extend out towards Emily when Jaisa’s fist shot out, slamming into his wrist. He couldn’t have gotten it more than a couple inches before she intercepted it. I had never seen her move so fast.

“DON’T!” she bellowed. “Don’t even think-” she was interrupted by Buchanan sneering and lunging for the slowly backing up Emily. Almost before he started moving he was on his back, curled up, face contorted in pain. Jai’s knee hammered into his groin as her elbow connected with his face. She was crouched over him, hand around his throat before I think he even realized she had moved. She started whispering fast to him – I don’t know what she said, but even in as much pain as he was you could see the color drain from his face.

Reye, in a move that could only be described as monumentally stupid, made for her back. I grabbed the back of his neck and sent him skidding into an empty table. I honestly did him a favor by not letting him reach his destination, but I don’t think he sees it that way.

“Do NOT mess with my little girl,” I roared.

Jaisa let go of Buchanan’s throat and slowly backed away. The whole episode, from Reye making the (rather enormous) mistake of trying to shove Emily to him sliding unceremoniously into the table, took two, maybe three seconds. A few of the slacker cronies had started moving towards Jai and I (Emily was back at the table with her parents), prompting Andy and Ash to step in (they had come in the side entrance a moment after Buchanan started yelling).

“Stop now! If any of you spineless roach eaters take one more step your ass is done!” Andy barked in his best drill instructor mode.

“Yall don’t want an old fashion ass whoopin to go down in here, do yall?” Ash drawled. The slackers gathered up Reye and Buchanan and slunk out of the tent.

It was dead quiet for a second, and then everyone started talking at once. Jai left the tent with Emily running after her and JJ and Linda following her as I gathered up the girls and left as well, with Andy and Ash not far behind.

A Line Not to Cross

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family

Day 4, evening


“I have killed men,” I said quietly, “but I am not responsible for his death. Here,” I held my hand out towards an empty table, hoping to calm things, “let’s sit d-”

“And what about y-” Reye started. I could tell what he was about to do. I could feel it. By the time his hand was moving I had already stopped it.

“DON’T! Don’t even think-” before I had finished Buchanan started to move towards Em. He had gotten less than half a step by the time he was on his back with my hand around his throat. I was shaking with rage. If either of them had harmed a hair on her head blood would have been spilled this night.

I crouched down and whispered so only he could hear. “If you so much as look at her wrong you’ll live to regret it.” His panicked eyes flinched away from me. “If you hurt her you won’t. This is not a threat, it’s a promise. Tell your friend.” I held his gaze for another moment, long enough for my full meaning to sink in.

“Do NOT mess with my little girl,” my dad bellowed, throwing Reye into a nearby table as I stood up. Nice of him, though I wouldn’t have minded flattening that one’s reproductive organs as well.

“Stop now!” Andy barked at the few slackers dumb enough to be moving towards us. “If any of you spineless roach eaters take one more step your ass is done!”

Then Ash, “Yall don’t want an old fashion ass whoopin to go down in here, do yall?”

As I left the tent I could hear the colonists begin to talk in a rush. No doubt a dozen different versions of what just happened would be circulating by the end of the hour. No matter. Those two wouldn’t go near Emily again. Everything else was irrelevant.

Things You Don’t Want and Things You Do

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


Kurt’s call basically caught me by surprise. I had not planned to allow for any examination of the DNA scans but, we needed to calibrate the array and we would use nobody’s but our own. I looked at Andy and he just shrugged and pantomimed “Why not?” So, I told Kurt to go ahead and we would meet him at Hanna’s!

On the short walk over, Andy worked on his wrist comp and sent Kurt specific authorization to use our files. “Might as well cover his rear,” was his comment! After Kurt got his samples and left, we proceeded to have a leisurely breakfast. I looked at Andy and asked, “What are you going to do today. I have to amble around and find someone willing to be a clerk for the Lab. When we get rolling it’s going to be a full time job to track the incoming samples to the person who brought them in!”

Andy took a long pull on his coffee, “Wander around and see who I can help. Not much I can do with the slizzard till the Lab is up. Hydro projects on hold till I pull the bots back from Joe and he needs them today! So, go see who needs some plain ole muscle.”

With that we finished up our coffee, cleaned up our table and left!


I was actually able to kill most of the morning doing just what I had said. It was amazing how many different things that people had going that six foot four and 250 lbs could help with. Robots could easily apply more energy but, I did not have to be trained. I actually saw Ash leaving the showers with a shave no less. Something had to be going right! Moving around like this let me meet more of the people and build up my reserves from yesterday. I had spent most of the long drag back with the slizzard on the edge of speed. That took more out of me than most people would guess!

I was walking out of Hanna’s place after a sandwich for lunch when Ash’s call cracked out of the blue. I had no idea what could be happening at the Lab but with Ash going into mil call signs and calling HOT I was not about to ask! Speed run to the tent, then back into speed for the run over the bluff. Dropping to the ground in front of the Lab I shouldered open the door with both Colt’s in hand. To see Ash’s face suddenly realize what he had said and Kurt Kellerman in shock as he was face to face with the Reaper for the first time!

“Ash, what the hell are you doing. Are you trying to scare Kurt to death or what?”

For once the jerk actually looked contrite! “Sorry Andy, the time component is certainly a HOT situation. I am just so damned tired I forgot what your response would be!”

I holstered the Colts and stacked the Robar off my shoulders and into the corner. “OK, Ash whats the great problem?” As he went into his explanation I could feel my anger at Mariana’s EX starting to mount. Damn that bastard. Did he just have to ruin every life he touched. I found myself asking Ash, “Why the hell did he do this?”

His reply was the last I was expecting, “To provide a cover story for the Deputy Director of Operations for UNWG Military Political Intelligence.”

“That bastard killed my chance at children for a cover story?”

Then the bombshell from Kurt, “Not necessarily, with the right RF equipment I can kill that implant!”

I stared at him for a moment then asked, “What do you mean and why is it a secret?”

His answer came in as cold a voice as I had ever heard. “I felt that we should have a means of killing that non-removable implant just in case a mistake was made. Of course in doing so I implied that the UNWG could possibly make a mistake! They hounded me out of my practice and with the threats I could do very little!”

“So you let some threats keep you from stopping this kind of shit!”

Kurt’s stare was as cold as I had ever seen. “They did not threaten me asshole, they mentioned things like brothels in East Timmor. Sally is not Mariana Stuart, She would not survive that crap!”

Ash and I traded looks that could only be described as stunned, what would we have done in his place? Kurt Kellerman was no tame wolf, there was no way he COULD have gone down fighting!

“OK Kurt, believe it or not I understand. What do you need to make this work!”

His answer was to reach to his collar and pull up a cord which suspended an old fashioned USB jump drive. “Got anything that can read this?”

Ash grabbed out of his hand in a flash and plugged into the unit we had put into the Lab. “Kurt, when you find something one of Andy’s little monsters can’t do I’ll let you know! Damn Andy, it’s engineering specs!”

I stared at the file and rapidly paged though the 60 pages of specs and requirements. I knew even Ash could barely keep up but, for once I did not care!

“OK, I can do this! It will take several days at least! One thing is paramount, no one says anything to Mariana until we are sure we are ready to go. Understand?”

I got two very affirmative nods in reply and a look from Ash like he finally understood this guy! In a way so did I.

“Kurt, have you ever told Sally what they threatened you with?”

His reply was sharp and short, “No and the only person I have ever threatened was the Goon who was going to tell her!”

I gave him a look I hoped he would understand, “When this is over I will. I owe you one and her big time! Kurt, call Mariana and tell her the Lab is open for business. Ash meet me at our tent in about ten, I have to get out of the “Scare The Bad Guys” rig. Kurt, our house is your house; your fight is our fight. Now, get to work!”

With that I collected the Robar and left. The file of Kurt’s was now accessible from any unit in the array and they did not know I had the Daddy of the whole shebang in my pocket!


Kurt looked at me and asked, “Was that what I thought it was?”

“Yep, The Sword of Clan Stuart now guards your back. There’s you Ace in the hole! Now get to work and make it mean something. Sally is safe, get that crap out of your mind! The UNWG is not going to threaten her here. Not unless they get through Andy, Me and Mariana first. I have the distinct feeling that we won’t be the only one’s.”

I left as Kurt was making the call to Mariana. Took my time going to Andy’s place and timed it about right. He was back in his normal “wouldn’t hurt anything” look.

His first comment was, “Lets go to Hanna’s place and get some coffee!”

Sounded good to me so we went over and went in the side flap of the big tent. The scene was ugly and looked like getting worse.

Suddenly Andy barked, “Stop now! If any of you spineless roach eaters take one more step your ass is done!”

Of course I added, “Yall don’t want an old fashion ass whoopin to go down in here, do Yall?”

Surprise, Surprise. The wanna be Wolves slunk off and the Benjamin’s closed ranks.

As we walked out without our coffee Andy commented, “One of these days those punks are going to make me do something!”

Having seen too many times Andy’s ‘Having To Do Something,’ I just grunted “Hope they are smarter than that!”

I just watched Andy staring at Jai Benjamin comforting Emily Parker and saw his face. Dear God I hope they are smarter than that; for as sure as life Clan Stuart was committed to defend that Young Lady!

A Little Help From My Friends

Posted in 5. First Landing by William Bartlett

Day 5 — 00:05:04:30

     Daybreak, the temperature in the 50’s but the brisk wind made it seem colder. After a quick breakfast Janie went back to Windmill Hill and I went to the sawmill to take over from Joe. He updated me on the past ten hrs of operation, good progress and no real problems, but he said an extra bot or two would have helped. I agreed and told him what I’d heard about the dustup in camp, but since it happened before Janie and I got back in last night, I really didn’t know much. Finally I mentioned that Jules Parker was going to preside at a memorial service for Thompson, Arte Clarke, and Harlan Allison in a couple of hours and how sorry I was I wouldn‘t be attending.

     Joe said, “I didn’t hardly know Thompson but he carried his own weight and was with us on the cruiser action and that makes him the next thing to a blood relation. I’ll pay my last respects and tell you about it tonight.”

     “Thanks Joe. And if you can find the time before you hit the rack will you make a cage, or see that one gets made for the Armadillo the Jeep captured last night? Just make sure it’s sturdy and has a lock and is screened to keep the curious from trying to stick a finger in or pet it. I’m not sure about the teeth but the spikes on that tail are vicious.”

     As Joe walked slowly away, these hours were taking something out of all of us, Eugene ‘Snitch’ Washburn came over and said “Morning Bart.”

     I handed him the plastic thermos and a couple of breakfast rolls and some reconstituted eggs and ham I had taken from the mess tent. Eugene had volunteered to work last night at the mill on a midnight to noon shift. He had brought with him his robot R.Krebbs. I thought he might be trying to distance himself from Jack the Blade. Not a bad idea in my book.

     We needed two armed humans here at all times if we were to continue working this far from camp. The nearer tents were still barely a quarter mile away but it was the treeward side that worried us the most. At night we needed to have two bots doing nothing but stand guard, constantly alert. Up till now during the day we had been dispensing with that practice but after the various sightings of the past several days reported by the Benjamins that didn’t seem like it was such a good idea after all. With R.Krebbs, RoDan, R. SirTom, R. Mycroft, R. Nug and the Jeep as the full robot complement, Joe had been very short on help.

     Joe and Eugene had been cutting from logs that took 4 bots to lift at one time, those 16 inchers in diameter and smaller. The planks they cut came near to filling up all the available drying racks. They had kept both saws working almost at maximum. With better light I needed to do more clearing and cutting of larger trees. The largest logs the big mill could handle took eight bots to load. Plus I wanted to get a good supply felled for chainsaw work and to leave enough logs stacked near the mills for Joe tonight.

     “Wait a sec before you start eating Gene and keep the saw going, I got a call to make.”

     I commed back to camp and will wonders never cease, Reye and his wife Judith had left their bots Hadrian and Augustus in the general pool and both were unclaimed as of yet. With all of the work being done clearing stones and rocks from the land we intended to farm I would have thought every bot in camp taken by now. On second thought, after the fracas last night, (I was almost sorry I missed it), that wasn’t such a surprise. Well for the next almost ten hours they were mine. Then I called over to the windmill and left word to send over the first two recharged bots destined for the general pool.

     “Help is on the way.” I said. And as Eugene finished his coffee I filled him in on our schedule for today. Pointing at the grid map on my comm screen “We’ll keep going south on the Q’s and P’s until we get everything cleared down to about 6. That will probably take at least another full day. After that we have some decisions to make. I think it might be best to just keep moving south beyond the break but a case can be made for going westward or even to the north of the Community Building. In any event Janie should be back at noon to relieve you so lets get to it.”

     We had been working for fifteen minutes when R.Augustus and R.Hadrian showed up. I wondered what had kept them. It shouldn’t have been more than a five or six minute walk at best. Then I saw the red low charge light blinking through the clear material on Hadrian’s chest.

     Damn! That fool Reye hadn’t even bothered to make sure they were charged! “Over here.” I summoned, pointing at a spot by the head of the saw. “Jeep come over here too.” I soon had the Jeep operating the mill which was for him low energy work and Hadrian and Augustus both tied in taking on a charge. Two hours of time and valuable labor from each was going to waste. But there was nothing to do about it. I shouldered my Ruger, picked up a chainsaw and headed to the forest edge. RoDan worked with me and kept all of his sensors active.

     File under things to do. See if I can get some .30 cal hunting type bullets made. The UNWG penetrators are too hard for game and will pass right through any animal without dumping much energy and that means even a direct hit to a vital spot might not make for a one shot kill. And at this time, except for the Giant Slizard we don‘t know anything about the other animals or their vital spots. I’m using explosive rounds for now but don’t want to waste them on anything small.

     By the time Janie and EmyCee showed up just before noon Hadrian and Augustus had been working as intended for a couple of hours and had enough charge for about seven hours more. We had a good rhythm going. As Janie took over the larger saw, which was actually easier to handle because it had more powered features, I said I’d message her from the other saw after I set Eugene free.

     I walked the hundred yards and reached Gene just as another cartload of planking was pulled off towards the Community Building. “Good days work for you Gene. I’m not sure how to manage it but I wouldn’t mind if you were out here permanently.”

     “Think I’d like that too Bart.”

     “What about Jack?”

     “To hell with the bastard! He don’t own me, at least not now, and It feels good to be useful.”

     “Good then, I’ll see you at midnight.”

     “You’re gonna still be here at midnight?”

     “Yeah were so short handed I’m working through. When Joe gets in he’ll relieve me at this saw and I’ll take over from Janie. That’ll let me spend the last five hours mostly standing at the power controls. See ya later.”

    I let Eugene get a couple of hundred yards away then messaged Janie. “Switch it to private darlin’, (I had picked that up from Ash but was still experimenting), and tell me about your day so far.

     “Went good.” she said, “The foundation sections were all complete and with the practice yesterday the bots knew pretty much what to do. The only real problem we found out about as soon as we raised the first mill up. With the wind speed today we were getting high rotation rates and gusts close to the blades shear limits. So what we did was take out a section to shorten them a bit. We still get our 20 KWH and have a little room to keep operating even if the winds pick up some more. If the wind gets too strong the blade edges will turn to face it, just like feathering a propeller, and rotation stops automatically. We can change back for more power if we find average wind speed slow down in the summer.”

     “After all three were mounted and operating I still and had time to get to camp for lunch. I heard Joe made a cage for the Aladillo and went for a peek. All the kids must have been there trying to give it a name just like it was a pet. Some of the suggestions were hilarious. Did you eat yet?”

     “Not yet but I can do it now and then I’ll fill you in on my morning.”

     ….. And as I finished up talking about the bots I said, “And considering by all accounts his accusing Jaisa Benjamin of being incompetent was last nights trigger, I sure hope the asshole isn’t around when I get back tonight cause if he is when I see him sparks will surely fly again.”

     “Yeah. Tell you what. When I get back after five I’ll find some way to make sure Reye finds out how pissed you are. Unless I miss my guess that will make another reason for him to keep a very low profile for a few days. Both he and Buchanan were missing from the group at his usual table when I went in for lunch. But the rest of his henchmen were there. Talking about making a ‘serious complaint’. But who do they think they can they complain to? I’m sure the message will get passed. Day after tomorrow the Hist says we are going to have a town meeting and set up some rules and procedures. That’ll probably be the best place to handle it.”

     “Sounds right to me. Well lets see how much we can get done before Joe arrives.”

    Several times that afternoon we had to get more of the pole pines cut and placed for drying racks. The thinner roofing boards we were working on now took up more space than what we had been cutting. With another human to help supervise we could have kept twice as many bots busy.

     Joe was a half an hour early and brought dinner to boot. Janie and Joe kept both saws going while I ate and then Janie went back to camp.

     It was getting dark, and seeing as how we didn’t have enough remote lighting to keep the farmland preparations going round the clock, Joe told me he had a couple of those bots lined up to be here in an hour or so. I’d send R.Hadrian and R Augustus over to the windmills and tell them to get in line for a recharge But for now I had them stacking small branches and useless scrap in a number of burn piles. Joe could light them and keep them going through the night as needed. Besides illumination, which might scare off animals, the ashes ought to be good fertilizer, or if we can make the processing containers be converted to potash. Potash is an extremely useful chemical I had learned, but more on that later.

     RoDan was getting a charge from the Jeep right now and both would soon be our advanced warning system. I know I say that once any bot can do something they all can… But for some reason I feel more comfortable trusting the Jeep.

     Gene Washburn showed up at 18:00 two hours early and told me he would pick up another two hours the next day. And from then on he said he would work with Joe on the night 5 to 5 and Janie and I could handle the day shift.

    “Thanks Gene,” I said, “I’ll try and recruit a few more people on a rotating basis to help out here. I don’t fancy any of us want to spend the next, God knows how long, doing nothing but cutting wood no matter how important the job is. And working nothing but nights is a real drag anyway and definitely not the way to see a new planet.”

When it All Comes at Once

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


A mere couple of hours had convinced me of the storm that was coming for our Lab. These folks had samples stacked up deeper than I could imagine. Everyone had something they wanted checked and the Thompson incident had only increased the concern.

At least I was happy to see that most everyone wore some kind of gloves to touch things they knew nothing about and the vast majority wore composite soled boots or shoes. Mama Nature was not going to get too many of them for free! Simple things people, simple things!

I got a kick out of watching Andy help so many little things. He was having fun, brute force could fix a lot of things! How many people thought I was a small person just because they had only seen me beside the walking human tank.

Sally and I had our GP kits out checking with everyone we could; there were a large number of small nicks, scrapes, sprains and a couple of minor allergic reactions. Finding nothing major we were pleasantly surprised as major construction was popping up everywhere.

I finally ran across Kara who was nursing of all things a blister. “Manual labor not your thing?” I asked as I finished draining and dressing it.

She sighed, “I try but I have always been more of an Office type than an outdoor type. I can do lot better with a data base than a bush knife, thats for sure. It’s just that there is so much to do everyone has to at least try.”

“Unlike a few of our number I’ve noted. Anyway, how would you like a job running a desk and a computer?”

Kara just looked kinda confused, “There aren’t any jobs like that here!”

“There will be in a couple of hours! As soon as Kurt finishes calibration, the Lab is going to need a controls clerk and quick!”

“But Mariana, I do not know anything about medical labs. What good would I be?”

“Kara the controls clerk is a traffic cop. Get the samples, get a control number on them and into the data base. Get a short description of where it came from and what specifics if any they want tested. Get it in the data base and flagged in the incoming queue. Watch the outgoing queue and get the results to the samples owner! Sound familiar?”

“Yeah, real familiar. Now all we need is a computer to do that with!”

“Trust me Kara, We will have all the computer we need! Or some big genius is gonna find somewhere else to sleep!”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw said big lug fly out our tent in full ‘Hunt em Down” mode and go immediately to speed. I strained out with my talent, I could feel the nexus that was Andy on a mission! After several minutes it seemed to disappear, someone had called a false alarm!

We talked for a few more minutes and two more people came by with blisters. One guy made a joke about being dumb for not using his best gloves but he had no idea what this new tree sap would do to them.

As I was finishing this group my wrist comp chimed up, “Lab Group, K. Kellerman; if everyone would show up I think we declare this place operational!”

I got together with Sally and Linda joined us from Hanna’s place; Dave waved from the windmill sites that he would meet us there. Sally asked me, “Do you have any idea what came over my idiot husband? He actually sounds like a human being again and he and Ash are thick as thieves!”

“No idea but I’ll tell you something about Ash. You never have to wait long to find out if he has a problem with you. But, he forgives as fast as he angers. If you have something he needs or make any effort at all to change, you are fine.”

When we got to the Lab Dave and Kurt were already finishing the sweep of power and data. I double checked primary and Sally double checked diagnostic. Linda confirmed the interface transfer and allergenic prediction.

“OK folks we are officially up!” I said with a grin. “Drinks at Hanna’s?” No one had any objections!

When we got there we found everyone in cleanup mode. “What happened,” I asked to the room in general?

A quiet voice behind me stated, “The resident jackals tried to hassle Jai Benjamin and Emily Parker. I do not think they will try Jai again but they were gonna take it out on Emily. Then the hammers of hell came in the side flap and promised them what would happen! None of those scum were going to try Ghost and the Reaper; they only want the weak ones!”

I turned and stared into the dim light,”Were you on the cruiser with Jack?’

“Yes Ma’am, go by Wirehead these days!”

“OK, think fast. If you want me to believe you, what’s your real name, what’s your story and how did you know those call signs, cause I know you did not hear them on the cruiser?”

Wirehead started to turn away but then turned back and sat heavily on a chair. “OK, got to trust someone sometime. The name is Walt Davis and I am a deserter from the UNWG Orbital Special Operations because I would not be a jackal. They do not train for honor or excellence any more, just obedience and ruthlessness. They kept beating into our brain that there were people out there we were going to have to face! People who put Honor and Loyalty in front of Mission . The big Bogeymen were Magic, Ghost, Angel, Wildcat, Mad Dog, Backstop and above all the Reaper. I know that I saw two of them not 10 minuets ago and if they were Ghost and the Reaper, you must be Magic! Lady I want out but no one will trust me!”

I looked at the stunned faces around me and then stared into Walt’s eyes. After a full two minuets he had not flinched and the eyes were the same agonized pools. “OK people, no one says anything about this; be at the Lab first thing in the morning. Walt, come on I want to introduce you to Dr. Andrew Stuart!”

Bring One to the Light

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart


I took Walt up towards the bluff line with me and saw the two figures crouching on the military crest of the bluff and thought how many generations of Stuart women had come upon this scene in the dark. The Laird and Thain squatting in the darkness with the Prince of the Clan. For that they were and Ash’s son would be the next Laird, as I could not give Andy the honor! Just as we approached Ash stood up and said, “I better get, this next part ain’t for me!” There was more to the Hound Dog than many (especially ME) wanted to admit.

As Ash walked off I decided to get right to it, “Walt Davis allow me to introduce you to Dr. Andrew William Walker Stuart, known socially as Andy, professionally as Andy Stuart, militarily as Col. Stuart and in the back alleys as the Reaper. And in derogatory circles as my lesser half!”


I stood and turned, “Only in the presence of the female of the species am I the lesser half. Good evening Walt, don’t I know you as Wirehead?”

His look was priceless as well as his sputtered response, “Dr. Stuart, I mean Sir; how could you be the Reaper. I saw you up on the cruiser but, you are a legend in Communications; you can’t be the Reaper!”

“See anybody around here who could pass for me? If you are truly leaving the “Dark Side”, get it straight the two ain’t mutually exclusive. You can actually be smart and dangerous in the same package. I do not care what the UNWG pounded into your head. That’s why Alchibah is going to work, because we are leaving that shit behind! So, what did you do that got Jack to drag you into the hell storm that the cruiser assault could have been.”

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Sir, the name is Walt Davis and I am a deserter from the UNWG Orbital Special Operations.”

I paused and said, “Son, those assholes are a long way away from here. Head down the bluff and find Ash, tell him you are bunking with him tonight. He’s got two bunks! And tomorrow we will go get your share of the common gear.”

“Andy, Jack’s not going to like that!”

“Damn Walt, promise me please!”

A Quiet Moment….and RIP

Posted in 5. First Landing by Hanna Parker

Jules had asked the Historian to carve into the small white cross: Robert Bova Thompson  July 9, 2022 - 00:0003  RIP.  He had made two more with different names and dates.  One for Arte Clarke and one for Harlan Allison.  They stood in such a sad row.

Besides Jules and me, there were only four others attending the memorial service. Both Captains….  Travis and Larry Monroe (Monroe lost the coin toss to determine who was to stay on the ship), wanted to be there and so did Bill Bartlett who had gotten to know Clarke so well in that four years on the Mayflower. But the Historian said the work was too important and he would stand for them.  Thompson had no relatives amongst the rest of the colonists and in the short time available to him his quiet nature had made few friends. Jules spoke reverently of the men, he read Psalm 23, and then softly we sang a hymn. His Robot, appropriately named R. Digger, had prepared the grave at the foot of Windmill Hill, [U3], and assisted in lowering the wooden casket. 

As we left the gravesite I asked Histy who would register these first colony deaths.  “We need a statistician, I left all that data tracking behind when I retired” I said.  He agreed and said the robots needed to be included in the registry too.  According to the Historian, R. Digger would need to be reprogrammed soon or he would start functioning erratically, not dangerously, just erratically, and then cease to function at all.   
The ceremony was over and I turned and said, “Jules, what day is it today, dear, and when will it be Sunday?  I’ll feel so much better when we start having weekly worship services.  I think the Encyclopedia says the date on Earth is September 19, 2056.  But that doesn’t help.” 

Jules told me he had discussed that with Junior already and that JJ was going to make a list of holidays, religious feasts, family birthdays, and such and fit them into Alchibah time as soon as he could get around to it. 

As we walked back toward the daycare center I said, “There’s so much that needs to be done, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.” 

“Hanna, don’t worry.  It will all work itself out.  We’ve got lots of willing hands and the right spirit to make a success of this new world.”

“Jules, I worry about the future.  Our family.  Running the First Inn.  The daycare center.  Establishing government and an economic system for the colony.  I forsee lots of problems with this mixed population.”  Then with a mischievous twinkle I added, “We could use “bar”-tender!”
“Are you keeping track of how much time you’ve spent taking care of meals and other work for the colony, Hanna?” 

“No I haven’t, Jules.  Why would I, or anyone else?  For the mostpart, we’re all pitching in.  Besides, is the value of one hour’s work the same for all, and who gets to decide?  See what I mean:  lots of questions, but no answers!” 

“This communal style of living can’t go on forever.  I think what everyone is doing now, things that show a willingness to work or a pioneer spirit, will influence how responsibilities will be delegated.  The life of the colony will depend on it.  Can’t give the keys to just anyone!” 

“And, speaking of keys, what about the food pantry and liquor cabinet:  how good is the inventory and what are we short of?” 

“For starters, we’re running short of all alcoholic beverages.  At the current unrationed rate of consumption, we’ll be a dry county in a bit over a month.  And for some, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea in my mind.  I’m reluctant to bring it up, but unless the colony starts a no work, no colony-supplied drink policy, we’ll find that when we do run out the laziest 10% were responsible for 80% of consumption.  How quickly can we grow our own and distill it?”

“If we run the First  Inn, we’re going to need food, lots of it:  fish, meat ’n potatoes, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and even a bakery.  And ovens and grills.  The heat-and-eat bread is just about gone.  The portable stoves aren’t much good for anything but reheating.  We have flour for quite a while, but someone will have to try and grow grain, at least wheat and barley.  There’s a good living there but it will take a lot of work.  Then of course we’ll need a flour mill too.”

“The outhouses are another story!  They’re uncomfortable and inconvenient.   They need to be emptied all the time, and we need more of them….yesterday!  Who’s going to be stuck with that job?  Even the robots turned up their noses at that one.”

“As for refrigeration, there’s just one small unit on the whole planet.  We’ll have to protect the food staples from predators [both two-legged and multi-footed], and until more coolers/freezers can be built, maybe use caves, build smoke/drying houses?  We have enough dishes and silverware but need platters, large bowls, mixers, and other utensils; things that I saw in the Mayflower’s list of supplies but didn’t see after we landed.  Did they go with the Copernicus?  It’s not as if I can place an order for more supplies on the net.” 

Hanna muses… “What would R.J. think of all this?  Initially, I wonder if it’ll be similar to the Amish approach; if we’ll construct community buildings first, then provide a basic frame home, families first, then for couples – families could add on afterwards.  I wonder how Janie’s doing with ol’ Bart; haven’t seen Tim lately either.  What about those who don’t carry their own weight – will the Reyes?  To myself… “Stop thinking like that, Hanna.  Where is your Christian charity?” 

“And if all of my own concerns aren’t enough, I’m very worried about Emily… and not just about last night.”

A Private Conversation

Posted in 5. First Landing by Les Reye

Buchanan’s Tent

…..“It’s unfortunate that you got thrown around and kicked in such a tender spot Burt, but it could ultimately…. I mean I guess it will help insure things on Alchibah are set up to run in a more reasonable manner than was otherwise likely.

“That’s easy for you to say.” responded Buchanan. “I can hardly walk yet. But I see your point.”

“I’m not sure you do Burt. It’s the emotional reaction I’m talking about, and I had one too. Somehow or other I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot with a number of our fellow colonists. I need to take responsibility for that and try and make things right and I think I will. But what was going on inside your head that made you act so totally out of character? I can’t even see why would you approach Emily Parker? After all she had done nothing even remotely related to Thompson’s death. And I think the Parker‘s are the kind of people that are our natural allies.”

Pausing just a bit before answering, a hesitation that Reye missed entirely, Buchanan said. “Why Lester… I had nothing at all against the Parker girl. But it’s just as you say. I was only trying to confuse things so our split would seem plausible. I know it makes me look bad but after all the supposed split makes you look better and that had to happen if we are going to have half a chance at the colony meeting. I can take the heat for the time being but how are you going to explain your reaction to the Benjamin girl?”

“That was a mistake but I will work to make amends. I’m sure no one other than the girl herself actually heard what I said. What I must do is publicly apologize, even as I explain that I have nothing to apologize for, and was only going over to offer an expression of sympathy and make an attempt to explain to that young Amazon Jaisa (but I won‘t refer to her as an Amazon), that I felt her in no way whatsoever responsible for what happened to Thompson. And you know Burt, that was what I should have been doing. Somehow my frustrations overruled my nature. It never should have happened and all I can do now is explain it away so that it never did. It’s messy but now denunciation of your behavior will make our split seem quite reasonable. I don‘t like these Machiavellian plots. All I want is to what‘s best for the colony as a whole.”

Reye shook his head in evident sorrow, “Yes, that will work.” he continued. “And when I apologize for ‘her’ misunderstanding I think I will come off as sincere, very reasonable and open to admitting mistakes. That is even more important for a politician than for most others. If the girl says anything about what she thinks I said to her, I will just explain again how sorry I am she took it that way and say it must have been her overwrought emotional state that confused my intentions and made her hear what she thinks she did. Even so her reaction was so inappropriate and disproportionate that it demonstrates why we need some rules and order here and why we need them now. Violence, guns, knifes, force…they never solve anything.”

“Ok Les that works good for you but how can I put myself forward as the leader of an opposition party? I did what I did because it needed doing to split us apart. I sure wasn’t going to bring any votes in for a party of the middle but then I am not exactly popular with most of the people here anyway.”

“I don’t think you can lead a party Burt. As I see it now the only recourse is for you to step aside and let Jack the Blade become the front man. Animosity to him is high enough, but not nearly so high as it is to you after last night, I will look like the moderate I am in comparison. I do hate to operate in this manner but we can only tell Jack enough to keep him under control, and playing his part. I really don’t trust his nature. We will have to deal with him later but first things first. And we are after all doing this for everyone‘s benefit. They just can’t see that now.”

“Ok.” agreed Buchanan, “We deal with it that way…. Now here’s how I think it goes. At the meeting there will be only about 120 votes up for grab. We control 18 of them right now. We will have to walk the line with Jack so he doesn’t come off entirely too extreme. Jack says he stands for strong government till we have the colony up and running. If we do that right and give him the arguments some will think him a fascist but he probably still gets another 5 to 10 people to side with that approach. I see three other factions forming up.”

“One I’ll call the Anarchists they think not limited government but no government is the best and only solution. I figure 20 to 30 fit that mold. They will want to just pick up their marbles and leave at first. Some probably will. But if we offer them, say six months of trying out our system, and tell them at any time they are free to go I think we can get at least a third of them to come to us.”

“The second faction, and the one most dangerous to us, is the small government leave me alone and I leave you alone group. They will be willing to accept a limited role for government but insist on extreme restrictions on it’s power and scope. I would put their numbers at perhaps 35 right now.”

“The third faction, I’m not even sure we can call them a faction, hasn’t even given the situation enough thought to have an opinion other than hoping every thing works out. We work hard for support from that group. That type never even sees the curtain much less looks behind it.”

“Your analysis is very good Burt, but don’t even think about a curtain, you are far too cynical. I saw enough idealism perverted and the resultant hurt caused back on Earth by that type of thinking. We can, and we will do better. All you and I are trying to do is make sure a proper framework is in place for a just and equitable society. But I do want to thank you again for explaining to me that your goals were the same as mine and coming up with a plan. Judith and I were sure just days ago that there was no hope for anything but an uncaring rightwing and ultimately repressive government.”

An Hour Later

    Burt Buchanan tipped his glass to Jack the Blade, “Here’s to ‘Useful Idiots’, Lester Reye hasn’t a clue and never will. He’s so sure he is in charge and managing the political dimensions of the group and plan that he couldn’t see a Slizard if it were charging for his throat. You should have heard our conversation.”

That Afternoon

“Hi Honey. How did your talk with Burt Buchanan go?” Judith Reye said to her husband, when he returned to their tent.

“I think we understand each other, or at least I understand him, but I have nagging doubts. Burt has deluded himself into thinking I take him at face value and that’s why I‘ll play his game. Hell… I‘m not even sure now that we should have come along on the Mayflower.”

“Don’t even think that. What would have happened if we had stayed on Earth? Quotas would have kept Mike out of the best schools the ones he needed to get into and like so many others he would have had nothing to look forwards to but a lower standard of living than we had. And it wouldn’t be his fault nor ours. Oh we were doing fine enough I guess, but both my parents and yours were better off than we were. All of the social programs, the ones they fought so hard to pass and we always voted for seemed to get hijacked for someone else’s benefit.”

“Willmont was in most ways a very good place to live and after you got elected to the board it should have gotten better. When it did and you ran for state assembly I was so proud of you. Yet that seemed to be the end of it. A brick wall with no way through. We need to learn from that and make sure the same mistakes don’t happen here.”

“You’re right as always. This time, much as it disgusts me I intend to make sure that when the deals are made, and they always are, I have a say in the outcome. But even if I can‘t win the vote I am going to do whatever it takes to insure the right principals triumph.”

Loose Ends, Loose Ends

Posted in 5. First Landing by Andrew Stuart

Day 5 0:dark:30

Getting these days started well before first light was getting old. I drug myself over to Ash’s tent and woke him up. When I could see he was actually awake I filled him in.

“OK Ash you have two jobs this morning. First take number 4 out of the array with the second display and keyboard and get it over to the Lab and get it linked with number 5 that’s already there. Then pull the samples control database program off of Mariana’s memory bank. Get it up and running and hand it to Kara. Second, take Walt over to the common stores tent and pull his share; no more and no less! Then, start getting him set up on the triangle point right behind us!”

He just yawned at me, “Number one’s a piece of cake. Are you sure you want me doing number two and what are you going to be doing?”

“I know the network job is no problem for you. I don’t think anything is going to happen at the supplies tent. Nobody is going to do anything stupid after last night, not with this ‘Town Meeting’ coming up. I am going to be dragging that damn slizzard from here to the Lab the long way around!”

Ash just gave a grunt and asked, “Then what?”

“By then I’ll be back and I have a little job for Walt, you and I need to throw together plans for the Hydro plant! By the way did you know Walt got the nickname Wirehead because he’s a communications Tech 1st? It was in that database you salvaged.” The light in Ash’s eyes was worth the early hour!

Amateur ‘ologists

Posted in 5. First Landing by The Benjamin Family


Day 5 — 00:05:05:00

Mariana was right, this was a mess. After what happened to Thompson everyone and their dog became amateur zoologists, entomologists, dendrologists and every other type of ologist you could imagine. Now, I’m not usually one to begrudge good intentioned assistance, and I know that these people are just trying to help, but this has really gotten out of hand.

“How do you like your new job so far?” I asked Kara, gesturing at the mess of impromptu sample containers she was trying to catalogue. I turned to R.Eddings, who was carrying the crate of the samples Jai, Sin and I had been collecting. “Put it down over here Red.”

“Is that…” she began.

“More samples? Yup.” She groaned. “No, no, don’t worry. These,” I tapped the crate, “are different!” She raised an eyebrow.

I walked over to the table that had the samples stacked on, under and around it, as organized as they could be under the circumstances and peered in at the disarray. I sighed. I haven’t done any real zoology or veterinary work in almost a decade and this is how I have to start off?

“Alright, forget these. For now at least. Start on these.” I opened the crate and took one small container out, handing it to Kara along with a small memory disk. “They’re all numbered. When we collected the specimens we photographed them and entered location, time of sample, notable characteristics, specific suggestions on tests, etc. After you download them you’ll still have to enter them into Mariana’s database, but the real work is going to be trying to cross reference all of the amateur samples with ours. Most of those will probably be duplicates of things we’ve already got, but if there’s any question set them aside for Jai, Sin or I to double check. Oh, and some of my ‘samples’ are still skittering around, so be careful.”

“Damn. You have no idea how much that helps. A good half of that lot don’t even have locations, and I’m pretty sure people were only sampling things that they had already seen other people touch. Which is probably for the best, all things considered. If I need any help I’ll give you a shout. I’ll get you the disc back tonight.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you then.” I’m glad this project was finally underway. After what happened to Thompson who knew what else was waiting to surprise us?

Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Probably.

All Contents (written or photo/artwork) not attributed to other sources is
Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.