Down By the River’s Edge

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.

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

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Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.