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.