First Steps

     “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!

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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.