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?