And Lives Go On

Day 40 Civilian Sunrise

Compiled from various Log Files

Mariana Stuart

“Come on JoAnn, it’s not that bad. Kara needs to explore those highland ranges for stuff we can’t grow down here.

“It’s not like you are going to be able to spend your days with Ash, you know he’s going to stuff his single-minded rear end into Monroe’s simulator’s until he is sure one way or another whether Bart could have landed that shuttle or not.

“Go up into the mountains for a couple of days and play. Cripes after all the problems we have had here, you think anyone is going to give you any grief?

“Judy’s going to need at least another five days to have all of the uniforms ready anyway. Unless you have given up your dream of the Grand Wedding?”

“Oh God no, Mum would kick my arse if I gave up that dream.” JoAnn exclaimed.

“Then embrace it Girl,” Mariana replied. “Because Ash damn well intends to do it up right. The boy just happens to be busy at the moment. Why don’t you hike your ass down the ridge to the cargo bus and go play! There just might be someone down there you know!”

JoAnn McKenzie

As I neared the Cargo Bus I saw the familiar face of Jai Benjamin in an obvious guard position. That face was still the cold ice of a Strike Force Officer but, there was a beginning of a human light in the eyes. Kara walked up and I asked, “You ready to go exploring?” Before she could answer Andy Stuart crawled out of the maintenance hatch.

“OK Ladies, this one is NOT going to go boom on you!”

Kara

“Thanks, Andy. I think I can speak for both of us that we really appreciate you checking. Try not to have too much fun while we’re gone!” I said smirking. I wasn’t sure how he was with joking around, as I’ve only ever seen him serious as hell. But he replied with, “And try not to get eaten while you’re gone,” with a grin on his face.

JoAnn and I were climbing to the hatch when I asked, “Was that the other half of Andy Stuart I just heard?”

“No,” JoAnn grinned, “That would be Mariana. But if you are asking if you just saw the other side of the Iron Ass COL., then you are correct. That’s his sick sense of humor for sure.

“At any rate, Liberty Security and Mayflower Control. Digger in the Cargo Bus lifting atmospheric for the Northeast mountains.”

From the speakers came two short bursts of sound. “Liberty Security, you are singing pure. Mayflower Control, transponder acknowledged.”

JoAnn looked at me, “That is the Iron Ass, nobody takes any chances anymore!”

Then from the speakers, “Liberty Security and Mayflower Control. Ghost going trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower.” Followed by the same two replies

Travis & Monroe in the Mayflower Landing Bay

“Monroe, Andrews on the Order Wire.”

“Good Morning, Ash. Do you have the probable explosion data ready?”

“Sure do, I am on my way as soon as I kick the tires and light the fires. Do I need to swing out by any of the comm sats on the trip?”

“No I don’t believe so,” Monroe replied, “As each one is in a daylight pass for five hours we get a starting diagnostics message. Looks like the flares drained the batteries and they need about a pass and a half to charge up enough to resume operations. We should have general comms by this time tomorrow and a deaf man could hear your tight beam.”

“Well, that’s Andy. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. On my way in five.”

Monroe turned off his wristpad and from the hatchway of one of the two shuttles sitting in the bay came Travis’s laconic drawl, “OK, someone going to tell the Captain what’s going on this time.”

Monroe turned and grinned, “If you give me time to punch your comm code I will. Anyway, Ash has the blast probabilities for the amount of explosives Jack was carrying coupled with the access hatch he entered all figured up.

“We planned to run it into my simulations developed off of Hibbs design plans and figure the severity of damage. If it does not appear to fit into probability class A, that they blew to little pieces. Then we will step down the flight simulators to Bart’s recorded reaction times and Ash will fly the simulation to quantify their chances.”

Travis thought for a moment, “Andrews is primarily a Combat pilot, why should you or I not fly the simulations. That would be a more comparative evaluation.”

Monroe grinned, “That was the question I was going to ask. When we get a predictive from Ash, will you fly a check ride to validate the findings? Getting part of your tail blown off is pretty close to Combat, we don’t want to go optimistic because our test pilot has been there before.

“I have one more question, I got an E-mail from Walt Davis; He, Sabbu and Dave are cobbling up Magnetic Anomaly Detectors for their shuttles and the cargo bus. They want to know if we want one for our shuttles, it’s on the Strike Force tab. Which by the way what the hell is a Strike Force?

It was Travis’s turn to laugh, “Sure thing. Second, tell Walt that I want one for everything we have that flies and third, wait till the upcoming wedding I think you will see.”

Greg Bugbee had been fiddling with some tools nearby and said, “Captain, are we really going to spend valuable time trying to find Bart and crew? There’s no way they could have survived a bomb explosion on their shuttle.”

“Young Mister Bugbee,” Travis said with a frown, “You’ve got a lot to learn about the brotherhood of spacers – and I do include Bart as a spacer since he went through the training during our voyage to our new world. We do not give up hope, nor do we write someone off, nor do we strand someone, until we know for a fact – A FACT – that they are dead. And even then, in that case, as fellow spacers and warriors Andy and Mariana and Ash will solemnly tell you in their own service, you don’t leave the bodies behind. You bring them back for a proper burial and deserved honors.”

“Sorry, Sir.” Bugbee said contritely.

“That’s OK, Mister Bugbee,” Travis said, “You will learn, and I know you will come to feel, that space, or the space around a planet, is a huge place and you have only your mates to rely on, in life, in emergencies, and even in death. So! Let’s get these two shuttles ready.”

“Yes, Sir!”

Kara

I was quite excited about the prospect of exploring, esp. because it meant I got to ride in a cool ship and look out at the planet. And of course escape from the craziness in town.

The ride was pretty uneventful. JoAnn was focused on flying and not crashing into the mountains, but was luckily receptive to my chatter.

“Sorry if I’m bugging you, I’m just so excited to be out and about like this. I’ll try and keep quiet now.”

“No worries, mate. As long as you don’t start pointing and saying “Oh oh oh!” I’ll be alright.”

Luckily I hadn’t done that yet, though I was close when I saw that huge waterfall on the mountainside. “Oh, oh, have you seen the pictures?” was my first thought, thankfully I did not blurt it out .

When we reached the other coastline, we circled and found a landing spot about halfway between a mountain and the coast. On the way down I was able to get a good look at the mountain, which was really a volcano, though luckily it didn’t look active.

Once we got out, we were overwhelmed with alien scents and we immediately started sneezing. We had the same response: “Frak!” Luckily it didn’t last long, and JoAnn immediately started looking for a camp spot. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop looking at everything around us.

We landed in a large meadow, surrounded by trees. When we were done securing a camp, we started wandering. I’ll spare you the details of the trip, as it was basically the same thing over and over: see new plant/animal, poke with stick (my ingenious secret method!), take one or two for analysis, move on to next new thing (which meant we didn’t get very far the first day!). At night I’d do some initial analysis and JoAnn helped me record the findings. JoAnn laughed at me and produced a remote sampler, “Now that the sats are back up, we are connected to the Lab. Mariana and Kurt promised me that someone with a brain would be on the other end.”

Monroe and Company on the Mayflower

Young Bugbee asked, “Why are we trusting that man with so much?”

Monroe leaned back and replied, “Go check out that field jacket he hung up, look at the right breast pocket.

Bugbee looked and said, “So, ten little silver pins; so what?”

“Mr. Bugbee, those are called Kill Pins. Each one represents a Space to Space kill. No other man alive has that many, there was a rouge that almost did named Cafferty. He even killed a friend of CAPT. Travis, Ash got that bastard with two MK 50’s up the ass.”

Bugbee looked stunned, “As I understand UNWG nomenclature MK 50’s were Nuclear tipped missiles. Why would you need two?”

“Because you don’t want to see two molecules in the same space. Learn this Mr Bugbee, the hierarchy of people you do not want to cross. COL Andrew Stuart, COL Mariana Stuart, CAPT Glen Travis, LTC Ashcroft Andrews and me. Do I make myself clear MR.?”

“Yes Sir, you do!”

“Mr. Bugbee I am not being harsh. A future Commander must learn to do a threat evaluation. Would you like to be Jai Benjamin?”

“No Sir, I do not believe I would.”

“Good man, better to be a Spacer than a Warrior any day!”

Kara and JoAnn

We found a whole bunch of stuff on our trip, though some things will be more useful to us than others. Here are some of the highlights.

First is tall, thick “grass” growing near the tree line in the meadow where we landed. It is buttery yellow, very much like straw. It should be good for making baskets and whatnot.

There is a very curious plant, shaped like an umbrella, about a foot high with a brownish topside and pinkish stem. It has a thick gooey underside that smells sweet and attracts various critters. Which is good as the plant is carnivorous — when anything touches the underside, the “umbrella” top snaps shut. The gooey underside is thick and tastes as sweet as it smells and we may be able to use it as a sugar substitute.

We found a crawling critter that is basically a sea cucumber on land (when touched or threatened, it throws up its organs). Initial results show the insides as highly poisonous, which we can hopefully use to our advantage (weapons, traps, etc. — I will leave that to the Wolves).

Our most beautiful find is a butterfly-like bug that has sails instead of wings, which are incredibly strong. If we can synthesize that material we could use it for anything and everything.

Probably our most useful find is the jumping spider/frog critter — it has a soft body like a frog, and long bent legs like a spider. (Shall we call it Sprog? Aren’t I clever?!) It lives in meadow and jumps above the reeds (which are a good 3-4 feet high in places!). Anyway, it is edible, but, no, it doesn’t taste like chicken (JoAnn says more like duck). So what’s so special? It is loaded with nutrients, and they’re plentiful, so we collected many of these guys.

One of the other great finds are these large, tall trees with long tendrils that reach to the ground. The tendrils are thin and not very wide, and have seeds stuck on them (think dot candy for you Earthers), which are edible. When roasted they are quite delicious, and when ingested they give you lots of energy. Coffee substitute anyone? (Let’s just hope it brews well!)

We were (literally) surprised by some mid-sized tree with balloon seed pods, which float into the air, pop and spread seeds to the ground. The first time we heard the pop, JoAnn threw me to the ground so hard I couldn’t breathe hitting the ground was bad enough; then she landed on top of me with that antique lever rifle waving in the wind. It took quite a while for us to figure out what the hell was going on until a second pod popped near enough for us to see it ourselves. I don’t think JoAnn found the discovery nearly as funny as I did. Anyway, perhaps the un-popped pods can be used as baby rattles.
We might have to hide the fact that the seeds make great tea because the next thing you know, you are wondering where the last two hours went and what happened to all the munchies.

Finally, we found a squat tree near the volcano top. The trunk is covered with thick, leathery leaves. Roots come up through soil (which isn’t very fertile and is quite solid) and look like tubes that collect water and air. We couldn’t get a whole sample of this guy (impossible to dig out, and the trunk is insanely thick and tough), but I bet there’s some things we could do with this guy (leaves for protection of some kind? Inside the trunk is watery flesh, like cacti, and is edible. And JoAnn mumbled something about wanting to go at this tree with an energy knife…whatever that is).

Luckily we didn’t run into any serious dangers and after the fourth day we headed back with our stash of goodies. JoAnn called everyone and we went back into flight!

By this time JoAnn and I were getting along well, but as we got closer to home things got quiet. We both wondered what we’d come home to: had the shooting of Jack and his henchman died down? Had the town heard from Bart and company? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
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Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.