With help from the Log Files of Joe Fortson.
Day 85 Alchibah
“Damnit Ash,” Joe Fortson said from the position where his bulk was overflowing the jump seat, “You know I would do it that way but not Bart! He would figure we would have given up the search and taken the most direct route back to Liberty City. I can’t see him taking a turn for the ocean as soon as he got out from the highlands thinking that we had a better chance of finding him there.”
Andy Stuart, sitting in the co-pilots position had to agree. Bart was nothing if not self reliant and after however long it had taken to get out of the mountains the direct route best suited his character.
So what would you do Joe?,” Andy asked.
“It’s like this, two months have gone by and not a sign. I kick myself for not looking harder, but any of the close in signs, and by that I mean fire pits, will be hidden by all the new growth. Just cause we found the lander where we did doesn’t really mean Bart and the others passed the same way. But I think it likely. Bart would have followed the river as far as it could take him.
“The one thing I am sure of is he would have known the direction he needed to head in to get back to Liberty City. So—We found the Dora in the river, the river flows south. Bart would follow the river as far as he could till it gave out is what I would bet on. If he cut to the coast it would have been later.
“Let’s set down where it merges into the grassland and walk back up stream looking for evidence of campsites. A firepit will be all it takes to show they were there. If we find that along the river we can decide what to do next.”
“That works for me,” Andy said, “Ash?”
“Course plotted. ETA fifteen minutes.”
Andy took one side of the stream and I took the other. Two months ago with the end of the spring run off there must have been much more water. Even so an hour later Andy found the evidence we had been hopping for. So what now? Let’s think about it.
Ash came up with the plan we went with. He said, and it was obvious afterwards, that if any of the survivors had a good communicator we wouldn’t be here now. So if any radio communication was possible it would be short range at best. Less than ten miles in a straight line distance. Neither Andy or I could take exception.
“What we need to do is head south from this point at low altitudes especially at night and make lots of noise so they hear us and know we are looking. They will make a fire and that is something at night we can see. We just need to be in the right place at the right time.”
That’s what we did. Sweeping south we came across a several hundred yard burned off area not yet overgrown and thought it likely the sign of a blast rifle discharge but it was old enough that it didn’t help with the course plan other than to let us know we were on the right track.
Andy summed up the situation pretty well; “We can crack enough O and H off of the forth wheel to keep the shuttle in the air 20 hours a day. We don’t need H-3 to stay atmospheric so we won’t stress the Mayflower for fuel.
“The bottom line guys is that we can’t find Bart, all we can do is have a presence and let him find us!”
J.J. Parker had almost insisted he come with us on every flight, and then he took a turn in the rotation command. Not sure why, must have been some personal beacon going off. Trying to prove somethin to himself? It made some kind of sense. He was one of the vast middle of colonists.
Parker did his work in town, mostly building things, often with John Pierce as a partner, and made sure his parents Hanna and Jules Sr. were looked after and the First Inn was doing well. It was rebuilt even better than before. Linda, his wife, was building up points of her own as a medtech and their children were not much different from any of the others. The oldest, Emily might be the first to bear a child on Alchiba. I think he felt he had to do more.
All of the news about the ship coming in and the aliens, guess I shouldn’t call them that; we are the aliens. It still took second seat to finding Bart.
We had the room and J.J. had qualified as a pilot, though I wouldn’t have wanted to have him do anything beyond takeoffs, landings and holding a course between. All of the things we had learned in the last few days were in the back of our minds but finding Bart and Janie were paramount.
Laura looked up, there was a high contrail following a high dot up in the sky. “They’re looking for us. Nothing else makes sense.”
“I am sure you’ve got that right Laura,” Janie said. “Tonight we make the biggest bonfire since we landed.”
The Jeep and EmyCee worked for three hours before the sun went down to bring in the fuel. It was a blaze that if not in a clearing would have set the woods afire. Just a bit before midnight lights arched across the sky and the close range communicator built into Laura’s comp unit signaled a message.
“They found us,” Laura said, jumping for joy.
“Are you sure?” Mike Reye asked.
“Let’s see what you got?” Bart asked.
Before Laura had a chance to answer the lander from Liberty City set down in the clearing and Joe Fortson ran out the door.