Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.
Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet
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The camp was up before dawn; shelters packed away and breakfast and coffee taken quietly together around the low embers of the camp fires. The breakfast didn’t consist of much more than the coffee and a few energy bars, but it suited their purpose well enough. As the sun was touching the horizon the small caravan of six transports were once again winding their way southward; leaving the trails where they were impassable and taking to the fields.
The two transports that had been fitted with lifts and bigger tires had no problem with the on and off trail transitions. It was tougher for the other four transports.
They monitored the coms as they drove along: Bits and pieces of conversation and skip came through the static; sometimes clear, sometimes garbled and barely intelligible, but there were no conversations they could follow. They could be two thousand kilometers away, or only a hundred. It was a signal that hit the atmosphere just right, or cloud cover, or a mountain range and carried farther than it normally would have. You might talk to someone a thousand kilometers away as clearly as though they were no more than a mile down the trail: You might have that conversation for ten minutes or two hours and then suddenly they were gone because those atmospheric conditions that had allowed the conversation had changed.
Early on Michael had thought about coms from orbit. You could reach around this world with that. But all of the ships that might still be in orbit had not been heard from yet. The relays were most likely gone; at least for now. Maybe the ships would show up eventually, but they had heard nothing but a soft electric hiss cutting across the kilometers the two times they had tried the bands and no one had answered their calls: The three ships that were in orbit would keep track of them from here forward.
The short-coms had also remained dead. It seemed all the traffic was on the open Channels, but that offered a secure option for them to talk without being overheard. As they drove through the morning now they talked back and forth on the short-coms band; monitoring the other bands.
A Supply Drop
They charged their banks two hours after dawn at a collapsed crate next to the trail. A generator running on solar power made the job quick. The only hard part had been freeing the panels from the crates. The bands had been cut, the plastic stripped of the battery banks and the charger needles had begun their upward journey telling them that the generator mechanism had not been damaged in the drop.
The little area that serviced the trail contained a large building that was empty and looked as though it had only been assembled to salvage the drop.
On the other side of the building sat a barracks unit that had seen better days. Most of the units were unassembled. A second row of units running parallel to the first looked to be untouched. Across the trail were two more buildings; obviously placed to take advantage of the trail. They had pulled the transports onto the cracked cement of the main building and after they had finished charging up the transports and their spare battery banks Michael had gathered everyone together.
Tom and Jefferson came back from checking out a garage and the transport parts in several of the crates that had been piled nearby it just after the transport generators were charged up. Tom nodded his head at Michael.
“You noticed Tom and Jefferson looking over that building… It’s a garage,” Michael said. “We’re thinking of stopping here. We’d probably end up here for a few days while Tom and Jefferson work on the other four transports and we need a few other things: tail gate swing outs that can hold a spare tire, water cans; roof racks to carry gear, lifts, better, bigger tires… In short; the things we had intended to do back at the first drop.” He looked around trying to catch the eyes of each person individually.
“You can see how much easier it is for the two lifted transports to get around buckled trails down into and out of ditches. It just makes sense to give the other four transports that ability; otherwise they’ll just be slowing us down. You saw a little of that this morning.”
“Makes sense,” Phipps agreed.
Campbell nodded. “My only concern is, are those…” she paused and her face reddened, “People,” she managed after a long pause, “coming after us?” Her eyes were dark and questioning. Michael could read the fear in her posture.
“I doubt it,” Petra said. She spoke quietly but forcefully.
“We’ll listen in on the coms,” Nellie added.
“They won’t come. Back in their make-shift city they knew how to get around… Out here,” Ash waved her arms around, finally lifting them to the sky. “They wouldn’t know what to do: Couldn’t sneak up on us.” She shook her head. “I just don’t think they’re the kind that wants to deal with even odds.”
Petra nodded in agreement. “You know, Campbell; spineless, right?”
Campbell nodded and Michael watched the fear leave her and something closer to determination replace it. She nodded her agreement once more, looking directly at Petra as she did.
Michael cleared his throat and continued. “The reason we traveled on was to put some kilometers between us and them. It’s a long way for them to come. I don’t see it,” Michael said. He let the silent nods continue for a moment and then continued.
“There are other things we can do; things we need. Canned meals maybe one of those cows or a deer. They seem to be wandering everywhere. There really is enough to keep all of us busy for the next few days while Tom and Jefferson get the transport situation straightened out.” He paused but no one spoke. “So… If there are no real objections?”
“Let’s do it,” Campbell said.
“Yeah, I’m for it,” Ash added.
As Michael turned away, Ash, Petra, Campbell and Beckstead began to set up a plan for monitoring the coms. Everyone agreed that they would probably hear about anything coming their way long before it reached them. Campbell went over to the garage a few minutes later and pitched in helping Tom and Jefferson move whatever was in the way so that they could reach the racks and garage bays. There were two tow transports that they used to do most of the work, but chains and muscle power accomplished the rest.
In the end they cleared out three stalls that they could work in. Campbell stayed and not long after Beckstead found her way over and began to work side by side with her.
The garage was a prefab steel building that either because of a whim of the Gods or its design, had remained standing for some time now. The concrete base meant it had been used regularly for some period of time. By the time some others were returning with a cow and two large does in the back of one of the transports the garage was ready to go. Campbell and Jefferson wheeled out a towering chain-fall for the hunting party to use to dress out the animals and then went back to work.
By late afternoon the third transport modification was well under way. The lift was done; brush-guards installed and they were working on the carrying racks. Michael and Jane stopped by to look over the effort and were amazed. The transport looked like something that had rolled out of some sort of safari outfitters garage back on Earth; or a futuristic end of the world epic, Michael joked. But that sent them all into silence for a few moments and Michael didn’t mention it again.
Campbell and Beckstead were working on bolting a huge winch to the front bumper of one transport while Jefferson and Tom worked on stripping out one of the other transports to get it ready for a lift kit.
Yates and Ann had made their way to the garage and then found themselves drafted and made part of the work crew. Ann was in the third stall laying out the parts they would need for the lift on a transport while Yates worked at mounting the oversize tires to new; larger rims using a pair of heavy iron bars and his mechanical advantages to accomplish the work. He and Ann joked back and forth as they worked.
They were using a small air-compressor to inflate the tires after they had them mounted. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves Michael thought and they seemed happy to be in each other’s company; many of the crew shunned Yates because he wasn’t a biologic, but Ann seemed comfortable with him.
Outside; near the far end of the garage the chain-fall had been set up and a group led by Phipps which included C.J. and Kat were hoisting a large cow up into the air.
“Michael,” Phipps said as he and Jane passed by on their way out of the Garage.
“We would like to dry most of this meat… If we’re going to be here a few days, I thought…”
Michael nodded. “Yeah; might as well, Phipps. We have the time,” he assured her, “And it’ll help to have the meat with us; who knows what’s ahead.” He shrugged.
Phipps smiled, turned away and Michael stood watching as the huge cow began to lift into the air from the back of the transport before he and Jane turned and walked away.
A few minutes later the two of them fell in with Petra and Ash who were sifting through what the unopened supply drop crates had to offer in the way of clothing, food stores and whatever else they came across that they could find a use for. They passed by Q-8 who had taken over the toy department; blocked off one aisle and was keeping Jerrica and Terrica busy. Q-8 was another surviving artificial. She smiled and waved as they passed. Terrica waved back. Her dark eyes finally looking rested and happy.
Jerrica had built herself the biggest Lincoln Log village that Michael had ever seen and was now busy populating it with dozens of green, plastic space men. Michael smiled and Jerrica took the time out of her game to smile back at him and Jane. She held a large plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex in one hand which seemed to Michael about to wreak havoc on the village and its population of space men.
A half dozen trips with Petra and Ash and late afternoon turned into early evening. Fires were burning to dry the meat. Two large roasts were spitted over a huge fire pit made of stone. A stew was bubbling in a pot that had been suspended over the flames. Nearly everyone had found a reason to stop by the area Phipps had set aside for cooking; most arriving just as she had been about to send some others out looking for everyone to round them up for dinner. The smell of roasting meat hung heavy in the still, cool air…
Base One Book 2 in the Star Bound Series by Dell Sweet
Stranded on a planet billions of miles from home; what is left of the human race is starting over again… This time on Hay Vida we might not have to retreat to our DNA at all. It might be possible to go forward and adapt as we age. But even if we did retreat it would not be world ending. It would only mean beginning anew in a more basic way: A more basic configuration of the true life form that we were.