… continued from Toxicology
The islet on which they had setup camp was not large, just one of many such small bumps above the high tide level making up the fringing reef sheltering the lagoon, and it did not take long before Laxmi finished exploring it completely. While Anna spent her days tearing apart the shuttle’s engines, Laxmi dug up or took cuttings from every unique plant she found, root, stem, leaf, fruit, berry, and seed. All of these samples found their way to her chromatograph for analysis, and after determining toxicity and edibility, she set about cataloging and categorizing the various specimens, building a library of the native flora.
Jaci, meanwhile, with his restricted mobility, took the edible portions Laxmi handed to him and experimented with various ways of cooking and preparing them. At first, Anna regretted her jab at him about expendability and uselessness, but as he found ways to make the local vegetation taste more interesting, she decided shaming him into the activity might not have been such a bad thing. It gave him something to do while his leg healed, and the three of them were better off for it.
The skies remained mostly clear, and the three of them grew used to the dim greenish-blue hue, until it no longer seemed to Anna to be always twilight. Rain squalls passed through almost daily, bringing with them short bursts of more intense wind, but more importantly, water that Laxmi declared drinkable without desalination. However, the squalls usually lasted no more than twenty or thirty minutes, and then the clouds would pass, the wind would abate, and sunshine again dominated the days. The rest of the time, a constant thirty km/h breeze blew across the lagoon from the southeast, which Anna took to calling the Kepler trade wind.
Tidal change was modest, never more than half a meter from high to low, but the variability and timing were unlike anything Anna was used to. It was, she realized, the impact of having two moons pulling on the planet’s oceans, reaching its greatest range when they aligned together in the sky, and only mitigated by their equatorial location. Anna supposed the difference between high and low tide to be far more severe in the higher latitudes than anything observed on Earth, and she was grateful it was not a factor in the security of the shuttle’s location.
“Here you go, all local, all organic, rated by Kepler Living Magazine as the finest cuisine on the planet,” said Jaci as he dished out his latest stew. It didn’t look like much, but Anna had to admit the aroma appealed to her.
“So I guess that makes you the highest-rated chef on the planet, too,” she said, wiping her grease-smudged hands with a towel.
“But of course! It was a fierce competition, you understand, with every human within a thousand light-years participating, but in the end the judges’ determination was unanimous.”
“We are the only three humans within a thousand light-years.”
“Yes! So, you see, it really was inevitable that the judges should pick me.”
“Which judges? Again, we’re the only three…”
“Ok, there was just one judge. Me. But I didn’t allow any conflict of interest to sway my decision when I awarded myself the prize.”
Anna smirked, then tucked into her stew. “All kidding aside, Jaci, you have done well with this. Ok, I’m good with naming you the best chef on Kepler 62f.”
“Thank you! And that brings me to another point. Since it looks like we may be here a while — maybe a long while — I think this planet deserves its own name, a proper name, not just a number and letter designation from the telescope which discovered it a couple-hundred years ago. I propose that we call our new home… Capella.”
“After you, I suppose? Jaci Capella Rojas?”
“Well, I am the greatest chef on the planet.”
“You know there’s another star system named Capella, don’t you? Actually, four stars, a double-binary system.”
“Of course I know that! But there aren’t any planets there, are there?”
“Well, there are a couple, but they’re all burnt cinders. Still, I think they get a claim to the name.”
“Ok, fine! But I still think we should give Kepler 62f its own name. What do you suggest? Planet Laukkonnen, I suppose?”
Anna smiled. “Well, it has a certain ring to it, you must admit. But, no. Unlike the greatest chef on the planet, the greatest astronomer on the planet has less than a planet-sized ego to sustain. Perhaps the greatest biologist on the planet would like to weigh in?”
Laxmi shook her head. “The greatest biologist on the planet is busy eating, thank you. Besides, I’ve been cataloging all the plant life. That’s enough names for things for me to come up with. But, Anna, while on the topic of cataloging our discoveries, I’d like to take the raft over to the main island. I’ve covered everything here on the atoll, but I’m pretty sure there’s more variety on the mountain slopes over there.”
Anna paused, spoon halfway to her mouth. After a moment, she continued eating, swallowing the spoonful of stew while considering Laxmi’s request.
“I’m not sure I like that idea. We don’t know what dangers might be over there, and we still have work to do here.”
“Yes, I know you’re still working on the scramjets, but I’ve done about all I can do here, other than hand you tools and watch. And it was always going to be part of my mission, Anna, to catalog what life we found here. I know things have not turned out the way we planned, but as long as I’m not otherwise needed, I’d like to continue with my work. Plus, we might be able to add more variety to our diet.” Laxmi looked at Jaci while she said this.
Jaci gave a thumbs-up, his mouth full of stew. Anna regarded the two of them, marshaling her thoughts.
“Ok. But not alone. Jaci’s not strong enough to deal with the steep slope of that mountain, so I’ll go with you. Jaci, you’ll mind the camp here, and we’ll stay in radio contact the whole time. Open channel, and hourly check-ins.”
“You’re ok with this, then?”
“I’m uneasy with it, but you’re right, we do need to explore. Besides, there’s something over there I want to check out myself.”
… to be continued.
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