… continued from Damage
I don’t know if you will find this or not. I don’t know if you’ve survived. Moments after your warning about the storm, it hit, and it hit with the ferocity of a caged tiger suddenly sprung loose. Not that I’ve ever seen a tiger, of course; they went extinct long before I was born.
Visibility immediately went to zero, with so much water and debris filling the air. I’ve never seen a hurricane start so quickly! I did the only thing I could, which was to drop into the fire pit and hope the shallow depression would provide some protection. Even so, several branches hit me, and I suspect I’ll bear the bruises for many days to come. Thankfully, no more broken bones, however.
I lost track of time, but the storm lasted for some hours, then it died away almost as quickly as it arrived. The weather on this planet is weird. By then I was nearly buried in sand, and I think that’s what really saved my bacon.
Mmm, bacon. What I wouldn’t give for some of that right now. It’s been three years. But I digress.
I lost the handheld in the wind. It just ripped right out of my hand, and I never saw it again. Pretty sure it’s at the bottom of the lagoon somewhere. So once I dusted myself off, I figured I’d best try swimming out to the shuttle and raising you on the radio from there. Plus, by then night was coming on, and not much was left of our camp anyway. And, if you want the truth, sand had gotten into my cast and it was driving me insane. I hoped a good soak would clear it out.
If you’re reading this, you’ve seen the state of the shuttle. Not good.
I won’t bore you with the details of swimming with a broken leg, or how I got myself up into the airlock. You’ve seen the ladder. If not for my superior physical abilities…
Ok, stop laughing. It was tough. I’ll leave it at that.
I think maybe the collapse of the landing strut may have tripped a breaker, because not all the systems were working. But, I was able to fix that pretty quickly. I still couldn’t raise you on the radio, however. Pretty sure the antenna was still extended before the storm, and no doubt it just ripped away, along with anything else external that could catch wind.
I spent the night in the shuttle, but something woke me around midnight. I’m not sure what it was, but when I looked outside, I saw a light out on the lagoon. It was pretty far away to the south, but I thought it might be you in the raft, blown off course and making your way back. I lit up the exterior lights to guide you in, then took a closer look with the binoculars.
It wasn’t you.
We thought there was no one living here on Kepler 62f, that they were all long gone, but out there on the lagoon, right now as I write this, there is a boat of some kind, and it’s coming this way. It’s a primitive boat, with a sail, but something constructed by an intelligent culture, nonetheless.
It occurred to me that perhaps lighting up the shuttle wasn’t the brightest idea I’d ever had, as we don’t know much about these people. I quickly shut off the lights, but it was too late. I can see that they are headed right this way, and they definitely know that I’m here.
I figure I still have half an hour or so before they arrive, so I’m writing this note in hopes that you’re alive, and that you’ll find it, so you’ll know what’s happening, just in case… well, just in case. And the thing with the tripped breaker has given me an idea of how to hide it and still make sure you find it. I know you, Anna. If all the power is out, of course you’ll check the breaker panel first, so I’m going to turn off the master circuit and leave the note there. It wasn’t easy climbing up that shaft with the cast the first time, so I’m going to finish up now to make sure I have enough time.
The Keplerians! They’re still around! I’m nervous, frightened, excited. This is every anthropologist’s fantasy, every sociologist’s dream, all come true. I don’t know what will happen, but I know this: I’m about to make First Contact.
—Jacinto Baltasar Capella Rojas
Jaci always did have very neat handwriting, a skill essentially lost to most people in this age. It was something he took great pride in. He claimed it enhanced his skill at languages, to write them out longhand like the scribes of old. Anna shook her head, that her first thought should be about Jaci’s handwriting, and not what he wrote.
He was alive, or at least he was as of just a couple hours earlier. Despite the sandy footprints in the cabin, there was no sign of violence, so she had every reason to presume he lived still, wherever he was. That he had gone with the Keplerians on their boat seemed likely now.
She folded the note and tucked it carefully into a trouser pocket. With her hand once again free, she pushed the main disconnect into the ON position. Now that she knew for sure why the circuits were off, she no longer worried about the consequences of re-energizing them.
Pretty clever, Jaci. She had to give him credit for this.
One by one, she turned on each of the sub-circuits, then closed the panel cover. Lights came on and illuminated the access shaft, which eased her descent back down to the main level.
Back in the crew compartment, Anna noted Laxmi’s somewhat more relaxed expression, now that power was restored. Laxmi started to speak, but Anna shook her head and handed her Jaci’s note.
Laxmi gave her a puzzled look, but took the note, unfolded it, and began to read. As she did so, her expression changed from puzzlement, to relief, to a smile, and then to amazement. She looked back up at Anna.
“He went with them?”
“It seems likely.”
“So he’s alive.”
“That seems likely as well.”
Laxmi moved back to the airlock and peered out at the lagoon and the storm-strewn atoll, dimly lit by the mid-morning sun. Without turning, she spoke.
“What are we going to do?”
“We’ll not abandon Jaci. We’re going after them, of course.”
Anna looked down at the raft, at the drifting wood and palm fronds. Her fingers twitched just a little, remembering the feel of taut line in her grip. A slight smile caressed her lips.
“We’ll build our own sailboat.”
… continued with Outfitting
Header image credit: Johannes Plenio / pixabay.com via Pixabay License
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