This is the Journal of Jarn, a R'il'nian who was stranded on
Earth roughly 125,000 years ago during the next to last (counting the one we're
in as the last) interglacial. The Journal was translated and became the
original Holy Book for a number of planets later occupied by Jarn's hybrid
descendants. (We are among those hybrid descendants, the offspring of those who
did not follow Jarn back to space.) The first bit is from a book I may write
someday about the initial Kharfun epdemic; the rest is excerpts from Jarn's
Journal. I'm blogging a bit at a time, so this will be updated regularly.
"Your Galactica needs practice,
Faelle. Would it help if you had some chips in Galactica, until we get
home? We still have a couple of fivedays' travel."
For some reason the scene with Uncle
Toklas came again to her mind. "You said our Book of Jarn was based on your history," she said slowly.
"Would you have anything on that?"
"His Journal, of course," Nolan replied. "We've got a
Galactica translation along, I think, read by one of our better speakers.
And a print version in Galactica and a couple of commentaries as well, but I
think you might like to hear and read a translation of Jarn's own words.
It's rather blunt in places; enough to scandalize the priests on some planets
into expurgating their Holy Book." He frowned as he thought. "I
think your Book
of Jarn has quite a few of the
more explicit bits cut out. But Jarn was simply recording what happened
to him. You won't be bothered by that?"
"Not by something that really
happened. And Jarn's my ancestor, isn't that right? There's a lot
of prohibitions that don't hold with another Family member."
"I'll get you the chips," Celine
said. "Everyone through eating? I'll put what's left into the
recycler, and we'll give you a quick tour of the ship."
I am alive, which still astonishes me. I do not know enough about
this planet yet to have more than a rough idea of its year length, but no doubt
I will find out soon enough. If I ever get back to where designing
another starship is possible, I will design it with a few more of the standard
safety features. Like the block against exiting a jump point too close to
a gravity well.
If by any chance I do not get back home, and
this record does, perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Jarn, a R'il'nian
and a designer of starships. Not, I regret to say, as good a designer as
I thought, or my third ship would be around me instead of lying in pieces on
the bottom of one of this planet's oceans. Indeed, it all happened so
fast I am still somewhat confused, but I will try to state briefly what
I was aiming for the vicinity of a G-type
sun, and I exited the jump-point too close to the third planet's atmosphere,
and heading into it. All I could do was maneuver into a braking orbit and
try to kill enough energy that a water landing wouldn't vaporize the
ship. No, I could not have teleported to safety. I never was any
good at interstellar teleports, or at going someplace I hadn't been before.
That's why I went into starship design.
Anyway, not only does the planet have lots of
water, it also has land areas with large stretches of chlorophyll green.
A huge one stretches almost halfway around the planet in the northern
hemisphere, with an extension into the southern hemisphere at its trailing end,
and a pair on the other side of the planet together extend almost from pole to
pole. It looked as if there was ice at both poles, though it could have
been clouds, and the readouts as we got into the atmosphere indicated one part
oxygen to four of nitrogen. All this strongly suggested life, and it
would be unethical in the extreme to let the ship destroy any more of that life
than I could help.
I managed to trigger the escape capsule a minute or
so before impact, which was toward the leading edge of the broadly serpentine
north-south ocean, and flew it, with some difficulty, to the trailing edge of
the southern extension of the larger land mass, where I am now recording
this. I suppose it was a good landing, since I am still alive and sound,
if shaken, but the capsule will never again be anything more than a rather
There is a small stream nearby, and an abundance of
fibrous-looking vegetation which is being eaten by a wide variety of animals,
including what appear to be perfectly good mammals. I don't have and
probably never will have the equipment to test whether their proteins are
compatible with my own, but a fish from the stream was tasty enough. The
stream water seems reasonably pure, though the larger water areas taste salty
and are probably too mineral-rich to drink on a regular basis. The
atmospheric oxygen content is neither so high as to allow uncontrolled
wildfires nor so low as to give me any problem in breathing, and so far there
are no obvious atmospheric toxins. So if I don't swell up and die tonight
from the fish, it looks as if I have the basic requirements for staying alive.
I didn't manage to get a measurement of axial tilt,
so I have no idea what the weather is likely to be or what season I am
in. A lot of the vegetation looks desiccated, which may indicate that I
arrived during a seasonal dry period, in which case I may need shelter when it
starts to rain again. Or I may have landed in an area entering a long
drought. I hope the stream does not dry up completely.
I suppose I should count myself lucky, but I have no
idea of what I can do beyond keeping myself alive.
I think I have stopped shaking enough to use the
First, a note to myself. Emergency kits
should include warnoffs. Some of the mammals here think they
are going to eat me!
I can handle the situation as long as I am aware of
the attack, of course. Just implant in the predator's mind that I am not prey.
But these predators, while not sentient, are in some ways quite intelligent. The one that almost got me
yesterday evening was an ambush predator. Sheer luck that I heard it leap
and was fast enough to reach its mind before it reached me.
This morning I saw another type of predator. This
type hunts in packs, and runs its prey to exhaustion before closing in for the
kill. I hope they are also territorial, in which case I can reach the minds of
the local pack members and let them know that I am not prey. I think.
pack hunters are a peculiar mottling of black, tan and white, no two alike.
They have four limbs, like every other mammal I have seen here. They hunt in
rather large packs, and once they have selected a victim, nothing seems to stop
them. They seem to rely on sheer persistence rather than speed. They are not
terribly large, but I would not want to face even one without a stunner. Which
I have I did remember to put that in the emergency kit!
The one last night was a lot faster at least over
short distances and a lot larger. I did not get as good a look, but I think
it was close to my weight, and spotted. One of the things I was able to skim
from its mind was climbing trees to keep its kills away from other carnivores.
Other carnivores? I haven't seen them yet, but at least one seems to be a group
hunter related to but larger than the one that attacked me.
I am clearly going to have to modify the emergency
capsule to provide shelter from predators as well as weather. I wonder if they
fear fire? Many non-sentient animals do, and cooking would definitely widen the
variety of possible foods. Especially plant foods.
At least the fish appear to be nutritious, so
probably the amino acids here are left-handed. I shall have to try some of the
animals the predators regard as prey. I am not sure of using the stunner too
much, though I don't have that many charges for it.
A fiveday has passed, and I am still alive. Life here
almost certainly uses left-handed proteins, which is good news for me as I have
only a few months' worth of provisions with me. This means I must learn to live
off the land.
I have been watching what the local herbivores eat
and sampling it, but the leaves and the fibrous ground cover have too much
cellulose for me to digest. Fruiting bodies and seeds are much more digestible,
and in some cases even palatable, but they have to be sampled with caution
some are toxic. There are a number of local herbivores probably a good deal
better to eat than the vegetation they thrive on, but I cannot bring myself to
call them to me to kill them. If I see one injured or in pain I would have no
such scruples, but the local predators generally kill the weaklings.
Oh yes, the predators. I've seen several more. They
are all afraid of fire, and I get the distinct impression some have seen it in
a context other than wildfires. There are several of the ambush predators: a
yellow-coated variety that weighs a good deal more than I do and hunts in
groups; the spotted one I mentioned before, and a smaller, incredibly fast
spotted one that seems unable to climb trees. There is a group that makes a
weird noise and has a rather hunch-backed silhouette. Others resemble the pack
hunters but appear solitary. Like most predators, they are perfectly willing to
scavenge each others' kills.
I hope that the modifications I made to the emergency
capsule are sufficient to keep them away while I sleep!
The herbivores are even more varied. Many have horns
on their heads, ranging from simple knobs to daunting scimitars. These all feed
on the fibrous stuff. There are some huge ones that I thought at first sight
had tails at both ends. At least two varieties occur in large herds. One is
horned and I think migratory. The other is one of the few animals I have seen
without horns, but they have a very distinctive coat black and white striped.
What really has my attention is that almost all of
these animals are frightened of my presence. Not that I seem strange to them,
but as if I am a known predator. Could there be a species here superficially
similar to my own? If so, they are rare in this area.
There are times when I slap myself on the head and
wonder how I could have been so stupid. Not often twice in the same day, as was
the case today.
I have been worried about the local predators, with
no warnoff. All the while, I have of course been recording this on the computer
in the emergency capsule. Today it occurred to me to check out what else was in
the computer programming.
There is a library. With detailed information on how
a warnoff is made. My first reaction was "wonderful if I could get the
parts." Then it occurred to me to check whether the library had an inventory of
what was in the emergency capsule.
It does. Ant the supplies include a limited number of
all-purpose chips that can be programmed in a variety of ways. Including those
necessary to produce a warnoff.
It may take some tuning, but it seems I shall soon
have some defense against being eaten.
You whoever you are that may be reading this have
no idea what a relief it was to know that I would soon have the basic
protection I have been accustomed to since infancy. More than just accustomed
to it had honestly never occurred to me that anything would want to
All afternoon I labored, thinking that now I could
start exploring a little farther from the capsule. Not too far; the capsule
still provides protection while I sleep. Then, shortly before I finished the
first warnoff, I had another "duh" moment. I can teleport. Not to somewhere I
have never been, of course, but as long as I am eating regularly, I can teleport
back to the capsule. So I can travel a full day's distance from the capsule and
still have its safety at night. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop me from
memorizing the last place I reach in the evening and teleporting to that place
the following morning, to continue my exploration. Why, I could cover the whole
It is growing dark, and while the surviving solar
cells of the capsule keep the computer going, I do not wish to use them more
than necessary. Tonight I shall try to remember all I can of what I saw of this
landmass as I crashed. I think the ocean was to the west, and I should try
first to find it. Then work along its shores, find a river, and follow it
inland. Perhaps I can find the reason the local herbivores seem to regard me as
Whatever possessed me to think I could walk all over
the continent in ship shoes?
It was no real problem to make a general warnoff. I
spent a day building it, and another day or two testing it on the predators
around the capsule.
None of these predators have names in R'il'nian, so
I've made up some. "Felines" are the ambush hunters. The one that almost got me
that first night I'm calling a leopard. It's a solitary hunter. The big yellow
one that hunts in family groups is a lion, and the small fast one is a cheetah.
Then there are the canines, which have far more
endurance than the felines but are generally not as fast sprinters. The ones I
saw first, the wild dogs, hunt in large packs and basically run their prey
down. The hunt prey larger than themselves. They are round eared, like the
felines. There is also a pointed-eared variety, which hunts alone or in pairs,
and generally hunts smaller prey. Those I call jackals.
Finally, the hunch-backed creatures, which turned out
to have extraordinarily strong jaws real bone-crushers. Those I call hyenas.
The warnoff, thank goodness, now works on all of
them, so yesterday I decided to start exploring.
Did I mention how careful I was to exercise before
and during the test voyage? Not careful enough, it seems! My legs were aching
within a couple of hours, and by the time I found I had to wade across a creek,
I was so tired I fell climbing up the far bank. I was hot enough by then the
soaking was welcome, but my shoes stiffened as they dried. Next thing I knew my
feet were in agony. I gritted my teeth and kept going, but when I stopped to
eat the lunch I'd brought along, I pulled the stiffened shoes off and found my
feet were bleeding.
I teleported back to the capsule, but I'd made only
about a third of the distance I'd planned on. This exploring is going to be
much slower than I thought. And I'm going to have to work out better foot
How do you feed an infant predator?
Maybe I'd better back up a little.
My exploration is proceeding very slowly teleport
to a place I've been before and walk for an hour or two until my feet get sore,
and then teleport back to the capsule. No rain at all in the month and a half
I've been here. I hope this is just a dry season, rather than the start of a
drought. The stream seems to be perennial I hope. At least there is no
shortage of either water or fish, but from the increased crowding of the herbivores
along its bank and my own observations, this is the only water around. There is
ground water I can perceive it and if need be I can bore a well
Where there are herbivores crowded together there
will be predators. It is not the season for births that much is obvious so
I was a little surprised to see one of the smaller
social predators apparently nursing young. At any rate her breasts were
enlarged enough to slow her down, and one of the striped herbivores kicked her
She seemed low ranking and almost fearful of the
others, which puzzled me. I opened my mind, and sent out thoughts of milk and
got an answer. A tiny cub, its eyes barely open, with two others, dead of
starvation. Their mother must have been desperate for food.
Admit it I'm lonely. And if I can raise the cub,
using my telepathy to convince her I'm her mother, she'd be a companion.
Something to talk to, even if she can't talk back.
So how am I going to feed Patches?
If other animals had young, I could milk one easily
enough but most of the young animals, at least of the species I've seen, have
been weaned. I'm doing quite nicely on fish and the occasional small mammal,
along with a certain amount of scavenging (the warnoff is very handy for that)
and a few seeds and fruits. So I've been trying to process fish and meat into a
slurry she can swallow. She's hungry enough to swallow anything.
I wonder if the computer files have any information
that would help me?
When I decided to rescue Patches, I thought my main
problem was going to be finding a substitute for her mother's milk. Well, I
have learned a few things since then.
Puppies are destructive. And messy. Their teeth are
unbelievably sharp. They are incredibly good about getting around, over or
through things I think will be barriers. And they are absolutely adorable.
Patches not only listens to me (though she clearly
responds more to my tone of voice than to what I am saying) she regards me as
her pack, and since she has leaned to walk, does her best to follow me
everywhere I go. My explorations have been severely curtailed, as she cannot
quite keep up with me. I can teleport her along, and since the first time or
two she accepts it as a normal part of life. But I either have to carry her
(which she begins to resent very quickly) or pause often to let her nap and
Her legs are beginning to lengthen. Judging from what
I have seen of adults of her species she will be quite able to keep up with me
when she is a little older, so I have decided to concentrate on strengthening
the mental bond between us. She does not think in what I would consider an
organized matter, but her senses are superb, and she is quite happy to share
them with me. Already she has begun to help me find water and small game on our
Water. The stream I am camped by is becoming
narrower. Not a drop of rain has fallen since I came here. Animals are rarer,
and tend to cluster more and more around the stream banks and so do the
predators. Is this a normal dry season, or the beginning of a drought?
I think it is going to rain.
The sun, which at first rose and set somewhat to the
north, is moving farther south every day. Clouds are beginning to appear on the
northern horizon, a little higher in the sky each day, and there is lightning
in those clouds at night.. The stream is barely a trickle, but as I study my
surroundings more carefully, I can see that the ground on which the capsule
rests has signs of flooding that are not all that old. I teleported as far to
the north as I have explored, and found the streams rising and the ground wet.
The capsule was actually getting crowded, so I have
built a new and larger shelter on a rise in the ground that from its shape is
an island during the wet season. I've been teleporting everything I need the
computer, what little clothing I have left, food preparation equipment, the
deceleration couch I've been sleeping in to the new shelter. I considered
moving the capsule itself, rather than detaching the solar panels and hooking
everything up at the new site, but I decided it made more sense to salvage
everything I could use from it. Including much of the skin and framing members.
A shelter doesn't need to be engineered to keep its occupant alive during space
maneuvers and re-entry, so the capsule materials can be used to build a much
is proving useful as well as entertaining. She is totally uninterested in her
own kind, but is beginning to treat me as a pack member. She trails small
animals, and turns them back toward me. Since it looks like I'm going to be
staying here and will need food, her hunting skills may prove useful. Of course
she is not full-grown yet, but at least she is beginning to look more like her
I haven't done much exploring lately; I've been too
busy preparing for the rainy season. When I have time to start again, though,
Patches will probably be more fitted for the hours of walking than am I. I am
glad I decided to rescue her. But I wish I had someone with me who could talk
Patches has found a footprint.
Not an animal footprint, but one that looks
remarkably like a R'il'nian footprint. Not only that; Patches thought it
smelled vaguely like my footprint.
At first I thought it was my own, but I normally use
foot coverings. The grass, as I've taken to calling the fibrous stuff on
the ground, can be walked on now that the new growth is green and relatively
soft, but it hides altogether too many things that are unpleasant to step on.
Besides, this footprint is smaller than mine, and I
don't think I've been in this area before. Could a ship of my people have
arrived? But they'd not likely be barefoot ....
I opened my shields and broadcast my location and my
need for help, but there was no response. Yet the footprint, in damp soil
deposited by a creek that is receding as the rains weaken, looks fresh.
Could Patches track them?
We had to work together, as the prints led across
several swollen creeks. I kept casting ahead with my mind, and froze as I
encountered something that seemed to the thinking in symbols. Not R'il'nian,
but could there be a different form of sentient life on this planet? One that
leaves tracks like mine?
I've worried about survival ever since I crashed
here. I wasn't expecting major moral issues.
By definition a creature which is aware of itself as
separate from its surroundings, recognizes its own mortality, and communicates
with others of its species, is sentient.
Some of the creatures here those I have called apes
and elephants are close enough that I am careful to avoid them they might
someday evolve into sentient beings, and under normal circumstances I would put
a warnoff in orbit around the planet, to indicate that they should not be
These are not normal circumstances.
This new species ....
We of the R'il'nai, like all star-faring species,
abide by the Covenant. A species must attain star flight on its own. Many
destroy themselves in the process, and it is better that they destroy
themselves than destroy others. The development of star flight, after all,
requires that a species go through stages when self-destruction is possible, or
even likely if a species is warlike. Such warlike species are best planet-bound.
But I have seen individuals of the species that
leaves footprints like mine, and even probed them, very carefully.
They are sentient.
They look remarkably like R'il'nians, except that
they are not reliably telepathic.
Even their coloring is not outside the range I am
used to, though the distribution of hair is a little different.
They live partly on plant foods, which they obtain
and process with primitive tools, and partly on animals, both scavenged and run
down. Like Patches, they show remarkable endurance, but even better cooperation
I could contact them. I could communicate with them.
I need not be alone.
The Covenant forbids it.
But I can observe them.
They are nomadic, moving from part to part of their
range as the animals they hunt move. I'm fairly sure they are related to the
great apes, though they are far more intelligent and communicate with sounds. Not
R'il'nian, of course, but I have learned a few words of their speech by
listening, and I think it is advanced enough to transmit surprisingly
sophisticated concepts. Certainly they teach their young to make weapons and
other tools, and it is true teaching, not merely allowing the young to watch.
I have stayed hidden, of course, and nudged them away
mentally when they came too close, but they have found my tracks at times, and
been very puzzled by them. Especially if Patches is with me. I think they are preparing
to leave, following the herds. I find myself wondering if I could learn their
NO! I cannot interfere with their evolution, however
much I long to speak with them.
But I will be very lonely, when they have gone.
They have left, taking with them the skins they used
to cover their shelters, their weapons, the gourds they use to carry water and
some foods, and everything else they can carry on their backs. I would be lonely,
had they not left me with a dilemma for they are not all gone. One was left
She is a young female, injured by a leopard several
fivedays ago. There has been considerable argument in the group over the last
few days, and I think the gist of the disagreement was the fact that they could
no longer gather enough food to survive here, but she could not be moved. They
have left her with skins to cover her in a small hut surrounded by thorns.
Surely they do not expect she can survive on her own! Perhaps they plan to come
back for her? But she and her shelter were the only things left! If they had
planned to come back, surely they would not have so loaded themselves!
I cannot interfere.
If I do not interfere, she will surely die. Her leg
is broken, a compound fracture they have no idea how to treat, and the leg is
mangled as well.
I have enough medical knowledge to treat her, though
I am far from being a Healer. I could bring her water to ease the thirst I
cannot help feeling.
I cannot interfere!
I can't stand it any more! I should not interfere but how can it be
right to abandon a child to such pain and thirst? How can I have the
right to stay aloof while she is dying, and I could save her?
are problems quite aside from the ethical ones. It is unlikely that I
can teleport her from where she is to my shelter it is at least a
five-day journey, walking. She certainly cannot walk that far, nor do I
trust myself to build nightly camps where she would be safe.
find myself quite unable to think of her as another species. Perhaps I
could go to her, stay there until the infection is gone and the leg
properly set? The thorns around her hut would be some protection, and
there is no reason I could not take the warnoff. That, together with the
thorns, should make the hut safe enough.
What am I thinking? I cannot interfere.
find that while I was recording my body was gathering food, water and
the crude blankets I have made, and packing the medical kit. I cannot
shut out the child's thirst, pain and despair. It seems my decision is
I think she will live.
I had some real worries as to whether the antibiotics I
brought, which work well on my own species, would work on this alien child, but
already her fever is reduced. Anesthetics were not among my supplies, but I
managed to straighten and set the bone while she was still unconscious, and I
believe the swelling and inflammation is down a little today.
I stayed with her last night, in the hut where her fellow
tribesmen left her. I think the warnoff did more than the thorns to keep us
safe, and I was reluctant to teleport back to my own shelter and trust to the
thorns alone to protect her.
I could treat her much more easily back at my own shelter.
Certainly I would be far more
comfortable! I actually had to sleep or rather try to sleep on the ground
last night! And the insects! Luckily I had the warnoff set to repel insects
from actually biting, but with the clearer light this morning, I found that it
did not stop them from laying
eggs the child's leg was crawling with maggots before I cleaned it out
yesterday, and I found flies trying to lay their eggs in the wound when I
rechecked it this morning!
And the smells! There is no way to clean the hut at this
point, and the miasma of rotting flesh, sickness and bodily waste almost overcomes
me. She would be much better off at my shelter, where I could keep her clean.
I wish I could teleport her there, but one of the first
things I learned is that teleporting another sentient being, without that
being's full understanding and cooperation, can produce permanent mental trauma
in the teleportee.
She is still unconscious.
Could I teleport her in that state?
Never again will I try to teleport an unconscious sentient who does not know and trust me!
it worked. She is in my shelter. But it also produced a night and a day
of the most violent nightmares it has ever been my misfortune to
experience! And experience them I did she has no idea of how to shield
her emotional broadcasts, and she does broadcast. Loudly.
moment, I am a good half hour's walk from the shelter. Distance does
help, a little. Patches is very puzzled, though willing to accept that
the child is to be guarded, not regarded as food.
is doing well. I can shield, though not without losing my ability to
spot predators approaching, and I have been shielding and checking her
regularly. She is not fevered, and aside from the occasional flailing
about from the nightmares, she seems to be resting quietly. If only her
mind were as quiet!
I suppose I had better get back to the
shelter. The sun will be setting soon, though I doubt I will get much
more sleep than last night. I made her a bed of sorts, with some of the
insulation from the ship, and luckily it is on the floor. She may roll
away from the padding, but at least there is nothing for her to fall off
I wonder what she will think when she does wake up? She looks
very much like a young R'il'nian, but will she see me as being of her
own species? Will she think I am merely from another tribe? Or do they
have tribes? If they do, are the relations between them friendly? They
They must mate with non-relatives, but in some animals one sex disperses and finds a new group.
Will she trust me enough to let me help her?
What have I done?
It's a good thing I have spied on the sentients enough to
have learned a little of their language, as the child seems unable to learn
mine. Hers is a pretty simple one: specific sounds for specific objects, more
specific sounds for specific actions, various other sounds that describe
objects and actions. R'il'nian might have been that simple, early in our
evolution, but her brain does not seem wired to understand R'il'nian as it
They do have individual names, and her only difficulty in
understanding me when I tapped my chest and repeated "Jarn" seemed to be that
the particular sound meant nothing to her. Her own name is also the sound her
people use to designate a small bird, dull colored but a beautiful singer. I
find myself thinking of her as "Songbird."
In some ways she is remarkably quick. She rapidly grasped
that I did not understand her language very well and set about teaching it to
me, and demanding that I give her the names for things strange to her in the
shelter. Rather a turnaround from what I expected, but a surprisingly pleasant
turnaround! In the day and a half since she awoke, we have established far
better communication than I have with Patches.
Oh, Patches. There was some initial fear, but once she
understood that Patches was friendly to me and willing to be friends with her,
she managed to tell me that her own people now and then tamed young animals
from the wild. In fact, they seem to have a religion of sorts, and the shamans
always have some kind of tamed animal or claim to. I must confess I have my
doubts about invisible animals no one but the shamans can see!
Physically the leg appears to be knitting
rapidly, and all signs of infection are gone. In fact, once she was convinced
that my splints would hold, it was impossible to keep her lying down. I have
managed plumbing, although rather primitive, in my shelter, and a system for
disposing of bodily waste. I have to say she is far more fascinated by these
than by the recorder or the computer!
So far I have managed to avoid asking why her
people left her to die, telling myself it is because I still do not understand
her language well enough. This is an excuse, and tomorrow I will ask her.
Or perhaps the next day.
I am beginning to wonder just who rescued whom.
am not an explorer. I have never, before this year, had to cook my own
food. Oh, I knew that cooking would make the nutrients more available,
and that fire could be used to cook food as well as frighten away
animals. And it was no problem, once I found stands of trees and dead
wood, to teleport wood to the vicinity of the shelter, where I have a
fairly substantial pile. I even found a straight stick of the right
length to allow Songbird to hobble around while her leg is healing.
I know just one way of cooking. That is to hang the item to be cooked
over the fire. This results in food that is raw inside and charred
outside. Songbird put up with this for about three days. The fourth day,
she dug a hole in the ground and lined it with large leaves. When I
came back with a large fish for our dinner, she grabbed it and demanded
the knife I've been cleaning my catches with.
She proceeded to
clean the fish, a good deal faster than I do. She then stuffed it with a
number of plants I didn't get too close a look at, and told me to
transfer about half of the coals from the fire she'd started I'd shown
her how to use my sparker into the pit. Next thing I knew, she was
lowering a muddy package into the pit, scooping the rest of the coals on
top of the package, and piling hot rocks over it.
"That was our supper!" I sputtered.
"Good," she agreed. "Sun touch trees."
the time the declining sun had almost reached the trees on the horizon,
the odors seeping from the pit had my mouth watering. Nor was it a vain
promise. When Songbird uncovered her muddy package, it had hardened
into a shell around the best fish I have tasted since I crashed here.
"Good?" she asked.
"Very good," I replied.
She looked as pleased as Patches with a fresh bone. "I cook. I can't hunt, but I prepare. You hunt? Bring plants I need?"
me what you need, and I'll find it," I assured her. I wouldn't know her
words, but as long as she visualized what she wanted, I was confident I
could find it.
Nor was pit-roasting her only way of preparing
food. Today she took a gourd, filled it with leaves, berries, tubers,
bones and chopped meat from last night, and then dropped hot stones in
to heat the water. Again, I had doubts, which were rapidly assuaged by
the odors rising from what she had prepared.
Tomorrow I have to ask her why she was left alone. Surely they could have done something for the leg other than abandon her!
Songbird's language is beginning to feel much more natural to me. Her views on the world do not.
I cannot help thinking of her as a dependent, as a child who needs shelter and protection.
rather obviously thinks of me as some sort of godlike being, capable of
miracles (such as plumbing and setting her broken leg) and quite
incompetent at taking care of myself. She has taken over the cooking,
not because she is a better cook than I am (which she is), but because
in her mind it is a female's job to prepare food, as well as to procure
most of it.
She also has me thinking twice about the abilities of the shamans.
mother and her mate Songbird doesn't seem to have a word or even a
concept for "father" in the biological sense did not want to leave
her, but the shaman assured them not only that leaving was necessary so
that the rest of the tribe would not starve, but that leaving Songbird
was a necessary sacrifice to the gods. So far as Songbird is concerned, I
am the god the shaman predicted. A rather strange and incompetent god,
but still a god. Had not the shaman foreseen it?
Is it even
remotely possible that the shaman has enough conditional precognition
untrained, of course to recognize that I would rescue her?
I have been here more than a year!
knew it was more than a Kentra year, of coursethe clock and calendar
are still working. And the day-length here is close enough to Kentra's
that the count of sunrises alone was enough to tell me that a year had
passed on my home planet.
But today I was at my first landing
place near sunset. I paused to watch the sinking sun, and it was
slightly north of a notch in the hills on the horizon that framed its
setting the first time I looked. First it moved north, then south, and
now it is moving north again and it is farther north than when I
arrived, so more than a planet year has passed. I will have to set up
some means of keeping track of were it sets, and develop a local
I asked Songbird if her people would return. She said
yes, they followed the gazelles, which always came back to that place
with the sun.
Could they not eat fish, I asked, or any of the other wild foods she was introducing me to?
is not as sweet as gazelle meat, and besides, they will meet other
groups to the north. Aardvark is old enough to mate, and his mate must
come from another group."
"Does the girl go to her mate's group, or the boy?" I asked.
looked puzzled. "The shamans of the two clans decide," she finally
said, "but I hope Aardvark stays. We have more girls than boys."
shamans again. Was keeping the sex ratio balanced one of their jobs?
What else influenced them? I do not know how long these people had been
in their camping spot before Patches found them. But this year I will
start watching when the clouds begin massing on the northern horizon.
Songbird has decided I need new clothes.
Not that I really need
them for warmth, unless I go out at night. It cools off fast in the dry
season. But there are an awfully lot of thorny plants, and while I
don't sunburn easily, I do sunburn. And the few clothes I had with me
are falling to pieces.
That didn't stop Songbird from close
examination of my one-piece shipsuit (or what is left of it) and my
woven tunic. Or my crude shoes, for that matter.
She herself is
wearing a kind of tunic made of two gazelle skins, beautifully tanned,
fastened together at the shoulders and sides. I am not sure whether the
purpose is protection from thorns, a sunshade, or simply local cultural
mores I didn't get a very close look at the females of her people. The
men, at least when running down game, wear very little.
morning Songbird presented me with a new tunic. It is very coarse of
weave, but it is woven much like the baskets she has woven to hold
foodstuffs. It seems to be woven all in one piece, like the baskets, but
of softer fibers than grass. When I asked her what the fibers were, she
showed me one of the plants she has asked me to gather for the seeds.
She then explained that when allowed to soak in water, the fibers could
be separated from the stems. Her people use it only rarely, because of
the work involved, but she thought that since I am a god it would be
appropriate for me.
I have given up on trying to convince her I am not a god.
The northern solstice has passed!
I have made a calendar of
sorts, with Songbird's aid. There is a particular flat rock I stand on,
at the top of the rise where I have built my shelter. I can see the
sunset move around the horizon from that point, and though the horizon
is not flat, the hills are constant. Songbird goes out with me at sunset
every day, and moves until the stake she holds is just lined up with
the sun on the horizon. Then she drives it into the ground. If it will
not go in (which sometimes happens) she holds it while I pile loose
rocks around it.
The last few days the stakes have been almost in
the same place, but this evening the position of the stake was
definitely south of yesterday's stake, if by only a fingerwidth.
think the actual solstice was two days ago. At any rate that is what I
will assume in figuring the year length, and in trying to estimate when
the rains and Songbird's people will be back.
Songbird was not
very enthusiastic about helping me at first, though she was obedient
enough to do as I said. More of this "god" stuff, I suppose. But when I
explained that I wanted to use the sticks to help me know when to go
look for her people's return, she rapidly started reminding me when it
was almost sunset. Her leg has healed without a trace of a limp, and I
must admit that I feel rather proud of my skills as a doctor!
course I have not been here long enough yet to know exactly when the
rains will start and the game and Songbird's people will return. But
both should occur as the sun's course moves back south.
I want to see that shaman!
calendar is coming along slowly, but I am now fairly certain that
this planet has nearly the same rotation rate and year length as Kentra.
The year length is no surprise, as both the sun and the climate are
very similar to what I am used to. The rotation rate, and thus the day
length, are a pleasant surprise, but not really unexpected the climate
would not be nearly as much like Kentra's if the coriolis force
It is now about 90 days past the northern solstice,
and it should be near the equinox. It is not as easy to determine the
equinox as the solstice, but the day is as nearly as I can measure it
the same length as the night, and the sun appears to be rising directly
to the east, counting east as being at right angles to the pole around
which the stars seem to revolve.
This should mean the sun is
directly over the equator, and the rains should be at a maximum there.
They will move southward now, and should be here in around thirty to
sixty more dayssixty, if I go by last year. So far, the sky is
cloudless, and the grass is very dry. Songbird keeps insisting that I
watch for fire, and she is so concerned that I have burned off the
ground near out shelter.
She has reason, I have found. Several
years ago her counting skills are not quite good enough to tell how
many years ago her people attempted to stay in the area later than
usual. The herds had started their migration, but many animals remained
to eat the tall, dry grass. Songbird told me what she remembered, but
she could not have been more than seven at the time. Nevertheless, she
gave me a very clear image of a wall of smoke and flame that very nearly
wiped out her group, and in fact killed several who panicked and tried
to outrun the fire. Only the shaman saved them, insisting that they lie
down in the waters of a narrow creek, covered with wet hides, and let
the fire burn over them.
"It was very hard to breathe," she said, "but most of those who obeyed the shaman lived."
I am getting more and more intrigued by this shaman.
She's not having nightmares, at least not yet.
know I swore never again to try teleporting another sentient, least of
all Songbird, after that first time. I didn't intend to. But I had no
Clouds have been clustering along the northern horizon for
several days, and I thought I heard faint echoes of thunder. I'd walk
north, I thought, and check if there was any sign of the approaching
rains, and Songbird insisted on going with me and Patches. By noon we
were in waist-high grass, far taller than the burned stuff near the
shelter, and the clouds were beginning to show above the horizon.
growled, and I thought I saw flashes of light against the darkness near
the horizon. Not long until the rains, I thought, and then I saw that
some of the near towers were black on top, not white, and the light on
the horizon was red. Dry storms, and the lightning had ignited the
Songbird saw it before I did, grabbed my hand, and turned to run back toward our shelter.
We'd never make it.
thought of how the shaman had made those caught in a similar fire lie
down in a stream, but there were no streams between where we were and
the shelter. Only the firebreak, and there was no hope of reaching that
before the fire caught us. I could teleport to safety, of course, but
what of Songbird?
I stopped, and spun her to face me. "Songbird,
listen. You know how I appear and disappear?" I try not to teleport in
front of her, but I know she has seen me.
"Yes, I have seen."
am going to try to take us back to the shelter vanishing here and
reappearing there. You must close your eyes and imagine you are at the
shelter door." I had no idea whether that would make it easier, but it
was all I could think of. And I could not leave her to be burned alive!
looked toward the fire, which was now racing toward us and so near we
could feel its heat and smell the scorched grass, and then turned her
face toward me and closed her eyes.
I touched her mind very
lightly, as I did when she was teaching me her language. Her image of
the shelter entrance was clear and precise, and I caught her mind and
that of Patches with mine and moved all three of us. The heat on our
skin was suddenly gone, and her eyes snapped open as she turned back to
the north. The smoke was only a faint smudge from here, but it was
"I think we should make the burned area wet if we can," she said.
made sure there was nothing to burn near the shelter, and later watched
as the fire swept around us. The shelter, being built mostly from the
escape capsule, is fireproof, but our little island of safety was shared
by a good many more animals than I really felt comfortable with. Still,
we were able to close the door and sleep without further difficulty.
And no nightmares, except mine.
Did knowing what I intended to do make the difference?
The rain has reached my shelter.
has been saying for several days that she can smell rain and wet ash,
and yesterday even I thought I could catch the scent of storm clouds, as
well as see the lighting and hear the thunder. But last night we heard a
great pounding on the roof, and when I opened the door the light from
inside the shelter showed ice falling from the sky and bouncing on the
ground around us.
"Hail," Songbird said with satisfaction. "This
rain is strong. Soon the grass will grow through the ash, and the game
will return. And the People will follow them."
She returned to her sleep, apparently lulled by the drumming on the roof. I found myself wondering what I would do without her.
is not just that she as a far better cook than I am, or that she knows
much more about this world than I do. I've grown used to having someone I
can not only talk to, but hold a conversation with.
At first she was a burden, and a moral quandary. Do not interfere. But I did, and I doubt that either of us would have survived if I had not. Certainly I would have had a far poorer diet.
And because I let my heart overrule my training before, I am now faced with an even deeper quandary.
can tell myself that we are both better off if she stays with me, but I
know all too well that is sophistry. She has the right to make her own
choices, and what I heard in her voice, when she said that her people
would follow the game....
Part of me says that she is a child, that
as an adult it is my duty to overrule her when she wants something that
will injure her. And surely she is safer here than back with her people.
She is better suited to this planet than I am.
I can take her back. I know now that I can teleport her, so what would
have been an impossible journey to the place where she was abandoned is
no more that a short jump.
And if I take her back, I will be interfering not only with her, but with her whole people.
I will have a chance to see and speak with this shaman who has intrigued me so.
I cannot interfere.
only thing I have decided by morning is that I should probably teleport
once a fiveday to my hiding place in the vicinity of the camp and see
if Songbird's people have returned.
They have returned, and Songbird has rejoined them.
How am I going to survive with no one but Patches to talk to?
have been spying on their camp, and they returned yesterday. It must
have shown on my face when I teleported back to the shelter, because
Songbird at once began saying, "Are they back?"
"Yes," I said. "Do you want to go back to them?"
was of two minds about this. Surely she was safer with me, and she was a
child; it was my duty to guard her. Guard her, yes, my mind whispered,
but she is not your property, and she has a mind and will of her own.
Let the decision be hers.
And there was never any question of what her decision would be.
I teleported her back to the vicinity of the camp. "Go home," I told her.
"Thank you," she half sobbed, and then turned and ran toward the camp.
did not leave at once. I did not know these people, and it was not out
of the question that they would consider her a ghost or a sacrifice that
had failed, and would try to kill her.
They were awed, yes I
could see that much. But the man and woman who gathered her to their
arms had only joy on their faces, and the rest of the group, though
obviously astonished to find her alive, appeared equally welcoming.
was the shaman? I wondered. Not there, or one of those welcoming
Songbird back? I stayed long enough to be sure Songbird would be safe,
but when two of the group started in the direction Songbird had come
from, I teleported back to the shelter.
It is very lonely here
without Songbird. There are so many reminders the pallet I made her,
which she promptly tore apart and remade to suit herself, the storage
baskets and gourds, the tanned hides ....
The rain on the roof is maddening.
Tomorrow I will teleport back to the vicinity of the camp, and make sure she is still safe.
kept an eye on Songbird and her relatives for three days. It wasn't as
if I had anything else to do, and it salved my conscience a little over
sending her back. This morning the camp was not just empty, but gone!
don't have much, of course. A few tanned hides for shelter,
fire-hardened spears for killing game, cutting tools of flaked stone,
gourds and baskets for carrying food and water .... Today nothing was left
of the camp but thorn barriers, and those can be cut anywhere. I
searched everywhere, but there was nothing. Far less than was left with
Why didn't I put a mental tag on Songbird, so I could be
sure she was all right? All right, that would have been very wrong
without her informed consent, and how could I inform her in a way she
would understand? But at least I would have known that she was safe, and
that the abandonment of the encampment did not mean harm to her.
What can I do? I am no tracker, and in this rain not even Patches can tell what way they have gone.
returned to the shelter after dark, wet and exhausted. The drumming of
the rain on the roof is a constant reminder of the inhospitable weather
outside. Where is Songbird sleeping tonight?