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Jarn's Journal

   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."

Jarn's Journal

Day 1:

    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 happened.

   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 crude shelter.


   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.

Day 2

   I think I have stopped shaking enough to use the recorder.


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.


   These 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.


Day 6

   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.


Day 10

   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 eat me.


   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 continent!


   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 a predator.


Day 16

   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 coverings.


Day 43

   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 telekinetically.


   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 head in.


   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?


Day 72

   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 explore.


   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 exploration trips.


   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?


Day 185

   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 larger shelter.


   Patches 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 wild cousins.


   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 back.


Day 250

   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?


Day 261

   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 interfered with.


   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 and planning.


   I could contact them. I could communicate with them. I need not be alone.


   I cannot.


   The Covenant forbids it.


   But I can observe them.


Day 302

   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 language ....


   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.


Day 347

   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 behind.


   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!

   Day 349
   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?

   There 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.

   I 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.

   I 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 made.

Day 350

  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.


  Wait.


  She is still unconscious.


  Could I teleport her in that state?


Day 351

Never again will I try to teleport an unconscious sentient who does not know and trust me!

Oh, 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.

At the 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.

Physically, she 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 of.

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 must be!

Unless ...

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?

Day 353

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 exists today.


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.

Day 360

I am beginning to wonder just who rescued whom.

I 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.

But 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."

By 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?"

"Tell 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!

Day 370

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.

She 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.

Songbird's 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?

Day 371

I have been here more than a year!

I knew it was more than a Kentra year, of course—the 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 calendar.

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?

"Fish 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.

She looked puzzled. "The shamans of the two clans decide," she finally said, "but I hope Aardvark stays. We have more girls than boys."

The 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.

Day 390

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.

But this 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.

Day 398

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.

I 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!

Of 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!

Day 490

My 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 differed much.

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 days—sixty, 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.

Day 555

She's not having nightmares, at least not yet.

I 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 choice!

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.

Thunder 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 grass.

Songbird saw it before I did, grabbed my hand, and turned to run back toward our shelter.

We'd never make it.

I 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."

"I 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!

She 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 present.

"I think we should make the burned area wet if we can," she said.

We 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?

Day 575

The rain has reached my shelter.

Songbird 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.

It 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.

I 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.

And 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.

The 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.

Day 595

They have returned, and Songbird has rejoined them.

How am I going to survive with no one but Patches to talk to?

I 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?"

I 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.

I 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.

Which 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.

Day 599

They're gone!

I 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!

They 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 Songbird.

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.

I 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?