Castaway Planet – Chapter 11

Chapter 11

“The seven wilderness survival principles,” Melody said, obviously looking at her omni’s display, “are positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, fire, signaling, water, and food.”

“Not a bad list,” Sakura said, dusting off a nearby chunk of coral-rock to sit on, “but some of that won’t work. Signaling isn’t going to be something we do any time soon, if we can do it at all.” She didn’t like thinking about that, but it was true, and avoiding it wouldn’t get them anywhere.

“Still, let’s go through that list and talk about it,” said her father. “Positive mental attitude — that’s an excellent point for us as castaways. If we focus on what we’ve lost and on what terrible things could happen, we’ll be undermining ourselves every minute. We talked a little about that on our way here, but that little list reminds us about how important keeping that attitude is, even when things set us back — like now.”

Mom nodded. “It’s not always going to be easy, I know that, and I want any of you who start feeling it’s too much to come to me right away about it. Depression will rob any of us of our strength and our courage, and…” she looked back at the stretch of empty water where LS-5 had once been, “… it would be perfectly understandable for any of us to get depressed after this.”

“Okay, Mom. I think we all get that, right?” Caroline looked around to the others, who all nodded. Even Whips gave a bob up-and-down that he used for a nod.

“Okay, so next is first aid. All of us are okay right now, so we finished that part of the list.” She smiled and patted the broad circular silvery pad she and several of the others sat on. “We’ve got the emergency shelter right here and it responds right to signals, so we can get it set up in a little bit. So that’s covered, right?”

“For now,” her mother agreed. “We’ll have to find something more permanent eventually, but those shelters were meant for use while people built themselves real houses at the colony, so it’s actually exactly the purpose for which it was designed.

“For the other points on that list… I think we need to look at what we already have.”

“We’ve all got omnis, Mommy!” Hitomi said brightly. I don’t think she’s quite understood that this isn’t like an extended camping trip, Sakura thought. “That’s good, right?” Her expression shifted to a slight pout. “But mine’s not connecting to the Jewelbug app.”

“That’s because there’s no server in range, Hitomi,” Melody said; Sakura noticed that Melody did try to minimize her “sarcastic know-it-all” tone, which was good.

“But her point’s very good,” Whips said. “We do all have omnis, which means at least some computation and data storage and, for some of them like Dr.… I mean, Laura’s and Akira’s, sensor capability.”

“Something even better,” Sakura said, finding that as they talked it out she was feeling more and more her old self. “Communications. Okay, there’s no satellites or relays here, but still, our omnis will have some comm range, right?”

“I would think so,” Akira said, “but I admit I’m not sure. Melody, is that a piece of trivia you know?”

Sakura grinned as she saw Melody straighten up even as Melody tried to hide how proud she was that her father was asking her for that kind of information. “Um, yes, Dad. Most omnis have about a kilometer or two range, depending on what gets in the way. Yours and Mom’s are probably pushing the two kilometer range — mine too because you got me the top model just before we left, I think I might get three kilometers — while Hitomi’s is probably below a kilometer. If there were satellites we could link to them even from much farther away, but there aren’t any.”

“Very good. What else do we have?”

Sakura dug into her pocket and pulled out what looked like a handle attached to a small cube of metal with clear crystals on either side. “I have my Shapetool!”

“I was hoping you did,” her mother smiled at her. “I have mine, too.”

Melody looked crestfallen. “Oh, darn. I left mine in our cabin on Outward Initiative.”

“I still have mine, too,” said her father. “Anyone else?”

No one else had one of the transformable multitools, but Sakura thought that having three of them was pretty good as a starter. Akira went on, “I’ve got my pocket laboratory, too. Laura –”

“I did not forget my little black bag,” her mother answered immediately, and Sakura relaxed a little bit more. It sure wasn’t as good as having a real medical facility, but it was a heck of a lot better than nothing.

“We’ve got some food,” Sakura said, looking at the small pile of material in the center of the flattened shelter. “Those are compressed reconstitutable… how much is that, anyway?”

“More than a week,” Hitomi said brightly. “I counted when we were piling them up. Three for each of us a day, except Whips who gets twelve a day. That’s thirty per day, and there were three hundred and fourteen in the load we’d brought with us, so that’s about ten and a half days, right?”

Sakura’s renewed optimism took a sudden dive towards depression and worry. A week and a half of food, on a planet they’d only just landed on?

She could see that both her mother and father had similar thoughts, but their expressions barely flickered. “That’s all right for now,” her mother said, pushing back a lock of her chestnut hair, “but it definitely makes finding food and water a priority.”

“Water shouldn’t be a terrible problem,” Caroline said. “We’re in a latitude where I’d expect fairly frequent rain showers. We just landed in one, obviously. Given that we see forests of some sort and there are storms like the one we landed in, I’d think there are probably streams and ponds and such a little farther inland, as well. I think we saw a fair number of those when we did our orbital survey. All we need are containers; I’m sure we can figure something out. I’ve seen things that look sort of like seashells, so if there’s any big shells for snail or crab type things we’ll be set for that, anyway.”

“And we’re forgetting one other big resource,” Sakura said. “Whips.”

“I’m not sure if I should be pleased or insulted to be noted as a ‘resource’ along with multiform tools and food packages,” her friend responded, with a shimmering pattern that showed his amusement.

“Be pleased,” Akira said. “Sakura’s very right. We’ve already heard something large approach us — and be scared off by you — and you are undoubtedly much bigger and stronger than any of us humans. And of course you can work underwater, which we cannot for any length of time. On a world like this,” he gestured to the surrounding ocean, “I think that makes you terribly valuable.”

Over the local link Sakura could sense Whips’ embarrassment. “Well… thank you, Mr. Kimei. I will do whatever I can to help, you know that.”

“We need to be organized about this,” Caroline said briskly. “Let’s lay out what we need to do and start figuring out how to do it. I’ve already made a list while we were talking and I think it’s in order of priorities.”

That was Caroline, always a list and a set of orders. But Sakura guessed she was right about doing this in an organized way.

“First, fresh water. That’s probably covered. We already have some, and I don’t think we’ll have trouble getting more as long as our floating continent doesn’t go too far out of these latitudes.” She frowned. “That’s so hard to imagine. Continental drift happens over millions and millions of years, not in human time. But drift and shifting of continents — and weather patterns — will happen in real-time here.”

“Let’s focus on the immediate term, Caroline,” her mother said.

“Right, Mother. Next pretty much has to be a defensible shelter. Like dad said, we know there’s some pretty big somethings on land already, not to mention,” she gave a visible shudder, “… whatever that thing was that we saw in the ocean.”

“We’re not defending ourselves against anything like that, though,” Sakura pointed out.

“Of course not,” Caroline said, slightly nettled. “The point is that while our portable shelter is reasonably tough, and we can protect it some by erecting it in this overhang here, but it probably can’t take any serious attack by something hostile, unless the lifeforms here are a lot weaker than I think they are.”

“All right,” said Whips. “So we have to figure out a way to build, or locate, a shelter that we can defend from something pretty big wanting in.”

“Right. And one pretty close to the water so that you can stay with us.” Caroline’s eyes defocused momentarily, looking at her invisible list. “Okay, so next is food. We really need to figure out how to get new food fast; a week and a half isn’t very long.”

Hitomi looked suddenly worried, but her father hugged her reassuring her. “I think the best course there is fishing, Whips. If anything here is edible, I expect it will be more likely to be animals, or at least that a larger proportion of the animals will be edible. Whips and I together should be able to get a sample of things living under and upon the shoreline. This coral island does seem to have many characteristics of regular islands so I would expect a shoreline ecology of some robustness.”

“I hope you’re right, Dad. Anyway, the next thing is tools and weapons. Right now we have no weapons.”

“Not quite,” her mother said, indicating the SurvivalShot 12mm. “And Whips is something of a weapon by himself.”

Caroline cracked a smile at that and Sakura grinned at Whips. “You’re right, Mom,” Caroline said. “The SurvivalShot uses evolved hydrogen to propel anything you can fit down the barrel, so it’s a great weapon. But we only have the one, and at most you can fit a dozen objects into the magazine. If there are hostile creatures, we’ll want more weapons than that. And we’ll need all sorts of tools-knives, levers, hammers, saws, all that kind of thing — which means stuff to build them from, and to make other things from.”

Sakura suddenly smacked herself in the head. “Duh! Caroline, we’ve got tons of stuff to make tools from.”

Melody’s bored expression vanished. “Oh, yeah! The LS-5!

“Um…” their mother looked puzzled.

“I know the main shuttle sank, Mother,” Melody said quickly. “But what I and Saki mean is that when we crashed there were huge pieces of LS-5 ripped off. We go back along this trench in the ground and I bet we’ll find metal, composite, ceramics — all sorts of stuff we can use.”

Both her mother and father looked simultaneously chagrined that they hadn’t thought of it, and relieved. So was she. Even if they weren’t ideal materials, there’d be a bunch of stuff that would be better than sharp sticks.

“The next item,” Caroline said, moving on, “might be a problem in a while. Clothes.”

Sakura paused in mid-thought. She hadn’t thought about that.

“That is a challenge,” admitted Laura. “But probably not for a while. These outfits we’re all wearing are pretty tough. But you’re right, we will have to find some source of clothing — a way to make cloth and similar materials.  Anything else on your list?”

“Just one,” Caroline said. “Signaling for rescue.”

Melody snorted. “With what, a fire? Spelling out our name on the beach?”

“Don’t be sarcastic, Melody,” their mother said sternly, and Melody immediately fell silent; when Mom used that tone she was not joking around.

“Melody may have a point,” Whips said after a moment. “I mean, even if we had a radio and it was powerful enough — and it would have to be very powerful to make sure anyone noticed — it would take years for it to get to the nearest colony. If we are somehow halfway to our destination, I think the nearest colony is well over ten light-years away.”

“But Outward Initiative may not have been destroyed,” Caroline pointed out. “And if they do come back looking, we need to be ready to show them where to look.”

Sakura frowned. How could they even try to signal them? If they put all their omnis together they’d barely be noticeable even for someone not too far away looking for it. A comm satellite could link to them, but that was a specialized system no one was going to be putting up unless they were planning on using it.

“I agree that we should keep it in mind,” her father said. “But that will definitely be a long-term project; we’ll have to figure out how it might be possible to do this, with anything else we might find.”

“But we do have some clear priorities,” her mother said, smiling. “And it’s time to get on them.”

Sakura bounced to her feet. “Yes, Ma’am, Captain Mommy!”