As they moved up the river, the xenobs watched the shores for signs of life. All except for Georgiy, that is. An ardent angler, he watched the water, using a net to scoop up various samples of river life, that he dropped into a net attached to the side of the boat. “We will have to stop soon,” he said. “I must have time to examine all of this.” His voice was filled with excitement, causing the others to smile.
Hoishi chuckled. “Yes,” he said. “I have seen several small creatures, both on the ground and in the trees, and I need time to catch and check them out. We need to know if anything here is compatible with the human system. The colonists will have to be able to live off the land, and the water.”
“Right,” Trisha said. “And I need to have time to gather and test samples of the earth. The colonists will also have to be able to grow earth type grains, fruits and vegetables. We also need to know if there are any minerals lacking here that the human body needs. I move that we find a good spot and stop overnight, maybe even for several days. That will give us time to investigate one area, before we move on to another. We do have time on our side, so we should use it to be as thorough as we can.”
Jim and Sheila shared a smile, and he said “That’s what we planned. There is a fairly wide clearing on the east side of the river, and we should reach there before sunset. We can get camp set up there, with shielding to keep bugs and such out, and stay for a week, if it seems profitable to do so.” He received smiles from everyone at that announcement, and they sailed peacefully on.
The campsite was even better than the drone shots had shown, and the testing work was well under way three days later, when Larry came rushing up to the shield barrier. “Doc, come quickly. A bug got Tim, and his arm is swelling. It’s red, and very painful!’ he called out.
Anne Clarke grabbed her kit and ran to join him. Jose, who happened to be near the switch, opened the gate for her, and closed it when she was through. The two went rushing off into the forest at a run. Half an hour later they were back, with Larry and Paul carrying Tim on a makeshift stretcher. Jose opened the gate again, and watched as they hurried to the medical tent. He had caught a glimpse of Tim’s arm, and didn’t like what he saw.
It was supper time before he found out what had happened. Doc Anne looked done in, her eyes haunted with the memory of the battle to save not only the arm, but Tim’s life. Jim waited until the meal was over, then asked for details. “I have to report this back to base camp, and to those upstairs,” he explained. “We need a description of the bug, and if there is any way to keep them off us.”
“Well, for that, I can help,” Larry said. “We have samples of the bug, and I found a plant that they seemed to avoid. I tried rubbing a bit on my arm, and when there was no reaction, I rubbed it on all my exposed skin. The things came close, and took off like they’d smelled something really rank. I gathered handfuls of the stuff and rubbed in on everyone, and that proved to be as effective as a personal screen. I brought as much as I could gather in with me.”
“Good,” Jim said. “Now, Anne, how about Tim? Will he recover, and will he have full use of his arm?”
“He’ll recover, yes, though it was touch and go there for a while. I was afraid I’d have to amputate to save him, but the plant Larry found turned out to be an antidote. I had to remove a stinger - biggest one I’ve ever seen, but then I rubbed the site with the leaves, and the juice had an immediate effect. The redness started to fade, and the swelling stopped spreading. I had everyone crush and squeeze the leaves on his arm, and when I saw how well it was working, we brought him in. Once here, I boiled some up into a tea, and when it was cool enough got him to swallow some. It seems to be an analgesic, because it was obvious that the pain eased off almost immediately.
“Anyway, we kept rubbing the leaves on, then I started bathing the arm with the liquid, and now the swelling is gone. He is resting, and was able to tell me that the pain is gone. As to the full use of his arm, only time will tell. But he will recover, though it may take a couple of weeks. He should be ok to travel in a week.”
Jim heaved a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Anne. Great job. And Larry, good thinking about the plant. We should gather as much as we can to take with us, it may prove useful for other bites. We can stay here for another week, if it will help Tim recover. Everyone else seems to be finding out a lot about the flora and fauna, so staying on a while won’t be wasting time.”
Everyone relaxed once they heard the good news, and talk around the campfire became casual, trading information about their discoveries. Georgiy had found a fish, something like a trout but with feelers like whiskers around its mouth, that was edible. “Completely compatible with our metabolism,” he reported. “Once I was sure of that, I cooked a bit - it’s as tasty as any rainbow trout I ever ate!” he grinned in satisfaction. “Maybe I’ll catch some and cook it up for lunch tomorrow - if Jim and Sheila agree!”
“If you’re sure, Georgiy, I agree. I could go for a nice feast of grilled fish for a change.” the others agreed. The rations were ok, but something fresh would be a real treat. And knowing that they had already found one edible creature gave them a needed boost. After all, they’d had two nasty discoveries, they needed some encouragement.
The gathering soon broke up as they all headed for their tents and bed. Morning had come early, and it would again tomorrow. Some paused and looked into the dark sky, enjoying the sight of myriads of stars sparkling above. One of them is old Sol, Trisha thought. And that very small, very bright one...yes, it was moving. That was the ship, their safety factor, and their way home.