"The foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 7.....'Ode to old friends and new dreams.'
Opposite the range was one of the big rock fingers; the principal reason for selecting the spot.
Willamson had figured it to be easy to find in the dark. the lad walked around it's great girth; out to face the desert. In the night, the desert was lumpy gray hills; striding off in all directions. Snook seemed to be gifted at seeing in the dark, but still found it somehow disappointing. If only the clouds would open up!
He looked straight up to the uniform canopy. It was no longer the ugly, boiling mass of wind storm. These were smooth and lighter shaded. They might have passed for a mirror of the terrain they passed over; but for the rocks. The rocks, noted the teenager, craning his head further. Then turned about for a easier view of the rock finger huddled over them.
Up close now; young Starsharke saw it wasn't flat surfaced. Indeed, it was pockmarked with cracks and juts and spurs. Must naw be too old, he thought. Has naw been worn down by sand and wind yet. Why; one might almost be able to climb it. He grinned to hisself. Walked up to it, searching it's surfaces with palms and fingers.
And began to climb.
It was easy stuff to grab onto and there were plenty of handholds. Even in the dark, Snook, a fellow with some bit of unassisted rock-climbing under his belt; had no trouble to the last yard or so. There; the rock and a foots' worth of overhang; a slippery lip difficult to make purchase on. After a few moments of tentative tries and a couple thoughts of going back; he was finally dragging himself across hard dusty stone.
On his feet, the lad could make out this topmost porch to be roughly oval, ten by maybe eight feet wide. It wasn't flat, either. It slumped a bit to his left and a two-foot mesa-shaped lump of rock crowded the end facing west; toward the range. He had to be a good fifty feet up.
Facing east; opposite their camp, dark or not; he could see the forms of dunes and occasional rocks like individual grave markers, grim and utterly silent. There was no debris of LS-2 directly in sight but being reminded did not please. He tugged on the sling of his rifle, as if to tighten it.
So very far from home, he chafed. To die so far from home. There must be a special pain for that. He tried to put himself in the place of their families. Some were.... most were coming behind in Noah's Ark. They'd be told, he was certain, before they arrived. If they arrived: the trip being laced with all manner of dangers. Equipment failure (LS-2 was a hard reminder therein) Solar flares (More likelt by the day) Fire or outbreak of disease (Not impossible, surely) All those and lord knew how many others.
And once here, on terra firma.....he grinned, ruefully. Zeta firma, he corrected. They'd be reminded. They'd cry and go into mourning. Would they come here? Of course they would; he chastised himself. Soon as they could. They wouldn't find much: nein monument. Naw yet, anyway.
The teen considered the loss of his own mother, the all-too-recent- murder of his father. He refused to consider further. He tried to sit on the stone bench: his rifle made it difficult. He unlimbered it and placed it very carefully beside his legs. I'll just sit for a bit, he decided. A few minutes. He wasn't tired........not really. He just had to sit, was all.
A breeze stroked the right side of his face and he looked out to the south.
The dunes ran on; one behind the other till he couldn't see them anymore. To his further right was the range; craggy and sawbacked. A immense bookend to the desert. He turned his eyes up to the clouds and thought he spotted a gap; high there: again to the south. As he watched, it grew. The clouds were finally breaking. It was as if it were a great shell cracking open. Slowly; forming a uneven shape of a four-pointed star. In a few minutes, stars could be seen. A few more and the bottom edge of Zyra eased down.
It's face was mostly white: almost a phosphorescent white, with dabs of pale yellow and tiny streaks of blue-green. Those clouds were banded; running east/west, a cord of water vapor stretched all around the big world by it's twenty two hour, six minute rotation. Zyra had rings but they didn't quite impress as much as Sol's Saturn. Saturn's rings were a mixture of ice and ice-coated gravel. Zyra's were believed older, thus thinner. And the heat from Alpha Bellus; which could be so roasting during Zeta's long afternoons, also had long since evaporated any such frost. Looking on them now, the clouds folding back more quickly by the minute, the rings were a narrow grayish, almost mist-like line in front of Zyra.
Zyra was roughtly nineteen times as wide as a earthly full moon and reflected light accordingly. The dunes below began to get shadows; their highest points landing spots for Zyra's glimmer. The first moon was spotted by the teen in no time. Fellow moon; the youngster corrected. No one was entirely sure of the mechanics that had managed to cause the slightly larger then six thousand miles wide Zeta to come to be. It's existence raised a few questions for planetary dynamics.
Snook guessed the small orb, maybe a very timy bit more then one tenth a full moon across, was Zyra-nine. Even Snook, a numbers man, wished they'd come up names. Numbers are easier to remember but....he sighed and watched the sky unfold.
Just beyond the east edge of the ring-line was a ever so tiny sphere. Zyra-four, he reckoned. For a few minutes that looked like all he would find then more clouds parted and out came Zyra-five and ten. Five was about the size of nine and ten took the honors as being the biggest of the satellities; at least for this viewing. It appeared just under half a earth's moon width and was the furthest to the east. Five was nearly directly overhead; the unusual tilt of it's orbit putting it's two cents in. The phases of all were slightly past half full; Starsharke knew in a little over twenty hour hours, Zyra would be full. Awful pretty, the linquist thought, inhaling deeply once more. Better get used to it. This sky.
He kept looking for that one last celestial object and finally it came out; peering out around a clump of stray clouds. Almost opposite the spot Alpha Bellus had slid. Yellowish; not all that big but by far the brightest star in the sky now.
Sol. The sun.
Canna live on a star, he chided. That 'tis the power source; light source' the light bulb of life. Around that circled home. Yet home no longer. The young man settled back further on the stone stool. It wasn't soft; despite a coating of sand and it wasn't warm. But it's do for a rest spot.
He spied out across the dunes and boulders below. Sol and Zyra's lighting dueled to dominate; the dunes had waterless straits between them; and there were double-tailed shadows now, alien as he could have ever dreamed. This was a funny scene, he thought. It was weird and very....he sought a word till his head hurt. Zetan. This was Zetan. He was getting a hefty-serving of Zeta and he was full and afraid he couldn't refuse to eat more. What a place.
He peeked at Sol and found himself wondering; how should it effect him, seeing it here; so far away?
There was no going back. Ever. He and the rest....and those in the ark, too, eventually: all here for good. It was make it or naw; sink or swim. So how am I supposed to feel about that, he thought. Happy? Excited? Aye: it was a new life. Aye, the challenges would certainly be there. The adventure of a lifetime.
How about fear? Was he scared? Aye, in a way. Now and then. There was so much to keep track of, tasks to undertake, it was overwhelming and sometimes dispiriting. It was a big project with big goals but was undertaken by only men and women. Could such things ever have any chance to work out right?
Nein; he decided he wasn't going to go down that path. That was fear; he had more then enough right now, thank you.
Anger? Was he angry about seeing his old sun? He skipped anger. He'd never really gotten the hang of it, he liked to think.
Sadness? As if having named the devil; it swooped upon the teen. He covered his eyes with his hands, slumped. Sadness. Places to never be seen again. People to never meet again. Would there ever be wheat fields, waving in a breeze? Pine and fir trees; coated with snow before Christmas? That wonderful stain glass glow as one stood in a church? Just stood; listening, feeling.....
The lad was not without comfort; at least he told himself so. this world was a chance. Like it or not: they had to play this hand. It was up to them to make something of all this. He leaned his head back till it was aimed nearly straight up. He could see Zyra-five clearly. Slightly red; with only vague traces of craters. Volcanic action was the cause. At it's closest passes to Zeta tidal stains set lava flows across it.
Filling his head with such facts and trivia didn't help at all. He still felt....empty. A gnawing, corrosive blank.
What had Wu said, back about five months? He liked to believe she'd said it to him and him alone but he couldn't truly be sure. Lynda Wu was such a nice lady. And wise. She'd looked at him, way back then; when he was feeling much like now and said "There's no vaccine for homesickness. It's a ailment we each survive on our own." How true. But here, now, he found little cheer in it.
Lynda had been on LS-2.
Young Starsharke kept staring at the ruddy orb high above.
The next thing he realized; it wasn't there. How could that be? How odd this rock-seat is digging into my back. And his eyes were laden and he had to rub them. He knew then, even before consulting his watch; he'd gone asleep. How long?
His full four hours; plus fouty five minutes more. He wanted to kick himself and didn't doubt Rigel would gladly take up the chore if he couldn't.