Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
Before the Terraforming Authority was created, many exploration vessels settled on new worlds but ran out of supplies to refit the ships for space and were marooned. Since those times, world-settling is only allowed after extensive preparation by dedicated vessels and crews. Explorers will report all inhabitable worlds to the TA.
The purpose of exploration is the safeguard of human life, not personal fame or wealth.
Agra led Trion to the crashed ship in the mountains, where they recovered more gear, including sensors, fabric, and wiring. Back at camp, Trion upgraded the traps in the funnel and set up more around camp, rigging the few trees left just outside the palisade with the sensors found in the ship. The traps were adjusted to kill, for who knew what dangers they might face.
Once Trion was satisfied they had secured the camp, he began working on the cold room.
Vaega planted more of the Genoresis Macraw, enough for a large supply. She identified more herbs and roots in the Imperial Herbary Guide, and planted those too, hoping to make antiseptics and other medicinals to supplement their medkits.
While Trion was building, Agra went hunting. She only caught two rabbits before her leg began hurting and she returned to camp. Once inside, she went to see Vaega.
“How is your leg?” Vaega asked.
“It pains, but I manage.”
“The rabbits look lean,” Vaega remarked.
Agra was holding them by a leather strap tied around their hind legs. “Yes, small rabbits.”
Vaega stood with her fists on her hips, surveying the garden. “We’ll have potatoes soon. Strawberries too. I’ll make jam.”
Agra smiled. “Oh, that sounds great.”
Vaega smiled as well. “I really want something sweet once in a while.”
Agra went to the kitchen and placed them on the butchering bench. She had seen Trion and Vaega pull the skin off after a few cuts along the limbs, but she didn’t like to do it herself. Vaega came in and with a sharp knife made from a jet propellor blade, swiftly cleaned, skinned, and sliced them into chunks. She loaded the meat on a metal plate and turned to go outside.
“Aren’t you using the stove?” Agra asked.
Vaega turned and eyed the metal stove with the knobs and panels. “It’s faster with the fire.”
“What if I helped you?”
Vaega smiled. “Thank you, Agra. We’ll do that tomorrow?”
Suddenly idle, Agra wandered about a moment, then decided to study. She entered the research room with new excitement.
She sat on the chair, put her elbows on the desk, and folded her hands over her forehead.
“What should I work on first?”
She pondered for a little while, her mind filled with thoughts and possibilities.
She drew the notebook from her pack and went over her drawings and notes. In a slot under the surface of the desk, Trion had stacked the sheets of paper he had retrieved from the crashed ship. Next to it, in a little cup attached to the leg of the desk, two pens: Vaega’s and his own. Agra smiled. She always kept her pen and notebook with her, but now she had extras.
She lifted a sheet of paper from the slot and set it on the desk. With the pen in her right hand, she began writing, noting how smooth and unhurried her lines were.
She did not notice when Trion came to stand in the doorway. He leaned his left shoulder into the doorjamb and cocked his left foot over his right, looking at her while she wrote.
“Do you need anything else?”
She finished writing the sentence before putting the pen down.
“I don’t think so.”
She rose from the chair and took the one step that separated them. “Thank you. Thank you. I will find the pieces we need, and I will design a ship that will get us off this dreadful planet.”
Trion raised his right hand to his ear and pulled at his lobe gently. His eyes held Agra’s gaze, and the left corner of his mouth formed an uneven smile.
“I’ve seen you make that face before, and do that thing with your ear, when you don’t want to speak,” Agra said.
Trion licked his upper lip. “You can read me.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“Agra, I believe you. You were the best researcher at the Chöd Academy.”
“You read my file?”
“No, the Commander asked for your transfer specifically. I am certain she read your file.”
“How do you know that Basharii Dassa Chohyay asked for me specifically?”
“She told me. We’re good friends. When I was doing my mentorship at ShipSystems my lead mentor was her brother. I’ve visited their house many times.”
“So what did she say about me?”
“That if she didn’t get you on Tissandische-Unnaü she might have to convert it to light freighter.”
“Ha ha ha, you’re exaggerating!”
“Not at all,” Trion said, smiling. “Once you had accepted, getting the rest of the science team together was easy.”
Agra remembered a conversation with Terga in which she had said she had joined the crew to be with her. She wondered whether it had been more than flattery. She chased these thoughts from her mind, returning her attention to Trion.
“You don’t think we can build the ship and leave Raheem?”
“I just don’t know if we—”
“We can’t stay here!” Agra had raised her voice.
“Woah, okay, okay.” Trion lifted his palms to her. “We’ll try our best.”
Agra stood still and silent, her mouth still open. She exhaled. “I am so sorry, Trion. I didn’t mean—”
“It’s okay, Agra. It’s okay.”
“No, no, not okay.” Agra shook her head from side to side. “Not okay at all. I am so sorry.”
Trion stood, silent.
“As you said, we’ll try our best,” Agra said.
Trion smiled and absentmindedly touched his right hand to his right earlobe. Agra noticed, but said nothing this time.
Vaega came in. “Dinner is served.”
They walked together to the fire, sat near, and ate the rabbit Vaega had cooked, along with a few tasty roots.
When it was dark and they were in their beds, Agra thought back to their conversation. Was she being too optimistic about the difficulty? Was it not possible? No, she countered. Trion had reaffirmed how knowledgeable she was. Then why did he seem to think it was not possible?
She decided to sleep, but it didn’t come, not right away. She looked at Trion’s bed to catch a glimpse of his face in the darkness, but he was facing away.
She closed her eyes and just listened to the faint noise of the wind in the trees until she fell asleep.
Next chapter: Yigars
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