Gazing: A Colony story
By Allen Billings
Sungazer sighed, as shi ended up looking again at the evening stars. "You know, no matter how long it takes, we'll never make star flight in our lifetimes."
The other chakat with hir glanced over at hir. "What do you mean? We've what, a hundred years or more in these bodies before we get old? We can do a lot in just a hundred years."
Sungazer nodded. "I know. But, we're having to rebuild almost everything humanity did back on Earth. Here, we don't have mills or production plants to build anything at all. There're no computers, or calculators, ships, nothing. We're on our own, and there's no way to find out what's going on back on Earth. I mean, here it is, three months after we've arrived, as far as we know, and there's no telling if anyone back home even knows that we were taken. From what the Pilot says, if there was even an inquiry, who's to say that those who took us don't have people in places back home, who will prevent, or even obscure any investigation. All it would take, is to have a crashed aircraft found in roughly the same area of where we were flying, and it's all over."
The second chakat shrugged. "So what? We're alive. And as for me, I'm enjoying this. No hassles, no more demands from my boss." Shi stretched out hir front legs, hir lower front hands gripping at a log before hir, and scraped hir claws over the bark. "Hummm, you know, I've even come to enjoy our new bodies." Hir long slender body, with its coat of a light gray fur over most of hir body, contrasted with the bright red hair on top of hir head.
Sungazer chuckled. "Yeah, being able to be healthier than in that old body from Earth doesn't hurt either." Shi glanced over to the other chakat. "Still, Copperhead, we're going to have to take care, you know. Look at the cubs, especially with that one who fell down into Bamboo Canyon." Shi shook hir head. "Anyway, we've a whole new world to see what's here." Shi grinned. "You know, if we could only get word back to Earth, it'd drive the other astronomers wild. 'There is life out there,' and I'm not just talking of our new world either."
Copperhead laughed. "Yeah, but how would we get word back? I mean, we don't have any radio at all to work with. Heck, we don't even have any way to make electricity. Nor the facilities to make diodes, capacitors, or any other of the radio gear that we'd need for radio communications."
Sungazer nodded. "I know." Shi looked back up into the night sky, then nodded. "There, see that?" shi said, pointing out between two sets of stars. "I knew this system was screwy." Shi started scribbling down on a strip of bark, having taken the idea from the cubs, until there was more paper available to write upon.
Copperhead murred. "Yeah, I see what you mean. Those two stars haven't moved in the last few days. You think they're planets then?"
Sun shrugged. "Don't know, but for right now, I'm working on figuring out our latitude on our new world." Shi turned, making some more notes, then pointed to roughly where in the daylight would be towards the north. "There, that configuration." There were six stars, two closer together than the others, and the other four making a pattern in the sky of pentagram between them. "I'd say the lower star is the closest to north as we're ever going to get on this planet."
Copperhead agreed. "Hummm, we'd be best to check over the next year or so. But, I guess it wouldn't be so bad to have a way to navigate at night." Shi glanced to the two other dots of light, that had only slowly turned towards the west during the last two hours, where the sun had set earlier. "You know, I think that larger light's got to be perhaps a gas giant."
Sungazer turned back, looking at the brighter shining dot. "You're probably right. Well, we can't do more than just look with our eyes until we can build up a working telescope."
Copperhead glanced at the other chakat, who'd stopped scribbling at the bark paper. Shi started to giggle.
"What?" Sungazer asked in return, feeling with hir empathic senses the bubbling humor inside of hir partner in astronomy.
"You..." shi grinned back. "Holding the bark, as I'm trying to imagine you as an ancient stargazer back on Earth.
Sun snorted. "Yeah, right. You wouldn't have believed me back then. Fat, balding hair, a total couch and computer potato," as shi brushed one paw over hir head. "I'm just glad that old body is gone now." Shi sighed. "I was supposed to be returning stateside from a vacation at that ancient Mexican city. You know... the one where the Temple of the Moon and the Sun are at?" Shi shrugged. "I never could get the name of that place."
Copper nodded back. "Ahhh, yes. I know of it. Never been there. Tell me, what were you doing there?" shi asked back.
Sun chuckled. "About the same as I'm doing here. I was following up my own ideas, to see if the place really was placed right to allow ancient astronomers to look up at the heavens, and follow the planets in their orbits."
Copper laughed. "And you're ignoring the centuries of evidence where even the Spanish found that the Aztecs could plot the course of Venus, before wiping them out?"
Sun stiffened up a bit. "I only hope we never do that here." Shi relaxed gradually. "Still, there's so much that I wished to learn, like how did they learn to find out the various orbits of the worlds. I mean, I know the theory and the orbit calculations, but how did they learn of it?"
Copper shrugged. "Perhaps we'll find out, as we start building up our own knowledge to reach them," as shi waved a paw to the two distant lights.
Sun chuckled. "Maybe." Shi inhaled slowly, hir tail sweeping back and forth. "Still, I think we've got enough of a pattern of different constellations for White Tip to send out hir long range patrol." Shi glanced at Copperhead. "I..." Shi paused a moment. "I'd like to thank you, Copper. I would have had an even worse time if I hadn't had you around to help out now and then."
The gray chakat purred back, as shi wiggled closer. "Ahhh, you're welcome, Sun." Shi grinned at him. "Still, I'm much more at home with a computer, figuring out the positions of various worlds around other suns. Here?" shi shrugged, looking back up into the sky. "I finally get to put my training of what other star systems could look like into practice."
Sungazer murred. "You know, there's much more than just the night sky that's interesting." Shi froze, as shi wondered if shi'd gone too far. Hir previous lifetime on Earth for some years before the flight, had been to avoid contact with women, especially after he'd been snubbed hard by one who'd been a girlfriend, until he'd learned she'd been playing around behind his back.
Copper felt Sun stiffen. "Sun?" shi asked, hir own senses feeling his confusion and panic. "What's wrong?" as shi placed a paw on hir nearest arm.
"Ahhh, nothing." Sungazer shook hir head. "Come on, let's get this back to White Tip." Shi arose up, brushing hir lower belly off of the mat shi'd made, working with several of the other chakats who had made the baskets. "If shi's interested in sending out volunteers, we should get these charts back to hir. It might make it possible to help the travelers to find their way back, however far they travel from here." Shi reached out to help Copperhead up from hir stretched-out position, and shi froze again, seeing how close the other chakat was to hirself.
Copper held still as well for several heartbeats, until a sharp cough from the edge of the clearing startled them both. "You going to take all night, standing like some pair of statues for the birds to crap on?"
The two astronomers swiveled around, both prepared to fight if need be, until they realized it was one of De Vargin's people. Sungazer spoke up first. "No, we're headed back to camp," as shi almost glared at the intruder.
The third chakat snorted. "Yeah, right. Looked to me like you were going to ask hir out for a date, or maybe to fuck each other all night!"
Copper bristled at that. "Look, you can't tell me who I date, especially now that I'm no longer your assistant, Conrad. We're no longer exactly on Earth, and you can't crowd me anymore." Hir body stance shifted, as hir tail lashed a bit behind hir.
Conrad, hir body covered with a deep brown mud colored coat, mixed in spots with a light tan, shrugged. "Ah, who cares what you want to do these days. It's no longer important to what we once were." Shi swiveled hir eyes to Sungazer, who looked on in confusion for a moment. "Still, I think you'd find someone else other than just a stargazer more exciting."
Copperhead snorted, as shi finally started to relax. "Yeah, right. Like you." Shi reached over, and quickly taking Sun's nearest paw in hir own, led hir away from the third chakat. "Come on, let's go." Hir mind was partly in turmoil, as it took most of the trip back to the caves to settle down from hir wish to jump the fool.
Sungazer waited several minutes, also feeling Copper's confusion and anger. Once shi'd thought Copper had calmed down, shi spoke up. "You... ah, had something going on with him, I mean, hir?" shi asked.
The other chakat snorted. "As if. He'd been pestering me while at the base, wanting me to go out with him, almost to the verge I was going to end up hitting him up with a sexual harrasment suit when we got back." Shi shrugged. "Now, I hope shi'll go into heat, and never find anyone to help hir scratch hir itch," shi muttered softly, as they traveled around the bend that let to the cave's entrance.
"Sounds like shi hasn't changed since we arrived," as Sungazer looked at Copperhead. "Tell you what. What about we offer to go on White Tip's expedition together." Shi paused, then dove right on. "I promise, it's just to do some exploration of our world, as well as to see what's around us in the sky."
Copper chuckled. "Yeah, right. And what about our cycles?" Shi grinned at Sun, the cave fires lighting up the other's muzzle. Hir own softened in its expression. "Tell you the truth, Sun. You're much more nicer than shi ever was."
Sun froze in place, as shi lifted up a paw to stroke gently over Copper's neck. "Thanks..." shi got out, when one of the other chakats nearby spoke up. "Hi there. How's it going? See anything new out there?"
Copper shook hir head. "Nope, just more stars, and we think we've pinned down two of the possible planets in our system." Hir carefree attitude caused the other chakat to settle down again, before shi blinked. "More planets?" shi asked back.
Sungazer nodded. "Right. That big dot? We're thinking it's a huge gas giant. Of course, we'll have to find a way to make glass, as well as grind it into the proper shape for a telescope, but I'm confident that's what we'll find."
The other chakat chuckles. "Will our new world ever stop giving us new wonders to find?"
Copper murred, as shi eased closer to Sungazer, wrapping an arm around hir waist. "Nope, and right now, I don't think we'll ever learn them all."
Sungazer blinked, as shi responded in kind by wrapping hir arm back around Copper's in turn. "Me neither." Shi led Copper away, then with a grin, looked at Copper. "Well? Would you like to try traveling around the planet? We could find out what some of the rest of the world looks like?"
Copperhead hummmed, thinking it over. "Alright, as long as White Tip is willing to let us go on the expedition." Shi waited for a few minutes, pondering something. "So, what should we name the gas giant?" shi asked Sungazer.
Shi thought about it. "Well, back in the Sol system, we would have named it after the Roman gods. Jupiter, if you will. Here?" Shi paused. "How about, Zeus? The thrower of thunderbolts?"
Copperhead chuckled. "That sounds good."
The other chakat laughed. "Don't let the cubs hear you talk like that. They've got permission to name most of everything."
Sungazer grinned. "Ah, but we two astronomers have a union back on Earth, that's been working for decades on the names of planets, stars, and everything else in the night sky. We may not be on Earth, but I at least, intend to keep up that tradition."
Copperhead chuckled, as shi spoke up. "Only if White Tip is willing, hun." Shi tugged hir fellow astronomer closer. "Come on, let's go see what's going on, shall we?"
Inside the cave, a few of the other adults were talking tonight, about a few other projects that just weren't possible, each one wanting their idea to help build up the colony's tech base. Sun and Copper settled down, both of them waiting with their ears perked up to listen.
Eventually, White Tip noticed the pair, and called for them to speak out.
Sun motioned to Copper, who took the lead. "We've gotten some rough ideas, White, about our home star system. And yes, it could never be our old one. For one, the constellations are totally different, and we think..." shi said, holding up a finger, "that one of the planets nearby, is a huge gas planet."
"And what does that mean to us?" one of the other chakats asked, looking at the pair. "How would a Jupiter world be any use to us, when we're stuck to this planet for who knows how long until we can develop spacecraft."
Sun spoke up. "Actually, having a Jovian... I mean, Zeus..." as he looked at White Tip, "world is a good thing. You see, it's caused our world to become stable in its orbit, as we both go around our common sun together."
Several seconds went past, before May spoke up. "Together?" she ask. "How could this be?" Other chakats nodded, as even a few of the older kids came over to listen in on this discovery.
"Alright. Tell me, have you ever heard of what's called, the Trojan asteroids?" Sun asked, looking the others over. Two other chakats rose their paws. "Aren't they asteroids in orbit with Jupiter, that are so many degrees in front or behind it in it's orbit?" the first said.
Copperhead nodded. "Right. But, with us, replace the asteroids, and insert our world instead."
DiVargin blinked, then tilted hir muzzle. "So, how can we stay in orbit? I mean, I think I remember something that you can't put an object in such a position, because the other worlds would eventually tug it out of the point?"
Copperhead wiped hir paws over the dirt, sweeping debris aside. "Well, you're somewhat right. Yes, gravitational forces would pull a world, or an asteroid out of that point over time. However..." shi drew first a simple orbit, going around a point that was very close to the center. "Here..." as hir finger pointed to the center point. "Is our new sun. And, over here..." as shi poked at one end of the elipse, "Is our Jovian world, however big it is."
Sun leaned over, and at two different points, one each seperate from the Jovian point. "And, here, at both L5 and L4, are where gravitationally it's possible for asteroids, space stations, and what-not, can 'orbit' these points, and remain in their positions." Shi made a small circle around the two points shi'd made previously. "There're a few other points, but for now, we're the one's 'ahead' in the Jovian world's orbit, and here..." as shi tapped the other point, "we've seen a second 'star' if you will, that to us, says is another world."
There were a few mutterings as the other adults and kids looked at the crude map. "So, you mean, there could be another world like this one, over there?" the previously spoken chakat asked. "I mean, a world with water, maybe even life?"
The two astronomers shrugged. "Hey, we don't have telescopes, nor even a simple spectrograph, to 'read' the light coming back to us from the other world. So, until we do build up something, we won't know." said Sungazer. Shi paused, then looked at White Tip. "White, I'd like permission to 'name' the Jovian world, Zeus, and this..." as hir tapped the other point where the other planet was at, "as Hera, his wife..."
Two of the kids spoke up. "Hey, we get to name everything..."
White Tip just looked down hir muzzle at the child, who dropped to the ground. "Sun, would you mind telling me, why you and not the cubs should do this?" shi asked.
Sungazer faltered for a moment, then, Copperhead reached out to take hir paw into hir own. "Back on Earth, the Greeks named the gods, and the planets they represented, after the gods. When they fell, it was the Romans who took over, and they changed the names from the Greek's versions to their own names for the gods and placed them upon the planets. From Mars, the red planet, to Jupiter, the largest in our old solar system." He nodded to the map in the dirt. "Here, we can try to remember some of our oldest gods, if you will, by naming this system after the ones we remember best. And, since I'd like to start the ball rolling along, I'd like to use the Greek ones. That way, if humanity ever gets its act together, and finds us, we can still speak across the centuries saying, 'We remember our home world...'" Shi shut up, looking a bit embarrassed. "That and, well, if you recall, Zeus was the God of Thunderbolts, and I can't think of a more appropriate name for a large Jovian type world, can you?"
White Tip chuckled. "No, I can't argue with that." Shi paused, thinking it over. "Alright. You and Copperhead can name the planets, but you're going to get together with the cubs for what we should name the constellations. Fair enough?"
Copperhead grinned. "More than fair, sir."
After that little excitement finally ended, and the council meeting broke up for the night, White called out for Sungazer and Coppertop to join him and Katherine for a few minutes. "If it's not any trouble, I'd like to ask if you'd be willing to go on a long journey. Walker and Amber have returned, both talking rather excitedly about the sea they'd found to the west. If it's possible, I'd like you two to go with a few others, and head around the world. Try to at least get around the sea if possible, and make maps along the way. We need to learn if our new world has continents, and if so, what they are. We're not ready to build up ships, so we'll have to travel on land until then. I'm thinking of sending about fifty people with you, so that we can get a small town started at the sea, and use that as a base to build up the ships later on for sea travel."
Copperhead chuckled. "And we were going to ask if we could be part of the expedition."
Sungazer chuckled. "Indeed." Shi paused, then asked. "Do you know who'd be in charge? I'd prefer it to be one of Black Mane's people, if possible. At least for the trip, anyway. With one of the ex-military types in charge for the trip, they'll be concentrating on keeping us all safe, anyway."
Katherine nodded. "Overall, I'd have to agree. But, I think you'd do just as well, don't you, White?"
As Sungazer looked stunned, White grinned. "Sure. After all, most explorers weren't military on Earth. There's no reason for that to change here."
Copperhead laughed. "Well, hun? What say we go talk about this little change in private?" Shi used hir tail to reach over to run along the back of the other chakat.
Katherine and White Tip exchanged glances, nodded, then White Tip agreed with, "I think you two would be glad to hear that some of the others will be glad to have you two on the search team."
"Then, if there's no opposition, is there any time we should leave?" Sungazer asked. "I'd like to see this sea before we go on around it to the other side, if it's possible."
White Tip hummmed. "Got some ideas then, about settling down at the sea town?" shi asked with a grin.
Copperhead blinked, then shook hir head. "No, not really."
Katherine looked at Copperhead. "I don't think that question was for you, my dear." Shi glanced at Sungazer who shrugged.
"I was part of the Living Universe group back on Earth, White. And yeah, I wouldn't mind that at all." Sungazer looked at the three other confused chakats who looked at him. "Ahh, okay. I'd guess you hadn't heard about them then," as shi brushed a paw through hir headfur.
"Basically, the group had some idea about building a city on the ocean, with a power plant that ran on using the temperature difference between deep sea water and the surface. It wouldn't be very powerful, but before we were taken from Earth, Hawaii and Japan had both built versions that were running for months on end, generating power. True, the two plants were basically test models, but I'd say that a half megawatt of power was very generous, don't you think?"
White Tip blinked hir eyes. "A half meg?" Shi tilted hir head. "How... could we build that here?" shi asked in turn.
Sungazer shook hir head. "Not for a while. Although, if there's a waterfall or a river nearby the village, I'm sure we could build up a hydroelectric dam first. We'll need power sooner or later if we're going to really bring ourselves up from primitives, White. And, the sooner the better, actually. Especially if we're going to be able to expand safely on this world. We'll need more than just knives and bear skins. We'll need computers, ships, aircraft, trains..." Shi paused for a moment. "Ironclads..."
Katherine perked up hir ears at that. "What?"
"Ironclads. Ahhh, think of the old Jules Verne novel. You know. Ahhh, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea type ship. Pre-twentieth century, actually. You know, the Monitor. A ship built of metal, that sailed the seas back on earth?" Shi looked at White Tip. "With a steam engine to power it, we could sail all over the place, and not have to worry much about pollution. After all, we'd just have to build up some wood for running it on when we go on a trip. And, if we only use the dead wood from fallen trees as we travel, we would avoid most of the damage to this new world."
Copperhead spoke up. "And when we run out of wood?" shi asked back. Shi shook hir head. "Actually, I think a sailing ship would be more our speed," as shi glanced at Sungazer.
White Tip laughed. "Actually, I can think of several things that a sailing ship would be useful for." Shi chuckled, then started singing softly. "The Love Boat..." which brought Katherine to lean over to rap hir knuckles on White's head.
"Enough!" shi giggled. The others grinned as Katherine lick-kissed White Tip, who hummmed in response.
Sungazer cleared hir throat, then nodding to Copperhead, rose to hir feet. "If you'll excuse us..." shi murred, "we'll head out to talk some more."
Copperhead rolled hir eyes to Katherine, who grinned as Sungazer turned away from the others. Shi shooed hir paw at Copper, motioning for the other chakat to go with hir astronomer friend.
Continued in PART TWO.
Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creations of Bernard Doove and are used with permission.
The Colony and its original characters are copyright V. Ducain and are used with permission.
All else is copyright © 2004 to Allen Billings.
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