Rinna is the one who talked me into working as an intergalactic travel writer. She romanced the notion of waking up on a different world every week, looking out at the cosmos from a whole new viewpoint.
I spent years pushing for interstellar travel, writing pro-space commentaries encouraging the World Resources Council, the Technologies Sharing Committee and the Space Travel Authority to band together and make it a reality. I always hoped to see more than the overcrowded landscapes of my own world and the domed mining barricades on our neighboring planets.
"Now that it's possible, let's go see as much of the universe as we can," Rinna baited. How was I to say no?
She and I are the only ones aboard this starshot who will disembark at Bicominnie spaceport. It’s been a long flight. I’m ready to get off and walk on firm ground.
Who would have guessed that the largest interplanetary trade is tourism. My home world raked over every planet, moon and asteroid in our system for ores, gases and crystals in hopes of having something to market. As it turns out, we have nothing of interest to any other civilization except our scenery and cultures.
One of the starshot caretakers sits down to brief us on our destination. He knows our language so we don't have to use electronic translators.
"This system is what we call a dual-share type," he says. "Two stars are near enough to exchange an outer planet. After orbiting one star, the shared planet gets drawn in by the gravity of the other. Then it jumps orbit between the stars. The speed of its rotation is said to pull the atmosphere away from the surface, although I can't imagine such a thing. Anyway, it's the only known dual-share. What planet are you visiting?"
"We're going to Rindek."
"Oh," his eyes widen. "I stayed there for a few cycles once between assignments. It's the most peaceful stop in the galaxy, despite the recent commotion over their allegiance. Everything on the surface is quiet and dream-like."
I could use some time in a place like that. "Are we close enough to see it now?"
"Um," he peers through windows on three sides. "Yes, here it is."
Rinna beats me to the portal.
"You see the pale violet glow?"
"Yes," we say in unison.
"Is that a ring around it?" Rinna asks.
"Not exactly," the caretaker says with a smirk.
"What's that neon red light?"
He explains how highly charged particles collect over the equator before getting pulled to both poles. The ring effect is only temporary and the red color suggests a large enough concentration to split off at any moment.
“Keep an eye on that red mass while you can see it from space. Please enjoy your stay." His reflection disappears from the glass.
"Did his response to our stop seem a little over-promotional?" Rinna asks.
"Look what the ring is doing now."
It has split in two along the equator and both rings are racing toward their respective poles. They have sparkling particle masses leading and trailing their movements like burning fuses as they sweep across the globe. The rings contract in diameter as the planet slopes toward its poles. In flashes of rich red concentration they disappear.
"You don't see that everyday," I manage to say. We've never seen anything like that. Rinna doesn't speak for a moment, then she gushes appreciation for the timing of our descent.
The spaceport representative gives us supply packs as we board the surface lander. He briefs us on the craft.
“The lander uses hydrogen fueled electric power while it’s still outside the atmosphere…”
I lose interest. Staring at the pale lavender ball becomes somewhat dreamy in the wake of thirteen days aboard a starshot. I close my eyes and take a breath, hoping to relax during this ride.
The rep told us there's no particular timing for the ring-running event. There are complete revolutions around the star that don't include a charge rush as he called it. Then there are days when it happens twice.
"We just happened to be in the perfect place..." Rinna continues until the pilot's voice drowns her out with his warning for us to brace for impact with the hydrosphere in 5... 4... 3...
The turbine cowls fold in and cap the exhausts as the cover shield closes around the craft. I can feel the temperature loss before we hit. 2... 1...
It's like crashing without the debris. The sudden drop in velocity is all but absorbed by the floating seat mechanism and gas-padded restraints. It's a few seconds before we settle into the lull of sinking through this condensed liquid layer of the atmosphere. Wings and stabilizers extend out from the hull before we fall through. Then we glide to the surface in a navigated drop to a small landing strip.
The hydrogen layer of Rindek’s thin atmosphere intensifies the faint rays of its own violet sun, and the radiation from the neighboring duel-share sun. Between the two stars very little of the planet is ever in darkness. Although without that hydrosphere it would be an ice ball like the two inner planets. Any particles discharged on the surface would collect at the bottom of the hydrogen layer and cause solar blockage. The radiation deprivation would result in drastic cooling. The kind of air pollution that's typical in most industrialized environments would cancel out life for this one. For that reason, all manufacturing is done at spacelabs in stationary orbit above the hydrosphere.
Exposure to the purple sun rays doesn't burn skin, but it heats bodies from the inside. Rinna and I undergo mandatory physiological analysis, which shows that we can survive for 15 minutes before heating to a fatal core temperature. That's almost as long as the natives who wear loose, radiation reflecting cloaks over their clothes with hoods and translucent veils. The concierge at the landing strip shows us how to put on the cloaks that came in our supply packs. I was sweating by the time we reached the concourse just a few meters from the lander.
I can’t believe these people need cover to avoid incinerating on their own planet. This puts a hole the theory of a universal designer. It’s an idea I heard of in our travels that made sense to me. All other theories on the matter are full of unanswered questions. It may be just a childlike notion that makes like the idea. Although so far, each of the planets I've visited has an ecosystem that balances favor to support all the spawned life. The very order of it suggests planning. It all added up until we landed here.
The designer would also be responsible for the people on each planet. This is the first place I've toured with radiation that's lethal to its own. What kind of designer would create a people to live in the glow of a deadly star?
Several planets have radiation that affects the skin of the natives with over exposure, but none I’ve heard of present a deadly threat in such a short time. I'm too lost in my own circle of thoughts to ask our concierge about it, but I have a few questions ready by the time we arrive at the hotel.
Hannah, the gracious innkeeper, fields my sorted array of impossible scenarios on compatible anatomies before stifling all philosophical out-takes with a reminder that our prearranged transportation would arrive shortly.
"You have time for a quick change if you desire," she says.
"Thanks, I'll look for something that goes with the cloak." The humor is lost on her, but the woman's disposition is so sincere and pleasant that I feel bad for making the remark.
A transport with shaded windows shuttles us away from the business center. There are no motorized vehicles of any kind on the surface. This passenger hauler is pulled by a giant lobrim. The pace of the animal is rhythmic and steady, and the coach has a suspension that makes it feel like we're hovering. It doesn't seem fitting that such a sophisticated craft is behind an animal.
The air holds no odor, not even a stench from the massive quadruped out front. The small dangling flaps of its outer coat actually look more like leaves than hair. They may afford some resistance to the typical unhygienic effects of the outdoors. There's also a complete the lack of pollutants- very nice.
I was afraid the surface would be muggy and relentlessly hot. Instead, these residents enjoy a warm, dry atmosphere over feature-rich landscapes. Ooh- good line! I'll use that in my reports. While we’re filming the sites, I’ll get more info on the people. I’m already considering how to present this place to an audience of travelers.
As thousands of intergalactic sojourners fill resorts and getaways on my world, our people book shuttles and starshots to habitable stops around the universe. That makes our gig as intergalactic travel journalists not only possible, but also quite lucrative.
A few papers and magazines buy copy and photos, but the video documentaries go to multi-planet audiences on slip-stream broadcast data sites. The broadcasters buy our transportation with advertising trade-outs, and the home worlds see to it that we have a great time with their finest lodging, best tours and all the perks. Translations in multiple columns spanning four galaxies prompts a royal reception almost everywhere we go. It's rare for any location to get tourist trade from other worlds without some convincing press.
Rinna and I enjoy a journalistic reputation of honesty. We'll post a warning where it's due. Most of the time that's just to flag incompatible environments for certain physiologies. Although some planets want tourism to fix their ailing economies and a few of these pose crime dangers. Others just don't have what it takes to be good hosts. In some such cases, we'll make suggestions then book a return trip and hold all comments until we see how they adjust. Truth is what our readers and viewers rely on.
We avoid political assignments, though if the cause is favorable and the fee is right... Rindek has just been liberated from the tyranny of the Conaga Empire that collects defenseless planets as slave outposts. These invaders wanted production that involved emissions, so the surface of this sensitive planet wasn't occupied. Instead they unmercifully packed its people into their own orbital labs with little rest between long work shifts. It’s been less than a month since the sector containing Rindek allied with the galactic community organized by the titans of the universe, Kol Ecquore. KE's goal is peaceful interplanetary relations. So far, no one's been strong enough or foolish enough to challenge them. For now any press on Rindek is viewed with heavy political overtones.
The way we see it, all these people are trying to do is restore their way of life. Rinna and I don't mind lending our support, as long as they've got something to offer visitors. So far it looks as though they do.
Today we explore the flats at the base of Stairway Range. We’re promised a spectacle of color as the violet sun sets. Staggered peak heights ascend upward in nine distinctly even altitudes from a level plain. Ice forms in the shaded bends of runoff channels and melts into creek ponds along the sunlit golden banks of Charmed Meadow. A radiation reflective lean-to protects bathers in the mineral rich mountain water.
Mederans come ashore at sunset when the lilac hue glows in the hydrosphere. Just one of these large docile shellfish can serve everyone in the small business district near our hotel. After getting some stills and footage, we hope to walk one of them back with us. We'll have the help of two other friendly animals we'll be using for transportation called ev-coils.
Ev is a letter in the Rinden alphabet like a backwards S that's not as curvy. Ev-coils are rare plant born serpents shaped like the letter. They're said to be much faster than any lobrim, and this thing isn’t at all slow.
The coils, as they're called, stand nine to twelve feet tall at a relaxed crouch and extend to over twenty feet while balancing on the ends of their tails. I video of a collection of them as we arrive at the farm. Four coils splash their heads into a bath in front of a yard where at least a dozen more graze on tree leaves.
The curator is expecting us and meets the transport in his cloak and hood. Rinna kisses my cheek before pulling the hood over her head. I pause the recording and suit up to disembark.
Danny runs the farm, raising and harvesting ralchees. These large sickle shaped tree melons hold a delectable yellow braid of juice filled pulp with the perfect texture of soft resistance for eating. They also make fabulous juice, which accounts for most of the harvest.
In rare unexplained cases, one of the ralchee pods gives birth to a coil instead of bearing its fruit. A baby coil eats the melons exclusively for a year before maturing into a territorial herbivore. They need little or nothing in the way of care, and make friends with people and other creatures easily. An instinct keeps them relatively close to the tree that hatches them.
Danny invites us to choose between touring the grounds or coming inside for refreshment. I opt for the tour and start the camera rolling. There are coils all over the grounds. Rinna plugs a spherical input microphone into an audio collector and starts to record.
Danny leads us around one side of the oval building. From there we see nothing but rolling slopes covered with rows of trees. Workers and coils toss ripe melons into passing carriers as mid-size six-legged creatures pull them through the fields.
"These melons don't know a season," he says. "We find them ripe and ready for harvest throughout the orbit, just as we find blossoms and new pod bulbs every few cycles."
"How do you care for these trees to keep the fruit coming?"
"There's not much we have to do to nurture the trees themselves. The soil provides most of the minerals necessary to keep them healthy, and the natural springs carry in all the rest. Our task has been to get the trees planted in the rows you see. Harvest crews comb through the fields daily to bring in the ripened crop. The rest of the work involves packing the whole melons we'll ship, and juicing all the others. That juice spans the planet and all its orbitals, and there's still enough left over to freeze for any unforeseen times of need."
"What about the Ev-coils that hatch from these trees? How many of them do you have on the farm?"
"There are almost a hundred at this point, and as you can see they’re part of the harvest crew. Coils know a ripe ralchee as well as any of us. They also provide excellent transportation as you'll find."
Danny lifts a hand in under his veil and produces a high pitched noise that gets the attention of five nearby coils. He motions for one of them to come and it responds immediately. "Rider," he says to the animal and it drops into a tighter coil which brings its head level with ours. Then the scales on its sides open into two small ledges.
"A rider steps on like this," he says and puts one foot onto a ledge while swinging the other leg around the creature's neck and stepping onto the opposite ledge. He then grabs the angled protrusions near the top of its head with both hands and the coil extends upward.
"Now it’s waiting for directions." Danny shows us how to use hand signals to direct the coil to move forward, left, right and to stop and crouch down for a dismount.
"You give it a try," he says looking at Rinna.
"All right," she says while tucking away the microphone. She's ridden several multi-legged animals which are mounted in a similar fashion. This is no challenge for her.
I, on the other hand, am somewhat intimidated by these coils. Although I'm able to get on and situated, it's an uneasy feeling when it extends upward. I wait a while before giving any directions. Despite my anxiety, this animal makes every attempt to ensure my comfort as it moves. All the way down to the eye contact it gives me with a turn of its head. I’m charmed.
"You'll notice the ride getting smoother as the speed picks up," Danny yells. At slower speeds, the coil drags its tail along the ground. Fast moves are accomplished by bouncing. At that point, the coiled bottom propels the creature and its rider forward as it straightens its body before leaping into flight. Then before descending, it pulls the tail under itself and recoils it for a shock absorbing landing. Then it springs the coiled tail into another forward bounce that’s so smooth it’s hardly noticeable.
The spaceport ambassador described what it's like to ride on one of these before we came to the surface. I expected it to beat us up and wear us out, but it’s effortless.
"Okay it looks like your riding will go well, but there are a few other things I have to tell you about." Danny describes a tree flower the coils consider a delicacy and tells us to oblige them if we see any. He leads us into the building on a wide side of the oval and removes his cloak. He’s got some kind of fur growth between his nose and upper mouth. I haven’t seen that on any of the other people we’ve met so I ask him about it. He calls it a mustache and says it’s an option for the men of his species.
"Would you bring us in some juice?" he asks a man behind a desk. Then he lays out a map to show us the rout to the range. "You can take off the cloaks while you're in the shade, and the water in the pond by the falls is okay for swimming as long as it's shaded. Just be sure to get out once the violet glow begins. Some of the aquatic life that stirs at that time can hurt you. The mederans come out of the water at sunset to get away from the predatory creatures. If you want to try leading one back, that's fine. Just don't push it from behind. They walk back toward the water when they feel pressured. Anything in its path will get trampled without discrimination or remorse. Hannah is bound to have some mederan leftovers frozen at the hotel. You can get a taste of it even if one of them won't come back with you."
The man from the desk brings in three tall glasses with mist rising out of their tops. "Thanks Tim," Danny says as he lifts his glass toward us in toast and takes a long swig.
I touch my lip to the liquid and find it cool and sweet. Drinking the stuff is as refreshing as possible.
"Are you interested in expanding your market for this juice?" I ask.
"What do you have in mind?"
"If I tell people how good this stuff is, they're going to want some. My column reaches four galaxies."
He coughs and reaches for a cloth to rub over his mouth. "Four galaxies!"
"Yes. I'm here to help boost your tourist trade."
"I know that, but- four galaxies?"
"Not everyone will be able to consume the ralchees, but they will learn of your tranquil breeze dusted surface with its clean air, docile animals and friendly people. Only a small percentage will buy juice, but enough to call for accelerated production. Are you ready for that?"
Danny leans back and takes another long slow draw from his glass before answering.
"If it means bringing revenue to Rindek, we can do it," he says.
"Okay then." I clink glasses with Rinna. "A plug for the juice."
"There's something else I have to tell you," Danny says with a serious face as he leans over the map. “There's a forest just over the foothills. Do not go into it for any reason. It is not safe. I can't warn you enough. You seem like reasonable people, but there's no telling what you might come out like if you go into a Rinden forest. Take your shade breaks under small clusters of trees, but do not be seduced into going into the forest. It's actually best to stay completely away from it. Your trail is well clear of the only one you'll pass, so don't stray off the path, and do not let the coils go near the forest either. Are we clear on that?"
Rinna and I nod, though I know she has just as much curiosity as I do when it comes to these things.
"What's in the forest?" I ask.
"The underside of the forest doesn’t receive any radiation from either of the stars. The chemistry of it’s foliage breaks down and develops toxic gasses after too long in the dark. It has a devastating effect on everything."
"For you, I can't say exactly, but it won't be good. It never is. You just have to trust me on this and stay out of there."
We agree. Danny's shade warning makes sense given that only small patches of any of the landscape are shaded. Even his tree farm has wide tracts between each of the rows. I took it for an easy means of harvesting, but it's actually preventing any interruptions in radiation. Rinna tucks a small copy of the map into her shoulder bag and I record a video of her triumphant mounting of the coil. Then she grabs the camera and threatens to share my mounting with the universe if I mess it up in any way. The coil has more to do with my easy boarding than her warning or any of my finesse.
Danny gives us face shields in exchange for our veils. They're solid translucent plates with padded borders that secure the hoods to their sides so they don’t pull off as we ride.
I look back shortly after we leave to see that the farm building is only a small dot for the distance we've covered already. The ride is smooth and steady with no strain on Rinna or me.
We stop to rest the coils under the shade of a tree with the flowers that Danny told us they would like. Both of them extend as far up as possible, and then wrap the tree trunk to swirl to the top where the flowers grow. That keeps them busy long enough for Rinna and I to relax in the shade. We take our cloaks off and lean against the trunk in each other's arms.
"This may be the most peaceful place we've ever seen."
"Yes but it's surrounded by such mysteries," she says. "Those red rings running across the surface, the deadly sunlight, and now this shade effect."
"Yes, and did you catch the way Danny said "unforeseen, times of need."
"I did," Rinna says as she turns to face me. "Do you suppose food was scarce while they were occupied?"
"I don't see how, but I caught his serious tone when he mentioned it. As if he had personally experienced such times. Food is not an issue for the Conaga Empire. They feed their slaves very well. I doubt that was his time of need."
"Then I wonder when it was."
The coils return from the tree top and slide up beside us. Even at a crouch they look incredibly tall from the ground. One of them nuzzles my face. We laugh as we stand up for the rest of the ride.
"Either it really appreciates the flowers, or this one likes me."
"Should I be concerned?" Rinna says.
"Probably not, but keep an eye on us anyway."
The landscape keeps changing as we near the mountain range. The inclines get steeper and the grasses take on various colors. Near the farm it was pale orange to yellowish, but out here it's pink with touches of red that I initially mistook for flowers. Most of the trees we pass have ruby colored leaves, and they're not nearly as tall as the ones we stopped to sit under. There's also sand and rock showing through the terrain of these hillsides.
A large valley opens and we see the forest. It's a huge spread of towering lush trees. There's a mix of blue, orange and red in the leaves that blanket the expansive canopy.
Without speaking, Rinna and I look away and guide the coils forward to keep the forest to our left. Yet as we climb out of the valley, it's right beside us. We look up at its incredibly tall trees. The sounds of life stir within its branches.
I stop the coil and dismount before I can even consider what I'm doing. Rinna comes along beside me on foot and we stare up at the underside of the trees with enchantment. It’s shady and cool. The coils spot another batch of tree flowers and slip up to the top.
We continue walking until deciding to sit beside an opening that leads into the woods. I desperately want to walk in, but Rinna- and the warning. We just can't- or can we? What if she agreed?
Bad idea. I stand and begin to move away. I'm tingling and slow and having frivolous thoughts that aren't really my own. They're more like dreams that happen as I watch. We should get away from here. I don't even know how we got this close. I turn to bring my partner with me, but she's walking into the opening.
"Rinna, No." I try to run, but my flight is slow and weak. By the time I can see her again, we're both under the tapestry of branches. The light is gentle and the air is almost as sweet as it is cool. There's a tunnel that runs through the center with several branch tunnels leading off from it.
"Did you see the children?" she asks.
"No. What children?" Then I hear them laughing as they run- lots of them. A few kids slip out from one tunnel opening and rush into another. They're energetic and loud as they chase each other.
I smile at Rinna before we're distracted by the arrival of the coils. This time we both get nuzzled and fall to the leaf covered floor laughing. Once we're able, we get up and mount the coils to ride further into the incredible woods.
My thoughts slur and my body gets heavy. I'm barely able to keep my hands on the animal when Rinna turns into one of the openings and dismounts.
It's not a trail, but more like a cave. The ground within is covered with dropped needles that snap and throw powder into the air as I step on them. That's when I notice the dingy, black bark. All of the lower twigs are brittle and bare. I grab one and it snaps. Everything on the underside is black and fuzzy. These trees are dead, all of them! I'm afraid to touch their trunks fearing they'll fall and cause a chain reaction that collapses our surroundings.
Fear? I don't entertain fears. This is not my thinking.
"You should go and find another place," Rinna tells me. She's sitting on the brittle needles. Her coil is on its side and appears to be unconscious.
"I should what?"
"I'm going to stay here and I don't want you with me anymore so you should go," she says.
I'm not sturdy enough to argue. "If you feel that way, I'll just take this coil further down the trail."
I ride out, but the coil is barely able to bounce. Soon it drops to the ground as well. It's still awake, so I lead it into a nearby cave-like opening and we both lie down. I hear more kids run by laughing. I'm tired and dreamy, but I know this is terribly wrong. Rinna asked me to leave and said she didn't want to be with me anymore.
Anxiety doesn't let me sleep. I ponder the situation without any clarity. I drift through more involuntary thoughts before falling asleep. I dream of Rinna. She's scared and calls out to me.
I awaken to find that my forehead is hot. It's a fever I suppose. That goes perfectly with the agony in my body.
I think of the designer and wonder if that’s someone who can see what I’m going through- someone who would help.
I turn to look at the coil lying beside me and the light hits my eye.
A small purple ray beams down through the rich, lively leaves of the tree tops. I jolt up remembering that Rinna is further back in the woods. The radiation is bringing back my lucidity. I pull the coil's head in under the light. It takes a while for the animal to open its eyes and breathe normally. Then it climbs to the tops of the trees. I assume it's eating, but it peels back the upper branches to let in more of the sun. My senses return within seconds. Rinna!
I'm compelled to ride the coil back through the tunnel, but it has a better idea. After I'm aboard, we climb to the tree tops and follow the upper branches to the cave where Rinna dropped. The coil retracts the tree branches to pour sunlight on her and its counterpart.
I climb down to help revive my lady. She comes-to with slight convulsion and has to turn over onto her hands and knees to cough. The coil slides under her body and lifts her off the ground. The other coil slips down a tree and retrieves me. We leave the dead bottom wood and travel out on the lush tops of its clustered trees. Once we're well out in the open, the coils stop and let us down.
A couple of Rinden men are standing over us when we awaken.
"We saw you go into the forest," they say as they hand us both a small bottle. "Have you got the universal enzyme?"
"Then you should drink some of this. It'll help you after being in the dark."
"We must have been in there for half the day," I say.
"Actually you were only in for a little while before the coils went in and got you."
"What? An awful lot went on in there. It had to be a long time before- Did you say the coils went in and got us?"
"Yes, it was only a few minutes after you went in there."
"But I revived the one that fell down. It was sleeping next to me when I woke up with sunlight in my face."
"You two didn't wake up until after they had you out of there. It’s good you've still got these cloaks."
"How did the coils know that we needed help?"
"That's what baffles me.” He says. “I've never seen one of these behave so intelligently."
"Maybe they simply followed us." I say.
"They don’t usually do that. Coils are perfectly content to wait for you to come to them. And they have no consideration of your danger."
"Is that so?"
"You two are lucky they didn't go down before getting you out. We weren't about to go in after you."
"I don't blame you."
"What about the children?" Rinna asks.
Assuredly, there are no children in the woods. I don't know how, but the forest compelled us to enter from the moment we saw it. We apparently steered our coils toward the trees without realizing it, and then we dismounted and went straight in without any hesitation. That's how the two men witnessed it.
What actually happened in there is uncertain, but I didn't lose my life companion to a small plot of dead ground. We're still happy to travel together and see as much of the universe as our relatively long lives will allow.
Although it seemed like a considerable amount of time, it was only a brief encounter. My chronometer confirms that.
The other anomaly is that we both experienced the same events. If we were simply unconscious for a short time, then we had the same dream.
The only truth I learned is that the trees are brittle and dead on the bottoms. Despite that, their tops are as healthy as any can be. Everything left in the shade perishes, as we nearly did.
The violet hue begins to glow across the sky and everything on the ground changes colors.
"How far are we from the range?"
"It's just over the next ridge. The coils will get you there in no time."
"Good. Come on Rinna, we've got a shellfish to walk back to town."
I get to the range at the optimal time for photos and film in the sunset. The waterfalls catch a variety of colors in the spray. Crystals in the rocky peaks reflect the light in neon brilliance. Each of the nine peak heights shows a different shade. The colors are constantly changing as the purple star drops toward the horizon.
The pink grassy meadow sets off the bubbling water pond. I'll take some video of Rinna swimming in it at another time. Then I'll edit in shots of this incredibly close community interacting with each. I'll also use footage of the melon farm and the beloved ev-coils. The life these people enjoy will attract scores of travelers. I hope that doesn’t ruin it for them.
Interviews with the locals show them to be an easy-going and polite society. Most of them also come across as being happy. They seem to have a special respect for the planet despite its radiational woes.
I’ll insist they fence off the forests and suggest they send guides out with visitors. They’re going see a flood of tourists after I voice over these scenes with my take on the place. There will be a considerable demand for that juice too.
Not many planets are as beautiful, and none are more peaceful. While the absence of motors helps, the people and animals can take most of the credit. They know how to welcome a tourist and make us feel at home.
The two guys we met outside the woods join us in town for some broiled mederan as do Danny and many of his staff members.
I apologize to Danny for allowing his coils to get involved in our mistake. He confirms that they wouldn't have any way to know we needed help. We can only wonder.
That's not all I'm wondering about. I take our innkeeper away from the dining room to share a quiet moment.
"Why did Danny mention a possible time of need in regard to foods supplies?" I ask her.
"Well, it wasn't always as bountiful while my people were in transit- before we found Rindek."
"Before you found... You’re not from here?"
"Well no, didn't anyone tell you?"
"Apparently not. What's to tell?"
"I hope you’ll leave this out of your reviews. It's not something we’re proud of. We came from a highly industrialized planet. As production grew, the corporations responsible became the largest powers. Our government catered to their motivation to own more, produce more and earn more without any consideration for our people. They reduced foods to mere likenesses of the original animals and crops that held nothing of the nutrients. Finally the atmosphere became overly polluted, making it impossible to breathe without tanks of smelly air-like gas.
"A cross section of our society was elected to board ships and search for a new world. Those ships are the last things our planet produced. I suppose it's fitting that we landed here where polluting is not an option. As if we haven't learned our lesson.”
"I thought you were wearing cloaks and working in space for the sake of your home world."
"Goodness no, we didn't need any radiation protection on our home planet. Some adjustments were necessary to make our home here on this surface, but it is quite nice, don't you agree?"
"You speak of the home world as if you lived there."
"Well yes, we boarded the ships less than half a decade ago."
"What about those you left behind?"
Her face and eyes drop. "They were perishing by the time we lost contact."
"I'm sorry." I put my arms around her and hold on until she gathers herself and thanks me. "You're going to see a lot of business. I promise.” That seems to lift her spirits a little.
Why didn't my research on this planet show that it's a settlement? Either I skimmed over that fact, or was it left out of my literature.
I get plenty of footage of Rinna swimming in ponds and petting native animals. Then she asks if we have enough data to take the next few days off. She never wanted to play tourist on any other world.
"I just want to enjoy its peace for a while."
I can’t blame her. We'll not see a quieter place, or a more contented people who aren't constantly hounding us to look at something they hope we'll write about. They appreciate the attention we're giving them. They’re thankful for a lot. ■
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