"My great-grandmother found my great-grandfathers journal in some storage boxes," Jared said as he and Freya sunbathed nude on the deck of their wooded retreat. "It's fascinating to see how our ancestors coped with being stranded here all those years ago."
Freya looked at the leather bound volume in his hand, gave him a kiss and said, "Read some of it to me, babe."
"Your wish is my command, lover," Jared replied, returning the kiss. "Let's see here ... Since we landed on this planet, the Flettner Drive has inexplicably failed to reenergize. Engineering has been examining it for hours and cannot determine what is wrong..."
"We've double checked all systems, Commander; the drive simply will not function."
Expedition Commander Senkichi Kurosawa nodded in reply to Chief Engineer Reinhardt Burkhalter's statement, his face somber. The exploration vessel 'Copernicus' had been their chariot through the universe and now was an inert bulk on an unknown planet containing five hundred and ninety of the best and brightest humans the governments of United Mankind had chosen to explore the galaxy.
"All other systems are operating normally," Burkhalter continued, receiving no other response from the Commander, "The atomics are not affected, all systems say go, but the drive will not respond to even manual start commands."
The Flettner Ion Drive had only been perfected at the Los Alamos labs in the last twenty Earth years, tested first with robotically controlled vessels, then with a crew of volunteers who voyaged to Alpha Centauri and returned in a matter of weeks. The knowledge was shared with all other countries and in no time teams of explorers under the banner of United Mankind set out to see and map the universe. Any communication with Earth was impossible, so those left behind could only wait.
When the 'Copernicus' entered an uncharted star system and discovered an immense planet, blue and verdant as Earth, they were quick to land upon it. Then disaster struck.
Kurosawa spoke softly into his intership comm system mic "All officers and senior enlisted personnel assemble in my conference room at 17:00 hours. The situation is critical." There was a chorus of assents in reply.
The Commander looked out at the faces of his officers and non-coms, their expressions a mixture of curiosity, anticipation and fear. They, as the rest of the crew, had been carefully chosen for their personal compatibility and rationality of thinking; necessary traits if they were to be cooped up together in an oblate spheroid riding a stream of tortured ions through space for an indefinite period. He knew he could count on them to maintain order until they could fully assess the situation. Good as well as bad news always swept the ship like wildfire, so he surmised many of them had already heard rumors about how the drive had failed and that they were stranded.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "We have attempted repeatedly to activate the Flettner Drive and explore the planet from orbit with no success. We can continue to do this on antigravs, but interstellar travel is out of the question at present. We are a colonizing as well as an exploration vessel and fate has made the decision for us. This planet is now our home."
There was silence for a minute as his words sank in. Chief Exobiologist Mark Campbell was first to speak. "I propose we begin exploration as soon as possible. This planet is a treasure trove of new plants and animal species and I for one am anxious to set foot upon it."
"You're gonna need an anti-grav belt, Mark," said Second Engineer Angus Brady, "This planets gravity is at least twice Earth normal and our electrocompasses won't work either. This rock has a polarized magnetic field that won't quit. The good news is the air is breathable, if somewhat more rich in oxygen than Earth, the climate is temperate and the ozone layer is thick which minimizes the threat of solar radiation given our proximity to the sun."
"All the comforts of home," cracked Chief Surgeon Amelia Swanson. "All the same, I better run a few tests before we go outside to see if there are any germs or bacteria that our immune systems can't handle."
"We passed over some most intriguing mountains on our landing approach," said Chief Geologist Clement Turnbull. "I definitely saw streaks of oxidized iron on the slopes. I'll bet my last rand all of the primary minerals exist here and many of the trace minerals as well. Construction of dwellings won't be a problem."
Senkichi smiled as the assemblage began conversing excitedly among themselves. This is what they were chosen and trained to do; colonize a planet. Only their choice had been made for them. He wondered how the rest of the crew would take it.
Space Marine Captain Nils Sondergaard approached him and saluted. "My platoon will set up a defensive perimeter around this vessel whenever we land for a period of time, Commander."
Senkichi returned the salute, "Very good, Captain. We haven't been able to detect any signs of life higher than herbivores and carnivores and they seem rather sluggish by our standards. It must be due to the higher gravity, but regardless guards should be posted as a precaution." He paused and grinned, "You should inform your men as to the situation before the latrine rumors get too bizarre."
"Right away, Commander," the captain replied, returning the grin. He saluted, pivoted on his heel and strode off.
"I've seen holos of my great-grandfather in his uniform," Freya said, stretching and yawning. "He was quite a man."
"He carried some impressive genes," Jared replied, stroking her tanned thigh.
"You say the sweetest things. Read some more, lover."
"Sure. He goes into how they scouted the entire planet until finally deciding to settle near a lake on the Forest Continent..."
"Samsonov in Engineering has been able to increase the range of the antigrav transmitter to fourteen miles, Commander," Second Officer Hector Gonzales said to Senkichi.
"Excellent," was the reply. "Master Sergeant Odinga and his team were initially able to explore only three miles in any direction before they went out of range and their antigrav belts shut down. He said walking without them was like slogging through knee deep mud and they were immediately fatigued. Fortunately they had robomules carrying their equipment, so they were able to ride them back to the ship. Doctor Swanson's team examined them and said they were suffering from extreme exhaustion and wouldn't be fit for duty for several days."
"Shall I order other exploration parties out, Commander?"
"Yes. We need to learn as much as we can about this planet as we can since it is now our home. Have the teams carry stun guns in case they encounter any larger forms of wildlife to examine. Our Xenobiologists are becoming impatient."
"Hajari said they heard bird song in the trees that sounded like a nightingale," Gonzales replied. "It turned out to be a type of lizard. I wonder what other creatures we'll find."
"I'd have like to seen their faces the first time they encountered a Slothbear or a Muskeroo," Jared said with a chuckle.
"I had a pet Firecat when I was little, it was sweet" Freya replied. "It singed me once or twice, but that's because I teased it too much."
"I had several Sandsnakes when I was a kid, until I accidently left the cage open and they ate all the Grapeberries my mother had picked for a pie."
"What is it with boys and snakes anyway?"
"I don't know exactly. Then I discovered girls and found them much more fun."
"Lucky me; what else does he say in there?"
"There's more about the exploration teams and what they discovered. By then there were antigrav belts for everyone, so most activities moved outside. Shifts of engineering crews maintained the ship's atom plants for power; otherwise the ship was all but abandoned."
He continued to flip pages as Freya turned over to lie on her stomach, "Ah, here we go. They experienced their first planetquake."
"Speaking of, when's the next one supposed to occur? We need to secure the cabin when we leave."
"Best estimate is within two weeks. The Stringbirds are building larger nests higher in the trees and that's a dead giveaway that it's going to happen soon."
"I bet that scared the crap out of them."
"You know it, listen to this..."
"Evonne, take a look at these seismograph readings, what do you make of them?"
Second Geologist Evonne Mitterand studied the screen shots of the readings that her assistant Ahmed was showing her and frowned.