I was sitting at a stop light behind a liquid nitrogen tanker, waiting for the light to turn. I heard the roar of an over-stressed engine. I looked into my rear-view to see what at first glance looked like a big, bright yellow El Dorado hurtling towards my rear bumper. It was going so fast that I couldn't even begin to guess its speed. I glanced back to the front of my jeep. The tanker had just begun to pull away. I had time for two words. "Oh, Fuck!"
The head-rest kept my neck from breaking but I felt both shoulders give way. I felt/heard a massive "Crunch" then felt an agonizingly cold wave splash over me. I began to scream. That's all I remember.
I woke up lying on my back. The ceiling was smooth and white. I was breathing quickly, almost in a precursor to hyperventilation. I tried to sit up but failed. I was too weak. I looked down at my hands. My arms were covered in sleek brown-black fur, as were the backs of my hands. It was about an inch long and was fairly dense. What the fuck.?
I tried to say just that. All that came out was "Wuu daa fuu?" I flopped back and relaxed, suddenly extremely tired. I heard a voice. "Integration successful. Brain wave activity has stabilized. Patterns reflect consciousness."
I heard foot steps. I turned my head to see a little fellow some three feet tall. He had two arms, two legs and a head. That's the closest he'd ever come to human. He looked like a beige egg with spindly limbs and a fat cylinder for a head. I wondered if it were an environment suit of some kind. It was partially covered in scrollwork and had a harness fastened around it.
"You are our twenty-seventh successful re-animation project. You were in storage for many centuries. The planet on which you were found has been depopulated by interstellar migration and later by ecological collapse. We believe that the time is now some sixty-thousand years past the time of your storage. Do you have any questions?"
"Yes. Two come immediately to mind. What is to become of me and my admittedly antique knowledge, and why the hell am I covered in hair?"
"Interesting. Several others first inquired as to how it was that we were speaking English, or Chinese as the case may be. We are a race experiencing an exploration phase. After performing a reasonably thorough examination of this planet we found two repositories of bodies in ultra-cold storage and several libraries in various languages. Several of us have absorbed the languages to scan the information. We have found that no one civilization has discovered everything. There are niche discoveries made by each culture. Many are little known or unknown to vast numbers of others. This caused us to be very careful in our examinations."
I asked again. "What about the fur?" "The planet is experiencing an ice age at this time. The hairy integument you have been given is part of a series of adaptations to the environment."
This alarmed me. "Am I to be dropped on the surface to exist as I can? Am I to be alone? Will I be given any supplies?"
He held up his arms. "Slowly, slowly! Once you recover from your reanimation you will be joining a group of others that have similar experiences. You cannot come with us, as your biological systems would not handle the trade-offs we have made to allow us interstellar travel. I look nothing like the shell you see before you. My true form would severely alarm you. You must stay here, on the planet that we circle."
"Our ethicists would not allow us to 'dump and run' on you. Certain long-lived supplies will be prepared and suitable locations are currently being evaluated. We have a target of two hundred breeding members to provide for a viable genetic pool."
"You comfort me in your level of preparation. You and yours have my thanks."
"You are welcome. Please sleep for now. When you rise you shall feel much better. Food, drink and company will be available at that time. You will find a tunic hanging by the door when you rise." He reached out and touched something at the foot of my bed. My lights went out as if they'd installed a light switch.
When I awoke I naturally swung my legs out of bed and tried to stand. Whoops! I had to catch my equilibrium. I sat there examining myself. My face was fairly flat, and I had a centrally-located nose, not a snout. I did have some fangs, though. "Great", I thought. "I'm a fucking Wookie." I carefully stood, ready to catch myself. I carefully walked over to the wall where I saw something between a smock and a padded gambezon hanging there. I put it on over my head. It went down to my knees.
I found a pad next to the door. I figured that the largest button would let people out in case of an emergency, so it tapped it. The door opened. A series of small lights in the floor strobed off to the left. I followed them. After a short while of walking that still made an impression on me to prove the scale of the ship, I came upon a lounge, or cafeteria. There were small groups of hairy people sitting around talking. I walked up to a group and waved to get someone's attention. "Can anyone tell my how to get some food, please?"
A tall skinny fellow said, "I guess I'm the group greeter. I'm Simon. Just walk up to that window over there." He pointed, and continued. "Press a button next to a picture that shows something you might want to eat. It takes about three minutes. It dings and a sliding door opens. When you're done take your dishes to the window with a red border and put them on the surface. That's it!"
"Hey, thanks, man. I'm Harry." I tore into a generous serving of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans with a side of iced tea. Whatever or whoever they used for a cook was pretty good! I wandered back over to the group that I'd first approached. I stayed on the periphery but close enough to listen into their conversation. They were discussing what level of civilization that we might be stuck with. They were thinking of all the resources being tied up in forms unusable by primitive technologies. I stuck my hand up to draw a bit of attention. "After sixty thousand years hopefully some subduction, vulcanism and plate tectonics have eliminated most of man's pollution and have brought new resources to useable deposits." We had a discussion about the effects of millions versus thousands of years. We had no way of knowing.
You see, if the ecology had collapsed as the little guy had said, then the planet would have to have been re-seeded to have any sort of mammalian population in that sort of time frame. If there was any biological reseeding done, there may have been some asteroidal terra-forming done by orbital bombardment, in which case there could be one hell of a lot of nickel-iron deposits right at the surface down there. Only a survey could tell us, and hopefully they'd leave us with a geomagnetic survey before they left.
I went back to the dinner dispenser to look through all the buttons. I was pleased to find a pad of paper and a pen. I ordered them and sat down at a table to get my thoughts down on paper.
I had hopes to get us to a level of technology close to that of the 1600's, maybe with a Franklin stove invented. It wasn't too much of an anachronism. We didn't want to get trapped on the pollution express as we had done before. I had hopes that some sort of draft animal could be had to aid in plowing and transportation. A meat animal such as a chicken would be a great asset as well. Were there bees? We needed waterproofing. We needed certain grass crops for cloth. Linseed oil came from flax. Flax made wonderful cloth. Linseed oil protected wood and waterproofed cloth. Hemp was used for something like burlap, canvas and rope making.
If we had agriculture, blacksmithing and pottery we'd be well on the way to a sustainable culture. I hoped like hell that we wouldn't be trapped in a paleolithic culture.
I started at the bottom. Cordage, basket making, some sort of sharp edges and fire would give a group enough of a boost to survive, given the availability of reeds and straight, thin-stemmed woody brush or saplings. I hoped that there were more reenactors or people familiar with the technology of early-American Indians than just myself. I knew a lot of tricks, such as the design and use of a mat loom, a pit kiln for glazing pottery and the use of an Atl-Atl, or small spear thrower. With some practice I could make a net. My basket making would be laughable at best, but I had seen it done and knew the principles of weaving a split wood basket with a double-bound top lip.
Reed mats made shelters and sleeping surfaces. Look at a wickiup or an Indian row house. I hoped to god that cattails still existed. Baskets allowed people to collect and store food. An Atl-Atl allowed a hunter to take down game from further away than a spear would allow, raising humans above the level of a food source to the top of the food chain, capable of taking out large carnivores. Weighted nets would do the same thing but were much more dangerous. nets opened up an entirely new food source--fish and crustaceans. The use of a kiln gave pottery for cooking and eating as well as opening up some more forms of food storage.
Agriculture meant collecting and saving seeds between years, preparing soil for seeding, weeding the fields and harvesting the crops. It's what changed civilizations from hunter-gatherers to dwelling in one place. It tied them to their fields. While allowing higher population densities due to food access it did nasty things like killing people from sanitation issues as well.
Forges were not portable. Not really. It was easier to travel to find fuel and ore than to move a forge.
.... There is more of this story ...