The Colonist ark Marco Polo was still sitting where it had touched down only a month ago. It would however never be able to leave again. The drive section and the core reactor module had been removed and was now the core part of the settlement Green Horizon.
Ten thousand colonists had left Earth in 2191 and arrived on HD 195019 is a star system in the constellation of Delphinus on December 4th, 2193.
After traveling 20 parsec in induced hibernation they made landfall on the second planet orbiting around the yellow dwarf or star A of this binary star system.
The suns had been renamed and was now known as Amphion and Zethus, the twin sons of Zeus and their new home a beautiful Garden-world with Earth like character was know known as Garden Eden.
United Earth explorers had surveyed the planet and in 2182 and found it perfectly suitable for colonization.
The local bio sphere was diverse and abundant, and its DNA was turning the right way meaning chiral molecules were turning the same way as human DNA and was thus adaptable and consumable.
That also meant that the human immune system could handle local bacteria and other microbes.
The atmosphere was as perfect as it could be, with only one percent more oxygen than Earth standard, making fires burn faster and hotter.
Thanks to an axial tilt of only two percent, seasons were expected to be mild and temperatures more or less constant.
The survey team did not notice any sentient life forms and there were no obvious signs there had ever been a civilization of any kind.
Their colonist group came from all corners of United Earth, but with a majority from the North American continent.
Unlike many colonist groups that had left Earth before them, as part of the so called second Exodus, their group was not centered around a common believe, or cause. As for example the members of the Viking movement leaving for Nilfeheim, or the New Catholics that left for Dolce Vita.
Many arks had left Earth to destinations all over the local spur of the Orion Arm already and every year more humans made the decision to leave the over crowded Earth and find a new world and new home.
The incentive was great, the Bureau of Colonist affairs offered any group that wanted to leave a so called colonization pack, a selection of possible destinations and an Ark to get there.
I stood on top of a grass covered hill and gazed over the valley before me.
The settlement had grown around the central power station and community center. The busy din of construction noise of whining chainsaws and pounding hammers reached my ears almost like a song of progress and industry.
A yellow painted crawler pulling a trailer loaded with tree logs was making its way from the almost continent spanning forest that had once reached the shores of the huge, silvery shimmering lake that stretched all the way to the distant mountain range, we called the Seven Old Men as there were seven majestic mountains reaching with their snow capped peaks high into the deep blue skies of this new world.
The Ark had plowed a deep furrow into the ground and brushed many trees aside as it came down on its automated landing approach.
Now there was activity around the space born giant that had brought us all, the colonists, my parents and of course Kevin my twin brother.
How different it all was from the dirty Bronx neighborhood in old New York where I was born. True I was only twelve when we left but even for me the change in our lifestyle was quite drastic.
I didn’t miss the tarmac yard with a rusty basketball hoop on a rusty pole, the aggressive gangs or the garish graffiti on virtually any possible surface.
Here I had an entire continent to explore, and perhaps even an entire planet, once the promised freighter with more tech and flyers would arrive.
The coppery red hair of Kevin my brother bobbed like a rubber ball between the hip high grass as he made his way from the settlement to where I was standing.
He arrived somewhat out of breath as the gravitation of our new home was just one percent over Earth standard, normally not really felt, but made running up a hill a straining chore.
“I have a good mind and kick your ass, “ Kevin snarled instead of a more brotherly greeting. “You sneaked out before our chores were done and Dad made me do your part as well.” “Though luck, Copperhead. You couldn’t hide in a crowd of ten thousand, at Friday afternoon on Times Square.”
“Maybe Mom had fun with someone else, and that is why you the only one of us Horigans with black hair.”
“You are stupid. We are twins you idiot.”
“Well not from the looks of it.”
“Why did you come up here then?”
“Aren’t we going to the Spring pool and take a swim? I bet Sonja Miller and Mary O’ Callaghan will be there.”
“Yeah but of course Sid and Ronald will be there too. Naa I rather go a little exploring. Maybe I can bag me one of these Furry four legs, Mom makes a delicious stew out of them. Besides if we find something new, Sonja’s father buys any new life form we find for his Survey catalog. You do know the Freighter from Earth is due in a few month. I intend to buy me a Flyer.”
“Alright, let’s go then before Dad sees us up here and decides to give us more chores.”
I checked the magazine of my Remington Colonist Rifle and started to walk toward the forest. Kevin’s suggestion that Dad might look for us, was not born out of the blue, it had happened before. I had no particular mind to spend the rest of the day helping making bricks or debarking logs.
I never seen a forest on Earth for real, other than the few trees in Central Park, but I imagined the forest here was not too different from the ones in Washington state where mother was born and had shown us vids and pictures.
The light of our twin suns filtered through the dense canopy reached the ground like a greenish haze and you could almost see the individual rays as they penetrated this green roof and painted a pattern of light and shadow over the unspoiled forest ground.
The air smelled fresh with a hint of a minty scent that came from abundant bushes of the Mento plant. Jarvis Bronson had invented a fresh tasting tea made of these leaves.
A thick layer of decaying tree leaves, wood branches and patches of thick green moss made it possible to walk making no sound at all.
The forest serene tranquility was interrupted only occasionally by a bird call or the throaty growl of the Zotty Browns, a local predator somewhat akin to a bear from Earth. The only bear I had ever seen was in the Zoo of course.
Zotty Browns could be dangerous, but in most cases ran if they spotted humans.
If not, my Remington was more than enough to defend ourselves. I had shot two Zottys before.
As we walked between the trees, I spotted something light brown and fluffy perched on a low hanging branch.
t was unlike any creature I had ever seen. I could identify no appendages besides the two small, clawed feet it was using to cling to the tree branch. There were no eyes, no ears, no mouth, no ... nothing.
It was a ball of fur – feet and fur – and it hung motionless amid the vines as though it had no purpose in life beyond decoration. A furry bauble, about the size of a tennis ball.
I reached out to poke it, and it did not move. Tentatively, I gave it a little squeeze. Still nothing.
“Don’t,” Kevin complained, but I paid him no mind. Kevin was a wimp.
Certain that the little critter could do me no harm, I plucked it from its perch. In my hand, it retracted its tiny feet to become a perfect hairy sphere.
“You don’t know what it is,” Kevin whined. “It could be poisonous.”
“Poisonous?” I laughed. “I’m not gonna eat it.” I knew full well what he meant. He meant ‘venomous’. I didn’t care. The thing seemed so harmless, so pathetic, and I was curious. Growing confident, I tossed it from hand to hand, gauging its weight and texture. It was soft, the silly thing. And light.
I’ll admit that I was provoking it. I wanted it to react in some way so that I could learn more about it. Since it had no visible eyes, I wanted to be sure that it had at least some kind of sense of what was going on around it, that it wasn’t completely improbable, impractical. I needed to be sure that what I was looking at wasn’t impossible. At least if the thing were to bite me I’d know it had a mouth.
“Here, catch!” I tossed the hairball to Kevin, and he caught it as though it were a grenade – afraid to handle it, but even more afraid to drop it.
Imagine my surprise when the little bugger turned red in his hands. Imagine my shock when all the color suddenly drained from Kevin’s face!
It wasn’t fear that had paralyzed him, it was the creature. It did something to him. At the time, I didn’t know what.
Turns out it had senses after all. Turns out it was capable of defending itself after all.
I’d got the response I’d been looking for.
Now, Imagine my horror when Kevin suddenly collapsed in front of me.
I was stunned, my own brother twitching in painful looking convulsions, his eyes turned up so I could see only the white and foamy spittle bubbling from the corners of his mouth.