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Chapter 2: -: Chapter 1 :-

Matthew 6:26-30

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them"

Joshua Dryden looked up from his Personal Display Gram (PDG), which mirrored one of the five animals grazing a dozen meters away from him. The alien creature was a herbivore, the same as every other animal on this planet he had observed thus far, excluding the insects. The beast was the largest of a small family group, it was a heavy set six-limbed oddity with four trunk like legs and two spindly arms protruding from its chest, which routinely quested the ground for the spongy moss, this worlds equivalent to grass, before methodically feeding into their horizontal maws to happily grind.

Sighing discontentedly he wondered again if this had indeed been the right choice, life was comfortable back on Spero. The University in United Kingdoms territory of the second colony Humanity had founded had been comfortable if not terribly fulfilling, he was a xenobiologist Ph.D. with something to prove. To get anywhere in academia one had to have experience and something wonderfully new to bring to the table, that was getting harder and harder to do. The first life form had been discovered over a thousand years ago, some bacteria in water plumes of Jupiters smallest moon - Enceladus.

The first multicellular organism to be discovered also coincided with Humanities first contact with intelligent life - The V'vor. The V'vor were creatures who were just beginning to probe their own solar system, their pacifistic approach to Humanities arrival despite their inter warring nature was perhaps not surprising, given Humanity had arrived unannounced with a fleet of warships. Since that point, only one other species of Intelligent life had been found - The Kal, but the Russians had primacy over them, and with Humanity having colonised over one thousand systems while spreading healthily over the Galaxy all life fit a standard shape: Life was Carbon, always. It breathed Hydrogen, Oxygen or some mix of that with one other element. In fact other than a few small details, most life in the Galaxy followed the same standard template of that of earth. Nothing new of significance had actually been found in a long time.

This is what Joshua wanted to find.

Joshua had so far visited over a dozen recently established colonies studying the local fauna, documenting, cataloguing and briefly analysing their behaviours. Routine University work. He had jumped at the chance to study an entire ecosystem that seemed to exist without the presence of carnivores, no natural predators to keep the plant eaters population in check.

His PDG's holographic display chirped and text appeared overlaying the virtual beast.

"Call from - Paul Wake"

With a frown, he motioned to the display to accept the call.

"I know Paul" Josh said preemptively

"My ass you do" came the curt reply "If you knew the bloody rules, you wouldn't have set off-"

"-Without at least two to a party" Joshua quickly interrupted "I know the rules, but for God's sake man, this planet has no carnivores! None of the animals have shown the slightest bit of aggression to us, or anything else for that matter".

Paul Wake was an old policing man, the compulsory representative from the United Interstellar Kingdoms Colonial Policing Force or the CPF. He didn't want to be here and the colonists mirrored that sentiment.

"Just get your self back to camp"

The vindication had drained from his voice and Joshua felt a flicker of guilt, the last thing the old boy needed was more grief, but the rules where ridiculous. It had been a full month since the Colonial class ship - Icarus had landed, so far the worst of the injuries had been a rolled ankle.

Looking back to the group of hexapods Joshua jotted down a few final notes before storing his PDG away in his coat pocket. He would write up his report when he got back to camp, despite his routine misgivings the planet was interesting. Just two months ago Joshua had been sitting in the universities cafe indulging in an ancient fiction through the eyes of the ever stoic Cadman Wayland when his reverie had been rudely shattered by the chirping of his PDG.

'Josh,

The Lanstons are funding a new colony to PN-40A7823F to get their youngest and most regrettable son out of the way, initial scans show the standard patterns for complex biological life but some of the markers are a little askew. Mind taking a look at them?

Let me know what you think over coffee, you're paying this time.

Take care,

Anne C. Cumberbatch, MBA

Student, Ph.D. in Xenobiology

Churchill University - Spero'

Anne was right to be confused, the privately funded Planetary Colonial Suitability report had shown a world containing limited biodiversity, but with fairly evolutionary advanced fauna, it's self an unusual combination, without the presence of natural predators. The picture it painted was tantalising, new and deliciously odd. Of course, the report could off been botched, it wouldn't have been the first time, years ago a lazy report had lead to a French colony being totally destroyed by swarms of ground burrowing insects, nasty business. So here he was, in the midday sun of a middle-aged unremarkable star looking at oversized, lethargic, six-legged moss-cows while being chided by an old sheriff.

Joshua turned his back from the grazing Hexapods to his skimmer. Arcadia had earned its appellation, the likable but inane young Adam Lanston had with the name at least, not shown his utter incompetence. The land was bursting with life in every-which-way you looked, lightly forested glades blanketed most of the continent in which they had founded the colony. The trees which made up the forest reached up to the heavens with fruit bearing leathery fronds, their trunks bare of any branches were smooth and offered no purchase to the fruit above. This didn't bother the local creatures for when the fruit was ripe the tree would open like a flowering bud, offering their bounty for any and all creatures. Not an unusual reproductive system, the fruit contained acidic indigestible seeds that when consumed by the various creatures would be dumped out in a pile of fresh fertiliser. Deeply azure, the fruits were the size of a clenched fist containing powdery but pleasantly sweet flesh. The colonists had dubbed them dry apples, Humans had a habit of naming things from the familiar.

Chuckling inwards Joshua reflected on his recent naming of the hexapods, moss-cows, he was no better for naming.

The skimmer glided over the trees at a decent pace, it could go faster but Joshua was in no rush, Arcadia was in no hurry to release its secrets after all. Arcadia's sole sun hanging heavy in the afternoon sky burned a dark orange. Due to the thick atmosphere, the land was almost perpetually painted in oranges through the morning to midday and reds come nightfall.

The colony came abruptly into view as the skimmer sailed over the bluff that it was situated on. Icarus sat ceremoniously directly in the center, despite being in the process of being stripped by small automated construction robots the vessel was still incredible to behold. It had shuttled all three hundred colonists from New Scotland out into interplanetary space before folding through space-time to end up about three hundred million kilometers away from Arcadia, Joshua tried not to dwell on the philosophical implications of being in a different universe each time he traveled on an faster than light (FTL) enabled ship. The physicists ensured that the differences between parallel universes were infinitesimally small, a single photon six millennia ago in its quantum randomness took a different path. It was theorised that no Human could feasibly engage in FTL travel enough times to actually notice a tangible difference, but the implication that Joshua was not only on an alien planet but an alien universe as well, remained always in the back of his mind.

The rest of the colony sprouted around the ship, built using the metals from its hull and the plastics in its interior, Icarus would eventually boil down to nothing. Perhaps they would erect a monument to honour the ship that brought them through the vastness of the cosmos, but for now, it was a resource. sprawling out from the colony was great fields of grains, root, and animal pens, all tended to by automatic robots with a scattering of people to overlook. Nearly all menial tasks were now conducted by AI, Humans could dip in and out of these tasks at their whimsy. Not really the gritty-frontier life that was advertised for these types of ventures, but in comparison to the post-scarcity worlds they originated perhaps it was gritty.

Joshua brought his skimmer down outside his research station and home, while not huge it was comfortable enough and had good coffee to keep him satiated. The building was built out the dull grey plasta-steel of Icarus's hull, functional but not anything to look at, he had tried some presumption of decor with a small pot of red flowers from Spero which rustled as he approached. The flowers could detect movement through its petals that acted as primitive eyes, it was not in the slightest bit intelligent, but reacted to visual stimuli which made them quiet popular.

Inside Joshua settled into his workstation with a steaming cup of back coffee. His PDG connecting to his terminal and external data bank, a large holographic display grew from him table displaying the Hexapod he had been previously studying, swiping it away with a practiced gesture he inspected his inbox - Empty.

He hadn't expected a reply from Spero yet, it had only been a week since his last report and the process of sending mail was lengthy. First, the satellite in geo stationary orbit would retrieve his mail, dispatch one of three FTL drones in its arsenal which would travel for four days to get far enough away from Arcadia's gravitational well so it could perform a fold. Then it would pop into Spero's interstellar space, ping its message to the space station before folding back to Arcadia. Spero's space station, of course, could send a message nearly instantly, drones waited in specially shielded harbours in interstellar space which routinely fold in and out of space-time to pop into a system, dump their contents through the ether to then fold back. Arcadia would have one eventually, but they where devilishly expensive.

The news widget he had on the display was mostly politics as usual. He clicked a clip at random and a tall gaunt man with close-cropped hair wearing a robe grew from the table.

"OOORRRDDDDAAAAAA, OOOORRRRDAAAA... could the honorable right member from New Oxford please retain their seat, thank you." The man's voice an almost characature of the old English accent boomed from the sound system. "The points of discussion today are as follows: Section 1:A Increased funding on Interstellar Polic-"

Joshua closed the clip shaking his head, the usual drivel. He pulled the Hexapod back into focus and settled into a night of reporting.

Joshua Awoke the next morning, bleary-eyed to the sounds of the humming-birds, the quad winged pure white creatures native to Arcadia announced the rise of the sun in a ceremonious manner, the females hoo'ed and the males buzzed in return. A constant to and fro each morning reestablishing mating pairs and social order. Joshua dressed and poured himself a mug of black coffee before checking his PDG, still nothing, other than a notification from Adam Lanston calling for another town hall. Joshua wondered what this one would be about... perhaps his newest idea would be to teach the six armed apes, they had spotted in the roaming-brambles the week previous, to dance. Shaking his head he muttered, "I'm, being unfair, just need... some coffee". He sighed in deep satisfaction after taking a long draught of the hot bitter fluid, "Better".

The hall was crowded, which was to be expected. The meetings were a time for debate and arguing, two activities these colonists seemed to love. The air, stuffy from the of concentration bodies, hummed with conversation between people as they waited impatiently for the meetings head, Adam.

"Josh!" A young lad pushed himself through the crowd, at fourteen David Lawson was tall and broad but lacked the weight maturity lent, "Where were you yesterday? I looked for you, dad wouldn't let me use his PDG to message you either"

"I was out hunting the jabberwocky" Joshua said teasingly as the lad approached.

Davids face creased in confusion "The jabber what?"

From the podium at the apex of the hall, Adam had finally finished messing with a few sheets of paper and taped the microphone with blunt fingers.

THUM THUM THUM

"oh... ah sorry, uh can everyone hear me?"

Adam was slightly rounder and louder than he need be but was still affable in his own right. Unfortunately, his virtues ended around there, the man was idealistic to a fault and didn't have the wit to pull it off.

"I have err... let me see..." more paper shuffling "a list of things I want to go over".

This would go one of two ways.

"Firstly I would like to propose that we stop farming the land".

That answered that question Joshua thought, as a collective groan echoed through the hall.


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