Neal Spearwood breathed in the fresh morning air. It’s warmth was a stark contrast to the cool night they’d just experienced. They were still trying to figure out how the seasons worked on their new home. The presence of two suns in this, a binary system, complicated matters somewhat.
Moreau Town was quickly starting to take shape. They had only been at work for two weeks, and although they were still living in tents, greater progress had been made than anybody would have anticipated. The main structure that they were currently building would be an accommodation block. It would house plenty of people for the short term. People would soon be encouraged to build dwellings of their own, especially those with families.
Everybody had chipped in and given their all. The work had proven to be invigorating. Spearwood himself was not a manual labourer, and knew very little about construction. He was a botanist. Studying the local plant life on this planet was still his primary responsibility but all were required to put in some time to help build the town. Neal didn’t mind at all. He felt like he was creating a monument to their future. Still, he yearned to get back into his study.
He saw Captain Anderson Bell across the other side of the village green. The Captain looked like he was heading toward the shuttle launch site – presumably to head back to the the ship which had brought them here – the Endeavour. This might be his last chance to talk to Bell for a while so he sprinted across to catch him.
The village green was an open area that they planned to leave undeveloped in the centre of the town. Some day it would be an open mall. For now it was just dirt.
“Captain Bell,” Spearwood called out. Technically, Bell was here in his capacity as Governor of Xinju, but he still held the rank of Captain and most people continued to address him as such.
“Doctor Spearwood. Lovely day isn’t it.”
“Absolutely Captain. I was wondering if you had a minute.”
“One or two. I’m on my way back to the Endeavour.”
“Captain, my two weeks of manual construction duties have come to an end and I was wondering if I could be relived for a time.”
“You’re that eager to stop building huh.”
“Oh no, I’ve actually enjoyed the experience Sir, but I’m eager to resume my scientific duties. There is a lot to do. I particularly want to concentrate on identifying edible species.”
“Don’t worry Doctor, I completely agree. We can’t live on what we brought from Earth forever. The food that we’ve found so far has been good. I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots more for us.”
“So I can get an expedition together today then?”
“No, you need to take a mandatory rest. You’ve worked solidly for two weeks without a break. Take it easy for a couple of days Doctor. You’ve earned it.”
“That’s an order Doctor. We’re not going to starve in the immediate term. Your work is important, that’s why I need you to be well rested when you tackle it. I plan to have you join Doctor Bank’s team which will be leaving next week.”
They had reached the area designated for shuttle landings. Neal was fast loosing the opportunity to argue with the Captain.
“I can’t change your mind Sir?”
“I’m afraid not Doctor. Enjoy your rest. You’ll be working very hard when your team sets off.”
Bell entered the shuttle and closed the hatch. The discussion was over.
Neal sighed and started to make his way back to the town centre. What was he going to do with his time off? Maybe he’d find Laura. He hadn’t seen her this morning, but she must be feeling the same way he was. He decided to ask around and find out if anybody knew where she was.
* * *
Bell smiled to himself as he strapped into his seat in the shuttle. People like Neal Spearwood were a huge asset to their work building a new home for humanity. The man was so eager to make a contribution. Unfortunately, if left to his own devices, the good doctor would work himself into the ground and be no use to anyone. Living here on the edge, it was easy to think that things like rest were not important. After all, if their colony here failed it might be the end of human civilisation. Somewhere out in space there might be other survivors of the exodus from Earth, but there was no way to know for sure. In spite of all that though, fatigue was a friend to nobody. If only, Bell thought, I had somebody to order me to rest as well. He was not a man who excelled at taking his own advice.
“All set to go Captain?” a voice from the cockpit asked. Bell recognised the British accent of Colonel Brice Millwood even before he turned to look at his pilot.
“Colonel, I see you’re on taxi duties again. Thank you for taking me up.”
The pilot said nothing. Millwood had lost some of his cheerfulness in the last few weeks. The man seemed a little uncomfortable around Bell – for reasons the Captain had not figured out. “I know it isn’t a job worthy of the Endeavour‘s CAG, but there’s not a lot of combat flying to do here.”
“I understand that Captain, and the lack of conflict is a good thing I suppose.”
“It must be a nice change after your first assignment here, which nearly cost you your life.”
“Danger is all part of the job Captain. I’m sure you can identify.”
“Only too well Colonel.”
“So what brings you back up the the Endeavour this time Sir?” Millwood hit the thrusters and the shuttle began to lift off from the ground.
“I have a number of things to talk to Commander Lin and her staff about. The main thing I want to discuss is searching for Phoenix and her crew.”
“The civilian transport that was supposed to have come here from Earth after our launch?”
“Yes. It left Earth in 2137. It was funded by a private corporation. According to the historical records that were sent to us during our journey, it was open to anybody who purchased passage.”
“That must have been a mess. Most people wanted to get off the planet.”
“You’re right. It wouldn’t have been pretty. I imagine ticket prices must have been high. Their intention was to join our colony. Technically we should have arrived here at Xinju long before they did, but since the Endeavour was sabotaged, and our trip ended up taking centuries longer than it was supposed to, they would have arrived to an empty planet.”
“That must have been distressing for them Sir. They’d have been completely unprepared for what they found. Do you think they ever made it here?”
“That’s what I intend to find out. If there are other human survivors on Xinju we need to make contact with them.”
“I wonder if our presence on this planet after five hundred years will be welcome.”
“That’s a very interesting question Colonel. I wish I had an answer.”