Jandrax 19

Chapter 5

The camp had fallen into a pitiful squalor. The palisade was far too small and the brush huts inside were not only pathetic shelters but also a grave fire hazard. One spark could wipe them out.

The time had come to expand the colony and to go down to the lake, a distance of 450 kilometers and a move the colonists were reluctant to make. They had been living from moment to moment for five months and wanted some time to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Once again, Jan was thankful for Marcel Dumezil’s drive. The leader agreed that the colony must move and must expand.

The colony needed a constant supply of fresh water. The river Lydia was too seasonal in its flow to support proper sanitary facilities, though it provided enough water for their primitive life style. The lake would allow a nonseasonal access to protein – fish – and a chance to try domesticating the native plants. Jan was convinced that water was the limiting factor in plant growth and that irrigation could provide a bountiful harvest of native flora.

The patriarch agreed with him on every particular. They spent a month finalizing plans for the new “city” a trying time for Jan as he fought against his natural dislike of the man.

Captain Childe confirmed Jan’s suspicions; the melt would come twice yearly, but the herds only accompanied one melt. When the green latitude moved northward, the herds would follow the opposite shore of the lake.

For two months the land was desert, then for four months it was snowy. Throughout that time the colonists cut logs until great rafts of timber awaited the melt. They would form the palisade of the new lower colony. The women smoked meat and prepared pemmican.

The Lydia was now in a stationary equatorial orbit just overhead. Captain Childe had only to request it and Henri Staal would take the landing craft up to get him, but he persisted in his self-imposed exile. He had converted holdspace to hydroponic tanks using algae native to Harmony and had established a closed-cycle ecosystem for himself. Jan was sure that he had no intention of ever grounding.

***

Jan was on the crew that went to the lake. They steered their rafts into the shallows at the height of the flood and drove in the long pilings they had prepared. Then they sat, imprisoned on their wooden islands, living on raw fish to preserve their pemmican, and waiting for the melt to pass. When the waters had receded, they surveyed a site on a bluff on the south bank of the Lydia. There they dug trenches and carried up the logs.

Everything they had cut in six months was used to make the stockade. Houses would wait until the next melt. The return trip was made afoot, staying near the Lydia for her failing, muddy water.

Two more couples were married within a week of their return.

*****

Although I don’t really remember the moment of enlightenment, this is clearly when I realized for the first time that Harmony had two sets of seasons per year. This happens at equatorial locations. (see 120. Still Inclined) That the herds only return every other melt (i.e., once per year) was a notion that occurred to me when I became aware of this, but I never worked out why it happens. You can only do so much hidden world building; eventually, you just have to write. more tomorrow

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