Jan left the others in the valley and went out to hunt alone. He waded through the snow, at a disadvantage because he had not taken the time to make skis or snowshoes. There was much he did not know about the animals of the mountain forests. The trouble was that the planet had never been properly scouted. He himself had been acting as a colonist’s advisor, something a Scout often did if he lived long enough to retire. There had been no time for exploration. Every waking minute had been aimed toward survival, toward making a viable community. Now he would have to start all over.
Before, the task of survival had been difficult; to build a community of five men and two women would be impossible. They needed more people, yet none were to be had. Even Marie seemed half ready to desert. Only her loyalty to Henri and the rough treatment Helene had received kept her from it.
Early the next morning, Jan returned with the carcass of a longneck. He had eaten longneck meat before in his initial experimentation, but the colonists had refused it, even when they killed longnecks while defending their other kills. This was a scrawny specimen with huge paws, one born for the deep snow – clearly a different variety from the herd-following longnecks.
While the steaks were broiling, Jan gathered the group together to take stock. Marie wanted to return and said so. Henri said that they could not, now that blood had been shed, and Valikili corrected that there had never been any choice since Dumezil’s sermon. Marie was unconvinced until Helene told her what Dumezil had boasted were his intentions toward the rebels.
Valikili’s temper had worsened with his recovery. He was ready to wage unholy war on the colonists.
Jan remained silent at the edge of the discussion until they had exhausted both bile and ideas, then told them the story of Hallam’s World. He gave it to them straight, in full and gruesome detail, holding back nothing of his and Sabine’s parts in the slaughter. They sat in silence through it until he finished. “So you see what will happen if we return and what will happen if we try to make war on the colonists. It would be far better if we were all to die than for that to happen.”
“Then what should we do?”
“If we cannot rejoin them and we cannot raid their supplies, then we simply have to make a way for ourselves. Other rivers flow further to the south. We can settle there.”
“But we have nothing with which to make a settlement.”
Sabine stirred the coals with a stick and looked sidelong at Jan. “You have something up your sleeve. Out with it.”
Jan stared from one face to another, wondering how his radical solution would be accepted. “Actually, I have two things up my sleeve. One – I think we went about colonizing the planet all wrong. We thought only of stable, permanent settlements with strong houses and proper fields. We harvest the melt but only in a most unaesthetic manner. We were too civilized to consider becoming nomads – following the melt.”
“Impossible! We would have to walk thousands of kilometers every year.”
“True, but not so many every day. It could be done.”
They wrangled the idea for an hour before dropping it. Jan knew that it had taken root; he would let it simmer in their minds in the weeks to come. He had turned toward his sleeping robes when Sabine‘s voice stopped him. “You said that you had two things up your sleeve. You only mentioned one.”
Jan looked closely at Sabine, saw the same old carelessness that had driven him on in the face of enemy fire, and was thankful for its presence. Sabine was already convinced that Jan had the only answer.
“Sabine, we cannot survive unless we augment our numbers. No group as small as ours is viable.”
Sabine shrugged, “What can we do? We will find no converts among the colonists.”
“Converts, no, but children . . . ”
This is where part one ends. Tomorrow’s post takes place two decades later.