Jandrax 77

Working carefully in the uncertain moonlight, he reloaded the lower barrel, thanking the fates that had sent his finger to that heavier charge. He had fired two shots here and one on the island, all from the upper barrel. This was the first shot from the lower. He could not continue to use his rifle in this manner if he were to survive the half year it would take him to return to the colony.

He should move out, he thought, but he could not face the snowmelt. Instead, with rifle ready he sat at the part of the hillock furthest removed from the longneck’s carcass.

Several things were apparent. He needed waterproof footwear if he was to survive, for the continual wetting would lead to pneumonia and death. It must be made with care, tightly sewn and well greased. He needed a fine hide – the longneck would provide that – and a fat animal from which to render lard. The herby he had killed would have provided grease, had he known that he would need it. Jean would also need a fine bone awl or needle and patience.

It was also apparent, and even more pressing, that he must find a way to sleep without being attacked. So far he had done poorly – almost fatally poorly. Finally, he had to find a way to conserve his ammunition.

When morning came, he ate longneck meat and removed the hide, carefully scraping the inside and rolling it into a bundle. He took a rib to make an awl and started north.

Whatever else he did, every day must carry him onward. Were he to become injured or ill, the melt would pass him by and he would starve.

He cut wands of siskal, lal, and greenhorn as he walked and stripped them of their bark. The colonists had never had to discover which native woods would make bows for they fabricated fiberglass bows in the landing craft’s small workshop. Now he would experiment.

He stopped early that night about half a kilometer past a thicket of dry brush and built a goodsized fire. He hung his bow staves to cure; then cooked herby meat, now slightly high, and the remainder of the longneck. He sliced the meat thin and hung it over the fire on green branches, watching it carefully so that it dried without burning. The result was poor jerky, lacking salt and not having had the time to cure properly, but at least it gave him some emergency supplies. He alternated watching the fire, the meat, and the bow staves and working on the longneck hide. When nightfall was near he killed the fire and retreated to the brush for the night.

He had lost time and he knew it, but it had been necessary. He hiked straight through the next day, eating dried meat and the seeds and fruits that he found and by nightfall felt that he had gained some distance. Again his leg throbbed, though perhaps not so much as before. Near nightfall he stalked and killed a big trihorn.

Once again he did not sleep, but sat the night through beside the carcass, working by firelight to jerk the meat and preserve the hide. It was for the hide that he had killed the animal.

In the morning he started out under the burden of the trihorn hide, carrying three strung bows. Throughout the day he tried them, firing cut reeds at impromptu targets and concluded that the greenhorn was too limber for use. The siskal broke during the morning. The lal was a poor bow wood, but he could do no better. more tomorrow

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