Colony X: Mountaineering 4


“I suppose I should start with a map,” Andy said. “Someone give me a rock?”

A stone blade was presented to her, with a handle end neatly wrapped in strands of moss until it was soft and pleasant in the hand. Andy made a mental note that the clumpy mosses made interesting fiber when put through some process or other – she’d have to ask about that.

She used it to draw on the stone at their feet.

“Slate’s a very traditional writing method,” she added. “Anyone find chalk yet?”

No one responded in the affirmative, so Andy pulled herself back from that mental tangent. Tough crowd. She imagined she was her dad, up in front of a class. Okay.

“So we’ve got a basically east-west coastline, south of us.”

Andy drew a straight horizontal line.

“It isn’t perfectly straight, but it is for the purpose of this exercise. And then we have our trajectory coming in to land in such a spectacularly incompetent manner.”

She drew a diagonal, from southwest to northeast.

“That’s us. This end of the line here,” she tapped the stone, “Is where you all landed.”

She tapped the intersection of the coast and the flightpath.

“I ended up here, because I managed to be thrown loose of the shuttle in the air somewhere. That was not fun. So I’m on the coast, exploring, figuring out that the ocean’s where all the food is, when Michelle and Noah show up. They hang around for a few days. I teach them to fish a little. Then the storm hits, and we don’t do much better than you all did – hunkered down in what shelter we could find, in this case a cave carved by the ocean some hundreds or thousands of years ago. That’s where we’re camped now.”

“Oh, and we found a piece of the shuttle. It had some survival gear, that’s where this comes from.”

She waved one of the little metal cups, by way of illustration.

“I was hoping to make an expedition back to the rest of the shuttle,” she added cautiously, “Later. When we’re all feeling a bit more mobile. It can’t be that far away, I think, not at the speeds we’re capable of traveling, and it could have more supplies still good.”

“Something to discuss later,” Michelle said. “What else do we need to cover, Andy?”

“Well, there’s your alien.”


“We don’t have much detail there,” Andy apologized. “Michelle saw an alien. Not a Tydrin. It had a camera or something.”

“If it wasn’t a Tydrin, what did it look like?” asked Caleb, the tall, broad black guy who looked like he could grow up to be Idris Elba if someone would just feed him.

“Um… like a big blue frog with whiskers, kindof,” Michelle said. “Except not. It was wearing clothes, I know that. It was in the ocean.”

“If there are aliens in the ocean,” Caleb said slowly, “Why are we going to live next to them? What if they mind? It’s not as if we can defend ourselves.”

“It didn’t do anything to me,” argued Michelle. “And where else are we going to live? That’s where all the life is – you should see it. Our cave’s by this river full of creatures of all sorts of sizes, and plants, and eating it hasn’t killed it yet. I mean, I think Noah might stab me if I got between him and a salad, but that’s different from the food being poisonous, you know?”

This argument seemed to sway the group. Andy wished she could justify snagging a piece of fish for herself, as Michelle had managed to make her hungry as well, but it would just have made her feel bad about herself, looking at all these starving faces.

“Anyway,” Andy said, stabbing a point north of her camp on the map and west of the crash site, “We think we’re about here, now. To get – home – we follow a stream that goes like this.”

She traced a line for a centimeter east from her estimation of the cave, and then curved it sharply south to meet the coast.

“Where’s this river?” Caleb asked.

“Here,” she said, drawing a broad north-south scribble from the coast up to the crash site. “I think if we followed it north the swamp would be part of it, but we didn’t have a chance.”

“So, what’s the vote?” Noah asked softly. “Do you want to come with us?”

It turned out that in a choice between water, shelter, and no food, and water, shelter, and the promise of food, there was very little contest for a group of hungry teenagers. Now they just had to get them home.

It had been going so well. They’d gotten everyone packed up, and dragged their weary selves down the hill, then down the second hill, made their first night’s camp, dragged themselves down the streambank to the second night’s camp, and thence down to the overhang in the valley where they’d spent half a day worrying about Noah. They’d fed the group as best they could with little bits of fish and all the greenish stuff they could scavenge, picking the ground bare as they went. None of the kids Andy was just getting to know had room to eat very much, luckily, so the supplies weren’t gone yet.

And then, of course, it had to rain. That killed a day, hiding under the overhang and doing their best not to get too damp.

“While we’ve got a minute,” said Noah, catching Andy’s attention. “Sam, can I have a look at your ankle?”

Sam obliged him, scooting over and sticking it out in front of him. Noah rotated it cautiously, bending and flexing the foot.

“It seems better,” he agreed. “Can I see the other one?”

“Sure, but I haven’t done anything to it.”

After a brief examination, he said, “You’ve lost some range of motion with it. Try writing the alphabet with your toes, that will stretch it out slowly. If you don’t stretch it….”

“I’ll never be a ballet dancer?” she said, smiling.

“That, too,” Noah agreed.

“Nice to have you back, doc,” said Sam, quietly. “I was pretty sure you were a goner.”

“Glad to be back, Sam. It’s nice to have my favorite patient back.”


The rain didn’t let up.

Louisa, the short black girl with the dead friend, started singing, quietly. Eventually, others began to join in, until Amazing Grace’s last verse went by with only her still singing.

“I thought you might know that one,” she said, satisfied. “How about this one?”

And that’s how the day passed in singing. We Shall Overcome transitioned into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silent Night.

“Anyone know a song about hating the rain?” asked Zack, the rail-thin white boy with shaggy brown hair who used a spear as a walking stick.

“Oh,” said Andy, caught. “Yes, my mom’s favorite singer had one. Let me see….”

Into each life some rain must fall

 But too much is falling in mine

 Into each heart some tears must fall

 But some day the sun will shine

 Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts

 But when I think of you another shower starts

 Into each life some rain must fall

 But too much is falling in mine


 Into each and every life some rain has got to fall

 But too much of that stuff

 Is fallin’ into mine

 And into each heart some tears gotta fall

 And I know that someday that sun is bound to shine


 Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts

 But when I think of you another shower starts

 Into each life some rain must fall

 But too much is falling in mine 

Andy fell silent again, self-conscious.

“About sums it up,” agreed Zack.

“Someone else take a turn,” Andy ordered.

“Sure,” said Michelle. “As long as you all remember you asked me to.”

Michelle’s contribution was cheerful, fast-paced, and involved a lot more hand clapping. It made Andy smile and join in on the clapping.