Welcome to my second "Earth2" story, my fourth completed and third posted. This story was started immediately after "Dreams of a Lost Tribe" in June 1995 and it has sat, neglected in this form, since October of that year with a mere 10 pages of conclusion to go. I have had a somewhat love/hate relationship with this story since then until, with a little gentle prodding, encouragement and a goodly amount of teasing, I recently tried once more to put what has always been in my head 'to monitor'. My thanks, as always, to "Lia's Lynch Mob" especially Lindafff, who "got into my head" and has proofed a good bit of this for me and MaryB, who didn't hurt me when I sent her the story those many months ago only leading up to the big MM climax and held MorganCon '96, which helped me recapture the magic...
This story is dedicated to a few special individuals...
Kirk Cameron Trutner -- Our favorite silent colonist, who should know better than to ask for lines and to whom I send only the best of thoughts for his future. Dreams can become reality on this Earth, too...
Drooly aka Michael Johnston -- My cyber-buddy from afar, treasured friend and partner in mischief.
And, The Horde... Who remind me of the important things in life: To live each day to its fullest, to respect the circle of life even when it hurts, and how to defy physics with tennis balls...
a work of fan fiction.+
+It is not intended that any copyrights be violated in any manner.+
BLOOD BROTHERS, Part
'We have traveled west for several months now, stopping to camp through the harsh winter before moving on again. Now, it is mid-spring and we find ourselves traveling a great forest, availing ourselves of the paths left by migrating animals.
From what we have seen, the herds must have been immense -- if the wide swath of trampled brush is any indicator. As further proof of their passing, we continue to find the 'unfortunates' that were unable to make the perilous journey. Or, more correctly, what is left of them. Their half-eaten, trampled or rotted corpses have littered the path at times. Sometimes, only a portion of the carcass is all that has remained.
It has been a sobering reminder of how difficult life in this new world can be -- more so than any lesson Yale might ever hope to teach. At times, we find ourselves hoping that it is not a dark foreboding of what is to come for us as well. Still, we continue to venture into the setting sun, trying to enjoy our good health and the good weather despite the unyielding realities of this second earth...'
Devon Adair squinted into the mid-afternoon sun. That was the problem with moving west, she reflected, half the day they spent blinking the sun out of their eyes. Devon watched with distaste as Baines and Walman rolled the animal carcass off the path and into the surrounding forest. Beside her, John Danziger's right foot shot out involuntarily.
With a glance out the corner of her eye, Devon pursed her lips in annoyance as she slowed the DuneRail. "As a mechanic, I assume you're aware that there is not a brake there," she commented dryly, while she adjusted her sunglasses.
"I could remedy that more easily than you may think," the mechanic replied evenly, softening his comment with an apologetic shrug.
Devon considered him for a moment then turned her attention back to the uneven terrain. "I don't understand what your problem is with my driving. At last count, only you and Alonzo have had substantial accidents. We know all about yours and Alonzo refuses to discuss his, so we can only imagine the cause. I, on the other hand, have managed to drive this vehicle without a scratch."
"Be careful what you say, Adair. Fate has a funny way of listening when you least expect it."
"John Danziger -- superstitious?" Devon commented to herself in a stage whisper.
"Not superstitious, just pragmatic. I don't want to have to say 'I told you so', especially since it would mean I'd have a vehicle to repair. Just take it easy and watch out for those bumps."
Devon pulled the DuneRail out of the way of the caravan. Pausing on a small rise, she and Danziger watched as the group wandered by in twos and threes, followed by the lumbering TransRover. A few people had hitched a ride amongst the gear on the large vehicle, but most chose to walk this particular day. Spring was in full bloom and the weather had raised everyone's spirits. With the long winter over and the beautiful weather, most wanted to take every opportunity to stretch their legs.
Devon waited until the 'Rover passed before pulling the 'Rail back into line to check for stragglers. The two children, pausing from their lessons with Yale, waved from the back of the larger vehicle and she and John waved back. Devon eased the 'Rail to the other side of the TransRover, allowing John to account for the remainder of the group, then pulled the DuneRail back into line to follow the caravan for a while.
Devon spied the doctor, Julia Heller, walking slowly at the side of the TransRover, one hand grasping one of the side baskets for guidance as she spoke into her gear. "What do you suppose Julia's doing?" she asked aloud.
Danziger smiled knowingly. "She's on-line to 'Lonz. They do it all the time." He sat up straighter and frowned disapprovingly. "He'd better not be on visual, too."
Julia glanced back. Noticing her observers, she smiled shyly and colored, then turned to speak into her gear.
Alonzo Solace surveyed the terrain with a satisfied smile. He had been sent ahead to scout a trail and it had been one of those perfect days. He was often the one to go on these scouts. His pilot's instincts and connection to the planet made him a natural choice for this duty. He enjoyed the chance to discover things first even if it separated him from Julia. "See those bushes yet?" he asked Julia eagerly. "You should almost be on top of them by now." He watched her look to her left again, enjoying the opportunity to watch her unguarded.
"Wait a minute. Yes, I think I do." The doctor swung her eyepiece away so she could see her work. "The scan is promising. Looks like a good find. Let me get a sample."
While the doctor gathered her specimens, Alonzo watched the caravan pass by through Julia's video feed. In the background he could see the DuneRail as it drew up the rear of the rag-tag convoy.
Julia rose and swung her eyepiece back into position. She fondly regarded the pilot for a moment, then commented lightly, "I didn't know you Fly-boys knew anything about plants."
"We don't," Alonzo replied with a grin. "The Terrians must have shown them to me. Hey, is Danziger really letting Devon drive again?"
Julia glanced over her shoulder as she trotted back to the side of the TransRover. "Yes. He looks pretty agitated, too. Do you think I should offer him a Seda-Derm?"
Alonzo chuckled. "Sure that'd be enough?"
Julia smiled slightly and glanced again at the pair on the DuneRail.
"Hey, Doc! I found a whole bunch of those bushes here. They seem further along than the others. They have lots of blossoms. Look."
Julia watched as Alonzo swung his eyepiece away for a P.O.V. scan. The bushes were much larger than the one she had seen. Alonzo was clear of the forest, so Julia surmised the bushes had benefited from more direct sunlight.
"I wonder what sort of fruit they bear."
"Berries. Big berries," Alonzo stated matter-of-factly.
"Any idea how soon?" she asked.
"Let me take a closer look."
Julia watched as the bushes swung first out then back into view, only closer, as Alonzo climbed off the ATV and approached them. She gasped as his approach clarified the true scale of the bushes before him.
Before, she had not had the frame of reference since only scrub grew nearby. Now, as he approached, the bushes towered over the tall pilot, their green leaves and pink blossoms surrounding him as he inspected the plant. Alonzo's hand came into view as he pulled a branch away from its mates for closer inspection. He fingered a few orbs hanging from the branch, a couple with the shriveled remnants of their blossoms still attached. Julia squinted into the eyepiece while Alonzo carefully examined the bush.
"See these berries here? The ones that are so red they're almost purple are ready, I think. They get bigger, too. About the size of a marble."
"A marble? You're dating yourself."
"Funny, I thought I was dating you..." Alonzo responded cheerily, repositioning his eyepiece so he could see Julia once again. His pun was rewarded by a reserved smile. "This area looks like a good place to camp. It's pretty level nearby and I just passed a small stream. I'll scout a little further ahead and meet you back here."
Preoccupied, Julia nodded, her mind already formulating the tests she would run on her samples that evening.
"Wow, look at those clouds!" Alonzo commented a short time later, interrupting her thoughts. "To the south-west. The clouds are really dark. Looks like we might be getting a storm. Better hurry to the... Whoa!"
Julia jumped in alarm as the feed from Alonzo's gear devolved into static. She impulsively ran a few steps forward from the TransRover, calling his name before stopping to intently watch her gear. Behind the her, on the DuneRail, Devon and Danziger were both startled by the doctor's sudden behavior. With a grumble, Danziger snatched his gear from the deck of the DuneRail and initiated his override code.
Julia watched tensely as Alonzo slowly disentangled his gear and repositioned it properly. She noticed he was covered with dirt and no longer on the ATV.
He smiled apologetically. "Sorry about that, Doc. Don't tell Danziger what just happened," he cautioned her.
Julia watched as he looked, engrossed, beyond the gear. "What did happen?" she asked worriedly.
"Yeah, what happened?" Danziger interjected, surprising both of them.
Alonzo's eyes narrowed as he shifted his attention back to the video feed then grinned. "I wiped out on the ATV, but you'll never guess what I found!"
"Are you all right?" they both asked in unison.
"I want a P.O.V. scan of the ATV right now," Danziger demanded.
"After I get a P.O.V. of you," Julia corrected.
Alonzo looked disappointed. "I'm fine and so is the ATV. Don't you want to know what I found?" He waited expectantly.
"Now, Alonzo," Julia ordered.
"It came in hot but it's partially intact... I found number 7!" Alonzo revealed enthusiastically. "It's a bit of a mess, looks like only one chute deployed. Let me take a look."
"A cargo pod?" Devon asked, joining the conversation.
"Yeah. Hope there wasn't anything fragile in it; it's cracked wide open." Alonzo looked into the cargo pod as he spoke, his voice sounding hollow as he stuck his head through one of the openings. "Looks like not much survived impact. Great," he groaned, "the Grendlers have been here, too."
"'Lonz, how do you trip over a cargo pod?" Danziger inquired incredulously, interrupting Alonzo's report as Devon turned to halt the caravan.
"The pod's embedded in the ground, John, and it does have several months worth of plant growth on it," Alonzo responded defensively as he inspected the pod. "Here, let me show you." The pilot paced away from the pod and swung his video pick-up to display the pod to the others.
The cargo pod had landed right-side up on a horizontal edge and embedded in the side of a hill. Both ends had burst in the impact as the pod warped into a trapezoidal shape. Dirt covered much of the pod, with grasses and lichen growing opportunistically on every surface. Alonzo peered into the pod, allowing the others to see the contents. Machinery lay uselessly twisted together. A stripped TransRover sat on its belly, all tires blown, its underside obviously smashed on impact. In the bottom seam of the pod, a pool of liquefied substances sat coagulated, with glowing lichen spreading across its surface.
Alonzo withdrew his head and swiveled his eyepiece back into view. "Sorry it isn't better news. Any idea what was on-board?"
"Manifest lists land vehicles, vehicle parts, building materials and food," Yale supplied.
"Let me take a look in the other bay," Alonzo offered.
The entire group watched as Alonzo quickly clambered around to the other side of the cargo pod. When he stuck his head through the open wall, light danced on his face where his lumalight was reflected back to him.
Alonzo grimaced in irritation, then looked calmly into the eyepiece. "The Grendlers have been in here, too. Looks like there's more on this side, mostly building materials from what I can see." The pilot looked up suddenly. "Hey, it's getting dark fast. That storm is really rolling in. You guys had better get moving. I gave Cameron the coordinates for a good campsite. I'll get the ATV and meet you there." He grinned and severed communication.
"'Lonz? Hey, 'Lonz..." Danziger vainly tried to raise the pilot.
"Looks like he's learning some of your tricks, John," Devon noted ironically.
"Well, let's get moving then. He and I can talk in person."