The Colony
V. Ducain

Chapter Two
First Day : Introductions

The yelling turned out to be some kids about eight to twelve years old, I think, and an obviously very pissed off adult.  It seems the kids woke up, discovered they had been transformed into 'really rad cat people', and were now having a great time playing a game of tag, or chase the tail, or something involving a lot of running around, jumping, and wrestling.  It was obvious the kids were not at all upset about their transformation.  The scream of rage came from a pissed off adult who apparently got in the way of the fun, and inadvertently discovered the cubs(?) have needle sharp claws.

Soon after people started cautiously introducing themselves, Kathy found her husband was one of the other adults attracted to the noise.  While he was getting reacquainted with his transformed 'wife' and infant 'son', they looked for their still misplaced daughter.  Five of the other adults turned out to be other parents looking for their 'lost' children.  As the parents began getting the children sorted out and things settled down a little, I headed uphill toward the flat-topped boulder with Zandora and Blackstripe trotting along with me.

I understood how the youngsters could think being turned into 'really rad cat people' was a 'kewl' thing.  I had to admit I was not all that upset about being a 'cat-person' either.  What really made me angry was being kidnapped, turned into whatever we are, then dumped wherever we are as if we were no more then lab animals.  This really pissed me off more then I've ever been pissed off about anything else.  I did not know who they were, I did not care why they did this to me, to us, or how they did it, I just knew if by some miracle I ever got the chance to hurt them, I would.  I would hurt them, whoever they were, in any way I can possibly do so.  Unfortunately, I really doubted I'd ever get the chance.  I doubt I'd ever find out who the hell they were, but I could always hope.

Although walking on four feet instead of two was different, it was not nearly as hard to do as I would have thought it would be.  We were still just a little uncoordinated, so we had to be careful to avoid stumbling over obstacles in our way, but we had little trouble jogging around or jumping over those still sleeping, or small boulders on the way up to my chosen speaking platform.  After arriving at the big column-like boulder, I circled it, examining its rough surface for easy hand and foot holds.  The boulder was a little more then twice my height, measured as I stood on my hind legs and leaning up against it.  After I figured out how to voluntarily extend my claws, climbing up the side of the column-like boulder to its flattened top proved surprisingly easy.

Once on top of the boulder, I tried whistling to get every one's attention.  I discovered cats, or at least this cat anyway, could not whistle worth a damn, so I tried shouting.  As I took a deep breath, I felt my lungs expanding in both my upper torso and lower body, and realized for the first time I had two sets of lungs.  Then I let go with a yell as loud as I could:

> > HEEEY < <

Given the fact I had two sets of lungs, I guess the volume of my 'roaring' shout should not have been so surprising.  But, it sure as hell startled the shit out of me as much as it did everyone else, and especially the nesting birds.  Everyone already awake froze in startled silence as the echoes of my 'shout' reverberated in the cavern while the startled birds flew around, filling the cavern with the screeching echoes of their own noisy cries.  By the time the echoes died away, most people recovered from their startlement, and by the time the birds finally began to settle down, most of the people had also made their way closer to my boulder.

At a much lower controlled volume, I yelled, “May I have your attention, please. . .”

After a pause I continued at an even lower volume, “I know you all want to know what has happened to us.  I wish I could tell you, but unfortunately, I do not know any more about what happened, how we got turned into whatever we are now than anyone else probably does.  While I can make some guesses, like anyone else, wild guesses will not get us anywhere.  So please do not waste time asking who, why, or how we were turned into feline centaurs, because. . .I. . .Do. . .Not. . .Know.  Nor, do I know where we are, other then in a really big cavern.

I paused then added, “Of course, if anyone does know something, I am sure everyone will be very interested in hearing about it.”

I paused again then asked, “Well?  Does anyone know anything about who did this to us?  Or why they did it?”

After a long pause, someone called out, “How about the people still sleeping?  Maybe one of them knows something.”

I nodded and replied, “Yes, that is possible.  If any of the sleepers knows anything, I'm sure they will share whatever they know when they wake up.  In any case, I intend to find out as much as I can about what happened to us, but that will have to wait.  Right now, we all have to keep calm, and help the others keep calm as they wake up.”

I studied the gathering as I tried judging how the people were reacting to what I was saying.  I have had to frequently deal with people from very different cultures as a freelance 'Trouble Shooter'.  As a result I have had to develop a talent for reading and accurately interpreting the many subtle, and not so subtle, physical signals of body language of many diverse cultures.  I guess this is one reason I made a game of people watching.  It is amazing how accurately a person's body will tell you what they are really thinking or feeling, no matter what they may be saying.  This 'talent' had saved me a lot of trouble and misunderstandings.  I was also sure my talent for 'reading' people had saved my life on at least two occasions.  And now, despite the radical physical transformation, I found I could still read my listeners' body language at least as well as I could a similar group of humans, at least I hoped I was, and was not simply deluding myself.

While everyone showed some signs of being agitated, upset, frighten and angry, I did not see anyone who seemed on the edge of panic, and this struck me as being more then a little peculiar.  Even though I was calm about my own transformation, and did not think it was all that out of character for me, I was rather amazed how calm everyone else seemed to be.  It just did not seem natural.  I know from hard experience, in any similar group of normal humans, there will be at least a few people who react violently to anything radically outside prior experiences.  There are always some people who simply do not, or can not accept sudden changes in what they have come to accept as 'normal', as the way things are supposed to be, without reacting violently.

So watchfully and cautiously I continued, “Despite our startling physical transformations, we all seem to be okay.  Nor do we seem to be in any immediate physical danger.  So, it is in everyone's best interests if we all stay calm and work together.”

I was expecting it, but it still surprised when it happened.  I was also relieved since at least one person was acting more or less as expected.  It it sounded so much like something right out of a really corny disaster movie.  Almost like from a script, someone yelled, “Who the hell died and made you God!?”

I looked toward the area the yell came from, gave a big toothy smile and replied, “Well, it's good to hear someone is not letting a minor inconvenience like being kidnapped and turned into, into whatever we are now, distract them from their priorities.”

I was surprised to hear some 'chuckles' and a couple of outright laughs.  I took this as a good sign and continued, “You really want to know why I'm up here on this boulder, making noises like some politician?  Well, you could say I saw a need, and I took steps to fill that need, which is true, but the primary reason is much simpler. . . I got up here before anyone else did.”

I paused before continuing, “I do not seek leadership of our group for personal gain or power.  In fact, I was tempted to just wait and let someone else assume leadership of our group.  But, for a very personal and selfish reason I decided I could not do that.  That reason being, I have a strong desire to continue surviving, and until someone can prove to me his, or her leadership will improve my chances for survival, I decided I would have to take the job.”

I paused again and steadied my audience before continuing, “I sincerely believe the chances of MY personal survival will increase with the survival of as many of you as possible.  So, as a result of this, I know I will work my ass. . .hummm, maybe I should say, I will work my tail off, to do whatever I have to do, to ensure as many of you survive as possible.”

I paused to look around and take a deep breath before roaring, “Of course, if someone is such a stupid asshole they would pick a fight before they have any idea what is going on, or if someone really insists on being an argumentative asshole, without any reason other then being an asshole, then I will be very happy to give my new claws and fangs a tryout!” The volume of this startled everyone, and stirred the birds up again.

I waited until the birds settled down again before continuing in a much lower volume, “While we have plenty of water here, and this cave may be adequate initial shelter, we will still need food, a lot of food for a group this size.  We are also totally ignorant of what lies outside of this cavern.  So the first task is to organize some 'Recon Teams' to scout the surrounding area for sources of food, alternate sources of water, and shelter, as well as identifying any likely threats to our survival.”

I paused to see if anyone had any comments to add before continuing, “We, as a group, are very fortunate in that a number of US military personnel, with extensive reconnaissance and survival training, are included among our number.  I'm also sure there are many others who have valuable skills, knowledge, or expertise, to contribute to the group to improve everyone's chance of survival, or to enhance our general comfort.  Those of us who happen to lack any such skills, or expertise can still do a lot to help out while you learn the new skills you will need here.”

I paused again to judge the response of my audience.  Except for being preoccupied with their new bodies, and their enhanced senses, I was still amazed how calmly everyone seemed to be accepting their transformation.  I was pleased to see Zandora and Blackstripe seemed to agree with what I had to say so far, as did a half dozen people gathered around them who had the same 'look' or 'military' bearing. Since I expected the military trained people to initially take the most risks, and bear most of the responsibility for the group's survival, I needed their support.

I made myself as comfortable as I could on my boulder as I said, “While we are waiting for everyone to wake up, we can find out a few things about ourselves.  The few people I have spoke to were all on the same chartered 747 passenger jet I remember being on before waking up here.  Is there ANYONE who was NOT a passenger on a chartered 747?”

About a dozen or so hands went up so I asked, “Ohh, You people were not on a jet before you woke up here?  Where were you then?”

This question seemed to confuse the ones who raised their hands.  It was soon apparent that they had raised their hands mostly because they had not been paying attention to what I was asking.  So I repeated my question, “I said, please raise your hands ONLY if you were NOT a passenger on an airplane just before you woke up here!” This time no one raised their hand.

It was still surprising how calmly everyone seemed to accept being transformed into furry four footed cat-people.  I guessed I should be grateful everyone was taking it so well, and no one was going berserk or catatonic, but it made me wonder if more than our bodies had been changed.  The idea someone may have tampered with my mind disturbed me a lot more then the fact of my physical transformation.

As I considered the disturbing idea our minds could have been as transformed as our bodies, I noticed an increasing number of wide awake children, or cubs, chasing each other around.  It seemed most of the 'cubs' were already awake while most their parents or guardians were still asleep, and they were letting everyone know they were awake.  The very smallest were obviously not at all happy about something and were screaming at the top of their lungs about it.  Most of the older cubs seemed excited, but not upset or frightened by their transformations as they played, wrestled, and tried out their new bodies.

Over the screaming wail of two then three then five of the smallest infants, I called out, “Will someone see about the kids, please!  I saw at least five mothers with infants, as well as several other mothers with older children transferring from the damaged transports.  Any parents or guardians who are awake, I'm pretty sure you will find your children have also been transformed.  So, those of you who had children on the plane, or if you knew some of the children on the plane, will you please go and see if you can sort out who belongs to whom.”

A few people, besides Kathy and her husband, were already watching the kids, or they were trying to watch them anyway.  The very active cubs were chasing each other all over the place, and making it very hard for the babysitters to keep up with them.  I was pleased to see several people moving to help take control of the scattered cubs well before I finished pointing out the obvious need to do so.

After the cubs were more or less being taken care of, and more people had waken up, things started to get a little more organized.  I introduced Zandora and Blackstripe to the others and asked them to 'interview' anyone who thought they had any survival training or skills.  When Blackstripe complained about being 'volunteered' I replied, “Well, we've got to find out what the group's assets are, but if you know anyone who is better qualified to do these initial interviews, then you may of course turn the responsibility over to them.”

Blackstripe did not seem to happy, but she did not get to say anything else because Zandora said, “No, John... I mean Blackstripe... is quite qualified for this assignment, and I'm sure he... she will be happy to assist me.  Won't you, Blackstripe?”

Frowning, Blackstripe stuck out her tongue at Zandora and said, “Yes, Zandora, I will be happy to assist you.”

After looking back and forth between Zandora and Blackstripe, I said, “Well I'm happy you two are happy, I hope we'll all be as happy.  Now, unless one of you or someone else can think of something else that needs doing, I think organizing recon teams to find a way out of this cavern, and check out the immediate area should be our first priority.”

Zandora and Blackstripe began quizzing people who claimed they had survival type training or skills and determining if they really did have the skills they claimed.  While they did this, I watched the gathering and answered a few questions as more and more people woke up.  I kept expecting a riot or at least some kind of trouble to break out as more people woke up to discover what had happened to them.  But, nothing happened except for a few individuals who did not really panic, but did get rather excited, and had to be restrained, just in case, by their neighbors till they calmed down.  I know from hard experience a random group of normal humans would never be so well behaved in such a situation.  Maybe the high proportion of disciplined military personnel had a calming effect on the others, but there should still be more panic and confusion then was being displayed.

As I expected, Zandora and Blackstripe did not spend much time with the ex-military people whom they already knew had military survival training of some kind, many having extensive Recon, Ranger, or Special Forces training.  There were even an active duty SEALS team among our group who had been TDY to the training base for some 'easy' training duty.  A surprising number of non-military, non-dependant people also claimed to have useful levels of basic camping, hunting, and fishing skills.

After nearly everyone was wake, Zandora introduced me to a strikingly attractive black maned leopard marked individual.  She was, or had been Colonel Deering, the ranking officer of the troops who boarded the plane.  She had been a Special Forces Colonel in charge of jungle survival and counter-insurgency training at the rather large training base that had just been closed.

After introductions were made I said, “Uhh, Colonel Deering, as the ranking military officer, you and the pilot have the strongest traditional right to assume leadership of any group of survivors. Since the pilot has not come forward, and is most likely still asleep, do you contest my assumption of leadership of our group?”

She stared up at me a few seconds, probably trying to guess what I was leading up to, before asking, “Would you yield the position to me, if I did?”

I smiled as I said, “No, not at this time.  Possibly, in three of four months, and then only if a majority of the people are dissatisfied with my leadership.”

Frowning she asked, “Then why did you bring up the subject?”

I replied, “Because, of the three groups of people who knew each other on the plane before we woke up here, your group is the largest and most organized.  If you make an issue of it, your people would probably support you, even if you had to impose your will on the rest of us by force.  While this would enhance your personal authority, I believe it would decrease this group's overall chances of survival as a single unified group.”

I paused before adding, “Of course, I would resist any so called leader who would use force and the threat of violence to impose his will on those he is leading.  I hope many others would also resist such efforts.  Colonel, I'm not saying this to offend you, nor do I mean to imply you would be more inclined to do something like that than anyone else.  I just wish to make my position clear to anyone who may be so inclined to try using violence to impose their will on the rest of us.  You and the other former military personnel, as well as many others, have much to contribute to the group's survival.  It would be a stupid waste if we started fighting among ourselves over the doubtful honor of leader.”

Colonel Deering looked thoughtful as she asked, “I assume one of the groups you referred to is the flight crew, but what is the third group?”

An auburn-maned, rusty colored coated person spoke up before I could reply, “I believe our mysterious leader is referring to me and my colleagues, Colonel Deering.”

Deering frowned at the auburn-maned individual and asked, “Ohh, and you are. . . ?”

The auburn-maned person smiled as she replied, “I guess I should not be surprised you do not recognize me, Colonel Deering, I have changed quite a bit since we last met, but I am sure I left a memorable impression on you.”

Deering looked puzzled for a couple seconds, then her features underwent the most amazing transformation.  She laid her ears back, snarled, hissed and actually screamed just like the big enraged leopard she resembled.  For a second or two it sure seemed like Deering was about to attack.  A flash of pure terror showed on the face of the auburn-maned individual as she crouched down on her belly in terror. Regaining her self-control with visible effort, Deering almost hissing demanded, “Di Vargin, You lying, deceitful bastard!  What the hell are you doing here?”

Seeing Deering was not actually going to attack her, Di Vargin's terror vanished with amazing speed, and she even had the nerve to reply with obvious amusement, “Why, I assume I'm doing the same thing you, and everyone else is doing here.”

Still snarling, Deering asked, “Weren't you satisfied when your lies and phony science got my training base shut down.  I thought you were going to stay and help the poor indigenous people recover from the horrible way we were supposed to have treated them.  What's wrong, weren't the poor ignorant locals properly beholden to their rescuers?”

Di Vargin laid back her ears as she replied, “Yeesssss, I was very pleassed to see that so called 'jungle survival' training base closed.  You know as well as I do what its true purpose was.  That base and others like it should never have been opened in the first place.”

Deering hissed again, then said, “You are a damn lying socialist fraud.  You and your damn American-hating socialist comrades will say, or do anything to harm America.  Everyone with the brains of a goose who bothers to think for themselves knows what kind of bullshit socialism is.  You simply can not stand the fact America won the Cold War, and now everyone can see just how totally corrupted every socialist government was and how they all rape their people, their resources, and their environment.

“But like all good socialists you didn't let something as irrelevant as truth get in the way of your desire to shut down the JST bases.  You could not twist the truth and scientific data to serve your purposes, so you didn't hesitate to lie and manufacture whatever data you desired.  You outright falsified more then 90% of that so called scientific data you used to get the bases closed.  I have. . . I had enough undeniable evidence to ensure you and your pseudo-scientist comrades would never be able to show your faces around any reputable scientists again.”

Obviously pissed off at being called a 'political pseudo-scientist', Di Vargin hissed and yelled, “I do not fake my data!  Nor, do I make unsubstantiated claims!”

It was pretty obvious Deering and Di Vargin were about ready to test out their new claws and fangs on each other.  To forestall their words from turning to violence, I interrupted with, “Well, I see you two know each other.  As interested as I am in observing the. . . ahh, results of your reunion, I must insist you restrain your... enthusiasm.  We have more important things to take care of first.” I really did not want them to actually harm each other, but I had to admit I was not upset to find two possible rivals hated each other's guts.

I paused then said, “I have a rough idea of the skills and qualifications, as relavent to our current situation, of a Special Forces Colonel.  But I know nothing about you, doctor Di Vargin, except for the fact Colonel Deering has some, rather strongly held opinions about you.  Would you care to tell me something about any skills or areas of expertise you have which you feel may be of value to the group's survival or comfort?”

I did not think Di Vargin liked the fact she had to look up to where I lay atop my boulder as she said, “I am Doctor Raymond Di Vargin.  I hold advanced Doctorate Degrees in Anthropology, Anthro-Ecology and Political Science.  I hold. . . I held chairmanships on the Counsel of Americans of Conscience and the Committee for the Preservation of the Natural Environment.  I also held seats on a variety of advisory and supervisory committees and counsels.  My field of interest is world and regional ecology and man's past, present and future impact on the ecosystem.  I am considered a leading authority in evaluating and repairing ecological degradation caused by human activity.”

When Di Vargin paused I said, “Doctor Di Vargin, I do not mean to give the impression of belittling your, or anyone's, hard earned achievements.  I am sure you and many others here have spent many years acquiring knowledge and an education which you use to the betterment of yourself, and society as a whole.  I hope we will have use for such fields of study as Anthropology and Political Science within our life times.  But we, this group, has need of skills and expertise of. . . a more immediate use than what you have so far claimed.”

Di Vargin's ears lowered and she almost snarled, “What do you mean, CLAIM!?   I am THE senior authority in Anthro-Ecology!  No one is my peer in evaluating ecological degradation and the development of methods to limit and reverse such degradation.”

Di Vargin's anger passed as quickly as it flared up and she actually seemed embarrassed by her display of temper.  I tried to sound sympathetic as I said, “Doctor, I do not mean to imply any disrespect in using the word 'claimed', but I must point out to you, and everyone else here, there is no way any of us can prove anything we may claim about ourselves to anyone who is not already familiar with what we may claim.  I could claim to be Bill Gates, but there is no way I could prove I was Bill Gates, or anyone else, to anyone who does not already know who I claim to be.  Nor could anyone prove I was not Bill Gates.  This also applies to almost anything else a person may claim.”

Di Vargin exclaimed, “But I can prove who I am!”

“How?” I asked, “I do not know you, and I doubt I personally know anyone here who does know you.  So how are you going to prove whatever you claim to me, or to anyone else who does not know you or your friends?”

Di Vargin sputtered as she exclaimed, “Then, then how can anyone prove anything!?”

I shrugged then replied with a smile, “Oh, I do not expect anyone to prove anything they claim. . . except by being able to do whatever they claim they can do.  You see, I do not care who you are, or who anyone else is, or what they may have done before waking up here.  I only care about what you can do 'here and now' to improve the group's chance of survival, as well as my own.  You, and anyone else, may claim any skills or expertise you wish to claim.  But, what I want you and everyone to understand, is if anyone should ever prove to be a liar, I will never believe anything that person may say or claim ever again.”

I paused, then asked, “Do you understand what I am implying?”

When Di Vargin was slow in replying, Deering said, “You are saying a person's word is the most important thing they have.”

I nodded and said, “No, not the most important thing.  Right now, a person's word is the only thing of value they have.  Don't you agree, Doctor Di Vargin?”

Di Vargin glared at Deering as she said, “No!  I do not.  What an individual is able to contribute to the group is more important.”

I frowned as I asked, “Oh, then you would trust someone to perform a task, upon which the lives of others, including your own may depend on, whom you know had lied to you in the past?”

While Deering openly smirked, Di Vargin turned her glare to me and muttered, “No, of course not.”

I nodded as I said, “Oh, then you do agree a person's word is at least as important as any skills or expertise they may claim.?”

Di Vargin nodded and muttered, “Yesss, I guess it is, if you look at it from such a narrow point of view.”

Speaking louder she asked, “I am curious, as I'm sure Colonel Deering is, and many others are, about the special qualifications you claim to have which you feel qualifies you to lead this group.”

I had been waiting for this question and was ready to reply, “That is a reasonable question since the group's survival and future development will be greatly affected by the group's leader.  As far as my qualifications are concerned, I could make all kinds of claims about the prestigious Universities I have attended, the degrees, or the high military rank I have earned, or make claims about anything else.  I could come up with a load of pure bullshit which would sound totally believable and reasonable.  I could not prove any of it of course, but then no one could disprove whatever I choose to claim.  Only after it became obvious I could not do what I claimed I could do would anyone be justified in publicly doubting my word.  But the fact is, most people who were not with me at the time, or who do not personally know me, would have a hard time believing a lot of the things I have actually done and experienced.  So, I'm not going to make any specific claims.”

I paused as things got a bit noisy as several newly wakened people joined the ones gathered around my boulder.  After the ones who woke up before them answered, or tried to answer some of the newcomers questions and thing quieted down again I continued, “What I will say, is for the last nine years I have earned a very comfortable income as, what I would call a 'self-employed international trouble shooter'.  If someone, or some organization, had a problem they could not solve, or did not wish to be directly involved with, they would hire me to find and apply a solution for their problem.”

“What kind of problems are you talking about?” Colonel Deering asked.

I shrugged and said, “Oh, just about anything, security, labor, bureaucratic, or anything else that could cause a problem.  You would not believe some of the problems people can have, and are willing to pay someone else to solve for them.  Most problems were fairly straightforward and easily solved.  Some problems were anything but straightforward and easily solved.  Luckily, I've encountered very few problems that simply had no good or acceptable solution.”

I paused to see how Deering and Di Vargin and others reacted to my rather vague reply before continuing, “As a freelance trouble shooter, how much clients are willing to pay for my services depended on my reputation and proven problem solving abilities.  And as I said, I made a very comfortable living.  Now, I see our present situation as just another problem to be solved.  As with any of the problems I have been faced with, I will use every asset and resource I have access to, to arrive at an acceptable solution.  In this situation, the ONLY acceptable solution as far as I am concerned is one in which as many of us as possible survives for at least the next year.  This is assuming of course that if we survive the first year, all the big problems will have been met and solved in one way or another.  Hopefully, this assumption will prove to be a reasonable one in our current situation.”

I looked at Deering and Di Vargin I continued, “While I am sort of a 'Jack of all Trades' with a wide variety of skills, knowledge, and expertise, I know from hard experience there are many things I do not know that much about.  But, unlike many people I have had to deal with, I have no ego problem admitting this fact and seeking advice from others.  Nor do I have a problem delegating responsibility to anyone I have reason to believe is the best person to accomplish any particular task.  I hope I can count on every one's support in my efforts.”

Deering and Di Vargin glared at each other before Deering said, “Yes, as long as you seem to know what you're doing I'll be willing to support you.  Of course, if I think you are an opportunist fraud I'll kill you.”

I nodded as I said, “That's acceptable.  How about you Doctor Di Vargin, can I depend on your support?”

With obvious reluctance Di Vargin replied, “Yes, as long as you appear to be competent, my people and I will support you.”

I smiled as I shook my head and said, “Doctor, I do appreciate your support, but I do not expect you to speak for anyone but yourself.  Your people will have to speak for themselves.”

Di Vargin said, “I'm sure the good Colonel, as well as I and everyone else would like to know the name of our new leader.”

Smiling I replied, “Oh yes, my name.  Well, since it has been pointed out I have white tipped ears and tail I have decided to use the descriptive name White Tip.  I feel who I was, or at least the name I was known by before I woke up here is not important, and it would be best to take a new name more fitting to my present circumstances.”

Di Vargin frowned as she said, “You'd prefer a pet's name to your own?  I think that's. . . ”

I interrupted with, “I don't care what you or any one thinks about the name I choose to be known by.  Personally, I think everyone should choose a new name, a name they feel fits them better than their old human name.  I'll say again, I do not care who anyone was or what they did before they woke up here.  As far as I'm concerned anyone can call themselves anything they wish.  Right now, the only thing I care about a person is: 'can they actually do whatever they claim they can do'.”

I paused then continued, “Okay, it's time to start getting things organized.  The first things we must do is determine what is required to survive where we are now, and what assets we have available to meet these requirements.  After we know if it is at all possible to survive in this general area, we can look for ways to increase our comfort and conserve whatever technical knowledge and expertise we may possess.  If the local environment is too harsh, we can move while we are still in good health.

“Deering, while Zandora and Blackstripe finish up evaluating the group's skill and expertise assets, I'd like you to get together three, five... person recon teams.  Use your best people for these initial recon teams, and check out the immediate area.  If you feel you really need Zandora or Blackstripe for this task, or if you know someone who is better qualified to do their assignment, you may of course use them since this initial recon is more immediately important.  Just do a quick look around, and for now, avoid any contacts with anyone or anything that looks at all intelligent.

“Di Vargin, you said you know something about ecology.  I assume you, or some of those who boarded the plane with you also know more then basic biology, zoology, herbology, and mineralogy.  If so, I would like you to get two or three teams together to survey and inventory the local plant, animal and mineral resources after the recon teams have finished their initial reconnaissance.”

Then I paused and looked around as I called out, “First Pilot Folson, are you awake?”

A nearby person with a brown and tan coat and dark brown mane spoke up, “Yes, I'm awake.  What the hell is going on here, and what happened to us!?”

“I don't know, but I intend to try finding out.  Right now, I'm more concerned with our continued survival.  I'd like you to gather together your flight crew and attendants.  If you have no objection, I would like to temporarily use you and the flight crew as kind of a personal staff to help me getting things organized.”

As I started to climb down from my boulder, I remembered May Parker had a nearly photographic memory, or at least she did.  As I recalled, she saw the passenger list and checked aboard all the people from the two damaged transports, so there was a very good chance she could remember the names of everyone on the plane.  May was also the only person on the plane I knew anything about, and who knew anything about me, so I paused and asked, “Ohh! First Pilot, if you come across May Parker, could you send her to me right away?”

While climbing up to the top of the boulder turned out to be surprisingly easy, climbing down was not nearly as easy.  For some reason, excess caution I guess, I tried climbing down head first, clinging to the rough surface of the boulder with my claws.  I was having little trouble making my way slowly down toward the ground when without any warning a projecting piece of the boulder I had my rear claws hook on gave way.  Before I could react the rock strewn ground suddenly reach up and whacked me in the head. . .

Continued in
First Day : Revelations

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