Dear Dad and Mom
We’re safely back at Gaspia from Kr-axal Nox. Your Care Package of dried fruit and peppers arrived while we were gone – Thanks. The new generation of peppers is better, but I think we can get them even hotter.
Terra Nueva continues to surprise. In addition to the Great Slinkers, we’ve found a new species of butterfly, of bird, and of insects.
I’ll start with the butterflies – neon blue, nocturnal ones that landed on our dome while we were catching and sampling the Tree Ghost. When startled, they left behind a dust. Sen and Felger’s initial tests suggest it’s psychoactive. Later, we saw but didn’t sample some neon pink butterflies near the Great Slinkers’ clearning. The Slinkers hid from them, but we don’t know what they do.
We found the insects next. Heading towards the Great Slinker grove, we found a large cocoon hanging from a branch. Hawk cut it down – scans showed a person inside, alive, but suspended. While waiting for evac, we found old, corroded hunter’s gear– he’s been in that web for a while. Hawk found a broken cocoon, slashed open by something. Old feathers in it from those prismatic-feather birds we saw but hadn’t investigated. Hawk found another intact cocoon. We opened that up and found a suspended prismatic bird. I dug out a welt on it and found insect larvae. Sen took samples – its not in the database – something new. The bird started to come around. I’d have either dug out the larvae or put it out of its misery, but we though Medical would want the comparison data. Cold packs to sooth and quiet the larvae were the best I could do. We heard later that the Hunter had been evac’d to Aurora and is recovering. Hawk played bait – the webmeisters are tiny insects that live under the bark of a particular tree. Breathing what’s on the web probably puts their prey to sleep. Nasty, and below the threshhold for perimeter sensors. I’ll send out a notice on the Hunting boards.
We trudged through the swamp. About half my team doesn’t know how to swim. Felger seemed shocked at the very idea of voluntarily immersing himself in water. Swamp never got more than hip deep or so, but slow and hard going. Saw some sort of slime/gas bags at a distance. Might be related to the things the Tikket made to change the Maples into data trees. Didn’t investigate. Centurion Adams is very mission-focused. I guess it’ll get left to a follow-up survey.
When we camped at the edge of the swamp near the Slinkers grove, those Snitch Birds decided our domes might be dinner and set up a ruckus. A couple of Steakvines showed up. Hawk shot one to bits. The other decided we weren’t worth the trouble. Hawk took down some birds until the rest got the idea we’re not food. Wondering what they hunt by – is it as simple as the domes were new in their territory, or something about our smell, or heat. More for the follow-up survey.
I spent the next few days in hunting blind watching the Slinkers. Like the hands, dominant adult male, a couple of young males, females and young. Alarm signals, some grunts, but no true language. Some basic tool use, but likely proto-sentient. You did warn me how much wilderness biology involves scat.
We talked a bit to the Uatsu about why they want the data. Apparently, they plan to release nanobots to make themselves and the predators harmonious – the predators would ignore them. Nobody asked my opinion – it’s dumb. They said that’s how everything was on their world – everything talked to everything. No wonder they’re not a warrior people – they neutered their natural dangers and forgot how to be afraid or be prepared for it. When I go out, I know that hunter could have been me. That’s why I don’t just trust to perimeter sensors. That’s why Bayside has patrols that actually look for trouble and check in with settlers and camps. I don’t just wander out there trusting to tech to keep me safe. No wonder Felger doesn’t like the outdoors – it isn’t safe.
Yes, I got mom a couple of rocks – they’ll be on the next supply run down to you. Not sure how long we’ll be at Gaspia. Are there strawberries yet?