I found some berries and tubers that were growing aplenty in the forest. They looked edible but I wasn’t sure so I collected enough for an afternoon tea for Estella to check back abroad the Xing. Then I went deeper yet into the forest, looking for game tracks.
I found nothing. I wondered if the animal life there was especially alert or whether there was really nothing except plants. I decided to make a temporary retreat back to the ship to check the edibility of the plant I have gathered.
Estella looked up from her workbench when I entered, giving me a welcoming smile. “Hey, how was the hunting?”
“No animal life, or too alert. I’ve brought back some plants that I think might be edible, plenty of them around. I only brought back a small sample though, if you think they are edible, I’ll go grab more.”
“The plants probably ate all the animals,” Estella said, leaning her head against her right hand, supported on the table through the elbow. Her thinking position. Then she took the samples off me and examined them.
I shrugged in answer to her conjecture.
“There’s some simple field tests you can do with any fruit you don’t recognize,” She started giving me a crash course on cultivating edible plants. “Slice the fruit in half and rub some of it on your skin, wait 10 mins, no reaction, rub some on your lips, wait 10 mins, no reaction, it’s potentially safe, if there’s stinging, itching, numbness or whatever you know it’s toxic.”
I nodded, filing them away for future reference.
“I’ll need to process it a bit, but yeah, this stuff will be great to restock our supplies with.” Estella told me with a cheerful smile. “Bring back as much as you can.”
“I’ll come with you if you want?” She offered, standing up and grabbing an empty backpack.
“Good idea. And you know the wilderness better than I, perhaps you can find tracks that I can’t.” I was not too keen on a vegetarian diet.
We went out together and Estella started harvesting the plants as planned. “Yeah, pretty sure this place is a plant only biome, anything else has been wiped out.” She told me.
I sighed as I settled down to work. “This is tough on a meat lover like me.”
“I know what you mean,” She said with an understanding nod, “when we get back to the colony in a few days we’ll see about picking up some smoked bacon, and a nice rack of ribs, maybe some porter house steaks too, have Aurora make us a charcoal grill on the upper deck.”
“Now that’s some consolation.”
“After all this I’m happy to indulge in a nice BBQ party.” Estella told me with a grin.
“I will make us all my household specials.”
“Now this sounds promising.” Aurora’s voice sounded over the intercom, it worked over a short range outside the Xing. “Tell me more.”
“Nothing but vegetable salad we’ve got, so we decided on our own consolation once we are back on the colony. How many days you think we need to be stuck on this asteroid?”
“The converter is running like a dream, so the tanks should be topped up by now.” She told us, “Only thing keeping us here is us at this point.”
“I can set course back to the colony as soon as we got this food secured if everyone wants?” Estella offered.
“That was quicker than I expected. Yes, then what are we waiting for?”
“I’ll help Sam get the food stowed, you get us out of here before sunrise, I don’t want another siege.” Aurora said.
“I hear that.” Estella hurried off to the bridge. It was quick work between me and Aurora. Then she went to Engineering to let H squared know that we were heading back. Not that he would have cared. I whistled a tune to myself as I made little victory cocktails for everyone, including a juice variety for Guppy.
Aurora was the first to come back. She commented on the scene she found in Engineering between H squared and Vines. “Them two are really bonding. And we thought H squared would be in hysterics.” I said.
“After being abducted by the other plants it’s what I was expecting, but I guess he..” She shrugged. “He’s as strange as the alien parts on board.”
“But in a good way,” Estella joined us a moment later, “He’s been needing an assistant for a while now.”
“Right, everything worked out for the best. Now let’s do a toast to that.” I gestured to the cocktails I’ve made, sliding the Guppy special over to her.
“To teamwork and overcoming the unknown with style.” Aurora raised her glass.
“I’ll drink to that.” Estella raised hers.
“Cheers.” I said before draining mine.
Guppy chugged back hers as if it was real alcohol, wiped her mouth, and held the glass up to me. “More!”
Aurora giggled. “Guppy, remember to use manners, more please, we’re not space pirates.”
“Aww, we’re not? Then why are you showing me how to cut people’s legs off?”
“Pirates are the bad guys, we save people from pirates,” Estella clarified, “We’re space rangers, you might say?”
I smiled. “Okay, one more.” I tousled Guppy’s hair.
Estella gave Aurora a narrow eyed look. “Just what are you teaching our new crew mate?”
Guppy stuck her tongue at Aurora. “See, Sam said it’s ok.”
“Basic knife defense.” Aurora answered Estella. “So when someone tries to grab her they learn a lesson.” She paused to smile at Guppy, “It’s good I don’t blame ya for wanting more honestly.”
“Oh, that’s different,” Estella nodded in approval, polishing off her own glass. “You mix a nice cocktail, when we have our barbecue you have to make the marinades for the meat.”
I had just finished another Guppy special and slid it over to her. “Sure.” I replied to Estella’s suggestion.
“I wonder what this would taste like with space firefly juice in it…” Guppy said as she stared at it after taking a slurp.
“You’ve actually drank that stuff?!” Aurora asked her.
“Not yet… But, I didn’t think about it till now.”
“Speaking of plants there was a bunch of spiky red ones covering the edge of the clearing when we left there, I think I might of mutated them by accident.” Estella confessed up to us.
I raised an eyebrow. “And the effect of the mutation is?”
“Wait for me to test it before ingesting it, Guppy,” Estella suddenly looked serious. “You don’t want plants growing in your insides, it would hurt real bad.”
“Growing on my insides? Cool!”
I smacked my forehead. “That was the wrong thing to say, Estella.”
“Umm, you know how roses are thorny? Would you want those thorns giving you the worst belly ache of your life?” Estella talked to Guppy gently.
“Hopefully you mutated the wildlife into seeing you as one of them and leaving us alone next time we land.” Aurora said thoughtfully.
“I get thorns too!”
“On your insides, you would die, become plant food.” Estella clarified with a slight shudder.
“Aww, that wouldn’t be any fun.”
“It was like the monsters, but red and spiky and they just stood there watching us, so I think maybe they’re pacified.”
“I think they might of been an alien security system, and you added our species’ DNA to the approved list, so they won’t bother us anymore.” Aurora finished her drink and nodded. “Think about it, they only restrained Hue and Guppy and tore apart the ship, they didn’t actually hurt any of us, I think they’re designed to deal with pirates or whatever enemies the alien owners had.”
“But the bonding with machines, what’s that about?” I reminded her.
“Maybe they were also part of a recycling system, designed to tear apart derelicts?” Estella said with a shrug.
“Right. Well, we’ve sussed the place out now. So if we want free plants or free ingredients for a vegetable salad, we can always come back.”
“It’s more than that, there’s an entire alien star port under the ground there, if we could get it back online just think about what we could learn, all the alien tech waiting for us to discover.” Aurora’s eyes lit up.
Estella grinned at the notion. “Imagine if the entire moon is one giant spaceship.”
“There’s that giant cannibal but if we can get more muscles in… Could that giant be an alien, now that I think about it?”
“Or they might have alien burial customs, and that’s their way of honoring the dead, like old-earth elephant graveyards?” Aurora said uncertainly.
“If the new red spiky plants are on our side we have all the muscle we need.” Estella said. “We just need some sun lamps to light up the place, and someone like you to lead the charge against anything hostile.”
“That’s a thought, you’ve got brains, girl.”