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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 117: Kondor 128
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“It’s sunset. Why are you setting your clock for twelve?”
Kondor’s first thought was that having to answer all of Zeke’s questions was going to complicate his life, but then it struck him that it was his fault Zeke was here at all, at least to some degree, and Zeke was going to be with him for a while, so it became his responsibility to teach the lieutenant whatever would help them both survive in the long term.
“Everything about time except time itself and the natural cycles of days and seasons is arbitrary--how we measure it, what we call it. I could set this clock for any time I want, and use that from this point forward. What I want to know, though, is how long is the night and how long is the day. That means I have to remember the time at sunset, check it at sunrise, and check it again at sunset. That’s the minimum. I’ll probably try to sight some stars tonight and get a sun sighting at noon tomorrow, if I can figure out when noon is. Anyway, the math is easier if the clock is set for a known celestial event, and since midnight is going to be difficult to identify until I’ve gathered some data, sunset is a reasonably reliable moment.
“It’s not going to be perfect--the length from sunset to sunset changes through the year--but it will give us a starting point for some of the questions about how we manage our time here.”
Having set the clock, he set up his sextant and began scanning the dusk sky.
“What are you looking for?” Zeke asked.
“Well, probably planets--they’re the first lights we usually see at night, other than the moon. Over the course of weeks they’re less consistent than stars, but between today and tomorrow they’ll be good enough. It would be nice to get a moonrise sighting, but that’s not as useful.
“We’re both going to have to get some sleep. I expect that once we start moving we will travel by night and sleep by day, unless there’s something we have not yet learned about this world. But we’ve both been up a long time, and since I want to be certain I am awake for sunrise, at least, I’m probably going to impose on you to stay up a bit longer. First, though, let’s check our collector.”
Under Kondor’s direction, they carefully unpinned two sides of the space blanket and rolled it back on itself, where they secured it temporarily. Kondor, being the taller, lowered himself into the pit and lifted the pot to Zeke. It was not near full, but contained at least a quart, and they only had it running for a few hours, although it included the hottest part of the day.
“Do you think you can carefully pour that into your canteen, or will you need help?”
“No, I’ve got it,” and in a few minutes he returned with the empty pot and a quart canteen. “There was a few ounces more than would fit, so I drank the rest. I guessed you wanted the pot back.”
“Yes, it’s not going to matter until sunrise, but if we leave it in place overnight we won’t lose the morning sun.”
“Makes sense. Do we plan to eat anything?”
“Yes, but it won’t be something cooked, and I’ve got some packaged juice that we’ll drink with it. That will be a bit better for our electrolytes and water-soluble vitamins. Let me set the pot back, and you can help me out of here.”
After sharing some cheese and crackers and a couple foil packs of preserved orange juice, and making notes on the positions of a few brighter celestial objects he thought he could identify again later, Kondor laid down, telling Zeke to wake him in a few hours but sooner if he thought he was falling asleep.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #265: Versers in Motion. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: