The Dark and Hopeless Places
Published by Vincent L. Cleaver at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Vincent L. Cleaver
On Earth, it is 1973. In the Galactic Conservancy, it's much later than they know; but still, the Survey, surveys; the Engineers bring dead worlds to life and dream of building new wormholes; and the Rangers, protect. As they have, in one form or another, for three thousand years.
Edelweiss, someone had named it. It was another one of those living worlds. The Survey would be looking for signs of viva-forming, ecopoiesis, not that that mattered a whole lot. A living world is a living world, and the Engineers would be taking samples and adapting the survey plats and models for use on dead and barren worlds in their backlog. Someone had named it Edelweiss and without fail it would grow to bloom and seed other worlds.
It was currently coming out of an ice age, thawing and refilling its seas and oceans. It was drier than Earth, but wetter than some, and typical of living worlds in the wider galaxy. The Survey was especially interested in a great freshwater lake that lay at the heart of the third largest continent. It was filling to capacity behind an ice damn, and when it went, it would scour away thirteen hundred kilometers of the river valley below it. There was a branch valley to the Northeast, and this was where the Survey had established a base camp, over thirty kilometers from danger, but close enough for the scientists and documentary crew.
They didn't worry about danger, of course; they knew they were safe. They had a Ranger.
The ice dam had been predicted to let go in a few days previously, give or take. The scientists and wranglers were first excited, then increasingly bored, as the event unfolded on its own time-table.
Kevin Boyle was a scout with the Galactic Survey, and he’d read enough of the pulp SF that Old Complications had found for him to know just how cliché that was. It sounded romantic, uplifting. The reality, for a new scout on his first survey mission, was more… earthy- that was the word he was looking for. There was a fair amount of digging to be done, even with robots at your beck and call. “You don’t always have robots,” he’d been told. It was form of hazing, establishing group hierarchy, and it had paid off. He now had three dozen animals and plants to his credit, including the delicious tubers that he had been digging for just now.