Section 1

Galactic Time Index, 4 836 891-31 Battiato Logbook, entry 42.

Dominant predator located; tenative name ‘reunveod’. Four-legged, of moderate size. (Estimate 80 Kilos, average.) Feather-fur indicate of being of the maluote family. Appears to be a hunter, from cursory examination. Will need to scan and analyze a specimen.

Interesting that dominate local species is skittish in my presence. Perhaps there is another predator? Unlikely on an island this size.

Still interested in the peculiar behavior of several of the species around the local insectoid population. Will try to investigate: Luckily there is a nest near landing/camp site.


Skira turned off the tablet, and stowed it away. This planet was proving more interesting — or puzzling, at least — than anticipated. She’d chosen to concentrate her six-month survey on one island in the main life belt: It wouldn’t be a broad survey, but it would give a better idea of all different phyla of life on the planet.

Besides, it was about the same weather as tropical Earth, and the insects didn’t seem to think she was food. No reason she couldn’t enjoy herself, after all.

At first glance it was about as perfect a class-M planet as could be expected. A bit out of the way, which was why it hadn’t been surveyed yet, but she despaired of it being turned into a tourist haven.

No significant ores though, and it was out of the way… It stood a chance, for a few centuries at least.

Besides, there were signs that the winters were extreme.

The behavior of some of the large animals was puzzling her though, more than she wanted to admit in her logbook. She was still a very junior surveyor, and any signs of less-than-competent work would be likely to get her placed someplace where she could be watched more closely. Inspections on industrial worlds had never appealed, even before her first few assignments.

No, this was what she’d always wanted to do: Be one of the first to set foot on a new planet, to discover new life, new animals, new plants. New everything.

Even if her reports would just go into a dusty fileserver someplace.

But back to her current problem: She was sure the fuzzy cat-like creature she’d glimpsed had been the top predator of the area. But top predator’s didn’t run from a new animal in their area. If it was big enough, and didn’t appear scared, they weren’t likely to attack, but they didn’t run.

They had no reason to be scared: They were the hunter. Nothing hunted them.

This one was.

There was a chance of an arial predator: Something big enough to fly to the mainland and back. Or possibly the winters were worse than she expected, and some land-bridge opened up that allowed some bigger creature from the mainland over. This island wasn’t enough to sustain a population of larger predators, but it was big enough that one or more could live here for quite a while.

Or maybe it was a recent immigrant from the mainland itself, and still thought of itself as further down the foodchain.

Really, it wasn’t the biggest puzzle she had to deal with.

Her off-hand note of the ‘peculiar behavior’ was understating the case: It was positively schizophrenic. Herds of the local large animals avoided the nests of the antlike (Of the bodyforms that humankind had found in space, that of the lowly ant was the most common. These had eight legs, and a stinger, but otherwise could have passed for anything on Earth.) local insectoids to a remarkable degree. While the herbivores seemed to prefer the leaves of the bush the ants preferred to make their nests under, they made extensive checks to make sure the ants weren’t present before approaching them.

Well, some of them did. That was the schizophrenic part. Others would lie right down next to the nests, and barely seemed to want to leave them.

Skira hadn’t been on planet long enough to see if the two groups mingled, but they were obviously the same species, so they must.

She needed to get in closer.

But that was for later; for the moment, she was going to enjoy the fact that she was alone on a tropical paradise. The standard coveralls went in to the autowash, and she debated a moment on a swimsuit, ending up against.

After all, her Earth-born dark skin would keep out the UV, she didn’t need pockets, and the path the beach was clear of anything resembling thorns.

Not that her perfered swimsuits included pockets or much protection against thorns. The point was there was no reason she needed clothes, and the fact that she loved to swim naked as a reason to leave them off.


A long swim was worth it. Nothing beat pure, unpolluted, waters. And there were none purer. Skira air-dried in the setting sun, then headed back to the ship.

It was a short walk, even in the growing dark. She’d noted a new ant colony on her way out, and wanted to mark it’s location on her way back. It would be an easier one to examine in detail. And she was growing to believe the ants were a large part of the mystery of the ecosystem of this island.

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