The Ship of the Unforgotten - Chapter 9

Camp NaNoWriMo

Biome Bay 6 - Rain Forest

UTS Rose Dawn

Jun. 3, 2565 A.C.E.

The connection points between biomes were immense, as it turned out. Dann had never had cause to see one, and had thought they’d be small and sealed off, a door like those on the armories and cryo-pods.

They passed instead through a giant opening in the wall between the two compartments. It was at least as wide as a football field was long, and half as tall as that. It might have been possible to miss entirely the fact that they were leaving the temperate woodlands behind had it not been for the climactic blending that occurred right near the passage.

The rain forest biome was kept several degrees hotter than the temperate woods, and this increased temperature spilled over noticeably well before they actually entered the jungle. There was plenty of cross-pollination of plants, with species from both areas having mingled in between.

“And here I thought we’d be getting away from the wolves and the bears,” Dann had lamented when he saw the truth of how the two sections were separated.

“Bears rarely cross between,” Rose had commented. “Wolves pass through more frequently, but it’s less common now than it was several centuries ago. One particularly persistent group took up permanent residence in the rain forest, and other packs rarely challenge their territorial claims.”

“Jungle wolves? Now that’s something you don’t see every day,” remarked Lt. Cobb. His tone had been light, but his hand had strayed to his pistol. Like Dann, Cobb wasn’t cleared for heavier weaponry.

The deeper they moved into the rain forest, the heavier the air became. They found themselves clustering closer together, both as the trees grew thicker and denser, and as the air filled with a low-laying, clinging fog. The sheer density of the plant life was astonishing, and Dann was grateful for the machetes that Rose had given them. He unsheathed his and held it ready as Rose led them through the thickening jungles.

The going was incredibly slow here, much slower than anything they’d experienced in the woodland biome. The rain forest lived up to its name, a light patter of rain falling shortly after they started through it. It was the biome that filtered a majority of the fresh water in the ship, if you discounted the island/reef biome that held largely salt water.

The light rain only lasted a short time though before it increased to a torrent that even the jungle canopy above couldn’t completely shield them from. Water poured down from overhead leaves and down the trunks of mighty trees, and the vast network of rivers and streams that flowed throughout the area rose in their banks, leaving them pushing their way through what felt more like a swamp than a forest.

“Look on the bright side, Dann,” Rose commented once, voice raised to be heard over the incessant water sounds. “The longer it rains like this, the more time we have to travel without worrying about many of the larger predators here.”

“At least you don’t have to worry about them at all!” Dann called back, not particularly comforted at the thought.

“That’s not entirely true, Dann,” Rose responded calmly. “Some of the snakes here can swallow me whole, even if they can’t actually digest me.”

That shut Dann up for a while. The party trudged on through the tropical mess in silence, soaked to the skin and miserable though they were.

“How far until we reach the cryo-pod?” Lt. Cobb called out from the far side of the rough line they were arranged in.

“Far side of the biome,” Rose called back. Dann groaned.

They relied heavily on Rose during the trip across the jungle. Night had almost fallen before any of them really noticed; the rains had lasted all day, and they were tired and sore and bitten to within an inch of their lives. Lt. Cobb in particular was ashen and edgy, having had less time to recuperate from cryo-stasis than the others had had.

There were no shelters near by, no armories or cryo-bays, so they had to do the best they could with the environment at hand. Rose led them to high ground, away from the worst of the water. A little scouting found a hollow by some massive tree roots that, with a rough covering of large broad-leaves, formed a serviceable if uncomfortable shelter. Rose stood watch in the night for nocturnal predators, which in the rain forest could take many forms, from hunting cats to something as seemingly innocuous as a trail of ants. Being found by scouts of the wrong species of ant could be painful, or deadly.

Jackson slept like a stone; she lay down in one side of the shelter and was out like an old pro. Cobb, on the other side, slept fitfully, and kept trying to increase the space between him and the others. Dann, stuck in the middle, also slept fitfully, due mostly to the kicking and nudging that the unaware Cobb was inflicting on him.

Finally Rose peeled back the covering of broad-leaves. The specks of sky visible through the canopy were useless for timekeeping, but Dann couldn’t help but instinctively look there anyway. It was lighter though, so the simulation of daylight must have begun.

“How far have we gotten, Rose?” Dann asked over a breakfast of dried fruit and water.

“We’ve traveled approximately 1/6th of the distance within this biome, Dann.”

“Remind me not to ask that again,” he said, disheartened.

“Cheer up,” Cobb said. “The rain won’t last forever. I ought to know, my team installed half of the conduits in this place!”

“You worked in this biome?”

“Wouldn’t have known it to see it, but yeah, this was my baby, and oh my, how she’s grown,” he said. Dann couldn’t tell if it was wonder in his voice, or just exhaustion. “You were posted to the biome we just left, weren’t you?”

“That’s right,” Dann said, “and I hardly recognized that one, too. Who’d have known so much could change over five hundred years.”

“The sooner you two quit flapping your lips, the sooner we get moving, and the sooner we’re out of this crap pile,” Jackson said, scraping the last of her fruit out of its package.