Challenge #01560-D099: Unintended Consequences
One man's trash is another man's treasure. -- Knitnan
Sooner or later, someone will buy it. This is the mantra of both Junker Nomads and Tall Tale Tellers alike. Some of whom do both jobs at once. The further one goes, the more one can sell it for. Unless, of course, said object is everywhere. In which case, one has to take it to the Edge Territories or beyond.
And every trader, large or small, has a minimum of one Standard Weight Unit of beads somewhere in their cargo. After all, one never knows when someone will want something shiny. And, in the rare event of a rough landing on a primitive planet, one can trade them for materials that the natives may possess. It is advisable to attempt to avoid godhood in such cases, rare though they may be.
Godhood was the last thing on Prexin's mind in this blasted wasteland. The good news was that the food printers were still working. The bad news was that they were stuck on anchovy salad. The rest of it was awful news. The ship was just about toast and, unless Prexin wanted to be stuck for the rest of their life on this rock, they would have to leave their cargo behind.
Some of it was pretty good, too. All sorts of principle demonstrations, including the flywheel, clockwork, and good, old-fashioned, flint and steel. Sometimes in the same package. Specific gravity. The centrifuge. The windmill... all elements of basic engineering that some civilisations had managed to bypass. Prexin even had a few build-your-own solar panel kits, which had come in handy for keeping the power up on their wrecked vessel.
Prexin had had to dig to find an aquifer, and then purify the water so that it was drinkable. Which meant a regrettable loss of alcohol, because they only had one still. And on the way, Prexin had found a few veins of interesting metals. Which came in handy for cannibalising the ship in order to build an escape vessel.
The natives were primitive, barely above the tech level of throwing sticks and rocks at things. They kept to their hiding places whenever Prexin was doing any EVA to gather or refine resources. They were mainly interested in keeping a big rock between themselves and anything Prexin was doing. A fact that Prexin was grateful for, since they weren't wrecking any of the equipment.
Prexin sifted out the least-swallowable beads from their cargo, and buried the rest in the remains of their iron mine. The rest of the stuff wasn't truly dangerous. Most of it was toys that pre-lithotech peoples probably couldn't figure out. The beads that couldn't be swallowed, however, were left as a combination of a gift and rent. The rest of the tech that Prexin couldn't take with them had to be smashed or otherwise ruined. Lest all that stuff become the basis for an unfair leap into dangerous territories for the natives.
Civilisations had been destroyed by advanced technology before. And no doubt they would be again. But this one, they hoped, would not be one such ruined.
Grar watched the little shell ascend into the stars. The larger shell was a ruin, but it was still interesting. Now that the strange creature had left in the smaller shell, it had to be safe. Indeed, picker-birds were already hopping around the smashed things. Grar got as close as she dared, and threw a rock at the open hole that the strange creature had left for the last time.
No more strange creatures. Grar had wondered if it was just one, or many. She dashed up to the larger shell and bashed it with a stick. It made a loud noise, but did nothing. Everything around this place was doing nothing. The hole the creature dug lead to sweet water, and some other caves that were dull and uninteresting and in danger of falling in on themselves. Grar avoided those, but the water was good.
She had seen the creature use... things... to carry lots of water. There weren't any of those things around, but part of one of the creature-built things looked good enough. Grar snatched it and scurried down to the water. Then, after a few false tries, carried the water up to her tribe-mates.
Zug was hitting rocks together like the strange creature had, just after the big shell had fallen from the stars. Little Mers was turning the bent stick of the unnatural stone that made sparks, but she wasn't making sparks.
The tribe clustered around Grar's moving pool, each dipping their hands to drink the sweet water. This was a good place, and Tek even managed to brain a few picker-birds for the tribe to eat. Zug made a sharp rock out of two rocks by hitting it a lot, and started using the sharp edge on some dry wood.
It came apart a lot easier because of the sharp rock.
But it was Sim, helping Mers play with the sparking stone, who worked out that the sparks came when something hard was pressed against the spinning stone. Sparks and dead wood made fire. And fire kept the howling things away.
Grar didn't waste time worrying about the thing from the sky. It had come, it had shown the tribe some interesting things, and it had gone. If it ever came again, she and her daughters would watch, and see what things it did with fire and earth to make the shining stuff. There wasn't a lot of it around, any more. The shining stuff looked... very interesting.
As to what could be done with the colourful things with the holes through them... that was going to take some effort and play. But they were pretty. Pretty things were always worth carrying around. She could put a stick or a reed through them. And tangle the ends so that they stayed together. That would keep them until the tribe worked out anything else to do with them.
In the meantime, Grar wanted to know what would happen if you hit a larger animal with a sharp rock...
: Bet you never knew those sparking wind-up toys would be useful this far into the future.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / jgaunion]
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