Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 87

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LXXXVII

When the school year ended, it was finally time for a break. A vacation, specifically. They would be going to the planet Zaorilia. It was a planet that a large abundance of natural jungles. Not that the whole planet was covered in jungle- that would be ridiculous, but it was a large planet, and had several large jungles. They would be going on a safari in one of them, because it would be fun and because it would get them away from cities for a while. In this case, they were Richard and his family… and Jot, and bodyguards.

Hiroshi was definitely Richard’s friend, though there had been some awkwardness for a time. Jessica… she was quiet, but not actually standoffish. She just didn’t have a lot to say. Richard supposed she could be considered a friend, even so, but they would probably never be close friends.

Elena would be going back to Nox, as usual, but at least she would be taking some time off from studying. Well, Richard imagined she would merely be doing less studying. She was very determined not to waste any time, and while Richard appreciated that, he just hoped she wouldn’t burn herself out. Still, she did take breaks… sometimes. If Richard hadn’t met her, he wasn’t sure if that would be the case, because she rarely did so without prompting. Sure, what she wanted to do was very important, but she needed to remain sane to get to the point where she could possibly actually do something to cure her people.

—–

When they arrived on Zaorilia and saw the jungle, Richard couldn’t help but think to himself. The trees were big, but not that big. He didn’t really have any other jungles to compare to, but he did have large cities, and the buildings dwarfed the trees here. On the other hand, once they actually got into the jungle, everything felt bigger, because all he could see was trees. He did have to admit, the trees were much bigger than any other ones he had seen. There was overgrowth everywhere, and Richard couldn’t see far.

Then, Richard was back out of the jungle, though he’d never really left sight of the camp where expeditions were sent out of. Not that anybody would expect much actual discovery from him or anyone else. There might yet be things to discover in the jungles of Zaorilia, but even if he saw something new, Richard might not know it. There were so many different kinds of plants and animals it would be hard to know without specializing in the area. Still, the first few days would be spent going over safety training, which included being introduced to the most common species in the area.

There were giant black felines, though these usually only appeared in the deep jungle. They would generally ignore humanoid travellers, preferring their traditional and more predictable prey, which was anything native and smaller than themselves. There were snakes, and poisonous plants, and many kinds of birds… the list went on, and Richard thought they were quite fascinating, if a bit dangerous. No wonder they needed a guide. Though they wouldn’t really get lost unless every single one of their locators broke, or the main facility failed, they still needed to have the experienced guide to help them avoid some of the natural hazards.

The most dangerous plants weren’t just poisonous- Richard wasn’t planning to eat anything here anyway. No, the most dangerous ones were the carnivorous plants. Most of these were small and merely ate insects or rodents, but some were big enough to trap larger creatures. For human sized creatures they were still rarely dangerous, and if one were wary they weren’t too hard to avoid. It wasn’t like the plants would chase after you, they merely lay in wait for something to fall into them, or get stuck to them. Here, there were some that could be a danger to a lone human. They had tendrils like lassos which would catch a leg, drawing the prey into an open “mouth” and “stomach” which were coated with paralytic poison that could soak through the skin. If there was someone with them to help, they could be easily retrieved, and would merely be weakened for a time. Otherwise, they could only wait to die slowly and horribly. Fun.

Still, there weren’t any of the most dangerous things here. On some planets, there were plants that had poisonous spores which would coat the area around them… and depending on the plant, they could kill very quickly. Richard wasn’t sure how this helped the plants themselves, because they didn’t get any nutrients from it… but there was probably some reason. At least it would keep them from getting eaten.

As for animals, most of them would stay to themselves, and the rest had warning signs that the guides knew to tell them to stay away. People still died here sometimes, but out of the many tourists who came through, it wasn’t really that many. Richard knew that didn’t mean he would be perfectly safe, but he figured the fact that he wasn’t planning to be stupid and ignore the guides would help some. There was his curse… but his parents were around, and a number of other competent individuals. Besides, Richard wasn’t really helpless himself. More importantly, this was something he was interested in, and he didn’t want to hide just because something might go wrong.

Jot seemed almost as excited about the expedition as Richard, though Richard thought he might have been hoping something big would come and attack them. Susan was always interested in seeing new things, and this had been on the list of places she wanted to go as well as Richards. Richard’s parents were just relaxed and smiling, which was good. They didn’t seem particularly excited, but then again, they’d probably done something like this before. Hiroshi merely complained about the humidity, and Jessica actually said something to agree with that complaint. Still, everyone was now trained- as much as they could be in a few days- geared up, and ready to go. Hopefully, it would be fun, but otherwise not too eventful.

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