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Colony Crisis

level_head in colony_crisis

Chapter 19: Garden-variety

“Hey, Miz Ellen!”

While Brandy was tall for a fifteen-year-old girl, Ellen Viitala was simply tall. The woman — almost three times Brandy’s age — straightened up from the worktable she had been making notes at, and smiled at Brandy’s approach. She tossed long blond hair back over her shoulder. Brandy smiled back, and held out a brown cloth bag with some irregular shapes inside.

“Something new in your garden?”

“Uh, yeah. Take a look?”

“Sure.” She accepted the offered bag. “What sort of —“ The bag moved in her hand. “AAAh!”

The cloth bag lay on the floor where it fell, squirming oddly.

“Hey, careful!” Brandy said. “You’ll hurt GO-4!”

“GO-4? What?”

“That’s what I’ve decided to call him, anyway. He’s sneaky.”

“What ‘him’?”

The answer became apparent as the animal found its way out the top of the bag. A mottled brown head protruded, then a neck. And more neck.

Ellen stared, fascinated but unwilling to approach it.

“Oh, no you don’t,” said Brandy. She crouched, and the creature turned its attention upon her. It hissed, moving Ellen back another step, and a buzzing sound came from the back end still inside the bag.

Brandy moved her left hand to the side; the creature's eyes followed it. Her right hand shot out, and “GO-4” was captured once again. Brandy quickly grabbed the other end, hoping that no accidents would happen in her older friend’s cluttered little home/workspace.

Ellen Viitala probably had more paper in this room than the rest of the Colony combined, with all her notes on farming and animals and chemicals and other things Brandy didn’t understand yet. Brandy didn’t want to mess anything up.

“I’ve seen pictures like that before,” Ellen said slowly. “It’s a snake.”

“Ah, okay. But don’t they have shells or something? This thing looks weird.”

“No, you’re thinking of a turtle.”

Brandy had heard the words, but had only a barely-remembered image to connect to. Her time on the Axiom’s computer had been spent in other directions. “So what does he eat?”

“Hmm.” Ellen was getting her composure back. “I don’t know. Do you have some time? We need to go find out...”

Brandy thought about chores, and dirt, and lots of rows of beans. “Sure!”

Ellen was still talking. “… because there were no snakes on the Axiom’s biostasis list.”

Comments

...Yikes, it's a rattlesnake?!
From the conversation, it's apparently a GO-4 snake. ];-)

===|==============/ Level Head
Heh. I thought maybe the remark about the weird-looking mouth might indicate that the fangs were just folded back. Would the bag let a gopher snake "buzz" then?

I had to look up which robot GO-4 was. *sheepish*
GO-4 was apparently Eve's direct supervisor. In the ARV ship's bay, GO-4 appears to inspect the returning probes -- and sounds the alarm when it reaches Eve.

Later, on the bridge, Eve was alarmed to discover Wall•E there -- and she turned to see if she was in trouble. She looked fearfully not at Auto, or even the Captain; her gaze focused only on GO-4. We get a brief view of him on the bridge; to Eve's relief he is looking the other way.

GO-4 was the first robot killed in the film. Brandy has never met him, but has heard stories, no doubt exaggerated.

===|==============/ Level Head
Ah, I remember now. The same speechless bot who made the plant disappear for a while, right? But I thought he was the only robot killed aside from a plethora of barrier bots, whatever they're called.
Steward bots, officially STEW-A's. They're from the government, and they're here to help you.

GO-4 and a phalanx of stewards were killed in the space of 60 seconds in the film, but GO-4's destruction was accidental. He had a falling-out with the captain.

He did not die in vain, though -- the arc he described allowed me to tune my hypothesis of how artificial gravity worked on the Axiom.

===|==============/ Level Head
I groan and applaud your "falling-out" pun.
Brandy only really saw the lower part of the mouth -- but that was weird enough. Snakes have breathing tubes, a sort of snorkel arrangement, on the floor the mouth. This allows them to breathe as they swallow large prey, but it will protrude somewhat when the animal is upset, and he hisses through it. The effect and appearance is a little bit like the jet-tube of an octopus.

It's just back of the tongue in this drawing, but the tube can extend a bit.


And those fangs fold up, of course. The snake is discussed in the next chapter, up now.

===|==============/ Level Head

Edited at 2009-02-07 09:55 pm (UTC)
I surmised as much from the color pattern description earlier. Diamondbacks are a subset of rattlers.
So I see.
No insects? No snakes? Sheesh! What kind of ecology were they planning on re-creating? :)
No cockroaches does not mean no insects, actually -- it can be inferred that they have bees to pollinate crops.

Also, the committee that selected species for Project Ark was not the same as the one that did this for Operation Recolonize; government agencies are notorious for not sharing their work with each other. It might reduce their budget!

Some creatures were selected or not based upon how they were perceived by certain committee members. It was not "fair" -- but forced allocation of fixed resources never is. The better plan is to create more resources -- but those days are long in the past.

===|==============/ Level Head
I'm a little surprised that no one's been bitten after two chapters. Of course, the snake probably has no more experience with humans than they have with "him."

Par. 5: The fourth quotation mark needs to be adjusted (picky, I know). And while your spelling of the shriek is negotiable, I suggest capitalizing the H to match the rest of it.

Par. 13: I'm not sure how best to handle the punctuation of the quotation. It's a balance of formality with commas and a desire not to slow our reading. As it is, I think of her sounding melodiously like "Ohhhhh no-ya-don't!"

Par. 19: Remember not to hyphenate "-ly" adverbs. And while I don't object to ending sentences with prepositions in this story, I think the first sentence would be less ambiguous if you add a "them" at the end.

Par. 20: Conventionally, if an ellipsis follows what is essentially a complete sentence, we add one more period.

Par. 21: This might do better without the first "and."

Par. 22: I'm not sure we need the first sentence. If we do, I suggest changing the period to a colon.
Par. 20: Conventionally, if an ellipsis follows what is essentially a complete sentence, we add one more period.

You then discovered that this wasn't essentially a complete sentence, right? This one is a trailing off statement (as she's thinking). It might use a dash, though, suggesting the interruption -- and that would make the "still talking" part unnecessary.

===|==============/ Level Head
I should check my sources for how to handle it when the sentence technically isn't finished but reads like it is. But you're right about dashes. How careless of me not to suggest them.
A skilled snake catcher intent on avoiding bites rarely gets bitten. I've only been bitten a few hundred times -- but these were not while catching them.

With non-poisonous snakes, especially smaller ones, the bite is so inconsequential that I did not work to avoid it. I also had a hundred-plus snakes in a small walk-in enclosure; bites happen.

This particular snake hasn't been eating well; he'd normally be much larger at about ten years old. We first met him when he startled the finch into setting up the events of the movie.

===|==============/ Level Head