“Well, how about the rock-drill bitts?” Dorita was asking earnestly, trying to stick to business. “Won’t we need them almost as soon as we’re off?”
“Yes, we’ll have to dig temporary magazines for our explosives, small-arms and artillery ammunition, and storage-pits for our fissionables and radioactives,” Kalvar Dard replied. “We’ll have to have safe places for that stuff ready before it can be unloaded; and if we run into hard rock near the surface, we’ll have to drill holes for blasting-shots.”
“The drilling machinery goes into one of those prefabricated sheds,” Eldra considered. “Will there be room in it for all the bitts, too?”
Kalvar Dard shrugged. “Maybe. If not, we’ll cut poles and build racks for them outside. The bitts are nono-steel; they can be stored in the open.”
“If there are poles to cut,” Olva added.
“I’m not worrying about that,” Kalvar Dard replied. “We have a pretty fair idea of conditions on Tareesh; our astronomers have been making telescopic observations for the past fifteen centuries. There’s a pretty big Arctic ice-cap, but it’s been receding slowly, with a wide belt of what’s believed to be open grassland to the south of it, and a belt of what’s assumed to be evergreen forest south of that. We plan to land somewhere in the northern hemisphere, about the grassland-forest line. And since Tareesh is richer in water that Doorsha, you mustn’t think of grassland in terms of our wire-grass plains, or forests in terms of our brush thickets. The vegetation should be much more luxuriant.”
“If there’s such a large polar ice-cap, the summers ought to be fairly cool, and the winters cold,” Varnis reasoned. “I’d think that would mean fur-bearing animals. Colonel, you’ll have to shoot me something with a nice soft fur; I like furs.”
Kalvar Dard chuckled. “Shoot you nothing, you can shoot your own furs. I’ve seen your carbine and pistol scores,” he began.
* * * * *
There was a sudden suck of air, disturbing the papers on the desk. They all turned to see one of the ship’s rocket-boat bays open; a young Air Force lieutenant named Seldar Glav, who would be staying on Tareesh with them to pilot their aircraft, emerged from an open airlock.
“Don’t tell me you’ve been to Tareesh and back in that thing,” Olva greeted him.
Seldar Glav grinned at her. “I could have been, at that; we’re only twenty or thirty planetary calibers away, now. We ought to be entering Tareeshan atmosphere by the middle of the next watch. I was only checking the boats, to make sure they’ll be ready to launch.... Colonel Kalvar, would you mind stepping over here? There’s something I think you should look at, sir.”
Kalvar Dard took one arm from around Analea’s waist and lifted the other from Varnis’ shoulder, sliding off the desk. He followed Glav into the boat-bay; as they went through the airlock, the cheerfulness left the young lieutenant’s face.