The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 8

I know it's not much in the way of alternate history, but here's more about Hypnale.

Day 8

            The Hunting Pod moved little since its successful hunt. According to the airborne probe, nothing remained of the animal I saw earlier. The probe did observe some activity in the oasis. As much as I would like to get a sample of the water, I dare not move hastily. Just because my E-suit suffered no damage this time, that did not mean I could get a spear through my faceplate in the next encounter. The heavy elements in my body (to say nothing of the E-suit) would be quite lethal to the Pod. Too much time would be wasted properly mapping the Pod’s sensory network. I am still unsure if the Pod detects its prey by physical contact with small branches, or by vibration.

            Just as I sat down to begin my breakfast; one of the consoles began to beep. I ordered the probe to also keep an eye out for anything out-of-the-ordinary. In the Sun Spot, that amounted to anything large on the move. When I checked the read out, I certainly did not expect to see an animal the size of an elephant. Perhaps the Sun Spot is not that different from the Kalahari after all. The probe did not detect just one of these animals, but three of them, all moving towards the oasis.

            I quickly slip into my E-suit and step outside for a closer look. I have to call up another probe, this time a hovering probe from the University of Montana. The zoology department of the University was as small as the area’s population, which forced them to turn to machines to aid in their research. Their hover probes could not stay aloft for months (or years) on end like aerial probes, but they could keep pace with the swift animals of the vast Canadian tundra. I somehow doubt these duck-billed beasts will be as swift as a Pronghorn.

            My first impression of the animals was that they looked like a cross between long extinct duck-billed dinosaurs and camels. Or perhaps the humps on their backs were closer in shape and form to that of a bison. Either way, they did store an abundance of fat on their backs. Their broad, flat snouts looked perfect for plowing through sand. Their lower jaw sagged quite a bit, almost like a pelican. I cannot picture any fish surviving long in a desert spring, so I will rule that out until proven otherwise. I wonder if they are used for digging.

            The animals’ tan hide stick out against the reddish sands. They were easy enough to spot out in the open. The aerial probe has given no indication of predators in the area, but even if they hid in the darkest corners of the eternally lit oasis, they would be hard pressed to take down an animal of this size. The hover probe begins to stream back its findings to my computer gauntlet. They were cold blooded, which was hardly a surprise. Any animal living in a region of constant temperature need not worry about maintaining their own, save for shedding excess. Sand particles caking their hides led me to believe the animals might escape overheating by burrowing somewhat. Their shovel-like duckbills should have little problem with that.

            The beasts proved me correct once they started digging for food. They used their jutting lower jaw to scrap a groove into desert sand. Groover is what I shall call them, at least until I consult my taxonomy files to find a smashing scientific name for them. I could tell the Groovers were not what one might call discriminating eaters. If it was plant, they ate it. The hover probe scanned the lead Groover’s head. They have many rows of teeth-like structures in their mouths. Initial scans puzzle me for a moment. I would be unable to tell without dissecting one, but their teeth are similar to the incisors on rodents. No, they are in no way genetically related to mammals (a basic scan of the skin can extract that much genetic information), but rather their teeth grow constantly, probably throughout their lives. Constant grinding of roots and tubers covered in sand would quickly wear down conventional teeth, and leave most Groovers to eventually die of starvation or hunger-related illnesses.

            One Groover took a bite out of a Hunting Pod’s spear-branch. A second branch quickly lanced out towards the Groover. The blow struck the animal squarely, but lacked the force to penetrate the hide. The animal showed no sign of discomfort save an annoyed snort. These certain explain some of the damage I have seen on a few Hunting Pods; they were partially eaten. To their credit, the Groovers did not take more than a few bites from each Hunting Pod. They did not eat in any one place for more than a few minutes. Their grooving did disturb another species of animal that I had no idea even existed.

            The new animal’s eyes sat on top of their heads, much like a frog, or perhaps a salamander. Given the way they wiggled out of the Groovers’ path, the latter struck me as apt. A mound on top of their head, between and ahead of their eyes, housed a pair of nostrils. This would allow the animal to remain underground for most of the time. I dub thee Sanphibians. I directed the hover probe to take a look at these Sanphibians. My first impression was one of predator. Their mouths housed at least a hundred sharp, spike-like teeth. Those teeth looked more suited to grasping than tearing, and the set of jaw muscles on the Sanphibians meant they might be able to simply crush their prey. They reminded me of bug-eating animals back on Earth. The oddest trait of the Sanphibians was spines protruding from their back. The hover probe’s sensors screamed venom, but I could not confirm that without an actual specimen.

            One of the red-skinned creatures wondered too close to the water. It turned out to be a fatal mistake. Like a flash of lightning, a larger animal launched itself from the water and clamped down on the Sanphibian. Neither I, nor the hover probe, could glimpse the ambush predator for more than a second. Its head comprised thirty percent of its body, and was lined with serrated teeth. I must admit, I was most astonished to find anything like a crocodile residing in the middle of a desert. Who would have thought an aquatic ambush predator could evolve here. Maybe this was just a land predator trying to cool off when opportunity knocked.

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