A scuffling noise behind him and a soft-voiced curse alerted him to Dillon's presence and Troy's lips curled in a small smile.
"About ready?" he asked without turning. Movement caught his eye and he cocked his head a little to watch an insect creep out of the shelter between two nearby rocks and scuttle across the surface of one of the shallow pools that had formed in low areas along the rocky shoreline, the surface tension enough to support its weight for a short time at least.
He wondered if the landing crew had assessed its species for nutritional value. Probably, he thought. They'd assessed everything else. Some emotion he couldn't quite describe settled uncomfortably in his chest. His fingers closed on another small stone and he hurled this one with more force.
Dillon grunted as he lowered himself to his own rock a couple of metrons away. "We've got a couple of centars, yet. Just wondering where you'd gotten to."
Troy nodded silently. Dillon watched him for a few quiet centons.
"Cubit for 'em."
"Huh?" Troy twisted around to look at his friend. Dillon looked as cramped as Troy felt, his long legs doubled up on his perch.
"What'cha thinkin' about?" Dillon prodded gruffly.
Troy turned back to the water. The gilding was fading, now. Shadows were reaching out from the far side of the lake where the trees were slowly being swallowed by the growing dusk.
"Nothing," he said with a sigh.
Dillon waited and Troy sighed roughly again.
"It's just... what's wrong with this planet?"
Dillon shrugged. "It's nice enough, I suppose."
"Exactly," Troy said. "It's nice. Its orbit's just right to give it a stable weather pattern within our tolerances. There's a good proportion of landmass to water. There's plant and animal life of all sorts, plenty to support our people. There are abundant minerals both here and elsewhere in the system--"
"And the Fleet'll make good use of them," Dillon finished.
"I know. I know that, Dillon. But what's to stop us from making good use of them here? The same minerals and nutrients we're mining from this system could be used to build cities right here," Troy said, tapping a finger against the rock between them with emphasis.
"Why would you want to do that?"
Troy twisted again to look at the other man. Dillon had found a way to straighten himself and lean back so that his feet rested on one rock while he lounged back against another.
"Don't you want to live on a planet again? I was talking to Athena the other day. She says we need to find a planet and settle down soon, while we still know how."
"She means while they still know how," Dillon said ascerbically. He shook his head irritably. "Troy, you're from Caprica, right?" At his friend's nod, he continued, "Do you even remember living there?"
"I--" Troy frowned. A flicker of memory passed through his mind, a brief impression of a warm breeze and the silky feeling of his mother's headscarf brushing against his face, both carrying the spicy scent of surala flowers.
He couldn't be sure of the scent, though. The perfume was the same as that in the case of scented lotion Serina had happened to be carrying at the time of the Destruction. From time to time, while he was still living in their shared quarters, he would come home and the air would be rich and heavy with that scent and he would know that Apollo had been remembering. Troy didn't know if he truly remembered the smell or if he just associated it with Serina -- and Apollo -- in his memory.
"Do you know my earliest memory?" Dillon asked. "Being on the Starfarer. I was born on Cancera, but I don't remember anything about it. The first thing I can remember is being on the Starfarer and running back and forth with a couple of other kids. The captain had put up these temporary partitions to convert his cargo hold to passenger quarters and every time we hit them, they'd bounce in their channels. That's what I remember.
"And the kids in my classes at the Education Center? They were never born on a planet. They've never set foot on one. Chances are, they never will."
"Don't you think they should?"
"Why?" Dillon said reasonably. "We grew up in the Fleet, why shouldn't they? It's not a bad life, Troy."
"What about Earth?" Troy asked.
"What about it? Yeah, okay, I know it's our goal, or it's supposed to be, but really--" Dillon shrugged again. "I guess we'll figure out something when it happens. If it happens."
"So, what? We just keep going forward, harvesting what we need along the way?"
Troy's voice rose sharply at the end and Dillon grimaced.
"Come on, Troy. I don't want to fight." He pushed himself up and walked carefully across the tops of a couple of rocks to where Troy was sitting. "I don't think you do, either. What say we gather the landing crew and get off this rock?"
He held out a hand patiently to Troy. After a centon, Troy took it and pulled himself up. Dillon clapped a hand on Troy's shoulder and moved away, his steps from rock to rock abrupt as he tried to keep his balance.
Once on shore, Troy took one last look out across the lake. The last rays of sunlight had disappeared while they talked and small insects were buzzing the surface of the water in the cool twilight. He tilted his head back and squinted into the darkening sky. The stars, viewed through the layers of the planet's atmosphere, seemed strangely dim. He turned and began the short walk back to the shuttle.