The rooster walked along the fence line, head bobbing with each slow step. The last hen had passed away that morning, and so had Catlin and Ron. Fern had stuck the rooster in the brain scanner yesterday just out of curiosity – he’d still been acting normally then – and he had the prions too. She guessed the chickens had gotten it from eating the local bugs. Well, not bugs really, since this wasn’t Earth. Just tiny alien invertebrates. To the chickens they were only bugs though.
They said the rescue ship was on the way. Maybe still a week out. The crops were all in good shape. Better than the livestock or the people anyway. As long as she washed things carefully, Fern would be fine for food. She hoped the others would still be around to make the trip back with her. A few were only showing early symptoms. They should make it until the ship arrived at least. Hopefully they wouldn’t be too far gone for treatment.
Part of Fern wanted to gloat, but she just couldn’t muster the energy for that much vindictiveness. Not after watching most of her friends die, one after the other. She remembered how they had teased her, when they brought down that huge native ungulate. Enough to feed the whole colony. But not Fern. Soft, namby-pamby vegetarian Fern. She wished it was funny to think back on.
The rooster is moving slower today than yesterday. Swaying slightly when he stands still. Fern knows the rescuers won’t take him along when they come. She pushes the button for the gate and the latch opens with a click. She swings it wide and walks out, not bothering to close it behind herself. Let him be free while he can.