Offspring Ch. 020byTalemaster©
I went back to my hotel to get changed. As I walked by reception I saw Feng talking to the girl behind the counter. He gave her a card, which she swiped into a computer and handed him the card and a key. The sly bastard was taking lessons. He went in the direction of the humproom without turning around. He hadn't seen me.
Just to make sure I was right, I hurried upstairs, got changed and sat in the lobby from where I could see the reception counter. Sure enough, a few minutes later he handed in his key and went towards the bar. He had a faraway look in his eyes.
I gave him a couple of minutes to settle down, got a beer at the bar and sat at his table.
"Fancy seeing you here," I said instead of a greeting. "Was your lesson any good?"
"You didn't think I was going to miss out on that? Did you?" Feng didn't seem in the slightest embarrassed at having been caught.
"I thought it might go against your sexual persuasion."
"What are you talking about, you dumb prick? I'm not a queer. I'm as straight as you are."
"What have you been doing for sex then all these years?"
"Look Frank, not everyone who runs around with tits and in a dress in this place is a poofter in drag. You can get a straight fuck, if you know where to go."
"This is better discussed in a safer place. Shall we go for lunch at the Chinese joint? There are some things I have to tell you anyway."
Half an hour later we were in a private room in Feng's favourite restaurant. I told him about the tests and about Dr. Patel's DNA profile.
"Pretty much as we thought. The big picture still doesn't make any sense though."
"What are you driving at?"
"The cities don't make sense. From what I've seen, these things were not built by a space faring nation. Even by our standards, the level of technology used to construct and operate them is fairly primitive. They were certainly not built by the creatures who created these magnificent spacecraft that guard the planet. The Oktonians haven't built the cities either, they aren't evolved enough. That leaves the humans who live there. Technically they would have been able to, but there aren't enough of them to build things of that size, and what for? They don't need cities that big. Whoever built these things must have numbered in the millions, billions perhaps. So where are they? There seems to be an entire race missing. Whatever happened to these people must have been fairly recent, or the cities and their machines would be in worse shape than they are; say in the last two hundred years or so."
"How can an entire race go missing that quickly? There is no sign they were wiped out in a war or by an epidemic. There are no bombed buildings and no skeletons lying around from what I've seen. If it was as recent as you say there should be."
"I've thought about that. Say, if someone introduced a race specific virus or bacterium that made people sick. Not very sick, something of the nature of a cold perhaps, but left them in its wake sterile. That could wipe out a whole race in the space of a generation. Things would go on as before. People would grow old and die. They would get buried or cremated according to custom, until there were too few left to do much. The last ones you might still find in places because there was no one left to bury them, but there wouldn't be all that many. Genocide on a massive scale with few things left over to tell what happened there. They possibly never knew they had been attacked."
"A people who can build spaceships like the ones in orbit might well be able to do something like this. The question is ... why? And why hasn't the planet been invaded by now?"
"Maybe they cannot live on the planet. Perhaps they aren't oxygen breathers."
"That could explain a few things. I doubt it though. Why go to that much trouble if you can't live there? No Feng, I don't think that's it."
"Have you got a better explanation?"
"Take these huge warships of theirs. You're an engineer. Can you tell me why anyone in his right mind would build a fucker that size? Given the same technology, you could build hundreds of smaller vessels with the same amount of material. Against that many smaller ships those monsters wouldn't stand a chance in a fight. Some would get through and blow that big bastard right out of the sky."
"I can see your point, but where does that get us?"
"Look, Feng. We've been told they are warships and are there to protect their neck of the woods. We have always accepted that. No one has ever seen them fire a shot though I'm sure they are capable of it. Their mere size keeps opposing forces at bay. In other words we are scared of what they may contain."
"If they aren't warships, what are they then?"
"Transporters perhaps. The only reason I can think of to build a monster that size is to transport a lot of people. We know of eight of these vessels. There maybe more. Four of the ones we know about are always in orbit, four are out on patrol. They take turns. Depending on how long their journey took to get here they would hold about two hundred thousand people each, plus support gear. That gives us around one and a half million colonists plus the crews. With me so far?"
"Yes, go on."
"They send an advance party to deal with the locals. When the big ships arrive there are ready made, undamaged cities and a mass of docile slaves all waiting for them. The perfect conquest. They ferry the colonists to the surface, the crews stay on board. Now something unexpected happens. Those lovely bugs who sterilised the original inhabitants have mutated and now affect the colonists in the same way. They would have found out within months they were in trouble. They quarantine the crews on the ships. One generation later only the crews and their offspring are left, perhaps with nowhere to go."
"And then what?"
"They get humans to keep the show on the road and to get resources, working like mad to come up with a vaccine that will protect them from the bug and enable them to reclaim the planet. They might even use human researchers. I bet you anything you like they are importing the latest pharmacological technology."
"I can check on that. They would bring the stuff in clandestinely. My contacts amongst the traders will tell me. You know Frank, as crazy as it sounds, what you said makes sense. Why haven't you brought that up before?"
"Because I only got the idea when you came up with the sterilisation thing. Anyway, let's leave it at that for now. What are you going to tell me about human women on Okton4?"
"You have to know something about Chinese society before you can understand. Each of the big Chinese trading houses are headed by a Tai-pan. He is the unquestioned boss. Most of the Tai-pans here are weary of homosexuals. They judge them unreliable and unsuitable for senior positions in the organisation. This created a problem. The traders lost many good men to the Oktonians. The most powerful Tai-pans got together and decided they needed to circumvent the prohibition of women.
"The Oktonians check. They have scanners you have to go through when you disembark that look for the presence of a penis. It is done very discreetly, you wouldn't even notice you are being scanned. In addition, the paperwork has to state the person is male. The Federation checks the paperwork. Since the scanners are built and maintained by us, it wasn't very difficult to doctor the machines so they couldn't tell the difference between a real penis and a strap on plastic one. The paperwork was easy.
"Now, you must understand, the women they bring in are not whores. They are highly trained and trusted courtesans who work here for five years. They return to Earth as financially secure women. The screening process on Earth must be very good, there has never been a problem. Naturally the women have been sterilised.
"Only the top executives and some privileged people have access to them. Result, no more desertions to the Oktonians. Everybody is happy."
Trust the Chinese. Wherever they went they've always had their own society with its own rules. Okton4 was no different.
"How come you have access to them, Feng?"
"My uncle is the Tai-pan of the leading Noble House. He is very fond of me."
"And now you are taking lessons."
"Yes. The fuck doesn't interest me much, though it is very nice. I'm interested in the time travel. This is a unique opportunity. I doubt the masters of the Oktonians know about this aspect of the drug they are using."
"What makes you say that?"
"If they knew about the time travel bit they wouldn't use the drug. They can't afford wild cards. I'd bet all the masters know is that it makes humans horny and gives them spectacular hallucinations. You're an animal they've never encountered, that's how you found out about the other stuff."
"What do you mean?"
"You're not all that interested in sex for a start. When you had your fill, you started looking around what else you could do. You experimented. The others went there for sex. They never looked elsewhere, they were happy to get their rocks off in a most spectacular fashion. When they ran out of money they went to the mainland because they had become hooked on the experience. I doubt the masters give them access to the drug there, why should they? Work for us and inseminate the Oktonians or you don't eat.
"You have money. You can keep this up as long as you wish. Consequently you've had more exposure to the drug than anyone else before you. That gave you a chance to investigate the phenomenon properly. Your scientific bend wouldn't let you act in any other way.
"I don't think the drug is the vehicle for time travel. I believe the drug enables you to access a latent ability we might all have. That ability might grow with repeated exposure. Perhaps after a while you won't need the drug any more.
"Think of it in terms of teleporting in time and space. That would explain how you were able to travel to places without any intention to have sex there."
I stared at my empty plate. Throughout this conversation I had been having a meal, eating it without thinking, without tasting a thing. In fact, I couldn't remember what I'd just eaten. That had never happened to me before. In spite of not tasting the meal this had been the best lunch I'd had for a long time. I said so to Feng. When he didn't understand I explained.
"For the first time since we started we have a model that accounts for all the facts as we know them."
"It doesn't account for the spaceport in the middle of nowhere. The people who built the cities didn't have the technology, or the need, to build that."
"Yes it does. Look at it this way. The invaders would have found out very quickly that something was wrong. No new pregnancies for three months in a population of one and a half million would have rung warning bells. They immediately quarantine the crews. Logical thing to do. Within a year they'd know for certain what was causing the problem. Now they know they are doomed. They also know they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to invasion. Their best people would have been on the surface, doomed with everyone else. I doubt their top scientists, technicians and teachers would have been crewing the ships. Within a generation most of their technology is bound to disappear because there will be no one left to understand it. They need access to advanced technology and resources.
"The solution is to build an artificial island in the middle of nowhere and commence negotiations with the Federation while they still have a powerful society. They make arrangements that ensure the true state of affairs stays hidden. This way at least their people on the ships have a chance to reclaim the planet if they can't come up with a cure within a generation.
"It would be interesting to find out how contact was established and who did the negotiations. I doubt it was through Oktonian dumbwits. I need to check with the Federation."
"Leave the Federation out of it. I know an old Chinese scholar who is writing the history of our people on Okton4. He is in his nineties and has been here for over fifty years. What he doesn't know about the history of our involvement with this place isn't worth knowing. I'll arrange a meeting with Dr. Chang. He is very approachable."
"Good. And now I'll better get back to my hotel. I need some time to think things over before I go to the mainland tonight."