Offspring Ch. 009byTalemaster©
I went to the office at around seven and had my breakfast there. The Feds building was staffed around the clock, consequently the officer's mess never closed. The food was every inch as good as the food in the hotel and only about a third of the price. Not that the prices at the hotel worried me, but why pay more than you have to?
"You are bright and early Major Walters. May I join you?" It was Colonel Nakov.
"Please do. To answer your question, I have an awful lot of work ahead of me, Sir."
"You are settling in alright then?"
"Yes, Sir. No complaints."
"I've noticed you are on friendly terms with my executive officer."
"Yes, Sir, I have been since I arrived on Okton4. Actually, he was the officer who threw me off the ship."
"Ah yes, I remember now. Unfortunate business that."
"May I ask you a question, Colonel? There is something bothering me that you might be able to answer."
"Go ahead, Major. If I can help I'll be glad to."
"I know the Federation employs extra terrestrial races. You see them in every other spaceport, as civilian employees and in uniform. Why not here? You don't seem to have any Oktonian staff either, even your stewards and janitors are human. I find that strange."
"This goes back to the original agreements. Only human males are allowed here. Extra terrestrial races and women are off limits. The only exceptions are staff on Federation vessels on condition they stay confined to the ship when on Okton4. Any freighter who has non human staff or women on board is not permitted to land. Oktonians are prohibited by their own law to work for the Federation. These rules are over two hundred years old. I have never been able to determine the rationale behind it."
"Thank you, Sir. That answers one question and raises others."
"It's in the nature of this place. There are many things here that don't seem to make much sense."
By that time we had finished our meal. Colonel Nakov excused himself and left after telling me that his door would always be open to me. I went to my office.
First I checked my mail. The computer programmes I had asked for had arrived and the rest of the morning was taken up installing and testing the software. I was ready to start analysing the images in earnest.
But what exactly was I looking for? The more I had found out about the Oktonians the more I had become convinced that their so called highly developed, advanced civilisation was a bluff. It didn't exist any more. So what was in its place?
I had come to believe that there was no such a thing as a smart Oktonian in the sense we understand smart. This assumption suggested that the Oktonians we saw were simply servants of another, far more intelligent race who stayed in the background. But why would they do that? Why not deal with us directly?
The only answer I came up with that made sense was they were vulnerable. They need us for some reason and are afraid we'll find out about their vulnerability and take advantage, I concluded. By the same logic, that could only mean that the real masters of this planet were small in number. Perhaps down to a population of a few thousand, or a few hundred even. By now I had a pretty coherent picture of a likely scenario. But how to prove it?
I needed to determine the level of activity on the whole planet. That would give me a pretty fair idea if there was substance to my theory. Checking for heat signatures on the images would be a good starting point. Of course, if the Oktonians had developed a technology that worked without producing heat as a by-product I would be stuffed, but that was highly unlikely.
I rang up Arden and asked if he had a bit of time on his hands I wanted to bounce some ideas off him. He said he would make some time. An hour later he came to my office. Over a beer I told him what I had been contemplating.
"Sounds reasonable to me. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of it. I wonder why this hasn't been analysed before. I didn't even know what can be done with the infrared imagery."
"It's because of this secrecy bit. Departments often don't talk to each other when they should."
"Too true. Anyway it'll give us a good starting point."
"Yes, but it still won't help us much. What we really need to know is what role the Oktonian males play in this. Perhaps they are the smart ones who pull all the strings. But if that is so, what is the sex bit all about?"
"Has it occurred to you that there may not be such a thing as an Oktonian male?"
"Are you nuts? Of course they must exist, how else could they breed?"
"Does the word parthenogenesis ring a bell?"
"Sexless reproduction? Yes, from memory, there are some bugs and some lizards on Earth that can do this."
"My grandfather had a turkey farm. He said in some breeds over forty percent of turkeys hatch from unfertilised eggs. Aren't the Oktonians partly descended from birds?"
"So what do you get from sexless reproduction?'
"Essentially a clone. In the absence of males that would make their development as a race static. They might need human semen to introduce new, desirable genetic material into the breed."
"You mean, the Oktonians we meet are essentially farm animals?"
"Is there a lot of difference between farm animals and slaves?"
"I take your point."
"We better be real careful whom we are going to tell about this, or if we even should. Can you imagine what some of the Federation arseholes in high command would do with this if it's real?"
"Careful Arden, this kind of talk is getting dangerously close to treason."
"Fuck treason. Don't you think we have moral and ethical obligations that are senior to anything the Federation might demand from us?"
"You are right. The Oktonians we meet are not very bright and they are certainly different from us, but there is no malice in them. I would hate to throw them to the wolves."
"You better not put any of this on your computer."
"I thought this facility is secure."
"From the idiots here, for sure. From high command? Don't be silly. They can monitor everything you do on your equipment. You can bet on it, they do."
"Thanks for telling me. I'll be careful."
We called it a day after that. First I went to the bank to get Feng's cash.
Back at the hotel I changed into civilian gear and adjourned to a quiet corner of the bar with a beer. The few spacers who entered didn't give me a second glance. Good. I liked it better that way.
At seven I started my lesson and went to see Cleopatra for some relaxation. She asked me what I had been doing with my time. I told her I was studying asexual reproduction in animals. To my surprise she said she had also been looking into that some time ago. Fertilisation from within the alchemical egg, she explained, was a prerequisite to obtaining the Philosopher's Stone. Some snakes, scorpions and lizards were known to be able to do this. As far as she could tell this only occurred in species where shit and offspring emerged from the same orifice. I had seen an Oktonian pussy, but I hadn't noticed if they had an anus. I would have to check on that. The cameras should pick that up. She asked me to tell her if I discovered something interesting. I promised I would.