Offspring Ch. 013byTalemaster©
The next three days were hard work. The hardest part was to find images that contained meaningful detail. On the usable photographs, using edge detection and false colour techniques, details showed up that were invisible otherwise. At the end I had a rough idea what Okton4 was all about. I had kept my notes and copies of the relevant images on my own small laptop rather than on the Federation computer. I carried the machine in my briefcase, which I took home every day. No one had ever queried what data I had on my computer.
I still had not received the figures I had asked Arden for. When I asked for them again he was evasive, saying something about his people having difficulties getting access to the data. This had to be bullshit. I had not asked for confidential material. What I wanted should be freely available. Over lunch he seemed preoccupied and reserved. Something wasn't right. I acted as if nothing was amiss.
I finished work early. On my way home I rang Feng and asked him to meet me somewhere away from the hotel. He suggested a restaurant in the Chinese section of town and gave me the address.
Back at the hotel, I changed into civilian clothes and went on my way, carrying my briefcase with me. It was a fair walk, but I found the place without problems.
The doorman addressed me by name and told me Feng was expecting me. He waved to one of the waiters and said something in Chinese. The waiter motioned me to follow him and led me through the restaurant into a side room. Feng was waiting for me there.
He showed me the menu. I settled for some Wonton soup, lemon duck and lychees with ice-cream for afters. Feng had some barbequed pork.
Over drinks Feng asked me what was bothering me. I told him about my meeting with Arden.
"How much does Arden know?"
"Nothing that isn't in my reports. If he has been ordered to spy on me they will learn nothing they don't already know."
"Keep it like that. If he is forced to choose between you and the Federation he will choose the Federation. What did you tell him about the glitch in the recording?"
"I told him we had detected nothing unusual in the speeded up recording and that you think it might have been a problem with the equipment after all."
"Good, your butt is covered in all directions. I take it you've got nothing dicey on the computer in your office and no papers lying around with stuff you don't want them to see?"
"All covered. Tell me Feng, what do you think it all means?"
"What is the report you are preparing all about? Can you tell me?"
"I don't see why not."
I told him about the images and the lack of heat signatures in key areas and what I thought it meant. While I was at it I also told him of Arden's theory and my conversation with the coroner.
"Now you know as much as I know," I concluded.
"You really think that whole Oktonian caper is a scam?"
"Everything I've found out so far points to it. Unless they have learned how to operate cities without generating heat I can't think of anything else. Such a technology is extremely unlikely though. Besides, they do have places that have heat signatures, but these are small. Nothing like the size of the cities. More like the size of this spaceport."
"If the Federation thinks this place is a pushover they will try to invade. I would not like to see that. You need to play that aspect down in your report."
"Anyway, now that you know it all, what do you think is going on? Why is Arden so jumpy all of a sudden?"
"Something has either happened or is about to happen at high command. They are waiting for your report. Someone is getting ideas. My guess is that after they get your report you will lose your privileged position. They will push you to the sidelines, just in case you come up with some more stuff, but you won't be working from your fancy office any more."
"Do you think they have me under surveillance?"
"That's unlikely, but as far as Arden is concerned your business with me is finished. It might be better if I don't come around to your hotel any more. We should meet elsewhere from now on. I'll give you another telephone number where you can reach me, just in case. Here is a good place to meet. It's as secure as you can get on Okton4. You might just suddenly develop a taste for Chinese food. Tell Arden you've discovered this wonderful place. Rave about the food. Bring him here for lunch. He doesn't like our food, but he'll come to check the joint out. Let the guys on the door know you are bringing him or they won't let him in. I'll give you a number to ring. After that he won't worry if you are seen to come here regularly. He doesn't know I'm connected to this place."
I settled the bill. Feng gave me the telephone numbers he had promised.
"Come here day after tomorrow at eight. I'll have them prepare a Peking duck for us, my treat. By that time the new camera should be finished," he said just before I left.
I arrived back at the hotel at around six-thirty, in plenty of time for my lesson. Again I did nothing special.
Afterwards I had a few drinks and went to bed.
Next morning I rang Arden and told him I would not be at the office for a day or so and that I was writing my report at the hotel. He could reach me there if I was wanted.
I had already told Arden about the missing heat signatures and what I thought it meant so I had to put it in. I tried to think of ways to play its significance down, but nothing came to mind. Then I remembered I had not told him about the smaller places with heat signatures, which was the strongest indicator the cities were indeed deserted. If I didn't put that into my report the theory of an alien technology had still some credibility.
Doctoring the images was out. They had the originals and would spot if I tampered with them. But, there were a lot of images. No one would expect me to analyse them all. It would not be a problem to only pick photographs of what I wanted to show the Federation and keep the rest under wraps. As long as I gave them something new and interesting they would be happy with my work.
Okton4 is a strange planet. The total landmass is only about fifteen percent of the entire surface area, all confined to the eastern hemisphere. There is one continent about twice the size of Australia straddling the equator surrounded by thousands of islands of varying sizes. The rest of the planet is covered in water, frozen at the poles. In the centre of the water covered western hemisphere is the spaceport. I guessed that the artificial island had been built originally to house some military installation, now demolished to make way for the spaceport. Even with a heavily armed island in the middle of nowhere it would have been virtually impossible to defend the entire hemisphere against invasion, which could explain why the Oktonians decided on a ring of enormous space ships designed to defend the planet from space.
In the material I had been given I could not find any reference to this as a possible scenario. I decided to start off my report with that idea.
Next I showed my analysis of the main continent pointing out the Zabuyelite deposits. The sheer size of these deposits was bound to impress the Federation. They had not been identified in the reports I had seen.
Finally I showed some of the cities where my treatment of the images had made a number of features visible. Apart from the airports they showed massive wharves and some arterial roads. The wharves made sense. With that many islands there had to be a fair amount of traffic on the water. All the large cities were port cities, further proving the importance of seagoing activities.
Next I commented on the lack of heat signatures. I downplayed the idea that the cities might be deserted and forwarded the view that the missing heat signatures could well indicate the existence of an alien technology.
I finished my report with my theory that the Oktonians we dealt with were not the masters of their planet but only the servants of a far more developed race who, for reasons of their own, preferred to remain in the background. These masters were unlikely to be indigenous to Okton4, but more likely colonisers from elsewhere.
In addition I said that, in my view, the semen collection from humans were an effort to introduce new genetic material into the indigenous Oktonians in order to increase their usefulness to their masters.
This would give the Federation something to think about.
As an afterthought I suggested that further investigation should centre around finding out what happens to the semen after collection and what possible role, if any, the Pumpernickel plays in the postulated breeding programme.