Offspring Ch. 036byTalemaster©
There is a small town next to the spaceport, still on Rodriguez land. About two thousand people live there, all connected to the spaceport in some fashion. There are a couple of shops, a school, a community hall and a pub, complete with mini brewery and bowling alley. These kind of communities, once common on Earth, are now exceedingly rare, having been replaced by bland, utilitarian high rise settlements policed and controlled by the Federation.
I had been there before on a few occasions and loved the friendly, laid back atmosphere of the place. Seeing that there was little to do while the Pygmalion was being loaded I decided to take Talla and Al to the local pub for a beer. I could tell Al was out of his depth. To see men, women and children mixing so freely must have jarred his consciousness some.
Talla took it in her stride. She got curious, but not unfriendly looks from the adults. It was the children, however, who crowded around her. They were utterly fascinated with her wings. The kids wanted to know if she was an angel. Talla didn't know what an angel was and I had to explain.
I told them that Talla was not an angel, but a native of a far off planet and that there were many like her. They wanted to touch her wings.
I said the wings were very sensitive and that Talla could be hurt if someone treated them roughly. The kids promised to be good.
I was about to tell them no, but Talla said it was alright. She spread her wings and motioned the children to come closer. They took turns stroking her feathers lovingly with their fingertips until one of the adults said that was enough and to leave the lady alone for a while. The kids stayed close by and looked at their hero adoringly as Talla sat down and had a beer with us.
It turned into a good evening. Al relaxed after a few beers and actually talked to the other patrons, even to some of the women, which must have cost him some. We saw little of Talla. She was mixing with the locals who were totally smitten with her and bought her one beer after another. Talla loves her beer, though alcohol does not seem to affect her.
It was late when we returned to the Pygmalion.
After breakfast I went to see Pedro and transferred five million credits into his account.
"You are going to need it,"I said. "This stuff of Jack's wouldn't have been cheap."
"Thanks for the money," he said. "It'll come in handy, but as far as Jack's stuff is concerned it's all paid for. When I placed the order I placed it with the Chang Corporation. It was the logical thing to do. They handled everything and picked up the tab. There is nothing further to pay. By the way, their representative will arrive here by executive jet in half an hour. He says he has not much time and asked if you could meet him on his aircraft after he arrives."
I was a bit surprised at that. Well, if he wanted it this way I would accommodate him. I said so. I called Feng and asked him to go with me.
The plane arrived on time and taxied to a stop some thirty yards away from the Pygmalion. The stairs descended and Feng and I went towards it to be met by a big titted lady in a skimpy dress. She had tart written all over her. She led us into the main cabin and asked us to wait there for a moment before she disappeared through a door towards the back of the craft.
The cabin contained a bar, leather armchairs, wide leather couches and some coffee tables. It smelled of cunt. We were evidently in a flying executive brothel.
The door opened and a small, bald headed Chinese came in. He seemed ill at ease, as though he could not wait to get the fuck out of here. He did not introduce himself. By now I had an idea what this was all about. These types get very nervy when they think they are being asked to do something shonky.
"Mister Walters I take it," he said in lieu of a greeting.
"Correct," I said, determined not to make it easy for the jerk.
"I am instructed to hand you this," he said as he handed me a memory module. "It contains a communication from the Tai-pan."
"Thank you," I said and put the thing in my pocket.
"There is something else," he stammered, "something better discussed in private."
He shot a disapproving glance towards Feng.
"This is Feng," I said. "He is the Tai-pan's nephew. Anything you need to say to me you can say in front of him."
"Very well," he grunted. "The Tai-pan asked me to tell you that the Chang Corporation has added four containers to the consignment. He said you would be familiar with what they contained."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper which he gave to me. It was a handwritten note with some numbers on it.
"These are the numbers of the containers in question. And now I must hurry, I have to be elsewhere shortly."
"Shove a couple of strokes in for us when you are fucking your tart," I said.
He blushed like a schoolgirl.
Feng and I were still laughing when we left the plane.
Minutes later they were gone.
"Are you going to tell Pedro and Juan about those containers?" asked Feng when we were clear of the plane.
"I don't see why we should. All the containers we loaded have been cleared and sealed by the Federation before they arrived here. There won't be any further checks. Pedro and Juan and the two of us are in the clear should something blow up against expectations. We are entitled to rely on the certified manifests. The fewer people who know the supercomputer is on board the better it is."
"Alright, as long as I know."
"We go to Pedro's conference room and have a look what the Tai-pan has to say. I think we should invite the Rodriguez brothers to watch the communication with us. I doubt the Tai-pan will talk about that other stuff."
Half an hour later we were in the conference room. I decrypted the message and rolled the footage.
The Tai-pan was seated behind his desk, smiling broadly.
"Greetings to you and your crew, Mister Walters," he said. "Progress on the project has exceeded my most optimistic projections. I have released Jack's demonstration to the Oktonian authorities. To say that they are excited about the possibilities would be an understatement. As a result our relations with them have warmed considerably. Your little unexpected performance on Earth has not gone unnoticed either. Chang Corporation shares are at a all time high and are still climbing. Altogether things couldn't be better. You will need to build infrastructure now. As an interim measure I have authorised a further one hundred million credits for the project, for you to use as you see fit. As before, you are in total charge of the project, answerable only to me personally. Keep up the good work and thank you."
"Well, that wasn't entirely unexpected," said Feng.
"That hundred mil is nice," said Pedro. "Can I have some of that?"
"Sure, how much do you need?"
"About half of it."
At first I thought he was joking, but he was deadly serious about it.
"Alright, tell me what you want if for. What are you offering in exchange?"
"Give me ten square miles of land next to Jack's farm and fifty million and I will put a spaceport like the one we are on and a town that can accommodate ten thousand people on Olympus. In addition I will give you all the power and water you need to develop that entire crater. I'll have the whole thing standing and operating within six months."
"Sounds like a bargain. How on Earth are you going to do this? Fifty million is nowhere near enough to put all this together."
"Let me tell you a little story. About fifteen years ago the Federation decided to colonise a planet. Some bright spark suggested they use some of their obsolete heavy cruisers to transport all the gear and some two thousand colonist to the destination.
"Those old cruisers are worth nothing. It costs more to cut the bastards up than you would get for the scrap. The normal procedure is to strip them of the weaponry, take them into space and point them at the nearest sun just inside the gravitational field. Nature takes over and the craft eventually plunges into the sun to be burned up. Problem solved.
"Anyway they decided to use four of these for the project. They filled them up with everything you could possibly need to establish the infrastructure needed for around ten thousand colonists. Two thousand people would go in the cruisers to assemble everything, the rest were to be sent by transporter some time later.
"Then something went wrong. The project got cancelled and those four cruisers have been sitting in mothballs for the last ten years. No one has any plans for them. When I decided to move from here I put some feelers out. The Federation wants this place as is. What we've been talking about is a straight swap. The spaceport for the cruisers plus cargo.
"Let me put this straight. These ships are outdated, heavy and obsolete. They cost a fortune to run. By the same token they are fully functional and space worthy. They'll make the journey to Olympus without problems. I can get the ships. What I don't have are the resources to get them there. Fifty million will buy me all the fuel I need plus a few things I want to take with me. I would have to sell the Pygmalion to do the deal on my own, something I don't want to do."
"What will happen to all the people here?"
"They'll come with us to a man. None of them wants to live under Federation control. Their whole lifestyle would be a thing of the past. We'll need them over there to set things up and operate the spaceport anyway. It'll be a bit of a squeeze for them on the journey, but they know that and don't mind a bit of discomfort on the way. It's only for about ten days anyway."
"I'm inclined to go along with you. Ten square miles is perhaps a bit slim, let's make it twenty. It'll give you a bit of room to move. I know the Tai-pan has said I was in control and I could spend the money as I see fit. I'd feel much better though if I took the proposal to the Tai-pan first."
"You do that. Tell him, before the deal I want the Chang Corporation to recognise the land grant and acknowledge us as the Autonomous Principality of Juanpedro."
"Principality of Juanpedro?" I queried.
"Yes. Principality of Pedrojuan sounded awkward. I have the charter and constitution already drawn up. You can show it to him. If he agrees we'll have a deal."
I drafted a letter to the Tai-pan telling him about Pedro's proposal and that I thought it was too good a deal to miss. I asked if he thought I should proceed. Pedro gave me a copy of his charter and his constitution. He also gave me the details of the cruisers and the manifests listing the cargo. I appended the documents to my report and sent it off.
Six hours later I had an answer.
"You keep surprising me, Frank," he wrote. "This is as good a deal as I've ever seen. Grab it! You already have full authority over all matters in relation to the colonisation of Olympus. Your signature on the land grant and the charter of autonomy is sufficient to guarantee the rights conferred, under interstellar law.
I am familiar with the four cruisers and their cargo. Much of what is on board was at the time supplied by the Chang Corporation. You will find everything to be of excellent quality. This was supposed to be a show project, the Federation bought nothing but the best.
Incidentally, you are not, nor have you ever been an employee of the Chang Corporation. This is strictly a Chang family initiative.
PS. Show this letter to Feng. He will explain what it means."
"I'll be fucked, Cousin," said Feng when he saw it.
"Yes, he's just adopted you into the family. It's a great honour. You'll have to call him Uncle from now on. It's very rare for him to do that. I know of only two others in the family who are not connected by blood."
"I'll have to remember that. Mind you, if I have to have an uncle I'd rather have him than anyone else."
"He's not a bad old stick. As long as you do the right thing he'll back you to the hilt. But you already know that."
We went to see Pedro to give him the news. I signed his charter and the land grant and transferred fifty million into his account. Juan and Feng witnessed my signatures.
I grabbed a few cans and handed them out.
"Here's to the dukes of Juanpedro," I said, lifting my can. "Do I have to call you cunts 'Your Grace' from now on?"
"No, Don Juan and Don Pedro will do," said Juan.
"You'll be waiting a long fucking time."
"Where do we go from here?" I asked when the laughter had died down.
"I've got in principle agreement. All I have to do is sign the contracts and pay thirty-two million to get the cruisers ready and fuelled up."
"Yes. These things carry a lot of dead weight and the engines are inefficient by today's standards. They need enormous amounts of fuel. That's why no one wants them. I'll get onto it straight away and let you know what happens next."
"Might as well go to the pub."
"You do that, I'll catch you there later."
Feng and I went to get Al and Talla and we were off. Beer o'clock!
As before Talla was the star of the evening. We had hardly arrived when kids came from everywhere to see their hero. In spite of being told otherwise the kids insisted she was their angel and that was that. Talla talked to them for a while and then proceeded to the bar to drink beer with the locals. She seemed at ease.
An hour later Pedro turned up.
"All sorted out. The contracts are signed and the money has been paid. You won't need to ask for help from the general. The cruisers are being fuelled up as we speak. They will be brought here. Formal handover of the space port is scheduled for day after tomorrow. For some reason they want this done very quickly.
"I will stay here with Jeremy to complete the deal. Juan will take off for Olympus tomorrow. I would like you to be Juan's exec on the trip. Any problems with that?"
"No. If Juan is agreeable that will be fine."
"Seeing it was Juan's idea I don't think you'll have a problem there. I am sending twenty of my best technicians with you to get the drilling started. With some luck the new ships will arrive on Olympus in three weeks from now with two thousand settlers. We will need a lot of water. Hopefully there will be a producing deep well by then."
I had a couple of beers with Pedro and went back to the ship with Talla, Feng and Al. I told them to get some rest as we were leaving the next day. Juan was in the mess having a beer. I joined him.
"The Pygmalion is ready. Everything is loaded. The twenty technicians will report in at around eight in the morning. There will be a short briefing in the mess, after that preflight checks and off at around eleven. Suit you?"
"You're the boss."
"I want Talla to do the preflight checks. You will watch and make sure she does it right. Don't interfere unless you have to."
"She is doing well then?"
"In a weird kind of way. Sometimes she catches on very quickly, at other times I have to go to extremes to explain something to her. Once she catches on, however, I never have to go over the same ground again."
"She'll make a good pilot then?"
"Perhaps, perhaps not."
"What are your reservations?"
"She will not accept our model of hyperspace. She insists there is no such thing. She maintains we are manipulating time and not space, What she is saying is that when we travel one thousand light years in four days we are condensing a thousand light years into four days, which gives us the impression we are travelling over distance rather than travelling through time."
"Not a bad way of looking at it. She might be right. Perhaps Talla perceives something we don't. Be that as it may, how does that impair her training as a pilot?"
"I am worried she might develop a whole raft of fixed ideas as we go along. Ideas that will stop her from progressing."
"We will just have to wait and see. She wants this. My guess is she'll be fine."
"Well, you've been right so far about her. Let's talk about it some other time. Now it's time to hit the sack. Big day tomorrow."
The journey back to Olympus was uneventful. Talla handled the preflight checks expertly, I did not have to step in. The rest of the journey she spent in the copilot seat which Juan had modified to accommodate her wings. Her training was progressing well.
It was daytime when we landed. The first thing we did after arriving was to connect Jack's farm to the Pygmalion's reactor, much to the relief of Jack's crew who had been going without a shower since we left. Gregory put the technicians to work and by nightfall the drilling rig had been assembled and was operating. His crews worked in shifts throughout the night under lights, erecting a prefabricated water tower.
Talla was working with Jack again when she wasn't receiving lessons from Juan. She seemed happy.
After a week the well had come in. The water quality was much better than what we had obtained from the spear points. When I asked Gregory about this he said that there must be an underground river flowing through the aquifer keeping it fresh and oxygenated.
The water tower was finished and the rig had been moved to another location to provide water for irrigation. Things were progressing well. Trevor and his boys had ploughed and seeded one hundred acres and were installing the big travelling irrigators. There would be no need for a water tower. We would pump the water straight from the ground at night to minimise evaporation once the new well came in.
Pedro was on his way, he would be arriving in eight days. Feng and George had documented our progress to date. I wrote a short report to my newly acquired uncle and appended their footage.
Feng George and Al were unloading the containers with the supercomputer. Juan was a bit miffed when he found out about it. He wanted to know why he wasn't informed about having contraband on board.
"Look Juan, I was only told after the stuff was already on board and cleared by the Federation. I didn't think it advisable to inform you after the event. It would have only worried you for no reason. What would you have done if you had been in my shoes?"
"The fucking same, I think. Let's have a beer, I'm thirsty."
We did just that.
Hours later a message arrived from the Tai-pan.
I am happy with what you are doing. I have shown your footage to the Oktonians and they are delighted things are going that well. One thing though they are not happy with. They don't like you going straight to Earth and back without landing on Okton4. I told them you are in charge and if they have any complaints they should take it up with you. There is a certain Darrin Weaver who is leading the charge against you. He is a lightweight. I'm sure you can handle him. Go for his throat.
It wasn't long after that when another message arrived. It read:
You have exceeded your authority by sending a ship straight to Earth and back without making yourself available for checks by the Oktonian authorities. This is a grave breach of protocol. I will do my utmost to have you removed from your post and put before an Oktonian court for your insubordination.
I took both letters straight to Al.
"Tell me, Al," I said after he had read the letters, "who does Darrin Weaver report to?"
"That would be Fred Lang."
"Real names please, Al. No bullshit on this one."
"His boss is Niels Harkon, my brother."
"What kind of a man is your brother, Al?"
"A fair minded man, if that's what you are after."
"Thanks Al. That'll do me."
I went back and drafted a letter:
Okton 4 High Command
Attention Niels Harkon