tagSci-Fi & FantasySex in Sci-Fi Ch. 04

Sex in Sci-Fi Ch. 04

byTonyDowse©

CHAPTER 4: FOOD OF THE GODS

The colony had spent the first six months tackling all the problems that any new group of settlers have no matter how well planned their settlement may be. Equipment shortages and malfunctions, injuries and sickness, unexpected extremes of conditions and a thousand and one variations on Murphy's Law, that had been found to be equally operative in any part of the galaxy.

Two hundred and forty seven couples made up the original settlement, arriving some seven years after the planet's original survey and eighteen months after fifteen assorted scientists had probed and prodded the place for another half year, looking for unforeseen problems.

Mated pairs were still preferred by officialdom for any settlement, even though statistics proved that almost half of them would change partners some time during the first few years. As no other type of settlement had been allowed there were of course no statistics to help the officials consider others.

During the first six months of sheer hard work and many frustrations there had been the usual and allowed for flurry of arguments, rows and storming-off-into-the-nights - but only two actual separations and these were of the to be expected, 'partner exchange' variety.

So, all was within the expected norm and officialdom was not perturbed.

Having survived the initial problems the community suddenly found life improving and some of the advertised pleasure of the new settlement began to be felt. There was time for exploration, relaxation and pursuit of a variety of personal hobbies and interests. A drama group sprang up, rock-hounds went off into the adjacent hills, botanists began searching for new species, gardeners began to cultivate a variety of flora and cooks developed recipes for the wide range of local foodstuffs.

Activities that were expected and indeed encouraged by those that scrutinised the community's development. As was also to be expected, there were several unfortunate deaths resulting from previously undocumented local hazards, within the statistically acceptable range of course.

Fifteen scientists for six months or so could not cover every inch of the planet - and authorities did not expect them to do so. Their job had been to add detail to the original survey, to draw up broad strategies for any terra-forming that might be necessary and to satisfy themselves that the place was essentially safe for human beings. They could not spend their limited and expensive time looking for every single poisonous plant or bug - the planet had been deemed 'safe', within normal statistical bounds.

So, as the settlers became more adventurous, accidental deaths were bound to occur - and had been allowed for in the long-term plans.

Following usual practice, the authorities sent inspectors and various officials on a regular basis, particularly during the first two years, which had been found to be the time during which most new settlements ran into trouble. Once past that critical period, assuming nothing untoward happened, it was expected that over ninety five percent of colonies would become self-sufficient and the planets were then opened up for general migration. From there on the individual planets were essentially on their own and began to mass-produce whatever resource had made it attractive to mankind in the first place.

Inspectors still visited of course, less frequently, depending in part on just how accessible the planet was and how attractive its off-duty offerings. Far-flung, rocky masses that were simply rich in ores being mined by predominantly male gangs tended to receive fewer official inspections than did resort worlds providing for a variety of pleasures of the flesh - after all, officials were still human.

So, with the first two years safely passed the settlers awaited their final inspection and clearance for full-scale development. The planet was to become a food source, its land was rich in a range of elements that suited a newly developed plant which, when processed provided a highly nutritious powder that could be shipped at low cost to the barren mining worlds, where it would be reconstituted into a variety of attractive foods.

The inspector who made the final assessment raised his eyebrows at certain aspects of the study he had made but, as the report form included no column suitable for what had roused his curiosity, he ignored and then forgot it.

Construction equipment, processing plants and the engineers to use them began arriving soon after the inspector's favourable report had been circulated. Followed by large-scale farming machinery and the people to use it, most came with their partners, intending to also settle on the newly opened world.

So human life and activity began to spread around the globe and life was full - satisfying work, healthy relaxation, good friends and neighbours, loving couples and of course babies began to be born, frequently.

Another year passed, seeds sown, crops grown, harvested, processed and shipped - even the initial results were better than the expert's most optimistic estimates; yields higher, losses lower, the nutritional values varying slightly from one part of the globe to another but consistently exceeding the upper limits of the biochemists' expectations. Reports continued to be written, distributed and mainly, filed. Things could well have gone along in that way for several more years if it hadn't been for one particular bureaucrat who had a passing interest in Sociology - and who actually looked at what the reports had not been reporting.

A comparison with reports from other settlements led to a casual conversation with a friend specialising in that field and that in turn led to an off the record meeting with one of the inspectors who had actually visited the planet. Her comments confirmed the validity of his nagging questions but gave him no answers, which resulted in several weeks of concern and indecision. Luckily the next scheduled survey was almost due and an unofficial conversation with the rostered inspector was able to be arranged.

Forms were prepared and distributed to the growing number of inhabitants, forms that had been modified, only slightly from the norm, time allowed for their completion and for the compilation of the data they contained - and the inspector left to complete the survey and her report.

It was her first visit and although she kept the senior bureaucrat's concerns in mind, her first reactions on arrival were that the man was making a mountain out of a mole-hill - the place was idyllic, a virtual paradise. The expressions on people's faces as she walked down the main street of the largest town confirmed her opinions, its people were obviously happy, caring and fulfilled.

However, once the major sections of the report were completed she turned her attention to the section of the returns that included the modified questions. She didn't have to check the results against the comparative tables - there was nothing to check, there was no data!

In all new settlements, during the first few years it had been found that up to half of the original settlers separated, re-grouped. Figures varied of course, depending on outside factors, such as size of settlement, ratio of sexes, ease of transport, etc. - but, on an essentially 'friendly' planet such as this, she would have expected to see around forty percent of the couples splitting, at least temporarily - but, other than those that had occurred during the early months, there were none!

It was unbelievable - impossible!

The data must be incorrect. The fools must have misread the forms or completed them incorrectly. Why?

So she made personal inquiries, discretely at first and then, in growing desperation more and more openly. There was no mistake, everyone she spoke to, everyone, was not only perfectly happy with their partner, they gave the distinct impression of being virtually besotted with them - and, so were all their friends and acquaintances with their partners. Now when she walked down the main street she saw a different picture - now everywhere she looked she saw the same couples, hand in hand, arm in arm, their faces positively glowing with expressions of mutual love. Now that she was seeing things with a different eye she found it almost embarrassing to be alone, she realised that seeing couples kissing and fondling each other in public was not uncommon and from time to time, in secluded places, there were many couples giving even more active demonstrations of their feelings for each other too!

Her report was transmitted and, as agreed a copy went to the bureaucrat who had first spotted the anomaly but, having had his suspicions confirmed, what was he to do next? There was no precedent - and he didn't know just what it was that he had found. A series of unofficial meetings followed, none of which seemed to be going anywhere, until, quite by chance a colleague made a casual, facetious remark.

"Maybe someone's spiking their drinks!"

A small team of specialists was quickly put together, briefed and shipped out. A biologist, a micro-biologist, two chemists of separate specialities, an endocrinologist and, just in case, another sociologist.

It took them and the teams they gathered around them four months to find the answer - but they found it.

The folk-lore had been right, there was such a thing as a love-potion, a true aphrodisiac - it was locked within the soil of the planet. Every living thing that was grown there contained it, only in minute quantities but the settlers had been giving themselves tiny doses every time they ate, right from the day they began to eat their first home-grown garden vegetables.

The scientists were elated by their findings, the more pragmatic saw the even greater prosperity that would flow from the commercial development and galaxy wide distribution of a refined product.

The sociologist blanched - he realised that already there were several thousand tons of highly concentrated food on its way to hundreds of widely scattered settlements, mining and heavy industry settlements - settlements populated virtually exclusively by men!

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