Offspring Ch. 034byTalemaster©
Well, I'm back. Two more chapters finished and uploaded. Sorry it's taking a while, but in spite of other things demanding my attention I have no intention to abandon the project. Have fun
There wasn't much to see yet. The sun was still low in the sky and the high crater walls kept the ground in deep shadow. Sergeant Conners and his men checked the area around the Pygmalion. As expected there was no sign of life. Nevertheless they established a perimeter the size of a football field with proximity detectors every ten yards. These would warn us if anything bigger than an Earth size cockroach tried to get past.
Pedro's crew was already unloading Jack's gear. Jack and Juan were directing the containers to an area fifty yards away from the Pygmalion. There were already three twenty foot standard containers on the ground. I had no idea Jack had that much gear.
"Must be one hell of a lab by the look of that stuff," I said.
"You've seen nothing yet. There are another nine containers to be offloaded." Jack and Juan grinned when Jack said that. "Seeing you were paying for the freight, I brought the farm."
"Farm? What farm?"
"The one Juan and I have designed over the years. The idea was to take a fair sized farming operation on to a virgin world rather than just a lab. This way we would get really meaningful results very early on. As you know, not everything that works in a lab works on the ground. We tried to sell the idea to the Federation, they just laughed at us.
"About three years ago I had the shits with the Federation putting roadblocks in my way every time I tried to do something. I settled on Earth told them to get fucked and retired from the game. By that time I had more credits than I knew what to do with. After a couple of months as a retiree I got bored with nothing to do. I had all these plans for a collapsible farm we had been working on so I decided to have the thing built. Juan and Jeremy, Pygmalion's engineer, would give me a hand every time they were back on Earth and we ironed all the bugs out. Result, a farm in kit form. When you called I thought it would be a great opportunity to put the thing to the test."
Jack and Juan have always worked well together. Juan, apart from being a crack pilot, has a degree in microbiology, which fits in well with Jack's area of expertise. I first met them years ago on the Pygmalion on my very first virgin world expedition. We became friends and have have been together on a number of expeditions since then.
Feng had reimbursed Jack's expenses. I had never seen the invoices, that's why I didn't know how much stuff he had brought with him. All in all it was a good thing and well worth the money. I said so.
What a difference a week makes.
I was sitting on top of the gangway that led from Pygmalion's main hatch to the ground. Being about thirty feet above ground gave me an excellent view of the area under development. Bearing in mind that a week on Olympus is the equivalent of two and a half Earth weeks it was still amazing what we had achieved in such a short time.
Jack had not been exaggerating when he had called it a farm. When assembled the contents of the twelve containers had given us a two storey farm building with a kitchen, dining room and storage rooms on the ground floor and a dormitory that could accommodate twenty people, as well as showers and toilets on the floor above. Adjacent to the farm was a machinery shed, a laboratory and a greenhouse.
It was a masterpiece of engineering. When it was completed there was not as much as a bolt or a nut left over, even the walls and floors of the containers were used in the construction.
All members of the Pygmalion's crew apart from being skilled in operating and maintaining the craft were scientists with advanced qualifications. Geoffrey was the geologist of the group. As soon as the cargo had been unloaded he assembled a small drilling rig and started drilling for water. By the end of the second day he had sunk three spear points into the ground which were all producing. The farm complex was then built around them. The water was acceptable, though it tasted a bit off. When it was piped through a purifier it became palatable and safe to drink. There were some bacteria in the water, but they seemed not to interfere with the germination of Jack's seeds.
The moment they had water Jack had the lab and the greenhouse assembled and he was already running experiments while the rest of the farm was still being built. Talla was working with Jack. She had Trevor and his boys partition off a section in the dormitory and had her bed and other gear moved in there. When I asked her what that was all about she told me that this is where she would live from now on.
"Talla is learning how to grow rye and how to make Pumpernickel. Jack is teaching Talla. The Goddess wants Talla to do this. Talla is happy."
When I asked Jack about it he said that Talla had asked him if he would teach her. He was delighted that someone took such a strong interest in his work and agreed on the spot.
"These people," he said, "have agriculture in their blood. Talla fusses over every plant and makes sure her little charges want for nothing. She loves what she is doing. Eventually we will have her people tend the farms. Who better to teach them than one of their own. Talla seems perfect for the job."
I had told Jack that he had a free hand. If that's what he wanted it was alright with me. I said so.
I was still deep in contemplation when the hooter went off to tell us the food was ready. I went down the gangway and made my way over to the farm house where Ben had set up shop. It was a lot more convenient for the workers to take their meals there.
By the smells wafting from the kitchen Juan had been doing the cooking today. Mexican food. Enchiladas, chilli con carne, nachos, the whole deal, down to the Sangria served in colourful jugs he carried around with him for such occasions. He loved doing this occasionally and he was very good at it. My mouth was watering. Naturally, Talla had to have something different, but she did get into the tortillas.
After we had been fed Pedro asked me and Feng to join him on the bridge. From there we went to his briefing room where we were joined by Juan, Jeremy and Geoffrey. Pedro took the floor.
"Gentlemen, it's time we started thinking where we go from here. I know we said we would stay here for a month, but I can't see the point. Jack has things well in hand. Trevor and his boys are helping him. They still carry their guns with them just in case, but they are playing farm boys. Ben is cooking and Geoffrey will still sink some more spear points for extra water. The rest of us has bugger all to do. We could explore some of the planet, but that can wait until we are better organised. What we need is water and power, heaps of both. Let's get that organised now."
"I thought we were alright for water and power for a while."
"At the moment all of Jack's gear is connected to the Pygmalion's reactor. With the Pygmalion gone he has to rely on his generator. It has just enough grunt to keep things ticking over if he is careful not to use too much electricity for things other than his lab and greenhouse and a few lights at night. He can perhaps cook for an hour a day and use one shower sparingly. There won't be enough to do any heating at night. I can let Jack have one of Pygmalion's emergency generators while we are gone but it will still be far from comfortable for them while we are away. As to the water, these spear points only reach into the water table. They produce about eighty gallons each per hour with the pumps going full pelt. To get any meaningful supplies we need to drill down into the aquifer. We neither have a suitable drilling rig nor the associated pumps and so forth to get this going."
"So what are you suggesting?"
"We go shopping."
"I don't want to return to Okton4 just yet."
"Who is talking about Okton4? I wouldn't be able to get there what we need anyway. No, we go straight to Earth from here. You said yourself there aren't any controls so we don't have to ask anyone. We just do it. Say eight days for the return journey, four days on Earth to get everything together. We can be back in twelve days. Jack will be able to make do until then."
I had to admit what Pedro was saying made sense.
"When do you want to do this, Pedro?"
"Give me eight hours to get the Pygmalion ready and the generator sorted out. Any time after that. Geoffrey and Ben are needed here, you and Feng will have to jump into the breach."
"Go for it, Pedro. I want to take Talla and Al with us, any problems with that?"
"I'll have to move Talla's gear back into the Pygmalion. Trevor and his boys can do that. Care to tell me why you want to take those two?"
"I don't want them to feel we are doing things behind their backs. It's difficult to know how Talla feels, but Al feels very much that he is an outsider and only tolerated because he is the Oktonian representative. He is a good bloke. I want to show him his heritage and hopefully convince him that his and his people's future is with us."
We left it at that and called an end to the meeting. Feng and I went to look for Talla and Al. We found them in the greenhouse with Jack. They were in excellent spirits. By now Jack's seedlings were growing. His trays were full of green shoots, some of them as high as three inches. Jack proudly pointed to an area behind the greenhouse about twenty by twenty feet that looked like a lawn.
"We won't have any problems growing rye here. Look how healthy the little buggers are. We are irrigating with raw water too. There is no need to treat the water, which is a big plus. All I need now is enough water and power and we are off in earnest."
"That's why I'm here, Jack. We'll be leaving for Earth in a few hours to get your stuff. Barring any unforeseen hold ups we should be back in twelve days. It all depends on your stuff being ready for pick up."
"I gave Pedro a list of what I want days ago. He ordered it there and then. It'll be sitting on the tarmac when you arrive."
"Talla, can you get Trevor and the boys to put your stuff back on the Pymalion? I want you to come with us."
"Frank wants Talla to go with him to Earth?"
Talla did a little dance, flapping her wings furiously. Even I could tell she was excited.
"The Goddess loves her Frankie, so does Talla," she said when she had calmed down a bit.
I turned to Al. "I want you to come with us too, Al."
"Me? Why? What can I do there?" My invitation clearly took him by surprise.
"I want you to see where you come from, besides, an extra pair of hands is always welcome when there is work to be done. Now go you two, get your stuff sorted out, you don't want to miss your flight."
Feng had been quiet until now.
"Not so quick," he said as Talla and Al were about to leave. "Let me get George and the cameras. I want Jack to show us the seedlings again. George and I will record this historic occasion."
"These little seedlings may not look like much, but they prove beyond doubt that this project is no longer a vision. Especially that patch growing outside. We have now a doable programme with enormous potential for the Chang corporation and for the Oktonians. If that isn't a historic event I've never seen one. My uncle will be ecstatic."
As usual, Feng was right.
We were in hyperspace. I was keeping Juan company on the bridge. The screens showed static. They would come alive again the moment we entered normal space. In the meantime there wasn't much to do. We had used the hours required to get us to a jump off point well. George and Feng had created an edited version of the footage they had taken of our progress to date up to and including Jack showing us his seedlings. I had added a short segment where I explained our change in plans and that we were en route to Earth and why. We had sent the encrypted report via hypertransmission just before the jump. One cannot send or receive messages when in hyperspace. We wouldn't get a reply until we reached normal space again.
Talla brought us some coffee and a plate of cupcakes.
"Where did these come from?" said Juan. "They are delicious."
"Al made them. He is a good cook."
"I'm beginning to like this guy. Looks like he is settling in. It'll do him good having something creative to do." Juan reached for another cake, a big grin on his face.
"Tell me Juan," I said when Talla had left. "Do you think you could teach Talla to fly a spaceship?"
"If you had asked me that a few weeks ago I would have called you nuts. I've watched Talla and I'm inclined to agree with you. I think we are dealing with a people who are very, very smart, in an alien sort of way. Trevor, incidentally, thinks the same. To answer your question, I don't know. There is only one way to find out. We start teaching her and see how she goes. I'm game to try.
"Before we go there I want to know why. I've known you long enough to know this isn't idle speculation on your part. You have something specific in mind, something that requires Talla, or someone like her, to fly a spaceship. Care to tell me about it?"
"Fair enough. You are the one with the buttons, Juan. Can you please ask Pedro and Feng to come to the bridge so I don't have to repeat myself."
"I've asked Juan if he can teach Talla to fly a spaceship," I explained when they arrived. "He wants to know why I want to do this. Now, before I tell you what I have in mind I want you to give me your guarantee that the matter stays between us for now. You will soon see why secrecy is mandatory at this stage. If and when we put my plan into action the people involved will be told all about it, but until then no one else is to know."
After all had agreed to my terms I told them about the Torgon invasion and the shuttles. I explained my theory of what these shuttles were and what they contained.
"You can imagine that I don't want the Torgons, Al's people or the Chang corporation to get hold of that lot." I concluded. "This leaves us with two options, either we destroy those ships or we take them. My preferred option is to take them."
"Assuming we can pull this off, what then?" said Pedro.
"We take the ships to Olympus, disarm them and use our fleet of freighters as a bargaining chip. We'll work out a deal with the Chang corporation that everybody is happy with. Not even the Chang corporation can boast a fleet of that many freighters, they'll be happy to enter into an agreement. It'll put them streets ahead from where they are now."
"And you want Oktonians to fly these things? Why not hire experienced pilots? Juan and I have enough connections to get you all the pilots you need."
"Not a good idea. You give some pilot a heavily armed freighter chock a block full of possibly priceless alien technology. What is to stop him to take off with it never to be seen again?"
"There is that. What is stopping the Oktonians to do the same thing?"
"First of all they wouldn't know what to do with it once they stole it. The have no connections, they know nothing about the universe they live in. Besides, we won't teach them enough to be able to do something like that. We will teach them to take off, ferry the ships to Olympus and put them into orbit. You and your boys can then pick up the ships one by one and land them on the surface. It's the safest way to do it, if we can get them to pilot the things in the first place."
"Have you spoken to Talla about this?"
"Not yet, I wanted to talk to you guys first."
"Good. Talk to her and when you are ready bring her to me. I will start teaching her the theory of space flight. She has to understand at least some of it before anything Juan shows her makes sense." Pedro turned to Juan. "Get Jeremy to hold the fort on the bridge, I think we could all do with a drink after this."
I had asked Talla and Feng to come up to my cabin for a talk. When we had settled down with a beer I said: "I have asked Pedro and Juan if they would teach Talla how to fly a spaceship. They are prepared to do this." I turned to Talla. "Would you like to fly a spaceship Talla?"
"Talla will do anything Frank asks of her."
"No, I don't mean it like that. It's not an order. You can say no if you don't want to. I want to know if you would like to learn this."
"Talla will learn anything Frank wants to show her. Talla has learned much and can do many things now she couldn't do before. The people here no longer see Talla as a dumb faerie. She has become a person who matters. All because Frank has faith in Talla and her people. Yes, Talla wants to fly a spaceship and show everybody that Talla and her people are good for more than making drinks and cleaning toilets."
"Good, it's settled then. We'll start your lessons as soon as possible. Before we break up here there is something I want to ask you. Something that has been bothering me for some time."
"What is it you want to know from Talla?"
"When you went to do Trevor's course Niphi took over your job at the office. She had only just arrived and offered to make us some coffee. To my surprise she did just that without trying to find out where everything was, she just knew. When I asked Feng he said he suspected you all worked to some set pattern. That could have explained it, but when she arrived with the coffees they were made up according to our preferences, black with one sugar for Feng, white with two for me. No one had told her. Set patterns did not explain that.
"There are other things. In Captain Harkon's log he mentions that when your people grow up they acquire speech and full knowledge of language virtually overnight without having been taught. Feng also told me that all your people can speak, read and write Federation Intergalactic. I asked Al if you had schools where this was taught. He said there were none. You could just do it. He couldn't tell me where you had learned this.
"It didn't make sense. The only thing I could come up with was that you people are somehow connected psychically and can transfer ability and knowledge directly from mind to mind. What can you tell me about this?"
"Everything Talla knows and can do is part of Talla. It is also part of Goddess. This is true for all of Talla's people. When people die their knowledge dies with them. The Goddess does not die. All the things the dead people knew are still with her. When one of Talla's people needs something someone else has learned the Goddess gives it to them as a gift, if she so chooses. The Goddess decides."
"Let me see if I got this right. For instance, Trevor taught you how to shoot a rifle. He says you are very good at it. So if the Goddess wanted anyone else of your people to be able to this she could give them the ability and they could shoot thereafter as good as you. Is that what you are telling me?"
"Yes, but not anyone. Some people are more able than others."
"So it depends on a person's native capacity how much they can absorb?"
"Thanks Talla, we'll talk about this some more at another time. Do me a favour, don't mention this to anyone else, it's very important we keep this quiet.
"Now go and grab some sleep, you must be getting tired. When you've had your rest I'll take you to Pedro and we get started on your lessons."
Feng poured himself another beer after Talla had left.
"Fascinating story," he said. "But why the secrecy?"
"Because this stuff is dynamite. Think about it. The Torgons would have needed a lot of help to shift all their gear. They would have used Talla's people and perhaps some humans to do it and killed everyone who knew about it afterwards to keep it secret. If what Talla is telling us is right, that knowledge is not lost. The Goddess would know where the shit is. Furthermore, if we train Talla to fly we can have as many pilots as we need, virtually overnight. That is, if the Goddess will help us. If that isn't dynamite I don't know what is."