Rotting Guts for Dinner
Edith never had been an early riser. She loved sleeping in whenever she could.
She was at the edge between dreams and reality between sleep and consciousness. At first she wondered if she had drunk a little too much because the bed felt as if it was moving. She slid her arms under the soft pillow and turned to the other side to catch just a few more winks of sleep. But this she was certain the bed did move.
She opened her eyes and said . “System what time is it?”
“It is Zero Two oh seven, Union Standard or about mid day locally”
“Zero Two, no wonder I feel like I just went to bed.”
“You did not, Edith The word just indicates a short period of time and in relation to the sleep period requirements of a Terran human you slept 9 hours, without sleep inducer I might add.”
“Who needs a stupid machine to sleep? I never needed Sleep inducers.”
“You know there is a fine line between being a friendly AI or a sarcastic one, I think you crossed it long ago.”
“Yes that would be a fair assessment, but Commander McLane uploaded this personality simulation. I am not sentient, a requirement to develop character traits such as sarcasm.”
Edith waved at the view port and the polarization changed and made it transparent to light.
A depressing land scape in every shade of gray was pounded by torrential rain form equally gray shaded clouds that covered the sky from horizon to horizon.
This was of course the explanation of the moving sensation. She was aboard a massive Union Science Corps crawler, and part of a detailed planetary survey mission.
After a visit to the hygiene cell and a quick shower, she wondered why this rolling behemoth could not also have an auto dresser. She was certain if that thing would have been fleet,it would have the most advanced model.
After she dressed in the maroon colored coverall that was the color of the Science Corps, Explorer division and gave her brown shoulder long tresses a last brush, teasing the last unruly strand in place; she went to the Control Deck.
Commander McLane, a lanky human form Mars rested in the central command seat, while Yor, a massive purple Nul was sitting behind the drive controls.
McLane turned and grinned. “Ah, Dr. King. Welcome among the living. If we would be Union Fleet my dear, you’d face a court martial for getting up three hours after your shift started.”
“If this would be Fleet we have Auto Dressers.”
“We should be happy, the Army gave us these old siege engines. Sure beats sloshing across the surface of this muddy continent and sleeping in Erecto tents.”
“I have done this many times before, this isn’t my first planet.”
“Liar, this is your second planetary survey and the last planet was as pleasant as Para Para.”
“Well I did sleep in a tent.”
She sat down behind the Life science station and gave the beautiful Delicate thankful nod as the beauty from the far end of the Large Magellanic Cloud handed her a mug of fresh coffee. “Thank you Auero, that is just what I needed. Teaches me to get into a drinking contest with a Nul. But how did you survive our drinking binge, looking fresh and beautiful as ever?”
“We Delicates only have external similarities to humans, we are completely immune to alcohol.”
“Unlike we Nul. ” grunted the fearsome giant behind the control. We have an open circulation and Alcohol does things to us, I thought not possible.”
Edith checked her read outs and said. “There is a spike on the Neuro activity sensors. Our orbital scanner eye has picked up the neural electric activities of significantly active brains about 189 kilometers from our current position.”
Yor at the controls pushed the control stick into the new direction,indicated by the coordinates Edith had just send to his read out.
The 70 meter long , twenty meter high and twenty meter wide, vehicle riding on four very wide all terrain tracks made of molecule compacted Ultronit slowly turned into the new direction. Of course this former Union Army Planetary Siege engine could travel at speeds of up to 100 kilometers over virtually any known terrain and under almost any environment, doing so would not only scare any life from for a hundred mile radius to death or sent it fleeing, it would tear a furrow of apocalyptic proportions into the planets surface and kill and destroy anything in its path.
The land scape changing artillery and most of the secondary weapon systems had been removed, leaving ample space for spacious labs and living quarters. Making a detailed planet survey a pleasant affair.
This Little Joe Class Siege Engine was one of the smaller Artillery command versions. Edith had never seen one, but knew the Army had Siege Engines where 4 Little Johns could be taken aboard.
This re purposed war machine now sported the same maroon red a everything of the Explorer division and rumbled with a leisurely pace of 15 klicks across the seemingly endless Tundra of the big continent of this Class 2A Garden world. It had been entered as planet Kevin Yan into Union catalogs eight month ago when it was discovered during a physical survey of Brekonis Zeta, a main sequence star with an nine planet system.
Physical surveys in this region of the Spinward sector had only recently been increased, mainly due of course to the fall of the Kermac and the Galactic Council.
Now Union explorers could go the direct route reaching the this quadrant, instead of going the long route.
One reason of the increased survey activity was of course the discovery of the Ancient Gate Network and the likely assumption that there were gates on this side of the M-0 Galaxy as well.
Project Providence and the Z point stations had also started to map this region more closely.
Despite the fact that the Union colonized pretty much every piece of celestial real estate, Garden worlds were considered rare treasures.
But before BoCA would offer this world to potential colonists, a detailed survey had to be conducted.
Close examination of the local bio sphere, analyzing the soil , water and air to make sure there weren’t any nasty surprises in terms of microbes or other micro organisms.
The survey team was also looking for sentient life, or the remnants of a vanished civilization.
For this reason two Little Joes had been deployed from the USS Ghana, a massive 5000 meter HALD explorer of the Science Corps.
Of course a survey could have been done from orbit. Union Sensor were quite sophisticated and legions of Survey robots roamed the galaxy measuring and surveying every star and stellar object.
However by Assembly decision these robot probes were prohibited from making first contact or make a detailed pre colony assessment survey.
Edith sipped at her coffee and stared past the view ports. A huge lake was ahead. The shores where white with flocks of millions of large birds.
The lake was no obstacle for the massive machine., if the water was deep enough it would float,
To the tall Delicate she said. “Have you decided what you will do after your 22 month are up? Will you extend or perhaps even consider a career in the Science Corps?”
“Yes I have, I am applying with the Academy, I want to become a science officer for the fleet.”
“Science Corps not enough excitement for you?”
“I hope I will eventually and many years from now, picked as Captain for a HALD. That is my declared goal.”
Commander McClain shifted in his seat. “Tall goal but a worthy one that’s for sure.”
.Just as the Crawler reached the shore, they saw watched a compact and very muscular creature with impressive fangs and claws killed what appeared an elephant sized herbivore.
Edith said. “I guess nature displays the same cruelty no matter what world or planet.”
The Nul said. “Nature is not cruel, that carnivore kills to survive and feed. It won’t kill for fun or just because it can. Sentient beings on the other hand can be cruel.”
The Delicate pointed into the opposite direction. “I guess there had been more kills today. I see a cadaver over there, and some kind of scavenger. I am not very strong in my psionic abilities as other Delicates, but I am almost certain I am detecting structured thought.”
Commander McLane got up. “Yor, hit the breaks. Aureo hail the ship and inform mission control that we have a potential Cognito.”
He, like almost everyone in raised his eyes to the ceiling to address the invisible but always present AI. “System Survey Log access.”
“Survey Log recording.”
“At Zero Four fifty eight, Mobile survey group two detected a potential Cognito contact. Extra Vehicular observation commencing.”
He smiled. “Dr. King you are with me, put on your All Terrains and meet me at aft boarding ramp access.”
Edith almost threw up, as the boarding ramp lowered and the planets air rushed in. Instead of cool moist air as she somehow expected, a stomach turning stench of rotting flesh and feces hit the olfactory receptors of her nose.
She hastily activated the folding helmet that was standard equipment and stored as an insubstantial film in the collar of her explorer suit. It was too late and a bad idea . She threw up after all.
Now this was not the self cleaning helm of a space suit, but just a back up, and she got a good close up of her last dinner.
Commander McLane grinned. “What kind of biologist are you anyway. That is just rotting meat. Well a lot of it and some of that other brown substance. Go get cleaned up and meet me in ten.”
“You are a mean person, Commander.” The Delicate said walking past him down the ramp.
"I just didn’t tell her that we ran an air sample through the analyzer and noticed the high concentration of odor molecules.”
“A cruel human from that barbarian world you call Earth.”
“I am a Venusian, I wasn’t born on Earth. And you should talk you look like a Lumiglow artists version of a female butterfly and yet you didn’t tell her either.”
McLane sunk to his knees in gooey mud, before he adjusted the grav pressure of his all terrains and stepped on the surface of the pudding like mud of the lake shore area. And slowly walked to mores solid marsh grass covered ground. He put his hand on his P3 Paralysator as he slowly approached the truly ugly thing, of about elephant size.
It was mostly gray but had almost a bird like head sitting on a muscular neck that faded from gray to a dark red. The beaks looked like the business end of a big cable cutter , with sharp inward pointing half moon shaped discs. The maw was pretty much the same thing as the creatures head, the jaws were exposed and showed rows of fist sized molars. With the same movement of a carrion eating vulture the thing threw his head in the air and swallowed long purple shimmering, blood and ikcor dripping entrails of a unrecognizable heap of bones, skin and flesh that once was the body of some even larger animal.
The air was not only pregnant with the stomach turning smell, but filled with clouds of black flies. At close up they looked distinctive different from Terran insects, but they had wings, made a buzzing sound and were attracted by the same necro pheromones released by the bacteria and micro organisms that were the core of a plethora of life , a micro cosmos of activity caused by death.
McLane had seen thousands of beasts on a hundred worlds . Creatures bigger than that scavenger, smaller , longer, uglier and prettier. But as the beast lowered its head with bits and left overs of its revolting meal dangling from its beak, and looked directly at him. He instantly knew, this was not a mindless animal. These were eyes of a sentient being.”
Edith didn’t feel very comfortable as she held out the First Contactor. This hand held device was a marvel of Union engineering and connected to the Ship AI. It not only was able to access every known language, but could simulate any known form of communication. It was able to translate verbal, acoustic languages, create holograms for sign languages, analyze olfactory or pheromone languages and even establish a base psion- telepathic connection. Leedei, Shaill, Saresii and even Narth tech elements combined into a device that could be carried by one person.
The Contactor was also programmed with the First Contact protocol procedures that have been created with over 3000 years of experience.
For the last six hours the device had displayed simple mathematical symbols. One black dot, then two followed by three. Then it advanced to images of trees, the dead carcass, the lake, grass and the beat itself.
The ugly beast had in all the time not moved away, or continued to devour its ghastly meal.
It responded to the images with deep guttural grunts that boomed from his massive chest.
The Contactor beeped and then the AI said. “Base line of communication established, specimen is sentient and is understanding the concept of communication.
The machine reproduced similar grunts and growls displaying images of trees , rocks , birds and the beast.
Edith almost fled as the beast visually became excited and moved its monstrous head in a very easy to understandable nodding fashion and came closer.
“Boranus is.” The contactor translated the excited grunts. “Boranus is I”
“I am Edith.”
“Edith is.” There was a pause . “Edith is not Boranus.”
Two years later – Pluribus Unum – Planet of the Union
Weather control announced peach rain for 10 hour, and on the dot , force field gathered clouds released a down pour of peach dyed rain, with a fresh fruity scent. The programmed weather outside was not really noticed inside the immense Sphere of the Assembly. It was just a regular Eight Day of Green Week in Fifth Month 2077 (Union Standard Time) or about 5061 (Old Terran Time)
Edith and Commander McLane wearing their Dress A Uniform. Maroon with a white diagonal bib folded across their chests and the logo of the Union Science Corps Explorer division on their sleeves.
Edith had never been here before and even McLane who was usually so self confident, could not dismiss an almost religious feeling of awe as he stepped inside the sphere.
The inner diameter of the sphere was 12 kilometers from wall to wall,
The curved walls spotted with over 18 million alcoves. Of which almost 3 million were occupied. Occupied with planet and member representatives of the mighty Union.
This was the very core, the center of an unprecedented multi culture mega civilization.
The Assembly was in session always and around the clock, except for one week every year.
Edith and McLane stood on a shimmering insubstantial force field disc and moved towards the center. A small ball shaped object hovered near that center,
The two hundred meters ball was called the Focus . On its apex a balcony type platform. This is where the Speaker of the Assembly on duty, was sitting or standing while orchestrating Assembly business.
The speaker on duty was a Boloth today, the massive creature greeted them and said with a loud voice amplified and transmitted to every Alcove and of course via GalNet Channel One to every GalNet receiver across Union space tuned in.
“Among the most sacred and honorable duties a Speaker of the Assembly is privileged to perform is the procedure to welcome a new member in our midst.”
From the opposite entry a hover platform appeared escorted by a honor detachment of the First Guard. On the platform were three Boranus Scavengers, Their black pelt tufts that crested their necks neatly combed, the beaks polished.
The speaker said. “I welcome the representatives of the Boranus, native to the world now known as Boranus Home and I declare the first docket of the day to be the new membership request of the Boranus.”
The hover platform stopped at the very middle of the Assembly sphere.
The Focus had silently floated to the side.
The speaker continued. “Also here are two officers of the Science Corps. The individuals who made first contact and represent the Citizen advocates for the new applicants.”
The speaker moved its huge head and looked at the Boranus.“I was informed you wanted to address the Assembly before the PUMA commission presents its final findings.”
The Boranus also moved its impressive head and clacked with its sharp beaks. “It is many rain seasons ago when Boranus only devoured the muffi smash. The savage Ikobur fell the Batkam and and only devour the muffi but leave the smash, but then came the think and Boranus asked why to everything and learned that we were we and could see and think about all things. Not just about the Muffi Smash and chasing the smaller urkis or making what is done to make more Boranus. We ask why is the water wet and why is the sky shedding water . When the small ones came that are some of you we learned that are many who think. We learn about space and stars. We learn the light round in the sky is a star and one of many. We learned so much and now we want to be with you so we learn more. I learn much but the young Boranus learn even more and faster.
We know there are things like the Ikobur out between the stars and can come to us and make us do things that are not what we want. We learned that little things can kill faster than a Ikobur. We want to be with you and become Union. We will work and learn and take our place if we are to be with you.”
After the Boranus had addressed the Assembly, the Avatar of a Bellebee gas bag flickered into existence. “I am Cordumis, chair person of the Potential Union Member Application committee and we have spend the last two years analyzing the Boranus and we can report they all want to become members, they understand what Union membership means and that with Citizenship come rights and responsibilities. The only recommendation we want to make is to give the Boranus a period of 50 to 100 standard years before they must comply with all Union citizen requirements. This will give them time to acclimate and learn more. The PUMA commission has no objections reports No issues found.”
The Speaker thanked the Bellebee and said. “Now is there anyone who want to file an objection why the Boranus should not be accepted. I open the board Union wide.”
The Assembly felt silent and after about ten minutes the Speaker said. “We received 34,003 objections from Union Citizens and no objections form the representatives present.”
The Boranus somehow managed to look defeated. “This is many, we are not to be with you?”
The Boloth said with as soft a voice as he could managed. “No Boranus, there are currently 1,5 trillion beings watching and could object, or ask to be heard. No objection was strong enough to be accompanied with a speak request, and the percentage of 34,003 to 1.5 trillion is impossible to express.”
A new voice objected. “One does not object to Boranus membership but objects to that statement, it can be very easily expressed.”
“Yes Narth Representative I stand corrected, the Narth of course can.”
“Not just the Narth, speaker but there are...“The black shrouded being stopped and listened to an old man and nodded. “The Narth have no objections.”
The speaker said . “I am calling for Union Wide all present.”
Edith explained to the Boranus. “That means that any citizen present or following the proceedings now votes.”
Egill Skallagrímsson, the former Planet representative of Nilfeheim, now holding the title and post of Adviser to the Assembly, just as his friends the former Saresii representative did. Watched as the vote result was announced with a high margin of 95 percent for admission. “Well I guess this is a momentous historic occasion.”
The Narth turned his shrouded head. “One fails to see why this would be so. Since we are part of this Assembly we witnessed over 189 admissions. Should not all admission be historic events as they occur on a mono linear time scale profession?”
“Because the Boranus are the 5500th member. It is a nice round number.”
“You correlate a spherical shape with the number 5500?”
Alegar the Saresii laughed. “How old must we get until you understand the meaning of this very illogical human expressions?”
“By the frequency Egill uses them, multiplied by the days we already know each other, one estimates another 233.6 standard years.”
“Well at least we have something to look forward too.” Egill said. “So are we going to the Boranus culture introduction? I heard they brought local specialties.”
“Yes I am always eager to see the culinary creation of carnal life forms.”
“You carnal yourself . I can’t remember you ever rejecting Tyranno Fin stew.”
The Boranus were officially welcomed and their societies name was engraved into the membership board.
Then as it was tradition, The Boranus delegation prepared a culture display in the Welcome hall. Pictures and images of their world, samples of their art. The Boranus had developed a form of music that consisted of long grunted a capella songs in which they told stories of the planes. Usually gory tales describing a rotten carcass with great detail. Surprisingly there were immediate requests of recordings and the offer of a music publisher to record and create a song sampler.
The so called Nabber bones , were another distinctive unique art form. Animal bones, shaped and “nabbered” with the Boranus beaks creating intricate patterns and lines on these bones, the lines and pattern turned out to be a written language of Haiku style poems.
This too was immediately hailed as great art and offers of galleries and art collectors were made almost immediately.
But when the Boranus uncovered their most proudest offering, the first actual prepared food dishes..the so dignified Assembly was suddenly filled with the sounds of gagging voices and not just a few delegates, were unable to keep their last meal in their stomachs.
A great exception of course were the delegates of the Elly who lauded the wonderful aroma. Also the Attikan found the awful stench appetizing and actually asked if they could sample.
It was also the first time anyone has ever seen a sick Narth. (Well anyone who wasn’t present when the Elly offered a dish of Pulse Stink maggots during one of the Union Feast days)
While the Assembly staff had to work for days to get the stench under control, it was just another day at the Assembly and the Boranus were soon just another Union species. Only during the annual Union feast day most attendees asked for the Elly and Boranus food stand to be outside and a tad removed (by about 2 miles)from the other food stalls.