Search This Blog

Chapter 12 In the middle

“Ben, wake up we have company. Please join me in the salon.” Ben grabbed his robe and shuffled into the main salon. He gave her a crooked grin. “Well, you're still in your pajamas.” “You're not exactly overdressed yourself. I just wanted to make you feel more comfortable.” The vids were showing an early morning collection of views outside the ship. On the Eaulander side in the distance, something that looked like an ancient tractor spewing prodigious quantities of black smoke was pulling a fancy black carriage. Behind was several long-haired men dressed in black double-timing it on foot. On the Gaian side, a small group of men in drab brown tunics carrying baskets were walking behind colorfully dressed women heading towards the ship.

Ben made a cup of cafe and sat with Celeste. “What do you think is going on?”  Frankly, Ben, I don't know yet, every time is different. “This is the most difficult part of these visits. The Gaians appear to be bearing gifts of some sort, and the Eaulanders look, well sort of officious. Those men behind the carriage don't look friendly, and they seem to be carrying some sort of sidearm weapons. They can't hurt us, so I think the best thing to do is to sit tight and just watch. I have the exterior audio on, and we can review last night's recordings of the local voice and vid traffic later.”

“I'm curious, what were they saying,” said Ben. “The Gaian side is pretty innocuous. Tomorrow's weather, a village is hosting a gathering with several other local villages, which has many of the younger ones excited. There was also talk about the monthly sale of the seed to the Eaulanders. I'm not sure exactly what the seed is, but it may be used as a fuel source.”

“The Eauland's have a low tech version of a vid broadcast system. It's mostly invocations and prayers to the Oneness, mixed with news and demands for increased productivity. The odd thing is I hear men on the Eaulander recordings and only women on the Gaian recordings.”

Ben watched as the Gaians stopped a short distance from the ship. The men quickly set down what was obviously food and jugs, and laid out blankets. All but one of the women settled on them. The men stepped back and sat in the grass. The older tall woman remained standing facing the ship.

A few minutes later the Eaulander carriage jerked to a stop on the other side. Several old men in black robes stepped out and were protectively flanked by the armed men. One stepped forward and after some elaborate gestures intoned in a high-pitched voice “I am Davin, the Senior Elder. On behalf of the Oneness who is all, we welcome you to Eauland. Come out into the light of the One who is all and speak with us.”

The tall woman glared at her Eaulander counterparts and immediately bellowed. “Welcome to Gaia visitors. I am Nona the head Councilor. We have brought you refreshments provided by the grace of the Mother after what must have been a long and perilous trip. There is no need to deal with those foul despoilers of the planet.”

The Senior Elder puffed up and snarled, “Deal not with the godless sinning Gaians. Without us, they couldn't exist.” The Gaian woman pointed at the Eaulanders and yelled, “Without our seed Elder Davin you would not exist at all. The bountiful Mother of this planet and our hard work makes your sordid existence possible.”

Celeste glanced at Ben and raised an eyebrow. “Got any good ideas on how to start?” “It's a bit unorthodox but how about we partially extend a ramp on both sides of the ship. I'll walk a short distance out on the Gaian side, wave and immediately come back in. You do the same on the Eaulander side. We then we can judge how they react to us. It's apparent what they think of each other, and there seems to be a sharp divide between the sexes here. I'm thinking it might be sobering for both groups to get a small dose of reality.”

Celeste gave Ben an evil grin. “I knew you were a great choice for this. I have a huge closet full of clothes for you in the hold. Pick out something you think is suitable. Maybe something that looks drab brown like their men. I'll dress in a black robe just like the Eaulander Elders.” 

Ben headed aft and after a couple of minutes found a long-sleeved brown shirt and a coarsely woven pair of pants. Barefoot he headed back to the round entry room with the ramps. Celeste walked in wearing a somber black robe, and her hair was now long, luxuriant and blonde. “Fetching wig Celeste.” “I don't need to remind you what I can look like do I, Ben?” Ben gave her a  knowing grin, “I vividly remember.” 

“I'll deploy the ramps out a short distance and open the hatches. Be careful Ben, and I'm watching both groups. I set up the audio feed so you can hear from my side as well. Are you ready?”

“As ready as I can be. Let's go for it.” The hatches opened, and Ben walked out and looked down at the Gaians who were staring back at him open-mouthed, especially the men. He waved and quickly went back into the ship.

The reaction to Celeste was different. The Elders seemed dumbfounded, and a half a dozen men immediately drew and pointed their weapons at her. She smiled down at them, waved, and as she was stepping back into the ship one of the men fired a slug at her bellowing, “She's a godless whore.” Celeste closed the hatches and retracted the ramps.

Ben went to the salon and joined Celeste. “I'll replay what happened,” said Celeste. The big vid split into four windows. The top two were real-time views from each side of the ship, and the bottom two were recordings. Ben sat and watched the scenes replay in a loop. “The Eaulander's don't seem to be a friendly bunch, and I didn't like the fact that they shot at you.”

“Can you think of anything that would discourage this type of behavior Celeste?”

“I can send them a message they won't forget. Watch this.” A line in the grass was scorched by a red beam just short of the toes of the man who fired the weapon. A second larger red laser spot appeared on the man's tunic. He stared at the red circle warming his chest, looked down at the still smoldering scar in the ground below and promptly fainted dropping his weapon. It discharged when it hit the ground blowing a sizable hole in the fancy carriage. A red spot appeared on the next man's chest, who quickly set his weapon down, and it disappeared. The other armed men dropped their slug throwers and nervously looked at the Elders who were all frantically trying to see who could get into the carriage first. Surrounded by a cloud of black oily smoke the whole entourage turned around and retreated at speed.

“Well, at least they aren't complete idiots. Was that a clear enough message?” 

“I see you have a subtle but effective touch. What do you think we should do with the Gaians?” said Ben watching the women nervously huddled and talking together. The men were standing apart faintly smiling and whispering to each other.

“Well they didn't shoot at us, and they saw what I did with the Eaulanders. I'm sure you will be safe. Let's try to trade with them. I think you should go back out on the ramp and ask them to come back with some of their seed, and we will trade it for something we have.” 

“What kind of gift do you have in mind?”

“I think a carefully edited encyclopedia might be a good place to start. Isn't selling encyclopedias in your job description? Let's trade a tablet for some seed so we can see what it is.”

Ben walked back to the hatch and waited for Celeste to open it. “Okay, ready?” 

“Sure am.” The hatch slid open, and he stepped out on the ramp. Looking down at the surprised group Ben said, “Greetings Gaians. We have come in peace from far away. As you have witnessed, we will not tolerate weapons near us. Come back to us with some seed you trade to the Eaulanders, and we will give you a gift in exchange.” Ben backed into the ship and Celeste promptly closed the hatch.