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Expansion of Mankind Chapter Three

Ongoing Solutions

Expansion of Mankind 3

When Sam and Kari returned to the planet Prime they reported to the Council that misunderstandings between the two cultures had been had been explained to the satisfaction of the Rovers, at least for now.

There was still a disagreement on how to handle the problem of the rebels that were raising havoc among the colony, even going so far as burning farms and murder. The Rovers, after trying to cure them of their faulty reasoning and failing, would have just killed them. The Council, having neither the necessary psychiatric counseling or the facilities to imprison them were in a quandary as to how to settle the problem.

The Rovers had made it clear that this was a human problem and must be rectified by them.....or else. The Rovers would not allow this acrimony in their star system.

The discussion was getting argumentative when Kari stood, “Lets all calm down a minute. You are all arguing for different solutions that will be accepted by the colony. I don't think it's our decision to make, it's the whole population's problem, so let's present the options and allow them to present more or vote on the ones we present. That's how the Rovers do it and with the Budeez I don't see why we can't.”

Dr. Keith asked, “ How in the world would we manage that, Kari? Can you imagine the crackpot ideas that would appear?”

“Look Doctor, I'm sure the Rovers have crackpots too, but they have managed for millennia that way. The colonists don't want to be bothered with the day to day minutia we handle but on something like this they deserve the right to make a decision as it affects all of us. We'll put up a bulletin board on the Budeez where they can discuss and argue it and set a time for a vote. Meanwhile we have to capture the criminals.”

After the meeting Sam, Kari, and Sgt. Buckles were walking together to their offices when Major Anders asked, “ Have you caught any of them yet, Kurt? I've been out of the loop since Kari and I went to the planet Nirvana.”

“Oh yes, quite a few in fact, but I wouldn't say captured, more like rescued. These are the ones that were forced to carry the loot that the others stole and were able to escape from them as Bates did. We did get one of the ringleaders but he won't say anything that would help us get the rest. At least not yet, but I have some ideas to help him remember.”

“Good, Kurt, good. Say, Kari, did you know the colonists got an orchestra together? I heard it from my clerk who is in it. They're going to have a concert Saturday night in the town hall and I wondered if you would like to go?”

“Gee, Sam, I would like to go but I don't know if I'll have time. My boys were going to start on our house but I put a hold on it until I talked to Troyal. After seeing the Rover's homes I'd like to do something like that. He said he would have someone contact me and I'm waiting. Can I let you know later?”

“Sure, is there anything I can help you with?”

“Not unless you have a gag I can use for my mother. She's coming down from the ship this week. If you think I'm outspoken wait until you meet her. I expect the fireworks to really fly when she doesn't agree with something. She's going to be expecting the house done with lace curtains in the windows.”

“I'm sure that once she's here she'll understand the exigencies, Kari. Don't worry till you have to. Are you going to the concert, Kurt?”

Yea, Maria, Cpl. Sanchez, asked me if I'd take her and I didn't know how to weasel out of it after I sandbagged her on that murder scene. I hope you two make it, I'll have some cover from her.”

Kari grinned, “Why, Kurt, I didn't know you were shy with girls.”

“Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've been on a date with a nice girl? She scares the hell out of me.”

Kari smiled while Sam laughed out loud, “ There's your big tough Marine, Kari. I saw him assault an entrenchment of eight insurgents singlehanded on our last mission but he's quivering from a one hundred fifteen pound girl. Sorta makes you wonder how safe we are, doesn't it?”

As Kurt stomped away muttering to himself Kari said, “You shouldn't embarrass him like that, he's a fine man.”

“Huh, don't I know it. He's pulled my berries out of the blender more than once, but if I didn't ride him every once in a while he'd think I didn't care. I'd like to see him with some nice girl and Sanchez is one.”

“How about you, Sam? This is your last duty station too. What are your plans for the future?”

“Why I guess I'll just wait and see what the Marine Corp tells me to do next.”

“Don't try telling me that, Sam. You're not the type that just lets things happen, you make things happen. I'll bet you have contingency plans for the next twenty years or longer, don't you.”

“Darn, you've found me out. Maybe not twenty years but sure, I have plans. When this place gets more civilized and I'm not needed to help it do that I'd like to settle down with someone. What's wrong with that?”

“Not a thing. Do you have someone in mind or are you looking?”

Sam looked at her firmly for a few moments before saying, “It's a little early to say, let's just say I'm not in a position to go forward yet.”

Kari took a few seconds too before saying, “Whoever you choose will be a very lucky woman, Sam.”

Meanwhile, Sgt. Buckles had hardly seated himself in his office when Cpl. Sanchez rushed in, “I just got word that they think they've found them, Kurt. One of the air patrols has been checking the hilly area and saw a cave. When they zoomed in on it they saw some disturbances in the soil outside and what looked like a piece of machinery not completely covered with a tarp outside.”

“Okay, send two more antigravs and crews to the vicinity but a ways back. Tell the first antigrav to stay high and just watch until we get there. Get one of the bigger, armored antigravs loaded with three armored squads. We'll leave as soon as that's done. I'll notify the Major. Jump, Sanchez!!”

While traveling to the site Sgt. Buckles ordered a search to see if they could find another exit to the cave and shortly was told they had a probable one. He ordered one antigrav to stay high over it but be ready in case someone tried to leave. After looking the area over he had the other two hover over possible routes of escape.

Then they landed directly in front of the entrance and over the loudspeaker demanded that the inhabitants come out with their hands up. On their sound amplifying equipment they could hear arguing in the cave and soon one man came out with his hands raised. He had only come a few feet when he pitched forward with a smoking hole in his back where he had been shot from the cave. Many more shots came from the cave but was easily absorbed by the anti-laser shielding on the antigrav.

Buckles ordered, “Send a couple rounds of sleepy gas in there. They didn't get any gas masks and it should knock them out.” Just then he got a call from the antigrav guarding the other exit saying they were trying to escape but had been driven back with a few close shots. He ordered more gas into that exit.

After some minutes of no activity he sent in some heavily armored Marines. They found four armed men, five unarmed men and two unarmed women, all sleeping peacefully. There was quite a lot of equipment, weapons, food and supplies that had been stolen from the burnt farms.

All the sleepers were securely restrained until the guilty could be determined from the innocent and returned to headquarters. A squad was left to guard the loot until it could be returned to its owners.

When the prisoner were awakened they were interviewed. Three of the men and the two women had been captured and made to serve as mules to haul the stolen items. After they had found their cave the women were used for other duties for the armed men, decidedly not pleasant ones. Three of the men that had originally joined the rebels but protested the farm burnings were demoted to mules. The one that had tried to surrender and was shot was one of them.

The innocents were released. Their experiences quickly spread among the colonists, especially the women's. There quickly arose such an uproar that the prisoners needed an armed guard to protect them.

The bulletin board on what to do about the rebels went absolutely viral, ranging from releasing them as they were only poor misguided individuals to the other extreme of drawing and quartering or burning at the stake. Neither extreme gained appreciable support. The problem was that there were no facilities to imprison anyone for any length of time. Any solution would have to be immediate and lasting.

The argument went on and on until the last sticking point seemed to be insurmountable, whether or not to revert to capital punishment. Then Kari's mother arrived. She had been following the discussion from shortly after she had been revived when she went through rehabilitation after her long freeze.

Kari and her sons met her when she stepped off the lighter that had brought her down, “Oh, Mom, I'm so happy to see you!”

“Of course you are, Kari. Now, let's go see the house and get my stuff put away, then I have to straighten some people out down here.”

Kari almost had to trot to catch up with the slight, gray haired, figure of her mother as she strode off. “Uh, Mom, what did you mean about straightening people out? What people?”

“All those people yammering away for weeks about what to do with that scum that caused so much trouble. I talked to the technicians and the medical staff on the ship and I've got the perfect solution. How do we get to our land?”

“Right over there, Mom, that's our jeep. Put Grandma's thing in the storage, boys, and let's go.”

When they reached Kari's land Mrs. Benton looked around, “Well, that's a good looking barn, boys, what's that little building over there?”

Matt and John looked at each other to see which one was going to answer and suffer her wrath if she didn't like the answer. John nudged Matt forward so he answered, “That's the old prefab shelter we lived in. We use it for an equipment shed now.”

“Where the hell are you staying now then? Kari, I thought you said you had a house. That's a pretty landscape piece where you put all those huge stones and bushes by that huge tree but it would have been a perfect place for a house on that little rise.”

Kari took a deep breath and confessed, “Mom, that is the house.”

That started about an hour of tirade, starting with, “What!” and tapering through, “I never,” to “Who'd have thought,” then, “That's clever,” and finally, “It's beautiful, Kari, I like it, but my mother's lace curtains won't fit.”

“Mom, your land adjoins ours and when you build you can hang them in your house. Until then you can stay with us.”

Matt and John stood there, rolling their eyes at that announcement until their grandmother barked, “Get my stuff out of that contraption and in the house, I'm going to town. Are you coming, Kari?”

As Kari was driving her mother to town Mrs. Benton was examining the Budeez that she had been issued before she had left the ship and came down to the planet, “Let's see now. Oh, here it is. This does go to all of the other gadgets like this, doesn't it Kari?”

“Mom! That's meant to make emergency calls, you can't just announce something.”

“This is an emergency. All you people are arguing for months about this when there's a simple solution. Don't my ideas always turn out good, Kari?”

“Well....yea, Mom, they usually do but the way you present them isn't.”

“Oh shush, you're just jealous you didn't think of them, and quit rolling your eyes at me, what if they get stuck like that.”

Mrs. Benton then proceeded to broadcast that a answer to the problem of what to do with criminals would be announced at the town hall in two hours. When they reached town they found a good sized crowd already in front of the town hall and more people arriving all the time. They were all milling around asking what this was all about.

Sgt. Buckles had to call out a squad of Marines for crowd control and traffic direction. He was standing on the steps with a microphone trying to get some order in the crowd, “Would you all calm down, we don't know who made the announcement yet. I can tell you that it wasn't from the Council, so just calm down until we find out.”

Kari walked up to him and motioned she wanted to talk to him.

“Can't it wait, Kari? I'm a little busy right now trying to settle this mess some lamebrain made.”

Pulling him down to her size she whispered in his ear, “Kurt, that lamebrain is my mother and she's standing right behind you.”

Kurt snapped erect and slowly turned to see a little elderly lady standing there holding her hands together and smiling serenely at him, “Hello there, Sonny. I'm Ida Benton, but you can just call me Ida. Now, if you'll just hand me that microphone I can get this all straightened out in no time.”

Stunned and at a loss of what else he could do he complied and handed her the mike.

“Alright, let's quiet down now. I said quiet down.” With no diminution of the noise from the crowd she put two fingers in her mouth and let go with a piercing whistle into the mike. Many of the crowd covered their ears and it quieted considerably as they stared at her.

Pointing to a large man in the front she yelled, “You.. yes you, are you going to keep yapping or do you want to hear what this is about?” The rest of the people that were still talking quieted so that they wouldn't be singled out by this dynamic little woman.

In a sweet voice she continued, “There, now isn't that better? You have all been arguing on this subject for too long while I've been up in the ship getting my shots and rehab before I could come down and I had a lot of time to study this. I'm Ida Benton and I think I've found a solution.”

The large man that she had picked out before shouted, “What makes you think you're so much smarter than all of us, lady?”

Ida's sweet voice turned into a snarl as she snapped, “Okay, big mouth, come up here and give us your solution.”

When the man faded back into the crowd she said, “You people have been busy making a new life for yourself and haven't had the time to think about this as I have. I went back centuries to see what our ancestors tried and found some ideas, some good and some terrible. Our forefathers weren't stupid, although when you look at politics then you would think so. But they made mistakes, such as warehousing lawbreakers, which just gave the bad guys a school to sharpen their trade.”

Another voice shouted, “That's why we have to bring back capital punishment. I don't want to be paying to have someone sitting in a cell on my dime for the rest of his life.”

“You're right, and I think that's the reason a lot of you are for capital punishment. It's not that you want revenge but you know we can't just lock them up and feed them. We don't have the facilities and couldn't afford them if we did.”

Another voice, “We can't just let them go either, some are just evil.”

Ida paused for a moment, then, “What if they could be assured of being harmless to the community, self supporting, and able to pay society back for their misdeeds. Would you accept that?”

A chorus of voices shouted different responses, “You're dreaming!” or “That's crazy!” but some were heard, “Let's hear more.” or “That sounds good.”

Ida held up her hands and quieted the crowd, “Let me explain. Many years ago some lawbreakers that weren't considered dangerous were given ankle bracelets to keep track of them. It didn't work very well because they could just be removed and the bad guy could flee. They didn't have the medical and technological skills we have today. I've talked to the medical people and the technicians and we can make one now that will be failure proof.”

“Wait a minute, Ida, how is that going to protect the public from them?”

“They used to put what they called pacemakers under peoples skin to help their hearts before we found out how to prevent heart disease. They could put this under the skin over the brain stem. It would be powered by the body itself.”

“What would that do?”

“If someone started to get angry they would receive some pain, if they kept it up it would render them unconscious. If they had antisocial thoughts the same would happen and the authorities would be notified. If they weren't where they were supposed to be there would be pain leading to death until they returned to where they should be.”

“What if they tried to remove it?”

“Instant death. This is for the worst offenders. Lesser offenders would receive one but it would be on the outside, not under the skin. If removed it would cause constant pain.”

“Yea, but how are they going to be self supporting and repaying society? Someone's still going to have to watch them.”

“Here's where another idea of our ancestors might work. Have you ever heard of chain gangs? They were prisoners who instead of sitting in jails did work that taxes otherwise would have paid for. They worked very well until there were abuses of the system. It's up to you people to make sure those abuses don't occur. I know there might need to be tweaks to what I've laid out but I haven't seen anything else that comes close to what the majority can approve. Thanks for listening.”

Kurt approached Kari, “I think you must have had an interesting time growing up, but I see that you lived through it.”

“Sometime when you have an extra six months or so I'll tell you about it. I'm just afraid of what she'll try when she meets Troyal. Are you going to give her a citation for making that announcement on the emergency channel?”

“Huh, look over there at the flock of admirers around her. If I tried to give her a ticket I'd be lynched. I think I'll leave it up to you this time to explain it to her.”

“Why you sniveling coward, first a little Marine girl scares you, and now a ninety eight pound grandmother. Wait until I tell Sam.”

“You go right ahead, when he meets your mom he'll understand.”

Mr. Harold Ames and his co-conspirators were found guilty of all charges and were sentenced to life sentences on the repair and maintenance program set up after the colonists voted in Mrs. Benton's proposals on the devices. Mr Ames himself only lived a few weeks after being fitted with the device when he attempted an attack on another inmate with a crowbar and the device killed him immediately, thus proving its efficacy.

Some weeks after the previous occurrences Capt. Minetta called a meeting of the Council. It was held in the new town hall, an impressive building of native stone, with furnishings of beautiful native woods. The meeting room was large enough to have an audience of many colonists and was broadcast over the Budeez system to all who were interested.

Capt. Minetta called the meeting to order, “As the senior military officer I have been acting as the head of government. It has been suggested by many that it's time for a civilian government to be set up. I think that everyone should be allowed to have input on this so we have put a discussion panel on the Budeez system to do that, not only whether we should, but also what form it should be.

Kari said, “Captain, we should give the colonists some idea of what taxes are going to be so that they can figure that in their calculations. I know that you have been absorbing all costs so far so you should be able to give a figure.”

“The accountants have all those figures and we have a table on the discussion board for them to see that. Preliminary figures on the criminal prisoner work gangs has been showing that Mrs Benton was correct, it's self supporting. That will be a huge savings on infrastructure costs, although material costs will still be a factor. Of course, if human nature changes and we don't have any more lawbreakers, that may change.”

Colonel Ross stood, “I don't think we have to worry about that aspect, but there will have to be a police system set up. The Marines are stretched to their limit with their own duties and doing police work. The more we expand our borders the more the Marines are going to be needed for guards. That won't leave enough time for police work too. I'd also like to ask Troyal how his people are accepting our solution to law breakers.”

Troyal broke into one of his disturbing smiles that made his visage look ominous but reported, “I think you have no worries there, Colonel. My people have welcomed your solution to the point of considering a variation of it for our planet. We also have regretted taking life where not needed. After this meeting one of my first priorities is to introduce myself to the formidable Mrs. Benton.”

Kari leaned over to Kurt and whispered, “ Oh my God, I'm afraid of that. Turning her loose on the Rovers could be the end of the whole thing, you know how strict they are on manners!”

“Let's hope that the most we have to worry about. See what's happening with Minetta?”

Capt. Minetta aide had rushed into the room and whispered in the Captains ear. He jumped up with a very concerned look on his face and announced, “I'm sorry, I have to call a recess, would the Marine members and Minister Troyal please join me in my office?”

As Kurt pushed back his chair he made a remark to Kari, “I knew things were going too smoothly,” and rushed from the room.

When the members had convened in the Captain's new office he announced, “We have detected another ship entering this solar system. Our ship has tried to establish communication with it but hasn't as of yet. Do you know, Troyal, if your people have?”

“We do not initiate contact, Captain, but wait for the other party to. I have received no word of that happening.”

Colonel Ross asked, “Do we have any indication of what type of ship it is? Could it be a military vessel or another colony ship?”

“There is no way of telling, it's an orb as ours is, and slightly smaller, but we don't know if it's an energy ship like ours or a material one. All we can do is wait and take preliminary precautions. I've put the ship on battle stations but have not powered up any weapons, I don't want to appear belligerent.”

Major Anders said, “I don't think we should announce this to the public yet, it would just create a panic and there isn't anything we can do anyway except to recall the Marines just in case.”

Colonel Ross ordered, “ Recall all personnel quietly that aren't absolutely needed where they are. Can we count on the Rover's help if things turn out bad, Troyal?”

“As long as the new arrivals do not threaten Nirvana, I think no. This is your planet and your responsibility, but I'm sure we will watch closely.”

They watched over the next few hours as the ship went into orbit in approximately the same as their's but on the other side of the sun, then sent out probes as the humans had to examine the planets, but still no answer to their attempts at communication.

Over the following hours and days the news of the ship and it's actions leaked out, as supposed secrets always do, and the rumors among the colonists went rampant. The Council made a statement explaining everything and put a channel on the Budeez system for all to follow. The Council stayed in continuous session.

Capt. Minetta sent some probes of his own to watch the alien probes and the main ship, but they could discern nothing from them although they had not been formed from the mother ship but had been released from it's interior. From that they assumed that the mother ship was not composed of solidified energy as the Earth one was.

After the alien probes had finished their assessment of the planets they returned to their mother ship. Nothing happened for some days, then a three slightly larger ships were seen leaving a hatch in the mother ship. One went to the rocky planet and the other approached Prime, but on the other side from the human settlement. The third just hovered above Nirvana. There they stayed for days, not moving.

Then the one above the rocky planet landed and sent out a machine that moved around a bit and returned to the ship. The ship above Prime did the same, landed, sent out a machine for a few moments and then returned.

Captain Minetta said, “What the hell are they doing? And why are they doing it?”

“I think it's apparent, Captain,” Kari said. “They're acting like a playground bully, seeing how far they can go until someone pushes back. It's going to be interesting to see what happens on Nirvana.”

They didn't have long to wait as the ship above Nirvana landed and opened it's hatch, then just....disappeared.

Colonel Ross snorted, “That'll give them something to think about.”

Again, there was a wait of a few hours when the ship on the rocky planet sent out quite a few different type machines, most of which seemed to be for construction as they started building what seemed to be a base for a colony. The other machines looked military as gun turrets could be seen.

Captain Minetta declared, “We can't do anything about that. We haven't made any claim to that planet and don't even have a presence on it. Let's see what they do with the ship here on Prime.”

The wait was again only a few hours when machines left the grounded ship and started to construct a base. The difference was that first they sterilized the area around the ship, killing all life, down to the smallest, both animal and vegetable.

“That we can't allow,” declared Captain Minetta. “Col. Ross, are your Marines ready?”

“Yes Sir, they're on the ships and waiting for orders.”

“Very well, have them proceed to the area and stop that destruction. Use whatever force is necessary to stop that uncalled for destruction. If possible, try to have them leave the planet without destroying them, but if not possible, destroy them.”

“Aye aye, Sir.” The waiting human ships converged on the aliens to receive withering fire from the military machines and the alien ship. The indestructible energy ships of the humans returned fire, destroying all the machines. They tried to call to the ship to surrender but after meeting with unremitting attack, destroyed it too.

Captain Minetta looked depressed as he said, “I was hoping we could discourage them without loss of life. I certainly didn't want to up the ante to that level, but we couldn't allow them to gain a foothold here.”

Troyal interrupted, “I think you're under a misunderstanding, Captain. You have killed no one, there wasn't any organic life there or anywhere on the alien ships. All signals between their smaller ships and the mother ship and even to the small machines was in computer language. You've been dealing with an artificial intelligence.”

“But why? What are they trying to do if not colonize? If that's the case we can destroy the mother ship and the ship on the rocky planet and that will end it.”

“I think not. I think that a society somewhere has sent out these ships looking for places to colonize. When they find one they send back word. I think you can expect visitors soon, and who knows how strong they may be. You may be at war already.”

The Council members sat there contemplating what that announcement meant to them, stunned at the implications. Does this mean that all the efforts they had put forward to tame this deadly planet will go for naught? An unnerving silence fell over not only the Council but the multitude of the colonists that had been following the proceedings on their Budeez as they realized what this portended for the future.

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