Published 8 years ago
The release of tension and fear was widespread through the colony and was shown in myriad ways.
Although there were not many churches of organized religions in the colony the ones that were present were filled with people of all beliefs giving their thanks to their Creator. Many who claimed no religion at all yearned for a place to express their gratitude and to pray for their dead.
At the other end of the spectrum were those who chose to celebrate their deliverance with strong drink. The newly sworn police chief had to cancel all leaves and actuate overtime to keep some semblance of order. The newly built jail was crowded with men and the occasional woman sleeping off a night of drunken excess. When they had sobered up they were released unless they had damaged something or someone. No one really blamed them for their exuberance.
The town, and even the countryside, were emblazoned with bunting and banners celebrating the victory and anticipating the party.
Troyal had called the inner Council and close friends to the Rover embassy to go over plans. The Rovers wanted to make sure they had their plans right and would neither offend or forget anyone.
They met on a beautiful late Spring morning on the lawn outside Ida's home. There were comfortable chairs with a convenient table next to each set in a grouping surrounded by flowering shrubs and beds of multicolored blooms. Some distance away one of Ida's hobbies could be seen, a series of bee hives, from which could be seen the bees collecting the sweet nectar and pollen from the blossoms. She had brought a gentle strain of bees with her from Earth to find them prosper here.
Off to one side there were a few tables where some young Rovers had set up a light lunch. After partaking of lunch while the humans and Rovers had exchanged pleasantries they settled down to their discussion.
The humans present were Eric Reid, Governor, Jim Ross, Marine commander, Roger Minetta, ship's Captain, Edwin Keith, Science Department head, Sam and Kari Anders, Planetary Marine Commander and wife, and Ida Benton, in whose home the Rover's embassy was located.
The Rovers present were Troyal, Ambassador, Trivel, embassy secretary, and Tribet, the Rover Science Department head.
They had reviewed the plans and the humans had made some suggestions and revisions but none of them were major and were readily accepted.
Eric asked, “Troyal, what's this announcement you're going to make at the celebration all about? I haven't heard you speak of it but that once.”
“That's actually the main reason I've asked you here. We don't know enough about how you'd receive what we want to propose.”
“We certainly can't advise you on that until we know what it is. Are you being evasive?”
“Not purposely, just nervous. I, or rather we, don't know if you will receive our offer in the spirit in which it's intended. We don't want to antagonize anyone.”
“Now you're making me nervous. Why don't you explain what you're talking about, or rather, not talking about?”
“Ah, yes, you're right. Let me explain it this way. You already know that we are a very ancient race. We have never met any older in all the millions of years that we traveled the stars, not only in this galaxy but also in many others. We may have been more numerous than the stars themselves. But long before your planet had more than the most primitive life forms we halted our expansion. We abandoned our growth, emptied our colonies and drew back, more and more, until now we are only on one planet, Nirvana.
“But why, Troyal? I find it hard to believe that you were vicious conquerers and were tired of war. Surely in this universe there are still empty planets that you could have used.”
“Assuredly there are, we know of many thousands of them. You may have misunderstood, we were never conquerers, we never took from others. There was no need to, as I said, there is a vast multitude of planets that are available. As to why, we aren't sure. That is why Tribet is here. She may be able to explain that better than I.”
Tribet leaned forward in her chair. The only time that most of the humans present had seen her before was at the embassy's opening celebration. Although visibly older than any other Rover anyone here had met she still had an imposing presence. As she swept the company with a glance from her clear green eyes she almost reeked dignity.
Then she spoke in a strong, rich, contralto voice, “I took a few hours to learn your language before I came as I knew that I would have to clarify some points. We aren't sure why we retreated. There are many theories, one of which is the decline of our birth rate. If it wasn't for the discovery of anti-aging procedures we would have not been even a memory long ago. The next that has the most acceptance is the age of our race. It has been speculated that races grow old and die just as the individual does.”
Ida said, “I find that hard to believe. Each individual has his own destiny, not the whole race.”
“That may be true in yours, but you have to understand that we are much like those bees over there. We are a hive mentality with our minds linked together as they are. You are true individuals, brought together only for the prosperity of cooperation. We are not.”
“That may be,” Eric said. “But what has that to do with your announcement, Troyal?”
“I have told you before that you are not the first to try to colonize this planet. We welcomed and assisted them as we have you, but we found those others greedy and aggressive and we destroyed them when they tried to take over Nirvana too. Your people have not been aggressive except to the dangers of this planet. We were very impressed by your hesitancy to attack the Malevors until you were attacked first by them. You put yourself in danger so as to not act too quickly.”
“I think you're giving us too much credit, Troyal. Humans can be extremely vicious and aggressive.”
“No, we don't think so. That may be true on your home world, but not among those here. We can't read your thoughts, but we can be very aware of your emotions if we try. During the last period of uncertainty we could feel the anxiety you all felt, but very little rage and feelings of carnage against them. Just a yearning for peace and the acceptance that you may have to fight to achieve it.”
“I still don't understand what your message has to do with that.”
“Eric, we are a diminishing race. We think that it might not be many thousands of years and we will be gone. We have always welcomed newcomers to this system in hopes of finding someone we could pass off our knowledge, experiences, and values to. Even if you don't accept and use them there will be a memory of us. I believe you do the same for your children. Do you not?”
“Yes, of course we do, That is the meaning of being a parent. Tell me, Troyal. How do you see this proceeding if our people accept your offer?”
“We would set up schooling for your people. As I'm sure you are aware we can teach such things as a language in a few hours. There are many things we could teach quickly that would swiftly lift the burden from your people of most of their mundane tasks. You could rid yourself of the Budeez and communicate directly.”
The humans sat with varying expressions on their faces. Dr. Keith had a delighted grin. The rest looked very thoughtful except for Governor Reid, who had a deep frown as he thought.
After a minute or so he sat straighter and said, “You've given us much to think about and not much time to do it in, Troyal. Let me suggest this; announce closer cooperation and contact between the planets, possibly even scheduled visits, but go no further than that at this time. This is a momentous decision and we will need time to discuss it before we can give you an answer.”
“Very well, Eric. Perhaps we were a little hasty. I can understand your wanting to consider all aspects. After all, we're not all going to drop dead next week. Now, we just have brought some wine from Nirvana that I'd like you to try. I think you'll enjoy it.”
As they stood around a small bar, sipping and admiring the wine, Ida said to Kari and Sam, “I never did get a chance to show you my little apartment, did I. Why don't I do it now?”
As they walked across the lawn toward the house Kari said to Sam, “I think mom has more on her mind than a walk through of her living space.”
“Gee, Sherlock, how'd you ever figure that out?”
As they entered the front door Kari declared, “You'll pay for that crack, Watson.”
“Now now, children, don't fight or mama spank. Here's my door, right inside the entrance. Open the door, Sam.”
“Uh, it's locked, Ida, but I don't see a keyhole anywhere.”
Ida grasped the knob and opened the door. “It will only open for me or with a card kept in the embassy. One of the reasons I brought you in was to attune the lock to both of you. No one else can unlock the door. This is to assure my privacy as it would take a tank to open that door otherwise. Look around while I freshen up.”
Sam and Kari stood there for a few moments admiring the living area from the small foyer. It was a good sized room with an area off to the side with a dining table and chairs. Through a window could be seen one of the beautiful gardens. There were two couches and three upholstered chairs of an original design that both humans and Rovers found very comfortable.
Two other doors stood open from the room and could be seen as well appointed bedrooms with two other closed door in each which they assumed were bathrooms and closets. Ida's room could be told from the unmade bed. Just then Ida came from one of the doors in her room.
“Mom, how many times did you yell at me for not making my bed.”
“Shush up, Kari, I leave it like that purposely to remind me that I'm not a princess. I want to talk to you about Troyal's proposal. I don't think I like it and I'm not sure why, but I have an inkling.”
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“Look at this place. It's exactly what I've always dreamed of. But I didn't do it, the Rovers did. All I have to do is snap my fingers and one of the young attendants will clean this place until it shines like an operating room. But I've always taken care of myself and I do now. That's why the bed is unmade, to remind me of that.”
“I think I know where you're heading, Ida. You think we'll become too dependent on them and lose our self reliance and drive.”
“Exactly, Sam. I just couldn't think of the correct words as you did. I think we have to get together with the rest and talk about this. From the look on his face, and what he said, I think Eric feels much the same. See if you can set up a meet with them, Sam. The sooner the better.”
Unfortunately the hustle and bustle of preparing for the celebration precluded a meeting until after the festivities were over.
The party itself was a impressive success. The Rovers had spared nothing in setting up the banquet in town. There were separate tables in the middle of the town square for different offerings. Some were delectables brought from Earth, others were Rover dishes. Other tables ringed the square for people to sit and eat or just chat. Off to the side were booths showing both Rover and human arts and ingenious objects to aid in everyday life.
The affair at the embassy, being smaller than the previous one, was held inside. The guests were shown to a large, beautiful dining room where they enjoyed a delicious meal, then to another large room with a small dance floor with a Rover musical group playing. Young Rovers circulated with their trays of assorted beverages for the guests.
When Troyal stepped up on the bandstand the group quickly quieted, expecting his announcement. A huge hologram of him appeared over the town square.
“Ladies and gentlemen of Prime, I congratulate you, You won a decisive battle against a very treacherous foe and you did it by putting yourself in unknown danger until you were sure your opponent was not acting in good faith. By your sound judgment and lack of aggressiveness my people have made it known to me that they wish a closer relationship with you. Therefore, I am in negotiation with your government to set up visits for you to my planet and my people to yours. Let this celebration be a gift from Nirvana to show our respect for your victory and respect for you. Enjoy!”
In an whispered aside Eric said to Ida and Roger, “That was beautifully done, he committed neither side to anything concrete but still gave everyone a proud feeling. We still have to have a meeting, and soon. Now I better get up there and give an answer to his speech.”
Everyone in the full Council wanted to give a reply to Troyal's announcement and did so. After the first few no one paid much attention but returned to the revelry. Even the hologram in the town square was treated as just another light source after a bit and couldn't be heard over the festivities and music.
Ida was able to saunter through the crowd, stopping for a remark here and there until she neared Trivel. She stood there raising her glass to her lips occasionally but not actually drinking until Trivel finished a conversation with a businesswoman. She then approached her, “Trivel, may I have a few moments?”
“Of course, Ida, why don't we step out of the crowd to a corner where it's not so noisy.”
“ I think it would be better if it was even more private, would you mind coming to my apartment? It shouldn't take long and in this crowd no one will miss us.”
“Certainly, but it wouldn't be good to be seen leaving together, that will just start a rumor. You go ahead, I'll follow shortly.”
Ida went to her apartment and left the door slightly ajar after entering. She took a quick look around and tsking her tongue hurried to make her bed. She spent the next few moments tidying, picking up something and moving it to a different location, then a few second later putting it back in it's original spot.
She heard a light tap on the door, it opened and Trivel entered, shutting the door behind herself. “Well, Ida, I must say you have me intrigued, what's the big secret?”
“There's no secret, I don't care who knows, but in there we could have been interrupted at any time and I do want to talk to you without doing it in bits and drabs.”
“I agree, one can hardly finish a full sentence before someone has something else they think more important. So, what is it?”
“You are the archivist for your people, aren't you?
“Well, no, not officially at least, I don't think anyone is, but I've always been interested in history. I don't think anyone else has gone back as far as I in the archives, judging by the dust. Why do you ask?”
“Do you think it's possible for me to have access to them?”
“I don't see why not. Even if you were an enemy you couldn't change the past. But I don't think it would do you any good. Even though you can read our language all of the older material is in an ancient language that I'm sure that only I can read and it took me many years to accomplish that. I read in one of your books about a Rosetta Stone, do you know about it?”
“Yes, it allowed scholars to compare ancient Earthen languages and allowed them to decipher languages and hieroglyphs that had them puzzled completely.”
“That's right, and I had to do much the same thing. I went back to the oldest language I could read and compared it to one just a little older that I couldn't read and see where the changes were until I could read the older one. I'm simplifying things greatly but that's basically it. I had to do it many times.”
“That must have taken a tremendous amount of work and time too.”
“Yes, centuries of your years, but what is it you want to find?”
“Trivel, do you know when you're people gained the ability to communicate with thought?”
Trivel looked stunned, “I.. I don't know. I've never even ever thought about it. Obviously we did at some point as we evolved. Why would you want to know that?”
“Don't you see? It must have made an incredible change in your whole culture. I would like to know what changes took place. If Troyal does what he says he wants to and teaches humans how to do it how will it change us?”
Trivel sat and thought for a full minute, then she said, “You suspect that is why we Rovers are diminishing, isn't it?”
“Neither of us know that to be true, but don't you think we should know for both races sake? We humans can't take the chance that it might happen to us unless we know for sure, and if it is, maybe it can be reversed in the Rovers.”
Trivel sat there as her normal stoicism vanished. Her hands shook and her face showed perplexity. “I.. don't know what to say, Ida. I'm going to have to give this a great deal of thought. Then I will have to confer with some colleagues. I will give you some sort of answer as soon as I can. Please keep this to only to yourself or to a very few that you trust to be silent until we both know more.”
“You can see why I didn't want us interrupted. I won't tell anyone except the people that must know and they are trustworthy. This is too important to release it to everyone yet. It would just start rumors and arguments.”
“I agree. Ida, I must thank you. This may give hope to my people. I had better return to the party. Wait a few minutes before you follow, please. We must keep up appearances.” She rose, shook herself a bit, regained her usual expression, then left.
After a few minutes Ida followed. The celebration continued until the wee hours.
Two days later the inner Council met in an informal gathering at Eric's house. Eric said, “I think you wanted to say something first, Ida. Okay, start it off.”
“Thanks, Eric. Folks, I've had a uncomfortable feeling about this association with the Rovers ever since Troyal told us about it, but couldn't pin down what it was until Sam expressed it. What will it do to us if we're given too much without any effort on our part?
Sam said, “ I think we all know that you value something more if you worked for it than if it was given to you.”
“That's a valid point,” said Eric, “ I've had qualms about it myself, but I am very uncomfortable with not letting the people make the decision. I ran on an open government and intend to follow my campaign promises.”
Thad Barnes spoke, “The way that I and my group have been writing the Constitution from the input of the people this would have to be brought to a vote by the populace. If we stray from that now where will it end.”
Ida said, “ Before you form an opinion theres another matter to be brought up first. I have promised that this matter will be held in strict nondisclosure until I receive an answer. Will all here promise to hold to that?”
Eric demurred. “It's pretty hard to swear to something until you know what it is, Ida. Can you be a bit more explicit?”
“I guess so, it's about a conversation I had with Trivel. It has to do with the Rovers, not us, so it wouldn't have any bearing on an open government.”
“In that case, and trusting your wisdom, I certainly will keep it under my hat.”
The rest of the group also gave their word. Then Ida gave a narration of hers and Trivel's conversation.
“Good Lord,” Eric gasped, “That does put another question in the mix. I'm sure that The Rovers will want to postpone any more progression on a union of our peoples until this is settled, if it ever is. I think we're at a standstill until we hear more from Trivel. You'll keep us up to date, Ida, won't you?
Sam joked, “Now you see why I married Kari, I gained a brainy mother in law.”
Kari gave a saccharine smile, “Guess who's sleeping with the nippers in their kennels tonight?”
The meeting broke up shortly afterwards with everyone as they left thinking intensely.
It was over a week later that Ida heard a knocking at her door. She had just arrived home after doing some business in town. The first thing she did was close the door that was showing her unmade bed, then opened the entry door. Three Rovers, stood there, Troyal, Trivel, and Tribet.
“Please, come in and make yourselves comfortable, may I offer you refreshments?”
“Thank you, but no, Ida. We don't wish to take up much of your time,” said Troyal. Ida had learned to read Rover facial expressions and it seemed to her that Troyal's was a sheepish smile.
“Take as much time as you'd like, I have nothing planned this evening but a warm bath and a book. I still enjoy the printed word.”
“Er, Yes, I've picked up the habit myself from humans.”
The elderly Tribet said, “ Stop dallying, Troyal, tell her what you came to say.”
“Uh, Ida, I may have made a blunder when I proposed to teach your people our knowledge without asking you about it first.”
“What he's trying to say, Ida, is that we do want closer association with humans, but we do not want to force feed you. We propose a committee or board of both of us, Rover and human, to decide what to release and what would be premature. Please take that proposal to your authorities.”
“I certainly shall. Is that all or do I perceive Trivel fidgeting over there about something?”
“Oh, Ida, I can't begin to tell you what a storm you've started with your question on our diminishment. Tribet has established a group of scholars to study the archives. Through our ability to teach others quickly I have educated them to be able to read the ancient archives and to explore even farther back in time. It's very slow going but we think we have found a correlation between our abilities and our withdrawal to Nirvana.”
“That's wonderful, Trivel. Have you reached any conclusions yet?”
Tribet interrupted, “No, and it may be hundreds of years until we do, but you have lit a spark of hope and I can't tell you how you have enlivened our society. I also can't tell you how thankful we are. Even if nothing comes from it you have exhilarated us more than anything I can remember in my many years.”
“I think you're giving too much appreciation for a random thought of mine but I thank you sincerely for your words. I'll try to meet with my group quickly and tell you our decision. Now, I have some wine that I think you'd like, it's from our new vineyards.”
When the Rovers had left Ida made some calls and set up a meeting for the following day. This time they met in Mayor Swift's conference room. Ida presented the Rover's proposal. There was silence as they all thought deeply. Then the Governor spoke.
“That's certainly an improvement over the last one that was presented. I rather like the idea of a cross-culture panel to work on the technology to be released. It will have to be elected on our half of the panel so that the people have a say. With the Constitution close to ratification we will have to allow a vote on this issue too. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to present it?”
The town Mayor, Lil Smith said, “I do, I think it has to be presented as the same reason we came here, we didn't want any more handouts. We wanted to do it ourselves.” After a bit of discussion they all agreed.
The vote to ratify the Constitution and the proposal from the Rovers was held on the same day. They both passed handily.
Another celebration was planned after a suggestion from Captain Minetta. This one was hosted by the people of Prime in appreciation of the people of Nirvana. Instead of the banquet type that the Rovers had sponsored this was a human party, an old fashioned barbecue. Cattle , swine and some of the indigenous animals were roasted on spits. Sweet corn from the just ripened fields were cooked in huge vats or roasted over hot coals. Barrels of beer and jugs of wine were evident, as were cider and fruit juices.
Many Rovers made an appearance and friendships were quickly established between the different peoples. Although a barbecue had not been in their experience before, after tasting the foods many of them wished to purchase the equipment and sauces to take home to Nirvana. Someone had even made fireworks. The first few that went off overhead frightened the Rovers, but when they were explained they too were soon oohing and ahhing.
The principal humans and Rovers took their platters of food to the Mayor's conference room to eat and exchange thoughts.
Troyal said, “I realize that I made a mistake with my first proposal, but I'm amazed at how strongly you're people rejected the opportunity to advance quickly with our knowledge. Can someone enlighten me?”
Eric said, “ I don't think we've ever discussed with you why we emigrated from Earth. I know that you've studied Earth and seen how it operates. You have to understand that these humans are not typical. All, or at least the vast majority are entrepreneurs at heart. They want to do new things, build new opportunities, experience the joy of accomplishing. On Earth one can go from the cradle to the grave and not lift a finger doing anything. But when one gives up their personal responsibility for themselves they also sacrifice their freedom of themselves.”
Roger said, “Earth has become a welfare society. When you accept something for nothing in the end you get nothing of value. You've given away your right to choose what you want where you want it. This started centuries ago on Earth. Many voices were raised in protest but weren't heeded. Now it has come down to central control of virtually everything, what you eat, where you live, even how you should think.”
Ida chimed in, “My husband and I had a business and we did alright, but just alright. If we tried to grow the rules and nonsensical regulations throttled any real growth. We couldn't even keep track of the laws and regulations we were supposed to abide by. Actually no one did, there were so many, and many of them contradicted one another. It was a nightmare for anyone that wanted to progress.”
Colonel Ross slid in, “You would think that the military would be immune from that sort of thing, but it wasn't. Instead of the officers who were trained to know how to fight a battle there were bureaucrats running things. Many lives were lost for a political reason.
Eric took over, “I don't want you to think that out of the billions of people on Earth that we were the only ones that felt this way. There are many millions who would like to do what we're doing. One of the first things we would like to talk about with you is space flight. Sometime in the future we want to go back to Earth and help some of them to realize the freedom we've found here. You say you know of thousands of planets that are available. Well, we know where we can get the occupants, but we want you with us to build a future of freedom for our children and your's. Will you join us?