Genesis by David Macfie
As good as his word, the commander organized a celebration that evening. A good time was had by all, but everyone was only too aware of the impending disaster on Taurus and the threat to all Taurians, so the festivities ended earlier than they might have under better circumstances. All of Jamie’s team members felt the need for a good night’s sleep before getting fully into the new project.
Bright and early the team met with Komando-Ka’s leaders in the training room, prepared to spend the day working out exactly how to plan, organize and manage the creation of a settlement. Jamie wasn’t present at first. He was busy talking to the leaders of the other twenty three ships. It was more than two hours before he finally arrived. He nodded greetings to all then turned to the commander.
“Whoever did the selections for the ten for each ship did a really good job,” he said admiringly. The commander and his leaders beamed in appreciation for the compliment, but said nothing, waiting for Jamie to continue.
“We have ten more doctors with varying specialties, twenty nurses with good experience and two experienced hospital administrators. We also have eighteen more engineers, eight civil, four electrical, two mechanical and four chemical, one of whom was working on materials for use in the manufacture of prefabricated housing.”
He handed a list of names and ships to Peter for the civil, mechanical and chemical engineers. Then he moved to George and Elizabeth and gave them the same for the electrical engineers. The details of the medical people he handed to Brian and Amy.
“We also have a husband and wife town planning team on Margaret Hobson’s ship. I have briefed them on the situation and asked them to come back with some possible plans to cater for eight thousand to start with, laid out with expansion in mind. They said they’d send five draft options within three days. Once we choose the best, they will flesh that one out to full blown plans.”
“That’s fantastic,” commented Peter, grinning from ear to ear. “We will integrate these into our teams as quickly as possible. Thanks!”
Gillian, also grinning, chipped in.
“That will make the planning easier too,” she said, with satisfaction. “And spread the workload. It will be good to have these people to rely on in senior positions.”
“There’s more,” said Jamie, with a chuckle. “I said whoever chose these people did a good job. We also have five engineers who specialized in water and sewage reticulation and management. They know all about dams and water purification and sewage recycling so that will help as well.” He handed another list to Peter.
“Lastly, I have had a good discussion with the leaders on the other ships and explained the situation and the challenge we will be facing. All volunteered to help in any way they can. They’re starting by refreshing all the CV’s of the people on their ships and sending the updated versions to us. All of you will receive these on your personal computers so that you can look for further recruits to the project. Now where are we?”
“Our first priority is to decide where to build so we’ve been studying the current layout on Androm. It has changed from the pictures we were shown on our first briefing. Grab a chair and look at the screen in front of you. That picture is how Androm looks right now. As you can see, a lot of work has been done to make sure there is adequate water in the northern and southern areas. The Taurians increased the number of lakes and rivers there as you can see. They did some land contouring to ensure flows in the desired directions. Finally they created solar water desalination plants on all these landmasses. The plants continuously pump water into the top lake in each sequence and rivers ensure the water flows ultimately into the sea again so there is constant circulation. But no progress has been made in the equatorial ring of land. It is all desert and very inhospitable. Only the margins next to the sea has any greenery and that is all scrub and sedges and stunted bushes. The vegetation isn’t suitable for any grazing animals and living organisms are restricted to insects, lizards and snakes. So this is a problem for later.
“I’ve got to say that this arrangement of land and sea looks very weird to me after what exists on earth,” remarked Jamie, carefully studying the screen. “And I must be honest. Even given the progress the Taurians have made, I can’t see any obvious advantages for one of those northern and southern landmasses over any of the others. So, how are you planning to determine where the best place is?”
“You’re right,” answered Gillian, with a smile that clearly said ‘Join the club.’ We started with the same problem. And the map isn’t yet very user-friendly. We began by naming the northern and southern lands, whether they were joined to the central ring or not. There was a lot of discussion behind that because everyone had different ideas. Then, Romalu-Do gave us two suggestions that we all thought were brilliant. First he said the names should be in English since that would be the home language of all of the imported people. Second, he pointed out that this whole project is basically and evolution of the Taurian civilization and possibly the human one as well. From that he suggested that we should name the lands after pioneers in the understanding of evolution and places with a fundamental contribution to the whole concept of evolution. From there it was a short step facilitated by Brian, who has always been fascinated by this whole topic. The names we came up with are, from left to right in the north, Darwin, Lamarck. De-Buffon, Albemarle and Jervis. In the south also from left to right are Narborough, Baltra, Chatham, Bindloe, and Abingdon.”
“I recognize Darwin, obviously,” commented Jamie, with a puzzled frown. “And Lamarck rings a bell. Chatham sounds like somewhere in London and the rest are completely unknown to me.”
Brian now piped up. “Darwin is obvious. Pretty much everyone knows about him,” he said. “De Buffon and Lamarck were both French naturalists who preceded Darwin. They both contributed insights that shaped some of Darwin’s thinking. The others are all names of islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Darwin visited there and what he found was fundamental to his development of his theories of evolution through natural selection. We all agreed that these names are not just suitable but also appropriate.”
“I agree,” said Jamie, Immediately. “I’ve read about the Galapagos visit somewhere and I remember iguanas, giant tortoises and finches but no names.”
That raised a laugh before Gillian came back to the question of where to build.
“We obviously took into account the water and two other factors that aren’t shown on the map. First, the Taurians have created a rudimentary space port, on Chatham, next to the desalination plants that have been built there. We thought that was important in our choice because it would simplify all of the logistics around landing all the new people from earth and Taurus, as well as all the materials and equipment needed for the project. The second factor that we felt clinched the decision is that, generally speaking, the climate is much better in the south than it is in the north. We decided to name the new settlement Genesis for a new beginning and we will build to cater for eight thousand from Taurus and three and a half thousand humans with a contingency of eleven percent. So Genesis will be planned around twelve thousand eight hundred residents and it will be situated in the northernmost peninsula of Chatham. As an afterthought we recognized that the name might help for the humans, since, as you pointed out. It sounds like somewhere in London. On a point of order it isn’t actually in London, it’s about thirty miles south east of London. But it’s close enough. ”
“That all sounds eminently sensible and reasonable,” commented Jamie, with a grin. “And I’m impressed with the creative thinking that went into it.”
The others smiled in pleasure at the compliment.
With a mischievous grin Jamie added, “Particularly the accuracy of the location of Chatham.”
He was rewarded with laughter from all. He let it run then spoke again.
“OK, so we know where the project will take place. Now, I guess we should concentrate on the how.”
“We’ve started that already,” answered Peter. “Gillian arranged photos of the terrain in that peninsula and we have the Taurians preparing a detailed contour map of the whole area right down to the first lake. Nunamo-Ge put us in touch with the cartographers, who are already on Androm. They’ve been there for a while working with the teams who have been busy with the lakes and rivers. Meanwhile we’ve spoken to the town planners and discussed the revised numbers once we’d included all the humans who must be catered for. They know the overall design must allow for easy expansion if numbers grow. Also we’ve spoken to that chemical engineer you mentioned. She’s now up to speed with what we need and the time constraints involved. Fortunately, there’s not much clearing to do because the lakes project there already cleaned off the surface when they were excavating for the lake they built to receive the water from the desalination plants. The area looks like a huge construction site already. Finally we’ve arranged for enough earth moving equipment to be moved back to the area to allow us to shape the settlement once we get the plans from the town planners.”
“You’ve been very busy, haven’t you?” commented Jamie, with raised eyebrows. “The progress is faster than I expected for half a day.”
“We understand the need for speed,” replied Gillian, dryly. But Jamie noticed the tiny smile of satisfaction at his praise.
“What are you busy with now?” asked Jamie, not really knowing what answer to expect.
“We’re working with the Taurians who are helping the refugees from the earthquakes,” replied Gillian. “We’re trying to ascertain the compositions of each of the families that are coming to Androm so that we build the right houses for each of them. The humans are easier, since all are couples with no children yet. We can use a standard configuration for them and just change the furnishings to provide variation. And, of course, each of our specialists are working on detailed plans for their specialist constructions like hospitals and generation facilities and dams. That’s keeping us busy at the moment.”
Jamie nodded, in recognition of the achievements of his team, and turned to the commander.
“Komando-Ka, it seems that everything here is under control here. So I have a question for you and your leaders. Would it be possible for us to travel faster? I think it might be good if we can reach Androm as soon as possible, and preferably before the refugees. Can it be done?”
The commander shared glances with his leaders then his eyes rested on Tipanapo-Zu.
“Well, Tipanapo-Zu, what do you think?”
The Chief of Operations met his leader’s gaze, but didn’t reply immediately. He looked away and began scribbling on his notepad. Jamie looked over and saw what looked like calculations appearing rapidly on the paper. They moved onto a second sheet and kept on spreading. Half way down a third sheet, Tipanapo-Zu stopped writing and met his leader’s gaze once more.
“I can increase speed by fifteen percent as long as I don’t have to maintain it for longer than a month. That timescale is right for us to arrive at the same time as the refugees, but there is a problem. Even with the increase, we’re still are too far away. Given the flight distance and that speed we will be a week late. Can we shorten the distance?”
All of the Taurians turned to Romalu-Do, who was already typing into the keyboard in front of him. He switched on the big screen of the training room and clicked a key. Instantly the screen showed a map of the skies. The Chief of Navigations zoomed the view in a little then used a laser pointer to point to a location on the map.
“Here’s where the ship is now,” he explained. “Now I will show our normal course to Androm that gives the distance Tipanapo-Zu was referring to.” He clicked another key and a rapidly curving path appeared that ended at a second location.
“Obviously that course is longer than a straight line would be. The end of the curve is where Androm is. Now here’s the issue.” He zoomed in again. Now the screen showed the curve at the right edges and top of the screen and to the left of it was a volume of space that looked like an obstacle course. It was filled with what looked like hundreds or even thousands of boulders of different sizes.
“To take a straight course would considerably reduce the distance we have to travel and would allow us to arrive at Androm a few days early,” explained the navigator. “However, we would have to navigate this asteroid field to achieve that.”
Now all eyes swiveled to the commander, whose eyes narrowed as he studied the screen. He looked for quite a while, eyes flicking across the screen and backwards and forwards through more congested areas of space. Finally he looked up to Romalu-Do.
“Can you indicate somehow on the screen how far apart the boulders are?”
The navigator typed furiously for more than a couple of minutes. Then he leaned back and pressed a final key. The screen image shimmered and then cleared again. In the spaces between the boulders, there were now small numbers in red.
“The numbers are in kilometers.” The navigator typed a few more commands and a straight green line grew from the location of the ship to the location of Androm. “And that line is the shortest path from here to our destination.”
“Thank you,” said the commander, quietly. “I’ve always wanted to play one of humanity’s computer space travel games. Now it looks as if I’ll get my opportunity at last. I didn’t really expect the game to last almost a month though.”
He grinned at the horrified expressions that crossed the faces of the others in the room.
“Yes,” he said, grimly. “I’m going to take us through that computer game you see before you. I’ll need two volunteers to take over in shifts when we are passing through the less crowded areas so that I can get some rest. I’ll also need all my meals brought to me. This display must be put up on the big screen on the bridge. I won’t leave the driving seats until we arrive at Androm. Finally, I’ll need the resolution on the screen to be set up so that the distances are real rather than scaled up or down. I must be seeing what is really out there and please have others watching to the peripheries. I won’t have time to find my way through the clutter and, at the same time, to watch what’s coming at me from elsewhere. Volunteers please.”
Instantly hands were raised by Romalu-Do and Jamie.
“Thank you both,” said the commander. Then he turned to the watching group.
“Until this little adventure is completed, Tipanapo-Zu will command the other aspects of the ship and Peter will manage the human activities while Jamie is busy with me.
We will change to the new course as soon as the bridge set up is finished. I’ll take questions on the run. Now let’s get going.”