Androm by David Macfie

Jamie and his team crowded in front of the viewing window, silently taking in the planet Androm. It was a little overwhelming to finally see a world that had been theoretical rather than real up until now. After a while, George broke the silence.

“It looks the same as those first images we saw of it and yet, it is subtly different,” he mused. “There is more cloud cover for a start.”

“That’s the result of all the additional surface water the Taurians have created,” replied Jenny. “You can clearly see where rivers and dams have been artificially made. The vegetation hasn’t recovered yet, from all the earthworks.”

“Makes sense to me,” commented Amy. “And that, I guess, also explains why the northern and southern lands look greener than I remember.”

“I think so,” confirmed Jenny. “The additional evaporation is probably resulting in increased rainfall.”

“Seeing it, in the flesh, so to speak,” said Jamie. “The ring continent looks even weirder than the video images we studied. It looks more inhospitable, also, than I imagined. It really is, just a huge desert bordered near the seas by arid scrubland. We need to think, very carefully, how to transform everything about it so that it becomes as habitable as the other lands.”

The Taurians have started planning for that,” reported Gillian.” I have attended several meetings with Jenny. There’s nothing concrete yet but the process is in progress.”

“Perhaps that discussion needs to involve others with relevant knowledge and skills so that we end up with the best possible plan,” suggested Jamie, thoughtfully.

“Good idea,” conceded Gillian. “Leave it with me. I’ll arrange wider participation.”

“The site for Genesis is pretty obvious,” observed Peter. “And I can make out the desalination complexes and the space port. That’s our first area of concentration. But I don’t see the first dwellings yet. There should be quite a few already.”

“Just over five thousand,” informed Gillian. “The design is like onion rings so we laid out the town center first. It contains shops, a school with a library, sports fields, and a swimming pool. Also there are public buildings like a police station, a hospital, law courts and municipal buildings. It will all be landscaped with parks and other green areas and the layout contains all the roads, railways and servitudes for sewage, water, communications and electrical infrastructure. Erection of the buildings in the center is in progress and all the roads and other infrastructures are in place. With our new resources plan we should have ten thousand dwellings ready, instead of six thousand, when the refugees start to arrive. It’s not double our target because getting all the materials to the site is slowing us a little but that is getting better. The robots and additional resources from Taurus have made a big difference. You should be able to see it quite soon.”

“Are all those houses furnished already?” asked Jamie.

“Yes,” replied Gillian, proudly. “And all the services are connected. Once each house was allocated we contacted the relevant family to finalize the numbers of residents then we completed the layouts and furnishing requirements as well as color schemes and so on. All of that has been taken into account. The refugees also had involvement in the layout and plantings in their gardens so they should feel right at home.”

“That’s impressive,” offered the commander who had joined the group as Gillian was speaking. “I’m really pleased at the progress that’s been made.  You should all be very proud of your achievements. Now, to change the subject, I came to inform you of several things. As suggested by Jamie, it has been agreed that my team and I will be the overall commanders of this project. The Matriarch has watched our progress in this ship and our involvement in the solution to the crisis in the others, and she is impressed. She asks that we continue in the same way. Also she agrees that Teacher and his counterparts will remain as team leaders of the robots allocated to the humans in each group. Jamie has discussed their expanded role so I won’t say more about that. Finally, we will land at space port in two hours from now. You will remain housed in the ship for a few days, while your apartments are fitted out to your specifications. This wasn’t done before because of the focus on the refugees. As soon as you have moved in, I will take the ship to Taurus to be serviced and reallocated. After detailed discussions with the committee to clarify goals, objectives and expectations, we will return with the next available ship thereafter. Our dwellings will be made ready in our absence. Are there any questions?”

“Just one,” said Jamie, with a grin that said, ‘you expected at least one so here it is!’ “You will still be here when the next ship arrives so I’m comfortable about that, but once you’ve left to go and consult with the committee, who will be in charge?”

“I have decided it is time that my son experiences the challenges of command so I will leave Pantando-Ka as acting commander. I fully expect that he will need some guidance from you,” replied the commander, with an answering grin that clearly said, “you weren’t expecting that, were you?’

“Oh!” grunted Jamie, clearly taken by surprise. “Good idea……I think.” The commander led the chuckles that followed Jamie’s discomfort. But the human had the last word.

“I forgot to mention one thing when we last spoke,” he announced, with no trace of apology. “The robots have been monitoring the training I have been doing with Pantando-Ka and they have been practicing amongst themselves. Teacher tells me that they have already reached the same standard of skills that we have attained. So we have our own squads of bodyguards, should the need arise.”

The commander had no immediate answer to this, and left the group, muttering to himself.

“Where were we?” asked Jamie, smiling a satisfied little smile. He like to discomfit the commander from time to time.

“Gillian had just explained the housing situation,” replied Robert. “But look,” he said, pointing out the window.

Now the beginnings of Genesis were clearly visible and the resemblance to onion rings perfectly fitted the analogy. Also, now clearly visible were the desalination plants, factories and the space port on Chatham as well as the desalination activities on the rest of the outer land masses.

“Now we can see just how much the Taurians have achieved on this planet with little help from us,” commented Elizabeth. “We may have come up with some great ideas for accelerating the processes and improving the designs, but we can’t fault the initial reshaping of the environment and the water management.”

George smiled fondly. “Trust you to pass on the credit,” he quipped.

She smiled back. “You wouldn’t accept it either if you hadn’t earned it.”

“I just feel exhausted, looking down there,” groaned Jamie, with a grimace. “I see the progress, sure, but I also see a whole world of work that hasn’t been done yet. Not to mention a total terraforming of the equatorial ring continent. Has anyone realized, to accomplish that, we have to alter the climate of the whole planet?”

“Of course,” laughed Jenny. “We climatologists are on it already. We have initial thoughts on the way it can be achieved and we are discussing ways of achieving it.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” mused her husband, solemnly. “I’ve been away for a month. A lot has happened in that time.”

“We should go and get ready,” prompted Laura. “It looks and feels as though we will be landing soon.”

As soon as she spoke the others felt the deceleration of the giant craft. In a state of repressed excitement and anticipation, they took her advice and dispersed to their quarters.

The group all did much the same things. First they checked the conditions outside and dressed accordingly. A lot of sunscreen was applied and hats and sunglasses were found. Jamie felt the final approach and the landing was a surprise.

“You know, I think my brain is getting soggy,” he commented to Jenny. “I never considered that we would land vertically. I pictured a runway, with all the bits and pieces. The commander is pretty good at this. I hardly felt the landing. It was like a feather floating to the ground.”

“Are you sure the whole process isn’t automated. After all these Taurians are pretty good with robots,” replied Jenny, pensively.

“Good point,” conceded her husband. “But I think not. Komando-Ka is a perfectionist. I think he’d do the landing himself.”

“Ask him when you see him next. Now come on. I want to see my new planet.”

“I’m not sure where to go,” admitted Jamie.

“Don’t worry, we will lead,” chimed Sam and Eric in unison.

The couple, with the robots leading, quickly made their way to the exit hatch and the ramp to the ground. They found they were the last to arrive. The rest of the team and their robot escorts were milling around and the commander and his leaders were also there, standing calmly, waiting.

Jamie faced the commander.

“Did you land the ship?” he asked, bluntly.

“I did. It’s a fetish of mine. I feel in command then, more so than at any other time.”

“It was seriously impressive. I hardly felt a thing. I will be proud to serve under you.”

“Why, thank you, Jamie. That is a great compliment, coming from such an accomplished leader. I am flattered and humbled at the same time.”

“What are we waiting for,” Jamie asked, feeling just a shade embarrassed and trying to change the subject.

“I thought we should do an inspection of the workings,” replied the commander. “I ordered a truck to take us around.”

Just then Pantando-Ka arrived with the other two military members of the ship’s crew.

He shook Jamie’s hand.

“I will be pleased to escort you and your team on this, your first outing on Androm,” he announced, with a grin. “And I believe we will be seeing quite a lot of each other in days to come. I am pleased about that also.”

Jamie bowed formally. “The honor is ours. We look forward to great things together.”

At that moment the transport arrived. I was somewhere between a truck and a bus with no wheels, but rather tracks like a tank.

“Shall we go,” said the commander leading the way.

On the way down the ramp, Jenny turned to Jamie.

“You and Pantando-Ka have become good friends, haven’t you?” she queried.

“Yes we have. We like and respect each other.”

“Then why did you seem doubtful when he was announced as acting commander?”

Jamie looked penetratingly at his spouse. “That’s a very perceptive and difficult question. He’s a fine young Taurian and already a good leader. In time, I think he will be as good as his father. But he’s young and raw, and a little impetuous. When I first fought him, he didn’t size me up. He assumed that, because I was so much smaller, he’d be able to easily out-muscle and overpower me. He came at me like a runaway train. He came so fast that if I’d lain on the floor he’d have tripped over me. I’ think I’ll have to watch him closely to make sure he doesn’t get himself and us into trouble. You heard the commander. He knows this. He’s put a lot onto my shoulders. He wants me to mentor his boy without the boy realizing it is happening. It’s a big ask especially because we’ve become friends”

“You really are quite deep,” observed Jenny. “I didn’t see any of that. The commander chose well I think. His son will flower through your influence and never know it because you will be a few steps ahead of him all the time.”

“You give me too much credit,” grinned Jamie, with twinkling eyes that showed how pleased he was. “Now shall we enjoy our road trip?”

The humans and the Taurians clambered into the transport, which turned out to be comfortable and cool. The truck/bus moved off, tracks churning. The progress was remarkably smooth, even though the area looked still like a huge building site. They began by a quick spin around space port, which turned out to be quite primitive. It consisted mainly of flat, level, landing pads and a lot of hanger/garages for vehicles and a few storage buildings for fuel and other stores needed to operate the port. It was staffed with two Taurians and a bunch of robots. From there they travelled quickly to the factories that were manufacturing all the molded components for the various types of buildings that were being erected in Genesis. Next to them were similar, but smaller, buildings churning out the furniture and fittings.

“Wow,” said Peter. “These are amazing facilities – so neat and clean and compact. I was expecting something bigger and more chaotic.”

“Most of the operations are automated,” explained the commander. “So we don’t need a lot of space. These factories are a standard sixty by sixty meters, with three production lines in parallel. Taurians are involved in loading raw materials and handling finished product, but the rest is done using robotics.”

“It’s impressive,” said George. “Are these factories also manufacturing the components for the more industrial buildings like generating facilities and so on?”

“Yes, all the buildings are designed to ensure the smallest number of reusable components. Bigger buildings use more of the same components. Of course, machinery is being brought in from Taurus,” replied Tipanapo-Zu.

Next to the buildings were several flat areas that had some sort of hardened surface. On these were stacks of finished components surrounded by a swarm of vehicles being loaded up.

“We are working round the clock to keep up with the construction schedules, so this loading and transporting to the site of the town is going on continuously,” further explained the chief of operations. If there are no more questions we will head next to the town.”

The vehicle followed the coastline until the buildings of Genesis started to appear. The water of the southern ocean was sparklingly azure-blue, with wavelets rippling into the beaches and the sun shone brilliantly in the sky. With plentiful supplies of fresh water, the vegetation just back of the beaches looked remarkably lush.

“The plant life here looks just like the stuff I’ve seen on Indian Ocean islands,” remarked Laura. It’s like being in a sub-tropical paradise. And the sea fits the view perfectly. What’s the temperature outside?”

“About thirty degrees centigrade by your temperature gauges,” replied Sandaro-Ge. “Comfortable, but you will need sunscreen. The water will be about twenty degrees.”

“Lovely,” purred Laura. “Anyone for a swim or some tanning?”

This got chuckles all round. Even the Taurians enjoyed the image.

“Do Taurians spend time at the beach?” asked Jenny, curiously.

“We do, just the same as humans. We like bathing and swimming just as you do. But we don’t tan. Our skin remains the same color whether we have been in the sun or not. We evolved with skin that’s impervious to the sun’s rays so we don’t burn either,” explained Sandaro-Ji. “Our children especially enjoy the sand and the water.”

The truck moved into the building site area of Genesis and reached the place where new buildings were being erected. It stopped nearby and the passengers got out. The commander led the way to a Taurian, who was a similar size to Pantando-Ka and the two shook hands.

“This is an old friend of mine,” explained Komando-Ka. “He is called Dendaro-Ra and he is the supervisor of this whole operation. He will be your main contact with overall activities here but, obviously, you will be working more closely with the members of the teams for your specialty areas. Those introductions will take place tomorrow. Dendaro-Ra will show us around.”

The group watched the erection of two complete dwellings in the space of an hour.

“This is unbelievable,” enthused Peter. “If we did this on earth, it would revolutionize our whole concept of building. And it would solve the provision of housing for everyone in poorer areas.”

They all moved closer to examine the material on the first building. It felt smooth and was a beautiful pale blue color. The windows and doors were integral to the components they belonged to, and the hinging mechanisms and the glass were also part of the prefabrication and were made of variants of the same material.

“This stuff is brilliant,” explained Tipanapo-Zu. “It has already revolutionized our construction methods. It’s virtually indestructible and, in thin sheets like those hinges and windows, it is flexible and rigid at the same time. We’ve never seen anything like it, but it really speeds up large projects like this. The other great thing about it, is that it is a heat insulator, so heat and cold don’t penetrate from outside and in cold weather the heat inside stays there.”

Dendaro-Ra moved the group on to a number of completed and furnished buildings in already landscaped gardens. There, the group split into smaller groups, which explored the accommodations. After an hour or so they regrouped.

“Are there any comments or questions?” asked the site supervisor.

“How long did the furniture for each house take to make?” queried Amy.

“About one day for each, but we have many production lines working simultaneously so we churn out enough for around a hundred houses per day. And we’re adding lines all the time, so the furniture isn’t on the critical path to complete all the residences in time.”

“Impressive,” complimented Amy. “I was surprised and delighted with the buildings and even more with the furnishings. When we started to talk about prefabrication and mass produced furniture and fittings, I had a picture in my mind of cheap and nasty. But the buildings are solid and tasteful and the insides are beautiful. The stuff there is comfortable and looks good. You and your teams have done a great job.”

Her comments were echoed by everyone including the Taurians from the ship and Dendaro-Ra was smiling widely.

“It’s nice to be so appreciated. In this line of work, efforts are often overlooked in the rush. I’ll pass on the feedback. It will work wonders on our morale. There’s been a lot of pressure so compliments are welcome. Thank you.”

On that note, Komando-Ka brought the inspection to an end and the group returned to the truck for a flying visit to the desalination plants. This visit continued the good impressions from the other places. The plants were surprisingly small and were all completely powered by sunlight.

“I can’t get over the advanced technology the Taurians have developed.” Commented George, to affirmative nods from his wife. “It’s so much more advanced and simple than what we were doing on earth.”

“And I love the way they’ve camouflaged the buildings to merge into the scenery,” added Elizabeth. I didn’t really see them until we were right on top of them.

The group continued chatting in this positive vein until they arrived back at the ship.

“Tomorrow, be ready to specify the details of your accommodation and furnishings and please start integrating into your specialized groups,” instructed Komando-Ka. “Your personal robots will lead you to the right people, who will bring you into the current picture and get you settled. Spend as long as you need fitting in and getting to know all you need, then get busy. Jamie, I’d like you to get a complete overview of the status of all aspects of the project and feel free to provide guidance and leadership where you think it’s needed. You and Pantando-Ka are in charge in my absence. Any questions?”

There were none and so ended a most interesting day.