Consolidation by David Macfie

First thing on the morning after their arrival, Jamie called a meeting of his team.

“I have arranged an early outing for us,” he began. “I thought it would be useful for us to visit the actual houses allocated to us before we finalize our specification of requirements for our new homes. Jenny and I tried last night but we kept stalling without a clear idea of the exact layout.”

“We had the same problem,” agreed Brian, to echoes from the others.

“Good, we’ll have breakfast first. I organized house plans for each of you so that we can make notes while we’re eating. Teacher is getting them printed right now. They have full measurements on them and there’s a site plan also for garden layouts. Are there any other things you’ve thought of that you’ll need?”

“Have they been made with the wall and floor colors we specified before?” queried Peter.

“Yes, but we can add pictures and other decorations if we wish.”

“Are there any restrictions on what we’re able to do inside or out?” asked Amy.

“No, as long as you’re reasonable, the guys here can accommodate you. What else?”

There was nothing so Jamie moved on. “After you have seen and got a feel for your houses, you’ll have an hour to complete the specs before your robots will take you off to your specialist teams for introductions. Leave the specs with me and I’ll make sure they get to the right people. Also, I had a couple of thoughts after the walkabout that I wanted to share with you. First, when you meet your teams be conscious of the fact that we think very differently than the Taurians do. If you remember that was one of the reasons why combinations of us and them were so innovative together. I’d like to be sure that we’ve considered all the angles before the project goes much further. As an example, I think the expansion of surface water has been extensive as we saw on the way in, but I didn’t see any dams anywhere. There may be a very good reason for that or it may be a missed opportunity for hydro-electric power. George, I think you said that the power grid would probably utilize a mixture of technologies, didn’t you?”

“I did and that’s a valuable observation that I missed, I’m sorry to say. You’re right of course. It would make sense to have at least one dam in each of the named landmasses.”

“Thanks, then it was a reasonable example to stimulate your thinking. My second Thought was that the earth works seemed mostly to flatten the surfaces. From a climate control point of view, shouldn’t we be striving for some highlands to encourage rain where we want it?”

“Possibly,” replied Jenny. “It depends on a lot of factors. But it’s worth keeping in mind. I’ll bring it up when I meet with my team.”

“OK, that’s enough to give you the gist of my point. We’ll have a debriefing when you all get back. Let’s eat.”   

After breakfast the team’s robots led the way to the cluster of five houses that had been allocated to them. The couples first checked that the wall and floor color schemes were as they’d requested then they went room by room listing furniture requirements with dimensions, finishes and internal fitments. They added things like mirrors, crockery, cutlery and glasses and sketched, on their plans, the positions of the pieces in each room. Finally, with a great deal of discussion, they sketched their garden layouts including paving, accent plants, trees and shrubs as well as any features they’d like.

On completion, Jenny turned to Jamie.

“I’ve looked forward to that my whole life,” she said, with the widest smile. “It’s so exciting planning the house we’re going to live in. I’ll never forget this experience.”

“I’m glad it’s been fun for you. And I feel sure you’ll love it when we move in two days’ from now.”

“I can’t wait. I’ll be a bag of nerves by then, worrying about all the things that can go wrong.”

“Think about something else. It’ll help the time pass.”

Just then Pantando-Ka arrived. The personal robots led their humans away, Eric accompanying Jenny. Teacher and Sam remained with Jamie. Jamie asked Teacher to deliver the plans and specifications to Dendaro-Ra, then turned to his friend.

“I bet Dad gave you the same instructions he gave me,” quipped the huge Taurian, with a grin. “I think he expects me to do something rash and has asked you to keep an eye on me. Am I right?” Jamie laughed with delight.

“Ha, you’re not as green as you look. He did say he expected me to make sure you didn’t get into any trouble. But I think we’ll make a good team. I’ll be the brains and you can be the brawn. How’s that?”

“You’ve got it back to front,” replied Pantando-Ka, shaking with laughter. “I’m yet to beat you at unarmed combat so you must be the brawn and clearly I’m far smarter than you are.”

“See what I mean, we’re a comedy act already – a good team. We’ll just take it as it comes then, shall we?”

“Makes sense to me, esteemed human. Lead on and we’ll see how it works out. By the way, I’m pleased Dad suggested this. I know I’m still a baby at leading, but I’m determined to be good at it so I’ll listen to everything you can teach me. I can see how good you are by how well your team works with you and everyone else. There’s a mutual respect and a team ethos that speaks volumes. I want to be able to make that happen in my teams.”

“That’s the best start you can have – an open mind and a drive to be the best you can be. You’ll be OK. Now let’s get moving.”

Pantando-Ka had brought a vehicle that resembled a golf cart on tracks. Sam drove and, discussing all manner of things, the two leaders visited every part of the site then moved on to other parts of Chatham to inspect the work that taken place there. Fortunately, most of the activity was within a twenty mile distance from the center of Genesis so travel time wasn’t a limitation. In essence they repeated the locations of the previous day, but spent more in depth time at each place. They talked to the Taurian workers to get a feel for everything and they looked at plans and work schedules to enable them to understand the details. All in all, they built up a very good grasp of what was going on. It took all morning and most of the afternoon before they were satisfied with their efforts and headed back to the ship.

“Not a bad day,” commented Jamie. “But I think we must go further. What other forms of transport are available?”

“What do you have in mind?” asked the Taurian.    

“I’d like to examine the rest of Chatham and then visit each of the other landmasses, except the ring, and inspect them too. We’d need to camp where we are at the end of each day and refuel as we go. Is that possible? If it is, how long would it take?”

“It is possible and probably three to four weeks are the short answers. But I don’t think we can be away so long until my dad gets back. It’d leave the Chatham activity without an overall leader.”

“I don’t think leadership is the issue. We only got here yesterday and the site at Genesis has been going for months already. The work elsewhere has been going much longer than that so there’s leadership in place that’s done alright so far. I’m sure they could go a bit longer. I’d suggest we put Dendaro-Ra in charge and we could stay in constant contact and contribute if there’s a problem. My team and their robots could back up when needed. So I think it could work. But I do agree that it’s too long. What transport is suitable?”

“We have a small helicopter that fits four. It’s fast but not rocket fast and I took that and the distances involved into account when I quoted the timescale.”

“Hmm!” mused Jamie. “Too long. Do the teams on the other landmasses have those helicopters?”

“Yes. They’re used all the time for overflying for surveys and recons and checking progress of course.”

“Then we’ll stay here and visually piggyback, while local pilots overfly their own landmass. We can direct what and where we want to see and they can take videos and photos to send to us. Could that work?”

“I think so, but let’s run it by the commander to see what he thinks.”

As soon as they arrived at the ship they contacted Komando-Ka. He said he’d see them on the bridge where he was busy with an emergency.

Worried now, the two wasted no time and reached the commander, out of breath.

“I get right to the point,” he said, grimly. “The next two ships have been delayed. They tried to take the same shortcut we did and both collided with asteroids. Luckily, there were no injuries, but the engines were damaged and the ships can only manage half speed. They’ll only get here in two weeks’ time. All the others have been instructed to take the long route so none will gain the time we did. That being so I’ve decided to leave for my meeting with the council as soon as I’ve organized help for the lame ducks and moved all your stuff out of the ship. That’ll be later this evening. Now what can I help you with?”

Jamie nodded to Pantando-Ka, who quickly outlined the requirement and the two options. The commander didn’t hesitate.

“Option two is not only, feasible but it’s a better use of your time. Talk to Dendaro-Ra. He’ll help with all the arrangements, including temporary accommodation. With the delays due to the accidents, I’ll be back in time to greet the next ship to arrive. My leaders, including my son, will be in houses next to yours, Jamie. In the meantime you can still contact me if there an emergency that you cannot handle between you. Good luck to both of you.”

He nodded to them, then went back to his large screen. The two left to find the site supervisor. He was most helpful. He quickly arranged for the temporary shelters and robots to help take the teams’ few belongings off the ship. Then he discussed all the logistics for the examination of the workings everywhere. They agreed to start the next day with Chatham and Jamie agreed to provide the schedule for the rest at that time. When they were done they looked for the other team members, only to find that none had returned yet. They kept themselves busy helping with the setup of the temporary shelters, which turned out to be the backup tents brought to cater for overflow refugees. These were spacious and, once the camping style furniture and appliances were set out, quite acceptable for only a two day stay. They’d just finished when the team members started to arrive. Jamie quickly explained the change of plans and showed each couple where to go. Pantando-Ka also moved into his own tent.

Jenny arrived last. She listened to Jamie then moved quickly to check out the tent. He followed and watched as she poked into everything. He began to get worried. Her expression hadn’t changed. He couldn’t tell whether she was angry or content.

Finally, she faced him, hands on hips, face expressionless. His heart sank.

“I think I’m in trouble,” he thought, bracing himself. She let him stew for what seemed like forever. Then she grinned a naughty grin.

“I’m teasing you, don’t look so worried. I think this might be fun – like a little holiday. We should have a barbecue tonight. It fits the tents. What do you think?”

Jamie breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“You really had me going there,” he accused, smiling fondly. “I thought I was in big S H 1 T. I think it’s a great idea. I’ll go and check with the others and if they’re agreeable I’ll talk to Dendaro-Ra. I’ll invite him and Pantando-Ka as well, since we’ll be working closely with both of them. See you in a bit.”

In no time the arrangements were made. The site supervisor chuckled when Jamie explained what a barbecue was.

“Isn’t it strange how different we are and yet how similar,” he said. “This type of cooking is very popular with us as well, particularly during holidays. All the robots know exactly how to prepare the meat and vegetables over the fire. Leave it all to me. I’ll arrange some drinks as well. And I’d be pleased to come.”

A little over an hour later the fires were lit and the barbecue began. It was even better than anticipated. Everyone shared their experiences of the day and Komando-Ka and his leaders came to say goodbye before they left and joined the party for a drink. The refreshments were pleasantly alcoholic and the robots cooked the food to perfection. In the end the party lasted until late and a really good time was had by all.