Frantic Activity

Frantic Activity by David Macfie

Given the impending crisis on Taurus, a period of frantic activity now began. Construction groups for the other habitable landmasses were put together and rapidly trained in all that had been learned at Genesis and Newtown. At the same time survey groups were assembled and flown to Baltra to be briefed and trained by Jamie, Robert and Laura and their three robots. Emphasis for the other two joined lands of Bindlo and Debuffon, was put on the specific additional life forms. The survey teams for these two were introduced to Leader and his council and spent time learning about these sapient people. The additional surveys were completed as soon as practically possible and all confirmed the conclusions of Jamie and his team. Projects on the separated landmasses were now accelerated, while the three connected places were treated in a more circumspect manner.

On the way back to Newtown, Jamie had briefed Leader and his council on the various options available to him and his band. Not surprisingly, they decided that they wished to begin by remaining separate, but with two conditions. The first was that they would be involved, with Baltra leadership, in the final planning and execution of the strategy for the settlement of that landmass. Komando-Ka and his son agreed wholeheartedly with this decision. Leader and Wiseman were immediately added to Pantando-Ka’s management group and began to fully participate in all activities of that group. The second condition was that Leader’s band would be fully familiarized with all aspects of activity on Baltra and would, after one year, have the option of reviewing their future and changing their decision to remain separate. Again, this was accepted without argument.

That left the issue of the second band of sapient humanoids led by Leader’s son, which had to be resolved as a matter of urgency. Nothing further could happen on Baltra, outside of the Newtown construction, until Jamie and his team addressed the issue.

They spent time with Leader and Mother learning as much as possible about their son and those that had left with him. Everything they were told reinforced the difficulties they would probably face. Leader’s son was called Head-Strong for his quick thinking but also for his bull-headed approach to life. He was a good hunter but not a great one and he liked to be obeyed without discussion. Leader believed he’d be aggressive and uncooperative and warned Jamie accordingly. All agreed that the same approach should be taken as applied to Leader’s group, but the initial contact would have to be very cautious. On that note, Jamie and his team took off in the helicopter.

They returned to the area where they’d seen the second band before and landed on a knoll with a small stand of thorn trees on its summit that served as cover for the helicopter. Quickly a camp was established, and the group settled down to watch for the hunters. It was early afternoon and there were plenty of the antelope type grazers about so they deduced that the hunters would appear at some stage. They waited until dusk with no success and concluded that the hunt must have taken [place much earlier in the day. Early next morning they were watching again. After a frustrating day with no sighting they had to face the fact that the band had moved elsewhere. Jenny, Laura and Robert remained at the camp to keep watching while Jamie and the robots took to the helicopter and set it to silent flight. For the next four hours they flew grid patterns over the grasslands below. They saw lots of game but no hunters. They returned to the camp then Jamie and the robots set off to search the forest that edged the grass. They moved quickly and carefully through the high grass, always on the lookout for danger of any sort. They had to stop on several occasions to allow herds to pass and had one close encounter with a pride of the large felines before they reached the trees. Hoping for habitual behavior they started by scouting the fringes of the trees looking for signs of a path.

After an hour with no success, they moved ten meters into the trees and retraced their steps back the way they had come. When they reached their starting point, they moved ten more meters in, turned and set off back again. They repeated this process several times before they found the first signs of the movement of numbers of large creatures. They estimated that they were now about sixty meters into the tree cover and the trees were tall, allowing flourishing underbrush. In places this brush had been broken through and a pathway appeared. With a sigh of relief, the search party headed in the direction away from the grass.

Soon the path began to slope upwards just as it had towards Leader’s cave. After twenty minutes of increasingly difficult progress, the party began to hear what sounded like a serious argument. They crept closer until they could begin to understand the words spoken by individuals. Now it was clear there was conflict in the camp. The argument was about how the band would be led in the future. Janie decided he need to see this confrontation as well as listen to it. He crept closer still, until he could see the people. They were all crowded on a ledge in front of a cave like the one habited by Leader and his band. Four male hunters were facing the rest and one of the males was haranguing the facing people, who were not cowed at all. Several people from that group were shouting back, clearly disagreeing with the vocal hunter. Jamie surmised that he was Head-Strong. He had decided that the band didn’t need a council any more and had summarily disbanded it. He shouted that he was the leader and he would decide how things would be. He was adamant that he didn’t need a council to help him. Most of the band didn’t agree and were standing up to him. In fact, as far as Jamie could see Head-Strong was only supported by the three other hunters.

He made a quick decision and walked into the space in front of the ledge. He was depending on a piece of information provided by Leader.

“Head-Strong,” he yelled as loudly as he could. “I am Jamie and I challenge you and your three hunters to unarmed combat to decide who is the leader of this band. If you win, you may kill me and continue to lead. If I win, I will be the new Leader and you will obey me.”

There was an instant silence that stretched as the leader and his three cronies stared at this strange looking creature that spoke their language and dared to issue a challenge. Then Head-Strong sauntered to the front of the ledge and looked Jamie up and down.

“What makes you think that I won’t just kill you, stranger?” he asked, with a wide grin. “You don’t look so tough and you’re only a little animal. Not big and strong like me and my hunters.”

Jamie had used the delay to study the four. Head-Strong wasn’t kidding. All four were tall and muscular. They walked with a swagger that said they were the alpha males of the band. But Jamie knew from Leader that this band had broken away because of a failed challenge by Head-Strong against Leader. And he also knew that the challenge was part of the culture of the band. Head-Strong couldn’t turn it down.

“Talk is cheap, Head-Strong,” he yelled back. “And you do look strong, but you don’t look very smart. So, what are you waiting for? Are you guys scared or what?”

This banter got the reaction that Jamie had hoped for, anger from the four and laughter from the watching others. Head-Strong and his men roared their anger, threw their weapons to the ground and leapt off the ledge. But they didn’t lose control altogether. When they landed, they spread out and formed an arc around Jamie. Then they advanced slowly, watching him carefully.

“Strike one to the big guys,” thought Jamie, wondering if he’d bitten off more than he could chew. Then he focused on the four. Two were on his left then Head-strong then the other. He decided to take out the leader first then the guy on the right then the two on the left. The cautious advance continued and Jamie waited, looking directly at Head-Strong’s eyes. When the four got to within four large steps of him, he saw the bunching of muscles that showed they were about to spring. He reacted instantly and covered the space in a second. He hit Head-Strong with a left elbow strike to the bridge of his nose and followed up with his fastest and most powerful straight right to the hollow just below the breast bone. Head-Strong started to fall and Jamie side stepped round him to deliver a roundhouse kick to the head of the hunter on the right. It was perfect and the man went down. Three strikes, two men down and only four seconds used. It was all too fast for the other two. They were both wondering what happened when Jamie hit the first with an uppercut that felled him instantly and the second with a straight right to the midriff followed by a left hook that lifted him off the ground.

In ten seconds, it was all over, and a stunned silence greeted Jamie and the robots. Then the four began to wake up. The robots administered first aid where required then helped the hunters to their feet. This allowed the crowd a moment to react and then there was bedlam, with everyone talking at once. Jamie let it run for a few moments then he and the robots helped the still groggy hunters back onto the ledge. Jamie raised his arms for silence and then started to explain who he was and what he was doing here. The band listened carefully to everything and Jamie especially noticed that Head-Strong was totally focused on the unfolding story. When he was done, he invited questions. Not surprisingly, the first came from the deposed leader.

“Jamie, you said you were abducted from your own world by these Taurians, yet now you are helping them to settle on this world. Please will you explain why?”

Jamie looked carefully at Head-Strong. He was surprised at several things. First that the man had really listened. Second that he hadn’t shown any reaction to the failed challenge and third that he was interested enough to explore what was happening.

“I’ll answer all your questions if you will answer mine. Deal?”

“Yes, but you first,” replied Head-Strong. Jamie laughed and the leader joined him. Jamie went to the sitting leader and clasped arms. Head-Strong smiled.

“When we were abducted, we were told to choose a leader who would interact with the Taurians on behalf of all of the abductees. I was chosen.”

“Why?” interrupted Head-Strong.

“Because I was a soldier who had led men in conflict before.”

“Ah, that explains how you took us down so easily. Good. Go on.”

“I decided that I needed to get the Taurians to treat us more like allies than like prisoners. So, I confronted them every time they did something that we didn’t like. I had to fight their best soldier there too. He was the chief also. I won and the two of us began to train together. Today we are the best of friends. We have learnt a lot from each other. Gradually we humans were accepted as friends and allies. That is why I’m here talking to you. Because I’m trusted to do the right thing.”

“And what is the right thing?”

“To make sure that when this world is settled by humans and Taurians, all existing life forms are protected and given the freedom to join with us or continue to live as they wish as separate people.”

“Are you saying that we have a choice?”

“Yes, I am.” Jamie went on to speak about all his interactions with Leader and his council and told this band about the visit the council had made to Newtown, the farms and Genesis to see what was happening and learn what was possible.

“Will you do the same for us?”

“Of course. But I must tell you that I overheard the discussion that was taking place before I showed myself to you. As the new leader of this band, I will not dictate what must happen. I believe that more wise heads are better than one. So, I will take the best choice of council members that you can make so that a balanced view comes back to the band. I expect that you, Head- Strong will be one and that leaves four more to choose. I expect the other four to be chosen by the band, not by you. Agreed?”

Head-Strong thought for a moment.

“Agreed and I would like to say that I am grateful to you.”

Now it was Jamie’s turn to ask why. Head-Strong grinned a lopsided grin.

“I am grateful because you taught me a lesson I will never forget. I was so confident that four would easily best one that I was rash and too cocky. I suddenly realized that I have always been like that even up to the argument you heard. Also, you put your life on the line and yet you never threatened or tried to take mine. You have faced much greater challenges than I have yet you are spending your time making sure this world works out for everybody. That is a valuable lesson. I will be honored to be your friend.”

Then he grinned again. “And I must admit that I am intrigued by this new world. I will cooperate fully with you, Jamie, just for the opportunity to see it and learn.”

“Thank you. I believe we will become the best of friends. I’ll go now and fetch my great bird so that we can fly to Newtown.”

By the time Jamie returned in the helicopter a feast had been prepared. But everything stopped when the great bird appeared. The band froze as the bird landed and only relaxed again when Jamie and the robots climbed out.

“What magic is this?” asked Head-Strong, with a look of fear on his face. All the others had retreated to the cave entrance.

“No magic,” soothed Jamie. “This is a construction made by the Taurians. We had them also on my world. It is called a helicopter and it will transport us very fast to where we want to go. I am its driver. We will leave at first light tomorrow once we have enjoyed this feast that you have prepared.”

The band relaxed and Head-Strong introduced the new council. There were three women and one man. Stone-man made all the tools and weapons. He was a venerable and knowledgeable hunter as well as an expert in the edible plants, roots and tubers that provided the staple vegetable components of the band’s diet. Next came the oldest female in the band, Old-Grandmother, who played the role of Mother in the band, since Head-Strong had not yet chosen a mate. Meat-Woman came next. She was the butcher and cook and had the role of Feeder. Jamie smiled to himself. Clearly the important people to this band were the same as in Leader’s. So, he wasn’t surprised to meet the last council member, who was even named Healer.

During the feast Jamie talked more about what Leader and his council had experienced and the choices they had pondered. He explained the decision they’d made. Head-Strong was silent and introspective, staring into the flames of the cooking fire, as he thought through what he’s heard. The other council members asked questions but didn’t offer any opinions. They kept a wary eye on Head-Strong, as if they were afraid that he might start to shout again. But he didn’t. Eventually he raised his eyes and locked onto Jamie’s.

“I think it is time for a change for the band,” he began. “I think I made a mistake when I led them away from Leader and Mother. I think, particularly after what I’ve learned since this morning, we should rejoin the other band. I think all of us will be stronger and more able to face the new world if we do that. Do you think Leader and Mother will accept us?”

The council held its breath and looked at Jamie.

“They will be overjoyed to take you back. They miss all of you. And I think they will totally agree with your thinking. I certainly do. I think this is a very wise move. Well done.” Head-Strong grinned and gracefully accepted the congratulations of Jamie and the council.

Early the following morning, Jamie contacted his camp and explained all that had happened and briefed the team on his plan to go straight to Newtown and Genesis.

“Oh good,” said Laura. “We can do a little more research here.

Robert just wished them a good trip. Jenny was sharp.

“Can’t take my eyes off you for an instant before you get into a fight. What will I do with you? Just hurry back without any more fisticuffs, OK?”

“OK, Dear,” Jamie replied, seriously then burst into laughter. “I love you, Jenny,” he said then broke the connection before she could get the last word.

The trip was a mirror image of the previous one, with the same effect on the council. The more they saw and learnt, the more they understood and agreed with the decision taken by the main band, and the more they reinforced the intention to rejoin. On the way back, they stopped off at Leader’s camp to ask for the consolidation of the two bands. As Jamie had predicted the request was joyously received and accepted immediately. Leader hugged his son and grinned at Jamie.

“You’re not just a pretty face, my friend,” he said.