The Commander Comes Clean by David Macfie
After the weddings celebration, things were quiet and busy for another two months until the halfway point in the journey to Androm was passed. The commander arranged a cocktail party to celebrate the event and crew and passengers enjoyed themselves well into the night. The following morning agenda started late and Jamie was requested to attend a meeting with Komando-Ka while the others started work. He knew his way well by now, so Teacher remained with the other humans, as he strode the passages of the ship. When he arrived on the bridge, the commander led him to a secluded meeting space that he had never noticed before. The two helped themselves to drinks from the table that had obviously been prepared for the meeting, then made themselves comfortable. The commander shuffled some papers he had brought, and reminded himself on the contents. Jamie thought he was just delaying the start of the discussion and guessed the commander was a little nervous. Jamie suspected that he might not like some or all of what he about to hear. He said nothing but watched the Taurian carefully, to pick up any other signs that might be useful. Finally, with a shrug of his shoulders to ease his tension, Komando-Ka cleared his throat and began the meeting.
“Jamie,” he began, edgily. “I have a confession to make in the interests of our recently cemented alliance.”
He paused and frowned as he looked at Jamie’s face, which didn’t change.
“It’s somewhat alarming that you don’t seem shocked,” observed the Taurian leader.
“But, I can’t say I’m surprised. We have been less than fully open with you. He paused again, looking even more carefully at the human face before him that could have been a photograph for all the animation it showed.
“You really are a master of the strategic silence, aren’t you? It’s most disconcerting. I suppose I should just get to the point.” Now he got just the slightest of nods in confirmation, so he cleared his throat again and started what he had to say.
“It’s not that I’ve lied a lot but I haven’t told the whole truth either, so I wanted to fill you in on the gaps in what I’ve shared up to now. First, I have mentioned the deteriorating conditions on Taurus. We had warnings of all this as much as two hundred years ago so we launched the Androm project. It was intended to create a bolt hole for us in the case of an emergency. But we haven’t shared the more recent details, so I’d like to be more specific.”
Jamie smiled for the first time.
“That could be useful,” he remarked.
The commander checked to see if he was being mocked, but could see nothing again in Jamie’s face so he ploughed on.
“Volcanic activity is at an all-time high and is increasing at an unusually rapid rate. The same is true for land instability. We are seeing an unprecedented occurrence of tremors and land-quakes and again a rapid increase in their frequency. We have increasingly violent weather patterns including cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes. Our rainfall is becoming sporadic and unreliable so our agriculture is being seriously impacted and soon we will not be able to produce enough to feed our population. All this is bad enough but, at the same time, our medics are dealing with a surge in infertility issues in both sexes. This also you know but, specifically, the birth rate this year is down to eighty percent of last year, which was already down twelve percent on the year before. These facts show that we are in deep trouble and we don’t have the resources to solve the crisis. It’s simply getting out of hand.”
“Sounds pretty rough,” commented Jamie. “What do your scientists have to say about all this?”
“They’re now saying the planet may be in its death throes,” replied the Taurian, with a grimace of mixed fear and disbelief. “Or, they say, it may all quieten down again. They cannot tell at the moment which of these outcomes is the most likely. But they do point out that if the catastrophic outcome becomes reality, the decline will happen increasingly rapidly over a period of one to two generations. We decided that we couldn’t take that chance so we hit on the project to bring suitable humans to assist.”
“I can understand the threat of the crisis, but where did your idea to use humans come from?”
“We’ve had an ongoing intergalactic mission to identify sentient life. Unfortunately, we only identified suitable candidates on Earth. We found your home planet some fifty years ago and have been studying it ever since. We have learnt the major languages and now routinely monitor each landmass and all their communications. In this way we have learnt much about humans. Your internet is simple technology to us and we have been using it since its inception as a research tool to identify and locate suitable pairs of individuals.”
“We guessed that you must have been doing that unless you had agents on earth.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. You’ve been pretty smart up until now. We don’t have agents on earth. Not yet anyway. Now to the crux of what I wanted to share with you. It was made known to you that this was the first ship to depart, on the mission, but we didn’t tell you it was not the last. We were followed by a ship each day since the day after we left. All told, three hundred and forty nine other ships are involved of which, approximately two hundred and seventy are in transit already. Ninety or so are already on the way back. All ships should return within a year of leaving so all the additional resources will be back to Androm in two years from the day we left, and all the early arrivals will have been working on our new planet for much of that time. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that three thousand five hundred humans will finally land on Androm.”
Jamie, finally, lost control of his reactions. He was astonished at the scale of the abductions and it showed.
“It’s really difficult to believe what I’m hearing,” he whispered, incredulously. You’re telling me that nine hundred people have been abducted already and you are planning to take another two thousand six hundred. And, I suppose, since the idea that a softer touch was required only came up a short while ago, all these people were snatched just as we were?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“This is unbelievable,” said Jamie, tersely, only just managing to control his anger and disgust. He took deep breaths to calm himself. Finally, he got back his calm demeanor.
“Where are all these people coming from?”
“We decided that we didn’t need more of a language problem than two different ones, Taurian and English, so they’re all coming from English speaking nations – America, Canada, Britain, the Irish Republic, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There are a few from other countries with significant English speaking communities but they are in a small minority.”
“Is there an uproar on earth? I can’t believe so many people can just disappear without anyone noticing.”
“We have been careful to take from widely dispersed communities so there isn’t much noise yet. And we asked your friends and relatives to keep quiet for a while. They agreed to make sure you didn’t suffer reprisals.”
“I’m really not happy with what I’m hearing, Komando-Ka. Your tactics are, quite frankly, unacceptable. This whole project could, very easily, blow up in your face. In fact, you’re pretty lucky that we’re cooperating. If you had continued with your initial behavior towards us, I don’t think we would be.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you. Twenty five of the ships that have turned around are already having significant difficulties with their passengers. None of the others are experiencing cooperation. We are the only ship that has achieved any sort of working arrangement between Taurians and humans. Of course I have been talking to their commanders but we haven’t made much progress in resolving the crises on these vessels. We wondered if you and your team would be prepared to help.”
Jamie was completely floored by this request and couldn’t say anything for quite a while. His brain just froze around all the conflicting thoughts, reactions, ideas and emotions. Eventually his mind clicked back into gear and he was able to reply, but only with a question.
“Commander, you say you’ve been talking to the other commanders. Have you arrived at any conclusions as to the reasons for the differences between this ship and the other eighty nine?”
The commander looked sheepish and embarrassed.
“It seems as if everything started pretty much as we did, with the same approach by the crew and the same reactions by the humans. But neither side had the leadership rapport that the two of us have achieved and so neither side were able to encourage modified behavior in the other. Now things are much harder to rectify because relationships have never formed.”
“And what exactly are you asking us to do?”
“We thought, perhaps, that you and your team could mediate and bring the situations into the same status as we have here.”
Jamie looked aghast at the Taurian leader.
“I hope you’re joking,” he grunted in disbelief.
“Not at all,” replied Komando-Ka, confidently. “I have great faith in your leadership abilities. What do you say?”
“I say that you’ve got rocks in your head and don’t realize how huge this problem is. Do you really understand how difficult this is and what you are asking of us?”
“I think I do and I agree that this is difficult. But I also think you will be able to fix it. Will you try?”
“I will discuss it with my team and get back to you. But, I have to say that you are asking a lot and I won’t promise anything at this stage.”
Komando-Ka just nodded and Jamie left the meeting.