“But what will happen to humanity if it’s dispersed across numerous planetary systems?” Oma wasn’t sure if it was the idea that unsettled her, or the simple fact that for the first time in her life she was walking on solid ground and breathing a natural atmosphere.
She wasn’t even sure why she had been selected to be part of this committee. Yes, she was the captain of the first interstellar ship to make contact with an alien species … except the humans were the outsiders in this part of the universe, which technically made them the aliens….
“It’s not so different from being divided among eight ships.” Her son-in-law, Jeron, smirked as he glanced toward her and shrugged.
Jeron and Kirati had convinced her to accompany them to an outside patio – for lack of a better word – as part of taking a momentary break from their consultation with the Bavphet. The outdoor terrace overlooked a range of multiple islands stretched in a crooked line across a turquoise ocean.
“And this is what our ancestors hoped for.” Kirati smiled as she swirled her drink, a pale blue, luminescent tea native to this planet. Oma had never met her before yesterday since they were from different ships, but quickly learned the svelte history keeper was game to sample any cuisine verified safe for human consumption.
Oma gave them credit for convincing her to step outside the multifaceted building constructed from stone that reminded her of obsidian – or rather, of pictures she’d seen of obsidian. She’d spent her whole life of nearly fifty years on a spaceship. And while she appreciated the agricultural tracts maintained by keepers like Jeron, the lack of containment and airlocks on the planet’s surface proved to be a bit disconcerting….
“It was one of many possibilities.” She leveled her gaze on Kirati. “They also knew they might never find a planet that would sustain them.”
Jeron raised his dun arms toward the azure sky. “And yet, look.” He turned in a slow circle. “The parameters for life seem to be universal. Yes, oxygen and nitrogen levels vary a bit, but the elemental cycles are still present.”
Kirati’s green eyes stayed locked on her face. “I don’t believe it’s coincidence we stumbled upon the Bavphet when we did.”
“Yes, finding this interplanetary alliance is fortuitous.” Oma didn’t shift her focus. “But we haven’t even seen the other available worlds. Leastways, not it real life. And you of all people should be aware of potential cultural conflicts, history keeper.”
Kirati smiled and shifted her attention to Jeron. “You’re right. She’s tenacious.”
Oma frowned at him, somewhat in jest. “Sowing discord instead of crops?”
“Far from it.” He grinned. “I was pointing out what a dedicated captain you are.”
“Your viewpoint is in the minority.” Kirati sipped from her tea, and then leaned against a knotty tree, one of several dotting the rosy flagstone. “Our ancestors anticipated such an attitude, which is why they established keepers to perpetuate a fascination for the ecology of Earth and the desire to return to that lifestyle.”
“I understand most people embrace that desire.” Considering her associates were around twenty years younger than her, Oma could grasp why they didn’t share the security she felt on board a ship.
Jeron shrugged. “But that doesn’t make you obsolete.”
“Quite the contrary.” Kirati nodded. “Those who feel more space-bound would be ideal for shuttling between the colonies. You would in essence be the glue that helps hold humanity together.”
She locked her gaze on the young woman again. As a captain, she was accustomed to remaining calm even though this discussion caused her stomach to flutter.
“You’re talking as though we’ve already decided to merge with the natives of all the available planets.”
Kirati tilted her head to one side. “I know you resist the idea … but you’ve got to admit there is no other alternative.”
“These Bavphet are technological geniuses. They solved our communication barrier, for crying out loud. They’ve already unified the sciences of other worlds, allowing the systems to live independently while working with each other. They can help us rebuild our ships, modernize our equipment–”
“Forgive me, Captain.” Jeron clasped his hands together. “But you are ignoring the fact humanity – and the flora and fauna we brought with us – really isn’t designed for long-term space habitation. Despite technology and medicine, we face challenges to keep surviving in ways that won’t erase our very humanity.”
She knew when her oldest daughter brought this guy home that he didn’t allow rank to intimidate him, and his reference to her rank signaled he was keeping this discussion on the professional level.
Somehow, that didn’t sit right with her.
“Our adaptability is a herald of humanity. That’s how we made it this far.”
“And this is far enough.” Kirati raised her glass. “It’s time to return to terra firma, generally speaking.”
“Is that why you brought me out here? To convince me to favor colonization on the available planets? It sounds like my opinion is already outnumbered.”
Jeron drew a deep breath and slowly exhaled before replying. “Oma, you’re right. It’s inevitable that colonization will take place. And it’s inevitable conflicts will arise with the natives. They’re accustomed to interacting with each other, but not to living with each other.”
“And that’s where you come in.” Kirati nodded. “We’re considering several planets, not just a planet, because it lessens the socio-political strain for the inhabitants of this sector.”
“Your concerns are completely valid.” Jeron folded his arms over his chest. “And that’s why we need somebody like you to remain on neutral ground.” He tilted his head and smirked. “Or rather, neutral space.”
Was this supposed to be some kind of joke? She was a captain of an interstellar ship, not a counselor or arbitrator. Their suggestion made as much sense as the court’s appointing her to participate in this committee….
Hmm, everybody knew she resisted the idea of colonization. And it wasn’t just the big picture that disconcerted her. Humanity mingling with various aliens … natives … whatever … meant she had something more personal at stake.
“You’re threatening to break up my family.” Oma locked her gaze on his face.
His mouth shifted into that smile her daughter claimed was one of the aspects she found appealing about him. “It’s true we’re thinking Dea sounds like a nice planet to settle on. But it’s not like we’re encouraging all her siblings to move in with us.”
She glanced toward Kirati, who had the good sense to examine a bug-like creature on one of the tree’s chartreuse leaves, perhaps wondering if it cooked up as a tasty treat.
“It would be the best of both worlds for you, or rather, world and space.” He nodded. “You can visit any time. And rest assured, if you ever tire of flying among the stars, you’re welcome to land with us.”
Oma had to shift her gaze to the ocean for a few seconds. Waves crashed against the craggy islands, expending most of their energy on the barrier that protected the shoreline. By the time they reached the pebbly beach below where she and her associates stood, the pulsing water lapped among the stones.
Maybe it would all work out….
Her attention returned to Jeron. “You’re trying to put ideas into my head.”
His smile broadened. “I know better than to confront you directly.”
Here is this month’s contribution to #BlogBattle, and this time the word is Merge. Be sure to check out the other submissions and discover how these stories come together to serve the noble purpose of writing encouragement!