Pulling his robe about him, he moved out onto his balcony, with its thick glass plate keeping the mid-summer heat and humidity at bay. Effective climate control was one of the real luxuries that came with his position, he thought gratefully. No the nights of finding a way to keep an overhead fan going or more likely, tossing and turning through the heat, were in his past. And going to stay that way, he resolved, as he looked out on the portions of Port Canaveral visible from his balcony. There he could make out the shapes of the three and four story buildings lined up in the heart of the city. The buildings tightly packed together to keep down the costs of the cable and net system strung from pole to gable to pole above the cities roofs, just barely visible in Able’s moonlight. Unnoticed by Liaison was the rundown and ramshackle appearance of the original Human-built portions of Port Canaveral. For neither lighted window, lamp-lit or electric, nor streetlamp illuminated the portion of Port Canaveral Liaison absently gazed out upon. Not that he would take note of what was an unchanging, everyday description of the city.
He sat down in his comfortable chair in the middle of the balcony, idly scratching his upper left arm, wondering if he wanted a drink. No, no drink he decided. This is an early morning to think and plan. A skill he excelled at, he knew, in stark contrast to most of his fellow Humans, he thought with disdain. Well, let them muck about day-to-day; he had accomplished much and enjoyed the rewards.
Mi’ukmac and Nu’homish
The beam corporal and his fellow off-duty weapons specialists lounged around the recreation area maintained by the Nu’homish on Tohar Station. Normally they wouldn’t bother to come down to this hole-in-the-wall spot. It was better and easier to remain within the Mi’ukmac addition to Tohar Station at the opposite end most of the time. But once in awhile it was good to just get away from it all, stretch ones legs, breathe slightly different air and look at something else. Since this was one of the few portions of the original Toharrian-built station that had been left with enough headspace for a Mi’ukmac to stand comfortably by the Nu’homish remodeling of Tohar Station, they came here. It was not much, but certainly better than the cramped Terran-built tunnel they had to traverse to get here. They had to bend over the whole way down the tunnel and the weird rotating workspace around it. The Terrans were strange creatures, thought the corporal.
At least this place had a good wall vid set-up. They had squabbled in typical Mi’ukmac fashion over what to play on the walls when they had arrived. The beam corporal glanced at the sandy-colored figure hunched over a console in the corner, attempting to ignore the lush green foliage that the rest of them had wanted as wall décor. The vid had some excellent stock scenes from back home that really let one relax. The vision, and sounds, of lovely pools of water, flyer calls and plenty of lush foliage surrounded them. Heavenly. At least if one was one of the majorities of the Mi’ukmac population born since time immemorial in the central jungles. The sandy desert dwellers just had to deal with being odd man out sometimes. He watched the sandy figure unconsciously jerk and claw a bit as he concentrated on his game and slowly calmed down. It was always good to double check on those who might be upset. You never knew when an upset Mi’ukmac might lash out.
Just then, a Nu’homish attendant brought in the food and drink they had ordered. The Nu’homish were well known as lousy cooks, so this was probably something warmed straight out of a container but at least it would be different from the usual meal hall stuff. The Nu’homish used different suppliers than the navy. The beam corporal grinned as the Nu’homish carefully avoided the sandy figure in the corner.
The Nu’homish on station were almost comical in the way they avoided him thought the beam corporal. Probably afraid of being eaten. Not that it was likely to happen he knew. The Commodore kept them all tightly disciplined and on the mark.
Once the Mi’ukmac finished their meal, they settled in to a multi-player game. Conquer the galaxy was their favorite game. He was going to try the Toharrians this time thought the beam corporal. It got old playing the superior Mi’ukmac all the time.
The two women shared the view from the Li family farmstead perched in all its glory just under the top of the southward facing cliff at Rangers Cliff. Mt. Vesuvius was emitting its usual steam plumes thirty miles off to the southwest. Rangers Cliff, chosen by the original Terran settlers on Sarnia for its close proximity to the heavily studied, still active volcano Vesuvius, was still the nearest location practical for Terran farmsteads. The thirty miles to the working forges within Mt. Vesuvius remained a workable distance. Close enough to support with a two day trip through the mountains and far enough away to avoid most of the steam and ash when the mountain did more than just rumble with its nearly continuous slow internal lava streams.
The farmsteads of Rangers Cliff, with its cable and net system covering both the narrow gap at the top of the steep canyon and the near vertical thousand foot drop at the western facing mouth of the canyon, remained the only Terran community of any size outside the Terran Preserve. The steep canyon provided the only location outside the Stoney Peninsula to use a cable and net system over more than a couple of compactly situated farmsteads. The few Terrans to be found outside the Mi’ukmac established boundaries otherwise lived in small, compact and high walled clusters normally tucked into the terrain and proofed as much against heena attacks as against the numerous aerial predators the mountains of Sarnia boasted.
For Terrans had built a high stone tower, on solid rock as habitations ought to be, reaching above the surrounding trees, from which to observe the comings and goings of both the ford and the soft silted floodplain enclosed in the Calm River’s final curve to the Yenisey River. Two observation decks were built high up into the tower. The lowest one allowed a watcher to move around and take in the view in all directions. The second, higher one, jutted out over the interior courtyard, allowing space for archers to deal with any threats to the roofs or cables below. Securely attached to the tower was the multi-storied inn and farmstead, steep roofed to shed the winter snows; thick-paned windows under the sturdy stone eaves to prevent attracting the interest of aerial attacks; and a spacious interior courtyard properly cabled and netted to allow life under them to be enjoyed with some security.
So thinking, Brent came up on the strings of mules and their muleskinners waiting to pass through the vestibuled south gate. Depending on the disposition of the mules in their care and their skills, each muleskinner had five to ten mules strung in a line, each well loaded with pottery from Iola’s famous kilns, more so than oil seeds or agricultural produce from the fields laboriously built up on the opposite bank of the Smoky River. Waving greetings to the muleskinners he recognized, Brent quickly passed on up the string waiting to pass through the gate.
Brent waved and greeted the inner gate operator and the lead muleskinner waiting at the inner gate.
“How’s it going?” Brent called out the generic question as he walked up to lead muleskinner and the inner gate operator.
“Hey Brent,” replied the muleskinner with look of surprise. “I didn’t know Harley hired you on for this run.
“No, not this run,” Brent’s laugh was deliberately easy. “This time it’s a courier job. With all the hubbub, it seems the merchants have need of a secure delivery service.” He thought, hmm, not stretching the truth too much with that one.
“Ay, sell this, buy that,” cackled the gate guard. “I sit here and watch stuff moving in and out of town. I swear, sometimes the exact same boxes come back that went out a few weeks earlier.”
All three men shared a laugh at the vagaries of the Merchants profession.
“Kind of a strange way to make a living,” admitted the muleskinner. “Though it does keep me working,” he added ruefully.
“Yeah,” noted Brent, “this time you fellows are hauling pots. An awful lot of pots. What happened, the girls up at Crossroads have a celebration and wind up smashing all the crockery?”
“No,” chuckled the muleskinner. “Walter’s Vale has a big expansion going in this summer. Two new greenhouses, and from all the oversize trays and tubs getting made at the kilns, they must be expanding outside cable and net as well. Harley is real pleased; cuz he has another load ready to be picked up at Walter’s Vale for Castleton and then back home.”
“Harley is always happy to have a return load,” laughed Brent. He thought a bit and then, “Expanding outside the cable and net and two greenhouses. They must have had a good year up there.”
“Yeah,” affirmed the gate operator while noting his counterpart was preparing to close the outer gate of the vestibule. “They must have made good use of all those bronze pick axes they hauled in there last year. Chipping out rock for all those outside trays and tubs ain’t easy. And now it’s time for you fellows to move forward.” The gate operator swung the inner gate open. “Have a safe trip, both of you.”
While the muleskinner supervised his charges moving into the vestibule, Brent reflected on the news about Walter’s Vale. Building a greenhouse almost always meant a new farmstead was being established, usually a nuclear family and two or three additional hands to help with the farm work. Sarnia had never evolved grasses on its own and the Terran versions did not do well in the iron-poor rocks and soils. So Terrans, if they were going to eat, either had to compete with the native grazers, gweducs and gastropods out on what decent soils, though still iron-poor soils, were to be found on the floodplains of Sarnia. Or they had to establish their own iron-enriched soils. Since Terrans had to add nutrients, especially iron in quantity anyway, in practice it was easier to build your own farmland rather attempting the nearly endless task of clearing the native fauna out of the way. With the smaller gastropods, in particular, extraordinarily difficult to remove, building your own soils on rock, good safe rock, was the way to go.
Farmer Fa Chan straightened from his task of weeding and spraying the central section of the greenhouse and took a moment to stretch. Making good progress, he observed. Standing in the middle of the second floor, he glanced up and down the hundred yard long greenhouse. Unlike some who preferred to only do one thing at a time as they walked their workbenches, Fa liked to drag a cart with all his tools and supplies with him. Do each section in a holistic fashion was his style. Provided better overall care he thought. Starting with the outside row of potted or tray-based plants, tending to each section of the multi-level benches as needed, he slowly moved the full length of the greenhouse working the outside row only. Upon reaching the end, he turned around and worked his way back, this time tending to the portions of the center section he could reach. Then switch aisles and repeat the process, working the rest of the center section and then the back wall with its flourishing crop of maize. In midsummer, the back wall, with its tall maize plants, would go quickly, he knew. He was making good time; as usual. This time of year was easy on a farmer. Just tend to the issues, as and when he found them, trimming or culling for the compost pile, nutrition, weeds, insects, shading, and harvesting unneeded greens. He would finish in plenty of time to be able to take the kids this afternoon and let Mulan have some peace and quiet as she did the farmstead’s books or her weaving chores.
Fa looked about the multiple crops growing in the greenhouse. He much preferred being inside under glass rather than being out tending the row upon row of wolfberry plants Mulan’s uncle maintained along with this greenhouse. The interaction under glass of all the different species made for a fascinating place to work. And, unlike being outside where every extra bit of attention had to be paid to the lookout in the watchtower or on low spots in the terrain where an oekket or crackbone might fly in unobserved, here he could think about his two projects as he worked. Returning to that very occupation, Fa let his mind wander over the possibilities of the new ullucu crossbreed he had developed. More importantly, the new variety of mashwa he had stumbled over might really be a helpful mutation. If he could breed it to continue to shorten its growing season, he would really have something, he mused. Mashwa was a hardy plant that needed little attention and could easily be planted outdoors and throve with only occasional visits. The trouble with it was it took so long to mature that at higher elevations winter arrived before the plant produced much to harvest. But I just might have a mutation that can avoid that, thought Fa. Maybe. Needs more work, more breeding development, but there is a good chance it can be improved.
Foreman Akira Driver reviewed his work order mat, self-lit with the usual greenish glow for underground work by the phosphorescent bacteria soaked onto the mat. Yes, just as the Rodholder had reminded him earlier in the day, the various knotted strings attached to the large four by six foot mat hanging on the work tripod contained the detailed specifications for this construction job. A job that was progressing nicely, knew the Foreman.
Oh as usual when faced with learning something new, the rootaurs had struggled to learn new skills. One always had to be patient as they slowly mastered new skills or a new working environment. But his crew had been cheerful enough and certainly dedicated to the project itself, constructing a proper Hall for their new Taryn. Not only had he not had to put much effort into motivating his crew, he had, on occasion, been forced to quiet them down, channeling the high sensed spirit of excitement into accomplishing the many tasks of construction.
They had done well though. They had made solid progress turning the basic passageways and inner caverns turned over to them by the trenchers Foreman into useful living spaces. First priority had been the extensive growing ground. It was complete now with the newly planted valaika tubers flourishing, the nutritious tendrils dangling row by row from the ceiling throughout the garden. There would be enough to eat for the Taryn and her young and then some, thought the Foreman. The Taryn must be planning on multiple batches of youngsters if she thought that much valaika was necessary. A different work crew had planted the huge crop in the garden. A crew that would carry on trimming and selectively harvesting tendrils, as needed. The Foreman returned his attention to the work order mat hanging in front of him. He needed to know just where the freshly delivered bronze fittings were to be installed.