Legion of Light
Chapter 3: Light Minded

Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life

I hadn't told everyone where we were going, though Ginny, Con and Eru knew. It became obvious instantly when everyone saw the black, circular platforms and the endless ruined black landscape beyond.

"Welcome back to Obsidian. We don't really know what the Seekers called their world before the disaster, it is only referred to as the 'Seeker Home' when we do find mention of it. I'm sure our reasons for naming it as we did are obvious."

As I said this, a low, gleaming metal platform came sliding silently towards us.

"Ah! Our transportation is here!" I said.

Our ride most closely resembled those little tourist water buses that they use in places like the River Walk in San Antonio, or large water parks. There were rows of seats along the sides and a large open area in the middle. The big difference was that where the waterline might mark the part of the craft that was below the surface, this craft simply ended. Below that line was 4 inches of nothing but empty air. The other difference was that there was no rear end on this craft, it was totally open.

"I've been calling this thing a 'gravity bus' since I first saw them." I told everyone. "Let's load up."

I floated the pantry container in through the rear opening and onto the central platform while everyone grabbed their bags and followed. There was a single drivers station at the front, where Con was sitting, and as soon as we were all seated I gave him the signal and we were in motion.

"Our first stop is going to be the residential tower. That building contains sleeping quarters, and a complete kitchen and dining facility. From here you can see that the top of the tower is domed, and that dome covers what we call the 'meditation chamber', and yes, that is where we will conduct our morning meditations whenever we are here."

There was very little sensation of motion, other than the visual, and we were very quickly at the entrance to the tower. We left Con to deliver the pantry container to the kitchen area and everyone else followed me.

"There are twenty floors in the tower, not counting the meditation chamber. The bottom eight floors are offices and meeting rooms. The middle six floors are what we call the 'barracks'. Each of those floors is divided into 4 large sleeping units, each with 20 beds and separate bath and toilet facilities. The next 3 floors are divided into individual apartments, thirty per floor. Each of these units has its own bath and toilet. The eighteenth floor has 12 larger apartments, the nineteenth floor has 4 apartments and the twentieth floor is a single huge apartment. I will not consider moving into that apartment unless we someday manage to fill all the rest of the apartments. In the meantime, we are considering using it for large social gatherings."

"You mean like the office Christmas party?" Mike quipped.

"Thank you Mike, we were wondering who was going to volunteer to organize that for us!" I fired back.

"For the moment, lets use the eighteenth floor, as it will hold all of us. Later we will probably want to move the married couples to the nineteenth."

My description of the tower's layout occupied us until we reached the 'elevator'. Like the access well in our basement, this elevator was outlined in a strip of glowing light. The marked areas was more than large enough for us all to stand in, carrying our gear.

"I know this looks like the access well back in the basement on Meadow, but it is somewhat different technology. If you'll all come stand in the lighted area with me?"

Everyone followed along, and as each person entered, a holographic representation of the tower flashed into being in front of their faces.

"Under normal circumstances you would each touch the floor you wanted, but in this case, I'll select it." I reached out and touched the tip of my finger to the visual representation of the eighteenth floor, then tapped it again. "I hope nobody suffers from agoraphobia." I added.

Unlike the floating effect in the access well, here we were lifted up on a disc of glowing whiteness, rising swiftly to the eighteenth floor.

The apartments were ... odd, I guess would be the best way to put it. They were not designed to in any way meet what would be an Earth human sensibility. Well, an American Earth normal sensibility was all I could compare it to if I was being honest with myself.

The beds in the apartments were amazing. The classic anti-gravity bed from generations of science fiction stories I'd read as a teen. You floated effortlessly and in total comfort a few inches above the surface of the bed. Even if you were a restless sleeper and tended to toss and turn, you couldn't find an uncomfortable position on one of these beds, and no matter how active your movement, you never seemed to bump the bed. Ginny and I had tested them extensively during our previous visits. Strictly a matter of research of course.

With the sleeping arrangements taken care of and our bags safely stored away, I led everyone back down to the ground floor. I gave everyone a quick look at one of the ground floor offices. All the offices were pretty much the same. Earth human sensibilities or not, it seemed offices were universally bland and boring.

The next stop was the dining area. It was arranged in a sort of modified cafeteria layout, with three levels of seating arranged in a pseudo-random layout designed to leave you feeling like you were only eating with 30 or 40 people, rather than the 300 or 400 people the room had the capacity for.

With that quick bit of sightseeing out of the way, I assembled everyone in front of the tower. Con was waiting with our 'bus' and with no gear to carry, we loaded in and were off in less than a minute. Within a few short minutes we were disembarking in front of what we called 'The Hall of Gifts'.

Without comment, I turned and walked through the entrance.

The interior of the hall is tremendous. A single open space a mile long, a thousand yards wide and five stories high. Their were bins and shelves and racks of items, some familiar looking, most not. We walked through row after row, before we finally got to where I'd been heading. A familiar outline of lights on the floor indicated another of the Anti-Grav elevators, and when I stepped into the lighted area everyone followed automatically. This time we were whisked without preamble up all five stories through a small opening onto the roof of the building.

The roof of the Hall of Gifts resembled a Star Wars-inspired used car lot. There were thirty or forty different vehicles, ranging in size from sleek, swept-wing single-seat craft obviously intended for combat, all the way up to a huge blimp-shaped craft whose purpose I wouldn't have wanted to venture a guess on. Directly in front of us was the craft we were after however.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Mark I Planetary Survey Platform." I said, waving my arm at the vehicle in front of us. "We don't have any idea if that's even close to what the builders called it, but that is what we intend to use it for."

We took the PSP, as Chet was already calling it, out for a little test drive. It was an elongated oval 80 feet long and 50 feet wide, with a slightly curved look to it. It was a totally anti-gravity driven vehicle, and had no aerodynamic flight surfaces. There was room for 6 people at a time to sit in the flight control section, but all of us could fit in if the reminder were willing to stand. Behind the flight section was the main cabin, which held 20 observation/control stations which circled a 'lounge' area in the middle of the craft.

The flight controls themselves were deceptively simple. The pilot seat had two 'control sticks' one in each arm of the chair. The one on the right side was a simple 4 way controller for left-right and forward-back. The left side controlled up-down with a rocker action on the grip adding pitch control that allowed the ship to either go nose up or nose down without having any impact on direction of travel or rate of climb or descent. Added to that were some 'soft controls' where certain combinations of movement would be interpreted as flight commands.

We gave everyone a chance to try the controls, and then Con took the seat and showed just how you could really fly this thing once you were used to it. We took turns flying her until lunch time before letting Con fly us back to the roof and land.

During lunch all the talk was about how amazing it was to fly the PSP.

Once lunch was over we headed back to the Hall. We stopped this time at one of the racks along the wall and I asked Chet and Cyrus to grab two tubes, eight feet long and two feet in diameter. They each hoisted one on a shoulder and we proceeded on to the elevator and up to the ship. Before we climbed aboard, I showed everyone how to feed the tubes into the lower storage module. The tubes went in sort of like putting a CD in your car stereo, fed through an external port which caught the tubes as you started to feed them and sucked them the rest of the way in.

The afternoon lesson was conducted from one of the observation stations. Con took us up a couple miles and from there I released the sixteen sensor platforms that the two tubes had contained. Obsidian didn't really need them, but from our station I demonstrated first the deployment and tracking of the platforms and then the activation and use of the array of sensors on board. Afterward I summed it up.

"We just released and tracked sixteen sensor platforms into what would be high Obsidian orbit, if they actually were in orbit, but they are not. They use their internal anti-gravity drives to maintain an exact position, and remain locked above whatever point they are stationed at. We then tied into one of these platforms and tapped into its still image and video feeds. While doing this we cycled the sensors through the entire electromagnetic spectrum from deep infrared at one end to x-ray at the other end. We could have, but did not, seek to detect signs of other anti-gravity devices, or their magneto-gravitic variants, such as those used by the Taluat."

"Could we use these on Earth or Taluat, where we know there are advanced civilizations?" Alicia asked.

"Con assures me that these things have stealth capabilities, but I don't think we're going to risk it unless we've got no other choice." I answered.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in small groups learning more about the platforms, their sensors and the equipment each monitoring station had at hand for storing and interpreting the sensor feeds.

During dinner we discussed how we might use the ship and the platforms to effectively scout new worlds. I dropped a real bomb into the conversation when I mentioned that everything we'd done with the platforms today had involved observation from high orbital- equivalent positions, and purely energy and electromagnetic spectrum analysis. I asked them to consider the kinds of information we could gather doing low altitude surveillance where we were able to look for things like hydrocarbon emissions, and other gaseous and particulate matter. The kind of signs which indicated various levels of industrial development.

That sparked off a long round of discussions that lasted well into the night. It was Alicia who finally looked at her watch spoke up.

"Hey gang! It is getting late, and I"m sure our merciless task master here will have us all up at the crack of dawn, so perhaps we had better be getting of to bed? Those anti-gravity beds looked pretty um ... comfortable." She said.

"Oh they are, I can assure you!" Ginny replied, and that got Arden Alicia, Cyrus and Felicia off and gone. The rest of us were not that far behind them.

In the morning I roused everyone from their sleep at 7. Once we were all awake and ready to go, I lead everyone to the elevator and we went up to the meditation dome at the top of the tower for the first time.

The chamber itself was an inner area of the dome. The outside of the dome was completely transparent from the inside, and the entire outside ring was set up like an observation deck on a tall skyscraper back home. Although we were only 21 stories above the platform, and the platform was itself only a couple hundred feet above the surface of Obsidian, the absolute flat, featureless nature of the landscape made it seem as if we were much higher than we really were.

After a quick look at the observation ring we walked through a tunnel into the inner chamber. The chamber was 60 feet in diameter. There were rings of soft padded sections of floor, dark blue against the black of the rest of the floor, running in concentric circles from a single large circle of padded blue floor at its center.

We walked to the center of the chamber, and there Eru led us in our morning meditation. As we had done before, Eru wrapped us in the cool reservoir of his thoughts, and we merged ourselves together, probing, exploring, lowering walls and barriers, erasing fears and dismissing doubt. To describe the process is to make it seem more mechanical than it was. But as it had happened with Ginny, Eru, Con and I, we eventually felt that joining, when our consciousnesses combined, and we thought and felt as one. We held it for a long minute. As it seemed ready to collapse I heard Eru in my mind, for just a second.

Help me hold it Davey, just a little longer!

I pulled the light into me and sent it surging into Eru, washing a wave of strength through him. We held another minute, and them a moment longer, before finally our joined consciousness crumbled into the chaos of eleven -thirteen separate minds counting Dare and Pearl.

At breakfast, as we ate the last of the fresh food supplies we had brought with us, enjoying a large meal of omelets, bacon and sliced peaches. With a couple cups of coffee to wash it down, I heard the first hesitant attempts to speak mind to mind amongst the group. The couples, Arden and Alicia and Cyrus and Felicia were already doing well in reaching out to their partners with their thoughts.

With breakfast finished I sent everyone off to their rooms to collect their gear. With our bags in hand we were soon off to the Hall. Chet drove today. He had joked with Con about his driving Grandpa A.J.'s golf carts back home. Con pretended he merely saw it as an opportunity to teach. The rest of the Legion were not familiar with his pseudo-Spock routine, but I think Arden was starting to catch on.

Despite the unfamiliar hand at the helm, our trusty bus delivered us almost as quickly and surely as it had the day before. On our way in we once again stopped along the way. This time we stopped first to grab a couple cargo carriers. These were similar to the units we had in the Storage room on Meadow, except they hovered effortlessly that familiar four inches above the ground. With these in tow we proceeded on to the shelf where we had found the tubes yesterday.

"Sixteen of 'em" I said to Cyrus and Chet when they gave me a questioning look. With Mike, Fred, and I assisting, we quickly had both carriers loaded with eight tubes each.

I showed everyone the second loading inlet on the other side of the PSP, and they split up into two groups and got the tubes loaded in short order.

With the loading done and everyone aboard I took the helm and moved us a couple miles north of the platforms. With the PSP hovering quietly I reached out with my mind, sucking power from the Focus and took us, ship and all, to Meadow.

Like the bridges of our favorite Star Trek vessels, our craft did not have 'windows'. Instead there were display panels which by default displayed the forward view, rendered in visible light, by the forward bank of sensors built into the ship. While everyone knew this on an intellectual level, they still tended to treat them like windows, so when the bleak surface of Obsidian was instantly replaced by the familiar hills and trees of Meadow with our log cabin mansion off in the distance, everyone whooped and hollered at being home once again. Since we were sitting so close, I went ahead and popped our gear back into the staging area.

"Business first!" I cautioned, and with a quick pull on the controls, 20 seconds later we were two miles straight up.

I quickly set the controls to auto-maintain us at this spot and ushered everyone back to the main cabin. Con slid into one of the stations, and quickly began tapping our commands.

"Con is right now configuring the deployment of the one hundred and twenty-eight sensor platforms contained in the sixteen tubes we loaded on board earlier. He is setting them up to deploy in two lattices of 64 platforms, a high orbit and a low orbit lattice."

I could see the question forming on Arden's face, and to a degree, on the surface of his thoughts, so I headed him off.

"Yes Arden, I got tired of explaining that these weren't really in orbit, so I will call them orbits, and you will all agree that you understand what I really mean when I say that, right?"

"Right!" They all answered back. I got a distinct memory impression from the 'Mein Kapitan!' performance of only a few days ago as I heard them say it. I smiled.

"Con?" I said.

"The low orbit lattice is currently really only a mid orbit lattice for now, and the lattice is definitely not laid out uniformly, as we are automatically reducing the platform density by half over open ocean, and increasing the density over land by that number of platforms. By we I mean an algorithm written into the command software of course. Once the high orbit platforms are in position and have made sufficient observations, another program will direct each high orbit platform to direct its associated low orbit platform to the optimal height and location within its area." Con nodded back in my direction.

"Full deployment will take approximately an hour. We could stay and monitor the progress, but there is really no need in this case."

I spread my arms, to indicate our surroundings.

"These platforms are just that. They are intended to be stationed above a planet and used as a permanent base for monitoring the sensors platforms and other survey equipment that might be deployed. Since Meadow is what we are considering our home base however, and is definitely not 'hostile territory', it doesn't make sense to use the typical 'investigating-a-foreign planet' scenario. Let's park this bird."

I went back to the pilots seat, and from there, I once again pulled the Light into me and used its power to take us and the ship back to Obsidian. This time I finessed the hell out of it and put us right on the pad on the roof of the Hall.

We spent a little time while Con showed everyone how to retrieve the empty tubes from the PSP's loaders. We hauled them, in the two carriers back to the ground floor of the Hall. We got everyone laughing when we showed them where the 'recycle bin' was.

"anything you take out of the Hall of Gifts that get emptied, depleted or drained should be returned here. Things that do not, put back where you got 'em."

We walked out of the Hall and our bus was waiting for us right where we left it.

We've got a couple hours still before lunch, and I was planning on giving you all the choice, like the old game show of choosing between what's behind the curtain, or what's in the box. But this is not 'Lets Make a Deal'. And I am most definitely not Monty Hall, so instead I'm giving the box to Con..." Con disappeared as as I jumped him back to Meadow to prepare this afternoon's surprise.

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