Legion of Light
Chapter 4: Distant Borders
Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life
With lunch over, and the cleanup accomplished, everyone turned to me expectantly.
"Okay, we're going to get a look at what our sensor platforms have to tell us, but let's meet back here in fifteen minutes. That'll give everyone time to get washed up, brush their teeth, the usual. Meet us in the main dining room."
We all got together in the dining room at the designated time. I had everyone take a seat.
"Ava?" I asked out loud.
"Yes Dave?" a silky smooth female voice said from nowhere.
"Opaque the windows, please."
"Yes, Dave." Came the reply. At the same time the floor to ceiling windows instantly went opaque.
"Legionnaires, I'd like to introduce you to Ava. Her name is a Con-inspired abbreviation of 'Audio Visual Assistant.' She can be called for in any room in the house. Lights off, and bring up the main display Ava, no responses required."
The lights went out and were replaced by a glowing holographic display in the center of the table.
"Con is actually going to control what we see from here on. Go ahead Con."
The display changed to show a slowly rotating globe, full of familiar continents and seas, mountains and deserts.
"This is Meadow. The image you are seeing is a composite integration of still images from the entire high orbit network. We, of course, are here."
As he said this a glowing red dot appeared on the western edge of what those of us from Earth would be calling North America.
"Now we're going to overlay all detected electromagnetic energy sources detected." The map remained unchanged as we watched it through an entire rotation.
"Now we're going to overlay all detected sources of industrial output, including high heat sources and pollution." Again the map remained unchanged.
"Now we're going to add the output of what we call our 'bronze age' filter. This filter looks for low level energy and particulate output, the patchwork visual effect that you get from farming large areas, and infrared concentrations that would indicate large, concentrated groups of warm blooded animals, human or otherwise."
We saw a few fuzzy red blobs in the North American Plains, but the rest of North and South America was unchanged. Europe, Africa and Asia however changed dramatically.
"Wow!" I said. I heard it echoed around the table.
"Con, can we get one of the low level platforms to give us a visual on one of the sources on this continent?" I heard Chet ask. "I think I know what those are, but I'd like some visual confirmation."
"Certainly Chet. I'm tapping in to the nearest platform now." After a few seconds, the display suddenly changed, and we now seemed to be floating above a sea of rough, hairy backs and shoulders."
"Buffalo." Chet said. "Buffalo like we thought could never be seen again."
"Pan out slowly Con, lets see the whole herd." I said.
"Our field of view slowly expanded. We were seeing miles of buffalo, thousands and thousands of them.
"Wow!" Someone said again. We watched silently for a while as a living sea of brown moved slowly past our view.
"These creatures, in such vast numbers managed to trigger one of the filter parameters." Con said. "Lets go back to the global view."
The display in front of us flipped back to displaying the entire globe.
"It looks like we've got our choice of places throughout the Eastern Hemisphere. Its indicative of something that we see no signs of anything triggering our filters in any location separated by water from the European/African/Asian landmass."
"I've always wanted to see Rome." Alicia commented.
"Works for me." I said. "Con?"
"lets overlay this globe with a geo-political map of Earth." Con said, and as he spoke, the continents were suddenly outlined in what we all thought of as the traditional map features of Earth's countries and cities.
We saw many, but not all of the concentrations of red dots were in the same locations as cities on our Earth.
"Towns and cities usually formed near rivers, lakes, where trade routes intersected or near valuable resources, such as wood, coal, clay, salt, tin or other resources." Mike said. "It makes sense that some of the cities would be in the same spots. The same favorable conditions exist in both places."
"Oh, look at Sicily!" Felicia said suddenly. "Its the first time we've seen red dots on an island."
"Makes sense when you think about it." Cyrus added. "Assuming these people have boats of any kind, they would wind up on the islands close enough to see from the mainland. Even if all that happened was that they got blown there by the wind and the tide.
"Lets not speculate too much in advance of actual knowledge. Lets go see Rome!" I said.
The display switched smoothly to a still shot of an area of small buildings and roads.
"Can we get live video from this platform?" Arden asked.
"I'm sorry Arden" Con said. "What we have been looking at from Europe so far are still images captured during the daylight hours. It is approximately 10:30 pm in Rome at this time."
We spent another hour checking the still pictures that had been taken of other places. Paris, Athens, Cairo, Barcelona and Madrid, We checked the fertile crescent and all around the Mediterranean. We checked spots in Africa and Asia and they were all the same. In fact they were more the same than they were on Earth!
Meadow, based at least on our very unscientific sample, had far less ethnic divergence than Earth. The people here were very similar wherever they were. The Asiatic epicanthal fold did not exist. There were no negroid characteristics in Africa or elsewhere. Nor were there Blond, blue-eyed tribes in northern Europe. The slightly dusky, 'olive-skinned' Mediterranean skin tone seemed prevalent everywhere, and most people had black or brown hair and brown eyes.
"If we ever find ourselves with trained cultural anthropologists and
geneticists and archaeologists and the like that we can bring to Meadow, and leave them to study. We might, several generations down the line, get some true understanding of the how and why of Meadow's differences. Until then, we at least know that the western hemisphere is free to settle." I said.
"Are we going to study these people in the meantime?" Learn their language?" Ginny asked.
"Until we can get audio, and arrange to compare what we pick up from a variety of locations, we don't know how many languages we might be dealing with. There could be a single language with tons of local dialects, or their could be distinct languages all over the place, just like Earth. Even if we're lucky, and we discover they share a single language, to match their physical similarities, how easy it would be to learn it is an unknown. Lets table that thought for now."
"Speaking of tables." Eru said. " A reliable source tells me we have Dave's parents coming for dinner tonight at 7, and since I'm cooking the main course, I'd like to spend the rest of the afternoon preparing."
"I know Mom is bringing the salad." I said to him. "Is there anything you don't have that I could get to make things go better?"
"Road trip!" Ginny called.
When the dust settled, Ginny, Eru and I were going to get in a little shopping, Cyrus and Felicia were going to stay home to 'rest' and Arden, Alicia, Mike, Chet, Fred and Con were going to take the cruiser for a little 'tour'.
"Con, keep it in this hemisphere, and I'm making you responsible for getting them and the cruiser back in time to get cleaned up for dinner. Got it?"
Con obviously got it, because he answered with a reluctant "Yes, Mom!!!" With a dead perfect teenager tone of disgust while drawing Mom into a two syllable word.
When the laughter died down, the cruiser contingent left, and I stood with Ginny and Eru. I decided to do it the safe way, and jumped us into my bedroom at Mom and Dad's house.
When we came down the stairs, we were surprised to discover Ginny's Mom and mine sitting in the kitchen. After Ginny and I had given both of our Mom's hugs and kisses, and I explained that we were making a quick trip to the Save Mart to pick up a few odds and ends for dinner tonight, we discovered that our Mom's had gotten together to discuss starting to make plans for our wedding. They pressed us on setting a date, and Ginny and I looked at each other.
"July 23rd." We both said at the same time. It was that day, after my first trip to the ledge, when I'd brought my first rock samples into her Dad's store and we had our first real Dave and Ginny conversation. That was less than two months away, so I'm sure we'd hear arguments against it after they'd had time to think about it.
We took off for the Save Mart in Ginny's GTO. She really hadn't had a chance to drive it much at all since she'd gotten it, and who could deny her?
The Angel's Camp Save Mart was not what you would call a high-end grocery, but it was pretty good. The manager took pride in her offerings and her staff, and with the tourist season almost set to kick into full swing with the approaching Memorial Holiday weekend, everything was primed and ready.
"Ahh, Ginny, if I'd had this!" Eru said when he saw the lamb chops on display in the butchers counter. "We would be having real 'Phrae Duciet' tonight! This is excellent lamb!"
It was vegetables, herbs and spices we were after though, and we quickly moved on through the store, acquiring what we needed. Ginny had not been happy with the dessert options back on Meadow either, so when we got to the ice cream freezer she quickly scrapped whatever plans she had and grabbed a half gallon of Vanilla Ice Cream and some cinnamon sticks, saying she had a half dozen ripe pears at the house that would be overripe and unfit in a day or two.
We took our bag and headed home. We saw neither of our mom's as we headed up the stairs, and once at the top of the stairs I jumped us all through without bothering to go into my room.
While Ginny and Eru quickly got busy in the kitchen, I went upstairs and changed for dinner, then decided to head back to the library and spend a little time with the sensor platforms, poking my nose in here and there.
I closed the library door behind me and sat in the big overstuffed chair.
"Opaque the windows and dim the lights, please."
"Bring up the planetary survey system please Ava."
The global display popped into the air in front of Dave.
"List available control options, Ava."
"Dave, your options are verbal command, and holographic control overlay."
"Give me the Holographic overlay please."
with a slightly glowing representation of the familiar controls of an Observer station hovering chest high in front of me, I quickly sorted through the views until I hit daylight. Early morning was just starting to wash across the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus Strait.
I called up the 'bronze age' overlay that had given us such good information earlier, and used it to key in on what was probably the local equivalent of Istanbul. I pulled the nearest low orbit platform over to the area and switched to close-in video.
For the next hour I watched an old man guiding two young boys as they cast their nets into the Bosphorus. The mundane activity seemed so compelling, the three people I watched so alive. In the end I started to feel a little like a voyeur.
"Ava return the windows to normal, bring up the lights and shut down the display please."
I stopped in the kitchen and checked in with the cooks. Everything was on schedule, and they were just putting the chops in the broiler, while the chops were in, they had a window of opportunity to get cleaned up and changed for dinner. I let them run off to do that, and double checked the dining room. The table hadn't been set yet, so I took the opportunity and set it.
While I was setting the table I saw the cruiser return, swooping low across the front of the house, and very quickly the downstairs was filled with the babble and laughter of a happy Legion, returning from their joyride. I let everyone know the cooks were upstairs getting changed and suggested they get off to do the same.
Once Ginny was back downstairs, hair down and wearing a very pretty sun dress, I let her know I'd set the table and was off to get Mom and Dad.
Dad? I'm on my way, is the kitchen clear? I thought to Dad.
Dave? Yup, all clear, come ahead! He replied.
I jumped into the kitchen, where I found Mom just putting plastic wrap on top of a very large green salad in a big bowl.
"Perfect timing!" She said, "I just added the last touches to the salad and we are ready to go!"
I jumped us into the kitchen, where Mom was quickly involved in the dinner preparations. "Dinner will be in fifteen minutes." we were told, so I suggested to Dad that we make ourselves scarce for a few minutes.
"Want to go look at the latest addition to my toy collection?" I asked Dad.
"Absolutely!" Dad answered, so I led him out the side door where the cruiser sat, quietly hovering those by now familiar four inches above the landing pad.
"Wow!" He said after a long silence. "Can we go for a ride after dinner?"
We both laughed at the eager tone that slipped out, and I'm sure I disappointed him at first when I said I had something else planned for after dinner. But I promised him that what I had planned would be worth it.
"If you're dying for a ride, perhaps you'd like to go with us tomorrow afternoon for a little cruise?" I offered.
Dad jumped at the chance, and with that offer held out, I managed to pry him out of the pilot's seat and back into the house.
Dinner was a smashing success. The pork chops which had inspired the meal in the first place had been seasoned and then slow cooked in a crock pot most of the day, and finally roasted with peppers and onions under the broiler. Finally the chops, peppers and onions had been cut into pieces and piled on top of a pile of seasoned rice, and topped with a very savory smelling sauce dotted with little bits of fresh chopped mint and cilantro. Eru said this dish was traditionally made with lamb chops, and was called 'Phrae Duciet' which was a phrase in old Taluatan that meant 'spring prayer'.
Mom, being the food goddess that we all - especially Eru, considered her to be, told us all about the wide spread cultural tradition of the spring lamb as a culinary offering. We spent the rest of a very nice dinner talking about culture and food, religion and food, family and food. Fred told stories of his Great-Grandfather Hodei, who actually was a Shepard. He lived in a little stone house with Fred's Great-Grandmother Ametza on the slope of a mountain, miles from the nearest village. Fred's dad Formerio was one of eight children, all of which Great-Grandpa Hodei called 'his little lambs'.
I of course filed that little tidbit away for the next time I had a chance to sit and visit with Formerio.
Eru received a complete round of compliments and high praise for his fine offering, and we were then treated to coffee and Ginny's dessert.
Those pears she had been struggling to use up had been cut up into wedges. The flat edge of each slice had been dipped in a freshly made caramel sauce and placed along the inside walls of a brandy snifter. Softened vanilla ice cream had been added and then a pear and cinnamon topping poured over the top. Mmm! What a finish!
The conversation and slow enjoyment of the meal had whiled away a couple of hours by the time we had finished the desert and coffee.
"I told Dad I had an after dinner activity in mind, and if none of you object, I think we can let our dinners settle while we view that Roman video we couldn't see earlier?"
I got an enthusiastic round of agreement, and as we began clearing dishes and cleaning up the dining area, I grabbed Dad for a second.
"Leave this stuff to us. Go show Mom what I showed you when we got here. It'll help her understand what she's seeing."
Dad took off with Mom while the rest of us got busy, and as the saying says, 'many hands make light work' We were done very quickly, and even had the dishes prepped and in the dishwasher.
By the time we had the kitchen patrol accomplished, and everyone back safely from that mission, Dad was back with Mom from the cruiser. And they took their seats at the table, joining the rest of us.
"Wow!" she said. "Does the Legion have more than one of these?"
"Not here. Why?" I asked.
"Oh, I just thought if you were flying a bunch of these around, you'd have to paint a graphic on the front and call them 'Legion Air'!" She giggled.
If a groan can rise to the level of a chaos bomb, this was it. That my mother, of all people cracked a pun at our expense was almost as funny as the pun itself. We groaned, and then we laughed!
With order finally restored, and everyone back in their seats, I called up Ava.
"Ava, stand by please." I said.
"Standing by Dave." She replied.
Mom, Dad, everyone else has met Ava earlier today, her name is an acronym for Audio Visual Assistant. Folks, it occurred to me this evening that we are probably under-utilizing Ava. Ginny, excuse me for doing this, but I'm going to jump you up to our room for a moment." I jumped Ginny to the bedroom and turned to everyone else.
Now, suppose Felicia, that you are down here setting the table and it suddenly occurs to you you are not sure whether you should be using the lace doilies or the gold inlaid doilies and you want to ask Ginny her opinion. What do you do?"
Felicia thought about it for a second. Given the context of the conversation, and that she, like everyone here was a sharp customer, she quickly arrived at an answer.
"Ava, please ask Ginny which doilies she thinks I should use, the gold inlaid or the lace."
"Yes, Felicia." Ava said in her smooth, feminine voice. There was a short pause.
"Felicia," Ava said. "Ginny asks me to inform you that the doilies are reserved for high teas and state visits, and to please use the normal folded paper towels."
Everyone laughed, and Felicia even thanked Ava. I popped Ginny back into the room and she took her seat.
"Nice answer Ginny!" Felicia said.
"I think my little demo proves that Ava is more than capable of assisting us in ways we hadn't previously considered. Con, what do you think of this?"
"Dave, I confess to being embarrassed! I'm guilty of a little tunnel vision in my implementation of Ava. She is more than capable of integrating into the house itself and interfacing with the security system, and all the safety devices, as well as all the household appliances. Ava can lock and unlock doors, adjust room temperatures, turn anything electrical in the house on and off, the list is quite extensive, and if you wish it, I will immediately take steps to implement that integration."
"Very good." I replied. "Ava, congratulations, and welcome to the staff!"
"Thank you Dave." Ava replied. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Arden laughing and shaking his head.
"Sorry Dave," Arden said, emphasizing my name, its just that I keep flashing on scenes from '2001: A Space Odyssey' and envision you banging on the front door trying to get in. The line I keep hearing is 'Please open the pod bay doors, Ava!'"
That comment set of a good old fashioned Chaos Bomb, just like mom used to make! Everyone calmed down considerably when I pointed out that Ava had been designed by those who created Con. He had made it for many thousands of years, so surely we could trust Ava to last at least a few lifetimes.
With that distraction out of the way I had Ava dim the lights and bring up the platform display, shifting control back over to Con.
Con gave a quick recap, for Mom and Dad's benefit, of the deployment of the sensor platforms and their capabilities, as well as of our efforts so far in using them. That the entire western hemisphere was empty of human presence, and the peculiar fact that human occupation of the Eastern hemisphere almost completely excluded those areas reachable only by sea left them stunned, as it had us. Like the rest of us, they were totally awed by the vast buffalo herd we had monitored earlier.
"Two hours ago, while dinner preparations and cruising the hemisphere had everyone else occupied," I interrupted, "I took it upon myself to do a little monitoring. It was early morning in what would be Istanbul on Earth, and I spent an hour watching two young boys and a man, probably their grandfather, casting nets into the Bosphorus, fishing. It gave me a strange, almost voyeuristic feeling, but I was totally caught up in this seemingly mundane slice of life. Con, why don't you see if you can catch us a slice of Roman morning."