Legion of Light
Chapter 5: Pipe Dreams
Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life
Formerio met Dad and I for lunch at Rodz Grill. Everyone else had decided on takeout pizza, so we phoned in the order and then I jumped Arden over to my house to wait for it to be delivered. I'd jumped him back to Meadow with pizza boxes in hand before Dad and I headed to lunch ourselves.
We had an enjoyable lunch, Dad and Formerio talked a lot about local politics, something I had never taken much interest in, local or otherwise. We took our car back to Dad's house, since Formerio had just walked over the couple of blocks from his garage. During the ride he asked where we would be picking up Grandpa A.J.
"We'll be picking him up after we get there." Dad told him. "He's still in North Carolina at the moment."
I think that casual answer had him speechless for a while, as the conversation screeched to a halt until we got to the house.
Once in the house, Mom greeted us and gave Formerio a kiss on the cheek.
"Relax!" She said as she patted his shoulder. "Dave has only lost one person doing this, and he was always a little bit not-all-there anyway!"
I didn't wait for a reaction, I just jumped us straight to the living room on Meadow.
"You do know that Beth was only joking, right?" Dad said as soon as the scenery changed.
"Fine time to be telling me!" Formerio answered.
"Hang on while I get Grandpa." I said to them.
Grandpa, are you ready? I thought to him.
Go ahead Dave. Ready to go. He thought back.
I reached out and he was there.
Grandpa and Mr. Sabarte had met of course, but exchanged pleasantries anyway.
"Ava, where is Fred?" I said to the room.
"Fred is out on the patio." Ava answered.
"Dad, please say hello to Ava." I asked him.
"Hello Ava." Dad said.
"Hello Mr. McKesson, welcome to our home" Ava said.
"Mr. Sabarte, if you'd please say hello to Ava?"
"ehh, Hello Ava. How are you?" Formerio said with uncertainty.
"I am fine sir, thank you for asking." Ava answered.
"Grandpa? If you'd be so kind?"
"Hello Ava, a pleasure to meet you." Grandpa said.
"Good afternoon Mr. McKesson, a pleasure meeting you as well." Ava said in response.
"Ava, would you please tell everyone that we have arrived, and are in the living room?"
"If you find yourselves alone in the house, just ask Ava for help. She can either tell someone where you are or help guide you to where you were trying to go. She will turn lights on or off for you, shade the windows, adjust the room temperature, just about anything that can be tied to a normal household function."
The rest of the crew, spearheaded by Fred, who came and hugged his father immediately, entered the living room. I tried to head of the room-filling babble I knew was coming.
"Listen up Legionnaires!" I succeeded in heading them off at the conversational pass. " Mr. Sabarte just experienced his first jump, ever, and just met Ava. He's about to see and ride in the cruiser. Lets try and keep things from getting too riled up before we get to that point, shall we?"
"Lets get this joyride moving then!"
To minimize the congestion, I asked everyone but Fred to go ahead of us to the cruiser. I reached out and jumped three of the white "Grotto" bracelets from my pile of spares in the basement.
"Please put these on your wrists." I said. "They look solid, but they will stretch to fit." I waited until they had them on.
"In the event something should happen, and I am unable to return you home, grab the bracelet with your free hand and think 'Home!'. You will wind up in Grandfather's grotto in North Carolina, but better there than stuck here forever, right?"
"How likely are we to need this, Son?" Dad asked.
"I hope never in your lifetime or mine Dad, I really do. But right now it is a better lifeline than I thought I would be able to offer."
"Fred, I'll let you lead the way with your dad. Grandpa will want a hand getting down the steps, so you should go first."
By the time Grandpa, Dad and I got out the door, Fred and his Dad were standing about halfway down the path to the landing pad. Formerio was rattling on in Basque about the impossibility of this whole situation, and how we must have all slipped into madness a long time ago, or been seduced by the devil, or something beyond human knowing, etc...
After quietly enjoying the looks of amazement on Dad and Grandpa, I hollered at Formerio, in Basque.
"Old man! You might want to be a little more polite. Everyone here except my Father and Grandfather can understand every word you are saying. You will begin to hurt their feelings soon!"
"Old man!" He said, still in Basque, "What makes you call me old man all of a sudden?"
"Well, only old men and fools yell at the things they do not understand, and I have too much respect for you to call you a fool!" I answered.
He caught himself then, and laughed shaking his head. He switched back to English.
"I think I told you once that you were wiser than your years, didn't I? I was not wrong then, and you still are."
As Dad and Grandpa caught up with us Dad said "You guys all speak Basque now?"
"And Russian." Fred said. "German too."
"As well as Italian, French, Greek, Spanish, Korean, Taluatan and English of course." Ginny said, walking up and guiding Dad towards the rear entry to the cruiser.
"You will have to convince me!" Grandpa said in very passable Russian.
"Certainly, nothing easier." Chet replied in Russian as he came and offered Grandpa an arm to help him up the ramp."
We got everyone on board and I decided that instead of cramming the newcomers into the three available seats in the flight cabin, I activated all the side displays in the main cabin. I heard Mike in the back going "Oh Yeah! This is great!" And I knew they'd found this option themselves on their own joyride.
"First stop is the big attraction that got all our attention when we first began looking at Meadow through our new survey system." I said over the cabin's intercom.
I pulled up the survey overlays onto the nav display, found the red dot that indicated the herd of buffalo we'd been tracking and laid in a course to get us there quick. The heads up display was telling me we were doing 500 mph, and climbing.
"We're at 500 mph and climbing rapidly." I relayed. I glanced at the display again. "ETA 20 minutes."
Our time with the buffalo herd went as you might expect. All three were in awe of the vast ocean of flesh moving below us. The rest of us were still in awe, despite having experienced it already. I moved us up to a higher altitude so we could see most of the herd at once. The view, and the concept of so many animals of that size, all moving together boggled the mind.
"I'll take requests later, but there is one place I've been wanting to go to for a long time now, so we're headed there next." I zoomed the nav display in on the East coast, and set our course for Chocowinity. As soon as I set the course I got a little pop-up in my heads up display warning me that maximum atmospheric velocity was 4500 mph, and asking me if I wished to continue with atmospheric travel or plot an extra-atmospheric route. I decided to stick with the atmospheric travel for now, and laid in the course. The ETA popped up with 23 minutes. I locked the course in and slipped out of the pilot's seat and went back to the main cabin.
"ETA is 23 minutes." I told everyone. Since we've got a little time Fred, why don't you explain the survey system we have in place to our guests, and show them some of what we've discovered."
I watched Fred give a clear and comprehensive rundown, in 30 minutes, of our survey platforms, their capabilities, and then a little sample of the various observations we'd made so far. Intelligent questions were asked and answered. Dad spotted our audio shortcomings immediately, and that got us back on the topic of language. When we arrived at our destination, I could really feel the pull of the nearby focus, and had no problem taking the controls again and manually navigating the cruiser the remaining distance. I slid the cruiser in and 'parked' it, letting the rear access ramp slide open. I had not told anyone where we were headed, and didn't tell them anything more now, except
I slipped out the access ramp first. I had parked with the ramp facing the water, so I had to look around the side of the cruiser and past its bow to see the focus itself.
Grandpa, old guardian that he was, sensed it immediately.
"This is the grotto!" He said the moment his feet touched the ground.
"Yes it is. Meadow's version of it." I replied. "Lets walk up towards the spot and see what we get."
"Do we get something?" Dad asked.
"I will have seen four focuses now. On my home of Taluat, on Earth, on Obsidian and now this one. Each has been unique and hauntingly beautiful." Eru said in response.
The focus on Meadow was a mineral spring that rose from a mound of smooth, glistening stone. The cascade of stone, wherever the water from the spring didn't cover them, was laced with tendrils of wild grape and honeysuckle vines. The soft sound of the water running over the rocks, and the sweet smell of the honeysuckle, already into its spring bloom, was both calming and intoxicating at the same time.
Evening was approaching here in the East. We spent a quiet half hour enjoying the warm afternoon sun and the scented air in the calm quiet, but then it was time to go.
"Grandpa, do you want me to jump you home from here, or would you like to take the ride back to our house first?"
"You might as well send me home from here Dave." Grandpa said, sliding the white bracelet off his wrist and handing it to me. "But I think I'll have to fly out for another visit soon."
"We'll be happy to have you when you do come out." Ginny said, kissing him on the cheek.
A quick wave and goodbye to everyone and Grandpa was back in his study on Earth.
"We've got a few hours of daylight to burn heading West." I said to the crew. "Who wants to show the three of us the Grand Canyon, Meadow style?"
Fred took the pilot's seat, and we let his Dad sit in the copilot's seat alongside him. It took another 30 minutes of very high speed travel to get there from Chocowinity, but watching the country zip past you at 4500 miles per hour is mesmerizing. The Grand Canyon at 200 miles per hour is a pretty fun ride as well. I wanted to save the real sightseeing for some other time though. We didn't want to overwhelm Mr. Sabarte his first time out.
When we got back to the house and were safely on the landing pad, I asked Dad and Mr. Sabarte what they wanted to do. Mr. Sabarte said he needed to return to his garage, and Dad said he'd like to take me for a little drive once we were home. Everyone else was itching to spend some time with their families back on Earth, so we buttoned up what needed buttoning and I reached out to home on Earth and quickly let my senses feel for anyone in the area. All I found was Mom, so I jumped us all to the patio in the back yard.
Arden and Alicia had driven out the house the other day in their quest for a peaceful place for the jump to Meadow, so their car was here. They offered Fred and his Dad a ride. Mr. Sabarte turned to me before he climbed into Alicia's little Honda Civic and shook my hand.
"You know how to shake an old immigrant up pretty good, Davey. You keep it up. I've decided its okay. But you do good things, you hear? The Sabarte family is on your team, don't forget."
Cyrus and Felicia offered to give Mike and Chet rides from their house, so I jumped them all to the Poole's garage.
Dad suggested that the rest of us could accompany him on the little ride he had asked me to take, but Ginny begged off, saying she wanted to get home and make sure there was going to be enough dinner for everyone, since she was planning on inviting her fiance to dine at Casa De Parkin. Privately she sent me a thought
I think its time we spent the night at my parents house, don't you think?
I do! I answered.
Nice phrase. Keep it on file, will you? She thought back. I could hear the giggle echoing in her thoughts, even though she managed to keep it inside only.
Eru and I jumped into Dad's car, and Dad hit the road. We quickly found ourselves on highway 4, just north of Green Horn Creek, the road Dad took to work every day. When we passed the turnoff to the Tulloch Reservoir and kept heading East on highway 4, I became even more convinced we were headed to Dad's office. I was surprised then when we turned south on an unmarked stretch of asphalt about three miles before we would have hit the Milton Road exit, which was my internal halfway marker on the drive to Proto-Tech.
The road we took was relatively new and untraveled. A mile and a half down that straight stretch we had to stop at a gate. A very impressive gate in a twenty foot high security fence with razor wire at the top. There was a guard house, but it was boarded up. Dad got out and looked through a ring of keys he'd pulled from his pocket until he found the right key and unlocked a very large padlock and slid the two sides of the gate open. He drove us through the gate and stopped to lock the gate behind us.
A quarter mile past the gate sat a squat, solid looking two story building. Looming behind it was a larger, four story windowless building. The road we were on ran on a curve into a huge loading area on one side of the larger building. We continued straight on a smaller circular drive that did a loop in front of the first building. The inside area of the loop was paved and divided into parking spaces. We pulled up in front, and following Dad's lead, we all piled out to stand with him on the sidewalk in front of the entrance.
"This was built for the California National Guard 4 years ago." Dad said. "There was a big push to use the Guard to corral illegal aliens and round them up in detention centers until they could be processed. This was going to be their 'proof-of-concept' facility. It was still being built when the project was canceled."
Dad pulled the ring of keys out of his pocket again and began trying keys, looking for the right one to unlock the main door.
"With the situation in the Middle East sucking up all the money and manpower that had been intended for the project, and the federal matching funds canceled in favor of whatever the hell the money's being spent on over there, the last phase of construction was never started and what had already been built was mothballed."
"So you think we can buy this then? I said. "It certainly looks ideal for our needs!"
"I hate to confess, but Proto-Tech already owns it." Dad said. "The State had a fire sale for everything involved with the project that couldn't be transferred to another guard base, and the price, and the location so close to our own headquarters made it a very attractive item for us."
"So why is it just sitting here empty then?" I asked.
"There were so many things that made it a perfect fit for Proto-Tech that the acquisition team and the executive oversight committee, which I was a member of, failed to notice the one glaring problem with the deal. We had absolutely nothing we could use it for once we had it."
"Amazing!" Eru said. "I had been operating under the mistaken conclusion that your society's commerce and government was somehow unaffected by the usual problems that they are plagued with on my own world. I see now that I was wrong."
We toured the smaller office building first, which had at least a dozen offices and two very large meeting rooms.
The larger building contained the warehouse, kitchen, cafeteria and barracks. The final phase would have been to build the actual prison building. Where it would have gone was a large empty square mile of grass and scrub.
We started in the warehouse, and worked our way through, finishing with the cafeteria. The empty barracks areas, we ignored for now. If anything, they would wind up as more storage, but since this entire operation was a front for creating a pipeline to and from Meadow, it really didn't matter. The warehouse, and the office building were perfect, I thought.
"Dad, this is perfect. The fact that you already owned it before I even knew I needed it is the kind of spooky coincidence, like Grandpa buying the cell phone company, or our picking Eru, of all the possible people on Taluat to contact, that makes me wonder what forces are at play here."
"Davey, I already have trouble understanding what I see you doing, please don't ask me to start thinking about the stuff YOU don't understand!"
On the drive home Dad asked Eru if he'd like to spend the night at their house, since I was going to be spending my night at Ginny's. They'd invited Grandpa and Grandma Carson over for dinner and a movie. Dad said they were going to watch the DVD of 'Ray'.
"You'll find this movie very interesting, Eru." I said. "It's the life story of a famous Earth musician."
With Eru set for his evening, I decided to check in with Ginny.
Hey sweetie? Ya Busy?
Davey! Are you all done with your road trip?
Yup! We're headed back to Angel's Camp even as we think I thought. I heard her giggle in my thoughts at my modification of the cliché phrase.
You silly! Are you driving over here from your house or is your Dad dropping you off?
Actually, I was thinking of jumping myself over right now. Would that be okay?
Ooh! Absolutely! My room would be good!
Cool your jets Doctor, I don't want us giving your Dad his coronary until after I've had my dinner!
Okay, but you're getting a serious smooching anyway!
Be there in just a moment.
"Dad, if you and Eru are good to go for the rest of the day, I think I'll just jump myself over to Ginny's right now, okay?"
A serious smooching, as it turned out, was Ginny-speak for a little grope session that I had absolutely no regrets about after it had happened, especially when Ginny told me that her Dad was off on an errand.
Dinner that evening was roast pork, green beans and roasted red baby potatoes. Very delicious. I was not surprised to see Sarah and Pete joining us, nor was I the least surprised at how happy they seemed to be in each other's company. Pete's mom and dad seemed tickled pink to see Pete and Sarah together, and Mary treated her like a princess.
Seeing Pete got me thinking once again, but He and Sarah had after dinner plans, so they skipped dessert and were gone very quickly. There was something they called strawberry goobers for dessert, which were actually little tarts with strawberries and cream filling that were very tasty.
After dessert, we sat and played cards with Paul and Mary and had a nice visit, getting them caught up on our lives while we did it. I suggested they should come see for themselves soon, where we were living, and what we were doing.
"We'd like to do that Dave, but we're pretty busy these days, trying to make enough money to pay for Ginny's wedding!" Paul joked.
"I just feel that its not right that some of our biggest backers, mainly you two, my Mom, and Grandma and Grandpa Carson have yet to see what the commitment is really all about." I said.
"We appreciate that Dave. Perhaps you can schedule a 'Sunday picnic' or something, and we can all visit at once?" Mary suggested.
"That would probably be very workable, and would give us something normal to do while we're there, sort of take the edge off the incredible parts." Ginny offered.
I considered my next words very carefully, but I had been mulling the Pete situation over in my head, and needed to get it out.
"I've been thinking for quite some time about asking Pete to join the effort." I offered.
Mary and Paul glanced at each other, and followed it by a long silence. Finally Paul answered.
"We were worried about Pete there for a while, the government grant that had been funding his university research hasn't been renewed, and he hasn't been able to find another. He doesn't want to start looking for work at Sea World or any of the other places out of work marine biologists fall back on when they can't do research, but he is getting frustrated."
"Its a good thing He's found Sarah," Mary said. "She's really saved him from getting depressed over the situation, although she is in the same situation."
"I remember Pete saying she had a degree, but I don't think he ever said what it was in. Do you guys know?" Ginny asked.
"I believe she said she had a master's degree in Anthropology or something like that. Maybe Cultural Anthropology? The only people left who are offering her work are interested in more than her credentials, if you know what I mean." Paul said.