Chapter 20

A very brief picnic

Gwen and Eddy walked along the beach toward the river’s mouth. A line of tree covered hills ended in a bluff at the beach between the settlement harbor and the river. Much was still temporary yet the pioneer settlement had recently begun to look like a small town.

It was a pretty little town on gentle hills that surrounded lower valley farmland leading to the river, its estuary and the nearby harbor. One last hill surfaced as a small island on the ocean side. The island was only a short swim off shore, it was close enough they could clearly hear the continuous din of nesting birds that had chosen island safety to raise their young.

Gwen was showing Eddy as much about their growing pioneer society as she wanted to learn about Star Song. He had been involved in construction and agriculture during his first jobs and was now involved with even more focused jobs as part of the pioneer star fleet. Gwen was aware of Eddy’s widening experience and pointed to artistic, sculptural self-shelter constructions beginning to replace tents. “We pioneers are building hazard-safe sculptured structures that pay people to live in themselves now and will still be doing the same for their great grandchildren.”

“What kind of economy is that?” Eddy asked.

Gwen could tell by the look in his eye that Eddy was both puzzled and thinking. She did not know that he’d been engrossed by a similar idea of delfinians being at home anywhere in the sea. Even so. She helped him fill in the concept of fire, storm and earthquake safe houses that paid people to live in themselves with almost zero maintenance cost for many generations.

“Sculptural self-shelter that pays the people to live in itself is part of the culture that grew with nation Pacifica and its long association with earthquakes and fires." Gwen explained. Natural hazards, along with periodic atmospheric rivers that bring torrential rain and accompanying floods were also what prepared the Pacific's gray whale coast for the rapid almost four meter sea level rise that accompanied global climate collapse. Part of what stood our grand parents in good stead then was folk knowledge from experience. Now we are applying it here, along with real democracy.”

"You are going to enjoy meeting delfinians who are at home anywhere in the sea," Eddy responded as they approached the river. "Delfinians were able to build an advanced economy with fun and quality of life as their economic goal instead of a rat race for more money. Melodians are intrigued by the living for fun aspect of delfinian culture."

They walked together sharing what each had learned as they approached the estuary that was a short walk beyond the bird nesting island. The river was dammed into a large estuary by a long low dune of beach sand. A small, waist deep flow marked the large river’s final passage to the sea as being mostly seepage beneath the sand. Except for the birds behind them, they looked ahead at a vista that included noticeable silence.

"Silence heals the soul," Gwen said with a sigh as she led Eddy onward.

The beach turned away from shore around a small hill and then followed the estuary inland. The estuary itself was an expansive swamp of reeds with a patchwork of small hummocks stretching repetitively to a distant tree-line marking dry land on the other side. Although the general climate was similar to central Pacific areas, the hummocks repeating over and over into a faded distance gave one a feeling of an endless Florida swamp and prairie.

River source mountaintops were visible protruding upward beyond the far horizon through distant haze. The vistas of planet Pacifica are very similar to far away Earth. It is only close inspection of specific plants and animals that reveals differences in evolution, and much of that is apparent only to a trained eye.

Two hungry hikers ready for a picnic rounded the first hill after a short walk inland along the estuary beach. Gwen pointed to the shade of a large tree standing in a meadow that ended at the water’s edge. It was at the top of a steep bank that was carved clean by rainy season high waters. They walked to the end of the beach sand, climbed the head-high bank, walked a short distance farther and sat above the water’s edge. They leaned against Gwen’s favorite picnic tree and enjoyed the view. Eddy’s growling stomach was the first to break the silence.

“I heard that,” Gwen said, reaching for the lunch in her backpack.

Eddy gratefully accepted a sandwich, which he almost finished before Gwen placed a bag of fresh fruit next to him.

“You are hungry,” she said, handing him a second sandwich.

Eddy ate the second sandwich almost as fast as the first. “That was good,” he said. “What was it?”

“Black bean and quinoa with crushed native nuts and a few raisins sprinkled in,” Gwen replied, smiling at the compliment for her favorite picnic menue. “The greens are a mixture of native plants and vegies grown from seeds we brought with us.”

Reaching into the bag, Eddy pulled out a round, bright orange fruit and took a bite. The flavor and nourishing juice instantly washed his mouth clean. “This must be some kind of guava!” He exclaimed. “It’s the best I’ve ever had.”

“Our agronomists found those not far from here,” she said, taking one from the bag and biting into it. “They named it Apple peach guava and call it ‘Apeachva’ for short.”

Eddy chuckled as he reached into the bag and pulled out a shining, green, wedge shaped fruit. “This one is even better,” he said. “What is it called?”

“It doesn’t have a name yet,” Gwen answered. “It’s my favorite, too.” She frowned and gazed across the fertile river estuary, toward the distant mountains. “I like learning about new plants and things, I don’t want to die in a greedy cloud of doom. It makes me feel even worse thinking that every living thing on this entire planet will be wiped out, too.”

Eddy’s sighed, “I have to believe we will win. If we don’t, Doom Cloud will swallow the planet to fuel continued mindless growth. Its hunger to grow at any cost sucks joy from life and turns it into pollution and power. I think Star Song is teaching us these first lessons of Melodian song so that we are able to help others resist it.”

“Tell me more about Star Song’s melody,” Gwen asked. “Maybe there’s something we’re overlooking that will help.”

Eddy paused while he tried to think of anything that might help. “Star Song said I had learned a lot in a very short time, and humans may have evolved into something new that confuses Doom Cloud. There’s something I keep trying to remember, maybe you are supposed to teach everyone else in the colony after I leave....”

“But you aren’t going anywhere,” a deep voice rasped from behind the tree, interrupting Eddy. “Don’t move a muscle or you’ll die before your next breath.”

Eddy and Gwen froze in surprised shock. They wanted to stay alive.

“Blindfold them,” the raspy voice commanded. “Then tie them up back-to-back.”

Eddy and Gwen felt a tight strap pin their arms down and their backs together. More straps tied their hands and feet, a final strap went around both of their waists and pulled their backs tighter together. They were blindfolded and bound in less than a minute.

“Who are you? Why have you done this?” Gwen demanded.

Eddy felt a blow from the side of a boot that hit both of their shoulders. “Don’t move or talk,” the raspy voice hissed.

“That was too easy. What should we do with them now?” A panting, crazed voice asked.

They both felt a rough hand testing their bindings. “Drag them over to the edge and toss them in the water,” the panting voice laughed cruelly.

“No!” A woman’s voice interrupted. “They are wanted alive for study and questioning at the United States of Earth’s mental analysis facility. Leave them here. We should return to the settlement before anyone notices we’re gone.”

“But what if they escape?” The crazed voice asked. “We would all be safer if this one called ‘young warrior’ is thrown in the river to drown.”

The woman’s voice hissed with anger. “These two can’t move and we are the only ones who know where they are. The Liberator will soon be here to stop the stupid colonists from further disrupting economic growth. It wants these two for study. We need to keep them alive for our own safety and to make sure we become the governors of this planet.”

“You can call it a liberator if you want, I don’t trust whatever that thing is out there,” the crazy voice shrieked.

“Quiet, you fool,” the woman interrupted. “You’ve heard this plan over our secure radio. We’ll use the ships to send for more colonists and we’ll put the terrorist pioneers on austerity and maximum work hours. Those who survive will be the trustworthies and will be joined by other trustworthy workers from the United States of Earth. The Liberator wants us to govern this part of space with a proper free market economy so something like this renegade colony can’t happen again.”

“This is crazy. Quit calling that doom cloud thing a liberator. We actually don’t even know who we’ve been talking to. How could that thing be in contact with the president of USE?"

We have no choice,” the raspy voice interrupted impatiently. “Here. Take this rope and tie them to the tree so they don’t fall in the water and drown themselves.”

Gwen and Eddy felt the rope pull them tight against the tree. Their captors left without saying another word. Footsteps fading into the distance was the only parting sound from whoever had tied them to the tree.

“Can you move?” Gwen whispered.

“Not even a little,” Eddy answered, “I can barely breathe. What is this all about? I can’t believe it, one minute we’re eating lunch and the next minute we’re tied to a tree and lucky to be alive.”

“At least we ate first,” Gwen giggled.

“That was nice of them,” Eddy grumbled.

“There appeares to be more agents from the United States of Earth than we thought,” Gwen mused. “How do you suppose they made contact with the doom cloud? I thought it was just a thing, like a weapon or a robot.”

“I don’t know. They made it sound like there is something or someone controlling it and the United States has once again chosen to side with planet eating dictators instead of democracy. This is a real drag,” Eddy moaned, racking his brain trying to figure out a way to get loose. He bumped into Gwen leaning his head back to strain on the rope, “Ouch, you have a hard head.”

Gwen heard Eddy’s somewhat jangled melody play across the inside of her head. Startled energy straightened her back. “What if there are enough of them to sabotage our heavy weapons?” She said in Melodian, without using her voice. “Maybe that’s why it’s taking so long to outfit the delfinian ship,” Eddy responded. There might be agents slowing the job.” “Did you say that with your voice?”

“No,” Eddy answered. Pushing the back of his head against Gwen’s he visualized the vista before them as they ate lunch, just before the blindfolds were wrapped around their heads.

Gwen’s answering song expanded on Eddy’s vision with a touching melody of details until their song harmonized within each of their minds. The harmony of their mutual vision suddenly became saddened with dissonance and discord, a moody darkness replaced the beautiful vista. Planet Pacifica had joined in their song and she was unhappy.

Planet Pacifica could accept and even embrace sudden death in a grand battle between good and evil, but the slow creeping darkness of beauty despoiled and creatures driven extinct by a grinding economic growth fueled by insatiable greed was too much for her to accept — Planet Pacifica wailed.

Gwen and Eddy were shocked into silence. Gwen was first to break from reverie. “We need to do something and do it fast!” She said, struggling against her bonds. “If we lose, this planet will be polluted and exploited just like corporations did to Earth. You heard what they said about governing planet Pacifica with the United States system, that’s just a slower doom than Doom Cloud.” Gwen was becoming frantic in her struggle.

Eddy didn’t like his next thought and remained silent. Tilting his head back and touching hers he visualized the meadow, the tree, and the feeling of the straps that bound them. “Let’s try and carry our minds back the way we came and see if the delfinian captain is still in the flight room,” he spoke in the melodian way and his song echoed loud and clear in Gwen’s mind.

They didn’t need to yet they pressed the backs of their heads together so hard it hurt. The melody of their vision played lightly over the river then rippling across the beach to the sea, it grew as somber as the footsteps of their captors walked away leaving them tied to the tree. The song of the spheres swelled to a grand crescendo when Planet Pacific rejoined the song. They could clearly see their assailants walking hurriedly across open pasture toward the colony. The song quietly faded as they watched the delfinian Captain turn to the open hatch with wide eyes while at the same moment reaching for the radio phone.

“Do you think it worked?” Gwen asked.

“Yes, I do,” Eddy replied, as his blindfold slipped from his eyes. “Hey! We rubbed our heads together so hard my blindfold came loose.” He rubbed the back of his head against Gwen’s and hers came loose, too.

“At least we can see now,” she said, working at freeing her hands, with no success.

The first thing the delfinian Captain did was slip on his translation collar so he could speak with humans. He called the human colony next. “Greetings. This is Captain Pearl of the delfinian ship moored in the harbor,” he began speaking rapidly the instant a human answered his call. “I believe there are three humans approaching you from the North East, they should be considered extremely dangerous to your settlement. I will stay on the radio until you confirm that you have seen them. Those individuals must be detained and questioned immediately.”

He then switched off the translator and turned on the internal ship communication system. “This is your Captain speaking. I want a crew of explorers to swim north, into the river and look for two humans on a small bluff. I believe they are tied to a tree near the water’s edge. Do it now and do it fast. Thank you.”

Delfinian explorers were already diving into the water by the time the captain switched his translator on and the radio came back to life. “We have three people in sight exactly where you described. What have they done?” A human voice asked.

“Attempted sabotage of my mission and kidnapping. Please detain them for questioning. They may have knowledge of others working with them. Send a vehicle to the river mouth to pick up your personnel there. Please hurry.”

Eight Delfinian scouts were swimming north at full speed, which is almost four times as fast as a human can run. The scouts paused to regroup at the river mouth and then lunged into the shallower water outlet using something like the butterfly stroke. Their hands hit the sandy bottom and lifted head and shoulders up and forward, powerful tails propelled them into long airborne leaps that soon brought them past the beach dune and into the deeper estuary.

When the Scouts rounded the river bend they saw Gwen and Eddy tied to the tree a short distance beyond where the beach ended. They stopped there momentarily and then dove underwater. Swimming full speed, they stayed underwater until they reached the meadow bank under the tree.

Gwen and Eddy were completely surprised when eight delfinians leaped out of the water and then somersaulted across the grass. Three landed on either side of the tree and laid prone with shoulder held weapons directed toward any danger from the land. Two others were suddenly sitting next to them just like a human sits on the side of curled up legs. The delfinians began undoing the straps. Gwen and Eddy were freed as quickly as they had been bound.

The two Delfinians who untied them then did a backward somersault and splashed into the water, one of them winked before disappearing over the edge. A group of three retreated to the water in the same manner as soon as the first two in the water had their weapons ready. They were quickly joined by the last group of three, who swam a little way downriver toward the beach before taking a protective position with their rifle-like weapons ready.

Gwen and Eddy jumped to their feet and stretched their legs. Running stiffly toward the beach, where they clambered down the meadow bank to dry sand at water level. Delfinians escorted them to the river mouth with weapons ready all the way. Nothing disturbed the silence until they rounded the hill and heard the island nesting birds. At that moment, a small car from the settlement floated around the corner from the ocean beach. It stopped and hovered beside them.

The friendly human driver smiled in greeting. “Hi. I’m Glafco. Need a ride?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Gwen replied and stepped into the little four seater, which adjusted to her added weight with barely noticeable movement.

“How about you, Bub?” The driver asked with a smile.

“Thanks. Drop me off at the ship, please,” Eddy answered, sliding into the rear seat and pointing to the delfinian ship.

“I’ll run you back to the ship later,” the driver replied as he started the car along the beach. Right now we need you both to identify the three suspects we picked up trying to slip back into town. They claim they went on a picnic but two of them were carrying weapons.”

Gwen turned in her seat, waved as they passed the delfinian scouts and then shot a glance to Eddy. “It actually did work. The Captain heard the complete melodian song, even the planet’s song telling where those power mad traitors were.”

Glafco gave her a brief questioning look and Eddy nodded in agreement as they sped past the moored ship and turned toward the settlement. He glanced to see the sun, it was mid afternoon. His casual glance turned to a scowl. Gwen turned and followed the direction of his eyes, she gasped involuntarily — Doom Cloud was close enough to be visible with the naked eye. Though difficult to see clearly, a dark sphere about one third the size of the sun could be seen close to the horizon toward the south. Its darkness tricked the eyes so that it faded in and out of vision, still, there it was before their own eyes. Leaning forward Eddy put one hand on the driver’s shoulder and pointed to Doom Cloud with the other, “I have to be at the Delfinian ship before sundown.”

“I know, the Admiral already told us,” the driver answered as he glanced toward Doom Cloud and then turned toward a group of people gathered in a meadow just outside the settlement.

It took only a few minutes to reach the ring of about twenty people who surrounded the suspects. All three prisoners had their arms tied behind them, they watched Eddy and Gwen approach with sullen expressions. “Are these the people who tied you to the tree?” asked the nearest guard.

Gwen was sure they were the guilty ones even though she hadn’t actually seen them. Knowing she would eventually hear their voices and recognize them that way she decided what to say quickly. “It happened fast and we were blindfolded,” she said. “Even so, there were three of them, one was a woman and these three were walking from us toward you. I’m satisfied you have caught the right people.”

The prisoners looked at her and said nothing. “They are refusing to speak to anyone without a lawyer, the same guard said. Eddy’s blood boiled at the thought that their silence might allow others to sabotage battle preparations. “These creeps have made some kind of deal with whatever controls Doom Cloud. They plan to rule over planet Pacifica after we are dead. I’m sure there are others attempting to slow defense preparations.”

A murmur of disgust swept around the encircled prisoners.

“I have an idea,” Eddy said. “I worked in the gardens and on the farms and I remember there are three climate controlled hatching sheds with baby monitor microphones and speakers. Lock these prisoners up separately in the sheds. If one of them decides to help before the battle, they can start talking and naming names. Maybe one of them will decide they have a better chance to live if we win. In the meantime, we can all get back to work.”

“That sounds good to me,” one of the guards said. “I have plenty more to do than hang around here with a gun in my hand instead of tools.”

“Do we all agree with this idea?” Gwen asked.

As soon as everyone expressed agreement, the prisoners were marched to the hatching sheds.

“I’ll go prepare a general announcement about what has happened and tell everyone to be on the alert for anything suspicious,” Gwen said. Then she turned to Eddy and gave him a quick hug. “If I don’t see you again, good luck on Earth. Tears welled up in her eyes as she turned and walked away before anyone but Eddy saw them. Gwen walked a few steps but the angrer and frustration of being captured and tied to a tree by saboteurs weighed heavier with each step. She turned back. Her voice choked and tears streamed down her face. She was both angry and frightened about dying in Doom Cloud’s cold. She didn’t want anyone to die, the planet least of all.

Raising her fist she looked into Eddy’s eyes. “Blast that stinking Doom Cloud, Young Warrior! She cried. And if we lose here, go help nation Pacifica stop the United States from bringing poison clouds of pollution to destroy this planet like it did mother Earth.”

Eddy felt his own breath catch in his chest. He silently raised his fist to honor Gwen’s request. Twenty more fists raised around him, all were directed at Doom Cloud. Their voices raised in a shout that gradually turned to Star Song’s melody echoing in each and every mind; “Amen.” Their song rang across the cosmos, a gentle melody with the power of rolling cosmic thunder.

Gwen’s eyes widened. She licked away the tears that had run down her cheeks and tasted her Earthly evolution in their salt. She felt strength run up her back as she wiped anger and fear from her face with her sleeve. A pleased smile replaced doubt with determination. Gwen waved, turned and strode confidently to her work helping to prepare pioneer town for attack.

continue to Aboard ship, Chapter 21