Choosing a New Home
Caitlin walked into the fully occupied gymnasium after a good night’s sleep, making breakfast and seeing her son off to school. Small clusters of delegates from each of the Pioneer ships were gathered in intense discussion everywhere she looked. Larger groups were gathered around computer monitors that displayed the latest information on the three habitable planets located in Galaxy 5. A fourth monitor presented information downloaded from the communication torpedo sent from the survey fleet at Galaxy 6, that monitor was very crowded. The only furniture in the meeting room was a long table set up near one corner of the large gymnasium.
Discussion among so many required a moderator who would remain standing and walk among the delegates selecting the next speaker; the delegates sat on floor mats. Caitlin and her group were to take the place of the distiller by proposing conclusions and looking out for unanswered questions. Caitlin was the speaker. Rose, a solid, clear-thinking early pioneer was her immediate back-up.
Aaron and Shawn were discussing preparations for the meeting. Aaron would be at the table speaking for science groups, Shawn represented the communication center. They were waiting at the table for experts representing economics, construction, resources, and planetary environmental impact studies. Another group of technical experts gathered on floor mats behind the table as back-up. When everyone was ready at the table and the moderator, Skip Shalhoob, was in position, Caitlin banged the gavel for the meeting to begin.
Skip brought everybody up to date. “We are here to decide if one of the habitable planets in this galaxy should become our home. The survey fleet in Galaxy 6 has located additional habitable planets. They also have encountered aliens. A second communication torpedo is under our radio control and will dock within a few hours. A third communication torpedo is being tracked and should reach us in about eight hours. Captain Walker, acting as our temporary ambassador, has expressed logical plans for avoiding conflict. We'll know more soon. Is everybody ready to make the first decision, selecting a planet here in Galaxy 5?”
At least three hundred people representing all the spaceships were in the room and their answer was a unified, “Yes.”
"In that case I'll yield the floor to Aaron Mullen so that he may give a scientific summary and focus our attention.” Skip said.
Aaron stood and began a brief description of the candidate planets that might become their new home in Galaxy 5. He hadn't progressed far when someone shouted, “Louder, we can’t hear you.” Aaron smiled. He was a soft-spoken person and had tried to speak loudly. He started over in what was for him a shout; “The first planet is the youngest, it has good resources and its only disadvantage is a high level of volcanic activity, though there are continental areas with good climate and mostly dormant volcanoes. The other two planets orbit different suns, they are more stable geologically but are inhabited by life forms verging on the last steps before becoming human. This is an exciting area for study and we should be quite careful not to disturb the natural course of evolution.”
The remaining specialists gave brief reports from their own areas of expertise. Skip then strode among the seated delegates. “Who wishes to speak on this choice before us?” He boomed, with a smile. Nobody had to tell Skip Shalhoob to raise his voice. He pointed to a young mother holding her sleeping child; she wondered about the difficulty of moving a second time.
“Stand up!” Skip said. “What's your name?”
She stood up and said, “I am Thiel and this is my daughter Charlene. I believe that if we can find an area isolated from evolving humans we should choose the most hospitable planet, my children's safety is my main concern.”
“Do you wish to say more?” Skip asked.
“No,” she answered. “My other thoughts will probably be addressed. She started to sit down and then stood back up. “If not, may I speak again?”
“Of course,” Skip said as he pointed to the next person. “Stand and tell us what's in your mind,” he said.
“My name is Lars Swandburg. I believe we should follow the wish of Thiel, she has brought up the concern of all parents. I also believe it will be easy enough for us to move a second or even third time, should we find a reason to do so. With regard to Thiel’s point, I believe adults are the more sedentary and children would be able to accommodate another move as long as they are having fun.”
“That's it?” Skip asked. Lars nodded and sat down.
“You're next.” Skip said, pointing with his eyes.
“I am Xiao Qiang. It would be wise for us to tread lightly on the planet we choose. Our ships have enough resources to hold our standard of life secure even if our first home remains something like a base camp for several years.”
Skip turned to the facilitation table. “Which planet do our experts think is the easiest?”
“Wait a minute!” A voice shouted.
Skip turned. “We will give the experts another moment. What's your name? Stand and speak.”
“Malcolm Williams. In addition to ease, I believe the natural beauty of our surroundings is important to all of us, children included.”
Malcolm's comment brought an answering murmur of approval.
Skip looked over the delegates and pointed to one of his own choosing. “I think we should hear from you before our facilitation table,” he said. “Speak to us.”
“I am Innocente Castro, Admiral of the combined Battle Fleet. It will be important to consider our land-based defenses. Even if our acting ambassador, Captain Walker, is successful with whatever the survey fleet is facing, we must remember that hostility will eventually confront us from Earth. We should select a planet with a moon to provide optimum opportunity for our Joy force generators as well as a defense platform with low gravity. Thiel mentioned the safety of our children and I agree with her completely. Even so, the greatest threat to them will always be the dark forces of greed that lurk within the United States of Earth and the other nations controlled by pirate corporatists. We have what the power-hungry want and they will not rest until they have it.” He looked at Skip with a smile which slowly spread to a grin. “That's it,” he said, and sat down.
Skip nodded to the facilitation table. “Your turn.”
Caitlin stood. “We feel no need to comment,” she said, “a decision seems close.”
Skip turned back to the delegates, “Now there's what I call sensitive leadership,” he said, pointing. “Stand and speak.”
“Israel Harding. First, I propose that we select the planet we are orbiting; it is a water planet with a moon and thus fits well with the Admiral’s defense plans. Second, I propose we name it planet Pacifica in honor of nation Pacifica, which was the original home of many of us and steadfastly remained the actual support center for almost everyone on Luna, right up to the moment we left.”
A loud cheer erupted. “Planet Pacifica.”
Caitlin was amazed. The thought had come from thin air, she had not heard this sentiment before. She felt a catch in her breath and knew she agreed. A sudden twist in her stomach told her she was homesick. When there was enough quiet for her gavel to be heard, she banged it once. Everyone at the table was standing. The entire gymnasium was standing. Caitlin raised her gavel and cried out as she swung it downward, “Do we have a decision?”
“Planet Pacifica,” thundered three hundred voices. Her gavel was not heard. “Decision made. Meeting breaks for lunch.”
Caitlin turned to Shawn and the others, “I don't know about you but I'm famished,” she said. “Shall we all go to lunch together?”
Aaron nodded yes and Caitlin saw that his eyes were sparkling. “Are you homesick, too?” She asked wiping a tear from her cheek.
He smiled and answered with a line from a song, “I left my heart in San Francisco.”
He turned to Yang Lin, the economist, “You are quieter than usual, Yang, where were you raised?”
“I'm from the Vancouver area. Yes, this has touched me, too. I hadn't realized how much I missed home. We worked so hard on Luna and were so pleased to call ourselves Lunarians that I had little time to think about Pacifica. I'm suddenly both homesick and proud.”
“Me too,” said Alberto. “Here I am, one of humanity’s first space pioneers and I was raised in a small village outside Mazatlán. My parents were migrant farmworkers and I studied environmental sciences in the central valleys of Oregon and California. Sonora and Sinaloa followed Baja California and became part of Pacifica to protect the grey whales. That was when my great grandparents were young. Even so, the story is still fresh in my family. I am proud our new planet has been named Pacifica, I am confident and excited about our future.” “Walker and I were surfers until our parents moved to Luna,” Shawn interjected. “Our youngest brother, Kevin, is back on Earth completing his graduate studies in political economics and social ecology at the University of California right now. Our sister, Grace is studying marine biology at a different campus of the same school. It irks me that nation Pacifica is so distracted and burdened by the tensions in the United States of Earth and the other plundering nations it allies with. Who knows? ¿Qién sabe? Maybe we will find ourselves going back to help nation Pacifica and the Grey Whale Coast someday.”
Caitlin listened to the voices around her as they walked the long corridor to the cafeteria. “I have a feeling this will come up when the meeting resumes after lunch.”
“Lots of people are saying we should send word back to Earth.” Rose said.
“I'm sure most everyone will want to send their communication to the spaceport at nation Pacific’s capitol, Los Alamos.” Aaron mentioned quietly.
They turned into the cafeteria and found a table. “Let's eat,” they said in unison.
continue to Chapter 4