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Chapter Six: Problem Children and Consulates
"It is, without a doubt, the greatest pleasure to discover another being who has the sensitivity to become a Scan."
— Xenor / Sensor-Tech / HAS Adjudicator
Briefing: First Hamathi Visit to ICZ HQ
General Jackson speaking.
"Okay, people, the Hamathi will be here in seven days.
"I remind you, if you have any issues with being near Hamathi, you will remain in quarters until they have left. Better that than an incident occurs. However, if you do have such issues, it would be best if we transferred you to another section where you will have either less or no contact with the Hamathi.
"This is NOT
a mark against you. We are adopting some of the Hamathi principles for this project. Admitting that you have an issue is actually a bonus, because you are showing maturity to recognize you have the problem, and we can try to work through it with you. As the President said, this is our first contact, don't screw it up.
"Phase one, arrival via helicopter. Why helicopter? They're all curious as hell since only a few of them have ever ridden in one.
"We will be bringing them into the track facility since the primary reason for this is figuring out how fast they can run for the proposed safari. The track meet will continue for at least a day, probably longer, as we explain the various formats and have them run through them.
"Phase two, running concurrently with Phase one: Selected individuals will be withdrawn for discussions with specific members of our first contact team. This includes their Doctor, Bo'sun Gryul, Pilot, and their scan-tech. So far, "Pilot" is apparently both his position and his name. We're not sure why that is.
"Similarly, their scan-tech is known as "Scan", or "Scans". There have been hints that he is not Hamathi, and that has been confirmed. The Hamathi have already requested what amounts to a TEMPEST shielded blackout room, with so little light that anyone wishing to speak with him will have to wear NVG to have any chance of seeing anything. The Hamathi have okayed this, as long as we disable or remove all the illumination built into the NVG.
"Phase three, …"
Phase One: Track Meet
"Tyler? How'd you get back in? Word was that you were oh yew tee out. Uh, not that I'm not happy to see you, it's just a surprise. Connecting with you turned into the best thing that ever happened to me. So far."
"Heh… Apparently, because I risked my neck to save Pilot, I've got some sort of social bonus. Orites suggested that I contact their Bo'sun regarding another matter. Me, because I've got this bonus, and their Bo'sun because he's the most level headed of the bunch."
"Be careful, Tyler. There's some on the FCT that still have their knives out for you."
"Believe me, the General was very … informative on that issue. You've been doing the video for this? How's it going?"
"Pretty well, they're damn fast, the ones who like the short distances come in about a second faster than Usain Bolt, on average. There's a few that would blow past him like he was standing still, but they spend a lot of time huffing and puffing after that before they're good to go again.
The long-distance runners don't have as much advantage, but they're doing respectable Olympic times. The kicker is that these guys haven't been training
for the Olympics, so who knows what they could really do. There's a few, like Gryul, who can't run worth a damn, but look like they could lift a horse.
Those kids who thought they looked like Elves were more right than they knew. The ones who love sprinting are the ones who look like High Elves, tall slender, and fast. The ones who like longer distances, or even lifting, look more like Wood Elves. Not so tall, and darker of skin.
Tell me, Tyler? How'd we learn what these guys looked like?"
"Gil, I have no idea. It does make you think, though…"
"Yeah, who you here for?"
"I'm looking for their Doctor. Not only to thank him for doing such a good job on me, but our Doctor wants to compare notes. Good thing they got their translator working better."
"Yeah… real good. Tyler? Did you ever find out what triggered the whole gunfight in the cargo bay?"
"No, I don't think I did. I was rather out of it right then, and no one was interested in telling me anything else. I only heard about the gunfight afterward from Jones."
"It was that blasted translator. First, it translated something that Pilot said into "station blood removal". Then, when Jones said that per your orders, we weren't to take any offensive action, what they
got was "order attack offensive". Damn thing nearly got all of us killed."
"Hooo boy… I wonder what other
landmines are waiting for us! I haven't had the chance to learn their
language, so I'm not going to know when something comes across garbled."
"Best bet? See that bright young lady over there? Her name is Joanne Foxfire. She's probably the best at recognizing when you've stepped on a landmine, but before it goes off completely."
"Thanks, Gil! You really enjoying it here?"
"What's not to enjoy? My footage frequently goes out on the nightly news. I'm getting a rep for outstanding work. I'm getting a regular paycheck, and my room and board are covered outside of my paycheck. If there's anything wrong, it's that I've got no real chance of spending any of that money I'm earning. You can't get Amazon through the OCZ, much less into the ICZ. It's GFE or nothing."
"That doesn't look like your usual camera, but you aren't bitching; it must be good enough for you."
"Yeah, it is. It's heavier, though. I'm taking that trade-off because of the bennies that came with it. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to talk about them beyond that."
"Yeah… I just hope I get to finally talk with their scan-tech, that's what I'm really missing out on."
"Really? Oh! Right, you were radar, so you're hot to learn all their new stuff. Oops! Another race is getting started, talk with you later!"
"Later, Gil!" Lost in his camera already. I might as well go introduce myself to Ms. Foxfire. Gil isn't going to be able to help me find the Doctor, and I'll need her for the discussion with Gryul.
"Hello? Ms. Foxfire?"
"I'm Chief Tyler, may I have a few minutes of your time?"
"Certainly! I'm delighted to make your acquaintance. The actual "first contact" team member to actually live up to the name."
Tyler & Pilot
Even before I find their Doctor, I find Pilot.
"TAYLOR!" Pounce! "How have you been? How goes the training? When can you come back to stay?"
"Woah! Easy there, Pilot! One question at a time, please?" With a big smile on my face and a laugh in my voice. "I've been fine. I'm sorry I could not thank you for pulling me into shelter and that I couldn't thank your Doctor for saving my life. I'd dearly love to work with your scans to learn more about them. But… I have to finish training, which is going well, and by then, who knows where the military will need my training? Which also answers when I can come back to stay… I don't know.
Now, how about you! How have you been? Are you training in anything? Do you think you will be able to come see me?"
"I am doing well enough, although the conditions here are becoming irksome. The milrats get worse every day, and there are issues with providing us with the food we would most prefer. Then there's the matter of a decent place to run! We grow fat, sloppy, and slow. Gryul is training me to be a better leader, it is also going well, but not as fast as I might like. Gryul tells me that I am doing well, but I am not so sure. Coming to see you? I would be pleased, but I think it will not happen. There are reasons it would not be good right now."
"Help me find your Doctor, and get him over to our medical facility. Our Doctor is eager to start comparing notes and treatments. Then we can settle in for a good long chat while they do their stuff."
"Let's go then! HEY DOC! OVER HERE!
Tyler's View: Doctor's Conference
Eventually, I did get their Doctor to go with me to see ours, taking the time to thank him for saving my life. He was delighted that I remembered and took the time to thank him for his efforts.
While Pilot and I chatted in the background, we were both watching the two doctors trading notes. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Our opinions on doctors are pretty similar. Thanks for being there, but I hope I never need you.
The same values and techniques seem to hold. Right off, they got to quizzing each other on what I finally figured out was the "Hippocratic Oath". Lots of agreement right there and everything smoothed out nicely.
Our Doctor is still drooling over their tools and equipment.
Their Doctor is drooling over all the data we have about our species.
In between the drooling, they're still managing to trade emergency procedures in the absence of the correct equipment, and their Doctor got an introduction to the manuals we use to train our medics, as well as the materials we use. He really seemed to like the 'Xstat' idea, which injects a bunch of sponges into a wound to stop bleeding. Apparently, their technique, while more flexible and precise, is also way more expensive.
I had no idea they'd sunk that kind of money into me. It makes me feel a bit guilty.
Okay, take their Doctor back over to the track meet, along with Pilot. Time for that conversation with Gryul. I've made arrangements to have Ms. Foxfire included.
Tyler & Gryul
"Hello, Gryul. I'm Chief Tyler, and this is Ms. Foxfire."
"Ah! Tyler! Orites told me you would be here soon, and that you had questions regarding our treatment of the dead."
If you can imagine a muscular Wood Elf who still looks good, you've probably got him.
"So I was informed, and Gilford suggested that I have Ms. Foxfire along, just in case there were any … issues with translation. Some things are cultural that the translator just doesn't get.
"I was also warned that there are significant differences between Hamathi and Human practices. Differences that pushed him into fight-or-flight. It is good that you trained him so well, he was able to withstand that stress."
"Fight or flight … Ah, the body prepares, and thought becomes difficult. Was it severe?"
"From my view, he was very close to attacking to kill. Ms. Foxfire froze in place, which may be the reason that he was able to resist. At the time, he was in a place where flight was not possible, and fight was not acceptable."
"And it was about death rites. I think I see where this is going. There are very few things that would provoke such a reaction, and it is good that you lead up to it so carefully. I think it would be good to not
speak of this with anyone else. They are all young, even Pilot, and would have difficulty in restraining themselves. We will need to find a place where we can discuss this, and they will not be able to overhear.
"If you have a record of Orites' discussion with Ms. Foxfire, I should see that as well. Orites may have earned a citation for proper behavior under stress. Such lead to rapid promotion."
Ms. Foxfire picks up the conversation. "Hello Gryul, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. There is a place nearby where we can safely discuss this matter. My encounter with Orites was recorded and is available there.
"All through his time with us, he has been a delight to work with. Understanding, caring, and willing to learn anything. While I was momentarily frightened, he did not injure me in the slightest. I value his friendship and that he trusts me to bring up sensitive topics."
"He has said much the same of you. You are both to be commended for your behavior, certain others have not behaved as they ought."
"Gryul? If there are problems with our people, General Jackson should be told."
"There have been, I would classify them as (untranslatable), but they are far too old for that."
"Tyler? Can you arrange for the General to join us?"
"If he's available, but I'm still just a Chief. Yet, he's made it pretty clear that he follows the President's lead "don't screw it up", so if someone's causing trouble, he isn't going to be happy. Let's get over to the FCT building — I've reserved Conference Room #3 — and I'll put in a call for him. This might be something he doesn't want spread around until he's ready."
"Ms. Foxfire? Gryul? Please go on ahead, I'll catch up."
"Sergeant? Would you be so kind as to call General Jackson and inform him that Bo'sun Gryul has certain issues that he wishes to bring up with the General?"
"Yes, Chief Tyler. No guarantees that he'll be able to come, but either way, I'll let you know what he says. Which room will you be in?"
"Conference Room #3."
"Thanks, Chief, I'll get right on it."
Conference Room #3
"Yes, Ms. Foxfire?"
"By the sound of it, someone is already using this conference room."
"I see, and hear. Such language! I did sign it out this morning, and no one else should be in there. It might be an impromptu meeting, let me see if they're done." knock knock
"Hello folks, we have this conference room reserved at this time; are you going to be much longer?"
"And just who
to reserve our
"I'm Chief Tyler, who was instructed to reserve this space for a sensitive discussion with Bo'sun Gryul. And you are?"
"Doctor Thistlewaite and you are no longer on the FCT, so you have no right to reserve any of our spaces for any reason."
"Doctor, I strongly suggest that you not carry on in that line. The General has little tolerance…"
has let you people run roughshod over every policy that governs this place; I'm not going to put up with it any longer! Now get out!" AHEM!
"Doctor Thistlewaite, would you care to repeat that to my face? … No? … Then you
may vacate this room immediately
since it was not signed out to your group in the first place. That is the only
policy that matters, and you
are in violation of it."
As the three Doctors file out, with Thistlewaite in the lead, Doctor Reyes catches the General's eyes, looks at Thistlewaite's back, and makes a sign with his free hand. Foxfire catches the sign and grabs the General's arm before he can ask anything. When he looks at her, she shakes her head no, very slightly. His eyes narrow, and he nods to Reyes.
"Now, since the conference room is available, let's get to it."
"Ms. Foxfire? Would you please explain what just happened?" Gryul and I are unaware of the exchange between them and Reyes, but Foxfire explains.
"Dr. Reyes made the sign of the horns while looking at Dr. Thistlewaite's back. He did so in the fashion of the malocchio
, an Italian gesture warding off bad luck. In some places, the extended fingers can also signify warding off of a demon or the devil. In this instance, with the knowledge of the coarse language we heard from outside… I'd say that Reyes is telling you that Thistlewaite is a problem and that Reyes doesn't feel he has the authority to stop Thistlewaite."
Gryul looks at the General, "This is one of the reasons I asked you to be here. We have issues with some of the people on the first contact team
. I would have described them as (untranslatable), but now I'd have to call them (untranslatable)."
It takes some exchanges with Foxfire before she and Gryul come to an agreement. "General, the first phrase would appear to be close to spoiled brats
. The second term has the same connotation but includes the concept that these people are far too old to be demonstrating such behavior. It is quite derogatory when applied to someone who supposedly has advanced education. The phrase could be translated as problem children
We dealt with the "problem children" — I kid you not; that's how Gryul put it after Ms. Foxfire worked it through with him. — and the General looked grimly pleased as he left the room.
We did a review of Orites discussions with Ms. Foxfire, and yeah, he did look about ready to pounce and shred. Gryul was impassive. We didn't know how he felt about it until after the review.
"I am most happy with Orites' response. He faced a situation that not one in ten would be able to deal with rationally and did so. Which would certainly have sent him at your throat, Ms. Foxfire had he failed. Was there a guard present?"
"Yes, there was. He drew his weapon when he saw Orites initial reaction, but withheld his fire. I do not think that Orites saw him. I believe the General has already written up a commendation for the guard. Good judgment to prepare, better judgment to withhold."
"Precisely. I will be writing a similar commendation for Orites. He has a bright future in front of him. One so young who can restrain himself like that is a rare treasure."
The subsequent discussion with Gryul was mostly between him and Ms. Foxfire. She had the cultural references to hand, so they could figure out how to adapt the ceremony to both Hamathi and Human. It would be acceptable to the Hamathi, and it would emphasize the similarities with Human culture. That would make it more understandable to those who weren't already poisoned by hate.
There still remained the quantity of wood needed to carry out the cremation, and the various local, state, and federal regulations covering cremation. It's going to happen, though, no matter what anyone else has to say.
Tyler and Scans
When Scans arrived, he was in a totally blacked out metal box. Even then, you could hear labored breathing, and what might have been sounds of pain. I felt for the guy. It didn't seem fair or right. We could have gone to see him on board the ship, but this is what he wanted.
The Hamathi with him hurried everyone along to the building that was prepared for him. No windows, ventilation through angled tubes that prevented light from getting through. Everything with metal mesh tied into the whole structure.
Jones looked at it and whistled, I asked why he commented that it had been shielded to better
than NATO SDIP-27 Level A
standards. That's the sort of shielding you use when the enemy may be as close as one meter and have any kind of equipment they like.
His entry was at the back. The entire box was slid in, then the big door was lowered and bolted into place. They laid heavy rubber gaskets on the outside, sealed them in with duck tape, and slapped a large steel panel over the entire wall. I swear, I heard the guy sigh with relief! Ridiculous with that much metal and shielding in the way.
The human-sized door on the other side had been rebuilt in several ways.
A cylinder entryway that you couldn't have both sides open at the same time because the 'door' was an opening cut in the side of the cylinder. Rotate the cylinder, so the opening is towards the outside. Step inside, rotate the cylinder, so the opening is on the inside, and step through.
That leads to multiple light traps, each of which was tied into the mesh core of the walls, the last one of which had a shielded box that Scans would tell you what you needed to put in. I didn't understand at first why the shield box was at the last
light trap. It would have made more sense, I thought, to put it at the first
Big sign out front of all the things you shouldn't ever bring in, like any light sources at all, and an even longer list of electronics you had to leave outside, like cellphones. With all the shielding, that made a lot of sense.
He seems comfortable and has his own rations, quite different from milrats. It doesn't squeak or squirm; it crunches loudly. Certain members of the FCT were seriously put out because Scans wouldn't talk with them. First with Tyler, then with other specific individuals that he
chose. None of which included the most insistent of FCT members.
When it was my turn, Jones checked me for any of the listed contraband and provide a modified set of NVG.
"Okay, Tyler. You're clear, according to the sign. You'll need these." Jones is holding out a set of night vision goggles, with the illuminators disabled and covered with dense layers of duck tape too. "Ms. Foxfire says there will be plenty of illumination for you."
"Thanks, Jones. God, I hope I don't screw this up."
"Hey, Tyler, you didn't
screw up the last one. You just got caught in the grinder when some stuck up old farts got their shorts knotted over you being the first one to see the Hamathi up close and personal. I wouldn't worry about it too much. The General has got a gleam in his eye, and a shark's grin. Someone is in for a bunch of trouble, and it isn't you."
"Like he said, don't get your hopes up. But me? I think he's pulling for you; hard."
They shake hands, and Tyler enters the dark-lock.
I make my half-blind way, despite the NVG, to the inner light trap and stopped there to announce myself.
"Hello? I'm Tyler. May I enter?"
Scans' voice answers from the other side of the last curtain.
"Please check your person. Anything that emits light must be left in the box to your left as you stand at the curtain. Check carefully, my eyes are extremely sensitive to what you would call visible light, and far into both ends of the spectrum. This includes radio waves. This entire building has been shielded for my comfort, so your devices would not work in any case. Even from here, I can tell you have several emitting radiation. Something at hip level, and something that seems to be attached to your arm."
"Are the night vision goggles going to cause you any difficulty? I will forgo them if they will."
"They have been tested. A pleasing warmth is all." Warmth, from NVG. Better empty out my pockets and strip everything that doesn't absolutely have to come in with me.
The hip item was an electronic car key. I made a note to add that to the sign outside. There's no way you would need them in here. The wrist one was a puzzler until I remembered my watch was a quartz mechanism that had a battery.
"Thank you for being thorough. When you have everything in the box, please close the lid. … Ah, much better. It was almost like staring at the dawn sun on a clear day would be for you. Move slowly as you enter. There is a chair immediately in front of you. There is just enough illumination in this room, in the far-infrared, that your NVG has been modified to work with. I have taken position behind another curtain while you enter. Let me know when you have ensured that the last curtain is fully closed, and you have taken your seat. I will turn off the interior illumination at that time. You will still be able to see me from my body heat." Jeebus! I wonder if I can learn
anything most of his skill seems to be built into his body!
"The curtain appears well sealed. … And I'm finally sitting down."
"Thank you. For your comfort, please understand that I am … in your terms … an herbivore. Also, that my appearance bears a striking resemblance to a figure from your fantasy horror by Lovecraft."
"Indeed, your representations, aside from the imputed size, are quite close."
"I have been duly warned. If you don't mind, I'll start out by staring at the floor, and slowly raise my eyes to see you."
"A wise plan." rustle
"I have moved the inner curtain aside. You are much as I remember, although you look more … confident?"
"I do? So far, I feel like I've been floundering in stupidity."
"It is from mistakes that we learn the most."
"Then, I must be the most learned being in the world." An odd slithery sound, Laughter?
"Aren't we all. Are you at your ease?"
"Yes, it's exciting, but not frightening." I slowly raise my eyes. The image that appears before me is as
horrifying as the illustrations. Which is to say, not at all to anyone who isn't being ridiculous.
"Yes, you do bear a striking resemblance, but not horrifying to me. I think it is only the people who allow their imaginations to run away with them who would have trouble."
"Then, you do not have imagination?"
"I have plenty of imagination, but I control it."
"Then, you have the basic requirement to become a scan-tech."
"Really? I'd thought with your exceptional senses, that I would never become a scan-tech at your level."
"My senses are as often a hindrance as a help. If I do not constantly adjust my instrument's gain, I can be easily blinded. I will admit that you are unlikely to surpass me at the weakest signals, but those are seldom at issue. Star travelers, as a class, seem to be quite loud, even obnoxiously loud."
"Are you actually speaking our language? I'd thought everyone was using the translator."
"The translator can be a danger in itself, as your companions found out. I have had little to do, so I have spent much time absorbing your broadcasts. There is one final piece that I simply do not understand. The constant interruptions with completely unrelated pieces that last no more than moments, and come several at a time."
"Unrelated… oh my. This is going to be interesting to explain."
"Before you begin, please remove the goggles, there is a test I would perform at some point while you explain. You may keep them with you, but please do turn them off before
you remove them."
Tyler has to explain the concept of commercials, which brings in a ton of other ideas, some of which just have to be hand-waved off. If for no other reason than time.
"Can people not go do other things while the commercials are on?"
"Of course, but many will stay and at least peripherally watch the commercials. Others are amused by them or derive some pleasure by ridiculing them. In any case, the mere viewing of the commercial has value to the advertisers. The very best commercials are saved for a sports event called the Super Bowl. It is a national competition that is widely viewed, and the advertisers know they must present their very best to get people to watch them."
A barely perceptible glow appears.
"What is that?"
"My test. And my theory is confirmed. Under the right circumstances, your perception of radiant energy is far better than your fellows. The illumination will continue to rise. Please tell me when you can identify the image."
"Go ahead." It's … not hard … but I'm having trouble processing the image…
"And what do you see?"
"How do you come by that conclusion?"
"I do not know, but that's what it is."
"Most excellent. Your ability to resolve detail is also better. This, combined with your greater sensitivity and imagination, is why you can discern more information from your primitive radar than your fellows. The finest detail that escapes them is easily seen by yourself. I believe humans have a concept called intuition
"Yes, we do."
"I suspect that intuition is prevalent throughout your species, but is stronger in some than in others. Yours is particularly tuned to visual information. We can test for other sensitivities later.
I will speak with your General, please inform him that I am available at his discretion.
Oh yes, suggest to him that he come in what I believe are called "sweats" and that he brings nothing metal with him other than the NVG. That will be easier than divesting himself of all the usual attachments.
I will withdraw behind the inner curtain, and then you may choose to don the NVG, or perform one more test for yourself."
"Find your way out, without using any further illumination. Including picking up everything you left in the box."
"Certainly, and thank you for seeing me."
"Do not thank me. You may yet come to regret being a sensor tech. It is not the easiest task in the fleet. One becomes aware of all the threats and is unable to do anything about them, except point them out to others. Missing one may cost you your life. It will certainly cost your crewmates lives."
"Are you the sole sensor tech on the ship?"
"Ever has it been so."
"Has no one attempted to spread the duty among many?"
"Many times, always with a catastrophic blind spot that isn't noticed until it's too late."
"Scans? Humans have two blind spots, one in each eye." That certainly sends a shock through him. I guess the idea that someone with two blind spots can be so good at sensors is unheard of; something else to keep in mind. First
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