Monday, 2 December 2013

Chapter 12. Of Our First Day on Perinent

Having arrived in the early Perinent morning, we soon got used to our new accommodation. The rooms were as large as those on the ship, but the furniture was more human in scale. The beds were also more comfortable, even luxurious. And the air-conditioning was perfect. We’re going to be here a while, I thought. Two Earth years, Michael had said when he picked me up.

The geography of the hotel was thus. There was a long north-south corridor, with rooms on either side. Lily and I chose the northernmost room on the west side – it was number 1. There were 64 human rooms in all. To the south of these, there were rooms for the Seraphim and for the Tuglay. (The Tuglay were the teacher species, who were going to help us learn Pulling and Pushing, and to teach those we Pulled here for leadership training.)

On the west side, the right as you went towards the dining- and meeting-room at the south end, there were a Pedia access room and a large, plushly furnished common room. On the other side, there were cloakrooms, a laundry room and a large kitchen. There were store-rooms below ground too. The main doors were half way along, on both sides. The Seraphimobile was parked twenty metres or so outside the east door.

* * *

We were no longer in a full service hotel, so basic tasks – like cooking and laundry – were now for us to organize ourselves. So, as team leader, I called a meeting after we had enjoyed a “Fortnum and Mason” picnic breakfast.

“First,” I said “to food. What supplies do we have?”

“We have a good stock of Seraphim food,” said Michael. “But, once you learn to Pull, you can bring more and fresher food from the Seraphim home planet, or, if you prefer, from Earth.”

“How will we pay for supplies we Pull from Earth?” I asked.

Michael smiled, and Gabriel said, “Neil, you always ask the difficult question before time. But you will work out an answer for that. Right now, you should ask the simple, obvious question.”

“Yeah,” I said. “What cooking facilities do we have?”

“As good as anything on Earth,” replied Michael. “We have a fully equipped kitchen, with an oven of Seraphim manufacture. You know that we like to take brand names from Earth, so the makers call their brand Aga. But this oven is a chieftain, even among Agas.” He smirked. “So, we call it the Aga Khan.”

We all laughed. “So,” I asked, “who wants to do the cooking? Who Khan rule the Aga?”

I got no laughs, but three hands raised; Ray, Jenna and Marie. “Your credentials, please,” I said.

It turned out that Ray was a professional chef, and as Jenna was his wife and assistant, it wasn’t difficult to appoint them both. And, as Marie had done some years of restaurant cooking – and at an up-market French restaurant, too – we were all happy to let her be their stand-in.

“Now, to cleaning,” I said. “That is not necessary for you to do,” said Michael. “The robots that maintain this hotel will keep it clean. Mostly, you will not see them – they are too small. The largest and most active look like doorstops. Keep out of their way, and they will do their job.

“However,” he added, “we do have a few brushes and dustpans too, for emergencies.”

“And laundry?” I asked. “What facilities do we have for that?”

Michael replied, “We have robes enough for more than seven days for at least eighty humans. And we have an excellent laundry machine. Also of Seraphim manufacture. We call it George. Do you know why?”

“Because it’s a washing-tun,” I replied. A few titters from the Team, then, “Who will be Robemistress? Or Robemeister?” I asked. Shami eventually put up her hand for office. She was accepted nem con.

“Right,” I said. “Are there any other tasks we need to allocate before we get into the project?”

A slight pause, then “I’ll be the barman,” said Ben.

Laughter, then I said to Michael, “The supplies we have already, of course, include wine? And beer?”

“Yes, plenty of wine, both red and white,” said Michael. “But no beer. If you want beer, you will have to Pull it from Earth.”

Ben’s offer, too, was accepted without demur. “Any more?” I asked.

“I would like to be recorder,” said John. “I want to make a film record of the project. It may help when shown to people on Earth.”

“And it may help future projects with other species, too,” I added.

“I’ll be cameraman,” said Galina. “I have some experience.”

“You will first need to Pull a suitable camera from Earth. There are none here,” said Michael.

“So, what else do we have?” I asked. “We have Pedia access, I presume?”

“Yes,” said Michael. “But the database is more than two Earth months old. It came in the same cargo ship which brought the human-size furniture.”

“What communication facilities do we have outside Perinent?”

“When you have learned to Pull and Push, you will have direct communication with Earth. We can also Pull things from the Seraphim home planet, at need. For other planets, it is possible, but it takes time to set up. It will have to be justified on each occasion.”

After much more from all of us, Michael said, “I must take the ’mobile this afternoon to pick up the couple of Tuglay. Gabriel will remain, and I shall be back early tomorrow morning. Also this afternoon, Harv’I of the Elo’I, project manager, will arrive in his own ship. It may be quite noisy.”

Then, “Neil,” Michael said to me in front of all the Team, “this is the moment, at which the authority over the Team becomes truly yours. Gabriel and I are here to help, but the decisions are yours.”

I suddenly felt tired. Ship-lagged, perhaps. “Ray, Jenna, Marie,” I said, “please assess our kitchen and food resources, and prepare lunch for those who want it, and dinner for all of us. Ben, please do the same for our alcohol stores, and arrange a suitable celebration for our first evening here. Shami, please report on the clothing situation.

“Let’s all meet for dinner at 19 hours of the 22.” (I was glad that I had instituted the Perinent clock while we were on the ship. It saved a lot of potential disruption.) “Until then, let those, who have the energy, explore our new surroundings.” Yawn. “Don’t go too far.”

I was so tired, that I slept all afternoon, and didn’t even hear Harv’I’s landing a few kilometres away. But others were not so idle. Ray, Jenna, Marie and Ben all did their immediate tasks to perfection. And Dede came back with a report on the geography of our camp. Our first dinner on Perinent was festive.

No comments: