Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Chapter 13. Of Camp Two, and the Tuglay

“We are,” said Dede, “near the east side of a giant crater in the ground. It is roughly circular, and about two kilometres across. It is hundreds of metres to the bottom. I couldn’t see anything down there.

“To the south side, there is a mechanism, which looks like an elevator down into the crater. To the west, there is a house, looking a little like ours, but much smaller. And beside it, a small pavilion. It is very hot there. And I saw a sleek, black ’mobile parked next to the house.

“To the north,” Dede continued, “I found nothing but rocks and sand.

“I come out of Indonesia,” said Dede finally, “and I find hot weather comfortable. But here on Perinent, it is hotter – and drier – than I am used to. I like it already.”

“Good work, Dede,” I said. Then, “Gabriel, what can you tell us about Perinent and about our camp?”

“It is now early summer in this latitude,” said Gabriel. “This is dry season here. It will get hotter. Some days it will reach up to forty or even forty-five of your Celsius degrees. But then, there will be the Time of Storms, and afterwards it will be cooler. The Perinent year is about three-quarters the length of the year on Earth.

“As to Dede’s report, the crater he describes is the Punishment Pit. There we will place all those you Pull here for retributive justice. There are four beings called Cherubim, who rule the Pit. They have four legs. And they are blue. Do not touch them! – you will get a bad electric shock.

“And the house on the west side is Harv’I’s. He is the local project manager. Neil, you will need to spend much time with him.”

It was my turn to lead. “I asked some of you,” I said, “to report on the facilities you have for doing the jobs you volunteered for. Ray, Jenna and Marie, this dinner proves that both your cooking skills, and the kitchen facilities the Seraphim have provided us, are excellent. But is there anything more you would like, to make your job easier?”

Jenna said, “Every implement we managed to use in the kitchen worked well. The Aga Khan is superb. But some of the machines, we can’t work out how to use them. And others, we can’t even work out what they are for. We presume they are made by the Seraphim, like the Aga. Gabriel, can you explain these machines to us?”

“I, no,” said Gabriel. “Michael is better than I am at cooking. But the answers you seek can be found in the Pedia. I will help you find them tomorrow.”

“Ben?” I asked.

“I transferred a good stock of wine to the bar in this room,” said Ben. “I found the cool-room underneath, but I couldn’t work out how to turn the cooling on. That is why all the wine we have tonight” – looking around at the bottles on the table, some fuller, some emptier – “is red.”

“Another for the Pedia?” I asked Gabriel. “No, I know how to turn the cooler on,” he said. “I will show Ben right after dinner.”

Shami reported that she had found a good stock of robes in various sizes, as well as plenty of bed-linen and underwear, and a good variety of socks and shoes. Most of the robes were white, but about one in seven were of different colours. “Sunday best?” asked Ben, and everyone laughed, except Gabriel, who said, “Yes, we Seraphim wear different robes on special days. We thought it good to try to replicate this custom here.”

Shami reported that she had started a catalogue of what she had. “I think I am about half way through,” she said. “And I haven’t tried the laundry machine – because there are no dirties yet!”

“I think Shami is giving us a hint,” I said. “Tomorrow morning, let each of us visit the robe room and pick a week’s worth of wear. Then let’s leave our dirties with Shami, so she can try out George Washing-tun.”

* * *

Next morning, Michael returned with the Seraphimobile. And in it, the two Tuglay teachers.

Now the Tuglay looked like nothing so much as a pair of small, brown Christmas trees. Each was, more or less securely, attached to a moving platform, a bit like a silver skateboard. And the platforms moved fast.

The Tuglay had translators more sophisticated than ours. Not only did they convert our English into the Tuglay language, which they spoke very fast, and which sounded like a mixture of soft susurrations and clicks. But they also translated the Tuglay language into English, meaning that we could talk with them without needing our own translators.

The Tuglay introduced themselves, mellifluously and limerixiously.

“For we are the teaching Tuglay,
We never accept any lie,
And we’ll push you to reach
The potential of each,
And then, you’ll be ready to fly.”

We very soon noticed that one of the Tuglay preferred to sit slightly on the left side of the platform, and the other slightly on the right. We named them Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee respectively; I think it was Marie who created this appellation.

* * *

While we ate breakfast, the Tuglay went to their room to rest. After breakfast, I called a meeting, at which Michael said, “Today, if you will Neil, we will begin the Team’s education in Pulling and Pushing. The Tuglay are teachers; but they do not themselves have these particular skills. It is Gabriel who has them already. So Gabriel will show you how, then the Tuglay will help you acquire the skills.”

“That’s fine,” I said, “but what of me? Don’t I need to meet Harv’I, and the Cherubim, as soon as possible?”

“Yes,” said Michael. “You will have to start learning Pulling and Pushing a day behind everyone else. I will take you today to visit the Cherubim, and for your first talk with Harv’I.”

“And what of the promises which Gabriel has made to help Ray, and Jenna, and Marie, and Ben, understand their equipment? I judge that this is more important than beginning with the Pulling and Pushing. First build the foundation, then add the new skills,” I said.

It was my first serious decision as Team Leader, and Michael respected it. “OK, Gabriel will spend the morning helping the Team, then we will begin the tuition in the afternoon. I see now that it is better so, for the Tuglay will have more time to recover from their journey.”

“Good,” I said.

“Another thing,” said Gabriel. “Now that there are no other claims on the ’mobile, we would like to institute a daily ride for those who want it. Michael and I will share the piloting. We will do our best to make it fun for the passengers. I suggest that we fix 17 hours of the 22 as the time. If not all of you who want to can go at that exact time, we will offer a second opportunity a little later.”

Two hours before dinner sounded like a good time to finish work for the day. “Done,” I said.

“To today,” I said. “All of us need, first, to go to Shami to get robes for the next week or so. Then, to deliver to her the ones we are wearing now. Then, Michael and I will visit the Cherubim and Harv’I of the Elo’I. Gabriel will help the food and drink team with their questions in the morning. After lunch, the Pulling and Pushing tuition will begin. Ray, Jenna, Marie, Ben, Shami, you must each make your own decision as to whether you attend, or continue with your other duties. Any questions?”

Everyone was so astonished by my forcefulness, that there were no questions.

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