Monday, 7 April 2014

Chapter 27. Many Follow-ups

The first repercussion of our meeting was immediate and obvious. Michael, whose turn it was to pilot the daily ride, pleaded that he had too much work to do, and turned the duty over to Gabriel.

The second repercussion was almost as obvious. Gabriel, too, was weary after his day’s efforts. It was the gentlest ride yet.

Next morning, six of us met again. Harv’I, having expressed satisfaction with the outcome of Monday’s meeting, elected not to take part. Not needing the communications equipment in room 13, we therefore decided to meet in the common room.

The common room had two- and four-seat sofas for about 30 people. (32, actually – Galactics usually do things in powers of 2.) So far, we had only used it as a last, pleasant resort between dinner and bed, and as somewhere to relax on Sundays. But it would come into its own once the trainees were with us. Being the largest room in the building after the dining room, it would also have to double as a classroom.

Michael, Gabriel and I sat. Bart flowed off his climbing-frame and on to a four-seat sofa. The Tuglay chose to stay on their skateboards.

I began with Michael. “How are your notes of yesterday’s meeting?” I asked. “I have a lot of material,” Michael replied. “I am going to have to cut it all down to a summary.”

“If you need any help,” said Bart, “I have done the task before. Also, I think I know what Balzo will expect.” “Let the three of us meet afterwards to help Michael put his notes in order,” I said.

Then to Michael, “Have you entered Bart’s two lists into the Pedia yet?” “Yes,” he said, “I did that last evening. That was why I let Gabriel pilot.”

“Good. Are you happy to continue as recorder, for this meeting also?” Michael nodded.

Next, “Let us review what resources we will need during the project. First, the Punishment Pit. I understand the human-scale furnishings for the Pit should arrive soon?” “Yes,” said Michael, “a week today a cargo pod is scheduled to arrive with them. There will be Garut’nim to move everything into position and to build the pallets.”

“I would like to ask for volunteers from the Team to supervise this work,” I said. “Let’s discuss that at a meeting of all of us with the full Team. I’d like to be ready for such a meeting by tomorrow morning. We can also discuss then how we review and extend Bart’s lists of those to be Pulled for punishment and for training. And how we set up the monitoring, and who does what.” Everyone seemed happy with this.

“Are there any other resources we will need?” I asked. “For example, on P-Day – as I am calling it – I assume we will Pull those for punishment into this building, then we will need some way of getting them down to the Pit while they are still unconscious.”

“I would not advise you to try to Pull from the Pit,” said Gabriel. “The force fields down there are confused. So yes, we must Pull them into this building. I think we already have some trolleys which could be used to wheel them down to the Pit. Ben is the person to check with.”

“OK,” I said. “Next, the trainees. We have already discussed bedrooms for them. Whether we go for Plan A or B, we expect to have two classes, each of up to 32, here at one time. Tuglaydum, Tuglaydee, do we have enough space and furniture for your classes?”

“The dining-room and this room are both suitable,” said Tuglaydum. “We will need chairs and tables, pencils and paper, and three or four Pedia terminals for each class. We have no other large equipment.”

“We have enough tables and chairs in the store-room underneath for 80 people,” said Michael. “But I think we will have to re-arrange the rooms each morning and evening. This room will be a classroom by day, and a common room in the evening.”

“I don’t think that should be a problem,” I said. “We should have plenty of willing hands.

“Now, to victuals. We need to discuss how things will work when there are 80-odd people here. This will need so many of the Team, that I think we should take it as part of the main Team meeting.” General agreement.

“We will also need to check over the clothing, shoe and linen stock with Shami, and work out how she will manage so many people requiring her services. That probably needs only me, Michael and Gabriel, though Bart, please come if you want. I think we can do that this afternoon.” Again, agreed.

“Now two matters for you, Michael and Gabriel, to ponder. First, the daily ride. So far, most of the Team have been going pretty much every day. Except Lily, who has been going twice!” (Laughter.) “I don’t know whether the take-up rate among the trainees will be that high, but if it is, we are going to have to do one of two things. One, up the number of opportunities, perhaps shortening the rides in the process. Two, institute a roster.”

“I think we can easily expand the supply to meet the demand,” said Gabriel. “We may perhaps need to start a little earlier, but that depends on the Tuglay’s classroom hours.”

“Normally, we will teach in class from the 9 to the 12, and the 13 to the 16,” said Tuglaydee. “Six days a week. We will omit the first hour on Friday, because of the meeting. There will often be individual sessions as well. These are usually half an hour or maximum an hour, and we will do them between the 16 and the 18. So every trainee will have at least an hour free between the 16 and the 18.”

“Then it seems we have no problem there,” I said. “But what about journeys on Sundays? If everyone wants to go – and I expect most will – we need to take five groups, not two. Depending on where we are going, that may mean an earlier start for the first group, a later finish for the last, or a shorter time spent there for all.”

“I think we will have to look at each Sunday individually,” said Michael.

“Last, for this morning,” I said, “we need to get a handle on how long all this is going to take. Let’s just think about Plan A for now. First, we need to flesh out the lists of trainees – particularly of the first wave – and of those to be punished. That’s a couple of weeks at least. Then we need to start monitoring those we want to Pull in the first wave. It’s not clear to me how long that will take. Michael and Gabriel, have you any idea?”

“If you are going to Pull them one by one, and it doesn’t matter exactly when, then one Perinent working day on each individual or couple, spread over some weeks, should be sufficient,” said Gabriel. If you are going to Pull them all at once, though, you need to spend about three times as long. Even then, you won’t get all of them at exactly the moment you want.”

“So that’s 52 man-days for 12 couples and 40 individuals. Now, Galina’s machine will be used mainly for news collection, and there will also be some time needed for Pulling food and drink. So I think we must assume only 4 machines for monitoring. That is 13 days. It sounds like we should allow three to four weeks to monitor and Pull them all?”

“Let’s bear in mind, also,” said Michael, “that the Time of Storms is coming. It is quite a disruptive season. In three or four weeks from now, there will be a week, or perhaps two, in which you cannot do much work, if any. There is little point in Pulling any trainees here until the Time of Storms is over.”

“Right,” I continued. “Then, Tuglaydum, Tuglaydee, your training course I believe takes ten to twelve weeks for these numbers – two groups, each of up to 32?” “Correct,” said Tuglaydum.

“We could start one group perhaps a couple of weeks ahead of the other, if we wanted. Is that a good idea?”

“I think probably not,” said Tuglaydum. “If the two groups start together, we can move individuals so the strongest are all in the same group. Competition between them will then help to drive them forward.”

“In the meanwhile,” I went on, “we will be monitoring the individuals to be Pulled for punishment, and the second wave of trainees. This is a lot of effort – several hundred Perinent man-days, though anyone in the Team can do the work. The critical resource is that we only have five machines.”

“It looks to me,” said Bart, “as though we can do it in the time it takes to train two waves. But not in half that time. That, by the way, is an argument against Plan B. Without more machines, you wouldn’t have enough time to monitor those to be punished closely enough to Pull them all at once.”

I nodded, having reached the same conclusion. “So we are looking, roughly, at six weeks from now to Pulling our first trainees, say three more to assemble the first wave, and twelve weeks to train them. At which point, we send them by Naudar’I ship back to Earth. We Pull the second wave of trainees rather more quickly – say, a week. There’s then another twelve weeks to train them, and only then are we ready to Pull those to be punished, send the second wave back, and have them join the first wave who have arrived by ship.

“That’s 34 weeks, gentlemen. Not far short of a year on Perinent, or a little over seven Earth months. It’s a long time to wait until we can even start the revolution.”

“You need not worry,” said Bart. “Your timescale is short by the standards of other projects. The Skobar project took many weeks longer. And they only had one wave of trainees.”

“And now, the big question,” I said. “What have I forgotten? What have we missed?”

“I am not sure yet,” said Bart, “but Balzo will know. By tomorrow, you and I will have enough to write down a detailed plan. If we get it to Balzo on Thursday, he will review it before our meeting on Friday.

“I know Balzo’s reputation. He is good at these things.”

* * *

The rest of the week passed much as planned. There was enough time on the Tuesday afternoon to allow Bart, guided by Dede, to visit Harv’I. “I have never had the opportunity to meet an Elo’I directly before,” he said.

On the Wednesday, Ray was not pleased at being asked to change from preparing all Earthly food to a diet mainly of Seraphim food, though he did understand the reasons why. Nor was Cees pleased that he wouldn’t be doing as many Earthly procurement Pulls as before. “I really enjoyed Pulling that lamb from that president’s store,” he said. “You can still do that kind of thing,” I replied, “just not as often.”

And Sabrina took charge of Bart’s lists, and realized that the job she had volunteered for was one of the toughest among all the Team.

We talked also about how we could flesh out Bart’s lists. Where Team members suggested individuals to add to the punishment list, they would be investigated by John and Galina, who would report back to the rest of the Team. A show of hands would save or condemn (and, in the event of a tie, we would ask Harv’I to be an impartial judge.)

Trainee candidates suggested by the Team, if they were public figures, would be dealt with the same way. If they were friends, I would appoint a member of the Team as “devil’s advocate” to say why they should not be brought to Perinent for training. And the sponsor and the devil’s advocate would debate before a jury of three – nominated by me in each case, but not including me.

Bart and I had our plan and timescales finished early on the Thursday – though we hadn’t bothered to do much work on Plan B. We circulated the draft to everyone, Harv’I included. We received many helpful comments, but in the end there was little change, except that my desire to Pull the second wave all in one week had been replaced by a more realistic three weeks. There were 36 Perinent weeks from now to P-Day. Gabriel sent the plan by mescap to Balzo about lunchtime.

On the Friday morning, we met as before in Room 13. Again, I controlled the communication with Harv’I, and Gabriel with Balzo.

Balzo did not waste time. His first mescap said a lot. “Ur work, Bart and Nil,” he said, “is excepshunal. I do not fault anything in it. I approve ur Plan A. It is within our budget.

“I have searched for a sootable ship to convey ur first trainee group to Earth. The standard journey from Perinent to Earth is eight to nine Earth weeks. U allow fifteen Perinent weeks, or almost fourteen Earth. Slow ships are uncomfortable, so I propose an indirect route.

“Ur group will change ships at Socotera-5. The wait will be about four Earth weeks. Accommodation will be Seraphim standard throughout. And the Seraphimobile and pilots to take the Hoomans to Earth and to defend them there will meet them at Socotera. Unless, perhaps, I can find a pair of Seraphim who can go first to Perinent.

“Bart, are u happy with this?”

“Socotera-5,” said Bart, “is a planet with similar gravity to Perinent, slightly less than Earth’s. It is quite cold by Galactic standards – even colder than your Earth. But it is a favoured waiting-point for those with ships to catch, because the Socoterans are good at providing environments comfortable for each visiting species.”

With acceptance of this route, I sent more questions to Balzo. “How long will we the Team – and Harv’I – need to remain on Perinent after P-Day? And what will we be doing in that time?”

“U will be interfaring,” replied Balzo. “U will be Pulling more individals for punishment. For this phase, if necessary, I will send either Bart again, or perhaps my assistant Lohman, to guide u.

“As to how long, it is hard to say. From prevous projects, I think perhaps six Earth months, thirty or so Perinent weeks. But it may be longer.

“Once the Board has decided u are fit to be Junors, we will take Michael, Gabrel and u the Team back to Earth in a first class ship – smaller, faster and more comfortable than the one u came to Perinent in. Ur return journey will take about four Earth weeks.

“Meanwhile, Harv’I, if u leave once the Board have made their decizhun, u will have plenty of time to reach Earth before the Team do.” Harv’I concurred.

“Then,” said Balzo, “U will all jon the celebrashuns on Earth. I too hope to be there.”

Bart left us on the Saturday morning, to fond farewells. Kenny could come out of hiding at last.

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