Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Chapter 37. Of Zer’ael and Gavantchin

On the day we Pulled our last trainees – a Saturday – the Company for Galactic Advancement sent Gabriel a mescap formally approving his Clause 21 action at Camp Four. It included a personal congratulation, citing also Michael’s and my contributions.

It was signed “Nansen Ault.” Gabriel was astonished. “Nansen Ault is the General Director of the Company,” he said. “He is a Tefla, like Bart Vorsprong. We must have done well indeed to come to his personal attention.”

Later the same afternoon, a Seraphimobile landed from the north. It was much smaller than the one we were used to. The occupants identified themselves as Zer’ael and Gavantchin. Their robes were yellow too, but a much lighter yellow than Michael’s and Gabriel’s. They did not know English – they spoke a lilting language which, Michael told me, was native to Seraph. But they had, like the Tuglay, two-way translators. So it was not difficult to communicate with them.

Now, Seraphim have no gender. More accurately, they have characteristics of both male and female. But most Seraphim present themselves as male. That was true of all I had met so far. Yet, Gavantchin looked female. And she was gorgeous. Almost three metres tall – well taller than Michael or Gabriel, or even Zer’ael. But still gorgeous.

Zer’ael and Gavantchin were the Seraphim appointed to replace the Ke’lan as Helpers at Camp Four. “We have come here first,” said Zer’ael, “to confer with Harv’I, Gabriel, Michael and Neil. I think it is best if we stay two nights, then go on to Camp Four on Monday morning. One human room will be sufficient for us.”

“Sabrina has charge of room allocation,” I said. “Let us go find her.”

On the way to the Pedia room – where Sabrina spent almost all her working time – Lily came up to us. “Will you take me for a ride in your ’mobile?” she asked Gavantchin.

Zer’ael and I both smiled. But Gavantchin replied, “We plan to go, with Neil, to see Harv’I in a few minutes. We will take the ’mobile. You can come with us if you want.”

When we reached the Pedia room, Zer’ael said, “I remembered something. We have brought a device to install here, to give you communication with Camp Four. We have another one for Harv’I, which is ruggedized for high temperatures, and a third for the Camp Four end of the link.”

He went out to his and Gavantchin’s ’mobile, and brought back something looking a bit like a 1950s radio receiver, but with a lot more switches and dials. Meanwhile, I had summoned Hoong. “Install that,” I said. He was amused. “Where’s the instruction manual?” he asked.

Zer’ael was amused too. “It’s OK, I know how to set these up. But it’s the first. You won’t be able to use it until I connect others.” Hoong, nonetheless, carefully watched and noted all that he did.

Soon, it was time to visit Harv’I. It was already late, late afternoon. I would not have set out on foot at that time – particularly after my recent encounter with D’Fanjel. I said to Zer’ael, “Michael and Gabriel do not take us in comfort to Harv’I. We have to walk. Indeed, they themselves walk when they need to visit him. Why the difference?”

Zer’ael smiled. He seemed, already, almost infinitely capable at smiling. Then he said, “The ’mobile of Gabriel and Michael is a big old bus. It has difficulty near confused force fields – as in your Pit. It does not respond well to the pilot within about fifty metres of the Pit. And it is also difficult to pilot in heat gradients – as near Harv’I’s house.

“Our ’mobile, on the other hand, is a newer and nimbler model. In your terms, it is more like a touring car than that big old bus. And it has as pilot – no disrespect meant to Michael or Gabriel – Gavantchin, my love. She is a fully skilled combat pilot. Our combat pilots are few, though I understand you have already met one of them – Ramael.”

I remembered Ramael’s piloting the first time I met him – even if it was in the “big old bus.” I smiled and concentrated on the memory. Zer’ael laughed. I knew then that he, like Gabriel, was a telepathic receiver. “I’m a full telepath, actually,” he said and sent.

“Let us go see Harv’I,” said Gavantchin. Zer’ael, Lily and I went out to the new ’mobile. It was a similar in shape to a Daimler limo, and rather bigger. There were three pairs of doors. The front led to the pilots’ double seat. The rear led to a soft leather bench seat, wide and high enough to take two Seraphim or three humans. The middle row had originally, Zer’ael told us, had Seraphim seats as well. But these had been replaced by two heavily padded stalls, designed to hold Brjemych in comfort.

“Lil ava’o,” said Gavantchin. I knew what that meant before the acceleration hit, and well before her translator responded. (It said, “Relax backwards.”) The trip to Harv’I’s took less than a minute, and we were in the air less than two-thirds of that time. We finished about fifty metres north-west of Harv’I’s house.

“That was a lot more fun than shooting D’Fanjel,” I opined. “I’ll give you a proper ride on the way back,” said Gavantchin.

The meeting was more like a chat in the pub than a business meeting. Zer’ael and Gavantchin got to know Harv’I, and the reverse. Only one planning topic was discussed. Zer’ael and Gavantchin needed to bring Gelmar for regular meetings with Harv’I. “Once a week is fine,” said Harv’I. “I suggest Monday evening or Tuesday morning.”

On the way back to the ’mobile, Lily asked Gavamtchin if she could take the co-pilot’s seat. There was a short discussion. Then Zer’ael, smiling again, came to sit beside me in the back seat, and said, “Among Seraphim, I am unusual in that I am an engineer and a medic much more than a pilot. I can fly a ’mobile of course, but I am happy to relax in the back seats. In fact, I prefer it. So Lily gets her wish.”

The ride back to the hotel lasted only about three minutes, but didn’t disappoint.

* * *

On the Monday, I was taken to Camp Four again, this time in Gavantchin and Zer’ael’s ’mobile. Gabriel and I shared the back seat – under Clause 21, we both (he had issued the order, and I was “the responsible”) had to be there to introduce the new Helpers.

The Brjemych had organized a party. They offered everyone shots of Hooch Juice. Zer’ael and Gavantchin were unsure at first, but Gabriel and I took the shots, making our enjoyment obvious. And so, their new Helpers were introduced into the Brjemych family. Though, “I won’t be fit to pilot us back if I have another of these,” said Gavantchin quietly.

When I got to chat to Gelmar, I asked him, “Have you Brjemych learned to do your own Pulling and Pushing? I ask, because another species – the Skobar, who previously occupied our camp – were Pulled here, and found it impossible to learn to Pull or Push.”

“Oh yes,” said Gelmar. “Edriga taught us Pulling and Pushing, if nothing else. That was before our Tuglay arrived. The lessons were – not fun.” I made a note to tell Balzo that maybe he hadn’t correctly understood why the Skobar couldn’t learn to Pull or Push.

We left Zer’ael at Camp Four, and Gavantchin took Gabriel and me back to Camp Two with Gelmar. The padded stall fitted him comfortably. There was an under-piece, which supported his weight with his hooves just resting on the floor. There was a high, wide tail-piece which prevented him sliding backwards, a much smaller fore-piece which could be rotated to let him in or out, and two side-pieces which held him in place. From behind, he looked like a horse with large black wings. Pegasus, perhaps.

Gelmar had been worried earlier about flying, but now he was comfortable and could see out, he was ready to enjoy it. Not long after take-off, Gelmar said to Gavantchin, “Thank you. That gave me the same joy as galloping, but many times faster, and without effort.”

When we arrived, “Gelmar needs a room permanently allocated to him,” I said to Sabrina. “Zer’ael and Gavantchin need one too. They, one or both, will be here each Monday night until the Camp Four project is done.”

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