Chapter Five

I have convinced my people of this project’s worthiness. The ship’s resources will now be put to preparing for cargo. This is a complex task. Part of it is preparing to build factories in this solar system that will be manned by proto-colonists. This serves two purposes: The factories take advantage of the huge planetary labor force, and they weed out planetary people unsuited to colonization. If a planetary person can’t survive even the mild dislocation of being relocated from one place to another within their own solar system, then it would be a waste for us to haul them out-of-system.

Another part of the task is preparing to intervene in the upcoming chaos. The social systems of this planet are about to go into a chaotic state, which means that small external “pushes” can have huge effects on the outcome. But to have any rational effect, the pushes must be carefully planned. This means we need to know a whole lot about these people, and we must have a wide range of tools, pushes, available to us. The most useful tools are the good things we can offer: Jobs, trade goods, and knowledge of resources within this solar system that the planetaries can exploit. These main offerings are fine-tuned with contract details, bribes, and a small touch of covert activity.

The most time-consuming part of getting information and tools prepared is building relations with influential planetaries. I now have twenty of our most silver-tongued people working directly under me, and we are getting to know a wide range of planetary influentials. These planetary people will be my tools; it is through what I offer them, and tell them, that I will shape this coming chaos.

Oh, and I should mention, as I was made First Administrator, the ship transitioned from Space Mode to Solar System Mode (also called Planet Mode), and that means a huge change in the ship social systems. When the ship is in Space Mode, there is no rush to get things done, and people can pretty much do and say as they please. This means you have to be seriously on your toes, because people will try to trick you; and if they succeed, those watching it happen just laugh. When the ship is in Solar System Mode, everyone is in a hurry, and we go to double-cooperator environment—you look out for your shipmates and messing with someone is a treasonous act. There’s no fooling around on the ship when we’re in Planet Mode!

The next three years fly by. They are an endless blur of meetings: Meetings with my people to describe the relations they must build with the planetaries, meetings with the planning people as they refine their predicting code and offer up experimental manipulations, meetings with the other ship departments who are preparing factories and finding resources, meetings with the planetaries I will deal with personally, and meetings with the Council to keep them updated.

When we are in Planet Mode, all differences between crew are put aside. It’s the ship way, and a most pleasant time for me. A successful harvest is like life support itself: We must have it, so all petty jealousies and dominance disputes are put aside during these times. In these times any show of defection is considered traitorous. The most common theme in our entertainment packages is the tragedy of Zoran-al, a story similar to your Shakespeare’s Othello in that Zoran-al is betrayed by an ambitious friend. In the Zoran-al story, that betrayal ultimately leads to the death of a whole ship. In these times, I am treated civilly by the whole ship, and I, in turn, treat them civilly back.

In Year Four we begin our social manipulation testing. This is cutting it tight; the chaos period is upon us, which means that if our experiments go wrong, there could be big results instead of just small failures. We expect the chaos to evolve into war-like violence in Year Five, and the mass migrations to begin in Year Ten, at the beginning of that violence’s resolution. From the Planning Chief’s point of view, we should have been doing our social experimenting ten years ago when the social systems were all solidly linear. But alas, the reality is that if we had been here ten years ago, we would have left without stopping, because this world has nothing to offer but people.

The early experiments in social manipulation produce unexpected results. A meeting is called.

Bodon, the Planning Chief, tells us, “The experiments produce the expected unrest for a few weeks, but then it dampens out far below predictions.”

“OK,” I ask, “what’s happening? Or rather, what’s not happening?”

Bodon says, “These people don’t appear to be acting human. Or some of our initial parameters of their situation are set improperly.”

“Do you care to explain further?”

“These people accept change with less agitation than our previous simulations predicted. We’ve been working on this for the past week, and one of two causes is likely. Either these people have been through a lot of change recently, so they’ve developed a temporary social immunity to it, or their personalities have evolved more toleration to change over several generations, and this is a long-term effect.”

“Does it make a difference?”

“Yeah, two big differences: First, this place is not going to be as deeply displaced as we were predicting, and second, our main tool for aggravating unrest, giving out trinkets and beads, is blunted. We will either have to give out bigger trinkets and beads, which will have unknown consequences following the chaos, or we will have to use more secondary tools for the main push.”

“You mean hand out ideas? But they’re much harder to predict, aren’t they?”

“Much harder, but we’re here so late in this chaos cycle that our trinkets and beads may not be enough to generate the frenzy we want.”

He doesn’t mention it, but there’s also the Giovanni Rendezvous to be thinking about. This is our last planetfall before the Rendezvous, and it needs to end in ten years if we’re going to make it. Getting to Rendezvous is like getting the troops home for Christmas. If you’re not going to make it, you’ve got to have a damn good reason why not, a reason good enough that the crew won’t pillory you once Planet Mode ends. Like I said earlier, while planetfall conditions are in effect, everyone is a cooperator, and everyone is assumed to be a cooperator. Were it not for Rendezvous, one of our options in this kind of condition would be to delay and stretch out the colonizing window; usually it’s not that different to us if we stay ten years longer, or fifty, in a system. If we’re making money hand-over-fist, we stay, and make more money hand-over-fist.

“What’s the downside to rushing this?” I ask.

“Quality, quantity, and uncertainty. If we do this right, we can bring three million people on board.”

“And if we make Rendezvous?”

“A half million, or so.”

“A quarter million fills our hold…”

I’m not a greedy man, but I sense Chief Planner Bodon is uneasy about something, and there’s a message waiting for me from the Cultural Collection Department. I follow a hunch.

“Give me ten minutes, Chief,” I say, cut him off, and put on Cultural.

Cultural is skeleton-staffed this Planet Mode. This world is not expected to produce any significant cultural cargo, so it has enough people to sign off on paperwork and that’s it. It is also staffed with second-tier losers, and they know it. But some people, such as me, are second-tier because they don’t fit in, not because they are bumbling idiots. I have found Krazley, the head of Cultural, to be one of those kinds of people, so I listen to him.

“What do you have for me, Krazley?”

“I’ve been listening to Chief Planner Bodon, and he’s missing something. As I’ve reviewed their culture, I’ve gotten to know these people. The technical shear-damping Bodon is complaining about is due to their cultural background … well … maybe not due to it, but explained by it.”

“To the point, please.” Krazley is second-tier because he wanders when he should be focusing.

He pauses, sort of loads up his thoughts, then blurts out, “These people feel going to the stars is part of their destiny, and this makes a huge difference. Given a chance, these people will not only come willingly, they will educate themselves before they come. They will be Tarrack-class colonists, and they will pay us to come!”

“You’re kidding me!”

“I kid you not. But we will need more time and a totally different approach. Instead of inflaming this transition, we need to use our push to mellow out the transition violence, and have these people see that their off-planet efforts are profitable to the planet. If they see that, these people will line up three deep!”

I think a bit. Three million Tarrack-class colonists! That’s enough to split the ship twice! I will have my ship! But it will mean missing Rendezvous.

“Why didn’t Bodon see this?”

“He wasn’t looking. He’s much more pressed for time than I am, and he can only run just so many possibilities. I found this one because I’ve been watching the culture, and I wanted to see what difference this ‘love of stars’ made.”

“How much time will we need?”

“I’m not the Chief Planner, but I would guess cargo loading starts in fifteen years and goes on for another fifteen. And that cuts out Rendezvous, doesn’t it?”

Krazley doesn’t say it, but that may be another reason Bodon missed it; the Planner likes his celebrations. But we are in Planet Mode, and if Krazley had commented on the side like that, it would have created a complaint, and cost him or Bodon big time when it was resolved.

“Give me some time with this,” I say, “It’s huge,” and I cut connection.

It is huge. A Tarrack-class colony world … if we stay put to develop it. A world spouting diamonds out of its volcanoes wouldn’t be as valuable. This world is populous enough that a ship could symbiote with it—become a permanent resident of this system and devote itself to simply sending off spaceships loaded with colonists. That’s the way it is at Tarrack.…

But this is Cultural talking and me hoping. It’s not Planning talking, and it means passing up Rendezvous.

After four minutes of thinking about this, one thing is crystal clear: This is more than my choice. I link up with Cultural, Planning, and the Council to schedule a meeting. It’s time for a big powwow.