Chapter Six

This thing is huge, but we are in Planet Mode, so I can’t be stealing someone’s thunder, in this case Krazley’s. He’s going to have to present his idea, and I shudder at that. He is, after all, Head of Cultural because he is second-tier. The good news is that I, as First Administrator, get to decide how to spend my time, and I choose to spend it coaching Krazley.

I hotfoot it down to Krazley’s office and burst in saying, “You can’t blow this one, Krazley. You have to say it short and simple.”

Krazley looks nervous already.

“But I think you can figure out the short and simple part. Let’s start with how Bodon can find this result without making him look like a complete ass.”

I spend three hours with Krazley, coaching him and helping him pull together his presentation. As we finish, we send out some preliminary information to all the Council members. Planet Mode is a “no surprises” time, so everyone sees the information before we meet on it.

I spend the next six hours putting out fires that my three hours with Krazley let get started, and I get six hours of sleep before the meeting.

Councilmeister Loran is chairing the meeting.

“These are some interesting results you present to us, Chief Krazley,” says Loran after Krazley makes his presentation. “Chief Bodon, have you had a chance to review these projections?”

“I have, Councilmeister. The numbers look very exciting, it is true, but the starting parameters Chief Krazley is using are not standard.”

“Are they wrong?”

“Technically, they are unknown, but the standard ones are used because they work. What Chief Krazley is asking us to do is accept that he has done research which justifies changing the standard starting parameters we use. The problem with doing that is that it opens up a can of worms. There are hundreds of these kinds of parameters in our planners. If you can tinker with these starting parameters, you can produce any outcome you want, and Planning becomes a political or philosophical platform, not a predicting tool.”

Whoa! This is not going where I want it to go! Time to get involved. I interrupt.

“Do you think that’s what’s happening here? Is Krazley wrong?”

“I didn’t say that,” says Bodon. “What I’m saying is: That’s why I didn’t look at the parameters the way Krazley did. In fact, using his parameters straightens up a lot of the ‘insensitivity problem’ I’ve been talking about earlier. His numbers may be good ones. To find out, we should run some more tests.”

Whew! Much better! The numbers are no longer in dispute. It’s now a question of Rendezvous versus exploiting a bonanza.

“How long will the tests take to conduct?” I ask.

“Two weeks, plus two weeks to analyze results.”

“That seems fast,” I say.

“The parameters Krazley has ‘twiddled’ are not difficult to measure. It’s just not often that we are asked to measure them.”

“Chief, I suggest you start measuring them immediately. And I suggest we all start thinking about the implications. We won’t have the information we need for a month, but we should be able to decide a course of action immediately once the data has been confirmed, if it is confirmed.”

“I think we can all agree to that. Meeting adjourned,” says Loran.

In spite of the fact that it’s fast, the month seems to drag by. Even though I’m busy as hell getting planners to run scenarios where our stay here is lengthy, time still seems to drag. There’s a lot of kicking and screaming among department heads that these long-stay scenarios are hard to run and distracting from day-to-day operations. What is unsaid is that they are thinking about Rendezvous. This long-term planning is clearly getting in the way of their personal long-term planning about what they will be doing at Rendezvous, and no one wants to miss it.

The community on our ship is small. If we do nothing special in our socializing, we will end up as provincial as our planetary ancestors who were called “mountain folk”, ignorant and proud of it, superstitious and ready to kill those who don’t believe in the same superstitions, xenophobic and ill-adapted to dealing with alien cultures. Our lifeblood is a steady stream of alien planetary cultures.

We have heard stories of ships that were lax in social regimen; we have seen the people of lapsing ships at Rendezvous. They are not a pretty sight, and such ships are thought of as dangerously ill members of our community—they will come to untimely ends, or commit horrible atrocities when dealing with planetaries, or both. The people of such ships are called Rustics or Hillbillies, but what they really are is pirates. They roam the lonely places of Spacer civilization, and prey on planets and ships that are weaker than they are.

One of the preventive measures for Hillbillyism is Rendezvous. There we mix among our kind; we intermarry and swap crew members; we generally freshen up, and remember who we are in this big, strange galaxy of ours. Rendezvous is important, and the last couple we’ve attended were small ones, with only a couple other “kin ships” attending. Socially, we need to get to a big Rendezvous. I know that; everyone knows that. But owning a Tarrack-class planet … this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

If it’s true.