The Joining

PREVIEW

 

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Corvus, human population: 6292, including the crew and dependents of the Starship Genesis in orbit above the planet. It is the 51st of Trutian, twelfth month of the first Corvian year. The ship is in the process of being retrofitted into a permanent space station and its cargo hold reconfigured as fleet assembly and repair docks. Due to its size and existing fabrication capabilities, the step of converting it to accommodate larger spacecraft too big for the pIanetside starport is the best option for the obsolete vessel.

With a thirty-two hour day, it was soon understood that human work and sleep cycles on Corvus weren’t working as they had on Earth. The scientists devised a calendar that took into account that Corvus takes about six Earth years to orbit its sun. The Corvian calendar breaks the year into four seasons consisting of four months, averaging about a hundred days each.

At the insistence of the Corvian colonists, two things on the Corvian calendar were kept from the Earth-style calendars they were used to. The first is that beginning three months of each season are named similar to their counterparts from Earth, with the extra month added as the fourth month of each season. The second item was that weeks remained seven days long, even though that concession required approximately fourteen of them per month. When the new calendars and clocks were Introduced, confusion ran rampant for quite a while until the changes became accepted and second-nature.

Perhaps the colony’s most significant advancement came shortly after the discovery of the energy bearing mineral, Bolerite. It allows access to a virtually unlimited supply of power and one application allows a way to travel faster than light. The mineral was initially only found in ground deposits, but once they knew what to look for, it was also found in the planet’s water supply as well as in minute quantities in every plant and animal.

After water treatment plants were constructed, they turned out to be very efficient at filtering the mineral from the water. An unexpected by-product of the filtering process is an extensive supply of nearly pure Bolerite dust for the military. Unfortunately, screening the Corvian food supply is another matter entirely. Since humans normally can’t process and break down Bolerite, whatever trace amounts that are consumed from the native plant and animal life are passed right out of the body.

The problem came up when it was discovered that many unexplained deaths had been linked to the Earth plants that had been grown on the farms. Specifically, tuber and other similar plants with edible root systems tended to concentrate Bolerite in them. The resulting electrical build-up from the Bolerite caused enough deaths to require that susceptible plants be grown in greenhouses or hydroponics gardens. With the advancements in space travel, the need for those types of plants grew exponentially.

Now, as the summer is drawing to a close, the planet’s overall temperature appears to be declining as predicted by the planetary scientists a few months ago. As the colony enjoyed the pleasant conditions planetside, the people’s spirits were high and the resulting population growth has all the earmarks of exceeding even the most optimistic predictions. With nearly half of all women of childbearing age pregnant, the increased requirement for medical and child-related services and facilities has caused a proportional increase in each family’s needs beyond the basic housing and support provided to them already.

The planet’s capital, Borland City, is located on the planet’s largest continent. The city was named after David Borland, the co-inventor of the Faster-Than-Light travel (FTL) starship engine known as the ‘Borland Drive’ (B-Drive). Several smaller cities of various sizes have sprung up around the capital. A kilometer and a half East of Borland City is Becky’s Point on Lake Borland, both exclusively owned by the Borlands and protected directly by the civilian government and the military.

The Borland Compound occupies approximately one hundred thousand square kilometers and Includes the largest freshwater lake on the planet. The Borlands received the compound as a gift from the Corvian inhabitants for their contributions to their growth and prosperity. Even though the size sounds enormous, it Is equal to approximately .005% of the total area of Corvus.

Borland City has grown into a thriving metropolis during the two Earth years since Corvus was colonized on Aprian 35, 0000, (March 26, 2081 Earth time). The planet had only been about a month into its spring season when the colonists first stepped on the surface of the new world. The weather was mild and storms were next to non-existent, lulling them into a sense of tranquility.

The most notable of the larger outlying cities is located between Borland City and the Borland Compound. Named Becksville after David’s wife Rebecca (Becky), a spaceport was built at the southern edge of the city after David created breakthrough starship designs that Incorporated the new star drive and several different models went into production. A B-ship is any starship that is powered by a ‘Borland Drive’ engine.

A fleet of these ships, called B-ships, were built by the Corvian colonists to meet their anticipated planetary expansion needs. One of these B-ship designs is an ‘Explorer’ type named the ‘Ziftwantas’ that David custom designed specifically for his family’s use to initially explore the new solar system and expand humanity beyond the Corvian homeworld.

The craft has been designated as ‘Borland Class’ and is basically the equivalent of a World War II era battleship with its power, speed, and weapons. It was constructed with a triple-sized Borland Drive, phased energy weapons and extremely thick hull and bulkheads. Besides exploration, its other duties are to protect the Corvian homeworld from space threats like asteroids, comets, meteors and any other unknown force. Its weapons systems are versatile and estimated to be able to pulverize significant-sized asteroids without any strain on its systems.

After his custom B-ship ‘Ziftwantas’ was built, it was originally to be crewed only by David and his wife Becky, Security Chief Jeremy Crooks, Science Chief Kara White, Senior Engineer Tom Donners, and Medical Officer Debra Forest. Every member of the crew has received promotions for the assignment, including David to Captain, and Becky to Commander.

Prior to their departure, the Borlands met with their friends and colleagues from the SID (Security Interface Department) team to discuss their progress with FTL communications and maneuvering. It was expected that space trials of SID’s new designs would be concluded within a month. David was glad to hear the news and thanked them for their hard work.

Following the SID meeting, David met with Captain Hulmes to go over the latest reports and analysis of recently discovered alien ruins on all four Corvian moons. With only the limited facts provided by satellite and telescopic observations, it was decided that David’s mission would be amended to add investigation to determine what kind of threat, if any, is posed by the aliens that created the societal debris. If there is some reason for concern about the aliens, it would be David’s job to find out the best way to deal with it.

Unknown to the human population on Corvus as a whole, there is another species of sentient life living on the planet as well. These beings are known as ‘Nurturers’, and they are energy beings capable of communicating telepathically over vast distances as long as there is Bolerite in some form present at both ends of the link. David and Becky Borland Bonded with their leaders, Arcady and Prem, during an intimate ritual where the mental capabilities, memories and genetic sequences of each mated species pair were ‘Gifted’ to the other pair.

As part of the Bonding the Borlands gained all of the special abilities and knowledge possessed by the Nurturer pair, including primarily telepathy between each other, empathy, Bolerite power manipulation and energy transformation. Even though neither of them is fully aware of all of the abilities they received during the Bonding ritual, they have already learned that they can communicate with each other and the Nurturers by thought alone. These Gifts were shared between all four, but there are some subtle differences in how each person can use them.

The existence of the Nurturers is a well-guarded secret between the Borlands, the planetary Governor, and the Nurturers themselves, with David and Becky the de facto Ambassadors of both civilizations. As the only other human with knowledge of the Nurturers, the Governor is able to provide the weight of the civilian government to protect them and assist the Borlands whenever he can. His own Bonding with Arcady, shortly after his election to Governor, gave him time to learn how to use his new limited abilities well before the Borlands did and anticipate their needs before them became critical.

Nurturer offspring are born as fish-like creatures that inhabit a vast inland lake saturated with nourishing Bolerite. As adults, they become organic energy beings, capable of assuming many other physical forms when needed. For Arcady, Prem, and their post-Bonding offspring, those forms also include that of humans since they now possess human DNA as part of their own.

The pre-Bonding offspring must physically ingest tiny bits of skin from either Borland for them to obtain the same shared ‘Gifts’ that their post-Bonding counterparts enjoy. Unfortunately, the Gifts obtained in that manner are not inheritable and they end when the offspring does.

Acknowledging the vast knowledge shared by the Borlands during Bonding, Arcady immediately understood how appropriate Becky’ s selection had been to the needs of both the human and Nurturer civilizations. She initiated the Collective with her fellow adult Nurturers and it was vowed to protect Arcady and Prem’s new family members indefinitely, regardless of which Nurturer conclave was in control. When a Collective is called, all Nurturers are focused through the matriarchal leader which is currently Arcady.

The Borlands learned from Arcady that after the Bonding, all four of them had become a sub-species of both the human and Nurturer species. What’ s more, the descendants of all four would also have the same abilities and relationship with the other Bonded family members. Although they all share the same genetic markers, that genetic match only relegates them to their parent’s sub-species. The entire Bonded family is completely compatible physiologically and mentally with either parent species or each other without issue since the newly Bonded couple have self-repairing DNA. This means that any and all mutations at any level are self-healing, including cancer and birth-defects, the latter item being repaired at conception.

It is important to understand that since a full Bonding requires a male/female set of related pairs from each species, any descendants of the Governor would not inherit any Nurturer abilities at all. The Governor had no mate; therefore, Arcady had only Bonded with him, much to the displeasure of the Collective. A matriarchal human would have been better, but the only one available did not seem to control all of the humans. They wished they had found Becky first, but their concerns would pass when the human called ‘Governor’ died.

Arcady’s reluctant Bonding with a patriarch was a direct result of the Collective needing to protect its members and offspring from what humans call ‘hunting ‘. Once they had witnessed hunting, they feared that their family members would be sought out for the same purpose.

While the Nurturers took turns looking after their Bonded family members, they found out about the Genesis when they covertly followed the Borlands on a shuttle to the ship. Once there, they learned of the stars and that more places like their home might exist among them. They also discovered that the Borlands were preparing to go explore those stars in a very short time.

Nurturer ways require that all members of any Nurturer family be protected and guarded, regardless of where they travel. Because Arcady and Prem are bound to protect their Bonded family, they knew of only one way to effectively perform their duties. If Becky and David were going to explore the stars, then they could not go alone.

To allow for their protection, Arcady met with Korina, matriarch of the Zoeing Conclave of Nurturers, who had been given the honor of witnessing the Bonding ritual between Arcady, Prem and the Borlands. Korina’s Conclave is the second-largest conclave on Corvus after Arcady’s Palvian Conclave, making her First Matriarch to Arcady. Trust and loyalty between them was indisputable since it was the way of Nurturers.

Until the last matriarch of a Conclave passes, there is no change in leadership for any reason so control and protection of the Corvus Collective was assigned to Korina. With the safety and leadership of her Collective assured, Arcady was content to follow Becky and David when they leave for the stars. All that was left was to speak with them and obtain their approval. When she left the lake to go to them, it surprised her that she did not just communicate with her Bond-mates, but chose to go in their presence. It was very unlike a Nurturer.

Before the Ziftwantas is launched on its updated mission, Arcady requested to go with Becky and David exploring the stars. After making the needed modifications to the ship, namely adding a lake water storage tank for Arcady and her mate Prem to make their home in, the mission was approved by the plan’s military commander, Captain Jennifer HuImes.

Quite unknown to David, Becky is the Captain’s daughter which is something that isn’t being kept from him, he just hasn’t been told or figured it out for himself yet. Everyone thinks he already knows about their relationship, but not even Becky realizes he doesn’t since there were several rather strong indications that were thought to have clued him in.

Without anyone outside the Borland’s Nurturer family knowing about the extra passengers, the Ziftwantas is set to launch on its new mission to survey the moons for further signs of prior colonization and potential landing sites, natural resources and additional Bolerite reserves. David and Becky both suspect that their secret will be uncovered soon after they launch and they discuss the possibility with Arcady and Prem. During the conversation, it Is decided that it would be best to take the crew into their confidence as soon as possible, and before the mission is underway. It is believed that sharing their private lives with the crew would bring all of them together as a close-knit team.

One thing that continues to bother David since he would be leaving Corvus soon, is an important issue that the Corvian military remembers and has to be constantly vigilant of. It is that somewhere amongst the population and crew there could still be others that would be willing to do whatever it would take to destroy the new world of Corvus. And since there were so many attempts during the voyage there, it is likely that there would be more in the future.

With the launch of the Ziftwantas only days away, some things have changed significantly and that is what keeps Captain Hulmes up way too many nights…