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G'day, welcome to my deep thought pages.

I guess everyone, at some time or other, has suddenly had ideas pop into their heads without prompting. Here's one of mine. It's fiction isn't it?  Back to the Main Menu.


Cattle

   Chapter 1

  The bar was almost empty. Lopa was sitting on a corner stool, hunched over his drink. He pondered the interview he had just completed with Primary Investigator Thaxor of the Intersolar Academy. He had been a qualified space pilot for 18 mnths, with an unblemished record up to now or so he had previously thought. The Investigator had ripped strips off him concerning his first mission, a trip to a nearby farming planet. Like most trainees at the academy, he only took his lessons half seriously and was really there for the comradery and shinannigans with other Saurians his own age. He may have skipped some classes for other more interesting pursuits. It was a pity he had skipped that cattle biology class. Going over the past in his mind he tried to see if he could have done things differently. The bar slipped away and he was back at the space-drome on that brilliant first day, his gold pilot's pin gleaming as it nestled on his new deep green Space Corp uniform.

  The Saurian home world solar system only had two occupiable planets. Sauria was the cooler outer one and Etaxia was the warmer inner one. All the spices eaten on Sauria were grown on Etaxia. This dearth of inhabitable planets spurred on the exploration of nearby space for other suitable planets. Luckily the nearest solar system, now a mere three months away by ion-drive, had a number of planets closer in to its sun but their temperatures were just right for the breeding of cattle. Those warm blooded animals that tasted so nice roasted with various spices from Etaxia; and they grew so fast too; about ten times the growth rate of the Saurians. From what Lopa could remember of the lessons he didn't skip; a breeding pair was placed on each planet with rudimentry life support items and left to their own devices. It was found that more offspring were produced this way, due to the natural tendency of the cattle to procreate. In fact that's all they seemed to want to do. They were usually left for one Saurian year (Syr), that's ten of theirs (Cyrs), then visted by a scout ship to see that all was progressing normally. If this was so, another ten Saurian years (Syrs) passed before the next visit and so on. Every 10 Syrs the scout ship would take a few specimens, check on the quality of the meat and take corrective action as was deemed necessary. Slowly more and more planets were found and converted into farming planets. Any native animals found on the planet that might restrict the free expansion of the cattle population were exterminated. Others found to be helpful towards the main objective were suitably modified, enhancing this useful characteristic. It was to one of these planets that Lopa would go and collect the entire herd of cattle there and deposit a fresh breeding pair, with a set of new and undamaged genes. Unfortuneatly, over the long period it takes for the herd to build up its numbers, cosmic radiation causes damage to the genes and mutations develop in the herd. These mutants have to be weeded out before the cattle are pronounced fit to grace the Saurian tables.

  In his mind Lopa saw himself settle back into the pilot's seat of the huge cattle-ship. His first mission since graduating from the Intersolar Academy as a deep-space pilot. A trial six-month round trip to a nearby farming planet. It was his first time off the Saurian home planet and the six-month trip was the maximum time allowed under union rules for a trip without using the hated freezer pod (slang for the suspended animation chamber). This mission, which was considered a milkrun, only had one pilot, Lopa. Most of the functions of the big ship were automated and Lopa's basic responsibility was to oversee the automatics and handle the depositing and loading of the cattle.

  Having successfully planted the need to gather and the gathering point into the suseptible minds of the cattle, he had no problem herding them into the cavernous hold of the transport ship. The second part of his job was not going to be as easy. After offloading the rudimentry life support containers he had to go and select a breeding pair, personally! It meant he had to leave his pleasant command quarters and enter the livestock section of the ship. The temperature was uncomfortably high in this part of the ship, in fact, very simular to the planet outside. Without his enviro-suit he could only stand this temperature for 30 minutes. He wished he could remember something about the biology of the cattle. He had to make sure he had a breeding pair but how? He had a brilliant idea. As the cattle liked mating so much there was bound to be at least one pair at it when he arrived at the holding pen. He would just look for a mating pair and take them.

He zipped up his uniform to keep out the heat as long as possible and made his way to the small section of the ship where the pampered breeding stock were kept. The smell of the hot thick air fairly took his breath away. He entered the holding pen and instantly the closest cattle shrank away from him, but over in the corner there was a pair going hell for leather like there was no tomorrow. They were so involved they had not noticed his approach. He used his stun-gun on them, picked them up and carried them out of the ship and deposited them alongside the pile of food which would feed them until they could find a local source. The stun effect wore off quickly and they ran and hid amongst the containers. Lopa strode back into the ship, straight to his cosy pilot's chair. Not bad, only took 17 minutes. His blood temperature was well below the safety limit and he was quite pleased with himself. What he thought was going to be quite difficult turned out to be easy.

  His mind-picture fading, Lopa was back in the bar. If he had only taken more notice of that mating pair. Investigator Thaxor, in a burst of controlled furor, had thundered about the scoutship arriving on its scheduled flight and on checking the cattle, had found no offspring after 10 Cyrs had passed. It had only found two ageing male cattle. Lopa had weakly defended himself by saying how could he be held responsible for the strange mating habits of cattle. This defense hadn't gone down well with the investigator. Lopa thought he could see steam coming out of Thaxor's ears. The investigator, with a supreme effort, held his tongue, turned towards the window, took a long deep breath and in a dangerously quiet, steely voice told Lopa to leave. He would decide what to do with him and in due course he would be informed of his fate.

  Lopa went back to his room at the academy, sat in the vibra-chair and dialled up a soothing simulation, his mothers heart-beat. He felt the stress slipping away and he fell asleep. He was woken sharply by the insistant beeping of the annunciator of his vidfone. It was investigator Thaxor's assistant, calling to inform him that a decision on his immediate future had been made. Could he come to the investigator's office immediately. Lopa couldn't believe the time indicated on the vidfone clock. Only 95 min had past since he had left the office with his tail between his legs. This did not bode well. A decision made with almost no thought was bound to be a rash one and have an unpleasant outcome for Lopa.

  Dragging his feet and with none of his usual bounce, Lopa fronted up to hear his medicine. He tried to read Investigator Thaxor's face to get any clue as to his fate, but that face was set in the baffling blank badge of beaurocracy. After what seemed like an eternity, the investigator took a deep breath and began by saying, after taking all things into consideration, such as the amount of effort invested into Lopa's training and the fact that he was technically a good pilot who just needed to mature a bit more, it has been decided to give him one more chance. The investigator paused leaving Lopa on the edge.... "You are to immediately transfer to the high speed deep space explorer, Thalia, which is to ferry cattle to some of the newly found planets, out near the galaxy rim. The trip will take one Syear to get there, one more to carry out the farming duties and one more to get back. Total trip time 36 mnths. As you are only allowed to be awake for a total of 6 mnths on any one trip there will be 6 pilots. Each will be awake for two 3mnth periods. The rest of the time you will be in suspended animation. Your first 3 mnth period will be on the way out to the rim. Besides your normal overseeing duties you will watch recordings of all the classes you've missed. Hopefully by the time of your 2nd period you will be more competent to handle cattle. Your 2nd period will coincide with the arrival at one of the unexplored solar systems, which our automated probes suggest have planets suitable for farming. Any questions you may have will be answered at the preflight briefing. This decision is final. You are free to go."

  Lopa was stunned. One more chance; but the outer rim; it's a long way; and three times in the freezer pod. All of these thoughts were spinning around in his head in a blur of elation and fear. He didn't know whether to be happy or sad. Well, at least he was still in the 'Corp.

 

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  ©  Gary Yates   Locofonic Recordings Australia  
This page first written 20-2-2000 last updated 30-9-2001.