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The Feast

Time-Keeper Colony

The Hunt Family Home

Switzerland

Monday, March 6th, 2017, 7:20 am

 

 

      After a week, everybody was starting to get comfortable in their new lives.  Michelle’s school was up and running.  Emma worked as Michelle’s assistant.  Michelle hoped that she could get Emma to be more than an assistant.

      Keith had agreed to try to learn to be a doctor.  He said he wouldn’t guarantee it would work out because he was so squeamish.  Zoe was not surprised he was reluctant.  Michelle had helped Zoe by giving her a crash course in training.  Zoe agreed that crash was the perfect word for it.  Nevertheless, Zoe kept working at it, and Keith was an eager pupil.  By this point, she had taught him almost enough to qualify him as an EMT. 

      Tara and Cleo were kept very busy trying to make sure there was equilibrium.  The first week was crazy for them.  Baboons were fighting, the sheep ruined sections of grass, and the algae got so thick that some fish were being trapped.

      Samuel became the engineer and maintenance worker.  He spent his time fixing and monitoring the systems throughout the colony.  Much of his time was spent in the lung.  He was always worried about the pressure, but so far his fears had been unwarranted.

      Sarah felt like she had become a gofer.  She was doing errands for everybody, especially Samuel, Tara and Cleo.  While Sarah was doing errands, Aaron found himself managing all the little problems that came up.  Somehow, he became the chief decision maker.  If somebody had a problem, if a second opinion was needed, or something important had to be decided, people went to him.  For example, Tara and Cleo brought the sheep problem to him.  They could not decide if they should limit the sheep’s grazing or wait and see if they made the grass worse.  He told them to stop letting them graze anywhere but the area they had already damaged. 

      Jared and Carmen continued their work on the builders.  Their current work revolved around proportions. Carmen hoped to take an object and use the builder to make it in a size different from the one that was scanned.  Jared doubted it would work; too much estimation would be needed he felt, and only the simplest of structures would ever be made.  Despite his doubts, he put all his effort into it.

      Yuri was busy, mostly providing computer support.  He was also working on the network.  The concrete walls kept cutting off the signals of mobile devices, like the builders.

      Finally, Oliver was working on keeping their hacked connection to the internet open and anonymous.  One or the other was usually easy, but both from a stationary position proved difficult.  If anybody physically discovered the connection from the tower, the colony would be discovered.

      Mike and Kara were the only ones without much responsibility.  Their parents meant to get them working eventually, but were too busy for the moment to say anything . . . or at least that is how they rationalized it to themselves.  In reality, they did not want to have the conversation.  Of course, at best it would be an argument, not a conversation.

 

****

 

      Mike knocked on the door of the Hunt family.  Aaron answered and yelled into the house, “Kara, Mike’s here.” Before Aaron could say more, she was out the door and headed off with Mike.

      They headed for the beach. It was one of the few places they could get peace from humans and animals. That would change if they had a house.  They could spend time in one of the houses already, but they did not want to deal with the questioning.  In addition, those houses were not set up and had no lighting fixtures.

      When they got to ‘their spot’, they both lay down side by side as if they were going to get a tan from the artificial light.  The lighting was realistic, except it lacked the ultraviolet radiation that causes tans.  ‘Their spot’ was a tiny portion of beach that pushed forward into the ocean. 

      After they got comfortable, Mike got up on a knee and said, “You’re right.  Let’s get married!  Will you marry me?”

      “Do you have a ring?”

      He smacked his forehead, “Duh, I almost forgot.  Here!”  He took out the box he had got from Jared.  He held it toward her then opened it to show her the ring.  “Will you marry me?”

      She kissed him and said, “YES!  I thought you’d never ask,” which at this point had become true.  She had given enough hints.  He had held off because he wanted it to be a surprise, and he succeeded.  She took out the ring and put it on her finger.  “It’s perfect.  Thank you.”

      He smiled.

      “So, how are we going to get married?  There’s no justice of the peace here!”

      He shrugged, “I guess one of the adults will have to do it.  It’s not like we have a government or anything.”

      “We’re adults.”

      “OK, one of the old adults!  I still forget I’m not a kid anymore.”

      “How can you forget?  It’s so liberating.”

      “Liberating, how can it be liberating?  We still live with our parents, and I’m sure yours nag you at least as much as mine nag me.  Actually, you probably have it worse since my brother and sister keep my folks busy.”

      “True, but if we weren’t adults we couldn’t get married!”

      “So . . . now what do we do?”

      “Make wedding plans!  Let’s see . . . we need a caterer, a band, flowers, a cake, and a ton of other stuff.”

      “You do realize there is no band down here?”

      “Oh, come on, I’m sure we can get some of the kids to play!  Doesn’t Michelle have music classes?”

      “You want them to play Mary has a Little Lamb at our wedding.”

      “Nah, Yankee Doodle!”

      “Right, OK . . . well, I think you can make the preparations.  Tell me when you need to size me or whatever and I’ll be there.”

      “Oh, Honey, you’re no fun. Come on, you’re supposed to help with this.”

      “Err . . . tell me what you need and I’ll do it.”

      She frowned and said, “Fine.”

      Mike said, “How are we going to break the news?”

      “Let’s do it at tonight’s feast,” she said, referring to the feast planned for the first slaughter since the colony was sealed.

 

****

 

      Aaron was working with Cleo to decide what animal should be killed for the big meal.  Cleo was really upset about the whole thing.  Even though the feast had been planned since the beginning, she did not really expect it to happen.  The eggs and milk were not so bad, despite her being a vegan.  To kill one of the animals, though, was not cool for her, not cool at all. 

      Aaron said, “Let’s make this simple.  We still have a decent supply of frozen meat, so it doesn’t have to be a cow, pig, or even a turkey.  How about we kill a duck or even a chicken?” Aaron pointed to a scrawny looking duck that seemed older than the rest.  “How about this one.  It looks like it won’t live much longer anyway.”

      “That’s Charlie!  We can’t kill Charlie!”

      “Charlie, you named one of the ducks?”

      “Well, I named a few of them . . . Luke, Mr. Waddles, Daphne . . . well, all of them really.”

      “So did you form as much emotional attachment to the rest, too?”

      “Well, look, let’s just eat omelets tonight.  How about that?”

      “No, NO,” insisted Aaron.  “You knew after a week or two we’d have to do this.  You have to pick one.”

      “I can’t.  They’re my babies!”

      Aaron put his hand on his forehead and rubbed it as if he had a headache.  He was so glad he had never had to work with somebody like her before.  He wanted to shout, ‘Pick one or I will,’ but he knew that would not help matters.  Finally, he said, “Think some more about it, then let me know by 4 PM.”

      She said, “Thank you.”

      He gave her a wave and then went off to find Jared.  Jared and Carmen were working in their home, still trying to get the proportions changes to work.  Aaron knocked on the door when he arrived.  Naturally, he knew at this time of day Keith would be taking care of Spencer.  A few minutes later Carmen opened the door and said, “Hi, what’s up?”

      “Is Jared here?”

      “Yeah, he’s in the workroom.”

      “Can I come in?”

      “Of course.”

      She led Aaron into the workroom then said, “Should I leave you both alone?”

      “No, please stay.”

      “Sure.”

      Jared waved to Aaron, “What’s up?”

      Aaron let out his rant, “This whole feast thing is becoming a disaster.  Cleo named the freaking ducks!  Can you believe that, the ducks?  The old buzzardly one’s named Charlie . . . we can’t eat Charlie, no, not Charlie!  This thing is giving me a headache.”

      “Oh, I know Charlie,” said Carmen.

      “Great,” Aaron said as he raised his eyebrows.  “Please don’t tell Cleo I said all that!”

      Carmen gave a little laugh.  “I won’t.”

      Jared asked Aaron, “So you were hoping we can just use the builders to make the feast?”

      “Well . . . yeah.”

      Jared shrugged, “I don’t know.  We have a few issues when it comes to food.  First, everything scanned comes out at the exact temperature we scanned it, no exceptions.  Second, if we create it from the air, we’re going to quickly have an imbalance between the air and . . . well, in the end, waste.  Basically there will either be too little CO2 for the plants or too little O2 for us and the animals.  If we use rocks and start tunneling, we’ll have the exact opposite problem.  The rock is very dense and a pound of rock will have far more protons, neutrons, and electrons than a pound of food.  With the food less dense, it takes up a larger area, which means less room for air.  Eventually the air pressure would get so high that the disc in the lung would be at the very bottom and eventually would start being crushed. 

      “Everything living here would be hurt.  Well, I guess the animals and plants would be effected first.  The pressure in our ears would be noticeable.  Plus the kids: poor Spencer would be the first with an earache, and by the time we had earaches . . .”

      Aaron shuddered, “Well, let’s go onto the third issue, shall we?” he asked, not really expecting or wanting an answer.

      “The third issue,” Jared continued, “Is that we have very few samples scanned-”

      Aaron interrupted, “WHAT?”

      “Calm down, we have very few samples of each type of meat.  For example, we only have one type of bacon, not including Canadian bacon.  Talking about Canadian bacon, when I was a kid there was a saying that only two good things came from Canada, Canadian bacon and the band ‘Default.’  Of course we mostly said that because we hated Celine Dion, then we grew up to find despite socialism Canada was a better place to live.” 

      Jared cleared his throat, seeming to realize how far off the conversation he had strayed.  “Anyway, I digress. My concern is that, well, it’s similar to the gene pool issue.  You know the old saying ‘You are what you eat’?  Well, maybe that’s true!  What will happen if we, our children, their children, and so on forever and eternally eat the same bacon from the same pig?  Not even just genetically the same, but physically the same pieces of bacon.  In fact, that might cause taste issues in the end as well.  You know how people judge a piece of steak.  Well, the only way to change the flavor is to season the hell out of it!”

      Aaron said, “OK, let’s deal with these one at a time.  It will honestly be easier in the long run.”

      Carmen said, “W – e – l – l, we c – o – u – l – d possibly increase the speed of the molecules.  That’s really all heat and cold is at a molecular level.  With the cold, molecules slow down.  In fact, for a while some scientists even thought there was an absolute temperature, absolute zero, at which molecules would stop moving. They were proven wrong, though.  The whole thing was crazy.  Do you know what that would have meant for the big crunch?  Ah, well, never mind, I guess I’m rambling too.”

      Carmen said as if she were a cheerleader doing a routine, “Yeah, we’re geeks, yeah, we know it!  Anyway, heat speeds molecules.  Heat speeds them so much they can become liquid and even gaseous.  See, it’s not just beans, it’s heat that makes gas.”

      Carmen blushed, “Sorry, that was a joke my science teacher used to say.  I’m a sucker for corny jokes.”

      Jared nodded, “She’s right, of course.  If we can speed up the molecules predictably, we’ll be fine.  Plus some foods, like the croque-monsieur, were scanned warm and will be fine.”

      Aaron said, “Great, next issue?”

      Jared said, “Well, this issue could have a more low-tech solution.  You know that fancy waste-recycling system. Well, maybe we should use builders.”

      Aaron and Carmen both made faces by scrunching their noses.  Carmen said, “That’s disgusting.  You want to make dinner out of that crap, and I mean literally, crap!”

      Jared smiled; he seemed to love the reaction they had.  He seemed to want to played with them some more but instead said, “Yep, let’s turn it into something temporary.  Hell, it may as well be gold!  Then we move the gold to the kitchens and make it into food.”

      Carmen was still disgusted, “That . . . gold . . . will have still touched the ground where the feces and urine had been.  YUCK!  No way”

      Aaron asked with a his left eyebrow lifted, as if he was only half-disgusted at this point, “Can we wash it?”

      “NO, no way.  No amount of washing is going to help.  Plus, whose job will that be?  YUCK, I feel bad for the poor fellow with that job!  Oh, Samuel, poor Samuel, he should make his son Mike do it, at least he’d be doing something then!  No, that’s too cruel, forget it, BAD IDEA!”

      Jared started to laugh, a real deep laugh, one of the laughs that could make a person dizzy if they went on too long.  When he finally stopped he said, “That was great.  I loved that.”  He turned to Aaron and said, “I’m all for privacy, but if we had a camera in here I’d play that . . . a lot.”

      “Oh, stop,” said Carmen half-heartedly.

      “Listen, it’s not this tough.  We actually could just turn it into air . . . a real air mixture too, not just oxygen.  We could then make food.  It would be a natural equilibrium, can’t eat less than you get rid of, well, excepting skin flakes and tears.  OK, well, you get the idea anyway.”

      “Now that I like.  Then we don’t even need those stupid recycling machines.  We just turn it to air then make our food from air.  Perfect!”

      Aaron said, “Great . . . next issue.”

      Jared said, “Hey, cool it. You can’t rush genius.”

      “More like mad scientists if you ask me.”

      Jared stuck out his tongue and said, “Well, I didn’t!”

      “Would you act your age for half a minute?”

      “Fine, just half, though.”

      Aaron frowned.

      Carmen said, “We should still check with Samuel on that one.”

      Impatiently Aaron thought maybe it would have been easier to deal with Cleo, but instead he said, “OK, next issue.” 

      Jared replied, “Variety of meat, Carmen and I can’t answer this for you.  Ask Zoe!”

      Just as Aaron was about to leave giddily, ecstatically even . . . skipping and everything, another knock came at the door.  The three of them went, Aaron simply to get out of the nuthouse, Jared and Carmen to say goodbye and greet the visitor or visitors.

      Mike and Kara were at the door.  After everybody said his or her hellos, Kara said excitedly to her father, “I didn’t expect you to be here . . . but since you are here, I have something to announce!”

      Aaron panicked and thought, ‘She’s going to say she’s pregnant!  What was she thinking?  That big jerk knocked up my daughter!’  Then he shook it off with another thought, ‘We DO need kids to survive.  He could at least have married her though!’

      After Kara was sure she had everybody’s attention, a skill she acquired as an actress, she said, “We’re getting married!”

      In a noticeably relieved tone, Aaron said, “Congratulations!”

      Kara hugged her dad and said, “Thanks.”

      Mike said, “So . . . how are weddings going to be done down here?”

      Aaron almost said, ‘How the hell should I know!’ but instead said, “I guess we’ll play it by ear.  What kind of wedding do you want?”

      “Formal,” Kara said, “The whole thing, flowers, bridesmaids, ring bearer, and since we don’t seem to have a band, somebody to DJ at the reception.”

      Aaron frowned, to which Mike said, “Hey, don’t worry about it though, no costs down here!”

      Aaron sighed, and then said, “Money, as you’re implying, isn’t the only type of cost.  Time and effort are important measurable costs that many of us are already employing to the colony’s best interests.”

      Mike bit his lip and Kara said, “We can have that stuff, though, right?”

      “I don’t know.  We’ll see.  I guess Samuel, Zoe, your mother and I will have to sort this all out.”  Aaron said to Mike, “Have you told your parents yet?”

      “No, they’re next,” replied Mike.

      After an awkward silence Kara said, “I guess we should do that now.  Dad, let me tell Mom, OK?”

      “Fine,” he answered curtly. Then he said more emphatically, “OK, Honey.”

      As Kara and Mike were about to leave, Mike said to Jared, so that Aaron would hear him, “Thanks for keeping this a secret Jared.”

      Jared shrugged.

      After Mike and Kara left to find Mike’s parents Aaron said to Jared, “You knew about this?  You knew and you didn’t tell me?”

      “Hey, whoa, I’m a man.  I keep my secrets!”

      Carmen slapped him on the arm, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

      Jared blushed, “Well, you know how women always tell each other secrets?  Well, men don’t do that.”

      Carmen sighed, “We don’t all do that!  Besides, when we do, we make sure it’s to somebody who can keep a secret.”

      Jared contended, “If other women know, it’s no longer a secret!  Secret means you tell NOBODY.”

      After some more healthy squabbling, Aaron ducked out to get back to the feast planning.  He knew Zoe or Samuel would probably be in the command center, so he headed there.  As he walked, he wondered if the ‘happy couple’ would be keeping them busy.

      He found Zoe in the clinic. She did not seem to know yet, and he so wanted to tell her, but he restrained himself. 

      “Hi, Zoe”

      Zoe was standing over a set of blood-red test tubes.  “Hi, Aaron, I was just working on a cellular experiment.  It’s pretty boring here when Keith is taking care of Spencer.  How can I help you?”

      Aaron explained the whole food debacle and then asked, “Jared is worried that if we build all the meat we eat, it will be unhealthy because of the lack of its variety, and genetic variety.  Is this a real problem?”

      Zoe took a seat on a stool near her and said, “Well, it could be.  I really don’t know.  Will the vegetables still be eaten?”

      “Yes, absolutely.  I don’t think even Tara is going to object to that . . . and I hope she hasn’t named them!”

      “I wouldn’t worry about it. Genetic variety between animals is very similar, but between plants it’s very different.  I will keep an eye on everybody’s health, though.”

      Aaron thanked Zoe, and then went to find Samuel.  Using the cameras in the command center he saw Samuel with Kara and Mike near the pigs.  Aaron left the command center to go and meet Samuel on the ranch.  Aaron found Samuel in the same place he had been on the cameras, but Kara and Mike were gone.  Samuel seemed to be testing the structural integrity of a fence . . . by kicking it.

      Aaron said, “Hello.”

      Samuel looked up from the fence and said, “Hi.”

      “Are you busy?”

      “Not really.  I’m just trying to figure out how one of the pigs got past the fence.”

      “Where’s Cleo?”

      “I don’t know.”

      “Was she the one who sent you out here?”

      “No, Tara asked me to check the fences.  I guess one of the pigs broke loose and started trampling corn. She caught the pig and led it back here.  I think she simplified the story, though, because she was covered in dirt when she talked to me.  I bet that pig dragged her around the cornfield!  I'm betting her vote for what to eat tonight is that pig!”  Samuel chuckled to himself finding it funny just retelling the story.

      “Well, listen, I won’t tell you the whole story, but some people would prefer we not eat the animals.”

      Samuel made a disgusted look, “Don’t tell me our resident vegan is going to try to make us live on salad.  I’m a big guy.  I can’t live on salad.  Have you seen how frail those vegans are?  NO WAY!”

      Aaron raised his hand to calm his friend, “No, nothing like that . . . I hope.  They, or we, want to use the builders to make food with meat, just meat, not eggs, milk, or vegetables.  The question is, can we do it without changing the air pressure?  I guess from what Jared and Carmen told me there would be too much air, or too little air.  I’m not real sure.  But anyway, I guess they said if we turn human waste into air it will cause a balance, sort of.”

      Samuel nodded and contemplated the problem for a minute.  When he was done he said, “That won’t work, I think.”

      “Why?”

      “Well, not all that we eat gets turned into waste!  Also, we won’t just be eating meat made by the builders.  Besides, it would be a pity for the waste recycling system to go unused.  Let me talk to Jared, I have another idea.”  After a pause he said, “So Kara and Mike told you?”

      “About the wedding?”

      “Wedding, what wedding?”

      “Umm . . . I mean . . . the waiting.  Yeah, all the waiting . . . they . . . uh . . . have been doing . . . lately.”

      “No, why don’t you tell me?”

      Aaron blushed, then scratched his head and said, “Actually, I better go.  They’ll have to tell you later.”

      Samuel started laughing.  He had a deep husky laugh that echoed against the concrete ceiling and walls. Samuel said, “I’m just kidding.  They told me!”

      “Oh, you suck!”

      Samuel made a motion as if he was tipping an invisible hat on his head as a thank you.

      “Listen, before you go . . . how are we dealing with this wedding?”

      Aaron shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

      Aaron and Samuel talked some more and decided who should perform the ceremony.  After they finished, he went back to the Millers’ home to discuss the builders some more.  By this time it was noon, so when he arrived Jared and Carmen invited him for lunch.  Lunches in the colony had already become part of a pattern.  Most people had simple lunches at home or at the school.  Michelle preferred to have the kids eat at the school to let them socialize in an informal eating situation.  Keith usually went to his family’s home for lunch on the weekdays he took care of Spencer.  Sarah usually skipped lunch.  Samuel and Zoe always had a small lunch in the command center together.  Tara and Cleo usually ate their lunches together. 

      Jared, Carmen and Aaron all ate a small salad and sandwiches quietly.  Aaron drank coffee, Carmen drank milk, and Jared had root beer.  Aaron was finished first, mostly because he took the smallest portion.  When he was done, he explained what Samuel had said.  The three of them played with the problem for a while.  Then Carmen came up with the perfect solution.

      “We’re going to have pressure problems sooner or later: it’s inevitable.  Let’s make a system to detect it. We can connect the lung monitor to the builder network.  We can then get some builders to compensate.  The builders can be set up to remove waste but also to cut into rock where we already have plans to expand.”

      Jared nodded, “Yeah, what she said.”  Then Jared smiled.

      Aaron said, “OK, so you have two jobs now.  Build a system to keep the pressure, or whatever, at safe levels. You also need to work on food temperatures.  Do the pressure first; I’m sure we have foods that will be perfect for the feast.”

      Carmen and Jared agreed. After lunch, they began their work.

      While there were various dining areas, it was decided to have the feast in the ranch area like a picnic.  A series of picnic tables were set up.  A long buffet table was also set up. 

      After everybody arrived, Aaron addressed them and said, “Welcome, All, to our first group feast.  I’m sure it will quickly become a fairly regular event.  Before we eat, I want to thank Samuel for all his hard work getting the tables in place.”  Aaron paused as the crowd clapped.  “Next, I would like to thank Carmen and Jared for all their work so that we could have meat today without killing Mr. Waddles or Charlie.” Everybody clapped, except Cleo who stood up and cheered.  “Finally, I would like to thank Zoe for her advice on the project as well.”  After the applause ended, he finished by saying, “Now lets EAT!”

      The meal was very similar to a Thanksgiving dinner.  There was turkey, stuffing (made without animal fat for the resident vegan), yams, mashed potatoes (with vegan gravy again for Cleo), carrots, peas, cranberry sauce, apple pies, cherry pies, and a lemon meringue pie.  All of the food, except the turkey and pies, came from their food stock. Aaron had the pies made with the builders since the pressure problem would be under control soon.  Besides, at the very worst they could always open the doors.

      As the meal was coming to an end, Mike got up and stood on the picnic table he was at.  He shouted to the crowd, “May I have everybody’s attention?”  After everybody was turned and listening he said, “Kara and I are getting married.  We’ll be sending invitations out to everybody within the next week or two.”  A few people shouted their congratulations and made toasts to the couple. 

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford

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