Farr Discovery © Gingezel™ Inc. 2011
Chelan Kael smiled with affection at his son, his slightly plump middle aged face radiating contentment. There was always something special about these lunches they had when Roween simply could not get away from her research at the last moment. For starters, he could eat exactly what he wanted. He looked with pleasant anticipation at his steaming bowl of hearty spicy soup, something he never got at home. If Roween had been here, he would have been eating fish. Ridiculous on a cold snowy day like this. Chelan placed a sausage chunk in his mouth and savored the taste.
Mostly though, what he enjoyed was that he had Niki to himself. Chelan enjoyed Niki’s company and the chance to simply talk. He looked so much like Roween’s brother sitting there, Chelan decided. Tallish, dark, handsome. Somehow it was very satisfying to have a handsome son even if it was maternal genes. Chelan knew he had never been handsome. Pleasant perhaps, in a blond sort of way when he still had a good head of hair, but not handsome.
“So you don’t agree with your fellow historians on how the Farr sector was established?” Niki asked good naturedly, knowing he was in for a lecture.
“No, I don’t.” Chelan took another spoonful of soup while he considered his answer. “I mean, I agree on the basics. We all know Farr was founded shortly after the invention of hyperspatial travel by a group of dissidents from Terra. As far as I can see they were a mixed up lot. Their philosophy, ethos, and religious attitudes were as much a melange as their race was mixed. They borrowed ideas from pretty much every Terran culture and time, and claimed them as their own unique beliefs. But mixed up or not, they had a few things perfectly clear. They wanted a chance for a simple, moral, egalitarian, hardworking life. And they wanted it as far from Terra as possible.”
Niki laughed. “At least they achieved their last two goals. The Farr sector is still in the middle of nowhere, and by their choice of planets to settle they had certainly gave themselves a lot of hard work!”
Chelan had read treatise after treatise arguing that this was a deliberate choice, that the settlers had wanted to ensure that their descendants would not have a chance to slip back into the decadence they so disliked on Terra.
“You are taking the standard line there Niki,” Chelan protested. “I sincerely doubt that ever entered their minds. The truth is probably much simpler, if less noble. Hyperspatial travel back then was iffy at best, and no one had ever tried to go past the galactic center. The navigation technology wasn’t there yet. I expect the settlers simply found that they had jumped into the Farr sector after they passed the galactic center. Then they decided to make do and not push their luck by going further. By then they would have largely run out of resources and cope, and be glad just to be alive. Any vaguely habitable planet would have looked good.”
“Good point,” Niki agreed. With his sister one of the few Outsiders working in the Farr Sector they were both fascinated with any information available about it.
“The other thing I simply cannot agree with is the reason for the name of the sector.” Chelan shook his head. “The leading argument is that it was named for a Jeremy Farr among the initial settlers. That seems wrong both because it would be honoring an individual, something they did not believe in, and also because Jeremy Farr had never done anything special in his life. He was a plumber, presumably a competent one and so appreciated, but not a hero. He married a cook named Gretchen Landy, and they had had three girls. That was it. That hardly warrants having a sector named after him.”
Chelan obviously was not finished, so Niki took another bite of his spiced meat sandwich.
“Now, an Anne Farranni piloted one of the ships. and she has also been put forward by some historians as the person the sector was named after. That’s more likely. Those first hyperspatial pilots were idolized on Terra as much as the Genie racer pilots are now galaxy wide. Presumably the hyperspatial pilots would be even more idolized by the inhabitants of the Farr sector since they owed them their lives. This theory has two weaknesses though. Why Anne Faranni, not one of the other pilots in the flotilla, and why was her name shortened?”
“Should we have dessert just once?” Niki asked as he always did when his mother wasn’t around. It was strange. She made extravagant desserts, wouldn’t touch them in a restaurant, and made them feel uncomfortable ordering any. He figured she didn’t want them comparing her to the competition.
“I think I could handle that.”
They ordered from a well laden trolley. As a historian it fascinated Chelan how both comfort foods and treats had travelled almost unchanged with humanity. Innovation was always in fashion, but an amazing number of the ‘new’ trends were ancient. To him is reflected the fact the human palate simply had not changed.
“About the sector name. I’ve been developing my own theory over the past few weeks. I think it is quite possible that name was actually ‘the far sector’, far being an archaic Terran term meaning distant. Possibly at the time the settlers left there had been multiple spellings; far, farr, ghar, and so on.” That non-standardization of ancient Terran dialects drove Chelan crazy. “Or possibly some bureaucrat made a typo and everyone had liked the look of Farr better than Far and they left it like that. Whichever was the case, it was simply ‘the distant sector.’”
“Not bad,” Niki said appreciatively.
Conversation lagged as they finished their slices of three layer cake, each layer a different nut bread and separated by the smoothest, richest icing, an indulgence Chelan had no intentions of telling Roween about.
“About the sector name. I’ve come up with my own idea just now,” Niki said. “How about it was simply a lottery, and this plumber bloke won? You said they were very into fair and equal. Every name went into a database, and one was selected at random. Want another slice? I’m having one.”
Niki beckoned to the waitress.
That theory topped his, but then Niki had always had an original mind. Chelan smiled as he thought about the excitement winning a lottery to have a sector named after you. That would have helped morale. Yes, it was a good theory.
“No thanks,” Chelan said regretfully as the woman approached. “I don’t have your height or metabolism. But I like your theory.”
As far as Chelan knew inhabitants of the Farr sector, however it had been named, had settled into the act of simply surviving, something that must have been not at all simple since the planets in that part of the galaxy were only marginally habitable. They had continued in this mode, according to all accounts staying reasonably true to their ethos of hard work and fairness, until the galaxy caught up to them.
That had been a shock, to the galaxy at least. Chelan had spent months now reviewing every detail he could of that initial contact. Of course he remembered the basics from the news. It had been about the time Mitra was born. But now that she was there, he wanted more than basics. At last he had cautiously asked his friend and neighbour Ceb if it was possible to see any of the Interplanetary Judiciary records. He had heard they even included the recordings made on the exploration vessel that made contact. Ceb had shrugged and said, ‘Why not. Their classification level isn’t Secret now.’
Chelan had memorized that recording and the reports by the exploration team members. Between those and other scraps of information he found, he could visualize the scene as if he had been on that exploration ship.
Apparently the inhabitants of the Farr sector had been monitoring for encroaching exploration from the moment there had been the spare time and resources to build the equipment, so they had received warning. However the original group that had left to found the Farr sector had never communicated back to Terra. So within the rest of the galaxy it had been assumed they were one of the many unfortunate accidents of early hyperspatial travel. They had been assigned a footnote in a few textbooks, and otherwise been forgotten.
When the Galactic exploration ship had come out of a hyperspatial jump to find itself surrounded by apparently armed and unfamiliar looking spaceships, for one terrifying moment they had thought they had finally encountered aliens - hostile aliens. Eventually, everyone had calmed down to the point where they had realized imminent death was not on the agenda or they would have been annihilated twenty minutes ago. Thought, if not rational thought, became possible and they realized they were being hailed. To give them credit, they had apparently tried to focus. Eventually a junior crew member had thought he recognized the odd StanGalLan and Mander word. Belatedly translators were turned on, and they had heard the formalized greeting the commander of the Farr sector squadron had patiently been transmitting for half an hour or so.
While not exactly friendly, it explained who they were, and provided the exploration ship with enough information to establish visual contact. The visual contact was even less reassuring than the armed ships and the formally phrased message. The Farr commander looked exactly what he was, stressed to within a millimeter of his breaking point.
There was no military commander on the exploration ship since it was a scientific mission. When the crisis developed everyone, except the chief pilot, had decided the chief pilot was the woman to deal with it The chief pilot had asked politely if they should clear out, or if the members of the Farr sector wanted them to stick around and fill them in on the centuries of galactic gossip they had missed.
The Farr commander honestly didn't know. That question had been debated at every level from the breakfast table to parliament for approximately eighteen months. It was a split vote. All he knew was that the decision would be credited to him, and whatever one he made would have half the population out to lynch him. He had loosened the collar from his perspiring neck and tried to speak. The first attempt had failed.
The chief pilot had spared him a second try. She had looked at the perspiring man, the shaking hand, the armed ships.
She had said, “Look, why don’t we give you a couple five years to think about it. We’ll be back then.” And left, as fast as she could without overpowering her far superior engines.
It hadn't been five years, but it had been a full two before the Farrese saw more visitors. The Interplanetary Judiciary had taken that long to research the original settlers, or more accurately to fail in their attempts to find anything trying to research the original settlers. Eventually, deciding any further delay would be embarrassing and possibly seen as cowardice, they had sent a delegation. That delegation, in much more formal words, had asked essentially what the pilot had: Do you want to rejoin the rest of the galaxy, or do want us to leave you alone?
By then the Farrese had come to a consensus. They were sure they were not interested in galactic politics or current events. They were likely to be as depressing and sordid as those on the Terra of their ancestors. There wasn’t much sense trying to find relatives either. Either whole families had come, or they had parted not on speaking terms. But they really liked that exploration ship.
It was obvious from the negotiations that the Farrese thought that all things considered they had done pretty well. They had not let themselves stagnate. They had expanded out to a handful of planetary systems. They had established trade between those systems and had a variety spaceships to meet those trading needs. When they had seen the galaxy approaching they had established a military fleet.
But they didn't have anything that could move like that little exploration ship. That thing had pretty much swiveled around in place, and accelerated at an unbelievable rate, then winked into hyperspace. After having two years to figure of how the ship had done it, the Farrese engineers still didn't have a clue.
Also, human nature was human nature everywhere as far as Chelan could tell. No doubt everyone had memorized the holograms of the exploration ship, and the stories of the encounter had grown with each telling. Within weeks the Farrese would have started to wonder just what else there was they might be missing out on. All of a sudden a lifestyle everyone had been happy would seemed limited. All sorts of marvels would imagined and attributed to the Outsiders as the Farrese called the rest of the galaxy.
So this time the Farrese had an answer. They preferred to remain autonomous thank you, but a limited technical exchange, and perhaps even trade was possible.
The Farrese had carefully enumerated what their skills were and what they had developed that was likely to be of value in trade for that spaceship design. They were good miners, and had developed innumerable improvements in metal structures. They had techniques for farming marginal land. They were experts at energy conservation. Estoff, the second planet they settled and capital of the Farrese sector, had a very pleasant shrub that produced an apple like fruit in generous quantities under almost all conditions and survived well off planet. And so it went. The list, while not exactly long or galaxy shattering, was enough to make them feel they were entering into the bargaining as equals. Technical exchange for the spaceship design and other aspects of technology was established as was limited trade.
And now his girl Mitra was there as part of the technology exchange, installing her hybrid reactor on Drezvir. What stories she’d have for him when she came home! It would be living history.
Chelan watched Niki take a last bite of cake. “Finished? I just have time to drive back to teach my next class, Climate influences on population distributions on Rujjipet and the resulting effects on political structure.”