Sunday Serialisation – Back Paige. Chapter twenty, part two.

By the time the survey mission had ended, and the collected data added to the ship’s store, Eaten Messe had also completed its surveys of the Xhwntradin diaspora. It had found that all but three of the groups, somewhat unsurprisingly the most remote from the others, in the equivalent to the Amazon rain forest on Earth, had evolved along the same lines as Fronglad’s group. Physically they were almost identical, and their languages seemed closely related. Until more detailed studies could be carried out, though, it couldn’t be assumed that the usage of the appendages, particularly in terms of the significance and meanings of colour displays, was also comparable.

Eaten travelled to the planet surface under its own steam, as it were, whilst Andrea, Farid, Sarah and Paige, who had joined them by using her pad, followed in the shuttle. As was becoming customary, they met with Fronglad and Granhalf at the building in the Retreat. Franglan was with them.

“Hello Andrea, Farid, Sarah, Paige and Eaten,” Fronglad said, “Thank you for coming to see us again. Do you have some information for us? Some knowledge of other groups of our kind?”

“We do,” Andrea replied, “For our part, we have carried out more extensive mapping surveys of the planet and now have a complete set of data, which is on a SPIDER in our shuttle craft. We’ll share that with you later, to enhance your knowledge about the planet.”

This clearly pleased the Xhwntradin present, as all displayed alternating pale green and pink appendages. “Thank you. We shall look forward to sharing that knowledge. Will it also show where the others are located?”

“Yes,” Farid said, “It will also show where the Ringans are, below the oceans.”

“Thank you. This is knowledge we shall never use, but it will be most satisfying to have it. What detail do you have of the other groupings of our kind?”

Eaten Messe answered, “I surveyed all the groups that our detailed scans had revealed. Most, like yours, are on islands of varying sizes. They appear physically similar, the languages they use are closely related to yours, that is to say that they show the characteristics of having developed from a common source; and their lifestyles are comparable, even to the extent of developing settlements in deep forest as you have done. We have collected DNA samples, one set of which I shall give to you, Granhalf, the other we have analysed ourselves. I leave you to choose whether you want me to present the results we obtained or if you would rather wait for your own.”

“Thank you,” Granhalf said, “I wish to wait for our detailed results, but would be grateful if you could summarise your findings.”

“Very well. We found no major differences between the various groups, yours included. Common ancestry is clear. I won’t go deeper into that, as you’ll want to see your own results before drawing any conclusions.”

“Thank you. You said most populations are on islands. What about those that aren’t?”

“There are three groups deep in the forests of a large continental mass. They differ significantly from all the others. Physically, they are similar, though their cranial appendages are not well-developed, their body is covered in fine, pale brown fur rather than the hairless mauve skin-tone of the island populations. Their language differs more than any other group and the method they used to construct their settlements is unique to them. Specifically, they are less sophisticated. They have no roads, no form of transport and no large, communal buildings. In terms of their DNA, whilst they share a common ancestry, they appear to have diverged between fifty and one hundred generations before the other groups. As a result, they now share significantly less of their genome with you than the other groups do. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, but it appears to me that their bloodlines may not be as pure as yours and those of the other groups we studied.”

“Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?” Sarah asked.

“That rather depends on what you think I’m suggesting, Sarah.”

“That they may have crossbred with another group?”

“No, Sarah. I am suggesting that they may have crossbred with another species. Possibly something brown and hairy.”


“We aren’t here to judge, Sarah,” Andrea admonished.

“But we are,” Granhalf said emphatically, “What you are suggesting, Eaten Messe, is unconscionable. If our analysis leads to the same conclusion, then we would most certainly not wish to align ourselves with those groupings.” Fronglad’s appendages glowed yellow in agreement with his friend.

“So,” Farid asked, “what is your next move? Do you still want to proceed as we’d agreed earlier? Is it your wish to attempt to make contact with one or more of these groups and do you agree that may be made easier if one of you comes with us?”

“Yes, yes and yes,” Fronglad said, “And I think it would be good experience for Franglan to go with you. She must, however, be chaperoned by a female from your group. I don’t want her to be travelling with just males.”

“I would be happy to go with her,” Sarah said, looking at Andrea for approval, which she received by way of a subtle nod, “but don’t you think she is rather young for such a diplomatic mission?”

“Franglan is well versed in the ways of our group, and I am confident that she will represent us well. I have also given some thought to the impact on these groups of strangers appearing unannounced. I have our own experience to draw on, of course. After discussion with Granhalf and others, we are of the view that the arrival of a child, particularly one who looks as vulnerable as Franglan does, will be less threatening.”

“That’s a good thought, Fronglad,” Andrea said, “she will be safe with Sarah, too. In addition, Eaten, of course, is neither male nor female and Farid, who will also go with them, is happily married with a child of his own. I have to ask you, Eaten, did your surveys show any risk of aggression, any weaponry?”

“No, but that isn’t something we need worry about. Your MTS operator can watch them every second they are on the surface and, if anything unpleasant seems about to happen, he or she can hit undo before it does.”

“What does hit undo mean, Andrea?”

“Okay, Fronglad, let me explain how this will happen. We shall take Franglan back to our ship in the shuttle craft we used to come down here. To go to the new groupings, we will use pods like the one we used to get you back here after your visit to us. You remember that?”

“Of course. Very quick and efficient.”

“One of the strengths of that system is that as soon as we send them, we can see from the ship exactly what our people on the surface are doing and what’s happening around them. To get them back again, we simply undo the send. Generally, we do that when the job they went to do is finished, but if there are any safety issues or any danger, that undo or un-send, if you prefer, can be issued instantly.”

Eaten Messe took up the story. “That’s right,” it said, “To show you what it’s like, when Jinnis Keet first travelled to the humans’ planet, it was met by someone who was potentially somewhat volatile. He drew a projectile weapon from his garment and shot at Jinnis. Our controllers saw this and hit undo as soon as the weapon was fired but before the projectile reached it. They then put it back after the danger had passed. That is how quickly we will be able to react.”

“On that basis, I am as confident that my daughter will be well cared for as I am that she will do a good job for us.”

Thursday Thing – week 19

I’ve been busy this week. Firstly, a fresh look at last week’s beach scene d’après Rod Moore..


Then I ventured off-piste again. working from an old photograph taken from North Lookout, Hawk Mountain, PA. Sorry about the rocks. I may spend more time on this one (or reuse the canvas). The sky is okay, though.P1050010

Then I tried working on a photograph of the Puy-de-Dôme; the highest pont in France’s Massif Central. I may have missed with the mist! Another reusable canvas?


Then I looked at another photo of the summit at sunset. Better.Photo_2023-05-29_164030

Flash left us in 2009 at which point he was well past his fourteenth birthday, which I gather is pretty good for a Greyhound. This from a photograph taken in 2006 at eleven. The scar under his eye was our cat’s way of keeping him in line!


On reflection, I have decided to stop running and instead learn to walk. To that end, I have now enrolled in Rod Moore’s Learn to Paint Academy hopefully, to put some structure around my efforts. Let me know if you want me to continue sharing any progress I may make’

Sunday Serialisation – Back Paige. Chapter twenty, part one.

Captains Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Algernon Pippington marched into Commodore Ishmael Al-Kawazi’s ready room, saluted and stood at ease.

“Take a seat, gentlemen,” he said. When it became clear that the two men were squabbling over the seat closest to their boss, he added, “There are two seats, for pity’s sake.” He pointed to one chair, then the next. “Stuart-Lane, you sit there and Pippington sit there.”

The two officers sat, suitably chastised, the looks passing between them indicative of the competition and mistrust they shared.

“Now,” Ishmael said, “we need to put Sir Prijs into an extended orbit to carry out more detailed surveys. This will be a four-week tour of duty that we shall divide into four periods of one week. Each of you will captain the cruiser for one week, then return here to change over. This will continue until the task is complete. At the same time, our Jinthate friends and partners will be carrying out on-planet investigations aimed to support the next stages of our overall mission. Am I clear?”

“But, Sir,” Tarquin whined, “I have a wife and child…”

Before Ishmael could respond, Algernon interjected, “Have a child? You are a child!”

“Not helpful, Captain,” Ishmael admonished, “I understand your concern, Tarquin, but you aren’t alone. Algernon here has a… what are we calling him, Captain?”

“Partner, Sir.”

“Yes. Algernon has a partner whom he will miss and who will miss him as much as you will miss Anusha and Arty and they you.”

“But it’s not the same, Sir,” he bleated.

“Planetary laws, RSR Rules and Regulations and Ship’s Standing Instructions all say it is, Tarquin, and who are we to argue with UN resolutions, R&Rs and SSIs? Eh?”

“As you wish, Sir, but I still don’t think that the same rules should apply to normal people and…”

“And what, Captain?” Ishmael yelled, his face turning to a shade somewhere between a boiling lobster and a pickled beetroot.

“Nothing, Sir. Remark withdrawn.”

“I should think so. Once more and you’ll lose privileges, Mister. Now, I think you owe Captain Pippington an apology.”

“Must I?”

“Yes, Captain Stuart-Lane, you must. Unless, of course, you have tired of being called Captain.”

“What’s the alternative?”

“How does Midshipman sound?”

“Captain Pippington, I am truly sorry if you were offended in any way by what you believe I was about to say.”

Algernon looked at Ishmael. “Was that an apology?” he asked.

“Probably as close as we’re likely to get to one, Algernon. Certainly closer than any I’ve heard before from Stuart-Lane. Now. Do you both understand what I require of you?”

“Sir, yes, Sir,” Algernon said with enthusiasm.

“S’pose so,” Tarquin mumbled without.

“Good. Who’s taking the first shift?”

“I would be happy to,” Algernon offered.

“Very well Captain. Prepare for departure at zero nine hours tomorrow. Dismissed.”

The two officers stood and saluted. Algernon Pippington marched out of his commander’s ready room, Tarquin Stuart-Lane slouched behind him, mumbling like a disgruntled teenager about how unfair everything had become and how no-one ever took account of the fact that he was now a father with parental responsibilities to shirk as well as his military duties.

Algernon’s wrist comm beeped. He looked at it and saw that a briefing document had been made available to him. He retrieved the tablet from a back pocket and studied the parameters of his new mission. The bloody toff will never understand this lot, he chuckled to himself. He ignored the funny looks he was receiving from just about everyone he passed. Of course they had no idea why he was laughing so hard. How could they? That made him laugh even more.

Tarquin received the same notification. He looked at the briefing and said to himself, never mind, Pipsqueak will have been doing it for a week before I have to, so Karolina will know what to do. He, too, started laughing. The difference between Algernon and him, though, is that Algernon had both an understanding of why he was laughing and a good reason for doing so. Tarquin laughed because… well, it could have been anything. He may just have seen the point of a joke he was told weeks previously, or maybe a random thought amused him. It is likely that we’ll never know why Tarquin laughed. In all probability, he’ll never know, either.