Arcas' Bones (2/12)- Objectives and Objections
The 3D model of Arcas hovered over the conference table like a colorful beach ball, spinning and revolving around its mysterious companion, Callisto.
Read part 1 of the series.
“We want those people out of there as soon as possible,” said General Groff. His impeccable uniform was decorated with medals and patches.
“I understand that,” said Dr. Linnaeus, wiping his brow with a handkerchief, “but research takes time. Three months is not nearly enough. Anthropology is a diverse field. You must think about your approach: sociocultural, biological, linguistic, evolutionary... What cultural processes do you want to focus on? Economic, political, religious… The topics and practices are numerous.”
“Spare me the lecture, professor,” said the General leaning forward with one arm on the table. “All I want to know is this, how I can get those people the hell out of there without too much trouble?”
Dr. Linnaeus turned to the others around the table. “What I mean to say is that I am just one researcher among thousands. You are asking me to work on areas outside my narrow field of expertise. Without clear research aims, this is basically a fishing expedition. More spying than research, if you ask me.”
Rosalind waved her hand and zoomed into the biosphere, which was mostly covered by large expanses of water.
“We understand your reservations, professor,” she said. “It is a difficult and undefined mission.”
Dr. Linnaeus nodded, his shoulders dropping at the sound of her soothing voice.
“You’re a man who thrives in orderly and systematic investigation: research questions, theories, hypotheses, experimental frameworks… Scientists, like you, prefer not to stray too far from their fields of expertise. Believe me, our disciplines have more in common than we think. But the General is right, sending an army of researchers to live among the inhabitants could be troublesome. If we want to gain their trust and cooperation, we need to minimize any potential sources of friction. The last team we sent-”
The General grunted and stood up. “Think of it this way, professor. We’ll be extracting those people from Arcas one way or another. Now, we can do it the nice way, or we can do it my way.”
After the meeting, Rosalind approached Dr. Linnaeus and thanked him profusely. Something seemed different about her that day. Her face was flushed. Her hair tousled. She had let it down, and it fell wildly about her shoulders.
“Why me?” he said to her. “There are others out there with better credentials.”
She looked at him and a slight smile appeared on her lips. “I have to admit that it was no accident. I admire your work on exo-intelligence, Terence, or should I call you Charles Wallace?”
The professor’s eyes widened upon hearing the name spoken aloud. It was his pseudonym for the books he wrote on alien culture and intelligence. “How…?”
“Never mind that,” she said enigmatically. “Your work is brilliant. Your model of cultural evolution in particular is outstanding. A taxonomic system of behavioral classification for the social sciences. The ability to model and predict socio-cultural development based on an ethnographic table of elements. It could be the foundation for a new science.”
He cleared his throat and looked down at the ground. He had written those books many years ago. Memories of what he had written began to flood his mind. He had dealt with some rather racy subject matters in one particular volume. His cheeks grew warm.
“Those ideas are purely speculative. Flights of fancy, no more," he muttered. His mind was racing.
“Which is why you used a pseudonym. The intellectual orthodoxy would never take you seriously. But now you have the chance to test your educated guesses and prove them wrong. Do cultures evolve across 24 stages as your theory posits? Can we analyze and predict non-linear group behavior with precision? It will be like opening the doors to a laboratory with an experiment that has been running for over a thousand years.”
Dr. Linnaeus sighed and looked at her. Who was this woman who could so easily persuade him?
“I will need an assistant,” he said. “And the most unobtrusive data-gathering instruments at your disposal.”
She placed her hand on his arm. “Anything you need, Charles!”
“Terence will do. Thank you.”
“I can’t wait to read your field reports,” she said.
The professor made his way to the simulation room, where for the past two weeks he had been submitted to a battery of tests and training exercises. The launch was a week away, and he realized that backing out was no longer an option, if it ever was. He might as well roll with the punches, as the ancients used to say.
The dragonfly flew through the window and fluttered around Dr. Linnaeus, who was haunched over some diagrams spread out on his desk. The mottled insect settled itself on the bottle of ink resting on his desk.
“What the devil?”
He heard a giggle coming from the window and saw Esmeralda poking her head through it. She waved her fingers, whereupon the dragonfly took up flight and landed on her thumb.
“DSS-five twenty-three,” she said. “The most advanced surveillance system in the Solar command. Audio, video, thermal radiation, infrared, you name it. We have a whole swarm of them too. I thought I’d give them a test flight before we get to the village.”
“I see” he said walking over to the window. He briefly inspected the biodrone. "Good, good. Carry on then," he said and closed the window.
Back at his desk, he took up his pen and began to write in a hasty hand.
I must bring to your attention the matter of a young lady by name of Esmeralda Oliveira. She’s a passenger on this vessel and says that she’s to be my research assistant. I know that we didn’t get a chance to discuss this matter in detail, but I was rather surprised that you chose a female as my companion without first consulting me. Not that I personally have a problem with her being female, but we just don’t know the norms and values of the inhabitants, particularly as it pertains to socio-sexual interactions. Therefore-
He stopped writing and looked out the window in a pensive manner. Agh! It was no use. He shook his head and crumpling the letter, he threw it in the wastebasket.