Diplomacy, part 2
Molly was just handing out bowls when her husband returned home.
"There you are, Frank. I should have know you'd smell food cooking and would show up." She ordered her husband to go wash up while she served their guests.
The older woman handed out spoons to her guests and told them to eat and not wait for her. The women sat around a Japanese style dining table. The low table was over a fire pit where hot coals could be placed. It would keep the occupants warm on chilly days while they ate.
Cierra dipped her spoon into the rich stew that was made with chicken, sweet potatoes, vegetables, lots of onions, and mushrooms.
Robbie was quick to finish off her bowl and sighed. Cierra knew the tall blonde could easily eat seconds, thirds, and fourths. Back home if you wanted more you simply went back and filled up again but at a stranger's home you only took seconds if offered. Robbie ate like a teenager and never gained a pound.
Frank and Molly joined them at the table. The older woman saw Robbie's empty bowl and pointed to the kettle. "Help yourself, dear. There's enough for an army."
Robbie thanked Molly and stood up.
JP grinned and leaned forward. "Good thing we aren't staying long, Molly. We could easily eat you out of house and home. You're a great cook."
The woman beamed. She was pleased that they liked her cooking. The group chatted while they dined, asking about each other's communities.
After a while the women began yawning. With full stomachs and after a long day the women were sleepy.
Molly patted Robbie's hand since she was closest. "Why don't you all take a stroll, go to the bathroom, look around for about fifteen minutes. That way I'll have enough time to get your rooms ready. I'll prepare the tub too for anyone who wants a bath."
The women agreed and thanked their hostess. Cierra grabbed her jacket while JP wrapped Kiona in a blanket. They stepped outside, noticing that the sun was nearly down on the horizon.
"Nice night," Carey mentioned. It was a little cool but not unpleasant. The women made their way uphill towards the outhouses and did their business. In the short time they were on the hill the sun had disappeared, leaving the sky colored in purples and oranges to the west.
They headed down the hill path until JP stopped suddenly. "Is it me or are the houses kind of green?"
The women squinted in the near darkness. Carey spoke up first. "Yeah. Reminds me of those Glow-in-the-dark balls we used to play with as kids."
The women continued on until they reached Molly's house. As they neared it the group inspected the cause of the glow. Maggie leaned towards one bright area. "Mushrooms. Glow-in-the-dark mushrooms!" The mushrooms were growing on the cedar wood of the houses on the north sides and in the areas hit by the least amount of sunlight during the day. The wood felt damp to the touch and why the fungi grew there.
"Damnedest thing I ever saw," JP mumbled.
Frank walked around the corner, his pipe lit, explaining why he was outdoors. They asked about the mushrooms.
"Those silly things? They started growing almost as soon as the houses were built. We scraped them off at first until we saw them glowing on the houses that the owners were lazy about removing them. The lights are pretty handy when the moon isn't out. Not real bright but they give off enough light to let you walk around without stumbling."
"They grow everywhere around here?" Maggie asked.
"Nope. They seem to like cedar wood and sometimes we find them on the redwood trees."
Cierra was curious. "Has anyone tried to grow them inside?"
Frank hummed and said no.
JP glanced at her wife. "I see those little wheels turning."
Cierra giggled. "Yeah. I was wondering if we could grow them in jars. Sort of use them like night lights or something."
Robbie grunted. "I don't see why not. Just bring along some cedar firewood chips and some mushrooms. As long as they're kept moist and cool I bet they'll grow."
"Are they poisonous?" JP asked.
"No, they're not poisonous but you don't want to eat them. Nasty taste," Frank informed them.
Molly came to the front door and called them inside. She had their beds made up and the metal tub filled with hot water. Carey and Maggie took turns with the tub while the other three said they would use it in the morning. The three single women would share the larger room while JP, Cierra, and the baby would get the smaller one. A small padded crib sat on the floor next to the pallet her parents would sleep on.
The couple gladly undressed and crawled under the covers after putting Kiona in the crib. The night wasn't cold indoors since the ovens gave off heat in the main area of the house. They cuddled up to one another and quickly fell asleep.
The small window lit up the room the next morning. The couple went through their morning rituals of changing and feeding the baby while they took turns dressing. They joined the others as they emerged from their rooms one by one.
"Good morning," Molly and Frank told their guests. Molly told the women to help themselves when they were hungry. She had fixed a meal and placed the food in covered pans to keep warm.
Frank cleared his throat. "The Captain and the head scientists want to meet with you after breakfast."
Cierra sighed. "I'm sure they do. Thanks." The shaman knew that the scientists would want to return to Mother Earth with a larger scientific team. The lure of studying early mankind was too great to ignore. She and the council had discussed this the entire day before leaving.
Cierra picked at her food, the enjoyment of the meal diminished with Frank's announcement. After the women had their fill they asked for directions to the Asimov camp. It wasn't too far down the coast and they opted to walk rather than saddle up their horses. It took about ten minutes to walk the distance to the large base camp for the ship.
By the number of tents along the shore it was obvious that the people off duty chose to spend their time on shore rather than the ship. As the Napa Clan representatives approached the line of tents the cadets and crew greeted them brightly. They knew now that they would soon return to Earth and their families.
Cierra spotted Captain Harrison and Marla Fletcher, the lead scientist on the mission. Marla held out her hand. "It's so good to see you again," she smiled.
Cierra shook her hand, allowing her natural barriers down. She wanted to know the truth rather than listen to possible lies or having the woman hold back information.
The women all greeted one another and then the Captain invited them to sit.
"So," Janice began. "I guess you already know what we want to talk about. It goes without saying that the discovery of the Bailey Man in Africa was a surprise. We didn't expect to find any people at all on Mother Earth."
Cierra nodded. "We discussed all this before we came here. The council agreed on certain actions and we wrote down the terms if the people back home decide to study them further."
"If?" Marla gasped. "Ms. White, I think most of the scientific community would sell their souls if it would get them on the research team. There's no question about our wanting to return. There's dozens of specialists in the US that--"
"What about researchers and scientists from other nations?" Carey asked.
"Why, um, we assumed that you would only allow Americans into Mother Earth."
"My, how generous I am," Cierra said drolly. "Look, just because I was an American doesn't mean I'll only deal with the US. We're not exclusive property of anyone. We're a free nation or did I understand the President wrong?"
Captain Harrison cleared her throat, seeing that the queen was getting angry. "No, you didn't. You are an independent nation and in charge of your own actions. But you have to admit that with the embassy in California that the US government would be nervous about allowing other nations free rein in and out of our country."
"Fine, then do background checks and whatever security measures that need done. I won't allow myself to be bullied into only letting the US benefit from dealings with us on Mother Earth. Once you get your teams together send word through the embassy. In the meantime, you might want to start packing up. I'll take the Asimov back to Earth in the morning."
The captain quickly agreed. She realized that if people back home started taking Mother Earth for granted that they might find themselves facing a locked door. The people on Mother Earth didn't really need the Old World. They could get along as they were.
"Oh, by the way, we brought some live plants for your colony. The plants are with the supplies that the BOC are giving you. One is a healing plant that we also found in Africa," she mentioned.
"Yes. One of the scientists found it to have amazing healing abilities when it comes to dermal injuries. If it proves to be as beneficial as we believe then you will get the percentage of profits from the discovery."
"Huh?" Cierra was confused.
Marla shrugged. "We wondered if you knew about the clause of the contract we all signed. Your lawyer insisted that if anything was found and then marketed that you and the colony would receive a percentage of the profits."
"I didn't know that."
"I thought as much. That part of the contract didn't sound like you."
JP grunted. "I guess Hallie wanted to make sure we had funds if we needed them."
Carey crossed her arms. "So, you think they'll make like a skin cream or something out of these plants?"
"Well, something like that," Marla answered. "As much as we can tell it promises to heal serious skin injuries without allowing scaring to form and if we're correct, it might just cure skin cancer."
"Oh Lord," Maggie uttered. "If that's true then it'll be worth billions."
JP laughed. "I can see it now. We'll be millionaires and still making our own soap. Just call us the Beverly Hillbillies."
The next morning the women watched as the Asimov dropped anchor near the BOC village. The women from the Napa clan were taken to the ship on one of the large fishing canoes.
They women would inspect the ship holds before Cierra took them back. They wanted to make sure that no living animals were being taken back. Cierra would use her abilities to probe both people and objects on the ship.
Several hours later they were satisfied that the crew had followed the rules given them. Cierra remained on board while the others returned to the canoe. Cierra would return the ship and return shortly.
The captain got on the loud speakers and told the crew to prepare for the jump. She warned them to make sure they were either inside or attached to a safety line. The all clear was given and Cierra gripped a doorway. She knew that the Old World had a higher sea level and the ship would bob upwards suddenly when they arrived. She concentrated and felt the sickening motion of the large sailing ship lurch upwards as it arrived off shore of San Francisco.
Once the ship settled Cierra released her grip and made her way towards the captain. Cierra was amused at some of the things she heard from the crew as she walked past them.
"Whew, what a stink."
One of the others laughed and said that was what fresh, clean air did to you. The crew had gotten used to the pure air of Mother Earth.
The officers of the ship wished Cierra a safe trip back and helped her down to the water. Cierra waved good-bye and swam a few feet from the ship. The crew blinked and she was gone.