“…noted that alone among other stable traversibles into survivable conditions, the Yanase-1 phenomenon has a confirmed TAB. All project resources therefore to be reassigned to Yanase-1.”
Someone waved off the feed as it started on the next report, about the field trials conducted during the almond riots. Hausblend slid further down in his chair and massaged his neck. According to his last physical, four of his cervical discs had degenerated beyond recovery. Small price to pay for what he achieved, though. At twenty-eight, he was already a partner.
“Talk about the TAB, o talk,” he told the associates.
“Only one, this information to a high degree of certainty. An Anglese named Edwin Abbott-Abbott.”
“You are iterating,” Hausblend chided. Sportyrain was a valued wonk, but as her controller, he had to keep the discipline in all things. The will to waste had to be fought at all costs.
“Untrue,” Sportyrain responded without heat. “Abbott-Abbott is his correct name. Perhaps the culture valued redundancy. He expired in 1926.”
Despite the discomfort it caused, Hausblend opened his eyes and peered at Sportyrain. As usual, hers was the only upright figure among the slumping and the supine. “That is many bees ago. How many bees in that time?”
“Two. In his time, the world population was two billion.” There were sighs around the conference room, almost obscene in their wistfulness.
“Then this Abbott-twice had no reason to traverse to a new world. He lived in a time of plenty-much.” Hausblend took out the drops and doused his burning eyes.
“Submit that the motive for his there-and-back is unimportant,” Sportyrain continued. “Further submit that his confidential account of the there-and-back describes a world with unusual specifications. I would tell you them.”
“The confidential account found in the house of one John Hay in the Brown District of Providence Plantations. A paper notebook. During a chemical sack-type incident at the district, secret writing was found manifested in the notebook.”
“Lawless area, the Brown District,” Caramelty broke in. “How to trust provenance of anything found there? And much paper they have, from all eras. How came this document to be taken for proof of habitable world?”
Hausblend shot the associate an instant: Wasteful. TAB already confirmed. Report said.
“I desist,” Caramelty told Sportyrain. “I desist. TAB is confirmed, therefore the notebook is proven. There is habitable world through Yanase-1. I desist.”
“I acknowledge,” Sportyrain rewarded him with a faint smile. “And I continue.”
“One specification is time. Abbott-Abbott made many TAB to this habitable world using Yanase-1. Yet never was he missed on Earth. One hundred years he would spend in this world-named-Texel and return to his home-place-London mere hours after his departure. However, another stable traversible he discovered in Texel. Using this resulted in his returning to his home-place-London several days before he had left. This undiscovered traversible we designate Abbott-4.” She looked around in some satisfaction. She had all their attention.
“Second specification,” she said, raising a tiny gnarled hand to forestall questions. Her swan-necked fingers were strangely graceful in the conference room’s stark lights. “Is population-to-resource ratio. The native population uses a negligible percentage of the resources. Their level of development, equivalent to ours of more than fourteen bees ago. Pre-industrial. Upwards of ninety-five percent of the world is undeveloped.”
“Abbott-Abbott postulated a dual-ocean, single-landmass world. Landmass situated as a thick band around the planetary body. One ocean is a metal source and therefore welly-well target for first exploration.” Heads nodded vigorously at that comment, and around the room, pain flared as migraines stirred and bone spurs stabbed. Sportyrain paused to let everyone recover, then took a deep breath.
“Now to the third and last specification I come.” Hausblend realized with amazement that Sportyrain was trembling with emotion. “In Texel, there is no death. No disease. No pain.” She looked around the room, into the shocked faces of the old young. “It is more than a colony site. It is the cure.”
After the meeting broke up in a mood of cautious hysteria, Sportyrain went for a walk on the concourse. It was slow going; her feet were stiff, and she sat down on an observation bay settee with a grateful sigh. Beyond the flushed glass skin of the pyramid, the sun beat down mercilessly on the work camps below. In the roadside trenches, laborers sprawled practically atop one another, taking their afternoon naps under mosquito netting. Crones guarded the laundry hanging listlessly over the median, on wires zigging between bright pink Compo-Lets that marched in a snaking column as far as the eye could see. Alongside engineers in powered suits, boys and girls with strong, straight limbs and flimsy hard hats clambered around a huge bristling pit, the beginnings of another cooling tower for the pyramid. A parked van was rocking rhythmically in the hard shadow of a relay tower, surrounded by a crowd. As Sportyrain watched, the rocking reached a frenzied pitch, then stilled. A door slid open, a line formed, and people sped off with their burden of freshly-sawn ice.
People, people everywhere. How many bees? Fifteen. Fifteen billion and that was with a dozen wars churning dutifully away, not to mention the floods, hurricanes, earthquakes…and all the ways in which a poisoned, meager world could take its revenge on flesh and bone. Sportyrain touched her left knee and felt the dull heat from the swollen joint. It's not the population, it’s the density, the saying went. But it wasn’t merely the crowding she loathed. It was her misbegotten body she longed to escape. It was hateful to her, as hateful as this world that had knowingly lived on borrowed time for over three hundred years. No, not just borrowed, but wallowed in it, like pigs in a sty.
She sensed more than saw Caramelty take a seat beside her. He reached out and gently placed his hand next to hers on the bench. Close enough to feel the warmth, but not close enough to touch. Touching hurt.
“It shall be a one way trip,” he said. He was grinning at her, and Sportyrain felt an answering smile growing on her own face. “Beam us up, o,” she said softly. “There’s nothing left for us on Earth.”