Most of the Council of Planets’ questions asked if she had picked up any hint of hostility in her vision or pushed for more information she didn’t have. By the time they finished Amanpreet was heartily bored and she yawned as she followed Midori from the chamber.
â€œI know,â€ Midori said sympathetically. â€œHow many different ways can they find to ask the same thing?â€
“I’m sorry I wasn’t much help,” Amanpreet said. “But I didn’t get any detail beyond the presence of the eggs and the fact they wanted us to save them.”
“I believe you,” Midori said. “I think the Council do as well.” She lead Amanpreet into her office and placed a small kettle on to boil over a brazier. “Tea?”
“Please,” Amanpreet said. “What do you think the Council will do?”
Midori made a thoughtful sound. “Bioforming is such a long process that I suspect they’ll start it while arguing about what to do with the eggs. After all, restoring the biosphere doesn’t necessarily mean restoring the intelligent species.â€ She bent down and looked in a cupboard. â€œI only have green jasmine left. Is that okay?â€
â€œSounds lovely,â€ Amanpreet said politely.
â€œGood.â€ Midori said. â€œBut yes, we have time. The grandchildren of the current Council will probably still be arguing about by the time they actually need to make the decision about the eggs.” She laughed as she handed Amanpreet a porcelain bowl full of tea.
“Thank you.” Amanpreet inclined her head to Midori before sipping the tea. â€œAnd that’s true unless they decide to make domes for them. It would give us chance to observe them and they us before they can pose any danger. That’s the best way to learn about them.”
Midori gave her a surprised look. “I didn’t think of that and I doubt the Council did either. I’ll append it to the report of your answers because it’s a good thought.”
â€œSangat said you’d managed to access their computer?â€
â€œYes,â€ Midori said. â€œThey went out of their way to make it accessible to anyone who found it. Lots of data about the biosphere and the disaster that destroyed it. It seems they knew it was coming but couldn’t escape. But we also found something strange. We’re having trouble decoding part of the information they pushed the limits of math-based communication to try and tell us something. A warning, we think.â€
â€œWhat about the book?â€ Amanpreet asked. â€œThat might hold more.â€
â€œWe haven’t figured out a way to bring it back here without touching it. But I would like to see if you or Mei can read it. As soon as we’ve got permission from the Council to take you back to the surface, I’d like to take both of you down to look at it.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œThough I really need to get back to Damkina soon. I have another cargo run booked for next month.â€
â€œOh, I doubt it will be long,â€ Midori said. â€œBut you look tired. Go find your brother and relax for the rest of the day. We should hear back from the Council by tomorrow.â€
The next morning, Amanpreet was breakfasting with Sangat in the viewing lounge when Midori came in and hurried over to them.
“We heard back from the council today,” she said without preamble. “They like your idea of hatching the eggs in an environment dome and seeing how they develop, so that’s what we’re going to do â€“ as long as the book doesn’t reveal anything to suggest that’s a danger. The Ishtari bioengineers say they’ll have a plan to start bioforming the planet to its former state within the next few weeks. I think they’re relishing the challenge of restoring a biosphere.”
Amanpreet nodded as her mind latched on to the one thing that affected her directly. “You mentioned the book so I assume Mei and I are cleared for the surface?”
“Yes,” Midori said. “I’m sure one of you will be able to read it. There’s no other reason for them to have left it so obviously. They wanted us to find and read it.”
“It’s a reasonable assumption, Midori,” Sangat agreed. “I just hope it’s safe.”
“I do as well. I think it will be. Even if they are dangerous they are trying to lure us in. Harming one of us wouldn’t do that.”
“That’s true.” Sangat stared out at the planet where the rune was just coming into view. “I’m actually more concerned by unintentional harm, but I agree we need to find out what’s in the book.”
“Good. Meet us at transport bay seven after you’ve finished your breakfast.”
“Bay seven?” He sounded surprised. “We’re taking your personal transport? You’re coming to the surface with us?”
“I am. Umi and Qichi too. The Council want personal testimony from us and that means coming along to see for ourselves.”
“I see. We’ll be about half an hour then.”
Midori’s personal transport caught Amanpreet by surprise. Its sleek form was a shiny silver that clearly marked it as inorganic. No one had inorganic ships anymore; they couldn’t survive hyperspace.
“It’s not meant for long haul use,” Midori said before she could ask. “And I like this design.”
“It is aesthetically pleasing,” Qichi said. “But not very practical. Shall we go?”
“Yes,” Midori said. “Let’s fire her up and get down to the dig site.”