Food and Fathers
Characters: Margaret Morgan, Eddie Kriechbaum
Telepaths. Morgan mouthed the word, looking at the strange-furred one.
As they approached the cushions, the conversation between the two Huka paused, and the telepath turned a large, yellow-eyed gaze on Morgan and Gahara.
The Huka queen was the first to speak. “Gahara,” she said, “Our Speaker Peyula brings us important news.” She spoke in Interlac.
“Hukanape,” Gahara replied in the same, “I too bring news, and would present to you my companion, Morgan of the Anla’shok.”
Morgan folded her hands and bowed. “It is an honor, Hukanape.”
“We have heard of your colony,” the queen said, “which travels the stars seeking both secrets and justice. You are most welcome among the Guardians of the Huka.” She turned to Morgan’s companion. “What is your news, Gahara, that brings with it one of the Anla’shok?”
“There has been a killing, Hukanape,” Gahara said. “One of the colony of Growers, who keeps a shop of plants in the Great Marketplace, has been murdered. I have begun the investigation, and asked Morgan and another of the Anla’shok, called Daanike, to help me.”
As the queen nodded, the green-furred Huka telepath turned again toward Morgan. “May we of the Speakers be of assistance, Anla’shok? It is in our power to send word anywhere on our planet, in the time it takes to think it.”
“I do not know of a way yet, but that could change in a moment. I am grateful for your offer, though.”
She nodded. “I am the Speaker assigned to the Guardians, so if you need me, Gahara will know where to find me.”
The queen spoke again. “A killing is a very rare, and terrible thing. We are grateful, Anla’shok, that you are willing to help us learn what has happened. Gahara, you may have the use of one of the private work rooms until your investigation is completed.”
The Huka smiled. “Thank you, hukanape. I was going to ask. May we be going?”
The queen nodded, and with polite gestures, Gahara and Morgan left her chamber.
“I should get that uplink working so we can start processing IDs,” Morgan said, once they had left.
Gahara led the way to a large staircase, and they headed up to the third floor. “We usually live and work all together,” she explained, “but for special tasks such as this we may have the use of private rooms. That is where we are going now.”
“I understand. We live much the same way, when in training, both in the Anla’shok, and before, for me, with the humans.”
“The Anla’shok … it is an interesting concept for me to understand,” Gahara said as they made their way down a long corridor, lined with plain, unmarked doors. “You are like to one of our colonies, set to a task on behalf of all the others, yet there are different species — from different worlds! — among you.”
“It was an interesting concept for me at first,” Morgan admitted. “I had seen that even Humans did not work well together, much less other species.”
“I know that we are different from many species,” Gahara said, “but I must ask — how can you survive at all, if you do not cooperate with one another?”
She had to think about it. “Oh, humans cooperate, but we are damned independent, and there will always be at least a minor amount of friction, sometimes much more.”
Gahara simply nodded, trying to digest this, as she ushered Morgan inside the room. It was relatively plain, with one window, a table and two chairs, and a sleeping pallet on the floor. But the cushion on the pallet was decorated in a brightly colored geometric pattern, and several banners with similar patterns hung from the walls.
Gahara activated the terminal which sat on the table. Like all the other Huka technology Morgan had seen, it had an elegantly elaborate appearance. Like something out of the Victorian Age.
Morgan touched it for a moment, bemused, then sat down. “This will take a few minutes at least.”
“If you like, I could bring some food for us, while you work,” Gahara suggested.
“I should eat.” Her mouth quirked – she wasn’t hungry, but she had been scolded about that too often. “Thank you.”
Gahara simply nodded. “I will return soon,” she said, and left the room.
Morgan flexed her hands and started making the connections. First to the Phoenix, for security, then to the InterWeb. The actual connections were a surprisingly swift process. While the hardware interface of the Huka computer was a little challenging to master, the heart of the technology was the same.
Morgan only wondered a little at that, instead setting up the search parameters. As she finished and set the search running, Gahara returned, carrying a large tray with several covered bowls and something that looked like a teapot and cups. She set it down on the table, asking, “Were you able to make contact with your ship?”
“Yes, quite easily. I was afraid it would take jury-rigging. Ah… A non-standard connection.”
Gahara nodded her understanding. “Much of our computing technology is based on that of the Minbari,” she said. “Actually, I used what we know of the Minbari to choose what to bring to eat,” she added. “I hope I am not mistaken in my guess that what humans eat is not very different.”
“Not after so long in the Rangers, at any rate.” Morgan smiled. “Thank you.”
The Huka opened the bowls to reveal some sort of stew, still steaming, and flat cakes. She poured from the pot into cups, and a rich smell reminiscent of lavender filled the air.
Reflexively, Morgan inhaled. After savoring it a moment, she had to ask, “What is that?”
“It’s a brew, made from the leaves of a plant that grows on the upper plains,” Gahara said. “We are very fond of it, and the Minbari took a great liking to it as well. We call it lapono.”
“It smells like an Terran plant called lavender. It’s sometimes used in teas.” She sniffed. “Nearly as ubiquitous as breen, I suppose.”
“Perhaps so,” Gahara said. “My father would know — it is the hukapane, our fathers, who know the most about the worlds beyond our own.” She picked up a spoon and took a mouthful of stew.
Morgan poked at the stew before trying it, but then found she rather liked it. “Tell me more, please.”
“About the hukapane?” At Morgan’s nod, Gahara said, “There are, as you’ve probably seen, only a few males of our kind. Of course they work with the hukanape to create the next generations of our people — but beyond that, most of their time is spent as our teachers, educating all the young Huka. And naturally, in order to teach, you must first learn. Most of the hukapane are great seekers after knowledge.”
Morgan nodded. “That is a high calling.”
Gahara smiled widely, making a clicking sound with her teeth. “It also makes the games of Match-wit very entertaining.”
The Huka computer chimed softly, attempting to get Morgan’s attention. At almost the same moment, her link went off.
She answered her link first. “Morgan.”
“Kriechbaum. Still with the shuttle. Been more than a couple hours, so I thought I’d better check in.”
“Ah, yes.” To be perfectly honest, Morgan had forgotten about him. “I am sorry – we ended up answering a call for assistance.”
“Oh, okay. That makes sense then. What do you want me to do from here?”
Morgan looked at the time. “If there haven’t been any problems, go get yourself something to eat, if you like. I may need some help in a little while.”
“You got it. I’ll leave the link on.”
“Ie. Morgan out.” She then turned to the computer, to see what it had come up with.
Copyright (c) 2004 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.