39. TROUBLE ON STING 3*

The ruler of Sting 5 threatens the peaceful people of Sting 4.
Can Tony and Bea stop him?

Like Earth, Sting 4 suffers from global warming.  Kavi-Gaki, the young ruler of Sting 5, threatens to remove everyone from Sting 4, so that the planet can recover.  Tony and Bea are sent to help – and that leads to a perilous trip through the jungle of Sting 3.

Length : 30 500 words.

1

“HEED MY WARNING.”

“Open.” The transporter door slid aside, and the Bean and I hurried out. I expected to find the comm centre full of guards, with a leader waiting to meet us, but it was empty except for a round-faced, fair-haired boy.

I called to him, “Isn’t this Sting 4? I was ordered to report here as soon as possible.”

The boy ran forward. “I… I’m sorry. I was sent here to meet a young Federation agent.”

“Well, I’m an agent.” I spread my arms so he couldn’t miss my Troubleshooters uniform, like a grey tracksuit, with dark green bands round the chest and cuffs. “And I’m thirteen. Isn’t that young enough for you?”

“I… I’m sorry. I expected someone older than me. And he didn’t mention a girl.”

“Wasn’t she called too? I’m sorry. This is the Bean…. I mean….”

The Bean frowned at me. “Thank you, Tony. I am perfectly able to introduce myself.” She turned to the boy. “Greetings. I’m Bea. I’m pleased to meet you. We were told this was an emergency.”

“Oh! Yes, it is. I’ll show you to our Council Room. This way.” As he led us, almost running, along a wide, bright corridor, he went on, “I’m Syisho.” (Say, ‘S-yisho.’)

“Hi, Syisho,” I said. “I’m Tony. This is so like our home planet. Carpet on the floors. Wallpaper on the walls. Those big windows might’ve come straight from Sol 3.” We were on the first floor, looking out over a busy street. “Even the cars and buses look the same. I’d almost believe I’m at home, although we don’t usually wear gear like yours in Scotland.”

He was wearing a pale blue, knee-length smock with a huge red symbol like a Chinese letter on the back, and matching blue trousers. He wasn’t speaking English: we were using wrist units.

He said, “I hope your planet does not have the trouble that we have.” He opened a white-painted door. “This is our Council Room.”

It was long, with four high windows in the other side. The walls had wood panels as high as my neck, and white above, with pictures that might’ve been views of Earth. A long table filled the middle of the floor, with a lot of red-cushioned chairs round it, but only three at one end were being used.

When we went in, two men stood, and I recognised the old, white-haired one. “Moderato!”

The red bands on his uniform showed he was a Negotiator, but he’s friendly, not like most Negotiators, who think they’re much more important than Troubleshooters. His native language is English, but, being polite to the others, he used a wrist unit. “Ah, Tony. Thank you for coming so quickly. And Bea too. I’m pleased to see you. You’ve met Syisho. This is his father, Hayoo, who is leader of this planet.” He waved towards the other man, who also had a friendly face, and a blue smock with the same symbol. And yes: his name sounded like, ‘Hey, you!’ He bowed and smiled to us.

“This is Quitch.” She was a small, thin-faced woman, still sitting at the table. Her uniform had the purple bands of an Administrator. “She is Commander of the Federation base here, on Sting 4.”

She smiled with her mouth, but not her eyes. “Please ignore me. I’m here to watch. I am interested to meet you, young man. Moderato has a high opinion of you. That is why we waited for you.”

“Thanks.” I shared an embarrassed grin between her and Moderato. “We came as fast as we could.”

“Thank you, Tony,” said Moderato. “Let’s sit down. We have serious matters to discuss.”

When we were sitting round that end of the table, he went on, “Sting 4 is in trouble. I might even say it is in peril. Tony, what do you know about the planet?”

“Not much,” I said. “We came straight here, without asking about it. It looks very like our own planet, Sol 3.”

“It’s very similar indeed, and it has reached the same level of civilisation, but there is one major difference. Everyone on Sting 4 lives in peace.”

Hayoo said, “May I correct you? We do have our disagreements, but we have learned to settle them without fighting.”

“I wish you could teach our people,” said the Bean. “That’s why Sol 3 can’t join the Federation.”

Moderato said, “Sting 4 is troubled with global warming. They have been burning coal and oil for two hundred years. The carbon dioxide is increasing in the air, changing the climate, and melting the polar ice.”

“We know about that,” said the Bean. “We have the same trouble on Sol 3.”

Hayoo asked, “What are your leaders doing about it?”

“Not enough,” said the Bean. “They keep talking about it, saying how important it is, but they don’t actually do much.”

“We were the same,” said Hayoo. “We knew we should reduce our carbon dioxide, but we didn’t do enough. Then we had the message from Sting 5.”

“Sting 5?” I asked.

“The civilisation on Sting 5 is much older than ours. They have learned to use renewable energy only.”

I asked, “Can’t they tell you how they do it?”

Hayoo frowned. “They have other ideas.”

Moderato said, “Perhaps Quitch would tell you about them.”

Quitch said, “As on Sting 4, everyone on Sting 5 belongs to one nation, but they are always quarrelling. Their rulers are often assassinated: one was killed less than a year ago.”

“Not pleasant neighbours,” commented the Bean.

“No,” said Moderato. “They’re so warlike that they’ve never been invited to join the Federation. I’m sorry: Quitch was telling you about them.”

Quitch said, “They already had space travel when the Federation found them, but they seldom leave their planet. They devote all their energy to fighting among themselves, so they haven’t threatened other planets, even Sting 4. Until now.”

“Until now,” echoed Hayoo. “A year ago, a Sting 5 broadcast interrupted our radio and television transmissions. The exact words are burned in my memory. ‘People of Sting 4. I am Tatri-Gaki, ruler of Sting 5. Listen and understand. You are the intelligent species of your planet. It is therefore your duty to conserve it. Instead of that, you are ruining it by your burning fossil fuels. You must not continue these wasteful ways. I give you one year to reduce your production of carbon dioxide by 50%. If you fail to do so, I shall take action to save your planet. Heed my warning.’ That was it.”

He stopped for a moment, looking down at the table, before going on, “We traced the transmissions to four Sting 5 ships, in orbit round our equator. We are peaceful. They are warlike. We dared not defy them. We broadcast pleas to their ships, asking for their help to use renewable energy. Our only reply was a repeat of that threat.”

Syisho muttered, “If you call that a reply.”

Moderato said, “Hayoo asked the Federation for help. I went to Sting 5, to speak to Tatri-Gaki. A nasty person. He refused to discuss the matter. He said it concerned Sting 5 and Sting 4 only. Others should not interfere.”

Syisho said, “Sting 5 is one planet. The Federation is thousands.”

“I’m sorry, Syisho,” said Moderato. “We do occasionally employ small forces of commandos to fight criminals, but we have no army.”

Quitch added, “It would be foolish to oppose Sting 5 by force. They have advanced weapons, and millions of men who would be eager to use them.”

“Although we didn’t like the threat, we did try to reduce our carbon dioxide production,” said Hayoo. “We rationed coal and oil. We banned the use of fuels for half of each day. But… but hospitals need heat and light at all times. Fire engines must answer distress calls. Everyone seemed an exception. We did reduce our carbon dioxide production, but not as much as Tatri-Gaki demanded.”

“17%,” said Syisho.

The Bean said, “Didn’t you say Tatri-Gaki had been killed?”

“He was,” said Quitch. “His son now rules Sting 5.”

“We hoped that might end the threat,” said Hayoo. “But no. Two days ago, when the year ended, the four ships returned to their orbit, and made a new broadcast.” He sighed. “Again I can tell you the exact words. ‘People of Sting 4. I am Kavi-Gaki, ruler of Sting 5. Listen and understand. You have paid little heed to the warning you were given. I cannot permit you to ruin your planet. Since you have shown that you cannot conserve it, you must leave it. I shall send ships to remove you from it. Anyone who remains will be killed.’”