“I think we have a good enough team assembled to return to the second living world we discovered,” Deloris told Heather.
Heather’s brother Barak was with her but stood back silently supportive. The explorers were all equal except for the necessities of command but Deloris was clearly dominant and Heather would be a fool to pretend otherwise. The other team members were absent but one could be sure they were thoroughly briefed what Deloris was going to tell her.
“Why good enough instead of magnificent?” Heather asked. She drew the word out with the sort of breathless wonder used to sell things on the video channels. She had some ideas what limitations Deloris was working with so it was at least partially humor. Some of the experts she’d hired were marginally qualified or rank amateurs. Deloris and her crews hadn’t complained so far and she was inviting her to speak up if they had any serious objections.
“Because the way rank and tenure work among the Earthies the most qualified of the academics are insulted to be offered a berth on our explorer. They want to come based on when they can get a sabbatical rather than our schedule. The idea of quitting their slot at the pig trough of higher education would never occur to them. They expect a private cabin if not a suite, and be allowed to haul along a few graduate students and a secretary to do all their heavy lifting for them.”
“There must be exceptions or you wouldn’t have any support people,” Heather said.
“Oh sure. We have a few round pegs in square holes so smart I think they could do just about anything if we gave them a week or two to read up on it. Maybe even my job. We wanted a botanist and if possible one who specialized in grasses. The survey from orbit saw no large woody plants like trees. The radar returns at different frequencies indicate the height of most ground covering foliage is from three centimeters to a meter. So, there isn’t even anything we’d call a bush.”
Heather just nodded. She’d read the survey report and remembered the details like those numbers better than Deloris would have expected.
“What Jeff got for us was not a botanist but a Nobel Prize winning biochemist. Bobby won the prize for explaining the exact chemical path of cellular differentiation in plants. I’m guessing he isn’t worried about having a job when he returns, given his credentials. There will be plenty of institutions eager to take him if his present employer is dumb enough to let him go. Jeff asked if he was too specialized to conduct a general survey of an entire new biosphere? The fellow said he wouldn’t take offense but that was like asking of the builder of race car engines if he could do an oil change. He didn’t have to be asked if he would do other support duties when not busy with his primary job. Bobby volunteered he was a passable cook and not above scrubbing toilets if that’s what it took to get a ride to another star system. The man got major points with me for asking how many kilograms he was allowed for personal items like clothing and entertainment. I’ll take six more like him, please.”
“In what area are we weakest?” Heather asked.
“Animal biologists,” Deloris said. “We didn’t see an animal from orbit with a three-centimeter resolution survey of several different areas. I suspect they may not exist. There might be insect analogs or life in the ocean, but it’s weird to see all that grass and no herds of herbivores munching on it. In truth we didn’t try to recruit awfully hard because I’m not sure we need one.”
“No birds either?” Heather asked. “I didn’t see that addressed.”
“Not unless they are hummingbird sized. There might be flying insects,” she speculated.
“I accept your analysis we have a workable support crew,” Heather decided. “We three will come along again to see the world for ourselves after we orbit awhile in the Chariot and allow you to establish it is reasonably safe. I suppose eventually these landing will be routine and we won’t always join you. Not yet though.”
“That was my next question,” Deloris said. “I suggest you make a separate landing so one local problem like a storm can’t catch both ships in the same location.”
“With a relay satellite to keep in touch?” Heather asked.
“See, you’re not as dumb as you look,” Deloris praised her sovereign.