Chapter 5: Exercising Our Futility
Back at the TXT office with Eric and Hfnafar, we continue to experiment
with the strange disks. We learn that not all the disks have all the
same properties. Markel's disk does not fill Salimar with a desire to
change shape nor, oddly, does Salimar's disk fill Markel with a desire
to change. Hfnafar is intrigued. He points out that most mechanical psi
is not very adaptive, but that this is undoubtedly mechanical psi, and
it is highly adaptive.
We brood over this, but reach no worthwhile conclusions.
Salimar displays the image of the teletransport again, and everyone studies it for clues. Eric and Hfnafar agree that its style is definitely not terrestrial, and not commercial Blenari. They also can't spot any reflectors, and so don't understand how it could work at all. We wonder if the bizarre, bean-pod alien is providing technology that doesn't require reflectors.
We dub the creature the Hood Ornament and consider various ways to identify it.
We express our doubt about Customs being useful since they didn't interact with us on our arrival. Eric corrects us; our examination was automated but effective. We change our minds and agree that Customs could be useful. Hfnafar calls a contact in Customs, who turns out to be another of the small grey centaurs, and shows him/her a holo of the Hood Ornament. The centaur studies it, doesn't recognize it, makes a copy of the picture, and promises to get back to us.
We contact Edvard, and warn him about the Romeo and Juliet Blenari problem. We show him the picture of the Hood Ornament, but it doesn't match anything in his data base.
We feel discouraged and brain-dead, so we decide that food might help. Eric recommends Shawasha's downtown. This turns out to be housed in a building in a semi-KaiSen style; it looks like the usual collection of egg crates, but it uses color as well. We are seated on cushions around a low table, and check out our dining neighbors until our wait-being arrives.
There's a party of Rioli on one side, and a table of large, silver-furred caterpillars (Gargians) on the other. Also nearby is a Drine with some sort of humanoid, but it's furry, and there's something odd about its eyes.
Our waiter arrives, and it's another of the little grey centaurs. We struggle through the ordering process, and generally elect to go with the "chef's choice" options. The meal is a series of disconcerting surprises, and everything drinkable is a thin, clear liquid, in no way representative of its taste. We critique the meal with the waiter, and at the end, we are given an index value which, we hope, will help us the next time we eat here.
We go for a walk after dinner. Salimar checks with KaiSen; it doesn't have our Hood Ornament on record, and suggests that it may not be a living creature. We stroll along. It's after dark, and we can see the planetary rings. The city is a flat plain with glowing towers, and various alien pedestrians. We mull over our problem silently.
Dafnord starts thinking out loud. One detail we haven't studied is that the Korando have been using Tlappina Aelth mercenaries. He contacts Edvard and learns that they are obligate symbiotes, that they lives on the northern steppes of this planet, and that there are many, many tribes of them, twelve prominent. All twelve have different body plans, although they all use similar heads.
We return to the office and learn more there. Hfnafar explains that the mercenaries belong to a thirteenth tribe, one that resembles the Veem, and that Tlappina don't have a sector of their own in Requembel. He also tells us that his contact in Customs called back. They have no record of anything like our Hood Ornament.
Still flummoxed, we go to our sleeping quarters. Kate goes off to bed, but the others continue to speculate. Fallataal asks if the Hood Ornament could be a plant, with its seed-pod limbs. Gannar offers the speculation that the Hood Ornament is taking the place of the teleportation reflectors. Robbie wonders if it could be a different Tlappina Aelth, and calls Hfnafar to ask him. The Motu Banu explains that they genetically modify their components and put them together in different combinations to produce new tribes, and that the Hood Ornament does not contain anything that looks like a Tlappina intelligence component.
He then informs us of the result of a bit of analysis done on the disks. They contain Tlappina proteins, and so are using organic rather than mechanical psi. He explains that the Tlappina, while not warlike, are very rowdy, and so do a lot of psychic healing. That makes sense of a sort.
Fallataal turns his attention to the mercenaries. He wonders if the Tlappina Aelth could be violating their own race's Plan, perhaps by means of Unplanned Powers. We contemplate this, and decide it is a bit tenuous. Since all we want is a restoration of the Blenari balance, perhaps what we should do is persuade the Tlappina to sell to the Algis.
Ultimately, we agree that we don't have enough information yet. Dafnord suggests that we visit another battle site, and get views of another teletransport and its Hood Ornament. Then, perhaps, we'll talk with the Tlappina AIlth and offer them an alternate buyer for their services
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.