Week 1, Finding the Hierowesch
As we all remember perfectly, we had found that while undergoing 'repairs' on CoDominion Helene, our own Marsina Cho had been shadowed by somebody. This somebody had disappeared down an alley without exits, and had left behind a "serious spatial discontinuity" on our map of Here. We speculated that it might have been Henderson, since we had, well, rolled him and left him drunk and naked on a rooftop some time around now, and Marsina had helped him recover from the incident.
After chewing over the possible meanings of this appearance/disappearance, we decided against getting Marsina a bodyguard (even the attractive and competent-seeming Jefferson Blue) and against delaying our departure. We file a false flight plan for the gude shippe Hulk, pack the wonder volunteers aboard, and take off, with Cantrel acting as our pilot.
Immediately after that, we spot a faint trace of a ship at the extreme range of our instruments. Could it be an enemy ship? It is there too briefly to tell, and since our instruments can see farther than anyone else's, we choose not to worry about it. We scoot out on our registered course, then, when nothing further shows up, we curve around and head for Hierow.
Still nothing appears, so we relax and settle in for a week-long trip. Glorian, Ashleigh and Jake all spend a lot of time with Hisradish, and people work on their levitation skills. (Jake tries being stealthy and learns more about being hit by Cantrel.) We finally approach a solar system that we ascertain is Hierow's.
We have the ship scan the ether for signals. It finds garbaged signals on the radio band. We have the ship start to move in on the planet Hierow, as it continues to monitor the signals and tries to decipher them. Alag glamours Hulk into invisibility in the bands from infrared up past the visible band, and the results are satisfactory to our instruments. As we move in from a few light-days to a few light-hours, the radio signals become clearer, and the ship is able to determine that they are three- or four-dimensional images. We check with Hisradish; there are no Hierowesch sounds, only the Fauns are transmitting. By the time we have approached orbital distance, we have ascertained that there are no satellites and no spaceships. We may yet be in time.
>From orbit, we scan the planet as thoroughly as possible. Alag uses Daewen's farsee-er, while the rest of us rely on the ship's instrumentation. Hisradish points out the continent that held the Hierowesch in his universe, and we concentrate on that. We easily find heavy cultivation and large cities there, but they are all Faun cities, and we are unable to spot any Hierowesch. We set the ship to scan for video and audio signals, and to continue the visual examination of the cities, while we get a good night's sleep.
In the morning, the ship has provided us with a nice collection of pictures of cities, and of video transmissions, presumably news and stories, in multiple languages, but still without any Hierowesch. We have the ship do scans of the foothill areas of the continent using infrared. Finally, late at night, traces of our carnivores are found, higher in the mountains than expected, and fewer in number. The habitations seem to be built of stone, camouflaged against not-so-casual observation, the villages are small, holding no more than a hundred people or so, and there are no enclosures for domestic animals.
We decide, Jeremy excepted, to go down and talk with them, and 'babel fish' are handed out to anyone who doesn't already have one. Hisradish is unshielded, and cloaked to look like a human. He looks ridiculous. We use the pop teleport, and arrive, mid-morning, a few hundred meters from a well-hidden village.
Alag, flying above us, spots a Hierowesch tracking us, and then three more coming in to join the first, carrying what could be weapons. Ashleigh calls out, "Hello?" and Alag reports that they all stop moving. "Anyone there?" Ashleigh probes, with a fine display of casual interest.
Two Hierowesch stand up from the scrub, much closer than we had expected. Thanks, Alag. Ashleigh starts right in, "We're here to visit, maybe aid you."
This is ignored; they wish the answer to a more basic question: "What are you?"
"People," is the guileless reply.
They look us over carefully, perhaps a little dubiously, and say nothing.
Ashleigh tries again. "We're here to aid you."
We seem to be accepted as people, since the next question is, "Why?"
This is not going to be simple, but Ashleigh tries anyhow. "It's a long story. We owe a debt." They will not be put off, and their leader, a male missing a lot in the way of lips and fangs, insists on hearing the story here and now: Ashleigh explains how, far away, our people, the Humans, aided another ... group of Hierowesch against their Faun opponents. Later, the Hierowesch had aided another race as they had been helped. Now, we were here on behalf of this race, the Banuesch, to repay this debt.
The Hierowesch mulls over the story, stuck on the idea of multiple worlds. Ashleigh chooses not to sink into a morass of explanation, instead allowing that it was not comprehensible, but only true. "Think of it all as being different islands, and that our ancestors helped yours." This seemed to make our story more understandable. We decide that the time has come to explain about Hisradish, and, after a few words of explanation, we strip the glamour from him, revealing a neotenous, two-legged deer with hands.
The lead Hierowesch maintains his aplomb, mildly observing, "That is a most remarkable disguise." He then asks why we have even bothered to disguise him. We soon realize that the physical appearance of Hisradish is so different from that of the Faun that the Hierowesch see no real similarity, and we relax. Hisradish tells his story of the Rriehiahes competitors, and how the Other Hierowesch had rescued his people from extinction. Then he had to explain that the humans had originally rescued the Other Hierowesch by removing them from their home and taking them to other ... worlds. They were now extinct on their home world.
There are a few seconds of silence. "A strange story," admitted the Hierowesch leader. The third Hisradish now emerges from the underbrush, perhaps at a signal. The leader continued, "What will you do? What will you do for my people and for my People? There are seven of you. What will you do?" Before we can tap our fish into coherence, Hisradish explains that he is distinguishing between his tribe and his race.
We suggest that we could also move the Hierowesch to a place without the Fauns. This strikes the Hierowesch as "unlikely, but conceivable", and we decide that the first question is whether it is acceptable to move these people away from where they have lived "forever". It seems that this is a question best decided by the Thing, which we hope is like a Scandinavian Thing and not like a John Carpenter Thing. It is; he is proposing to take us to his leader. Blissfully unaware of this clichÚ in our ears, Ashleigh agrees: "That would be good."
Arrangements are now made. First, it is ascertained that we are all, with the glaring exception of Hisradish, members of one race, but from different cultures. This pleases the Hierowesch; he had intuited that we belonged to different social strata or cultures because of our differences in dress. We are now acutely aware that the three Hierowesch are dressed alike. He asks a further question, and finds that we have clothes and weapons, and not much else. He gently explains, "No one can carry weapons to the Thing. Thank you for admitting it." Yes, they could tell we were armed. We think it over, and decide which unarmed members of our party are going to the Thing.
As soon as we decide, the third Hierowesch runs off, presumably Thingward. The first Hierowesch had said nothing to him, but Hisradish thinks that they might have communicated by hand signals, hand signals different from those used by his Hierowesch. In fact, the way these Hierowesch stand, move, and talk is all different from the way he is used to Hierowesch behaving. Oh.
Hisradish, Ashleigh, Jake, Glorian and Marsina start off for the Thing. Alag hovers high, and he says nothing.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.