Helia Sarina is still in a klatrin trance, while
everyone else waits in the Sheriff of Cormor's guest quarters at Cormor
Home. They are waiting for an arrival -- either Lap'da, or the
"other party" in their scheduled meetings.
It is 066/802 local date when they get a message
that Lap'da has arrived. Misha Ravanos goes down to the Forest to
The jann is sitting cross-legged on the grass.
"Hello," he smiles.
Misha sits down with him. "How have you been?"
Lap'da ponders for a while, then says, "That's an
Misha had forgotten that Lap'da thinks
differently. He says, "Yes, I suppose it is. Well, I've
"Good. You are here again?"
"I am here again. We have come back to meet
with Jane Southcombe."
"So who is this?"
"She collaborated with Mich on at least part of a
set of jump drives. I presume that Mich wants to continue that
collaboration for some reason. We also left a message for someone
we don't know but is somehow connected with what we've come to call the
black technology -- black ship technology -- the technology of the ship
we found. Apparently it's connected with your people."
"Everything is connected with everything else."
"OK, more directly connected with your people than
the typical spaceship."
"That is hard to say. What path do you follow
directly to make the connection? What is direct in one regard
might not be direct in another."
Misha nods and shrugs, "We also came to see you."
"Thank you," smiles Lap'da. "So why did you
wish to see me?"
"I would like to try to understand better..." Misha
pauses, looking for the right expression.
Lap'da takes him literally at what he said.
always a good goal."
"You are somehow connected to the black ship, and I
am connected to the black ship, and there are..."
Robert Morris walks out into the forest to join the
pair sitting on the grass. He greets Lap'da in spoken script
language -- sort of like Misha's "How have you been?"
Lap'da answers in kind, <<[continuous(past
future): [pondering, life, space], observing,
doing, being, breathing, living]>>.
Robert can no more translate the answer into
galanglic than can
the jannish translator chip. He says
<<[continuous(past present): ref.self [emphasis: learn]]>>
== "I've been studying the language diligently."
Lap'da nods and smiles, acknowledging and
congratulating Robert without saying a word.
Even with Robert translating some of it for
him, Misha is finding it difficult to
follow the conversation.
Lap'da turns to Misha, "So when is your
meeting?" The jann is back to speaking jannish, through the
translator to galanglic.
Misha replies, "Some time in the next few weeks."
Lap'da turns to Robert, says,
<<[continuous(past present): ref.Robert, growing up]
[continuous(present): ref.Misha, thought]>> == "So, you were
growing up. He is thinking
properly." Again, Robert is translating for Misha.
Misha says, "Thinking properly?"
Lap'da says in jannish, "You cannot speak without
thinking," and for Robert's benefit says <<[assertion:
concept(communication)]>> He continues in jannish after a
where is the other student?"
"Which other student? The one with
wings? She's currently... napping."
"I am surprised you didn't wake her."
"Because I don't think she wishes to be
awakened. So, are you aware that we consider the black ship we
currently fly to be very different in origin from typical ships flown
"Do you know the origin of this different kind of
ship, the black ships?"
"What do you mean, kind?"
"Kind, in the way that our ship is different from
typical human ships."
Robert says, "Do you know the origin of the ship we
rode in on." == <<[instantaneous(now): [background: ref.[ship:
[complete(past): ref.self, here]]]]>>
For Misha's benefit, Lap'da says, "No." He
didn't need to speak to tell Robert that -- a momentary facial
expression is enough, and Robert is starting to pick up on the
non-verbal elements of this communication sufficiently to understand it.
Misha says to Robert, "What I'm trying to get to is
not the origin of our exact ship, but the origin of those kinds of
ships. By kind, I mean ships that are like ours but different
from typical Imperium
Robert replies in galanglic, "Ships like ours.
Period." He tries to phrase this in script language, but doesn't
quite formulate it. He waves his hands at the fronds of
incomplete symbol he's left hanging from his utterances.
Lap'da helps him out, <<[lambda(ship
description with variation in specific elements; ref."ship";
ref.utterance)]>>. That's indeed what Robert
meant. Lap'da answers, <<[branching:
[continuous-maybe([emphasis: past] present): lambda(builder,
ref.branch-point; ref.unspecified; person, [extrapolate-reverse:
ref.timelines ref.Lap'da ref.Robert ref.Misha
It is completely incomprehensible through the translator, which squawks
annoyingly as Lap'da symbol-speaks slowly for Robert's benefit.
Robert tries to explain it in galanglic, although
it's already challenged his knowledge of the language to new
depths. He says, struggling for words, "The people that built the
ship a long time ago have gone and done other things. The people
themselves have been incorporated into daily life throughout the whole
universe. So the people didn't just die, or weren't killed off,
but more absorbed by the other cultures or are part of the other
Misha asks, "Did this culture have a name?"
"It just was. That was its name.
No." Robert is really starting to understand why talking with
Lap'da in galanglic is so hard. Galanglic just doesn't express
non-linear concepts properly. He tries gamely for the benefit of
his captain, "That Which Came Before And Is."
Misha turns to Lap'da and asks, "What's the
relationship between this culture and your culture, historically?"
Lap'da says, <<reference-chain>>.
Robert says, haltingly, "Their cultures absorbed
each other." With an audible sigh of relief, he slips into
straightforward galanglic, "This sort of makes sense, given that the
people on Goose
recognized the ship. So there are
elements probably throughout the Imperium that are not secret
societies, that just recognize this from racial memories, or stories
told from childhood. There could be people like Lap'da. We
don't know how old the people on Goose were, but Lap'da doesn't
seem to have a normal lifespan of humans."
Misha accepts this gratefully. "OK," he
says. To Lap'da he says, "So, it was your grandparents that came
to this planet? If I remember right, they came on a ship that
was... of the type that we have."
Lap'da says to Robert,
Robert's slight pause is enough to convey, "Yes."
Robert now knows for certain that Lap'da's
here on black ships -- it may still be ambiguous in galanglic, but not
Misha asks, "Do you know of the planet called Goose?"
"No," replies Lap'da.
"Are you aware of the... thing that's called
"Yes. Marquis Marc showed me
last time he was
"Was that your first experience with that
"OK. What's your experience with ships of the
type that we have, what I will call the black ships?"
"I have many experiences. Or one experience."
"In my experience, our black ship uses psionics as
one of its ways to communicate with us."
"There are many ways to communicate."
"Are your people using psionics in this
meeting?" He uses the galanglic word in a jannish sentence.
"It's not my intent."
"No," says Robert, in galanglic for Misha's benefit,
"In fact the Sheriff says we should not."
"Ah," says Lap'da, "That is why we are monitoring
it. He wishes to know if anyone does this."
"Does he wish to know other things?" asks Misha.
"I'm sure he wishes to know many things."
"I mean, did he ask you to monitor other aspects of
"No. We are not directly monitoring the
meeting, we are monitoring this area for psionics."
"So will these others use this psionics?"
"I can only assume the Sheriff assumed they
would. He also told us that he would forbid them from doing so."
Robert asks Lap'da about his relationship with the
Sheriff. Lap'da replies in essence that it's one of ongoing
friendship and mutual respect. News and information pass both
ways. Robert relays the gist of the exchange for the galanglic
Lap'da adds, "And the Sheriff tries to learn."
"Learn what?" asks Misha.
<<learn>>. As represented in
is an all-encompassing search for knowledge in a nondestructive way, by
observing rather than tearing apart.
As for what news Lap'da wants to hear... He
wants to know what's going on: outside the forest, on the world, news
picked up from other worlds. Essentially the Sheriff is Lap'da's
Misha returns to the subject of Nightshade:
"Our ship communicates with us using psionics. In our experience
it is not typical for ships to do that. So my question is, is it
typical for ships of this type to use psionics to communicate?"
Both Robert and Lap'da stare blankly at Misha.
It's a meaningless question. Misha has just asked if ships that
theirs are like theirs.
Misha tries to ask again, "I'm not asking if all
ships that use psionics use psionics. I'm asking if all ships
like ours use psionics."
That's the same question. As Robert points
out, the description of "ships like ours" necessarily includes the use
of psionics. It's all part of the concept of "ships like
ours." The captain is speaking in nonsensical ape grunts again.
Lap'da tells them that he is supposed to take a
shift listening for psionics use.
Misha agrees this is a good place to pause the
conversation, and says he'll seek him out again at another time.
Lap'da points to a small soft grassy knoll a short
distance away and says he'll be there. In fact he walks over
there right now, sits down, and closes his eyes. He takes a deep
breath and relaxes.
Misha and Robert return to the guest quarters.
Helia says, "Hi, everybody!" At least she's
talking in a regular voice. Suddenly she says, "I just had the
best year of my life. It was amazing."
Misha looks at her incredulously.
"Yes, I did," continues Helia. "It was
fabulous. My husband is wonderful. He's a good man, and
he's cute too."
The rest of the crew are still staring at her.
"It was a little bit disordered," Helia says, "But
it's OK. I know how the maths is going to go. I can do
this." He pauses, then says, "Has Lap'da shown up yet? Oh
good, I need to talk to him. It's a shame the doctor's not here,
I'd let him check my brain and see if it's changed any. I feel
like... I need to write some stuff down on my puter. Anybody want
to go hot tub?" As the others continue to look at her strangely,
the larian picks up a large fruity drink and her puter, and heads for
the hot tub. She turns up the music, smiles at them, settles back
in the water and starts whispering into the hand computer.
Helia looks up and says, "What have you been doing?"
Misha says, "We've been talking to Lap'da."
"How is he?"
"He said that was an interesting question."
"Did he ask you how you were doing? No?
Well, that's kind of classic Lap'da. If he asks you, tell him
you're feeling brillig. Mention slithy toves as well. See
what he does. I'll tell him I'm gyring and gimballing. Hey,
we're in the hot tub, it is kind of like gyring and gimballing in the
wabe. Did you get a fruity drink? Here, I'll get you
one." Helia smiles brightly as she flies up out of the tub and
over to the bar. The others notice that she's flown
everywhere since waking up -- she hasn't put a foot on the ground
yet. They've never seen her do that before.
While Helia's mixing a drink for Misha, Edward
"Shark" Teeth asks
her, "What did I get you for your wedding?"
Without missing a beat, Helia says, "Nothing
yet. I'll let you know when I'm married."
"So when was this year?"
"Sometime around now. Slightly in the
future. It had to be, I'm not married yet. Hard to put a
finger on it. It was now, though, like this is now, that was
now. And... it was not in chronological order."
"Of course not, you don't speak the language yet."
"Oh, it has nothing to do with language, it's all
mathematical. I'm going to write the coolest paper about
it. I figured it out, Shark, it's all math, and then you can
go... when... you want."
Shark returns to his conversation with Robert.
They've been discussing with the possibility of building a locator for
Lap'da to carry around with him so they can see where he goes.
Robert agrees that they could build such a device, but not with what
they have here.
"So what have I missed?" asks Helia, handing Misha
his drink and landing back in the hot tub. "You guys done
anything? When's the real meeting? How long have I been
gone? I mean it was a year, but how long have I been gone here?"
Misha replies helpfully, "You've been gone forever."
Robert is more serious. "Three days," he says,
"You were out for three days."
"It seemed like forever," says Misha.
"I've only been gone a year. It felt like a
year. It was a year! I was actually gone for a
year, and it was fabulous."
"Was Helia there?" asks Mich Saginaw.
"Oh yeah. She came to visit."
"She came to your wedding?"
"No, no, no. I was already married. We
talked about the paper."
Helia's back to whispering into the puter between
talking. It's all in the larian language. Even if Robert
were to pull it off her computer later, it would make no sense --
there's no translator on board for larian, and it has no resemblance to
any other common language.
Helia continues, "It was great. We had a great
conversation about the paper. I can't wait. Yeah, it was a
great year. Everyone should have a year like that. It was
just nice, it was... nice, it was normal, it was... fabulous.
It was so different. It was, like, I like this life, but I like
that life. I could have either life. Maybe I'll have both
lives. You know how it is, it all comes down to numbers
anyway. Surely you know that as a communications specialist,
Robert, it's all just mathematics in the end. OK, unless you're
talking about death, because you know what? He who dies with the
most toys is still dead."
Misha asks her, "How do you die with toys?"
"Well, I don't know. It's just a quote.
Man, I've got a whole bag of toys, remember? I brought some with
me, but they're really small, I don't know if they count. Anyway,
I can't wait to do more fish oil, but I want to talk to Lap'da
first. Maybe I'll have another year. Maybe I'll have a
baby! That would be so cool, if I had a baby. I'll be right
back." She flies off to her bedroom.
Everyone just looks at each other. They're
used to Helia chattering away, but not quite to this extent.
Anyway, most people coming out of a klatrin trance are usually sort of
reserved while they adjust to reality.
Helia comes flying back out of her room. She
says, "So maybe, what it is, is like, everything comes down to language
for somebody like Robert. But it's numbers for me, and something
interestingly visual for artists."
Robert laughs, "And for Shark it has to be a
Misha disagrees, "It's not numbers. Everything
in the end comes down to money, and that's not numbers."
Helia says that proves her point: "See, it's
different things for you. For you it's all money."
At this point, the conversation is
interrupted. Robert's long range relay fires up -- there's an
incoming transmission from Nightshade. Baba Yaga has left the harbor at First
City. Some guy was picked up from the Yacht Club in an air/raft
and taken to the ship. The starship left about ten
lifting up out of the water and flying out of the harbor in the
direction of Down Port along the shipping lanes. From there, she
headed out towards orbit. At 100d the ship jumped.
Fortunately Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead was
aboard his own ship at the time, while his paramour was on her own ship
Callisto got a good image of the person who
arrived. He was tall, blond hair, probably in his mid 40's,
dressed impeccably but in fairly casual clothes. He doesn't bring
up a match in any of the databases on board -- they'll have to wait
until Shark returns from the forest before he can run against his
Bridgehead was bugged by the crew of Baba Yaga
during his various visits; Callisto has recorded everything the bugs
have transmitted. There were no transmissions from Baba Yaga
from the moment she lifted off.
Now that the Baron has been told about the bug
transmissions -- once he got over being offended -- he's putting
together the recordings and setting them up to extract
information. He's the obvious person for the job -- not only does
he want to edit out anything that he deems too personal, but he's
actually the only person on board Nightshade who actually has
any real skill with computers. Unfortunately the only way he can
get anything useful out of the recording compilation is to listen to
the whole thing in real time. Robert could do better, but he of
course is at Cormor Home with the rest of the away team.
Helia, Misha, and Robert go down into the forest to
talk with Lap'da. Shark remains in contact with them via the
commdots. Helia is still flying everywhere rather than walking;
she doesn't seem to have noticed that anything is different -- after
all, she's been doing it for a year.
The jann is right where Misha left him, sitting
cross-legged on the grass.
Helia greets him then says, "I just spent the last
three days having the best year of my life." She then launches
off in the larian language. Lap'da actually understands what
she's saying, which surprises everyone but Helia. Helia then
chatters away rapidly as if she were talking to Helia.
The mathematical models she describes are certainly
of interest to Lap'da, but he says, "That is... restrictive."
He's replying to her in jannish.
Helia switches to galanglic, "But if they can
understand it, it's a beginning."
"The beginning of understanding is... the beginning."
"It's as far as I've gotten. But I can bring
them along." It's not obvious if she is asking a question or
making a statement.
"Journeys can be interesting with more people."
"I've got to write it down. And pass it by
Helia. Would you like to see it when it's written?"
"Yes," says Lap'da.
"Excellent," smiles Helia. "I would love for
you to proofread it and offer any insight you have."
"Bring it back here when you are done with it."
"I couldn't believe it. It was... so obvious
all of a sudden. It was like something I was building towards,
and now I have it. The fish oil helps."
"It does... nothing that is not there already."
"Yes, but it opens one up to what is there. It
improves one's knowledge and self knowledge. Because we're adults
and we've been told that there is this structure, sometimes you cannot
grow beyond the structure you've learned. Fish oil helps one past
"And it's interesting because Robert is learning it
as language and I'm learning it as numbers, and Robert is a language
person and I'm a numbers person. They are our languages."
"Yes..." Lap'da pauses, then continues, "So
you are here for a meeting."
"Yes. I'm here because other than being home,
this is my home. One should always have a home that is a home and
a home that is... a home. Or as many homes as possible, actually,
come to think of it, because the ship is my home as well. Except
that I think your people..." she reaches out in an all
encompassing gesture... "home is... one place, but not always this
"Here we are here."
Robert says, "No matter where you go, there you are."
"Yes! That's it exactly! I think you,
you're people, your organism, are more rooted than some of us."
Lap'da says, "It is a path we chose."
"It is a good path. Providing one can uproot
and resettle if one is threatened and needs to."
"We are... done uprooting."
"What if the planet becomes unlivable?"
"We are done uprooting."
"One of your brethren has already died."
Lap'da looks at her quizzically.
"One of the forests died. They're your
"I thought this was part of your family."
"Part of you."
"Does that mean that if the janns wanted to, they
could live elsewhere outside of a forest like this?"
"Interesting. I thought that you and the
forest were... a bit of one."
"Well, the forest is for us."
"Is the forest a being in the way you are a
being? Does it live and think and feel? Have
language? Any of those things?"
"Everything has language."
"Can you communicate with it?"
"We all... communicate with everything, all the
time. We cannot not communicate."
"OK. I have to think about this some more."
"Then I shall... see you another time."
They leave Lap'da and return to the guest quarters.
The crew continue to amuse themselves while waiting
for something else to happen.
In late morning, the Steward calls Misha. He
says the "other party" has arrived, and insists that it's very
important that he talks to them immediately. May he come and talk
Misha agrees, and after about five minutes the the
doorbell rings. Misha walks up and opens the door.
A man walks in. He looks like he's in
his late 60's, overweight, age pattern bald head, long scruffy white
beard reaching down to mid-chest, fair complexion. He says
brusquely in unaccented galanglic, "Who's in charge?"
Misha replies, "The Sheriff."
"No, of you."
"I'm in charge of me."
The man pffts exasperatedly. He looks directly
at Mich. "You, Saginaw. Tell whoever's in charge here..."
"That's him," says Mich, indicating Misha.
The man turns back to Misha. "All right.
You need to contact your ship immediately, and inform them that if they
leave orbit, the ship will be destroyed. You will need to do that
"By whom?" asks Helia.
"We will destroy it."
"Who are you?" Helia then whispers something
to Nightshade through the commdot relay.
"We'll come to that later. Until I give
clearance for you to leave."
Misha asks, "Do you have reason to believe that our
ship will leave?"
"If it leaves, it will be destroyed."
Helia says, "So who are you?"
"You can call me Mike."
Helia flies over and shakes his hand. She
smiles, "Pleased to meet you, Mike."
"Pleased to meet you. Ah, and by the way Mr.
Saginaw, congratulations on faking your death. That was
wonderful. Impressed us greatly. We did not think that was
within your capabilities to have such a widespread account of
your death. Well done. However of course now we know that
you are alive, I suggest that until there is clearance you not leave
the area that the Sheriff has declared sanctuary. And you are the
only one left who understands the technology, so be aware that our
bargaining position is very strong. I will talk to you
later. Good-bye. Contact your ship."
Mike walks out without a backward glance.
Helia has told the ship not to take off unless she
and Misha both tell it to do so. Her justification is that no-one
else is going to be able to fly it to get it out of there.
Shark tells everyone his impression of Mike.
He carried no weapons. He carried himself as a fat old guy who
could probably do well in a brawl, not as a trained officer which is
what Shark had originally expected. He was straightforward and
businesslike, not angry.
Helia asks, "So what do you think his Navy rank is?"
Mich shakes his head. "He's not Navy," he says.
Shark says, "Whatever rank he needs for whatever
mission he's on."
"Oh," says Helia, "He's one of your guys!"
"That's my guess."
Misha asks, "What did he mean by his bargaining chip
Mich answers, "The technology that he might be
talking about... the only thing that would make sense is the antimatter
generators that were on the Anastasia. I don't think he
knows the capabilities of the ship we're on now."
Helia says, "We could just take care of them and
then leave any time we want, so I'm not worried about this threat."
Misha laughs, "I'm not worried about it
either. I wasn't planning to leave!"
"Robert, we're in agreement about this, right?
He can't know. Because I won't even tell you about it."
Shark says that this guy is one of the group who set
them up going into the red
zone. "He thinks that we faked our death coming out of the
"Ah, as opposed to our ship really getting blown
up? He hasn't realized that's a different ship out in the parking
"No, he knows that, he thinks that we somehow used
an air/raft or some other means of escape."
Robert adds, "He doesn't have the clearance to know
about the black technology. He doesn't know our ship exists."
Helia says, "OK. So for the time being at
least, we're just going to fake that we might be a little afraid of
him, and not worry about it?"
"I don't know if I can do that," smiles Misha.
"OK, but for the time being at least, we're not
going to outright defy him."
"He told us not to do something we weren't going to
do anyway. And we won't."
"We should wait until he shows his entire hand and
then trump it."
"OK," says Misha. "This guy isn't with Jane
Southcombe? I'm trying to figure out which meeting he's here
for. Do we have any idea?"
"But isn't Jane the other one who would know the
technology and basically he just told us Jane's dead? Because
he's told Mich he's the only one left who knows the technology any
more. So that means Jane's dead. So he must have found out
about Jane coming here, and he came instead, and Jane must be
dead." Helia shrugs, and continues, "Either that or she's somehow
forgotten the technology."
Mich adds, "And then there's Professor Farol.
He would also be familiar with the technology."
Shark says, "That base got blown up recently."
"Farol's dead?" says Misha.
Mich asks, "Farol's base was blown up?"
"That's our theory," says Shark. There was
indeed a base destroyed recently -- it was in the news.
"And that may mean that Helia... Helia was working
Helia says firmly, "Helia's not dead. I'd
Misha says, "I just don't get... Why does that give
him a bargaining position? Even if everyone else is dead."
Mich muses over who knows about the
technology. There is himself, of course, then Jane, Farol, and
Fostriades. Then there's the archduke's people to whom they sent
the reports, but there were deliberate mistakes in those.
Misha says, "Mich, it seems like it would put you in
a strong bargaining position, not him. Right?"
"Well," says Mich, "Without me, you might not be
able to get off the planet. That's their bargaining
position. Your jump engines, or whatever else, that's something
only I can operate. I seriously doubt they have much information
about black technology."
"In fact," says Misha, "They may assume that the
black ship is running on Anastasia technology. That
starts to make sense."
Misha calls the Steward. He arranges a meeting
over dinner that evening between the two groups. Misha asks, "Has
Jane Southcombe arrived?"
The Steward says, "This is the only person who's
arrived. He indicated he was... the entire other party."
"Did he mention Jane's name at all?"
"No, he did not. He said that he was
authorized to negotiate and that nobody else needed to be here."
"He didn't indicate who he is authorized by, or for?"
"Did he indicate what he was authorized to
"Do you know how he arrived here?"
"No... well, he came by train if that's what you
"But you don't know how he came to this planet?"
"Do you know if he is native to this planet?"
"Oh, he's not native here."
Misha thanks him and hangs up the phone.
Meanwhile Robert has checked with Nightshade.
that no-one has arrived in port. Nothing has shown up. No
systems indicate that an object in stealth mode has been in the
area. He says, "That's something we could do. Have our ship
go off into the sea and go into stealth. We wouldn't have left
the planet, and he wouldn't know where our ship was."
Misha smiles. He says, "If he indeed is not
from the egg communication, but instead is from the Jane Southcombe
communication, then he probably doesn't have black technology, and we
could just go into stealth and leave. I'm not positive of that,
"I seriously doubt that he understands any of the
The Imperium has no stealth technology as
such. There's EMMask, military black, and limited chameleon
ability for spacecraft, but nothing like Nightshade's stealth
mode. Anyway, this system
doesn't really have any naval capacity and doesn't even look for ships
coming in. Misha concludes, "So a halfway decent Navy ship could
just have put him down somewhere."
"No," says Mich, "There are planetary defense
systems that prevent you flying over the forest."
If a ship had approached this world and come down
anywhere that was reasonably nearby, Callisto would have picked it
up. If it had been at any time during its approach in a visible
area of the sky, she would have picked it up. Even if it wasn't
running a transponder, she was looking for anything coming in and
probably would have found it. About the only thing that would
have made it difficult would be if they had come directly from the sun
which would have given them background noise in which to hide.
Through the comm relay, Misha asks Callisto
directly, "Would a very good Imperial tech and skill level been able to
put him on this planet without us knowing?"
Callisto says she would have picked it up.
"So that leaves... Baba Yaga, or an agent on
this planet who's been here longer than we have."
Robert says, "We don't know that everyone who
arrived on Baba Yaga left on her. They -- or someone else
here -- could have contacted their agent."
"Well," says Misha, "Hopefully tonight he'll tell us
what he's here to negotiate with."