Dragonsdawn: Make Like A Tree and GTFO

Last time, there was birth, reckless disregard for rules that turned out okay, and a sign of life from something that the colonists really, really don’t want to be waking up. Good thing there’s someone already preparing a place for them to go when they need to bug out.

Dragonsdawn, Part Three: Content Notes: Blatant Hypocrisy, Blinkered Thinking

This segment opens with Pol being distracted from this work by Mary Tubberman.

“Please don’t turn away an old friend away unheard.”
“Mary,” Pol said kindly, “you weren’t shunned.” He shared the earpiece with Bay, who nodded in vigorous approval.
“I might as well have been.” The woman’s tone was bitter, then her voice broke on a tremulous note and both Ray [sic] and Pol could hear her weeping. “Look, Pol, something’s happened to Ted. Those creatures of his are loose. I’ve pulled down the Thread shutters, but they’re still prowling about and making awful noises.”
“Creatures? What creatures?” Pol locked glances with Bay. Beyond them, their dragonets roused from a doze and chirped in empathic anxiety.
“The beasts he’s been rearing.” Mary sounded as if she thought Pol knew what she was talking about and was being deliberately obtuse. “He-he stole some frozen in-vitros from veterinary and he used Kitti’s program on them to make them obey him, but they’re still… things. His masterpiece does nothing to stop them.” Again her bitterness was trenchant.
[…Bay and Pol agree to come help her, after finding out that Ned’s not available and neither is her first choices…]
“Sue and Chuck moved north, Mary, after that first bad rock shower from Picchu.” Bay was patient with her. The woman had a right to sound paranoid, living in seclusion as she had for so long, with an unbalanced husband and so many earthshocks and volcanic rumblings.

This does not sound like paranoia to me. This sounds like someone who is scared for their existence and is trying to get someone to help them survive. Also, there are still people within the blast zone of the volcano? What kind of person stays within that death zone with evidence that it will, in fact, try hard to kill you? (…then again, Mt. Saint Helens. And more than a few other eruptions. Although in this case, everyone can pack up and move out of the zone. So not as much “can’t” as “don’t”.) Or, if I wait a few lines, I find that Bay is ready to move northward and not deal with the ash, so premature condemnation on my part.

As it is, Bay summons Sean and Sorka to investigate what’s going on at the Tubbermans, so that everything can be kept unofficial. And spends significant amounts of time during the flight cursing and condemning Ted Tubberman for having done generic experimentation.

but for Ted Tubberman, disgruntled botanist, to tinker with ova – and he had not understood the techniques or the process – to make independent alterations was intolerable to her, both professionally and personally. Bay knew herself to be a tolerant person, friendly and considerate, but if Ted Tubberman was dead, she would be tremendously relieved. And she would not be the only one. Just thinking about the man produced symptoms of agitation and pure fury which made Bay lose her professional detachment, and that annoyed her even more. There she was on dragonback, with only the noise of the wind in her ears, with all Jordan spread below her, and she was wasting contemplative time on Ted Tubberman.

I can’t really believe that anyone that would describe themselves as knowing they are tolerant, friendly, and considerate as actually being any of those adjectives. Especially when right before this self-delusion, Bay dismisses the thought that Ted might be able to understand the Ping program based solely on his profession as a botanist. Who hold the distinction, in Terran history, of being the first people to figure out genetics and how to breed specific traits into organisms. Ted is very much qualified to understand what Kitti Ping’s program does and how one might use it, even if he’s not experienced at the actual running of it. Plus, he’s done something like this before, with the thing that Ned was reporting on earlier. The extent of what Ted was doing may be surprising, but that he was doing things should not be.

As the dragons arrive, they see a building with significant damage, as if something had burst out of it, and the dragonets sent out to scout return with pictures of a very large spotted beast, which let up a yowl when the dragonets encountered it, and something else that is bigger, but apparently silent. Mary and her three children accept an offer to be moved somewhere safer, and the youngest, Peter, asks the blunt question about whether his dad is dead, and is unimpressed by Bay’s response.

With good reason – Tubberman’s corpse is discovered inside the damaged compound, having been gnawed and mauled, but not so badly that it wasn’t clear that fangs and claws hurt him, and Tubberman’s back was broken by what killed him. Sean calls Tubberman insane for working on big predators, and the team gets to work collecting all of Ted’s notes and data, as well as finding sufficient material to cremate Ted’s body. They also collect a sample of grubs and grass to analyze and see if they can figure out how Ted made Thread-resistant things. After having seen the family off, Sean and Pol light the cremating pyre and then fly off under “yet another shower of the volcanic dust which would eventually bury Landing.” There’s going to have to be a lot of that dust to provide enough cover and stop the Thread from burrowing in and destroying everything, so that their descendants can find the preserved remains two thousand years later. While nobody can apparently force anyone to go, it’s pretty clear at this point that staying is a death sentence.

The narrative wants to stay with the Tubberman theme, as it picks up with Pol trying to break the cipher that Ted put on his research and failing frustratingly.

“Judging by the DNA/RNA, he was experimenting with felines, but I cannot imagine why. There’re already enough running wild here at Landing. Unless-” Pol broke off and pinched his lower lip nervously, grimacing as his thoughts followed uneasy paths. “We know-” He paused to bang the table in emphasis. “-that felines do not take mentasynth well. He knew that, too. Why would he repeat mistakes?”

Ted’s motivations are unclear, at this point, but given that he was an exile from Landing, big predatory animals probably works pretty well as a defense system. Cats being extremely intelligent animals, getting an empathetic or telepathic bond with them and being able to direct them would be pretty interesting as a defense troop or as a set of assistants. Or as pest control, as we find out from Tubberman’s son. Ted was directing the cheetahs that he had used the mentasynth on to hunt tunnel snakes. Ted may have been working on cats just as a way of proving himself to be the superior mind, too. We can’t ask him, though.

Wind Blossom’s watch-wher ancestors are still reviled by everyone but her, whom they adore, incidentally.

Ted working on predator cats means that the excuse of “sea feline” is now a bit more plausible, even though it turned out to be untrue. Is there anything that’s still on the list of things that need to be explicitly foreshadowed or created before we finish the book?

As everyone tries to decipher the notes on the cats and the grubs, the narrative shifts to the administrative offices, where one of the seismologists bursts in and tells Emily [spelled Emilie at first] that the big volcano that Landing is sitting in the shadow of is about to blast its top, and so everybody needs to go, NOW. Ash production has increased significantly, and continues to the point of darkening the sky in ash as everyone executes the evacuation plan already devised. Humans, animals, and technology all get herded on to the shuttles, with one away and safely and the other just barely beating the actual volcanic eruption that very swiftly buries much of Landing in hot lava. No casualties, remarkably, with everyone either safely away from the lava or holed up in the caves away from the lava. But that also means the final link to the spacecraft still in orbit will be severed, as it cannot make the journey. The dragons and their riders surreptitiously grab some sheep from the stocks to feed the dragons before Emily comes over to ask them to be airlifters of cargo to the new settlement. While discussing, one of the sled drivers is on a collision course with a dragon and rider, who avoid the collision by popping into hyperspace. And falling to return, sending the dragons and fire lizards info grief keening and the dragonriders and administration scrambling to figure out a solution so as to avoid this scenario happening again. The decision made is to start really observing and figuring out how to consistently direct the fire lizards to use their teleportation skills, so that they can then translate those skills into commanding the dragons to do the same, so that even in a startle situation, dragons and riders don’t get lost to hyperspace.

Which is actually weird, as the fire lizards startle and go somewhere without human direction. One would think that the dragons would also have a space they would reflexively go to in the instance of being startled or needing to self-preserve. So, even if the human blanks, the dragon should have a default space to go to. The more we learn about how the dragons were designed and have evolved, the more I wonder why Kitti Ping would not put basic safety protocols in place so as to protect the investment of time and materials into the dragons. Or to install a dead man switch such that the connection between dragon and human is severed in case of the death of mental damage of one of the partners. For designed and genetically manipulated organisms, there’s a significant lack of having passed the plan through the five-year-old test. (“One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.”) A world that has been deliberately built on No OSHA Compliance (which also has an entry in the Evil Overlord List, incidentally) sounds exciting to anyone who thinks they’re a protagonist, but really is just going to cause problems like the one that killed Moreta and that just killed one of this first generation of dragons. It’s even worse when you remember that dragons were meant to protect life from Thread. Designing a savior that can just as easily kill as save seems like a really dumb idea.

Returning to the plot, the dragonriders realize in fairly short order the inklings that the dragonets are visual on their teleport power, and devise an experiment to time how long it takes for the dragonets to teleport over distance. It’s pretty consistent that no matter what the distance is to teleport, it takes the dragonets eight seconds to complete the trip to whatever location they are sent to. So long as the picture sent is clear enough for the dragonet to use, anyway. To alleviate boredom, the dragonriders practice flying in formations so as to be able to pop out of hyperspace in the correct positions, ready to attack Thread. They decide three sections are best, with six as a full complement, needing three leaders – Sean, Sorka, and Dave are swiftly elected squadron leaders.

There’s also a useful comment suggesting that dragonets and dragons are likely to be very long-lived and disease resistant. If they didn’t have such a tight bond causing dragons to kill themselves, it would be possible for them to transfer their bond to another person. What a world that would be, if one could pass a dragon down through the generations, accumulating the minds and memories of an entire family of riders. Imagine if every dragonrider became a Dax, of sorts, or had the connection of the Avatar (of The Last Airbender / Korra) such that their dragons were a conduit to the past and continuity. That would be really awesome.

Eventually, Sean gets asked to have the dragons transport some Thread-sensitive equipment northward when they head that way on Benden’s request. Sean initially bristles at being treated like pack animal riders, but he quickly realizes that cooperation is better and agrees to do it, selling it to the other riders as a way of getting pictures in their head they’ll need layer to fight Thread with.

On a hunt in the morning, as he did with every other discovery, Sean accidentally finds the way to direct dragon teleportation.

“All right, Carenath,” he said, thinking ahead with relief to the last loads at Landing. “Let’s get back to the tower as fast as we can and get this over with!”
He raised his arm and dropped it.
The next instant he and Carenath were enveloped in a blackness that was so absolute that Sean was certain his heart had stopped.
I will not panic! he thought fiercely, pushing the memory of Marco and Duluth to the back of his mind. His heart raced, and he was aware of the stunning cold of the black nothingness.
I am here!
Where are we, Carenath?
But Sean already knew. They were between. He focused intense thoughts on their destination, remembering the curious ash-filtered light around Landing, the shape of the meteorology tower, the flatness of the grid beyond it, and the bundles awaiting them there.
We are at the tower, Carenath said, somewhat surprised. And in that instant, they were. Sean cried aloud with relief.
[…Having seen it done, the rest of the wing materializes behind Sean, everyone arriving safely…]
It was easy, you know. You thought me where to go, and I went. You did tell me to go as fast as possible. Carenath’s tone was mildly reproving.
“If that is all there is to it, what took us so long?” Otto asked.
“Anyone got a spare set of pants?” Nora asked plaintively. “I was so scared I wet myself. But we did it!”
Catherine giggled. The sound brought Sean to his senses, and he allowed himself to smile.
“We were ready to try!” he said, shrugging nonchalantly as he unbuckled his riding straps. Then he realized that he, too, would need to find a clean pair of pants.

Pants-wetting terror aside, yet another accidental discovery for Sean Connell. Which seems to be a major theme in Pern – rarely is anything accomplished through dogged pursuit and methodical experimentation and refinement leading to a breakthrough – instead we have geniuses and accidents of fortune that advance knowledge or restore list knowledge back to the people that are there. The scientific method is another casualty to the lost knowledge of Pern. Unless perhaps Fandarel has rediscovered this in the Ninth Pass in working on his distance writer.

This is a good break point for us, with a good thing happening to give hope to the colony after a sequence of disasters. I’m pretty sure, however, that this happy point is a blip and we’ll be back to bad things soon enough. After all, Stev Kimmer is still out there and hasn’t had his attempt at revenge yet, and we’re getting close to the end of the book.

Writer Workshop August 24th, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: Recomendations

(by chris the cynic)

What’s something (or what are some things) that you recommend?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, August 20th, 2016

(posted by chris the cynic; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Since I haven’t seen the episodes with Terra in them, nor have I seen the Raven destiny-episodes, and really haven’t seen that much of the series at all, I started a Teen Titans fic centered around the characters of Terra and Raven, because that makes sense.
      • In the prologue, Raven comes to see the petrified Terra after being in a vaguely similar situation.
      • In the first chapter, the story picks up where the series left off, and Raven attempts to find out if a girl seen by Beast Boy is, in fact, the no-longer-petrified Terra.
    • Do note that the title of that fic, “With great power comes . . ?” is because the plan is to give an answer other than “great responsibility” since the whole, “You’re not normal, therefore you should have to bear the weight of the world,” thing isn’t something I really go for.
    • I had a random werewolf related thought.
    • Since August has an interesting history, I went back to (as in: copied from a previous post and pasted it into this one) talking about the month in my monthly reminder that I do accept donations and often depend on them.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for August 19th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is fighting off the brainweasels in alarming amounts.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium Press

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you find yourself working the night shift at a diner where the robots walk around at night. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsdawn: Pulling Up Stakes

Last time, a shuttle crashed with the last hope of knowing what Thread is and how it works in deep space, the care and feeding of dragons began to produce a distinct group of people with very different needs than the standard colony population, and some volcanic rumbles convinced everyone that it was time to abandon the original point of Landing in favor of natural cave structures on the northern continent.

Dragonsdawn, Part Three: Content Notes: Population with Idiot Ball

We have a timestamp! 11.18.08 Pern. Which means that the entirety of Part Two took place over seven months. Eight years of inaction, basically, and then seven months of furious action. That makes no sense.

This part begins with Telgar and assistants examining a very large cave system that looks like it can house several hundred chambers, as well as provide air vents, fresh water, and geothermal heating. With a burned-out volcano caldera nearby to house the dragons and their humans, pasture land close to surface caves, and stone that can be used to seal the place up and turn it into “an impregnable fort.” Welcome to the future Fort Hold and Weyr, everyone, which will be built in the caves where Sallah and Tarvi first made love. Lest we spend too much time there, the narrative shifts over to Sorka waking up to both a hum and pain, which she deduces are related, and calls for the midwife, Greta. Who arrives almost as soon as she’s asked for, having properly read the summoning fair of dragonets flying past her window. Sorka is interested that Faranth picked up on an unconscious preference as to which midwife she would like attending her birth, but she can’t pursue the thought much because the pains of labor being her back to being focused on the body. Which has the side effect of agitating Faranth. An epidural calms Faranth by taking away Sorka’s contraction pains, and a little walking around gets her into the next phase.

Sorka’s water burst then, and outside the humming went up a few notes and deepened in intensity.
“I think I’d better check you, Sorka,” Greta said.
Sean stared at her. “Do you deliver to dragonsong?”
Greta gave a low chuckle. “They’ve an instinct for birth, Sean, and I know you vets have been aware of it, too. Let’s get her back to the bed.”

Um, Landing has known about this particular dragonet trait for the majority of this book. There’s no real reason for anyone to be skeptical at anyone who can take those signals and interpret them. Especially not you, Sean.

Sorka’s labor goes without complications, and she gives birth to a son, with very red hair. Then the narrative goes a little bit farther into the future, with Sean’s impatience at not getting to ride the dragons yet. And the news that Wind Blossom is still running the Ping program, although with much less success – her first four attempts have produced no viable eggs. Sean doesn’t have much faith in Wind Blossom, and Paul Benden is anxious about whether or not the current crop can perform according to the specifications.

It also turns out the dragons need both space and distance from Landing so as to be good neighbors, so on the way back from a hunting trip, Sean and Carenath both decide to buck the program a bit and take a short mounted flight.

It was also not the time for second thoughts. He took a compulsive hold with legs made strong from years of riding and shoved his buttocks as deeply into the natural saddle [between two neck ridges] as he could.
“Let’s fly, Carenath. Let’s do it now!”
We will fly, Carenath said with ineffable calm. He tilted forward off the ridge.
Despite years of staying astride bucking horses, sliding horses, and jumping horses, the sensation that Sean Connell experienced in that seemingly endless moment was totally different and completely new. A brief memory of a girl’s voice urging him to think of Spacer Yves flitted through his move. He was falling through space again. A very short space. What sort of a nerd-brain was he to have attempted this?
Faranth wants to know what we are doing, Carenath said calmly.
Before Sean’s staggered mind registered the query, Carenath’s wings had finished their downstroke and they were rising. Sean felt the sudden return of gravity, felt Carenath’s neck under him, felt the weight and the return of the confidence that had been totally in abeyance during the endless-seeming initial drop.

Sean and Carenath fly around a bit, and while Carenath is quite sure he won’t dump Sean, Sean realizes the need for something to keep him firmly attached to the dragon. Sorka tells them both they need to get down right now, even though Carenath doesn’t want to. After reassuring all the dragon riders that assembled quickly after his demonstration that their dragons can fly, Sean sketches out the kind of safety gear they’re going to need to stay firmly seated on the dragons, as well as the need for glasses to protect the eyes from the wind.

Sean is a little less exuberant when called before the council of Landing to account for his reckless behavior, even though it now proves that bronze dragons, at least, can fly at just about a year old, and that the dragons should start having their own clutches at three years of age. Cherry Duff is not happy about the timetable, but everyone else accepts the requirements for flying gear (tanned hide and plastics goggles) and produces them for flight training to start ten days afterward.

The next scene opens with something that continues to have me question the intelligence of the residents of Pern. Beyond all the things that have already been pointed out in the comments all along the way.

Landing had grown accustomed over the past year and a half to the grumblings and rumblings underfoot. In the morning of the second day of the fourth month of their ninth spring on Pern, early risers sleepily noted the curl of smoke, and the significance did not register.
Sean and Sorka, emerging from their cave with Carenath and Faranth, also noticed it.
Why does the mountain smoke? Faranth wanted to know.
“The mountain what?” Sorka demanded, waking up enough to absorb her dragon’s words. “Jays, Sean, look!”
Sean gave a long hard look. “It’s not Garben. It’s Picchu Peak. Patrice de Broglie was wrong! Or was he?”

No, I don’t think people are going to be like “Oh, huh. That volcano that we thought was dormant has started to smoke. Clearly this isn’t important enough or weird enough to make any sort of impact on our brains. Especially not since the ground has been shaking regularly for the last 18 months.” That kind of ignorance of natural disaster impending only happens because the plot demands it. Landing has Thread to deal with already, so I would have thought they would be extra-sensitive to extra disaster incoming. Landing should be on really high alert that they’re going to end up toast before they have the opportunity to get everything out of the path of the volcano. Because Pompeii is hopefully still in their history. But they’ll spend three more days before the council convenes to talk about the increased volcanic activity. In the meantime, Wind Blossom’s fifth attempt at a clutch hatches, but turn out to be afraid of light, signaling them as the ancestors to the watch-whers that guard places at night, and Sean is unsure on how to teach the dragons to teleport, even as they have taught the dragons to chew the phosphine rock that will produce fire to char Thread.

Cherry Duff, magistrate and vox populi for this session, is very concerned about the volcano, but is able to successfully follow the thought of “Landing has to move” to “and there’s a place waiting for us, isn’t there?”, stealing the thunder of Benden and Boll and getting to see the announcement that will talk about the move and the logistics thereof. Cherry moves on to the fighting power of the still maturing dragons and is reassured that everything is progressing according to plan, especially in light of Wind Blossom’s inability to reproduce Kitti Ping’s work. There’s also a report from Telgar on the progress of construction of the fort hold and associated weyr. The only thing that could get in the way would be if the volcano decided it didn’t like their timetables and fired off prematurely.

Now that I look at it, it seems like Landing and its administrators under-react to problems, not actually treating them with the respect they deserve to have. Thread might have been the only one that got proper panic, but only after seeing what it did. Avril, Ted, the volcano, Nabol’s crash, all of those things seem to catch the administrators by surprise. I’d believe it a bit more if Landing had already transitioned to the lower-tech society they were aiming for, but there’s no indication that this has happened in any way, and so everyone should be equipped with sufficient technology to try and anticipate these actions. 18 months of rumbles is more than enough time to figure out the plan of pulling up stakes and getting the fuck out and preparing for it to happen at the first sign that things are getting worse. Like a plume of smoke from a volcano that was thought dead.

Next time, maybe the exodus actually begins?

Board Business, August 17th, 2016

(posted by chris the cynic)

Regular Business

There is no submission deadline for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompt suggestions.  Send them any time.

The Submission Deadline for the weekend post is 20:00 (8PM) US Eastern Time Saturday.

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  The answer to that is always the same: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the weekend post are as follows:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

Again, none for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompts.
20:00 (8 PM) US Eastern Time Saturday for the Weekend post.  Also, if there’s a deconstruction you feel should be in the roundup, you can suggest that at any time.
In case the links don’t work: the group email is SlacktiverseAuthors (at) gmail (dot) com.
It is perfectly acceptable to use this as an open thread, should you so desire.

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