Last section, Thread continued to fall, the glaring holes in the EEC report (and the narrative) became more apparent, and the colonists decided they needed a central government again to keep them safe from Thread.
Dragonsdawn, Part Two: Content Notes: Feminine stereotypes
So, this chapter starts with the Reality Ensues part of what happens when you try to get an untrained non-military force up to spec with things they are untrained with.
“Practice” was not the appropriate term for the chaos that resulted. Kenjo was reduced to snarling preemptory orders over the comm unit as the inept but eager young pilots plummeted through the skies after Thread, frequently favoring one another with a glancing touch of HNO3.
Fighting Thread required entirely different techniques from hunting wherry or scoring a hit on a large flying machine driven by a reasonably intelligent enemy.
Nine domesticated dragonets fell victim to such inexpertise, and there was suddenly a marked decrease in the number of wild ones who joined the fray.
In the first hour of the Fall, seven sleds were involved in midair collisions, three badly damaged and two with cracked siliplex canopies which made them unairworthy. Even Kenjo’s sled bore scorch marks. Four broken arms, six broken or sprained hands, three cracked collarbones, and a broken leg put fourteen gunners out of action; many others struggled on with lacerations and bruises. No one had thought about rigging any safety harnesses for the flame-gunners.
Not everyone knows how to handle the sleds and the guns. And, apparently, nobody thought about what might happen to stop people from hitting each other or needed to accelerate and change direction in a hurry. This seems like a lack of basic thinking about the problem, or, possibly, the experts being unable to understand the beginner’s mind.
Having seen that they need more structure to their efforts, the squad leaders decide to keep each of their squads within a narrow band of altitude to avoid accidental flaming of each other and send them to sweep back and forth across the Thread, tactics that will still be basically in use by their descendants nearly two thousand years later, without improvements or changes. It does work at keeping the accidents down, however, and the tactical improvements shift to figuring out just what’s needed for ground crews, resupply, logistics, and medics. And another reminder that dragonets do know what they are doing, as Benden observes Sean and Sorka directing their fair to efficient ground work.
Much of the ground crew stays on for the night at their fighting line, with Sean and Sorka tending fire-dragonets by “slathering numb-weed on Threadscored wings and seared hide.” It’s only been a few days since Threadfall started, but all the vocabulary put into use by the descendants has already appeared, as well as the discovery of the numbweed plant (which may have been discovered in the eight years since Landing started) and its use. The narrative and the author, it seems, don’t want to go to the work of showing how these things arrived, and are just stashing them into the timeline wherever possible when the camera isn’t looking.
After tending to the dragonets, Sorka asks Sean for a massage of her shoulder, which also becomes a massage of her neck, and the two steal off for some sexytimes. (I think this is the first official confirmation of the two as a couple.) The narrative shifts away from them and to the conference of leaders, who understand their current solution is not going to work on the long term, as it relies on recharging the power packs for the sleds. Boll remarks that the dragonets are the best defense, but they’re too small, which sparks an idea from a lot of the other assembled leaders. We don’t get to see them explain it, though, because the narrative decides things are more important elsewhere.
More specifically, now is apparently the time to mention that Avril and company are still alive and gathering all sorts of gemstones to themselves. This morning is finding a beach with black diamonds for the taking. Avril collects everything she can, and apparently, Stev is unsurprised to find that the day after this discovery, Avril has disappeared, with a sled and the most precious gemstones collected.
Stev grinned maliciously. She might have ignored the mayday from Landing, but he had not. He had followed what was happening on the southern continent, and kept an eye to the east whenever a cloud appeared. He had made contingency plans. He had doubted Avril had. He would have liked to see her expression when she found out that Landing was swarming with industrious people, the takeoff grid crammed with sleds and technicians. So he roared with amusement when one of the apprentices anxiously reported that she could not find Avril anywhere.
Nabhi Nabol was not at all pleased.
Cocowhat by depizan
So, we are supposed to believe that Avril has not kept up with any news from Landing, despite having materials that came from there and would probably need to feed power from there. And despite a started desire to rule the planet as a substitute for not getting to rule by Benden’s side. And because she would need the craft that is stored at Landing to get out into orbit with her cargo. But in eight years, we’re supposed to believe that she has blithely assumed everyone would spread out and leave the craft there for the taking, and that the colony itself would succeed exactly according to its own timetable so that they’re wouldn’t be any people there that she couldn’t sneak in and steal the craft. Or some similarly improbable sequence of events. We’re supposed to believe that Avril hasn’t had enough interest in Landing to not know about Threadfall and all that has transpired, but Stev does. If the narrative explicitly mentioned that Stev had been hiding this information from Avril and redirecting her curiosity into greed and lust… it would still be unbelievable, but it would at least have a patina of a justification to it. Here, the narrative wants us to believe Avril is stupid, despite having portrayed her as a skilled manipulator of people earlier in the book, and giving her at least some credit to those skills. I can’t really believe that Avril would decide now is a good time to try and get away from Pern. It doesn’t work, and is the waste of a perfectly good scheme. There needs to be more explanation as to why Avril chooses this completely inopportune moment to go back.
The narrative changes to Kenjo, getting up into space on a mission to analyze Thread to see if the predictive programs are accurate, trace the source of the Thread and then destroy it before it enters the atmosphere. Kenjo is pretty pleased with how much fuel he’s hoarded and how he’s using it to fly a different kind of aircraft over the skies of Pern, aided by his wife, who appears to be a stereotype of some sort.
His wife, patient and calm, had ventured no opinion on his avocation, aiding him in its construction. A mechanical engineer, she managed the small hydroelectric plant that served their plateau home and three small stakes in the next valley. She had given him four children, three of them sons, was a good mother, and even managed to help him cultivate the fruit trees that he had raised as a credit crop.
She’s a saint, and apparently does all the necessary work for keeping them alive while Kenjo goes gallivanting off in the skies. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see toxic masculinity as Kenjo’s operating procedure in family relationships. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for her to keep Kenjo if she doesn’t want to. And the way that Kenjo is portrayed here, he wants to be back out in space, instead of in the ground, so maybe she will have the opportunity sooner rather than later.
The narrative switches back to Avril’s return to Landing, where she is livid and confused as to why there are so many people and the ship she was planning on using is gone (Kenjo’s got it right now). With nothing else to do, Avril disguises herself as a mechanic and sets off to poke around. Sallah spots her immediately, based on height, build, and gait, but dismisses the suspicion because the woman then stops to work on some equipment. After that, Sallah returns her attention to Drake, who is teaching volunteers how to fight off Thread. Here we hear the first contraction into “agenothree”, because we’ve gone too long without a call forward, but Sallah can’t keep her attention on the briefing, instead drifting in thought to her children and her husband. And the trouble she is having getting him to be lusty with her – to the point where she’s taken up trying to sex him up right when he wakes up, before he goes about on his day. At the end of the meeting, Sallah goes off to reminisce with a friend, with a casual remark asking about where Sorka is before the narrative shifts over to Sean, aggravated that Benden is asking for a cavalry unit with flamethrowers, and Sorka, who is trying to calm him down. As she watches Sean fume, Sorka notes to herself that his anger is actually a sign of how comfortable he is with her, and that he’s normally a very agreeable, sociable person, unless someone presses his Berserk Button about animals and/or dragonets. There’s a side effect of Sean’s anger – all their dragonets are out of the house, so once he’s calmed a bit, Sean decides it’s a good time for nookie.
But even when they were not in season, the creatures delighted in strong emotions, and with thirteen in a chorus of encouragement, the entire neighborhood would know what was happening in the Hanrahan-Connell quartets.
That has to be awkward. There’s no getting around dragonet gossip, so everybody knows when someone is knocking boots with someone else. I wonder if that makes the gossip more or less juicy when the fire lizards are involved.
After sex, Sorka frets that she hasn’t been formally married to Sean – her parents are on board, but his parents clearly have a different woman picked out for their son, someone in the Traveler community. Sorka also realizes that she really wants to have a baby with Sean, just in case something Thread happens to him, and now she understands they have enough credit to have their own stake together when they get paired.
The narrative shifts to Kitti Ping, her daughter, and the assembled high administrators of Landing, having a private meeting in Ping’s house. The chairs are arranged so that the short Ping is sitting tallest of all of the assembled, which Benden notices, before complaining in his mind about the discomfort of the stools. Everyone assembled has come to the same conclusion – Total Party Kill, unless Kitti and her daughter can use genetic engineering techniques to make the dragonets into dragons, with size, loyalty, and flaming ability to match. Kitti agrees, shocking everyone, but doesn’t guarantee any sort of success at the matter. And that ends the chapter.
Not exactly a cliffhanger, and the narrative runs into the problem of having to have things play out this way, or else it destroys its own timeline. The narrative has done a good job so far of keeping Thread menacing to the colonists, but it’s not always doing such a good job of holding the excitement of the reader.