Last time, dragons hatched and Impressed, and everyone got a little bit better idea about what it was going to take to raise them, a shuttle went up to examine what’s up with the wandering planet, and a man was exiled, giving him time to develop a way of keeping the grass safe from Thread. If only the colonists could harness such an invention without having to break their punishment.
Dragonsdawn, Part Two: Content Notes: None visible
We pick up with the report that the shuttle has obtained its target pods of Thread, although Ongola is suspicious of the amount of time taken to do so. And then a rather large earthquake rumble that wakes the sleeping colonists. The sensors can’t tell where a volcano is going to pop, but they know one is going to soon. And then one does, safely away from Landing – pops up completely out of the sea. Telgar, the seismologist, reassures everyone that the big volcano they built the settlement on is in no danger of blasting itself, even if all the new activity is on the same tectonic plate that the big volcano is on. And then he and several others go off to take a look at things and make sure their confidence is warranted. And to have a place in mind in case the colony has to pick itself up and go in a hurry.
Our next scene is the return of the shuttle…with Ongola calling Benden to say Nabol is coming in poorly, even though Nabol thinks he’s fine, at least according to what he says the instruments are reading. The data returned from the shuttle so far indicates the wanderer wobbles into orbit and out of orbit, but that the reason for Threadfall is likely the wandering planet capturing the Thread in the cloud of material surrounding the system in its gravitational well and then giving it up to Pern’s stronger gravitational pull, so Thread will always be there, generally on intervals of two hundred and fifty years, give or take the interference of the other moons in the system. The shuttle has a payload of Thread pods to confirm this hypothesis…if they can touch down safely.
As Benden attempts to talk sense into Nabol, the truth of their descent makes itself clear, and there’s not enough fuel left to try and abort the reentry. The shuttle breaks itself apart over the sea, losing the lives of Nabol and Lemos, as well as their cargo. The dolphins find no survivors, nor the scoop that would contain their cargo.
I again wonder why Lemos, Bitra, and Nabol Hold exist, considering that they have not done anything the colony itself would consider noble or praiseworthy and deserving of memorialization. They’re not around to establish themselves afterward, either, so I would assume that there would be no reason for anyone to keep their memories alive. Unless as a warning to others, and generally speaking, you don’t name entire towns after people you want to be villains. Maybe the places that will become those Holds started out as penal colonies, in the vein of Australia, before becoming population centers. That said, with the way that Thread is basically lethal, I would expect less of colonies of exiles and more of people staked out in the path of Thread as a warning against those who would defy X, Y, or Z.
There is also an interesting problem here, but the colonists are out of options on how to study it – probes and ships that have gotten near the Thread pods are either destroyed or damaged to the point of instrument malfunction. I wonder how both the survey team and the colony ships themselves managed to avoid encountering this issue, since proximity is enough to cause problems with spacefaring objects. I also have a feeling it will become important again later on.
I also wonder how much of Nabol insisting things are fine was instrument malfunction and how much it was him being a jerk to the tower. F’rex:
“Tower to Moth, do you read me? Benden here. Moth, respond.”
“Good morning, Admiral Benden,” Nabhi responded promptly and insolently. “We are on course and reentering at a good angle.”
[…Benden gives him proper readings…]
But Nabhi seemed undisturbed by Paul’s information, and he did indeed report readings consonant with a good reentry.
So Nabol trusts his own instruments instead of the tower, which seems like a very bad idea, but then again, as the narrative characterizes him, he’s not really all that interested in listening to the tower or the people inside. One would think things feel wrong to him, but I have no idea what a bad entry would feel like to a pilot, especially one flying by wire. Airline pilots and spacefarers probably would know whether you can tell if something is bad just by the way the craft is. Either way, Nabol gets himself and Lemos killed by not trusting the people who have better eyes on his descent. That’s enough by itself to tell that he’s not as good a pilot as he thought he was.
As it is, the administrative council of Pern meets to discuss their options – survival and adaptation win, along with the idea of moving into the cave systems to conserve resources. When Benden suggests restructuring Landing, Ongola tells him it would be better to move off their location and go north. Tillek agrees, given the most recent seismic activity has everyone nervous, and thinks that Telgar has the right idea of where to resettle. All the supplies that can be carried will be used to cross the sea.
Paul grinned at Emily. It was much easier when people made to their own minds to do what their leaders has decided was best for them.
And thus ends Part Two, by far the largest part of the book.
As it stands, there’s still two people that could be a problem to the colony – Stev Kimmer, who has not been seen for a while, and Ted Tubberman, who is still shunned from the community. Is anyone going to tell him or help him get moved, since he probably doesn’t have a self-sufficient stake? Ned can, and Ted’s wife can, so I guess we assume they will. Now would also be a good time to ask if Ted is willing to barter his invention for reinstatement to the colony – since everyone is now basically in the same boat, and will have to live in close proximity, they should probably be trying to work together. Ted has something that can survive Thread, and more importantly, can protect plants and grasses from Thread as well, which would give the new colony site an advantage in survival by not having to worry about whether or not their crops will survive the attacks. The colony wants it, and he can use it to leverage himself into a good position.
Stev is the only character left that hasn’t attempted something to the detriment of the colony, so his turn must be coming up soon. That way, only the loyal remain and they can then turn the full attention of Pern to the survival and eventual eradication of Thread. The dragons that they’re betting on haven’t yet proven themselves. We know they will, but there’s still some uncertainty present for the colonists. Plus, there’s already starting to be some segregation between those that have dragons and their space requirements and those that don’t. So the entire social structure could unravel itself before cooperation can be established – or the colonies might run out of resources trying to support the dragons as they grow.
This is why it would have been better for the Avril plot to run first – Landing is dealt a crippling blow by losing pilot and spacecraft, then Thread arrives and forces a hot scramble. While Kitti Ping works on dragonet to dragon work, Ted fires off the beacon, gets shunned, and develops grubs as a giant middle finger to Landing. Then Nabol and Lemos go up and crash down. Dragons hatch, earthquake rumbles, and now we are at the same point, with the colony relocating, believing hard in unproven dragons because dragons and caves are basically where all the marbles are. Even though the outcome is going to happen, there’s enough tension in the how, and whether Stev is going to sabotage the new location over revenge or the fact that he actually loved Avril and has been biding his time until he could exact revenge. That way we get a chain of bad things that seems logical and helps to build the idea that there’s only one feasible way out of this, instead of having to put the Thread plot on hold to handle all the villainous people plots. And if this were all happening within the first, say, two years of the colony, there wouldn’t be such a large unexplained gap of time where things were apparently in stasis before action decided to happen again, either.
Anyway, Part Three begins next week.