The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: The Cockroaches Always Survive

Last time, we got to see Torene experience her first mating flight and her first sexual experience at the same time. Naturally, it was with Sean and Sorka’s son, perpetuating the dynasty of Weyrleaders in the family. We also got a boatload of mythology dumped in us in the story of the founding of Benden Weyr. And now, it’s time for yet another short story, this one yet longer than the last.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: Content Notes: Male Gaze

So, having spent lots of time planetside, we get to cut back out to the world of the Federated Sentient Planets, with another person named Benden surprised about the orange flag on the Rukbat system. Ross Vaclav Benden reports to his superior officer about the flag, which contains the distress beacon that Tubberman sent up from Landing.

What are they doing out there in the first place? Apparently, despite the cessation of hostilities with the Nathi Empire, they’re still trying to annex the FSP. This cruiser, the Amherst, is out sweeping the boundaries of the Empire for Nathi incursions. So they’re in the right place to collect the message, and then decide what to do about it.

There’s some exposition about the colony and how this Benden had to endure having the famous uncle all throughout his days at the academy while the ship puzzles out that the distress beacon was cobbled together, aimed at the wrong place, and likely tossed off without the authorization of the colony authorities. The Oort cloud is of interest to one of the scientists aboard, Ni Morgana, and there’s a question about whether Oort clouds can generate dangerous life forms.

Having satisfied their knowledge, the captain authorizes a rescue run, to be headed by Benden, taking a shuttle and a few personnel down to Pern to establish contact and see what the current status is. After that, the ship collects a large sample of Oort Cloud material, which turns up the expected ice chunks, other rocky material, no sign of any weapon, and some material that Ni has not seen before. It’s definitely life, but isn’t responding to probing to see if it’s alive at the freezing space temperatures things are kept at. After an admonition to be careful, Ni is allowed to bring a sample up to a warmer temperature. A quick narrative cut has Benden and the captain summoned to the observation area to see the giant pulsating mass that activated and engorged Thread becomes, before it self-destructs from lack of food. Ni volunteers for the rescue run so as to be able to study Thread more. Another cut, and Benden is making checks before the mission is ready to launch and complaining to Ni about her choice of junior officer to accompany.

“Just what were you like as an ensign, Lieutenant?” Ni Morgana asked, giving him a sly sideways glance.
“I was never that gauche,” he replied tartly. True enough, since he’d been reared in a Service family and had absorbed proper behavior along with all the normal nutrients. Then he relented, grinning wryly back at her add he remembered a few incidents…”This sounds like a fairly routine mission: find and evaluate.”
“Let’s hope so,” Saraidh ni Morgana replied earnestly.
Ross Benden was delighted to be teamed up with the elegant science officer. She was his senior in years but not in Fleet, for she had done her scientific training before applying to the Service. She was also the only woman on board who kept her hair long, though it was generally dressed in intricate arrangements of braids. The effect as somehow regal and very feminine – an effect at variance with her expertise in the various forms of contact sport that were enjoyed in the Amherst‘s gym complex. If she had made any liaisons on board, they were not general knowledge; he’d overheard speculation about her tastes, but no boasting or claims of personal experience. He had always found her agreeable company and a competent officer, though they hadn’t shared more than a watch or two until now.

Waaaaaaaaitaminute. It can’t be a coincidence that the line before a paragraph describing how attractive Benden thinks Morgana is that we are treated to her full name, instead of the name that she and the narrative have been using up to this point. I think it’s supposed to help us establish her possible ethnic origin to help build a picture of the body that accompanies the braids that Benden finds fascinating and feminine, sufficiently so that it cancels or contrasts what most be a fairly athletic build based on her proficiency in contact sports. It wouldn’t be something, say, practical as a means of controlling and tucking away hair that might be very unruly if left fully loose, without having to use technology to clip or hold it in place. It has to be ornamental and prettifying, so that she can be elegant and regal, a woman that can be put on a pedestal even though she behaves in a much more rough and tumble way. And all of this has to be true-ish, even though Benden hasn’t spent any real duty time with her, either, making Ni Morgana an excellent example of a lady in a chivalric romance.

After this interlude into the pantsfeels of Benden, Lieutenant Zane provides a very concise explanation as to why Pern should never have been approved for colonization.

“There’ll be no one left alive down there. Ni Morgana had proved the Oort cloud generated that life-form, so it wasn’t Nastie manufacture. There’s no reason for taking a chance and landing on that planet if any of those things are alive down there! And they could be, with an entire planet to eat up.”

Precisely. If the survey team had done a proper sweep of the system for probable issues, they would have discovered Thread, and would have likely closed off the system entirely to colonization. Yes, we were told in the story that they were short personnel, but they didn’t study all the possible things in the system to make sure that the planet would be suitable and not have a collision or get too close to anything. The colony ships could be forgiven for not noticing, but the survey team needed to do more than they did before declaring the planet safe.

The plot then gives us the final meeting before and then the shuttle launch and approach, with a shrug by Ni during the descent described as “a shrug of her slender, elegant shoulders”, pretty clearly telegraphing what kind of pantsfeels Benden has for her, if the previous description wasn’t clear enough. The sweep over the site of Landing reveals no life forms or signs of people, excepting a small grouping at the Big Island. The exploded volcano and ash-covered site causes some exclamations about the likely fate of the colony. The dolphins, however, are rather happy to see something, but nobody on the ship speaks dolphin, so they can’t ask them what happened.

Since there’s no reason to deviate from the plan so far, the shuttle finds the landing grid that’s still under the ash and unloads personnel to take a look around. They find lots of dead Thread and evidence of the abandonment of Landing, as well as the evidence that Thread lands on the planet, even though Ni is not able to connect how Thread gets to the planet. Following along to the other beacon that pinged their sensors, the shuttle touches down and meets the civilization on the Big Island, currently commanded by: Stev Kimmer, currently in his 80s or 90s of age. After Morgana introduces herself, she mentions no signs of life at Landing, and Kimmer tells her everyone but his settlement must be dead, then, and he’s very glad to see them, since the genetic diversity of the place is starting to get a little thin. Benden looks at the people who are here, based on their features and resemblances and wonders if Stev has been committing incest with his descendants. The inside of the cavern is spacious, well laid-out, and contains murals and star charts on the wall and ceilings, which clues Morgana in on how Thread gets to Pern.

Age doesn’t appear to have softened any of Kimmer’s edges, and Benden has already noticed that there appear to be two factions in the cavern.

But Benden took note of the tension evident in the oldest three men. They stood just that much apart from the women and youngsters to suggest they had distanced themselves deliberately.
[…the children are described as having an Asian ancestry as Stev walks people through the cavern on a tour…]
“Did you have stonecutters?” Nev asked abruptly, running his hand over the glassy, smooth walls.
One of the older black-haired men stepped forward. “My parents, Kenjo and Ito Fusaiyuki, designed and carved all the principal rooms. I am Shensu. These are my brothers, Jiro and Kino; our sister, Chio.” He gestured to the woman who was reverently withdrawing a bottle from a shelf in a long dresser.
With a searing glance at Shensu, Kimmer hastily took the initiative again. “These are my daughters, Faith and Hope, Charity is setting out the glasses.” Then, with a flick of his fingers, he indicated Shensu. “You may introduce my grandchildren.”
“Pompous old goat,” Ni Morgana muttered to Benden, but she smiled as the grandchildren were introduced as Meishun, Alun, and Pat, the two boys being in their mid-teens.
“This stake could have supported many more families of only those who said they’d join us had kept their promises,” Kimmer went on bitterly. Then, in an imperious gesture, he waved the guests to the table and offered each a glass of rich, fruity red wine.

Yeah, that setup sounds a lot like after Kenjo was murdered by Bitra and Nabol and Lemos died in the shuttle accident, and then Tubberman got killed by his own creations, Kimmer was the only one left and seized control of the Big Island. I doubt Kenjo’s kids have forgiven him for what happened to their father, and Stev Kimmer taking over what is rightly theirs. By all rights, Kimmer should have been knifed, poisoned, or generally left outside during Threadfall. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for his existence to continue, unless there’s some sort of leverage or knowledge he has that’s indispensable to the running of the stake.

Incidentally, after serving the guests the best wine, both Benden and Morgana note that everyone else is drinking a watered-down version of it, which suggests that parsimony is also the way of the settlement – yet another reason for Kimmer to have been deposed.

Polite inquiry about what the situation was gives us Kimmer’s version of what happened, from a “forty year-old memory” that makes him angry at having been stranded after Bitra stole and lost the interstellar ship, and he insists very vehemently that there are no other survivors and that everyone here would have died without his assistance (Ito apparently asked Kimmer to take over after a difficult time giving birth to Chio), a premise that is clearly disputed every way except verbally by everyone around him. Once again, they’ve had forty years to leave Kimmer to Thread. Why haven’t they?

As Kimmer continues to detail his attempts to find survivors and any reason to believe anyone has survived, he also details his belief that Benden, Boll, and those that followed them were insane and are probably dead because nobody can beat Thread. Kimmer’s indispensable skill, it turns out, is in producing animals, grass, and other necessary food things for survival. The children “accidentally” let slip that they have vast quantities of gemstones and ores that would be useful back in civilization, which prompts Kimmer to exclaim that they will just be killed and their wealth taken, and then to have his facade crumble and beg to be rescued. While Benden tries to figure out how to get the survivors on board, if needed, Morgana asks for and gets all the useful reports on Thread and its origins from the Fusaiyuki sons, as well as a guide to go examine more of the dead Thread shells the next day.

We then get to peer in on Benden dressing down the ensign that suggested being able to rescue all the people in the cavern, before watching the herds come back, just beating out a brown winged creature. Which I have to assume is not a dragon, as a dragon doing this would presumably have alerted the rider th the presence of the stake. Before that path is followed too much, though, Ni and Shensu are hip deep in the specifics of their negotiations for Shensu’s help in studying Thread, while Shensu praises Admiral Benden and Kenjo for the work they did in fighting off Thread and throwing shade on Kimmer for what happened afterward, mixed with some bitterness about how long the rescue has been in coming. When Shensu asks to be taken away as his payment, Benden accepts, even though he explains the difficulty in doing so. Shensu then sweetens the pot by showing Benden and Morgana the secret fuel stash Kenjo had, while warning them against conversing, because the acoustics of the Hold makes eavesdropping very easy. The amount of fuel is clearly enough to fill the shuttle, so that people and their wealth can get away safely, and Shensu explains both how Kenjo’s flying made the stash, how he probably gave some away to Benden so that they could escape Landing, and how he’s now giving it away to a Benden to rescue them. There’s a short talk about what gems to bring with them for maximum value, and then Shensu shows what sort of lapidary skills he and his siblings have.

Shensu then explains that he’s sure there are no other survivors because there were ships ready to sail once, where Bitra and Kimmer were ready to just take off, but in three years, those ships never actually sailed. Which is not actually a good reason to believe nobody survived, considering the panic that happened at being to evacuate before Garben exploded, and if nobody knows which direction everyone actually sailed off in, then they don’t actually know what happened.

In any case, the officers and marines and Kenjo’s kids all haul fuel to the shuttle under the cover of night, and there’s still some left over when things are full up. This seems like a good place to stop, since we’re over the halfway point of this story. Next week, maybe we finally find out the ultimate fate of Stev Kimmer.

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25 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: The Cockroaches Always Survive

  1. WanderingUndine October 20, 2016 at 11:37 am

    “Funkit, what in the name of the Holies is that?!” — someone’s reaction to the Thread activated onboard. A memorable exclamation.

  2. depizan October 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    So a ship that’s near Pern for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with exploration or Pern or scientific investigation has time to scoop up some Ort Cloud and discover there’s a problem, but the survey ship didn’t? *massages forehead* I just… this is my problem with these stories. It’s not that the parts are necessarily impossible, that you couldn’t have military vessels with time on their hands and ill-equipped planetary scouts, it’s that it all feels convenient. The plots don’t feel like they come from the setting, or even the characters, it’s more like the setting and characters get shuffled around in service of the plots. (Which, I suppose, would be more forgivable if the plots had more to them, but they’re really super basic and most of them could happen without the author resorting to such shoddy worldbuilding.)

    he’d overheard speculation about her tastes, but no boasting or claims of personal experience.

    Wow, that’s not completely creepy and hostile to female crew members or anything. I guess this book dates from before the concept of sexual harassment or hostile workplaces. … Published in 1993, originally published (this story) in 1991. Aahahahahahaha.

    Okay, maybe this is supposed to be one of those freelove futures where speculating about people’s sex lives isn’t creepy and demeaning because everybody does it about everybody and its all cool. But that really doesn’t fit with the virginal ultra-feminine image our “hero” is building up about his designated love interest. (Poor woman.)

    By all rights, Kimmer should have been knifed, poisoned, or generally left outside during Threadfall. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for his existence to continue, unless there’s some sort of leverage or knowledge he has that’s indispensable to the running of the stake.

    Kimmer’s indispensable skill, it turns out, is in producing animals, grass, and other necessary food things for survival.

    What, out of thin air? Either there’s a population of food animals and plants that this colony remnant can survive on or there’s not. Whether his skills are supposed to be hunting and gathering or farming, this doesn’t appear to make ANY sense.

    they have vast quantities of gemstones and ores that would be useful back in civilization

    WHY??? This is supposed to be a failed colony in dire straights. Why would they waste any time collecting this stuff, unless it is also useful to them in some way?

    Not that the portrayal of this group is consistent in the slightest – on the one hand, can’t kill the asshole, he’s our only source of food (somehow), on the other hand, got lots of free time to decorate and collect shiny rocks.

    I mean, yes, people surviving at a subsistence level might still take time to decorate, but if you’ve got time to decorate, you’ve got time to learn Kimmer’s magic skill and stake him out for Thread.

    before watching the herds come back

    So Thread isn’t actually all that big of a problem, it would seem. Or are the grazing lands protected by grubs?

    The amount of fuel is clearly enough to fill the shuttle

    Setting aside that it’s mighty convenient they didn’t use the fuel for anything in the intervening 40 years, there appear to be eight adults and three children as potential passengers. Would the shuttle really have gone down with such limited fuel that that added weight would be a problem? I mean, eight adults at, what 200 lbs each? That’s 1,600 lbs, plus another three hundred, say, for the kids. That’s only around 2,000 lbs of extra weight.

    The shuttle, minus fuel expended on getting down, plus 2,000 of new passengers is a no go. But the shuttle, with a full tank of fuel, plus 2,000 of new passengers and unknown weight of gemstones and ore is no problem.

    Is it just me or does it seem like the math has gone very wrong somewhere?

    Shensu then explains that he’s sure there are no other survivors because there were ships ready to sail once, …but in three years, those ships never actually sailed.

    Wait, the ships never sailed? Then what ships did the rest of the survivors go off in? We know some ships sailed. Is Shensu supposed to be lying? Were there enough ships that it wasn’t possible for him to tell that some left?

  3. saidahgilbert October 20, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Weren’t Kimmer’s group actually holed up on Kenjo’s hold somewhere on the Southern Continent rather than Big Island? If I remember correctly, Big Island is the island just south of the Northern Continent and is now called Ista Island. After all, if they were really on Big Island, Kimmer’s group would have met the people who evacuated Landing as Fort Hold is just across the water to the west. Also, I believe Tillek and some others were harbouring their ships there after they made their evacuation crossing so the two groups would have met up if they’d been living on Big Island all this time.

  4. genesistrine October 20, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Ahahaha wtf. There are spaceships patrolling, looking for alien attacks and installations. And the official reaction to a bodged-together distress beacon saying PLEASE HELP ALIENS ATTACKING is to stuff it in the files with a note saying EH IF YOU’RE PASSING BY YOU MIGHT WANT TO SEE WHAT THESE SCAREDYCATS ARE WHINING ABOUT NO PRESSURE for 50 years or so. It doesn’t occur to anyone to think that that might be the last gasp of a beleaguered force of anti-alien freedom fighters sacrificing everything to get the word out or anything like that?

    Well, at least we have confirmation that the stupid isn’t just a Pernese phenomenon but affects the whole FSP.

    summoned to the observation area to see the giant pulsating mass that activated and engorged Thread becomes,

    So what happened to the shell that this-period Thread comes packaged in? As far as I can tell from the description it just started growing when it got warmed up.

    If the survey team had done a proper sweep of the system for probable issues, they would have discovered Thread, and would have likely closed off the system entirely to colonization.

    Well, to be fair, it’s also on the colonists to do their due diligence and check what’s been omitted/never checked, especially since they were planning a one-way-no-backsies trip. They knew they were going to a world that had had a 5-day survey from an understrength crew.

    The dolphins, however, are rather happy to see something, but nobody on the ship speaks dolphin, so they can’t ask them what happened.

    In one way I quite like this, because why would they have someone who knows dolphin on board (grew up on a sea farm? Member of the Ritit Rikti fan club as a pre-teen?), but on the other hand we find out later that the colonists brought a language-capable AI with them, so why doesn’t a 50-years-later military craft have one that can translate? Or, hell, get a board with pictures and point. At least try and ask hey, you guys know if there’s any humans still around?

    The winged creature is presumably a fire lizard, though why they don’t have more… maybe the psychic atmosphere in the Hold is so bad that no empathic creature can stand it for long.

  5. genesistrine October 20, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    @saidahgilbert: If I remember correctly, Big Island is the island just south of the Northern Continent and is now called Ista Island.

    Yep.

    And a few decades previous to this story there was a Weyr established on it.

    Apparently none of the dragons or riders noticed the shuttle landing.

  6. Lodrelhai (@Lodrelhai) October 21, 2016 at 5:19 am

    You know, I’m almost willing to bet that Kimmer’s magic ability to provide food is actually a case of he’s kept his folks purposefully isolated and ignorant of other survivors while he himself trades gems and ores for food. Now, how he does this when they are sharing an island with a Weyr I have no idea. Did Kimmer get shunned and I forgot it? Even if he did, they said in Dragonsdawn that didn’t apply to family. I can’t imagine this group of people with animal herds living here for 50 years without making a noticeable mark on their environment. And they never had a watchrider come by to check on them?

    Also, if this is 50ish years from when the distress beacon launched, is Thread still falling?

  7. Firedrake October 21, 2016 at 5:22 am

    It’s not exactly “smells of the lamp”, but the wires are definitely showing. Why did this colony get dropped on a manifestly unsuitable world? The survey guys were in a hurry. Why have they lost their tech? Because they were back-to-the-land types, and had to do a hasty evacuation. The answer to every question comes down to “because it needs to be that way to make the stories work”.

    (Though I picture the “hasty survey” information being swept under the carpet by the colonisation bureaucrats, who say “yeah, sure, all the boxes have been ticked, another eleventeen new colonies for our troublemakers this month”.)

    Did anyone consider evacuating the dolphins?

    Oh, and nobody spotted the signs of agriculture when they were hanging around in orbit? It’s kind of obvious.

    Hydrocarbon fuel tends to go off in a mere 20-30 years. Not that McCaffrey ever says what these shuttles run on, other than “fuel”.

  8. saidahgilbert October 21, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Kimmer and the others were not living on Big Island. They remained on the Southern continent. He and the step-son mentioned in the story that they visited Big Island to see if there were any survivors because that’s where Kimmer had his claim. For some reason, Kimmer did not hear where the others were evacuating to and did not bother to tell Kenjo’s family that there was an evacuation.

    @Lodrelhai you do raise a good point. There was a Weyr on Big Island. How is it that despite the fact that Kimmer and his step sons were regularly visiting the island to collect gems that they never encountered the dragons? Did Anne McCaffrey forget what she’d written in the previous story (The Second Weyr)?

    @Firedrake They used the excuse that the entire Northern continent was covered in snow which is why they couldn’t see or sense anything.

  9. depizan October 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    @saidahgilbert

    Has snow even been mentioned before? Much less snow that would hide all sign of human habitation? That’s a freaking LOT of snow. Shouldn’t smoke from habitations be visible if it’s cold enough to have an entire continent covered in feet of snow? And how could an agrarian civilization survive winters that covered all grazing area in feet of snow? (And it has to be FEET because otherwise anything used to divide up the landscape, like fences and walls, would be visible.) Or is the rescue team supposed to have arrived during the one freakish snowfall?

    Also, if it’s still Threadfall – and the rescue team finding dead thread at the landing site suggests that it is (Thread does not seem like it would leave lasting corpses) – shouldn’t there have been flights of dragons to notice?

  10. genesistrine October 21, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    @Firedrake: Did anyone consider evacuating the dolphins?

    It was vaguely suggested and then completely forgotten about because they look so happy jumping out of the water and trying to get our attention.

    What the hell, I’ll give you the entire nine-paragraph sequence dealing with the most intelligent species on Pern:

    “They took Terran dolphins with them,” Nev said. “Mentasynth-enhanced dolphins,” he elaborated.

    And nobody thought to mention that on the ship, to ask whether any of the crew could speak cetacean or whether there was any info on how to communicate with dolphins in the records.

    “I don’t think rescuing dolphins is what Captain Fargoe has in mind, even if we had the facility to do so,” Saraidh said. “Have either of you any training in other-species’ communications? I don’t. So, let’s table that notion for now.”

    “And after all it’s not like we could get in radio contact with the captain and check. And we can’t talk to them anyway so why bother.”

    “There’s another consideration: How long do dolphins live?” Ross asked. “Remember, this trouble started when the colony was down eight to nine years. In your report, Lieutenant, you did mention that further tests with the organism proved that water drowned it and organic fire consumed it. Mentasynth-enhanced creatures have good memories, sure. But how many generations of dolphins have there been? Would they even be aware of what happened on land? Much less remember?”

    “They probably couldn’t tell us anything useful anyway, so why bother.”

    “Would they want to, is more the case,” Saraidh said. “They’re independent and very intelligent. I imagine they’d cut their losses and survive on their own. I would, if I were a dolphin.”

    “They probably think humans suck anyway, so why bother.”

    Especially these humans.

    Then Saraidh started the recorders on the gig’s delta wing, to take a record of the plunging antics of the large marine life as the Erica swooped over the ocean on its final descent toward the site of record.

    “Ooo, look at the funny dolphins trying to get our attention!”

    “Records state that the Bahrain brought fifteen female dolphins and nine males,” Nev said suddenly. “Dolphins produce–what? Once a year. There could be nearly eight hundred of ’em in the seas right now. That’s a lot of terrestrial life-forms we’d be abandoning.”

    Thank you Nev, for a rare burst of decency.

    “Abandoning? Hell, Cahill, they’re in their element. Look at them, they’re doing their damnedest to keep pace with us.”

    “Ooo, look at the funny dolphins trying to get our attention!”

    “Maybe they have a message for us,” Nev went on earnestly.

    Go Nev!

    “We look for humans first, Ensign,” the science officer said firmly. “Then we’ll check the dolphins! Ross, I’m not getting anything from the ship-to-ground interface that’s recorded for the site. It’s inoperative, too.”

    “Why even try to communicate with the intelligent creatures jumping about trying to get our attention? It;s not like they have legs and use last names or anything!”

    And that’s the last we hear of the dolphins. Nev, I am so disappointed in you.

  11. saidahgilbert October 21, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    “As the gig slanted in over the northern pole, it was obvious that this hemisphere was enduring a stormy and bitterly cold winter: most of the landmass was covered by snow and ice. Instruments detected no source of power or light, and very little heat radiation in areas where humans usually settled: the river valleys, the plains, the shoreline. There was one hiccup of a blip over the large island, just off the coast of the northern continent. The reading was too faint to suggest any significant congregation of settlers. If they had followed the usual multiplication so characteristic of colonies, the population should now be close to the five-hundred-thousand mark, even allowing for natural disasters and those mortality patterns normal for a primitive economy.”

    The above is a quote from the book. I don’t know how to put it in italics.

  12. WanderingUndine October 21, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    @genesistrine: I wonder when surnames were completely abandoned by Pernese humans.

    Were the dolphins trying to tell the new arrivals that there were other humans on the planet? I expect so, as it seems unlikely that they would personally want to leave.

  13. Nothing October 21, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I seem to recall in my edition (no longer have it) that the watered down wine was specifically served to the women.

  14. depizan October 21, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    God god these people are terrible. I can’t decide whether ignoring the dolphins or ignoring the possible sign of people on the island is worst. It’s just epic fail all around. D:

  15. genesistrine October 22, 2016 at 6:36 am

    @saidahgilbert: HTML tags work – use <i> at the beginning of what you want to italicize and </i> at the end. <b> and </b> for bold.

    @WanderingUndine: probably when the population got low enough and isolated enough that everyone in one place knew everyone else.

    As for the dolphins, looks that way to me. Even if they were just being “hey cool, something new!” rather than “yay, a rescue ship at last!” it’s hard to imagine that “we’re having trouble communicating, want us to show you which way the humans with a dolphin-calling bell are? They can translate!” wouldn’t have come up at some point. If any of these fuckwits had bothered to try and talk to them.

    @depizan: they’re useless and terrible at every level. It’s fractal awfulness. Don’t bother to talk to the dolphins because EFFORT, take Kimmer’s word for stuff because eh, he looks legit and this one thing this other guy mentioned could back it up we guess (even though someone left those ships in a safe place and must have gone somewhere afterwards? Nah Kimmer says there aren’t any other survivors anywhere he should know right?), don’t bother to check out what for all they know then might be the last few surviving humans on the planet because IDFK, it looks cold there and they forgot their thermal underwear.

    And they’re meant to be military. Do you feel safe with these guys guarding you against alien attack, FSP?

  16. Silver Adept October 22, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I might have messed up the spot where the colony is – on the reading I had, it seemed like the stake in question was on the Big Island, but since it’s supposed to be Kenjo’s place, it can’t be there. All the same, though, there should be at least some signs of life on the South, with Ista Weyr and the massive lifeforms that are dragons present for sensors to pick up or to have flying next to the shuttle to figure out what it is. The North might be far enough underground for a sensor suite that doesn’t have ground-penetrating radar, but again, the shuttle itself flying overhead should have caught the attention of someone on the ground, since dragons are supposed to be watching the skies for signs of impending attacks.

    Everyone on this rescue run seems to be phoning it in on their duties, excepting maybe Ni, and that seems to be because the narrative has decided she’s a pretty object to be admired instead of a military officer with rank and training.

    And by all rights, Stev Kimmer should be dead already. He’s done more than enough to the colony that he should be on permanent exile, and the likely atrocities that he’s committed at this point to the women of the colony should have long since sealed his fate.

    It really is a case of “well, this is the story I want to tell, so everything has to love up for that, regardless of whether it makes sense to do so.”

  17. emmy October 22, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Ista’s not on the Southern continent, it’s on the southern part of the northern continent. Southern was abandoned.

    Though honestly some fan maps make Ista look so close to the Southern continent it’s really hard to imagine they managed to keep the two separated for so long, fishermen blowing off course should have happened far more often. Ista and the eventual Southern Hold don’t seem that far apart.

    Landing, otoh, is pretty far away from the North, so if they’re looking around near there they have zero chance of spotting dragons by accident or vice-versa. I’m not sure where the Fusaiyuki stake is supposed to be, but I don’t think it’s near the coast, so again, not a chance.

    Too bad the dolphins who DID spot them didn’t alert the North.

    Why would they waste any time collecting this stuff, unless it is also useful to them in some way?

    Not that the portrayal of this group is consistent in the slightest – on the one hand, can’t kill the asshole, he’s our only source of food (somehow), on the other hand, got lots of free time to decorate and collect shiny rocks.

    Kimmer is forcing them to work on jewels for his hoard in exchange for his provider skills. No shinies, no food.

  18. Firedrake October 22, 2016 at 11:25 am

    All sapients are equal, but sapients that speak our language are more equal than others.

    Doylistically, we can’t have recontact because recontact didn’t happen in stories written later, but on the other hand someone ought to have come along and checked up on this colony at some point. I mean, that’s how civilisation spreads – even if you start off being a long way from anyone else, sooner or later you get neighbours.

    I suppose, after this story, “everybody knows” there are no survivors and there’s this weird space parasite thingy, so they have no reason to come back to this system – there are better worlds, more easily mined asteroid belts, etc., elsewhere.

    Incidentally is “Ni” really used as a nickname? I’d have thought “Ni Morgana” would be an Irish family name, like Máire Ní Bhraonáin (Máire Brennan).

  19. genesistrine October 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    @emmy: Too bad the dolphins who DID spot them didn’t alert the North.

    Maybe they did, but the “rescue run” is only scheduled for 5 days on Pern. For no apparent reason other than that’s how long the original survey took. So unless the dolphins can get there in 5 days and get the message to dragonriders who are old enough to remember and visualise the South and run a search pattern down the coast from Landing….

    Kimmer is forcing them to work on jewels for his hoard in exchange for his provider skills. No shinies, no food.

    Again, to be fair, there’s a very good reason to accumulate lightweight and valuable items – it’s been frequently stated that rescued colonists are expected to pay for their rescue and will be indentured if they can’t, so a valid interpretation is that Kimmer’s accumulating a hoard to pay for rescue and a decent life afterwards in case his beacon does, eventually, get a reply.

    There’s some heartbreaking stuff in this if it was handled with a bit of sympathy – the bodged-together beacon picked up years ago and never answered for all that time, the assumption that since there aren’t obvious colonists all over the place they must have died out so why bother to investigate that litle hotspot, Kimmer desperately collecting treasure in the hope that someone gives enough of a shit to send help, even after 50 years. And it would be nice to think that he’s being given a redeeming virtue, since he seems to be including everyone in his hold in his evacuation plan. Though being a McCaffrey villain I daresay he’ll try and treacherously murder someone before the end of the story….

    @Firedrake: You’d think scientists would be falling over themselves to investigate Thread. The first form of life to thrive in an Oort cloud? Awesome!

    Ni Morgana’s never called “Ni” in the book. Silver Adept, “ni” is the feminine form of “mac” – it’s part of her surname.

  20. genesistrine October 23, 2016 at 6:17 am

    Come to think of it, the most obvious reason Kimmer wouldn’t have been left outside for Thread is that he’s actually a capable and fair leader, if abrasive, and all McCaffrey’s rape/abuse/incest hints are just her usual THIS IS A BAD BAD PERSON WHO DISAGREES WITH PROTAGONISTS THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN mudslinging, though I haven’t read the second half of this story yet so more may come out….

  21. WanderingUndine October 23, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Isolated, yes. Low enough? I wonder if Pern’s human population dropped at any point between arrival and, perhaps, the plague in Moreta’s time. It seems to have been continually exploding. I suppose the loss of high-tech medicine, sanitation, and food security would have some long-term effect.

  22. Nothing October 23, 2016 at 10:25 am

    As to the dolphins, you know what makes it even worse? Dolphins on Pern speak human language. No translator would even have been needed to understand them, and they would have been able (probably) to tell the rescue team what had happened.

    In that case it would be very likely that some people would have been more than willing to leave Pern, plus Thread would have been properly studied. And as for payment? Pern’s gems and numbed both have value. Especially the numbweed. Klah might also be popular and worth some money. And in exchange Thread might even have been permanently dealt with, or at least solutions better than living in caves and hoping the dragons would keep you safe might have been provided.

    Of course then dragons would have had to be pack animals or transport to earn their keep… no way would Anne like that. And I am sure someone would want to bring dragons and firelizards off world too!

  23. genesistrine October 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    @WanderingUndine: well, the monkeysphere’s supposed to be somewhere around 150 people, and from what we see there were a lot fewer than that in Ruatha when it was set up, for starters. But since we don’t know how fast new holds were founded after the first couple or how many inhabitants they normally had….

    @Nothing: ha, I’d forgotten that. I’m not so sure Pern’s gems etc would have so much trade value, though, considering the transport time and cost, but if they could figure out a way to transport fire lizard eggs in stasis….

    Plus the number of research teams that’d be desperate for a chance to work on Thread, and it’d be a lot cheaper to supply them from Pern than from some other planetary system.

  24. WanderingUndine October 23, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Monkeysphere? *looks it up* Huh. I didn’t know I’m capable of caring about only approximately 150 people. Now I have to figure out which of the additional people I thought I cared about I apparently actually don’t. :-[

  25. genesistrine October 23, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Eh, it’s an average 🙂

    Plus this is Pern, so they’re only capable of caring about protagonists.

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