Last chapter, we were denied actually seeing what happened with the rapid reintroduction of industrial age technology to a pastoral and vassalist feudal system, and instead thrown forward to the point in time where dragons and fire lizards went back to the spaceship, bringing back the corpse of Sallah Telgar, preserved sufficiently will in the vacuum and the cold to be transported back. A funeral and public burial is the works…
All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None
…but we don’t get to see it immediately. Instead, we are treated to Jaxom and Ruth getting used to microgravity, Jaxom wearing the space suit that Sallah still had. Jaxom is tasked with finding the overrides for the cargo bay doors to see if they can be closed. Jaxom gets to the cargo bay, narrating his way down according to AIVAS’s instructions, and then comes face to face with the void and is talked through getting to the cargo bay console with emergency lights. Jaxom is able to use the manual override, although he uses too much force and almost throws himself into the air. Eventually, though, the doors do close and the mission finishes.
We shift over to AIVAS briefing the Power Trio on just how wobbly the wanderer is, noting a variance of nearly ten years from the fifty year default depending on the pass, and that the long intervals were…something. AIVAS calculates that the Ninth Pass will finish three years early, which is good news, and indicates that the time is right to start sending green dragons and their riders up to get used to microgravity. In pairs. Robinton praises AIVAS’s ability to manipulate people (!), a thing that AIVAS dismisses as just knowing personalities.
The next missions involving the Yokohama involve getting the oxygen-producing algae back up and running, and seeing if some bronze dragons can go out and collect some samples of non-activated Thread. Which produces a pretty big boggle from the assembled, until the AI tells them about the fact that Thread is only dangerous when in an environment that lets it be destructive. Even then, they’re not sure about it, even though the AI tells them it’s an essential item. Pressed for details about the plan, AIVAS deflects with an analogy about how beginners shouldn’t be expected to perform masterful music. The talk turns to the Conclave in a couple days and how the Lords might have a spirited debate about whether or not they give Landing and the AI their blessing.
Then comes the public funeral and ceremony for Sallah, brought in by dragons, borne by Holders, accompanied by a formation of fire lizards, and sealed in by Crafters (and then the accompanying music for the feast by Harpers). We don’t get to see it, though, because Jaxom appears at Robinton’s side to inform him of an attempt to attack AIVAS, taking advantage of the reality that everyone is at the funeral. Heading back to Landing, Robinton sees the aftermath, with plenty of bruised heads on both defenders and attackers and the knowledge that the AI can defend itself if needed, since it used a sonic barrage to knock the attackers out. Piemur has his bloodthirsty grin on again, as he notes one of the attackers has all the scars of being a glasssmith, and assumes everyone came from Norist as a result. As new information comes in, including that the raiders had expensive mounts, there’s more than a few Crafts involved in this particular incident (or at least more than a few Craftmasters). The arrival of dragons means protection for the AI and dialogue between Robinton and Lytol, where Lytol explains to Robinton that if he had studied history a bit more, he would have been better prepared for the cultural upheaval underway. Robinton doesn’t want to believe in Lytol’s cynicism as the right way, preferring his own optimism that technology will provide the way. Piemur backs Robinton’s optimism as a good idea.
Identification of the thugs produces a couple of Bitrans, used to dismiss all Bitrans as mercenaries that will do anything for money, but won’t give up or give in and stay loyal to whomever bought them. There’s a fisher in the group, identified by the net damage. The beasts and their equipment provide no help at all as to their origins. They are eventually shipped off to the mines of Crom for punishment. (Wait, penal mines? How long has this been the case? Have there ever been revolts?)
Otherwise disappointed, Jayge asks for an interview with AIVAS to talk about dolphins. The AI confirms that dolphins can talk to humans, but notes that both Pernese and dolphins would have to adjust their language to be intelligible to each other, and suggests young Readis be trained in dolphin. Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species, which would really upset several of the humans to find out they’re not the smartest creatures on the planet.
Then again, several of the rumors in circulation about the hostile nature of AIVAS (including one where it becomes Skynet and will produce a colony drop to destroy the world) and how well protected it is suggests that there’s plenty of creativity, if not intelligence, at work in the rumor mill. Ultimately, the chapter comes to a close without any of the world-shaking consequences that have been hinted at or glossed over in the previous chapters, making this one a bit of a breather, even though there was the aftermath of an attack that had to be dealt with. Because everyone in the viewpoint always seems to be just behind the action these days, when that action is fighting, rather than in the thick of it, like in the earlier novels. Perhaps it’s because we’re working primarily with Jaxom, who people wouldn’t try to hurt, and Robinton, who is, well, getting too old for this shit.
Next chapter, perhaps, there will be more, as we are now set up for the Conclave of Holders, who have a lot to discuss.