Monthly Archives: July 2017

Deconstruction Roundup for July 28th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is yet again stuck waiting on someone else to do their final work.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 are late with your pay because you just wanted to relax yesterday. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: The Plan Succeeds (As It Was Always Going To)

Last chapter, the plot to get Robinton wrapped up with the trial and exile of everyone involved, Lord, Crafter, and serf alike. There’s only one thing left to do in this book…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapters 19 and 20: Content Notes: Suicide

…but it’s going to take two chapters, naturally. The first starts with Fandarel complaining a bit about the waste of the engines and a bit of skepticism about the considerable destructive power of antimatter, as he and a crew of Smiths attach the apparatuses that will corrode the containment units for the antimatter. Then to Hamian, the Benden Weyrleader, and Jaxom, who are all trying to make sure there are enough suits for the lift operations. Jaxom knows there’s an upper limit of suits, but the others do not. Then up to the Yokohama, where everyone is working uptempo to try and find the perfect vector for Thread destruction. They don’t know about the full effect of their weapon, though, and Mirrim remarks that she’s up to batch 98 of trials for the day, so it’s probable there isn’t brainpower to spare to work it out.

Afterward, when Lytol wrote up the history of the Aivas years, he would remember the results, not the frenzy that had accompanied them, though he gave full credit to everyone involved in the different projects.
At last all the preparations had been completed–two full days before the date Aivas had set them.

Ooh, foreshadowing.

As it turns out, they need the extra time because the couplings that would release the engines are stuck and need to be lubricated, and it takes time to manufacture a proper delivery system to get everything in working order again. This allows for some recovery time for Sharra, who had “lost weight and had deep circles under her eyes” from the extended and stressful schedule. Robinton is, in Jaxom’s estimation, “a man going through the motions of living,” and this distresses him.

Once everything is lubricated, separation of the engines occurs without a hitch. In the meantime, Lessa has been replaced as a leader by N’ton, because Ramoth is pregnant (and Jaxom has exactly zero interest in asking the Benden Weyrleader how he managed that one). This puts a slight wrench in Jaxom’s plans.

Jaxom has no troubles getting the first set of dragons back in time, and then scattering them back to their own Weyrs on the present so their space suits can be collected. (And without Mirrim bringing back a sample of ancient Thread by accident.) The Benden Weyrleader comes back and crows about his success in dropping his engine into place. And there is a drink of good Benden wine, to which Jaxom is offered a drink, confirming (in his own mind) that he’s finally being treated as an adult, instead of the kid Lord and dragonrider.

As it turns out, the re-matching and cleaning of the space suits happens so poorly that it takes enough time that N’ton has to take a new set of pictures from Jaxom to do his warp, solving neatly the problem of how to put one over on the otherwise very experienced Weyrleader. The final engine drop succeeds without issues, and everyone is eventually returned to their Weyrs and their times, even though some appeared temporarily at the right place and the wrong time.

Then there’s dealing with the politics of the matter. More specifically:

“Somehow–” Brand paused to frame his explanation. “A lot of people thought that there’d be no more Thread now. That once the dragonriders has done this explosion thing, Thread wouldn’t fall again.”
“Oh!” Jaxom made a face. “Bloody shards, Brand. Don’t they ever listen? Harpers have been explaining for the last four Turns that we can’t stem this Fall, but there won’t be any more!”

And, of course, any misfortune that befalls people during this period is also the AI’s fault. Jaxom decides to send word along so that the Harpers and Cove Hold are aware of the misunderstanding, and then he and Sharra settle back into Hold life, deciding not to go up on the bridge and watch the explosion of the engine, which is an anticlimax for the observers…and the narrative. Robinton, however, knows exactly how to put his journeyman to work.

“You,” Robinton said, pointing a stern finger at the journeyman, “will now have the unenviable task as a harper of explaining the true facts of the achievement to those who didn’t understand that this effort would not alter the path of Thread during the remainder of this Pass.”
To Lytol’s surprise, Robinton had not been at all dismayed by Jaxom’s report. In fact, the Harper has seemed to expect such disgruntlements.
“Menolly’s already composed one ballad,” Robinton went on, “with a chorus to hammer home the point that this is the Last Pass for Thread, that Pern will be forever free from the end of this Pass.”

I think I see wisdom poking through there, Robinton, about the actual power of your propaganda machine and the necessity of always repeating your message.

Also, I’m surprised Piemur hasn’t been field promoted at this point to a Mastery, given how much work he’s already done. Perhaps Sebell sees him as more valuable as an itinerant journeyman than a Master with an established base?

Now that the time paradox is resolved, AIVAS has a final task for this situation, one he thinks best suited for the browns, blues, and greens, who were mostly excluded from the engine lifts.

“Readings on the orbits of the two smaller ships have shown a marked increase in the frequency of adjustments. The adjustments take more and more power, and the prognosis is that their orbits are likely to decay over the next decades to the critical point.
[…the Yokohama is fine, of course, but the others should be moved into the sun…]
“Burned up?” Lytol asked.
“A heroic end for such valiant ships,” Robinton murmured.
“You mentioned nothing of this before,” F’lar said.
“There were more urgent priorities,” Aivas replied.

Well, there’s the answer to the question Fandarel asked several chapters ago and was dismissed from inquiring further about. So, yeah, someone remembered they had colony ships to deal with. They even acknowledge the destructive potential of even pieces of the ships touching down on the planet instead of burning up.

That said, apparently the Yokohama has backup engines, and so do the others, because their antimatter components were all just stripped and detonated. So this is likely more than just a sinecure for the other colors, but the most efficient way of getting the ships to the star for final destruction.

With the matter settled, all that’s left is to wind down the narrative. Jaxom will still fly for the remainder of the Pass, but apparently his time will be taken up by organizing and patching the holes in his Hold’s records.

Robinton pays a visit to AIVAS, who wants to know why he hasn’t seen Oldive about the fact that he’s also been suffering from fellis poisoning since the incident. Robinton waves him off, saying that there’s “no cures for worn-out human parts”, but expressing his pleasure that the classes are continuing.

“The priorities for this facility have now been met.”
“That’s true enough,” Robinton said, smiling.
“This facility now has no further function.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Aivas,” Robinton said somewhat sharply. “You’ve just gotten your students to the point where they know enough to argue with you!”
“And to resent the superiority of this facility. No, Master Robinton, the task is done. Now it is wise to let them seek their own way forward. They have the intelligence and a great spirit. Their ancestors can rightfully be proud of them.”
“Are you?”
“They have worked hard and well. That is in itself a reward and an end.”
“You know, I believe you’re right.”

That is not an answer, AIVAS. Based on that resentment comment above, I might say your answer is no. You might be proud of their accomplishments, but it definitely sounds like you’re not sure the Pernese are ready for their next steps.

“‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,’ Master Robinton.”
“That is poetic, Aivas.”
There was one of those pauses that Robinton always thought was the Aivas equivalent of a smile.
“From the greatest book ever written by Mankind, Master Robinton. You may find the entire quotation in the files. The time has been accomplished. This system is going down. Farewell, Masterharper of Pern. Amen.”
Robinton sat straight up in his chair, fingers on the pressure plates, though he hadn’t a single positive idea of how he could avert what Aivas was about to do. He half turned to the hall, to call for help, but no one who had the knowledge–Jaxom, Piemur, Jancis, Fandarel, D’ram or Lytol–was near enough at hand.
The screen that had paraded so much knowledge and issued so many commands and diagrams and plans was suddenly blank, lifeless. In the right-hand corner, a single line blinked.
“‘And a time to every purpose under heaven,'” Robinton murmured, his throat almost too tight for him to speak. He felt incredibly tired, overwhelmingly sleepy. “Yes, how very true. How splendidly true. And what a wonderful time it has been!”
Unable to resist the lethargy that spread from his extremities, he laid his head down on the inactive pressure plate, one hand holding Zair in the curve of his neck, and closed his eyes, his long season over, his purpose, too, accomplished.

And thus, both Robinton and Zair breathe their last, having been the perfect witnesses to AIVAS’s final act, and unable to stop it from doing so. If fire-lizards can guide to the place beyond between, then Robinton probably is there, drinking wine and singing songs. For as much as he was responsible for in life (and I suspect we’ll get to a fuller accounting in the book that’s all about him), someone would probably say he received his wounds from the front, as was questioned in the Scottish Play.

AIVAS, on the other hand, could probably be accused of having taken the coward’s way out – it had accomplished the purpose of the destruction of Thread, but now that it might have to face a world where even its prized students would gainsay it, or put its knowledge to uses other that its own, it chooses to self-terminate rather than gave the consequences of its actions. There’s still a world in upheaval out there, and just because the most prominent Lords arrayed against the AI are exiled doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who have that idea.

AIVAS has put all of its students in a much more precarious position in convincing the rest of the world to go along with technological achievements.

Oh, and eventually the Yokohama is going to need to be moved, as well. Will Pern forget about that until it is too late?

Not to mention that I take significant umbrage at the idea that spanning all the worlds and all of the time that’s gone on since humans left Terra, that people believe the writings of an Abrahamic religion are still the best book they’ve created.

No. Unless there’s evidence that the people who programmed the AI held those beliefs, there’s no reason for an AI with a functioning history module to believe that a book that is the justification for so much lost life, inflicted pain, suffering, and war is the very best book humans have created in all of that time.

No. That assertion is not a logical conclusion.

Getting back to the plot, the death of Robinton trips the telepathic telegraph, with everyone racing to Landing (Jaxom and Sharra collect Oldive first) to witness what happened. Asking AIVAS for an explanation yields the other problem, and none of Jaxom’s attempts to restore the AI automatically are successful. Jaxom wants to go back to an appropriate time and save Robinton, but everyone else is firmly against this idea, and also against trying to revive the AI. D’ram plays spokesperson for this thought.

“He has served his purpose in helping us destroy Thread. You will come to realize just how wise Aivas was in this. We were beginning to count on him too heavily.”

Cocowhat by depizan

You still are counting on it, every time you access the data stored in the machines that you teach with, that you research with, that you work with. The only thing you can’t count on any more is the interactive mode that the voice system provided and its calculations and advice. Which, frankly, terrifies me, because now Pern has the approximate tech level of 20th c. Terra, with knowledge in the databases, presumably, about the atom, antimatter, and with the experience of engineering a lethal plague to another life form. If the Great Filter exists, Pern is probably rubbing right up against it. The Union of Concerned Pernese Scientists are setting the clock very close to midnight at this point. If AIVAS were still here, it might take on a Hari Seldon role and try to steer the planet through what are going to be some very tough decisions and scenarios, but no, it decided that once the people on the planet became collectively teenagers in their development, that it was time to check out permanently. Asshole AI.

The rest of the chapter, and the book, is the burial of Robinton, and Ruth getting Jaxom to give up on his bitterness at being bereft of his mentor, teacher, and an entity that treated Jaxom as important and an adult in the company of his peers. Ruth points out that the knowledge is still there, and that none of what has been accomplished would have been done without them. So, instead of with a birth of a child, the book ends with the birth of a planet, with Jaxom and Ruth going back to Cove Hold, “ready to delve into the legacy of knowledge that Aivas left for them.”

Good luck, Jaxom. May you make better decisions with your power than the societies before you.

This would be the logical point of the end of the Dragonriders of Pern. The Great Menace is defeated, the torch is passed to the next generation, the mood is theoretically optimistic toward the new knowledge to be learned and the technology to be applied, and the narrative is handing it all to us in a bow.

*checks how many books are yet to come*

Wait, seriously?

Then again, it’s not like we don’t have several previous Passes that could be mined for more adventures and stories.

All right, then. Join us next time, when someone finally gets around to the fact that humans and dragons aren’t the only intelligent and communicative species on Pern. It’s time to go swimming with The Dolphins of Pern.

Open Thread: Late-Month Check In, July 2017

(by chris the cynic)

Sorry for this, and everything else I’m responsible for, not being on time (which would have been last week.)

What have you been doing of late?  How are you?  Are you still alive?  So forth.

[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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for July 21st, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who can finally believe there is an end in sight.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 are entirely ready for a long-standing matter to be completely done, even though it will leave a years-long scar in its wake. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Throwing the Book

Last time, AIVAS unveiled the True Plot to defeat Thread – use the starship engines at specific points in the past to move the orbit of the Red Star in such a way that the final explosion will do the rest of the job, and seed the planetoid with a parasite that will kill the entities of the Oort Cloud that use that symbiont in their own lives. Jaxom is given the charge to do it, because he has already done it, and also receives proof that it works by jumping into the future. Xenocide is on the table as a consequence of defeating Thread permanently, and nobody seems inclined to give a reason why it shouldn’t happen just like that.

The second half of the chapter involved the execution of the plan to kidnap Robinton, which works without a hitch, but is foiled on the getaway when the kidnappers are spotted by a fire lizard and hell comes in its wake. We pick up in the aftermath…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 18: Content Notes: Murderous Intent,
Mob Mentality, “Enhanced Interrogation”

…where Robinton seems to be willing to forgive, now that Zair is fine, but he’s shouted down immediately by everyone else, with special sessions called of both the Lords and the Mastercrafters to sit trial of the persons involved. Lytol is scrambling to find precedent of a joint session, while Robinton continues to believe that it’s a failing of the Harper teachings, somehow, that brought on this plot and rebellion. Menolly kills that line of inquiry in fury before it gets anywhere and throws everyone else out so that Robinton can rest.

Of course, Robinton is right, and probably on the way that he is thinking – it is definitely a clear failure of propaganda that people plotted against the designated leaders of Pern and an even greater failure that they acted and succeeded at it. So there is clearly something wrong with the Harper teaching, in that it wasn’t robust enough to handle the rapid reintroduction of technology to the society that has built itself up to require large amounts of people in very stratified social roles.

Robinton’s cause isn’t being helped, either, by the generally extrajudicial attitude being taken by his supporters toward the plotters.

The riders had been forced to protect the nine men from being torn to pieces by the incensed crowd. Jaxom had them interned separately in some of the small, dark inner rooms of the Hold, supplying them with only water and dim glowbaskets. The little drudge who had served the Harper the drugged food was found, and although she was plainly of limited understanding, she was also placed in confinement.
The ship’s captain, it turned out, was one of Sigomal’s sons, which strongly suggested the Bitran Holder’s involvement. It was remarkable, N’ton commented, how willing a man became to talk after he had been dangled awhile in midair from a dragon’s forearm.
When a wing of Benden dragonriders had appeared at Bitra Hold, Sigomal loudly and indignantly denied any involvement in such a dreadful, contemptible business; he had bitterly denounced a son who would bring so much dishonor to his sire and his Hold.
F’lar admitted later that he had come very close to smashing Sigomal’s lying mouth–only Mnementh had saved the man. The big bronze dragon had been so incensed by his rider’s anger that a little curl of flame had escaped his lips, which had had the immediate effect of silencing Sigomal.

And beyond that, it appears that several of Norist’s smiths are implicated, and there is the name of the workman who built the wagon itself on it.

I realize that Pern has never been a democracy, and at its most egalitarian, it’s an oligarchy at best, but there’s a lot going on here that’s going to seem like arbitrary justice, especially for testimony obtained while someone’s life was threatened.

As it is, the trial proceeds on two counts – kidnapping and murder. The drudge that was the instrument of the poisoning is exonerated by reason of not knowing what she was doing, but just following orders to give specific food and drink to Robinton and his fire lizard. Since she was innocent, she also didn’t trip any hostile intent markers, either, so neither dragon nor did lizard knew anything was up. Thus, the Three-Laws Compliant way of poisoning someone with robots discussed in some of the early Asimov books and stories works just as well with drudges. Lessa is unhappy at the use of someone disabled in such a manner, and Sharra will keep her on as kitchen staff, since she’s apparently very good with the spit animals.

This seems to be a trend, actually, that the mentally disabled or neurodivergent end up in the kitchens, since Camo was the same. They all apparently are quite good at it.

Lytol looked for someone to speak and represent the defendants at their trial, normally a function of a Harper, but since there’s a massive conflict of interest in getting a Harper to do it, and nobody else is willing to do it, the accused have to defend themselves. Jaxom starts with the confessions of the men hired to kidnap Robinton, who implicate Lords Sigomal and Begamon as financiers and suppliers for the kidnappings and the attacks and sabotage earlier. Glassmasters and journeymen are also implicated as couriers and purchasers, all working under the direction of Norist.

During the trial, Sigomal protests his innocence, only to have his son testify firmly that he’s a leader of the plot, to which Sigomal punches him in the face to shut him up.

The wagon kidnappers explain that Sigomal hired them, but that they didn’t intend to kill anyone, only that their conspirator had to drink some of the poisoned wine to make it seem authentic. The ship kidnappers say that Begamon offered an island off his coast to harbor them until the ransom was done. Nobody in either crew is part of the Fishercraft, to Idarolan’s relief.

Norist has no regrets, and regrettably, because he’s a villain, the parts that he says that make sense are going to be lost.

“I did what my conscience dictated, to rid this world of that Abomination and all its evil works. It encourages sloth and dalliance among our young, distracting them from their traditional duties. I see it destroying the very structure of our Halls and our Holds. Contaminating our Pern with vicious complexities that deprive honest men of work and their pride in workmanship, turning whole families away from what has been proved good and wholesome for twenty-five hundred Turns. I would do it again. I will do all in my power to destroy the spell this Abomination has placed on you!” He extended his arm and swept his pointing finger at every one of the Masters who sat in judgment on him. “You have been deluded. You will suffer. And all Pern will suffer because of your blindness, your lapse from purity of our culture and knowledge.”
Two of his Masters and five of his journeymen cheered their master.

For all the bluster about purity (which might have a common antecedent with the Harper insistence on language purity), Norist’s main point is something worth considering – the introduction of mechanization does mean more idle bodies that may or may not be locked into learning the trade of their parents, and that could cause significant social problems if new work doesn’t spring up to put them in professions. Not to mention that once the threat of Thread is gone, that means there will be a lot more idle people with flame-throwing creatures. Pern has presumably had many Turns to parse out what the possible ramifications can be, and has hopefully already started making provisions for putting all of those characters to work. They haven’t done a thing about it, because Pern, but they at least had the opportunity.

As an aside, I don’t think the concept of magic made it to Pern, not like that, but it’s also entirely possible that the concept re-developed over the lost period. I don’t know that the word spell would have made it, but at this point, it’s more of an annoyance that words that don’t really have a demonstrated need to be there still keep showing up.

In any case, as the last piece of evidence before deliberations, Oldive testifies that the death of Biswy, the Robinton impersonator, was likely due to ingesting too much fellis by his own hand, and the subsequent heart failure that resulted. Jaxom drops the murder charges in light of the evidence, and the Lords and Craftmasters begin deliberations. After Robinton addresses the audience and attempts to convince everyone that the technology brought forth is nothing more than what the ancestors intended for the planet, and that the attempt to sever the link to the past provided by the AI is the great folly of Norist’s viewpoint. And then:

Master Robinton looked at the three abductors. “I forgive you for myself; but you took marks to do evil, which is a great wrong. And you tried to silence a Harper, and that is a greater wrong, for when speech is restricted, all men suffer, not just I.”

Nothing beats an opportunity for a little propaganda. Also, since when is free speech a Pernese value? Unless he means it solely for the Harpers, or maybe for the Lords, riders, and Crafters. A lot of this book has been about suppressing speech, and more than a few instances of the past, including the Renegades book, has been about preventing speech or putting someone in an impossible position over that speech.

As things are, the Lords and Craftmasters don’t take much time to deliver their verdict. Sigomal and Begamon are stripped of their Holds and sentenced to exile for their kidnapping… as the second part of the reasoning. The first is “to plot and carry out a punitive action in another Hold or common property, which is the designation of Landing”. It seems more important for them to be punished because they took action in another Lord’s sovereign territory than for actually kidnapping and planning on extorting a ransom for their hostage.

Gomalsi, Sigomal’s son, is also sent to exile for his acts, and for the crime of “setting himself up as a captain of a seagoing ship without qualifications,” which “offended all members of the Fishercrafthalls.” Norist is stripped of rank and exiled, as are all other Glass-smiths involved. All the others who are neither Lord nor Crafter are also sent into exile by Jaxom, as he apparently has the power to decide (as the Lord of the territory on which the offense happened, I guess). In a bit of mercy, Jaxom says their families can accompany, should they desire to do so.

That closes the court, and the rest of the chapter is lots of people, and Ruth, too, reassuring Jaxom that he did excellently in administering the court and fairly in his choice of punishment, and the actual act itself of exile. The last part is a lead up into the fact that there are only a few days left before the Plan happens, where Jaxom will have to get two separate groups of dragonriders to drop engines and parasites at their appointed places and times. It sounds like it’s going to be a logistical nightmare.

These two weeks in the Slacktiverse, July 16th, 2017

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Sorry for the lack of post last week, I knew I wouldn’t be around to make it, and wanted to do something about it, but never actually did.  I’ve actually got less than a week worth of stuff to share because for more than a week I didn’t write a damned thing.
    • The only fiction is from more than a month ago, I just only recently got around to posting it on Stealing Commas.  The thing is, it won’t make sense if you haven’t read a post at Ana Mardoll’s first (link on the fic page.)  It’s set in Narnia and involves a bow that will not easily miss.
    • I wrote about how I want to be able to recommend the game Starlight Vega but . . . a post’s worth of things.
    • I said I was sorry for the fact that I haven’t being writing much of anything worth reading, because I am.
    • And my monthly financial update came round, which has all of the explanation you could want of why I’m too stressed out to function right now.  Short version: while it’s spread out over four and a half months and presumably won’t actually kill me, the total amount is such that the only time I’ve ever been more financially screwed was when I had to get a new $6,000 boiler in the middle of winter.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for July 14th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is almost to the point of having reconstructed a place for themselves.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 have long since tipped over the point of charitability forward another person. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Halfway-Competent Plotters

Last chapter, the major action was the discovery of a plot to kidnap Robinton and ransom him in exchange for the destruction of the AI, which is a damn sight better than “kill Jaxom and replace him with a puppet,” certainly. The action continues…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 17: Content Notes: Plotting xenocide, murder, poisoning, kidnapping

…or rather, doesn’t, as chapter 17 opens with the lack of attempts on the plot, even as most of the Crafts withdraw their masters from Bitra and Nerat Holds, although not from Keroon, as Lord Corman seems to be distancing himself from any possible plotters, the Weyrs keep a lock on the dragonriders, and the Harpers run down every whisper of a lead.

On board the Yokohama, Mirrim discovers where Thread keeps its genetic material, and not too soon after, a viable pathway for a pathogen to infect and spread through the organism. There’s a little wonder why the Ancients themselves didn’t do all of this destructive revenge against Thread, but it passes mostly in smugness, because there’s a thought that the AI might be having some feelings of its own.

“Aivas hates Thread, inasmuch as an inanimate machine is capable of hatred. He hates what it did to his captains and Admiral Benden. He hates what it’s done to us. He wants to be sure it can never menace us again. He wants to kill it in the Oort Cloud. He calls the project ‘Overkill.'”
Jaxom regarded her in puzzled astonishment. “He’s more vindictive than F’lar!”

No, it’s plotting contingencies, given that you have already demonstrated that dragons could potentially warp out to the Oort Cloud and back, given a sufficient oxygen supply. Then again, nobody said explicitly whether the AI had been programmed with a personality…

As it is, the overkill project essentially is to infest Thread with a malicious version of a parasite helper it already has, even though the work will likely leave Sharra too exhausted for the Gather.

Which makes it all the more interesting when AIVAS drops the bombshell on Jaxom that he’s already done two of the three necessary explosions for altering the path of the Red Star, using Ruth as the leader of a time travel group that created the current chasm with the two previous explosions. Based on the records already scanned in, that talk about bright flashes on the Red Star at the ends of the Fourth and Eighth Passes. When Jaxom protests that something might go wrong, the AI points out that if that were true, Jaxom wouldn’t be here talking now, and his group would similarly be missing from the timestream. Jaxom protests, but AIVAS tells him the only reason for the Long Intervals that it can determine is the detonation of engines in attempts to knock the Red Star out of orbit.

Jaxom changes tactics, telling AIVAS that no dragonrider would willingly time it 1800 Turns in the past, to which it tells him that nobody actually is going to know they’re warping across time as well as space, since all they’re doing is going to a picture. And they’ll already have oxygen, so they won’t notice the time lag for the temporal part of the journey. Jaxom doesn’t want to risk Ruth, but Ruth is pretty confident that it can be done. Still, Jaxom resists until AIVAS lets slip the real reason why it has to go that way.

“You already have, Lord Jaxom. You are the only one who could, can, would, has. Think this proposal over carefully and you will see that the project is not only within the capabilities of yourself and Ruth, but feasible. And essential! Three explosions at this point in time will not have the desired effect on the future path of the Red Star.

Ah-ha. There’s not enough oomph in the engines to blow the planet out of orbit, and AIVAS knows it. So, instead, with a dragon that can pinpoint in time, the engines are to be used strategically to nudge the planet away. Beyond that, though, it turns out that Jaxom will also be seeding the wandering planet with the malicious parasites each time he visits with an engine, as well.

“But if these mechanicals could be contaminated, infected with our disimproved parasite, they would carry it with them to destroy all similar life-forms in the Oort Cloud itself, probably including the note intelligent ones, too. Then, no matter what happens, Pern will forever be freed of this menace.
[…AIVAS explains the Long Intervals…]
“I’m also to be a disease carrier?” Jaxom was not sure which he felt more keenly: indignation, fury, or incredulity at the audacity of Aivas’s scheme.

Worse, Jaxom: You’re going to be the instrument of the xenocide of several intelligent species in the Oort Cloud. I’d like to believe that this fury and resistance is Jaxom’s conscience ringing alarm bells at this plan, but it is most likely just his reluctance to risk Ruth and himself on a mission like this.

So Jaxom demands proof that the Plan works. AIVAS has him pull up the plan of the current orbit of the Red Star, then tells Jaxom to jump forward fifty Turns, gather the same printout, and make comparisons. Every self-preservation instinct Jaxom had says not to do it, but Ruth’s confidence and his curiosity win out over the realization that time paradox is a definite risk. So Jaxom commits himself forward fifty Turns, grabs the printout, tries to tell the AI about his findings (and gets no reply. This seems significant, although I don’t know how) and hops back to admit defeat, as the new path clearly shows the wanderer in a decaying orbit around the fifth planet of the system. Having been snared into following through with the True Plan, Jaxom heads back to eat, sleep, and then enjoy the Gather that’s underway when he wakes up.

Jaxom and the protagonists have a good time at the Gather. So much so, that even though they are reminded of the plot by the conspicuous absence of the plotters, nobody notices that Robinton’s been switched for a dead man and his fire lizard poisoned until well after the switch is done. Fellis in the food and wine, served by one of the new drudges hired for the party, because of course you need extra staff to handle it, and who pays attention to drudges, anyway, and the kidnap plot succeeds.

It really shouldn’t, considering Lessa disguised herself as a drudge for a decade to beat Fax’s notice, and Piemur did the same for a shorter time to sneak in and gather intelligence on people shipping goods South. Why is anyone not on a trusted list getting anything to Robinton, knowing that there’s still a plot against him?

That said, props to the kidnappers for choosing the right venue and method most likely to succeed at the task, assuming you could get everyone distracted long enough to make the switch.

Suffice to say, once noticed, care is summoned for Zair and all the dragonriders and fire-lizards, save Jaxom, fan out to try and find where Robinton is being held (and naturally, Ruatha is beyond the maximum range of the locator device provided to Robinton.) No luck through the night, and searches are imposed on any and all travelers that intend to leave the Gather.

As you might guess, though, with as many fire lizards dispatched on the finding mission, it isn’t long before one notices a cart and wagon staying very far off the roads and trails and determines Robinton is inside, which essentially summons the air force to stop the wagon, which is searched, its secret compartment discovered and opened, and Robinton recovered and sprinted back for medical care after Sharra’s field assessment says he needs better hands than hers.

The chapter ends with the Healers trying to heal Robinton with the hope that he will survive it. Which is good for dramatic tension purposes, so we’ll leave off here and pick it back up next week.

Writer’s Workshop July 12th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[We now have a place specifically for non-writing creative work now, if you’d prefer that.]

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: Cold Things

(by chris the cynic)

In this part of this hemisphere it is currently unpleasantly hot.  Thus cold things take on a certain interest.  Ice cream, ice ages, the Boomerang Nebula, chilled drinking water, so forth.

Thus the prompt of “Cold Things”.

[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.]