All the Weyrs of Pern: A Halfway-Competent Plot

Last chapter, a plot against Jaxom came to a head, as a dragonrider attempted revenge for the re-stealing of Ramoth’s egg. No serious narrative effort was made to connect this plot to the overarching tech rebellion. So, presumably, the “let’s kill Jaxom and replace him with Pell” plot is still on.

Also, Jaxom and the Benden Weyrleaders warped across the expanse of space to the Red Star to scout locations to drop starship engines for The Plan.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 16: Content Notes: Colonialism

The successful test of the planetary hyperspace travel makes me think there’s a really lucrative intergalactic dragon transport business waiting to happen, excepting for the part where Pern is essentially on the north end of a southbound galactic donkey.

Chapter 16 starts with Mirrim coming to collect Sharra for a trip up into space. The attack on Jaxom and subsequent deaths of G’lanar and Lamoth have already happened. Mirrim remarks that she didn’t know dragons could die of shame (a detail related by Ruth in the last chapter that didn’t seem important at the time), since we’ve been told that the dragons die because of the severing of the mental link between rider and dragon. That Lamoth felt shame long enough for it to register before following his rider suggests that it might be possible for dragons to live on after their riders die, as well, assuming there’s some way of healing their minds like the humans can get (if the narrative likes them).

After their morning klah, the two pack supplies for the trip, Mirrim talking to hide her feelings, according to Sharra, and then flatly refusing to have meatrolls taken, preferring the “proper bread and sliced meats and raw vegetables” that Robinton likes to eat. Which makes me wonder what exactly is in a meatroll, and if their presence has always indicated to us that the arts of food preservation are still around on Pern.

Sharra observes that Path’s eyes match the color of her hide, and her causal remark on the matter ends up revealing more than intended.

“Does she do that often?” Sharra asked, pointing to eye and hide.
Mirrim flushed and ran a hand over the short front locks escaping the tieback. “Sometimes.” Though she had a slight grin on her face, she wouldn’t meet Sharra’s eye. T’gellan was very good for Mirrim, Sharra thought.

That has to be either annoying or embarrassing, that your dragon is broadcasting your emotional state to someone who can read it correctly, and thus can deduce your crush or whether you had sex last night or whether you’re incensed and trying to just play it off as nothing. Poker nights in the Weyrs have to be…interesting.

Secondly, the narrative is again attributing this softer side of Mirrim to T’gellan, as if he is somehow wholly responsible for the change in state and Mirrim has no agency in the matter. The narrative is also praising this softening, putting Mirrim into the same mold as all the other feisty and independent women who become far more domestic and deferential when they have a man in their lives. Mirrim and Brekke are both dragonriders, so they don’t need no man if they don’t want one, presumably, except Patriarchy! insists that women are only complete and their true selves when paired with a man and kept in domestic duty.

Speaking thereof, after a muse on how studying the Thread spore is going to take a lot more time and effort than initially thought, Sharra reflects on how she’s always trying to steal a moment away to go back and raise her children, whom she misses a lot. If Ruatha can run itself for a bit, why not just bring the kids along? Or arrange for a caregiver?

After more wonder about why AIVAS wants to study a thing that won’t be a threat anymore once the Red Star is orbit-shifted, Sharra details the lab, the inhabitants, and a summary of what they’ve learned so far about the organism (heat alone isn’t enough to release the dormant stage, there needs to be friction, too) before observing the construction of cryo capsules derived from parts of one of the lab’s refrigerators. When one of the workers complains about not knowing what’s going on, AIVAS tells him there’s no time to explain cryogenics or refrigeration engineering and to “[d]o as you are told.” Which, I might add, is a rotten parenting strategy and teaches a child nothing other than that some adults have arbitrary power over you.

The cryo also makes it possible to store samples of all the different types of ovoids that make up Thread, which Sharra and company were surprised to learn existed.

Exercises with the microscopes (like tying knots using single strands of hair) give way to the need to create glass tools that will work in the very cold environment. AIVAS asked Morilton to create heavily leaded glass, so heavily leaded that Morilton protested. Caselon is trying to make tools out of the leaded glass, but they keep shattering until a set made with the very most lead content works.

Caselon’s set was much appreciated by others, though Mirrim thought them stubby inelegant implements. Consequently, when she, on her competitive mettle, made her set longer, she discovered that the flexibility of the length proved a disadvantage when the instruments were used.

So lengthening the glass doesn’t help any of what you want to do with it. Also, of course it’s Mirrim, because the narrative has locked in on her as the person to punish for attempting to get above her station, who finds the length is a disadvantage. Can’t have the green dragonrider woman coming up with ideas.

After loading a sample into an analysis chamber and not getting the microscope to move in the desired direction, AIVAS suggests some silicone fluid as lube, which becomes a break for all involved, as the fluid will have to come from the planet.

We take a break for the narrative to extol the virtues of Jaxom as parent and husband – somehow he’s able to be home more than Sharra is, and he listens to her while telling her to trust in AIVAS. We also find that the AI insists Jaxom and Ruth be present for all dragon EVA and in charge of any trips to the Red Star – one more is planned to document and record the picture needed to bring the rest of the dragons along. Which will consist of the Benden Weyrleaders, Jaxom, and the only other dragonrider that had traveled to the Red Star, along with Perschar to do the drawings needed. Oh, and Robinton, Fandarel, and Sebell, with D’ram and Tiroth providing transport. The entire leadership group, in other words. It’s yet another Star Trek away mission. Yay.

So then we hop over to Sebell and Menolly, discussing the latest crop of rumors, and Sebell draws the misanthropic cynicism card, even as he understands the reason why.

We are altering the fabric of their lives. That frightens people. It always has; it always will. Lytol’s sent me some fascinating excerpts from Aivas’s historical data. Fascinating. People don’t change, love. React first, think later, regret at leisure.”
He bent to kiss her cheek. “I’ve time to tell Robse and Olos a story before I go.”
Menolly snaked an arm around his neck before he could straighten. “You are such a loving man,” she said, and then kissed him again deeply before releasing her hold.
When he paused at the threshold to look back at her fondly, she was already bent to her composition. He smiled at the concentrated pose of her back, one shoulder angled up. She did love him, but he accepted the fact that he would have always two rivals–music and the Master. He had the same loves. With that thought, he went down the corridor to sing to his sons and to admire his daughter, Lemisa, who was too young for more than admiration.

Not so much, Masterharper, but your author doesn’t have the benefit of the next several decades of brain research on babies that says music is helpful to good brain development and language acquisition, and that the more someone talks to babies, the better.

Also, it is a shame that such a perfect setting for a poly triad is going nowhere. It’s not like there isn’t an entire sector of the society that routinely engages in all sorts of sexual activities, and was possibly being praised for their willingness to sleep around, and it’s not like the Crafthalls have to worry about succession rules or other such feudal things. It would be entirely okay to be squicked some by the May-December romance ideas between Menolly and Robinton (or Sebell and Robinton), but it definitely seems like this is a combination that could work. (Although Robinton, in an earlier book, pushed Menolly and Sebell at each other, so perhaps he wouldn’t be okay with the arrangement, but at this point, I really wouldn’t know of that was what Robinton really believed it whether that’s the author’s belief overriding the character’s.

Also, look! A daughter! (There was a Moreta II, as was pointed out, but this might be the first daughter mentioned in a very long time.) And then we get another, as Sebell observes the room where he is going to meet with Larad and Asgenar. Bonna apparently provided a wall drawing of the Honshu mural. Larad, however, named his son Laradian, which is probably the closest we’ll get to a Larad, Jr.

Anyway, it turns out that rumors are the order of the day, but these are considered credible intelligence.

After a glance at the message, Sebell shot out of the comfortable chair, seething with anger and swearing blackly. “‘I have good reason to believe that Masterharper Robinton may be abducted to force those at Landing to destroy what they call the Abomination.'” Sebell was consumed with outrage. “Hazard the Masterharper! Ransom him for the destruction of Aivas!” Outrage gave way to panic.
[The credentials of the information chain are discussed and vouched for…]
“This has the ring of truth. Nothing Bitra initiates surprises me.”
“Then you also know that your Harpers at Bitra Hold have been put in quarantine for a virulent disease?”
“The Bitran euphemism for ‘reporting truth’?” Sebell asked.”

This…might be the most competent plot I’ve seen to this point. Robinton is a high value target with a lot of public recognition, he’s frail in body, and threatening to kill him could probably get more than a few people to do what you want.

It could also backfire horribly and get a significant population of the planet hunting for your heads and putting all of their resources, whether fire-lizards, soldiers, or dragons to do just that. Thella was able to evade one Lord’s searches with only the occasional draconic assist, but if Hold, Weyr, and Craft are looking for you, and the traders are, too, you’d better take Robinton somewhere self-sufficient immediately and pray you don’t have to venture outside until the fury dies down a bit. And that’s before you have to deal with the time traveling dragons…

Returning to the plot, rescue plans are made for pulling out the Harpers, and Sebell drafts a message for Lytol to warn him of the plot while the trader that delivered the message from the person that heard it is escorted in and more rumors are discussed, like that Jaxom killed G’lanar deliberately, that the dragonriders plan on leaving the planet on the colony ships, or that they plan on throwing the shuttles at the Red Star, or that AIVAS has given Oldive a way to paralyze the living and then do organ transplants or other grafting work.

Before heading on to Cove Hold, the narrative tries to pull a fast one on us, through Larad.

“Not if they’re putting Master Robinton at risk,” Larad said, still horrified by that possibility. “He’s never harmed anyone in his life. This world would rise up to the least child to protest such infamy.”
“Which, unfortunately, makes him the most useful hostage,” Asgenar said with a sigh of regret.

That is probably only true in the most direct of senses – I don’t believe we’ve ever seen Robinton personally hurt someone by his own hand. What he has orchestrated or left for others to do, though, has probably caused more than enough harm and death, and that’s of what we know, like the torture of Meron. Robinton is not an innocent. Even if he’s cultivated that image to perfection.

The discussion at Cove Hold about what to do has Robinton suggesting he let himself get captured and then call down the thunder of fire-lizards to attack the kidnappers. Lytol is determined that this time, all the conspirators are going to be caught and made to pay for their attempts. D’ram reminds us of who we’re supposed to be rooting for:

“It is terrible to think that there are people who oppose all the good that Aivas has done for us and would go to such great lengths to destroy him and those of us who have the vision to appreciate the potential.”

…oh, boy. You know, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this narrative felt wrong, and why nobody was listening to what were valid concerns about the progress of technology and the disruption of the ways of life, but this helps a lot. It’s a colonialist mindset driving the changes, not a concern for the people of Pern. The goal is laudable, or would be if it were shared more broadly, but the steering committee has appointed themselves as the superior people and the rest of the planet is simply along for the ride. The inferior people should be entirely grateful to their betters for all the technology brought to them and submit to their rule and the rule of the far-off AI of a distant land. For people interested more in equality, democracy, or autonomy, this is not really an acceptable form of government, and so the rebellion underway is following the path people take when confronted by an oppressive government.

That said, the control structures being imposed are the natural extensions of the feudal-Randian arrangement that is Pern – the select committee decides what is good for everyone, and then does it to everyone. They’re the select committee because they have all the power themselves, thanks to the privileges accorded to them and the luck of having discovered the trove of knowledge and power first. Imagine what could have been had, say, Thella found it first.

After everyone, save maybe Lytol, is done not taking things quite as seriously as they should, the narrative returns to space, where the waldo gloves are lubed and ready to go. Except the third finger of the left hand. The dissections contribute more knowledge as each of the observing team talks about the structures and colors of everything inside, along with the possibility that there are parasites along for the ride. Because AIVAS wants Thread destroyed at the source, rather than just removing the vector of its transmission by shifting the Red Star.

After the interlude in the ship, we go back down, where Robinton tells off the Benden Weyrleaders for wanting to move him beyond the reach of the conspirators, but accepts additional discreet guards and a locator device that Fandarel builds from the AI’s blueprints. And thus ends our chapter, with everyone on high alert for the slightest sign of a plot.


6 thoughts on “All the Weyrs of Pern: A Halfway-Competent Plot

  1. genesistrine July 7, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Which makes me wonder what exactly is in a meatroll

    Sausagemeat, presumably, with the traditional addition of “anything else that can be forced through a mincer”.

    (heat alone isn’t enough to release the dormant stage, there needs to be friction, too)

    So Thread is designed, by evolution or intelligence, to specifically attack/colonise/do-whatever-it-does to planets with a sufficiently thick atmosphere. Why? What’s it meant to do other than get big and icky and die off? Was it a war weapon? It’s a bloody ineffective one if so!

    the virtues of Jaxom as parent and husband – somehow he’s able to be home more than Sharra is

    Well, since an update or so ago he was doing a day’s work at Landing and then exploiting timezones to do the same at Ruatha he’s obviously decided that timing it is the way to go and is now aging twice as fast as everyone else due to living all his days double or triple.

    you’d better take Robinton somewhere self-sufficient immediately and pray you don’t have to venture outside until the fury dies down a bit.

    Don’t forget that Robinton has Zair too, so you have to keep Robinton in a sealed room with no idea where he is – I’m assuming fire lizards can teleport to people by using them as a reference with no idea of their surroundings.

    “This world would rise up to the least child to protest such infamy.”

    Well, except the people who are apparently up for kidnapping him. He’s obviously not entirely universally loved. Strangely enough….

  2. depizan77 July 11, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Genesistrine’s got a point. Thread is making less and less sense the more we know about it. Landing on planets doesn’t seem to work out well for it – it gets big and dies, but doesn’t reproduce. In fact, I have no idea when/how Thread does reproduce. It’s dormant in space, right? How does there keep being more of this stuff? What’s it’s natural habitat? How is its life cycle supposed to work?

    But I’ve got to agree that it’s also a really ineffective weapon, too. Is it a failed bioweapon? Wasn’t lethal enough, too expensive to destroy, so whoever designed it just dumped it?

    On the subject of kidnapping Robinton. Not only does he have a fire lizard, but when is he sufficiently alone that kidnapping him would even be possible? He’s mostly surrounded by powerful people. Some of whom are Dragonriders. And, maybe I’m envisioning these places wrong, but it doesn’t seem like Holds and Weyrs, or even Harper Hall would be easy places to kidnap someone from. Limited exits, fairly close quarters, fair number of people (and fire lizards. and dragons.) around.

  3. genesistrine July 11, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Maybe it’s supposed to aim for gas giants? I can bafflegab up something claiming the light, windblown Thread form would float in a suitably deep hydrogen/methane atmosphere, and then grow into something jellyfishish in that environment rather than the unsuitable Pernese oxygen/water/ground one. If this is natural evolution rather than a weapon I’d have to figure out a way it could get back to space and the Oort Cloud though – natural cannons? The Red Star does seem to have something like that itself…. or riding the magnetosphere up and snagging a lift on the Red Star next time it comes past?

    As for dumping a failed bioweapon, wouldn’t you dump it in a sun? Just to be sure?

    Robinton-napping; now this would have been the proper use for a disaffected dragonrider!

    Another thing that gets sillier the more I think about it is the dragon dying of shame. Must have been shame at being found out, then? Since he presumably knew what his rider was up to with the assassination attempts, and he didn’t do anything then….

  4. depizan77 July 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    As for dumping a failed bioweapon, wouldn’t you dump it in a sun? Just to be sure?

    In this universe? I mean, sure, in a universe of sensible people, but even the colonists seemed to be short on sense.

    Okay, I suppose they could’ve missed the sun. If we want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the Oort Cloud messed up their instruments or some such.

    Yes! Robinton-napping by a dragonrider, now that would make much more sense. Actually, potentially more sense than the disaffected dragonrider action we did get.

    Must have been shame at being found out, then? Since he presumably knew what his rider was up to with the assassination attempts, and he didn’t do anything then….

    Ahahhahaha. Good point. So…are there other dragons in on the plots?

  5. Firedrake July 11, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    How do you detect “friction” through an inert case? By measuring the heat load.

    If you want it not to go off while it’s floating through space being baked by the sun, have it trigger when all sides of the pod get hot at once.

    The delta-V cost of throwing something into a star is unfortunately huge.

  6. genesistrine July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    The delta-V cost of throwing something into a star is unfortunately huge.

    True. Nice close orbit should burn it up just as well though.

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