Last chapter, we finally passed the last parts of All The Weyrs of Pern and are now sailing one again into times not already known, with the setup that Readis has been enrolled in a boarding school to learn the data that AIVAS left behind.
The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter X: Content Notes: None noticed
It has been three years since then, the narrative tells us at the beginning of the chapter, denying us the ability to see what sort of political machinations went into Pern with the death of Robinton.
Save a few – Sebell is able to get the other Masters to go along with Robinton’s educational plan, a plan they had firmly rejected while Robinton was alive. That plan puts the Harpers in charge of most of the new education, so much so that the Harpers are no longer primarily the house of musicians. Menolly, appropriately, is quite bitter that it took Robinton dying before the other Masters were willing to listen to his plan.
Fandarel has less trouble with the adoption of technology, and both Smiths and Healers now have to attend courses on the knowledge AIVAS left behind that pertains to their Crafts. Oldive, unfortunately, still gets stiff resistance to the new techniques AIVAS left along his own masters, but is able to impart them to the new apprentices that are more concerned with easing suffering and saving life, rather than their own egos. (Perhaps not unlike the Healers of the era of the author and us…)
Dolphin sonar is adopted reasonably well, as are power generators for most Holds, although an ultrasound can only tell that something foreign is there, and not necessarily what it is.
And there’s a Computer Craft, even though the Smithcraft is not yet able to recreate circuit boards and transistors that will be necessary to build new machines. (Groghe wanted to have one of his own, likely as a status symbol, but it was not to be.)
Readis’s studies include physical education, including team sport from the AIVAS files (baseball, association football, and polo) and unspecified water sport, which Readis suspects is in deference to his disability, but also sees it as possibly practical knowledge, with as many people as there are taking journeys by sea.
There’s a field trip to Honshu, where F’lessan has appointed himself caretaker and Holder (ish) of the museum collections of murals, tools, and artifacts, although the word isn’t used specifically in the narrative. F’lessan asks Readis about his studies and his future plans, specifically for the time when he’s not going to be Holder on account of Jayge being quite healthy and young.
Readis wants to be a dolphineer. F’lessan approves.
“And with you living right on Paradise River and the sea, you must make good use of them.”
Readis mumbled a noncommittal answer. This was not the time to confide home problems–nor the person to confide them to.
Oblivious to the boy’s hesitation, F’lessan went on. “You might even start up your own crafthall. That’s what Benelek did, you know, by learning all he could about Aivas’s terminals.”
“He did!” Then F’lessan gave Readis a mischievous grin. “Right now, you and all the other Landing students have a brilliant chance to make sure that Pern becomes what the Ancients wanted it to be before Thread interrupted their progress.
That would make more sense if we had more than just the word of a xenocidal AI with a demonstrated capacity for omission and shading as to what the Ancients actually wanted. Certainly they wanted Thread gone. Anything past that is no guarantees, as even in the canonical books we have, there’s an expected technology level well above what Pern even has now. Later on, when Readis quotes the charter to Alemi, it only mentions “a good standard of living using the lowest possible form of technology needed to supply essential services and a good, rounded lifestyle” in a bid to avoid overspecialization. If we knew what they considered “essential services”, that would help, because Pern was theoretically fulfilling that requirement before AIVAS. Like all subsistence life, it was brutally hard and didn’t leave much time for anything but work, but it was stable and working.
It’s up to us, and you and the next generation, to be sure we pick up the plan where they left off and see that Pern becomes the planet they envisioned. That’s what most be done if Pern is to be what it could be. D’you see that? That’s what Master Robinton wanted. It’s what my parents want. But not all the Holders or Mastercraftsmen. They’re still hanging back with what’s comfortable and familiar. He narrowed his eyes slightly to assess the impact of his words on his audience. “It’s going to be difficult, the next twenty-odd Turns, to set in place what Pern will be now that Thread has stopped.”
Readis does point out that it hasn’t stopped yet, and F’lessan acknowledges that.
However, as much as F’lessan wants to paint the more reluctant to go along into the technological era as villains, many of them are looking at this revolution as loss of their power. Holders will no longer be able to use the threat of Thread to maintain their populations. Crafters will find themselves undercut by the technological production of goods or mass farming techniques or other reasons why they might want to hold on to their monopoly powers. Dragonriders have essentially put themselves out of work unless they decide to engage in the practices that Sean Connell found abhorrent to the majesty of the dragons.
Not everyone is on board with this change, because a lot of people who have power now stand to lose it.
Readis is not concerned with this, though, but instead with the possibility of being both a master dolphineer and a Lord Holder.
Of course, his mother would have an attack if he even whispered of his interest in the dolphins around her. She persisted in believing that it was the dolphins who had put his life at risk when it was the other way round. His father might understand, especially now that the dolphins had shown to be useful in so many ways, guarding the coastline and warning them of bad squalls and good fishing. Certainly mastering another Craft would only show the Lord Holders that Readis, son of Jayge and Aramina, was that much more capable of managing an important Southern Hold like Paradise.
Utterly possible, Readis. But there’s still a lot of ableism to get through before you could be confirmed.
Back at the school, Readis goes diving into the archives to see what the actual plan was for Pern, and discovers the charter. And that F’lessan was considered not a very serious anything until he took hold of Honshu.
However, since dragons aren’t part of the charter, Readis ends up in the same situation as the reader – now that there’s a definite end point to Thread, what do the dragons do afterward?
We get a small clue in that blues and greens have taken up shipping as a possible trade, which young dragons of brown and bronze, pre-Theadfall, can join in without it being demeaning to them. Master Samvel notes Readis’s distraction, and essentially gives him the advice that the dragonriders will tend to themselves, and so there’s not really a big need for worry about that question.
Which pushes Readis back in the direction of dolphins, their communication signals, and research into SCUBA gear for further underwater matters. Readis thinks it would be good to commission a crafter to make an aqualung, and maybe a wetsuit, if they could, and runs the idea past Alemi, who thinks it’s a good idea but isn’t willing to stamp his name on it for cover, because Aramina. Who is again noted as being irrational about dolphins and Readis, even if there’s at least a partial grasp going around as to why Aramina is very touchy on the subject of children being injured over close association with intelligent creatures.
Alemi suggests talking to Jayge, but Readis declares it a non-starter and instead shows the plans to T’lion at Landing, who willingly signs in as a partner and then offers to have Readis see the pod that answers his bell. They swim with dolphins and clean Gadareth and then come back to the shore to continue pooling money together to commission the aqualung. And T’lion talks about working in the mines with Gadareth and overflying all the possible spaces he might want to settle down in at retirement.
T’lion returns with the news that Readis is not the only one interested in commissioning an aqualung, and that the main stopping point right now is that there isn’t any elastic material that will be able to hold the mask to the face and create a watertight seal. Idarolan wants one, much to the consternation of the other Masterfishers, who think he’s too old to get involved in such things. Toric has already ordered ten. T’lion put in a good word for Readis, but it looks like they’ll have to wait. T’lion also suggests that Readis follow in the tradition of Northern Lord Holders and get himself established with a small hold on the Paradise River lands, where he could, essentially, run a dolphineer hall of of his garage.
On that note, and the waiting part, the chapter ends.
This tension between Aramina’s PTSD and Readis’s willingness to bend every rule that’s in his way (and receive support from everyone else about it) is going to explode horribly when it comes to fruition. But since nobody on Pern still practices the therapeutic arts, and somehow, nobody rediscovered its virtues over the 2500-year period, Aramina is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to coping and functioning effectively with her traumas.
Next week opens with what may very well be the first indication that technology is causing society to rupture at the seams. (In a good way, in theory.)