Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

The Skies of Pern: Ramifications

Last time, a night spent under the stars turned into an all-out brawl between Zaranth, Golanth, their riders, and a horde of big cats. Zaranth taught the rest of the dragons their telekinesis to get them to help fling the cats away, and Ramoth was able to deflect a killing blow through a snap amount of timing it. All four are resting up as we go to the meeting of the Council, which has much to discuss.

The Skies of Pern, Part 4, Segments II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI: Content Notes: Ablism, Toxic Masculinity, Sexism,

(Telgar Hold, 3.1.31)

Lessa stays the viewpoint character while she and her mate prepare for the suddenly very full council meeting, having to discuss an attack on the Printer Hall, a confirmation of a new Lord Holder, a different attack on dragons, and the proposal to make the Dragonriders of Pern into the Astronomers of Pern. There’s a nice detail about the “Telgar shield of white, bright red, and medium blue” to remind us that heraldry is still very much alive and well in this world.

Larad gets the elevator version of what happened, and Lessa stresses that the knowledge that has been used to heal everyone has a significant AIVAS component to it, so that anyone listening would get the hint. Lessa also notes the dragons have a significant color improvement to themselves, and is as gracious as she can manage when Larad’s wife, Lady Dulsay, suggests that it’s a burden to be at the council meeting instead of taking care of her son.

Also let slip, in a discussion of how Lord Sangel, all his sons, as well as several others of his line, all died in a plague, is that the Healer Hall has and has been using vaccinations! Presumably not in quite the same way they figured it out in Moreta, but that’s still a significant advance in medicine.

When the local-to-Telgar Weyrleaders arrive, Lessa asks if Larad and Dulsay have met them.

“Oh, yes. They arrived the very next day,” and Lessa was surprised to see Lady Dulsay blush. “Most respectful to let us know how the Weyrleadership had been decided.”
“Good of them to be prompt to introduce themselves,” Lessa said, suppressing a desire to grin. Why was it that holders were invariably embarrassed by mating flights? It wasn’t as if Dulsay and Larad hadn’t been very much attached to each other when they had formally wed.

As a characterization bit, this is useful for showing how much Lessa had internalized dragonrider values in the decades since she came to the Weyr from her hold. I don’t think it’s quite as nice, though, that it suggests dragonrider values don’t think all that hard about even the obvious consequences of their actions. Everything we’ve been told so far about Hold culture mirrors a lot of what Latin Chtistendom’s values were. They’re focused on making sure the Bloodlines stay (relatively) pure, that marriages are to political advantage, and that property rights can easily and cleanly be passed on to the next generation of nobles. To achieve this, sex has to be heavily regulated and controlled. (Which is what Dunca’s function was at the Healer Hall – a chaperone to try and make sure the marriage-eligible daughters of Holders didn’t become ineligible by having a fling with a passing Harper.) Right next door, however, are the anarchic hedonists that they pay tribute to. Dragonriders own no property (at least, while they’re in active service), have a small amount of military ranking as their social structure, and every so often, as the lusts of themselves or their dragons consume them, they participate in free sex with no regard to rank or Bloodline. They even decide who is in charge by sex. Furthermore, there’s a high probability that the holders have experienced those powerful sexual urges by proxy thanks to being close enough to a mating flight flying overhead. If they extrapolate that dragons and/or riders feel like that much of the time, you can imagine what a Holder might conclude is what goes on in a Weyr much of the time. And that’s without knowing whether the new Weyrleaders were being deliberately graphic to induce embarrassment in the prudes or not. Even people who know the mechanics of sex, and may have even had a significant portion of it themselves might be embarrassed if they heard or saw something pornographic (or a sex act) in a public. Or if they were suddenly all-consumed with lust, and when they came back to themselves, they were naked in a field and had very clearly had sex with whomever had been nearest to them at the time the lust started. So there are lots of reasons to be embarrassed.

The meeting itself gets underway fairly easily, but Toric is immediately ready to try and disrupt it by claiming he got no news of the attacks by the felines. Nobody wants to back him up on this complaint, and so he sits down. Larad is ready to start the agenda with the matter of confirming a new Holder at Southern Boll, but Kashman, the Lord where the Printer Hall is situated, wants to discuss the “anarchic behavior[…]of Lord Jaxom, Weyrleader N’ton, and Masterprinter Tagetarl who arbitrarily exiled twelve people alleged to be Abominators” first. Groghe reminds everyone present about what they’ve already agreed to, but it takes Sebell projecting his voice above the brewing argument before anyone feels like paying attention. Toric tries to get out of having to follow the agenda, but he doesn’t have as many allies as he thinks.

“Why don’t you just agree to the girl and let us get to the real issues?” Toric demanded.
“But she’s a woman!” Kashman protested. “There hasn’t been a Lady Holder, except in a temporary capacity for…”
“Not since Lady Sicca ran Ista,” Groghe said. “My grandfather had great respect for her. For that matter, all of us here, bar you who are new come to the Council honors,” and Groghe emphasized that, “know that Lady Marella’s been running Boll for the past five Turns since Sangel began to deteriorate. Lady Janissian has been her steward and she certainly proved her worth during the Fireball Flood. Those cousins of hers removed themselves and their belongings to high ground and stayed there without lifting a finger. Neither of them should hold.”
“For that matter,” Lessa said, “Emily Boll held those lands in her own right. As I see it, that Holdership has come full circle and about time.”
Lady Dulsay, Adrea, Master Ballora, and Palla were bold enough to second her.

Bargen of High Reaches (who has turned out to be Lord post-Fax after all) insists on the Council considering other male relatives of Sangel’s, but each of them is found deficient nearly immediately, and Toric irritably asks for a vote so they can get on with the meeting. While the votes are being cast and collected, we learn something we’ve always suspected, but hasn’t actually been confirmed until now.

“Holding began with Paul Benden. There’s nothing wrong with Fort’s Bloodline. But that form of inheritance is not in the Charter, you know.”
[The Benden Weyrleader] regarded [Lessa] in mild surprise. “No, actually, it isn’t. Holders and all those traditions came later.”

And those traditions managed to not only come in conflict with the Charter, they buried that Charter until it was unearthed with the AI. For as much as this timeline would like you to believe that the Charter has always been with Pern, there’s only a few ways where the vassalage system could have grown out of the Randian pastoral paradise envisioned by the colonists. Suppression of said Charter is one of the easiest.

Janissian is confirmed and invited to sit at the table, at a gathering hosted by Larad. How much Thella must be fuming from the afterlife, and even more so that there was an installed Lady Holder within the living memory of the Council members, by the brother that she was passed over for. Thella should have had her hearing, by rights, and at least have been formally removed from consideration for some reason, rather than been told “lol no, no girls allowed.” because there were other men in the line that would have had precedence over Janissian by rights of primogeniture.

Of course, if any of Sangel’s sons had survived, this conversation would not be happening, because then they could just confirm him, regardless of how God an administrator he would be, because son and Bloodlines.

I hope Janissian manages to pass her Holdership to her daughter.

Then the meeting turns to the business at the Printer Hall, and Kashman wants to know why the accused were not brought to him for justice. Lytol and Sebell remind him that Crafthalls are autonomous, and since the offense happened in a Crafthall, they do not have to defer to the local Lord Holder. Kashman wonders how people from so very far away were in the right place to pass judgment, which betrays that Kashman doesn’t know enough about fire-lizard messages, yet. Bargen closes the rhetorical door in Kashman’s face by pointing out the precedent already in place and that the correct procedure was followed for exile, then requests to move on to the topic of keeping the skies clear. The Benden Weyrleader begins to present the recommendations, to Toric’s (and a few others) outrage at being taxed more, before the dragons outside roar and restore order that way. Fandarel points out his Hall can’t make the telescopes needed, but withdraws his concern when told they’ll use the ones in the Catherine Caves. Jaxom and Larad point out they’ve already started the work on building their observatory spots, the entire council is abuzz about the Western Continent site, and the Benden Weyrleader sets Toric up to ask all the right questions about how the dragonriders will be able to support themselves, either with holds or by joining the Star Hall, in the After, and that lets the Benden Weyrleader point out that the dragons have a new tool in their box that they can use to divert objects that get too close to Pern for comfort. The rest of the council votes to approve and supply the idea, much to Toric’s aggravation. The rest of the segment is Toric wandering the grounds for an arranged meeting with Dorse that never happens, but Fifth is there and stands in his place. We learn that Toric is also curious about the circumstances of the deaths of Robinton and AIVAS, but the narrative cuts away to Honshu without revealing any details of the meeting.

Thankfully, it’s Tai (3.01.31) recovering that they’re focusing on, and Tai is getting significantly annoyed that everyone keeps treating her like she can’t do anything. However, she’s getting taken on a tour to see everyone else (not by walking herself, which would be too much strain, but being carried from place to place), in the order of Golanth’s rider, who seems cheered by her presence, Golanth, who still has a lot of healing to do, and Zaranth, who took the lightest damage and is healing very well. The other people there cheerfully admit that they’re taking Tai on the tour because both Golanth and his rider will believe Tai if she says that she’s seen the other and they’re getting stronger and recovering, which is an important part of both of them getting stronger and recovering. Her tour complete, Tai sits at the bronze rider’s side while the narrative shifts over to other places.

As it turns out, not every dragon has the knack for telekinesis, and those that do definitely lack the fine control needed to move things safely by themselves. In pairs they seem to be able to exert the necessary control, but it’s essentially learning how to cut paper into art when your life has been swinging sledgehammers. Plenty of not-dragonriders are hard at work setting up the new observatory sites. Plenty of others are trying to assemble everything they know about dragons. When the narrative hops back to Honshu, the focus is still on healing the dragons and riders.

Eventually Tai hits her limit of peopleing and heads out to be by herself for a time, slipping away from the very attentive medics while the other rider and dragon sleep. Her choice of a swim means a pod of dolphins comes by and clicks and plays and asks questions and eventually surround Tai as she sleeps in the ocean. When she comes back, she discovers Golanth’s rider out of bed and trying to get to his dragon. Eventually, and with help from Zaranth, Tai helps undo the stitches holding Golanth’s eye closed, so it will stop itching. And, as it turns out, Golanth has a small amount of sight in the damaged eye, which makes his rider, and Tai, weep with joy. Zaranth helps deposit the two back into bed, so they don’t have to walk all the way back, and the two of them talk about Tai’s adventure and have a peaceful sleep together.

At least, until they get discovered, but right before that, there’s the first time we see on page that someone offers Tai a choice. I don’t know if it’s because the Honshu Weyrholder is now “a far cry from the dashing, blithe, youthful Benden Wingleader” due to his injuries, or that he’s finally realizing what’s gone on in Tai’s life about choosing, and the ways he’s also contributed to her trauma and their injuries, but finally, he asks her consent.

“I’m going to insist that we occupy this room from now on. It’s big enough so you won’t be bashing into me. You’re a quiet sleeper anyway. I don’t think you moved all night.”
“They have to be somewhere,” they heard Keita shouting.
“That is, if it’s your choice, Tai?”
For a split second–wanting to throw her arms about him in an excess of relief–he didn’t know where it was safe to embrace him. So she demurely rubbed her head against his left shoulder. “I choose. I choose you in any condition and any way I get to choose you.”

I’m not fully sure this is a free choice, because Tai still has trauma to work through, but this is definitely the most consensual the Honshu Weyrholder, or any other dragonrider, for that matter, has been about whether or not their mates get to choose the relationship. It doesn’t erase the previous terrible everything, but it could be, with a lot of work, the foundation of a good relationship.

There’s a little more of affection and application of healing salves and suggestions that the Honshu Weyrholder get out and swim some himself, and a short bit of how being telekinetically moved by the dragons is much more teleportation rather than telekinetics, but essentially, it’s happy making up time for those two/four.

Which means the narrative can move forward and return to the subject that it started with – Shankolin, son of Norist, who now has the backing of Toric to go observe and plan the destruction of the Admin building at Landing. Which is a terrible idea if you’re Toric, but it’s also possible that Toric has been backing and bankrolling the faction since its inception, through intermediaries such as Dorse. If there’s ever evidence that can be traced back to Toric, like the notes that he’s personally written to get Shankolin in to see the remains of AIVAS, he’s sunk as a Lord, and likely on his way to exile as well. But Toric’s hat seems to be having ambitions that are way beyond his ability to execute, as well as routinely thinking himself the smartest in the room.

Shankolin, as he passes by Monaco Bay, dismisses the story of dolphins ringing the bell due to his inland upbringing. As if the narrative needed to establish again that he’s pretty resistant to new ideas. Arriving at Landing, he meets with his contact, who turns out to be Master Esselin, and Toric is apparently calling in favors with Esselin to get him to help Shankolin. Esselin destroys and buries the note Shankolin gave him from Toric and leads the Luddite leader into the AIVAS chamber, even as Shankolin recoils from things like lights that come on at dawn and an archive full of books. He’s plotting explosive destruction for the whole complex when he arrives at the AIVAS chamber and strides over the threshold to see the terminated computer.

That was as far as Shankolin got. From the opposite wall of the chamber two narrow shafts of light struck him on the chest at heart height. He was dead before he fell backward.

Not that we don’t appreciate a good deus ex machina, but praytell, if AIVAS is deactivated, then who’s running an upgraded defense protocol that can recognize someone from before and apply lethal force? Thankfully, after Lytol and D’ram arrive to see what happened, they speculate that AIVAS didn’t fully turn itself off, and that things like the self-defense protocols were still active, and recognized Shankolin as a threat. Pinch is notified and comes to confirm the death.

Pinch hoped it took a long while before Lord Toric realized that Fifth, too, was no longer available. Now, if he could just find Fourth and neutralize her, they might forget about Abominators.
Esselin did not recover from the shock he had received and died a few days later of a hemorrhage in the brain. Or so the Healer at Landing said. The incident was forgotten as quickly as possible and Tunge soon resumed his duty of keeping the Aivas Chamber neat and tidy.

And thank you for that chilling reminder of how easy it is for Our Heroes to be every bit as ruthless as their opponents. Since Pinch knows that Toric is involved, I’m surprised he hasn’t met a convenient end, like Esselin did. No doubt the Healer responsible did everything he could to save the Master who had been caught assisting an enemy of Pern. Brrrr.

The narrative leaves us on that beat to go back to Honshu, where a smart carpenter suggests building a ramp for Golanth to get up and down from while his wing continues to not be functional, and there’s a laugh about asking how much the dragon weighs. The ramp gets built, and in the noise of that, people have enlarged the beasthold to be a big enough weyr for Golanth to get in away from the rain, and that triggers the realization in his rider that their days of being dragonriders are over, and had been since the attack. And the realization that a grounded Golanth won’t be able to mate, either. The Benden Weyrleaders, arriving from conveniently off-screen, point out the problem of getting Golanth aloft is easily solvable when you have telekinetic dragons. Which allows him to squelch the bad mood and enjoy his dragon’s joy. Tai also reaffirms her choosing of the rider, to put the cherry on top of this sundae.

And the narrative flits away again to Southern Hold (3.23.31), because Toric is still a loose end. And it’s receiving a shipment of canines from a handler that identifies himself as Pinch. Said canines are muzzled, but also trained to hand and voice signals. Toric thinks they’ll be great to have his sons train, and maybe keep a pair for himself as guard dogs. And then ruminates, after a Runner tells him there’s no messages for him, about how Fifth kept his organization too secret to be discovered, how Dorse was worth every bit of his salary to cause trouble, that Kashman might be a useful ally against Jaxom, and that Esselin hasn’t given him any other messages.

He then notices Fourth is here to meet with him, and Pinch observes the two of them talking, stays a bit to help the sons train the dogs, then leaves instructions and sketches with Sintary before returning to the Harper Hall.

Back to Honshu, where the bronze rider seems to be settling in well…when he’s not thinking about all the things he can’t do now.

The facts that he would never lead a wing again and that Golanth might never fly Zaranth. That he didn’t like–especially since Zaranth was a young dragon and would need a good male to keep her company. He, [bronze rider], certainly didn’t wish to share Tai with another rider–any other male. She enjoyed being with him now, relaxed, eager, and he wasn’t going to have her response to him destroyed by some heavy-handed rider with no sensitivity for her marvelous, intricate personality.

I don’t know whether to classify this as progress or not. He seems to have finally made it to the spot where he considers consent to be important, as well as the part where both partners should enjoy themselves, but he’s still thinking of Tai as his to share or not share as he decides, which is still very wrong and makes me worry what he’ll be like if Tai and/or Zaranth take a fancy or want a fling with someone else. Not that the author or the narrative would allow it, since Tai is supposed to be the reward received for leveling up his humanity to his point.

The bronze rider does find inspiration from other sources, though.

Abruptly, another revelation occurred to him. Lytol, with his scarred and seamed face! He has been dragonless for Turns, ever since his brown Larth has died in a routine training flight at Benden: a training flight during which R’gul had allowed his dragon the chance to chew firestone and flame. Only Larth had caught flame in the face and so had Lytol. The dragon had managed to land his gravely wounded rider with the last breath in him. That should have been the end of the rider, as a person–a dragonless man.
Tradition said dragonless riders suicided rather than live without their dragon. But Lytol had defied that convention and had become far more than a dragonrider. He had been a Lord Holder for Jaxom’s minority; he had then turned his hand to help Master Robinton and D’ram to manage Landing as a major Hold to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Now, Lytol and D’ram, in addition to bearing blind Wansor company, had accepted yet another role for which they were unusually qualified: as wise consultants for the complex society of the planet. Briefly [he] wondered, even as his soul cringed at the thought: would he have had the courage to build a new life-lives, in fact–as Lytol had done, if Golanth had succumbed to his injuries?
[He] gave a snort of disgust for his self-absorption. The time he had wasted. As Tai had said, there would be a way. Lytol had made several, and the example of the man’s quiet heroism rebuked him.

Okay, almost inspiration. Or what passes for inspiration when filtered heavily through toxic masculinity, anyway. I’d bet the bronze rider would get a very different picture if he actually talked to Lytol about all of it. But he has to get over himself first, as when he has a setback later on, this is how his thought process goes:

“I forgot the cane,” he said through clenched teeth. The euphoria of his ride here on Golanth instantly dissipated. He glanced across the sands to the Hold, a long walk for a man with a lame leg. He did not want to fall on his face in front of Lytol or D’ram. How humiliating that would be. He was still incapacitated. His dragon was still injured. He would never again be what he had once been: the carefree self-indulgent bronze Wingleader from Benden Weyr!

So there’s still a lot of work to be done about accepting who you are now.

Before he has to think too hard about all of it, though, a set of dragons arrive to practice their lifting of Golanth and to see if he can handle the hyperspace hop. Which he can. And then we get Lessa reflecting on her son’s life, and the terrible possibility that it might have ended with the attack, and a short conversation with the Benden Weyrleader about the Luddite faction, where we hear yet more of how Our Heroes think about them.

“Such people are afraid of what they don’t understand, won’t understand. So they pretend to despise and reject it since they can’t and won’t understand. They retaliate by defiance and witless destruction. And claim they’re acting on behalf of people and for reasons those people don’t understand either. It may just be a sign of our changing times. And life on our planet is indeed changing.”
“For the better?” she murmured.
He tipped her head up with one finger and lightly kissed her lips. “Definitely for the better.”

And if you’re part of the upper economic stratum, yeah, things are getting better on Pern. But there’s all those people who aren’t, and they can see how new technologies can be harnessed to enslave them even further. Those people aren’t getting any consideration at all, and it’s unsurprising that they turn to destruction as a way of getting their voices heard. It doesn’t work, with the deck so stacked against them, but it’s one way of trying. I think the next several waves will not be about destruction but subversion. Perhaps a sympathetic Printer will run off a few copies of the equivalent of the 95 Theses and let them spread around. Maybe the Runners will join in as soon as they find out that radio will replace them fairly soon. There are plenty of people who might join up because they see the writing on the wall and they’re tired of enriching the few. I’m waiting for the book where the general population of Pern is in open rebellion.

After this reflection, the bronze rider and his dragon are conveyed to Cove Hold by telekinesis. It turns out that the dragon can handle the hyperspace part by himself at least, although the dismount of the rider is pretty rough, and the aforementioned long walk, where he’s supported by Tai in an unobtrusive way. Which helps him realize the way he is going to have to order his life now – with support from others. The components for remote control of the Honshu telescope are ready for transport, and the bronze rider asks if he can properly study astronomy so as to have work to do at Honshu for the rest of the Fall and After. Then there’s a long explanation to Erragon and Wansor about dragon telekinesis and the suspicion that AIVAS wanted the dragons to push the wandering planet out of orbit, and the possibility that the cometary disaster could have been averted with a push to change its own orbit before impact. (Time-traveling dragons, we note, could avert the whole thing, but I guess we’re supposed to not question what would happen if they did do any of the things they’ve speculated about changing in history.) They ask for a northern array of weather satellites to help feed telemetry to the Yokohama, and point out that dragons can now lift things into orbit without an issue and can help position them, at least for the fifteen minutes they can hold their breath. And that’s the end of the book.

So we’re rapidly headed toward a story of Schizo Tech kind of world, where the peasants have to work the ground by hand and the elites will have radio technology and weather satellites at their disposal. I can’t see that diminishing the appeal of the Luddite faction any, especially as the disparities become more obvious.

Also, we’re hurtling pretty close to the point where stories about dragonriders are going to lose their appeal. There won’t be any more Thread, it’s unlikely dragons are going to corner the market on transport, and astronomy is only exciting when there’s something bearing down on the planet. But even then, the dragons can just move it away. What happens now?

There’s apparently one more short story before we get to that answer.

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The Skies of Pern: Forward the Future

Last time, it was proposed and adopted that dragonriders would take up the mantle of sky-watch when there was no more Thread to fight, and that three new sites for telescopes would be established so as to provide continuous coverage and observation of the sky, to spot the next celestial problem before it arrived.

And Tai continued to no longer show the signs of trauma, as if by magic.

The Skies of Pern, Part 4, Segment I: Content Notes:

(Honshu Weyrhold, 2.26.31 and 2.27.31)

This segment starts with Tai, who is overwhelmed at the fact that she got to talk, and people supported her points, and mentioned how much help she had been. As if, say, she was a valued, smart person instead of being seen solely as a green rider for others to let their sexual frustrations out on.

There’s also the requisite Mirrim-bashing:

When Mirrim would have marched her off to the kitchen, [the Honshu Weyrholder] had kept her by his side, to explain to the younger Weyrleaders how they established the scan, set the remote imager for timed exposures, and how to determine the significance of the images and why so many exposures of the night sky were required. Palla seemed almost as overwhelmed by the company she was in as Tai, and the two exchanged sympathetic glances. Palla was the only other young dragonrider who understood the immediate task.
Then [the Honshu Weyrholder] issued the invitation for those interested to adjourn to Honshu. And eleven riders and dragons had flown to the weyrhold. That had been the heady part, especially with Mirrim present–showing off the observatory and bringing up images of the minor planets above the horizon.
[…reactions to the information are varied…]
Mirrim pretended interest but Tai was aware of get restlessness, so when she offered to find out what there was to eat in the weyrhold, [the Honshu Weyrholder] hold her by all means to find it and serve it up. He snagged Tai by the hand.
“She knows where everything is–” [he] murmured in her ear and paused significantly, “in the kitchen. Let her.”
Revived by baskets of bread, cheese, fruit, cold river fish, meat, and klah that Mirrim served, the spontaneous first session of Astronomy for Weyrleaders–as [he] jokingly called it–went on till well after Rigel had set.

I have some questions about this setting. Tai, for one, seems to have spontaneously inherited everyone else’s distaste for Mirrim, I don’t think the narrative has done nearly enough to establish the idea that Tai actively enjoys spitting Mirrim. What we have seen in terms of actual confrontation is Mirrim getting on Tai’s case about saving objects instead of people, and Tai seemed cowed by it, instead of resentful or defiant.

Second, in a gathering full of Weyrleaders, Master Crafters, and so forth, I can’t see any of the really high-ranking people calling time out so they can help in the kitchen. I can see Mirrim asking Tai for help, because they’re the low-ranking riders and kitchen detail always goes faster when you have help. I’m sure there were many snide remarks not noted in the narrative about how Mirrim is only good for the kitchens. In a world where people are polite to each other, instead of the terribly classist way that Pern is, Mirrim would ask Tai for help in the kitchen, someone else would note that Tai has important expertise in the subject at hand, and could someone else volunteer to help Mirrim? Or at least call a break so that everyone can help in the kitchen and make some food.

That, of course, doesn’t happen, and we get a telling reprise where Mirrim is getting impatient (possibly from a lack of understanding, since I don’t remember Mirrim being present for any of the science classes) and Tai is told specifically not to help Mirrim in the kitchen, in a way that I’m reading has heavy overtones of “that arrogant bitch needs to be put back in her place, in the kitchen, where she belongs.” I might wonder why Mirrim hasn’t poisoned a few people, if this is the consistent treatment she gets. (Because the people that succeed the terrible people might be even worse, I know.)

Also tellingly, Tai is the one cleaning up after the food and is directed, after she insists that she can take the stairs, that instead she will “have enough time to put the kitchen to rights after Mirrim’s been messing in it and then we’ll both take a quick swim in the river”, a thing that Tai points out (mentally) in the next sentence is effective manipulation of her. Because she apparently enjoys being told what to do and to get back into the kitchen.

Which she might! But there’s been no presumption of equality at all in any of her relationships in her life, so we can’t say for certain that Tai actually would do these things if she had free choice not to. The kitchen itself turns out to be another opportunity to bash Mirrim.

All the lights were on and most of the cupboards left half ajar. There was rather more of a mess to clean up than shed’ve thought. Had Mirrim done this on purpose? No, Talina had been with her; Talina night be indolent but she wasn’t spiteful. Mirrim still didn’t believe her about the pelts.

I am again entirely unsure why there is so much written cattiness into Tai at this point. It clashes strongly with the reserved and generally amiable person we’ve seen before. We’re supposed to like Tai and cheer for her, and we haven’t seen all that much of a personality that enjoys these kinds of games and negging. And yet, when Mirrim gets involved, it’s a near-universal negative opinion of Mirrim that overrides everything.

I wonder why the kitchen was left in such disarray. It could be spite, but it could equally be that the guests were calling down harassment of the kitchen demanding their food faster than it could be prepared, and there was no actual time to clean up before everyone had to leave for the night. Maybe Talina sniffed at the idea of cleaning up after herself, having “graciously” deigned to help Mirrim, and Mirrim wasn’t having the idea of cleaning it all up herself. (And maybe hoped that Tai would find a way to get the other resident of Honshu to do the cleanup, since he partook of the food.)

As things are, the humans and dragons take a wash in the river and lay down to sleep in their exhaustion, with Tai wondering

Why was it that the tenderest of his kisses affected her more than the passionate ones–which she enjoyed, too? It was his tenderness toward her that undid her most.

Perhaps, Tai, it is because you have been starved for actual affection from anyone, repeatedly traumatized, and are now clinging to the one person who has shown a modicum of care and affection to you. You can do so much better than him, objectively speaking, but I’m not judging you on the decision to go and get as much of what you have been missing for so long. I am judging him for using manipulation tactics to make you cling to him more, rather than giving you the space and support you need to find effective coping for your traumas.

The plot moves forward by putting the two riders and their dragons in the middle of a surprise feline attack, with Tai waking up right before it starts. By Zaranth flinging one of the cats away telepathically. The cats are numerous enough that they cause damage to the dragons almost immediately.

Golanth’s rider flings the blankets off quickly and sufficiently enough that Tai gets tangled in them (and is this unable to join the fight immediately), Zaranth tells Golanth that finesse is not needed for the felines, the narrative points out that since their riders are also in danger, the dragons won’t drop off the felines they have on them in hyperspace, and then Zaranth is basically a one-dragon wrecking crew of getting felines away, but also telekinetically zips Tai to the Honshu Weyrholder’s side, where she gets one hit in by cracking the blanket into the face of one feline and covering the face of another, before she’s pushed down by said Weyrholder and he continues to wrestle with a feline.

And then the dragons appear and start throwing flame indiscriminately around at the felines, much to Tai’s horror. Dragons might take a roasting, she points out in her head, but humans don’t. Zaranth speed-teaches the other dragons on attendance about how to telekinetically toss big cats before there’s one that somehow manages to evade all the defenses and is headed straight for a vulnerable spot that could kill Golanth.

Who then tells the attending dragons to “TIME IT” in such a way that apparently there’s a little bit more time for movement of some sort, and the cat that would have scored a kill shot misses it, still causing damage, before being splatted.

At which point, I say “Wait a minute,” because if you’re going to invoke the time travel power at this point, why not warp back to a point well before the incident begins and clear out the felines before they can attack? We still haven’t yet had a situation where someone has tried to yank the course of observed time off the rails and onto another pathway. And nobody has yet told us what the rules about time travel are, either. We’ve had more than a few situations where we end up with a stable time loop because it turns out that the time travel has always been there, but as far as I know, the other dragons could appear before this even happened and stealthily take them out. If this is the destined timeline, then we need to know why.

As it is, all the dragons and riders are alive, although critically injured and needing significant surgery. Tai wants to see the extent of the damage, but is told fairly forcefully by Lessa and Sharra that she is not going anywhere until she’s done with her own healing. Lessa quips sarcastically about Tai’s reputation as “biddable” before finally convincing her to take a fellis draught and heal.

The narrative then gives us the Benden Weyrleaders fretting about the effects of the attack. Neither Golanth or his rider are likely to return to full capacity, and Lessa is a bit put out that Golanth seems to listen to Zaranth more than Ramoth, which amuses the Benden Weyrleader.

They both go over the sequence of events, of learning the telekinetic “motion” and Ramoth doing a split-second time-and-distance hop to push the last cat away from killing Golanth. (Who yelled about timing it because “Greens don’t know the mechanics of timing it without guidance,” the narrative tells us. Bullshit, says I, because they always talk down about greens, but there’s no evidence to back up my assertion.)

The two have an extended cry over what could have happened today with the attack, and then the two of them get down to the question of dragon abilities.

“The theory has always been that, if we knew the time, we could forestall a–a fatal–accident,” he said in a low, shaky voice, reaching for her hand. “Like Moreta’s death.”
“Theory,” she said with a derisive shrug. She sipped slowly from the cup of water, willing her body to stop shaking. [Golanth’s rider] hadn’t died because Golanth hadn’t died. Golanth hadn’t died because Ramoth had prevented it.
It isn’t theory, Ramoth said, her mental tone tart, I timed it to the exact moment. Golanth showed me just how he had saved [his rider] and himself from being crushed by the tsunami wave. He was most resourceful to act on his own initiative. He learned something important that day and was too tired when he got back to Landing to tell even me. Today, Zaranth showed us how to push without touching. I admit that I had never thought greens could do something so unusual. I saw how she did it. Very clever of her. We two taught the others. But it was I who timed it to save Golanth from that last feline. Only I could have done that.
Lessa managed a shaky little laugh. Only you, my dearest.

Ruth was part of the fighting force, we were told in a part that I skipped over quoting, so not really, Ramoth.

I do admit that today I learned something from a green dragon. Ramoth sounded as chagrined as her rider had ever heard her. I have told the others what Zaranth showed me how to do, how she pushed the felines away, she added calmly. It is a useful skill for all to know.

Which leads into a discussion of AIVAS’s confusion as to why the dragons had not manifested the third tele-skill they were supposed to have, and the logical conclusion that we’ve already arrived at – a sufficiently convinced dragon (or wing thereof) with telekinetic powers could theoretically divert a cosmic object away from planetary impact.

I do want to know, though, when the first organized expedition to find and prevent Moreta’s death will be. There’s enough records to make a good guess as to the when, and a rider deposited at the beginning of the appropriate Pass could probably do some amount of jumping to narrow the field of possibilities and then land at a spot where they could leave records for another rider as to the appropriate day and go from there. But I am still thinking of this time travel item as something more than a useful deus ex machina and as a thing that should/would be used more.

Plot continues as Tai wakes up and Manora gives her the skinny on what’s going on. Tai follows the same line of reasoning and remembrance about why the AI was disappointed, and for once, we finally get a thought about why time travel isn’t used more than it is, from Manora.

“I believe that is the paradox of timing it. [The Benden Weyrleader] said something about causality. The beast had aimed, jumped, and even by timing back, Ramoth could only make the most infinitesimal alteration in the second she had, but she deflected a lethal blow. I gather that there was so much going on at that moment it is miraculous she managed what she did. And this started with a dislike of trundlebugs?”

I think this is the first mention, in all of these books, that there are rules regarding time travel and limits to the amount of monkeying around you can do. Being dragonriders, I suspect this knowledge was gathered by fatal Weyrling accidents. But at least there’s the implication that there are limits and rules and that some dragonriders may even know them.

Mirrim also gets mentioned, because she apparently can’t let the matter of the pelts go:

“Oh, yes, the pelts. Mirrim mentioned those,” and somehow Manora implied that, although Mirrim might be been talking a lot, Manora was not the sort of person who heeded gossip. Tai felt a surge of gratitude for Manora.

I almost have to interpret this as Manora putting on an act for Tai, because as headwoman, I would expect Manora to know just about every bit of gossip there was to know. I think her judgment would be on whether she felt it was worth validating or repeating, not on whether she heeded it. Manora has repeatedly been savvy to interpersonal relationships, though, so she could probably figure out from what Mirrim said that Tai wouldn’t benefit from hearing any of it.

Since Tai has been down, significant time has passed, which makes her panic because she was supposed to be at the council meeting and convincing others to support the astronomer idea. Manora suggests she’s already done more than enough to make everything interesting. Time passes, and Lessa shares some regrets with her headwoman.

“I have never been much of a mothering person,” Lessa admitted quietly to Manora when they shared a pot of klah.
“Why should you have been?” Manora asked mildly. “With you neck deep in Weyr business that only you could manage and every woman quite happy to take care of him? A much more sensible custom than what goes on in holds, Lady Lessa,” Manora replied, “especially for as lively a lad as [her son].”

Wait, what now? The custom of communal raising in the Weyr is more sensible than…the fostering of children to be raised in different households? Is it that Manora feels the day care of the Weyr is better? Or that career-focused women in Weyrs can do better work by not having to take time to raise their children? I could use some clarification here, but none is forthcoming.

Instead, we go outside, where dragons are keeping vigil over the rest and recovery of the two dragons, and Lessa and Ramoth replay the events again, with some amount of green-shaming, and Ramoth comes to the conclusion that the dragons all need practice at this new technique of theirs.

That’s a long segment. We’ll pick up next week with the council meeting.

The Skies of Pern: Reparations

Last time, Tagetarl learned about and received reinforcements for a suspected Luddite strike on his hall. Golanth learned how to move things he wasn’t physically touching, and the Honshu Weyrholder proceeded as if he had obtained actual consent from Tai to begin a relationship with her.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments IX, X, XI, XII, XIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations,

(Honshu Hold, 2.9.31)

The frame for this segment is that Golanth’s rider has sufficiently gathered equipment and programs to restart the Honshu telescope. He wants Tai to be there when it goes online. Since this segment is from Tai’s point of view, we get some information about what she thinks of the whole affair.

He had a tendency to jump in different directions, as if he enjoyed catching her off-balance. He probably did. She’d thought that, once Golanth had flown Zaranth, [his rider] would disengage from her, perhaps more kindly than others had. In the contrary, he had insisted that she remain at Honshu, that she choose a room of her own–though they mainly shared the large one he preferred, […] He encouraged her to talk about her interest in astronomy and managed to bring texts from the Archives that she was certain Master Esselin did not realize he had borrowed. He was very conscientious about returning them.

Given what Tai has experienced at the hands of other dragonriders, the offer of safety and interest from someone who also likes keeping her off-balance sounds like a proper nightmare. I would expect Tai to be in a fight-flight state about this person that didn’t obtain her consent and is signaling very hard that he wants her to stay with him, possibly with the threat of force to keep her there.

A sparkle in his eye was all the warning she had before he swung her up in his arms and twirled around. She clung to his shoulders, not fearing that he would drop her, but so she had this excuse to touch him. She wasn’t yet accustomed to either his spontaneity or his preference for touching but she was learning to welcome them.

Cocowhat by depizan

Um, no. Given Tai’s past, I would believe “Tai screamed in terror and had a panic attack and/or flashbacks” at being touched with no warning, not “Oh, this is strange yet pleasant.” I don’t care how good the sex supposedly is, it doesn’t magically heal traumas like that.

We’re also supposed to believe that Tai doesn’t see him in any sort of threatening way.

Over the last few sevendays, she had seen few seriously he took responsibilities, exuding an optimism that could fire those around him, and how he never shirked tasks, like the Benini Hold planting, which he could have delegated to another rider. He was certainly not the casual reckless weyrbred lad Mirrim had described.

Except there’s higher-than-chance odds, based on what we saw from the way Golanth’s rider pursued Tai, that it’s not a sense of duty that propels him in these manners.

There’s more flirting and swooning that I still find strongly out of character for Tai, and a discussion about how the felines might be intruding into human spaces again, despite their deterrence efforts like dragon dung/firestone mash concoctions that make the place smell strongly enough of dragons to be discouraging to predators. And more speculation about why Honshu was abandoned, as well as the run of spectacular good fortune that was needed to get all the power generating materials repaired and the components online so that this moment of bringing the telescope back could happen, including the thought that AIVAS might have had a sense of humor (Piemur was certain of it, Jancis was horrified at the concept).

Zaranth also frightens Tai by swooping down out of the sky without warning, encouraged by Golanth to do it and other “bad habits” that Zaranth enjoys.

There’s a lot of “the sincerity of Golanth’s rider makes him endearing to Tai” as they haul in the final components, hook it all up, and run calibration on the scope to make sure it all works appropriately, which it does. The narrative is trying very hard to make us not think of all the ways that F’lon’s sons and grandson have been terrible to women, even if the degree of terrible changes from person to person. And the narrative has us contrast what Tai observes with what Mirrim has said about Golanth’s rider, to try and further convince us that Mirrim doesn’t know what she’s talking about. The likely truth is that Tai doesn’t have enough experience to know, given that her previous experiences with relationships were all overtly terrible and traumatic, and that Mirrim could still be absolutely right about him, if something happens where he no longer behaves in this new way.

For now, the focus is on the stars, and that’s where they leave it to get back to the promised assault on the Printer Hall. Tagetarl is the viewpoint character, and he’s been doing his best to try and act natural and normal. He’s also kept what Pinch has said from Rosheen, trying not to worry her. We also get useful insight into how Our Heroes view their opposition.

How did you tell an Abominator from any other ordinary man or woman? It was the set of their minds: their self-appointed mission to deny choice to others, to neutralize all the useful things that were already in operation. […] Any thinking person would examine what was sensible to add to what Pern already had–like printing, but he required no one to read or buy his books: that was their decision. For all the amazing diversity of processes and products that the Ancients had used, just learning how to faithfully execute some of the designs was enough to discourage making the unnecessary. As Master Menolly said–and he knew Sebell basically agreed with her–not everything and anything new meant an improvement. But people should make that decision themselves, not have it arbitrarily denied.

Tagetarl sounds almost like a tech bro at this point. He doesn’t grasp the ways that he and the ruling cabal of the planet are making decisions and denying people choice themselves. Of course, since he’s one of the good guys, his choices are good and progressive for everyone, including the underclass that nobody talks about, and the servant class that only seems good for a joke. And he washes his hands neatly of the whole thing by proclaiming that all he’s doing is providing things for others to use or not use, as they want to. Never mind anything about how his books print a single version of the world and don’t allow for alternatives. Or how technology is fundamentally changing everyone’s lives and pulling them toward something different than what they had before. Or the still very valid case to be made that the descendants aren’t meant to have that kind of tech at all.

But this other faction is bad because they destroy the choice of others to participate or not in the world that’s being shaped for them without their participation and input. If Pern really was Rand’s wet dream and every person was self-sufficient, the line that everyone can participate or not would be much more accurate. In this feudal arrangement, Tagetarl may believe every word of it, but he’s lying.

Pinch breaks Tagetarl’s thoughts by alerting him to the presence of danger, which in this case is the leader of our Luddite faction, come to claim the book he ordered a sevenday ago. He pays appropriately, with Weaver’s marks, calling Tagetarl a “Master Harper” in the process (Tagetarl immediately says “MasterPrinter”, even though he is a Harper of Mastery rank) all the while clearly casing the place, and “took the Ballads from Tagetarl’s hand much as one would grasp something dirty or repulsive,” which further distresses Tagetarl. When there’s a shipment of wine delivered to him that he knows he didn’t order, Tagetarl is ready to blow the whole operation, but remembers what he’s been told and manages to accept the shipment without arousing suspicion. And he gets mistitled again.

“Shipment for Master Harper?” the wineman announced, lifting his hand for attention.
“MasterPrinrer,” Tagetarl corrected for the second time in a few minutes and wondered why no one could give him his proper rank today.

This is supposed to tip the reader off that this is probably a co-conspirator, but I also want it to be a mark that the opposition understands that the divisions between Harpers and Printers are largely artificial, and that they want a free press and for the Harpers to be honest about the stranglehold they have on information and approved publishing.

Tagetarl knows he’s facing a conspirator, and tries to get more information out of him about who sent the wine, gets a drudge(-Pinch) to carry the skin in so that the wine merchant doesn’t get inside, tries to nose around in the cart himself (nothing doing), and asks for a deliberately inferior vintage of Benden white to see if the conspirator knows anything about wine, and seems satisfied that he does not when the wine merchant doesn’t bat an eye at the request.

At no point during this entire sequence does anyone get named, not the person who sent it (“The Lord Holder”), nor the person picking up the book (because it’s not known yet), or the wine merchant. If someone wasn’t on the alert to an attack, everything would be plausibly deniable, and also not really interested in arousing suspicion. The opposition has sophistication to their operations.

Tagetarl gets to observe Pinch test the wine with material that is apparently supposed to determine if stream water is drinkable, and the wine reacts poorly, so they hide it away. Rosheen arrives at that point, notices Pinch, and is finally clued in on everything. She’s mostly upset that they had guests and she didn’t make enough for dinner.

After finishing their part of toasting the health of who brought them the drinks, everything closes up, Rosheen gives Tagetarl some amount of grief about hiding things from her, and the two settle in to wait for the attack.

The attackers have trouble getting in the front door, given that it’s fastened and barred in a near trick lock. They can’t climb the gate because they’re isn’t enough space for them to fit in between the door and the archways. Someone who did get in as an advance party tries to torch some buildings, but the retardant holds true.

Eventually a big man heads in to break into the hold attached to the hall, and manages not to wake the dead by muffling the sound of the glass breaking. Tagetarl moves to club the man when he gets close, only to hit Rosheen’s iron pan instead of the man’s head, because she tripped the intruder with the broom before walloping him with the pan before Tagetarl made his move.

And that is basically the only action Tagetarl has for the night, because once the intruders manage to knock down the doors to the hall with brute force, they find themselves on the receiving end of a swarm of angry fire-lizards that drive them into a net trap, where they are captured, and the arrival of a dragon in their courtyard. It’s Ruth, with Jaxom.

Then the mob summoned to help the Print Hall arrives and has to be let in, only to be disappointed that all the fun has already happened and they’re here only to witness what happens afterward. They’re more than ready to dispense justice by dragging the net behind a ship and leaving the lot to drown, but Jaxom has other ideas, and we get to see what the Charter supposedly recommends.

“According to the Charter,” and Jaxom swung slowly around to the audience, his eyes seeming to touch everyone in the front ranks, “by which we have been well governed for the past twenty-five hundred Turns, a Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, and a Master of any Craft may hold a trial.”

This trial, however, is not like the previous one, where there was at least the whisper of an adversarial system. It really is a trial in name only and would be better characterized as “can dispense whatever justice they want.” There is a part where the captured intruders are asked for their names, ranks, and affiliations, but since nobody volunteers any of those things, the trial turns over the matter of justice to the offended Master Printer and Master Harper. Tagetarl wants answers, but the slogans he gets in reply inflames the mob enough that they’re ready to haul the lot off and drown them anyway. (Apparently, the books themselves are abominations, even if they contain traditional material, because they use new techniques.)

Since someone in the group identifies the whole group as Luddites, they receive the same treatment as the group before them – exile to an island only known to N’ton. Exile, being the death sentence that it is, finally breaks the line of the Luddites, and the mob is more than happy to help apprehend any who try to escape them.

“And what are these established procedures of yours, Lord Jaxom?” Captain Venabil demanded, heaving from his exertions.
“A Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, he a MasterCraftsman may enforce any Council decree,” Jaxom said. “It is in the Charter, if anyone cares to check. We must do so before sufficient witnesses.”
“WE WITNESS.” “WITNESSED!” “WE WERE HERE!” “DROWNING’S EASIER. QUICKER!” “EXILE ‘EM!” “AWAY WITH THEM!”
Raising his arms, Jaxom faced the crowd. “Those of you who do not care to be witnesses to the judgment of this incident may step back without prejudice.”
Later Tagetarl was to remember day no one stepped away.
“Then the decree of the Council will be enforced. Weyrleader N’ton, you may send for assistance,” the Lord Holder of Ruatha said formally.

There is an abrupt mood shift after this sentence, as apparently the mob (with Captain Venabil as leader) that was more than willing to drown the intruders is suddenly struck with the gravitas of sending people away to live their lives out with only themselves as company. The mood gets very somber, and the Captain respectfully salutes the three men who are making decisions about other people’s lives, which is never easy, the text tells us.

After the disappearing of the catch, we find out that Jaxom might have condemned Dorse, his step-brother (and consummate bully, we might add) to exile, because nobody identified themselves. And that Pinch realizes the leaders were not part of the group that attacked, so the problem isn’t solved yet. Tagetarl is encouraged to write a concise summary of events (one that won’t include the possibility of Dorse being among the group), and accepts help from a group of carpenters to rebuild the gates that were smashed in. Stationmaster Arminet insists on distributing that summary everywhere the Runners go, for no charge, so that there isn’t a doubt about what happened this night. He calls it a “community announcement”, rather than a Harper Hall one, to justify it.

There’s one quick pop over to Ruatha, where Jaxom confirms to Sharra that it was Dorse in the group, and that he’s having regrets over having condemned his milk-brother to exile, even though there was an opportunity for Dorse to identify himself. Jaxom and Sharra both fret a little that Dorse’s presence might mean that Toric is somehow wrapped up in this revitalization, even as Sharra insists that Toric has no loyalty from any of his family, even as she confirms his avarice is legendary and unlikely to stop, even when brought to heel by the Lords and Weyrleaders.

The final segment for this act and part is a meeting at Cove Hold between all the Weyrleaders, various Masters, and their guests to suggest a to what the profession of the dragonriders should be After thread – sky-watchers, building a network of the few remaining telescopes to scan the night sky for other celestial objects that might prove a threat to the planet should they touch down. Lessa is the viewpoint character. Seeing Jaxom and Sharra arrive, she wants to have a word with him about establishing a second Printer Hall so as to prevent there being a single point to attack that would destroy presses. T’gellan arrives with Talina, his Weyrwoman, and Mirrim, who Less describes thusly:

Well, Mirrim was to be expected and, while Lessa knew the girl could be domineering and arrogant, she had great sympathy toward a fosterling she had trained.

Cocowhat by depizan

I am again struck by the apparently universal attitude that Mirrim is terrible, which apparently even includes someone who was parental toward her before she became a rider. I have yet to see demonstrated any actual reason why someone would be upset at her.

Tai’s description from the Benden Weyrleader doesn’t fare much better.

“Attractive but not pretty,” [he] murmured to his weyrmate after a very brief glance at [the Honshu Weyrholder]’s companion. “No wonder he’s so often at Honshu now.”

Cocowhat by depizan

What does that even mean? Am I supposed to read it as “Ah, she’d be good to look at when our dragons are mating, but she’s definitely not a keeper” or “Oh, she’s good-looking enough for someone of Asian descent, but our boy needs to find a properly beautiful blonde woman for his wife”? Or some other terrible combination somewhere? There’s no way I can parse out that sentence that doesn’t suggest something terrible in the assessment.

The meeting does finally offer an explanation about why dragons can’t just catch rocks in space and divert them. They’re moving too fast and they’re too hot to grab, according to K’van, but they also have access to computers that could probably predict reliably where a rock is going to be, and if you had a wing or Weyr of dragons convinced they can move the rock, then odds are the rock gets moved. And, given that Golanth already has finesse problems with learning how to move things outside the body, once enough bronzes get trained on the matter, they can probably stand just to the side of an object’s path and shove it into a corrected orbit. Since we have yet to see an actual upper bound for the telekinesis, it’s entirely possible the dragonriders could learn to throw celestial objects around. And then possibly hold the planet hostage with the knowledge that they could perform a colony drop on them at any time.

In any case, the suggestion is made that dragonriders reform themselves as the Astronomers’ Craft in the After, which makes the very traditionalists among the group balk entirely at the idea, and even explaining the progress already made and the way that the telescopes would help make people believe the dragonriders are still in their traditional duties doesn’t quite dent the objections. G’narish raises the theory that the comet was a reaction to the displacement of the Wanderer. Lytol shoots it down by claiming the maths were perfect and there should have been a minimum of displacements. It relies on AIVAS, though, and it’s not here to be questioned. And it still assumes that the Rukbat system has no other intelligent life in it, which may not be true, either.

Showing pictures taken from Honshu of asteroids big enough to blow up the planet does get through to the traditionalists, as does pointing out the regular manufacture of binoculars makes it easy for night watch riders to scan their portion of the sky for anything unusual and the army of retired Fishers that would be more than happy to be useful training riders to watch the sky.

The observatory sites are decided, such that in addition to Landing and Honshu, Ruatha can hold an observatory and one will have to be established in the Western Continent, with riders that can watch at night and do their other jobs in the daytime. Telgar might get one as well, since J’fery thinks Larad would be open to it. G’dened is still on the question of what dragonriders will do when presented with another object, but he’s told that they’ll think of something in time, either through research in the archives or figuring out some science to make it work. The cherry on top for most people to get on board with the new project is an offer to watch the stars at one of the various telescope sites.

And that’s the third part in the book. We are clearly not going to speak of how Tai is going to get over the traumas she suffered repeatedly at the hands of her lovers, including the most recent one. We are never going to get an explanation as to why everyone hates Mirrim. And for as much as everyone wants to dismiss G’dened as a cranky old man, he does have the right question — what happens when there’s another Fireball, or worse, something bigger?

Maybe Part Four will answer these, but I doubt it very much.

The Skies of Pern: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Last time, F’lessan and Golanth became (at least in my opinion) stalkers of Tai and Zaranth, which culminated in Zaranth having a mating flight that completely triggered Tai, based on her past experience, and F’lessan applying a magical healing cock to wipe away the trauma and get them both to fall in love with each other. *ptui* The Honshu Weyrholder and Tai are still in bed, but the action shifts to the Harper Hall.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments V, VI, VII, VIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations

(Harper Hall, 1.28.31)

Pinch startles Sebell by slipping into his office unheard, and the two talk about how it’s likely the missing prisoner is the same as the scarred man leading the Luddite faction, and they both come to the conclusion that it’s one of Norist’s sons that’s the missing person. They speculate that he might have regained his hearing, although they don’t necessarily treat it seriously yet. When Pinch returns from a chat with the prison warden, they take it as an assumption that his hearing has returned, and that it is one of Norist’s that leads the faction.

They also mention that the meteorite strikes have plenty of people assuming and petitioning the dragonriders, as the de facto air force, to stop the next strike from happening, even though meteorites can outpace dragons for speed and heat.

And then it’s back to Honshu (2.1.31) for Tai opening up to the Honshu Weyrholder about her past and astronomy, and him asking her about Zaranth’s ability to move things. Which eventually ends up with the Honshu Weyrholder throwing a bowl at Zaranth to provoke her, having determined that only things that will irritate her will engage her ability, and having it reappear on the tray he threw it from.

“You may not throw things at my dragon!”
“It was aggravating of me but look how she reacted.”
It took him time and much coaxing to calm Tai down, a pleasurable enough activity since her body responded to his deft caresses even if she did not wish it to.
[…Tai suggests a blanket and wine for them, once “she did see what he had been trying to prove”, and practice with trundlebugs for Golanth…]
Carefully he lifted the thong of the binoculars from her neck and put them to one side and practiced making love to her. That was the most important reason he had brought the mattress out to the terrace and suggested they lie down and challenge each other at identifying stars.


(The cat says fuck everything. I agree. Image via giphy.)

So much for that new leaf you were claiming, bronze rider. You violated Tai’s consent and are continuing to do so, since I still haven’t heard her actually say yes to any of your caresses or anything else. I hope Mirrim gets to tear you a new one while everyone else watches.

The narrative, of course, didn’t see anything wrong with this scenario, and it’s now moving forward with Zaranth teaching Golanth how to move trundlebugs. He splats the first one, causing everyone to retreat hastily at the smell. The second time, Golanth manages to not kill them, but he moves them a very long distance away, proving other dragons can do it, but they need to figure out the finesse necessary.

Then it’s on to Fort, where Tenna’s return means she’s asked by Torlo to arrange a meeting with Haligon. There’s time enough to note there are electric lights outside now, that Tenna and Haligon are still in an “It’s Complicated” relationship, that Groghe is losing a step, now that he’s eighty-nine, and that there’s still a (warranted) fear that hand radios will supplant Runners. The best the narrative can do is have Tenna be reassured that it won’t happen for a very long time.

Torlo delivers news that the Runners have traced the origins of the messages that the Luddite faction is using to communicate, and that they tend to stop Runners on the traces, rather than coming into the stations. Torlo mentions Pinch probably wants to know this, making Haligon blanch that Torlo knows about Pinch, and suggests that Haligon send a fire-lizard immediately to Tagetarl to be on his guard against an attack. Haligon goes to see the Harpers by a secret staircase right after dropping Tenna off, and Beauty heads off to deliver the message.

The narrative shifts to the Printer Hall, where Tagetarl notes the arrival of the fire-lizard as confirmation of the hints dropped previously by Rosheen and the way that Stationmaster Arminet had discreetly discussed his security measures a few days before. The note itself is cryptic:

Runners confirm trouble at Wide Bay. Guard the Hall. Assistance planned.

Tagetarl runs through possibilities of what might be making trouble, what kind of trouble, and what assistance might be planned, but can’t get to any conclusions.

At least one part of the assistance turns out to be having the Hall under the watch of a flock of fire-lizards, summoned by the local queen, Ola, after Beauty likely left instructions. Another ends up being Pinch, who arrives with “It’s me” after almost being splashed by Tagetarl wielding a hot klah pot. Tagetarl corrects his grammar, and then Pinch points out the likely entry point of the Luddites (the same one he went in), commends Tagetarl on the fire lizard defense force, and introduces his companions, each of whom has brought a bucket of flame-retardant varnish for the wood bits of the Hall to apply.

Tagetarl doesn’t understand why he would be a target, and Pinch explains that the written word has truth-establishing power, and so the reports, books, and other things he prints can fight the rumors and stories that are being passed around by the other faction that want things to go back to the way they were. Yes, even with all of the advances in medicine that can cure what user to kill, and the ability to put knowledge down in a more fixed and durable form, Pinch tells Tagetarl.

Tagetarl panics that he doesn’t have enough people to ward off an attack, and tailspins further as Pinch points out to him that he’s probably been helping the enemy get the layout of the land by indulging their curiosity to see the process at work, and likely telling them about the opposition they’d be up against, too. Pinch seems very confident that his extra muscle will help with that, as well the flame-retardant.

There’s also this part, as Pinch is explaining the plan to stop the Luddites.

“We’ve arrived timely, too, since Beauty was here and my suspicions have been confirmed by the Runners.” He grinned brightly at Tagetarl. “Dragonriders aren’t the only ones who can be where they’re needed when they’re needed.”
Tagetarl’s jaw dropped at what was almost a profane remark from a harper.

And here we are again at the idea that the nominally non-religious Pernese have something sacred (dragonriders) to be profane against. Pinch is being deliberately irreverent, either about fighting Thread or time travel (and likely both), and this goes back to the theory of mind problem genesistrine pointed out in relation to which characters know what facts and secrets. I have no trouble with Pinch knowing what is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret (except when it isn’t) of the dragonriders, but it’s Tagetarl commenting on the possible profanity, which suggests that either Tagetarl knows the secret and is surprised at Pinch’s casual attitude (less likely) or that Pinch is being flippant about dragonriders and his irreverence for the planet’s saviors is strongly socially inappropriate (more likely). But I can’t tell which it is, because I can’t rely on previously established norms about what is secret and what is not.

Pinch is still casual about the possible danger, tells Tagetarl not to notice him, but to send up provisions for the extra people, and definitely not to sample anything offered in exchange for books, just in case, which makes Tagetarl panic even more. Pinch demonstrates a few calls that will be used for communication before going out to lend a hand.

There’s also this continued part where Pinch mentions all of the new people are experienced with brushes, with implications of knowing more than just the brushes they’re using to paint on the fire-retardant, but Tagetarl can’t figure out why those people are so familiar to him.

The next segment goes back to Honshu, so I’m going to stop, because I’ve had basically enough of what’s going on there for this post. Back again next week.

The Skies of Pern: Picking Up The Pieces

Last time, dragons finished helping get refugees settled and surveying the damage caused by the tsunami. F’lessan opened his home to several riders and their dragons who are displaced from Monaco Bay Weyr. And now comes the part where everyone has to rebuild.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments I, II, III, IV, : Content Notes: Rape, PTSD,

(Honshu, 1.10.31)

F’lessan wakes up to a request from Ramoth to return to Benden, and after a quick shower (!), he heads to grab klah and stumbles into Mirrim dressing Tai down for having gone to get the pelts instead of saving humans during the evacuation. Tai fiercely protests, saying that if she went back for something, it would have been books and notes, and Golanth provides witness that Zaranth was never away from him during the rescue. Mirrim is undeterred, though, but F’lessan tells Mirrim to leave off, and then “took a menacing step toward Mirrim who unexpectedly gave ground.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. F’lessan is currently host to Mirrim and is now threatening physical violence toward her. Mirrim is already upset about what she perceives to be a lack of duty. So the fact that he’s a bronze rider probably means that if he attacks her, everyone will assume she deserved it, and because it’s Mirrim, they will probably believe it doubly so, since the opinion was that T’gellan tamed Mirrim to something more like what they expect a woman to be. The whole thing is very much resting on the threat of violence in so many different ways and exposes how terrible dragonrider society still is. I also wonder if that menacing gesture might be a trigger for Mirrim, from her time before Impression, and possibly even some afterward. Tai pointed out that green riders are often seen as targets by bronze riders. Before T’gellan, Mirrim might have been in Tai’s boat.

A large part of the next bits of the narrative is F’lessan having to explain that dragons could not avert the comet strike, that Thread still falls because the Red Star dragged it along with it, and how waves could cause such destruction. It still hasn’t been explained to our satisfaction why they can’t stop the comet strike.

After having to do all that explaining, F’lessan is determined to figure out how dragonriders can stay in the business of planetary protection in the After. He thinks a lot of that will have to do with getting a clearer picture of objects in the skies of Pern and resurrecting the old telescopes and possibly learning how to send up a satellite array so that ships can have a better picture of their cosmic neighborhood. And then schemes how to get the necessary components and expertise to build a computer that will run the Honshu telescope.

The narrative then switches to Circle Runner Station, 1.18.31, where two late arriving guests get to hear the story of the big celestial object that left a giant crater when it impacted a very long time ago. The not-accented strangers spin out rumors about relationships between then and now, and talk disparagingly of the AI and what a terrible deed it was to alter the traditions and the Red Star. Which puts the runner that greeted them at unease enough that he sends them on to bed and then places them as the people that waylaid a Runner on the trace and asked them to deliver something (which they paid proper price for), rather than coming to a station and having it correctly logged in.

The narrative bounces to the Harper Hall, where Pinch has been trying to track some material shipments and listen in on specific conversations, but since nobody has a fire-lizard (“which proved that fire-lizards wouldn’t come to just anyone who fed them”, according to Pinch, so that’s why they’re not the universal carriers, I guess) and Pinch can’t get close enough to eavesdrop without being noticed, there’s not much to report.

Sebell is up to his ears in petitions, and the narrative would like us to believe the following has always been part of Oceania, err, Pern:

Traditionally, all petitions presented at Turnover were forwarded to the Harper Hall and read by a special group of journeymen and masters who determined which were urgent enough to be submitted to the Council at Telgar on the first of the Third month. Some of the petitions should have been handled at the Hold level. However, if there were sufficient complaints brought against major or minor Holders, the Council was the best place to decide if the matter should be investigated further. Pinch was often assigned to get specific information.

Because the Harpers have always been advocates for the petitions of the least powerful to the most powerful. It’s why they spend so much time talking about those small people to everyone that will listen and visibly taking the side of the oppressed against their oppressors.

Pinch and Sebell talk about the people Pinch sketched in an earlier segment. The woman (later identified as Fourth) apparently washed out of Healer training, then petitioned to receive her Hold as the eldest. Since the father explicitly said she was to get nothing, that went nowhere. The others aren’t yet recognizable. Pinch mentions the Runner network is still receiving requests and payments to disseminate Luddite propaganda, points out with a little glee that the only windows that shattered from the shock wave of the impact were Norist-cast (Morilton’s new glass survived just fine), and would like to know if the original exiles were killed in the tsunami flood. Sebell nocomments. (Also, older glass is more brittle and more easily shattered.)

Pinch is dismissive of Fourth’s reasoning for being in the group.

“She wants to lead and she hasn’t hit the personality for it. She’s too concerned about doing things the old way, the right way, the way she was taught that ought to be the way everyone does it.” Pinch paused. “Too hidebound to know the color of her own pelt.”

None of the other characters get nearly as strong a dressing-down as that.

Sebell finds it more than a bit funny that the technological faction is developing and using ever-greater amounts of tech to try and keep out the anti-tech factions, and Pinch lays in with his own thoughts about what the Ancients wanted.

“I’ve read enough in Aivas’s historical files to feel that Pern will never be in danger of becoming over-technical. Takes too long to develop the skills needed, except in special instances like the digital locks, and we certainly don’t have the production systems the Ancients had. As a population, we have been conditioned to this slower, more methodical rhythm of living and only a very small portion will ever feel the urge to aspire to Aivasian heights.”

Says the person who did not study the period of industrialization that happened on Terra not too soon after several of the recreated technologies of Pern came into being. And that was without any external faction or planet-destroying force in existence.

Further discussions have to wait, including the question of “what do dragonriders do when things fall from the sky?” that seems to be on everyone’s mind, by the appearance of Robse. And the narrative flutters away to Benden Weyr, where unexpected guests are arriving.

It’s M’ran and Pilgra, Weyrleaders of High Reaches, come to talk that they are ready for retirement, and want to soothe any lingering doubts about “deserting” by talking to and getting assurance from the Benden Weyrleaders. G’dened is still hanging on at Ista, convinced there will be a Tenth Pass all the same, but these two are ready to retire. They’ve marked out where they want to live out their lives, so the Benden Weyrleader pulls out registration documents and starts filling out a deed for them to have as their proof of ownership. A few witness signatures later, and it’s all done, with a side remark about how reading and understanding the Charter is so important, because it sets forth the terms that someone needs to move themselves and establish a new hall or hold.

I might take a small moment to chuckle about how literacy has now apparently become such an important thing, after all that time Clisser spent trying to distill knowledge down into the most basic that can be learned in song.

Anyway, the matter continues with the Benden Weyrleaders deciding to accompany the retiring leaders to help them settle in and to smooth over any issues that might appear with their retirement. First, to High Reaches, to announce and pack, and there wouldn’t be anything interesting here, except that the perversity of the narrative manages to shine through, even in the mundane.

Yasith’s rider was Neldama, weyrborn in High Reaches twenty-five Turns before, and twelve Turns younger than the oldest of the queenriders. So she was of this Pass, which, in Lessa’s estimation, meant fewer problems. Not exactly a pretty girl–attractive enough to rate a long look from [the Benden Weyrleader]–with green eyes that looked right at a speaker and a considerate, sensible manner as she set about collecting the items that Pilgra said she’d wanted to pack.

Tell me again why the attractiveness of the queen rider has anything to do with her ability to run the Weyr. It seems very much like all of the characters in these stories judge someone else based on their attractiveness as much as their competence, and that’s a terrible idea.

Back to F’lessan and Tai, 1.20.31, where F’lessan is grousing about everyone asking what the dragonriders are going to do to prevent the next celestial object from falling on them. He’s also planting saplings sent by Paradise River to help restart the ecosystem at this particular hold (and, incidentally, helping shield against the next giant water wave or the soil being spirited away).

Planting was not work most riders would volunteer to do but, when F’lessan saw Tai’s was the only name on that list, he added his. He had done very well getting on work teams with Tai, mostly jobs as backbreaking and thankless as this, waiting until he saw where she was going to spend her spare hours before he signed up.

So, F’lessan, how do you think Tai is going to react to the fact that you’re stalking her. Not that the narrative believes anything of the sort.

She was willing enough–even eager–to discuss their mutual interest in astronomy. They were sometimes the only dragonriders on such sites. She seemed to know many of the more isolated cot holders and was welcomed warmly. The two dragonriders had been shown where to find tools, where fresh water could now be obtained, and what was available for their lunch.

I’m going to read Tai’s eagerness to talk about astronomy as deflection so that F’lessan doesn’t get onto other topics that Tai will definitely not want to talk about with her Stalker With A Crush. And that they’re the only dragonriders around means that F’lessan could probably get away with anything he wanted, and Tai’s account would be dismissed, both because “wimmins, amirite?” and because “she’s a green rider, she wanted it.”

The work is exhausting, and F’lessan remarks that he enjoys restoring things in one of their breaks in the planting, which gets them on the subject of Honshu, and the binoculars that F’lessan has been letting Tai borrow and use at night. Tai finally asks to see the observatory, and F’lessan promises to take her there when they’re both not flat exhausted from work. He also notes that their dragons are close enough to be touching (which is apparently odd).

He’d had a few ideas of his own but with a personality as reserved as Tai’s, he deliberately kept his manner as casual as possible.
[…astronomy helps keep tensions low and make Tai feel like she’s contributing…]
Today, certainly tomorrow, the very last displaced riders would be gone to new quarters. As far as he knew, Tai had not found any. She might have, when he was at Benden; he hadn’t wanted to appear to be keeping a watch on her. And Zaranth.

They share a space, he signs up to go where she is after she chooses, he teases her about her observations, but he doesn’t want to give off the impression that he’s keeping tabs on her, so he doesn’t ask what she does when he’s gone to Benden. Yeah, still totally not stalking her. [/sarcasm]

There’s also a segment which introduces some amount of chicken-and-egg to the situation. It would be nice if we had studies and science at work as to how much dragons and riders influence each other, and whether strength of emotion is strength of influence as well.

F’lessan did not add that Golanth was showing more and more of a proprietary interest in the green’s well-being, one of the subtler reasons why he was glad Tai preferred to work away from the other dragonriders. He wasn’t ready for others to notice the growing relationship between Golanth and Zaranth.

At what point did F’lessan’s interest in Tai become Golanth’s interest in Zaranth, and did that feed back into F’lessan becoming a stalker of Tai? Are they both mutually reinforcing each other, even as they disclaim they’re doing it? It would be nice to know, but that kind of worldbuilding has always been in short supply.

F’lessan and Tai unearth trundlebugs, which gives Tai an opportunity to demonstrate how Zaranth telekinetically moves them away from her nose. Once they finish planting, Tai goes to take a shower, asks F’lessan to find her towel and clothes (he does), then strips off his own clothes while he waits for her to get done.

Riders were not as bothered by nudity as holders or crafthall folk so he stripped down, glad to be out of the sweaty, dirty shorts. As she emerged, she toweling her body dry, she gave him a fleeting glimpse. He stepped courteously past her, into the shower, and looked around for sweetsand.

This is much more in line with what I would expect between dragonriders. It could be reconciled with the earlier not-looking, but it would take some doing.

Also, F’lessan has noticed, and continues to notice, that Zaranth is definitely displaying the coloration signs that she’s about to want to mate. F’lessan has even asked Tai about Zaranth’s color directly, and Tai shrugged and said nothing was weird. This makes F’lessan very nervous and suspicious, and while Golanth is more than ready to go, F’lessan makes Tai look again and see what has been plain to him.

Tai does not take this well.

Tai gasped, eyes widening with an expression of such fear and intense loathing that F’lessan wondered just what had happened during Zaranth’s other mating flights.
[…F’lessan runs back through what he knows of green flights and remembers that green riders eventually choose a mate…]
“Tai, did you never choose?” he cried, outraged for her as he started to close the distance between [them.] And halted. He mustn’t crowd her. The others had. How much time could he give her? How could he soothe her?
She was trembling violently, her eyes wide–not in an answer to her dragon’s sensuality, but in sheer terror. She seemed to draw into herself, denying what was about to happen. Crossing her arms in a defensive position! Shards! Had previous riders raped her as their dragons twined?

I’m kind of shocked F’lessan knows the word and can apply it properly in this situation. I also think this might be the first time that mating flights aren’t being portrayed as a universal good.

Also, Tai is very much displaying the signs that this is going to be mentally perilous for her. I suspect she being triggered by it, and that explains why she isn’t up to admitting what’s about to happen.

“They were all the same,” she muttered. “There’s no escape from them. From their…” She swallowed, trying to lick dry lips, white-faced with revulsion: her green eyes stark.
“Tai, were you forced?” With those words Tai shot F’lessan a look of such fear laced with guilt that he felt his belly fall flat. “You didn’t choose?” He spoke very gently, appalled. This should be the most wonderful experience: a doubled ecstasy as both dragon and rider exalted in the union. He thought he’d made it so fit those he’d partnered. The queen riders had always known: they had chosen him. With the state she was in, there was no way Tai had ever chosen. “It shouldn’t be a violation. It should be a celebration for you and your dragon. The most glorious union!”
“Union?” She snarled the word, the panic in her eyes telling him that mating had been far from that.
How many times had Zaranth mated? How many times had she been…he struggled to find the appropriate word…violated? He knew hold and hall girls often were; it was one reason so many sought sanctuary in a Weyr.

The word, F’lessan, is rape. You yourself used it, and “violation” not a few paragraphs before. (I’m chalking it up to a mistake in editing and proofing – it can be easy to forget that you moved an earlier segment later and to not have someone catch it.)

I also really like the way that F’lessan’s illusions about mating (because he’s a bronze rider) are being shredded by having to confront the reality that is Tai’s experiences as a green rider. We can call it good characterization that F’lessan’s privileged upbringing is making it difficult for him to understand this, despite having example after example coming to the Weyr for sanctuary from the same treatment in their holds and crafthalls. F’lessan says he’ll have some “well-chosen” words with Mirrim after this, still demonstrating his lack of understanding. It’s likely Mirrim has suffered the same kind of fate repeatedly, and probably worse from those who thought it a perfect opportunity to put her in her place.

It almost sounds like the author is ready to confront the idea that dragon mating is not all good and give it the hard, serious look it deserves.

Almost.

Because F’lessan never considers the course of action to get away from Zaranth once he realizes what is happening. When Zaranth launches and Golanth pursues, F’lessan doesn’t consider the idea of going away and leaving Tai alone.

Tai screamed in anguish, reaching out futilely as if she could have stopped her green.
“Tai, listen to me,” he said, keeping his voice light. “Let me explain how it should be.” Carefully, slowly, he held out one hand but she backed away along the terrace, eyeing his hand as if even his touch would sully her. She cowered away, her green eyes frantic.
“Oh, Tai, my friend, if I could, I’d stop Golanth,” […and F’lessan curses himself for not recognizing her reticence as trauma instead of shyness…] “I can’t, not now when Zaranth wants him so badly.”
“How can she want him? I don’t want you! Not that way!”
[…F’lessan continues to try and convince Tai that Zaranth does want Golanth, and to reach her before the gestalt takes over…]
If he couldn’t reach her, she’d never realize that it needn’t be rape. He knew he could control his human self, no matter how much he might want to revel in orgasm with Golanth.

Cocowhat by depizan

You do not have a magical healing cock, F’lessan.

(Of course he does. We know that. But still.)

And furthermore, if you can control yourself in such a way, then the best thing for you to do is go somewhere else and masturbate to your heart’s content. Tai is not giving you consent, and is not in a mental state where she can give you consent. There is no reason for you to be anywhere close to her.

And yet, F’lessan pleads with Tai to choose him as a mate. And chooses to believe that when she reaches out, that it’s a sign that she has chosen him, even though he asks “Was there enough of the human there to have made a choice?”

He guides her away from the danger of falling off a terrace and gets her inside before she fully gets into the gestalt. All the while, he’s murmuring about how glad he is that she chose him as a lover (NO, SHE DID NOT) and giving her kisses and gentle touches for as long as he can stay human before his own gestalt takes over.

Then the narrative switches to F’lessan-Golanth and it reads a lot like a skeevy popular guy stalking the girl he wants, thinking she’s a lot more sexual and open to him, unlike those stuck-up gold dragons. It’s a really good example of what life looks like through a rape culture lens. Not that any of that was what the author intended. But it does skirt having to put on screen what the nonconsensual sex between F’lessan and Tai was like by focusing on the maybe-consensual sex between the dragons.

And then, now that it’s done, and it’s been done properly, Tai is totally in agreement that she chose him, and that it was much better than anything else she had experienced, and she stops F’lessan from going on a rant about how she shouldn’t have been treated that way, and I’m going to take this romance trope out back, cut off its head, stake its heart, and then bury it in a very deep hole.

F’lessan blames Mirrim for prejudicing Tai against him by telling her about his reputation, and Tai defends her by saying that Mirrim told her about needing to choose, just that she didn’t want any of the available suitors. Which is a thing, F’lessan, and totally believe that Mirrim would be supportive of the idea of “none of the above,” even if none of the other riders there wanted it.

Tai also picks up that F’lessan has a temper, and while he downplays it as being mad on her behalf, it’s something that she is likely to keep in mind. Because it’s not that far of a stretch from being mad on someone’s behalf to being mad at them.

The afterglow of it all winds the segment down, and I think, after that instance, we can stop with the narrative. I’m still seeing red about how this whole sequence went, how it could have been so much more, but instead turned into a story about how you can make someone fall in love with you if you ignore their trauma and have nonconsensual sex with them.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least on Pern.

The Skies of Pern: Ripple Effects

Last time, a comet dropped down and said hello to Pern, generating sufficient panic among everyone present that the Weyrleaders present agreed to allow every rider that already knows dragons can time travel to do just that so that the coastal areas that are going to be affected can be evacuated in time, while everyone who is on the ground will be staring at the interesting thing in the sky, not knowing if it is going to be a problem or not. We pick up after a first amount of effort has been made to move everyone to safety.

The Skies of Pern: Part 2: Segments VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV: Content Notes:

The action has returned to the conference room, local time 1:10, so after everyone has theoretically gone back and done their evacuations, although no reports have yet come in about their successes. Lessa is currently alone in the conference room, everyone else having gone somewhere to muster people or oversee their evacuations, which leaves her as the only person present for Erragon to explain that the tsunami wave is going to impact places like Monaco in multiple waves, based on how the water flow is going. Some places may have breakers, natural or built, to help disperse the waves before they crash in, but there’s still going to be a lot of wave action and flooding all across the coastlines of the South. Erragon thinks the Dolphin Hall will be mostly spared by having land in the way of the waves. Lessa reflects bitterly on the hurricane that apparently caught everyone by surprise in comparison to having time to evacuate from this impact, which doesn’t make any sense to me, because presumably time travel is time travel and once you know the pathway the hurricane is planning on traveling, you can get out of its way. Hurricanes do not, to my knowledge, simply spring up and make landfall. If the Yoko has telemetry on cosmic objects, it should be able to spot a big storm forming. If we knew more about the rules regarding time travel, this wouldn’t seem like such an issue.

Erragon continues to describe the extent to which the wave will travel, including the places in the southern parts of the North that will be affected and to what extent. Lots of the arrival times being talked about are in a four o’clock hours, which seems appropriate, given folklore that the pronunciation for the number four and the one for death are fairly close to each other in many languages that have Chinese as an origin, including Japanese, where “tsunami” comes from.

Having seen what will likely happen, the Benden Weyrleaders convene a meeting to inform the appropriate people about what is going to happen to them and the need for them to get their people to safety. In attendance is Janissian, the granddaughter of Sangel that wants to stand for that Hold’s lordship. During the briefing, a loud boom interrupts and sends Erragon shouting into the hall that it was “the ground shock wave” from the comet’s impact arriving on schedule.

Having never been in an earthquake, I have no idea whether they make a large amount of sound when the seismic wave arrives. I’m more inclined to believe the loud boom is a sonic boom due to the comet strike, rather than loud ground, and if that’s the case, I think seismic waves travel faster through ground than sound through air.

As it is, the narrative spins back to a coastal hold where F’lessan and two other dragons are tasked with getting the gawking holders to get out of the way of a wave they don’t know is going to hit yet. F’lessan notices the dolphins are doing their best to sound an alarm, and so he piggybacks on their warning to give credence to his own. It doesn’t convince them at all until F’lessan manages to get someone with a telescope to look in the right direction just as the comet splashes down and see the beginning of the tsunami, which starts to convince a few, but it’s not until the sonic boom and the seismic wave arrive a few minutes later that the Seaholder is convinced of the wisdom of evacuation.

In this particular case, the matriarch of the hold, Lady Medda, engages in the same bossy behavior F’lessan was faulting Mirrim for, giving orders and directing traffic efficiently. F’lessan doesn’t complain a bit about her. The fact that she looks like she’s had “nine or ten decades of living” probably has a lot to do with it. The evacuation is successful, even with enough time to rig up three boats full of things to carry to the high ground. And one very emergency rescue of the Seaholder, who couldn’t make it to the heights before the wave would. Thankfully, Golanth grabs the Seaholder and they all warp through hyperspace before the wave crushes everyone, Golanth even giving a little extra time back for the rescue, so that the schedule isn’t off, despite the extra rescue. Which flattens F’lessan all the more, in addition to the exhaustion of the scramble. The Hold gives their thanks in unison, and then Lady Medda continues to organize the effort to get everyone under shelter to wait out the effects of the wave and the storm that comes with it. The other riders give F’lessan their thanks after helping him into his riding gear so that they can all pop back to Landing.

Local time 2:12 and the party being sent to inform Toric is apparently the Brown Rider Rapist and K’van, neither of whom relishes the idea. They agree to take Sintary as well. We get a quick dip into what Idarolan thinks of Janissian:

He’d heard good things about her, taking hold with her grandmother ever since old Sangel became so erratic. This night be an excellent time for the girl to show her leadership qualities. She was the best of Sangel’s blood.

And, apparently, two women took over while the Lord is not necessarily fully able to work with his faculties. And not enough people put up a fuss about how it wasn’t right to have women in charge? A lot has changed since Thella tried to take her birthright. This meeting breaks up to inform various people at Southern, Nerat, and Southern Boll of the impending disaster and to get them to safety, before moving forward about 90 minutes to local time 3:40 and the return of F’lessan, along with a cavalcade of dragons already there, back from their own missions. The queens are directing traffic, and the orders for everyone, essentially, are rest.

Next section is at the Harper Hall, where Sebell is trying to direct the drum system to provide accurate communication to all the panic messages coming in asking for more information. There’s a chuckle between him and the Brown Rider Rapist delivering the maps about how Toric is going to regret having “undisclosed” coastal holds, and a little conversation (that seemed like a throwaway when it appeared in the last section) about keeping tabs on how the Luddites will spin this disaster and try to explain away how having a ship in the sky that could track and predict these things is a terrible idea.

Without a section break, Canth and his rider had to Southern, with Canth making a very smug remark:

Ruth is not the only dragon who knows when he is

Which flatly contradicts the earlier books that said most dragons don’t have a good grasp of time and that was what made timing things with precision difficult and dangerous. If the trait is much more widespread, is there any way that someone could try to breed for it in the dragon population?

Canth’s rider reflects on one reason why the hurricane had been a disaster upon arrival: Toric had warning from the dolphins, but didn’t move quickly enough to shelter.

The news is delivered to a roused-from-bed Toric, who is aggravated enough at the news and who is delivering it that he tries to take a swing at Canth’s rider, only to be solidly punched in the shoulder by Idarolan to stop him and then roared at by Idarolan to get his ass in gear and start evacuating. Canth’s rider then heads on to see the devastation at Monaco and to watch the tsunami pound at and try to overwhelm other places and eventually run out its energy without flooding a space.

Then it’s back to Landing, where Tai is waking F’lessan and getting him to drink and eat something after his nap. And in his first few thoughts is him being the…dragonrider he is.

Then he realized that it was cloudy. Landing’s usually bright sun was visible as a hazy yellow orb in the forbidding sky.
“Dust in the air, someone told me,” Tai said with no expression in her voice. She wasn’t a volatile personality, like Mirrim or Lessa, F’lessan thought. More like Brekke, quiet, self-contained: definitely reserved.

…so, that’s terrible, given what happened to Brekke because a rider took a liking to her, but also Mirrim and Lessa are being insulted again for being women with active voices and personalities. So Tai’s options appear to be to get pressured until she gives in or F’lessan stops waiting, or to assert herself and catch the backlash for being uppity.

You’re a terrible person, F’lessan.

Plot-wise, Tai runs down the damage report so far – Monaco is destroyed utterly, most of the rest of the places have flooding, but neither dolphin nor human seems to have suffered casualties, barring those humans who ignored the warnings or tried to go back and get something left behind. Those humans distress Tai the most, and F’lessan tries to reassure her that everyone did everything they could do to get all the people to safety. Tai points out that the comet still dropped and the waves flooded, to which F’lessan retorts that dragons couldn’t have stopped either of those events. (Time travel is time travel, says I. Until you can point out the rules that stop you from doing it, Tai has a point.) And, of course, the secret of time travel isn’t supposed to be spoken of to outsiders, even now, which annoys F’lessan a lot.

When Tai discovers that the feline pelts she’s been sleeping in were not rescued by F’lessan, but by Zaranth, there will be explaining to do…

…but not on camera, because we are back to the Printer Hall at Keroon, local time 11:15 (same time as the last segment), where Master Tagetarl has been keeping tabs on the drum messages and the scramble in the bay to make sure there’s nothing in the path of the great wave that will be arriving soon enough. There’s a messenger here with a priority printing request from the Benden Weyrleader, with strict orders to make sure she doesn’t leave until Tagetarl has done it. Tagetarl seems bemused until he reads the message, and then he springs the Hall into immediate action to print big broadsheets for immediate distribution before sending the rider, Danegga, who has borrowed Path, to the kitchens to eat and drink while the Hall prints the requested material. It’s an opportunity to “try that 26-point they’d just added.” (And nary a mention of the word “font”, only “boldest print face.”) Danegga gets, as requested, the first batch of hundred to distribute by dragon, and then Tagetarl drops another hundred at the Runner Station for immediate distribution, managing not to give away his recognition of Pinch in the process. He distributes the facts he knows, and hears that the Luddite faction is claiming that the comet is the fault of AIVAS and that the dragonriders let it strike rather than stop it.

I note that both of those accusations could be true, because we don’t know the extent of how much AIVAS calculated other orbital bodies in relation to pushing the Red Star out, and we don’t know the rules regarding dragons and time travel enough to be able to disprove either contention. It is…unlikely, given the narrative’s position, that either of those are true, but the comments section had reasonable speculation about the true motives of the AI while it was operational, and there hasn’t been anything, aside from our knowledge that the AI was correct because Jaxom jumped in time to confirm it, that definitively says the AI was both correct and benevolent.

As it is, the narrative shifts back to F’lessan, and he invites several dragonriders displaced by the flood to stay at Honshu while everyone recovers. Then he pops back to the displaced population that Lady Medda and Binness are running with extra supplies to help them reset, while trading a little light banner with Medda, who has suggested to F’lessan that in her younger years, she might have had a dragonrider or two in her bed. After reporting their safety back at Landing, F’lessan heads to Honshu to prepare for guests.

To F’lessan’s dismay, Mirrim was already there, and had organized the couples who were holding a little north of the Weyrhold. He had thought her safely stuck at Landing. He should have known better. He should also be grateful to her–or try to act if he were–though she still tended to give orders to him. Very soon after his arrival, he was genuinely glad she had come. She was the one who had organized food and there was succulent meat grilling on the main terrace for the many Monaco Weyr riders who had taken up his invitation. Tai was one of them.

So, why wouldn’t Mirrim give orders to F’lessan? She’s a Weyrwoman, after all. Or at least the weyrmate of a Weyrleader. Unless F’lessan is still far too hung up on the kitchen girl who Impressed a green to recognize her status, which would very much be in line with the thinking of plenty of bronze riders. But, of course, if she’s useful, then she’s okay.

F’lessan would love to show Tai the observatory and it’s massive telescope, but they’re both too tired to make the climb (and they don’t have the technology to boot the telescope back up again, anyway). Instead, he startles her accidentally, and then probes her knowledge of the starry sky, and then they all go off to bed, after F’lessan dangles the promise of Tai being able to see through his binoculars some other night. These subtle tests and his irritation at Mirrim suggest to me that F’lessan has somewhat of a problem with competent women, unless they’re pretty and he’s interested in them.

As it is, that’s the end of Part 2. Part 3 is aftermath, and it should be very interesting to see how the continent recovers from having been laid to waste by a tsunami.

The Skies of Pern: More Visitors

At the end of Part 1, we have a successful Luddite attack in the books, all of which our main players are involved in, one way or another, and Tai’s Zaranth has demonstrated the ability to move things that she isn’t holding on to, proving AIVAS was right about that as a draconic ability.

The Skies of Pern: Part 2: Segments I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII: Content Notes: Toxic Masculinity

Local time 12:04 in the morning, 1.9.31

Part 2 starts with more meteors, or comets, streaking through the sky at Ruatha. Sharra sees them first and summons Jaxom and Brand to use their binoculars and take a look at the phenomenon as well. All of which seem to be originating from a single space.

And also Sharra using AIVAS surgery knowledge to repair a tendon.

The next several segments, actually, are various other places waking up (Telgar, local time 4:04 in the morning, Benden, local time 6:04 in the morning, Harper Hall, local time 1:00 in the morning), looking as the astronomical phenomenon and realizing it’s very different than the usual ones, and everyone engaging in a mass scramble to Landing to get the telemetry from the Yokohama and a little more of an idea of what is going on.

Also, R’Mart retired from Telgar, at some point between books, a meteor dropped on Circle Runner Station (and likely obliterated it), Menolly is the fastest of the Harpers in figuring out that some people will believe this to be some sort of AIVAS act from beyond the grave or the revenge of the Red Star, even if none of that is remotely conceivable, much less true, and F’lessan is equally as reckless as his parents have been when it comes to safe distances for takeoff and hyperspace warping. Everyone else roused heads back in, reasoning that putting more stone between them and a potential celestial object is a good idea. (Which it is.) So only the astronomer dragonrider goes to represent Benden as well as Honshu.

Which is where the plot picks back up – a lot of very frightened people staring at telemetry data at Landing (local time 10:21 mid-morning), but only a few of them able to interpret what it might mean. F’lessan is hopeful that the orbit of the object will be hyperbolic, so that it will “give everyone a beautiful display, a bad fright, and then disappear, still shedding part of its mass.”

Since there’s such a crush of people at the Admin building demanding answers, F’lessan has Golanth drop him on the roof, which turns out to be a poor decision in terms of finding purchase, but some of the guards to the building help him fall safely off the roof. He gives a few orders for T’gellan, Mirrim, and Tai to be let in when they manage to get through the crowd, and then heads to the room where the telemetry data in on screen.

The prognosis is not good – the Yoko has already started calling it a potentially hazardous object (PHO), and the calculations keep becoming more certain that it’s going to strike the planet somewhere. It’s a comet, and a fairly large one at that. The target space for impact is a question of whether it will obliterate an island, potentially setting off a volcanic chain reaction, or splash down into the sea, where all that energy has to be absorbed by the sea. That particular island chain is uninhabited, except for the island of exile for the anti-AIVAS faction from the previous books.

It hits the sea. Here’s the summary data (slightly reformatted for readability):

Impactor Summary
Probable cometary origin
Impact velocity: 58.51 km/sec
Dimensions: 597 m x 361 m x 452 m ellipsoid
Volume: 51 million cubic meters
Average Density: 0.33 (+/- 0.11)
Total Mass: 17 million tons
Derived Impact Energy: 29.7 Exajoules
Explosive Equivalent: 7.4 gigatons

And the coordinates of impact, which is how they know it touches the sea.

This is a nitpick, but I can’t imagine a computer that’s been programmed to give a report in both SI and Imperial units in the same report.

That said, the energy release mentioned is 2.97 x 10^19 joule, which The Other Wiki says is about .5 of the energy an average hurricane uses making rain in a single day. Lessa will later remark that the hurricanes of various areas seemed to be more destructive than what this comet did, but that’s without fully understanding the devastation that a tsunami can cause. And that’s without having to worry about nuclear reactors that could go critical when power is lost to the systems that keep them regulated.

It also notes one ton of TNT is 4.184 x 10^9 joule, which makes it relatively easy to see if 7.4 gigatons is in the ballpark (which it is, but the measured energy release is a little less than 7.40 gigatons exactly.)

Everyone seems relieved that the comet touched down in the water, except F’lessan, who understands that the heat of the comet’s passing has set several forests on fire, which is bad, but worse, all the energy that was in that comet has to go somewhere, and giant waves that will swamp, flood, and destroy anything in their path is what’s happening on the screens in front of him. F’lessan can’t recall the word, but Tai arrives with the word (tsunami) and Mirrim and T’gellan, all three of whom understand what danger the coastal regions are in from this wall of water, although their experience has been limited to the sea/earthquake varieties. The strength of the potential disaster is enough to frighten Mirrim, the narrative tells us, who gets “a piercing look” and a head shake from Erragon, the chief in charge of the Interface room, when she asks what it all means. Because even though there’s a death wall of water coming, we can take time to be crude about wimmins and science, amiright?

Erragon finally beseeches all the dragonriders to evacuate all the coastal holds, and asks for maps, which allows (retired) Masterfisher Idarolan to step in, with said maps, having been summoned by Weyrleaders to the spot. He gives advice that the dragonriders need to make good time, emphasis in the original, to achieve their evacuation goals, and the riders (specifically, the bronze ones) are told to get out and spin the clock back and get themselves enough warning to evacuate everyone.

This does avoid the “you have time-traveling dragons! Use them!” critique, but the scope seems rather small. Given that the bronzes are being asked to do the thing, why don’t they go back sufficiently where they can put a rock in the way of the comet’s orbit and deflect it from ever entering the atmosphere? Or use the newfound confidence they got from lifting antimatter engines to port the comet out of the way while it was still in space? Are there fixed points in time where this disaster has to happen, but you can bend things enough to evacuate all the people out? Time travel is a useful plot device, but it has to have some rules or it becomes a deus ex machina.

Also, way to sideline your heroes, narrative. Unless there’s a grand purpose for leaving Tai and Mirrim in the present, why can’t the other colors go back and do evacuation as well? To the best of my knowledge, it has never been established one way or another whether all dragons can do the time warp again, or whether only bronzes and golds can. (And it turns out that Zaranth and Path are coming along, anyway, as F’lessan directs Golanth to give Zaranth the time-shifted coordinates to warp to.)

The narrative kicks us back to the conference room, where the Benden Weyrleaders, Wansor (who has lost most of his sight by this point, and yet can still tell who is coming into the room by their perfume), Lytol, and D’ram are watching the same information that the previous group was watching, too, and already formulating the plan to get people to safety once the comet strikes by bringing in Idarolan and his maps, where Lessa suggests that her mate leave sufficient time for enough preparation, and then suggests to Idarolan what he say to the other riders to make sure everyone can be evacuated with the same suggestion to make time.

Then we go back to Monaco Bay Weyr, local time 10:22, just after Mirrim had left for Landing, so there’s no messy paradox to have to deal with. Mirrim does what a good Weyrwoman does and takes charge of the situation.

“Well, we’re back and there’s an emergency, Dilla,” Mirrim said, going to the bell and rigorously pulling its rope. “C’mon, Tai, we can start evacuating the children. You can help, too, F’lessan, while ‘Gell gets the maps.” She raced inside and F’lessan heard her announcing the crisis to all within.
Typical Mirrim, he thought, but at least she was over the panic that had seized her in the Interface office. Immediately there were screams, sobs, shouts, and general confusion.

This vein continues, from “Mirrim’s shrill voice was organizing the weyrfolk inside,” to “Mirrim’s bossy streak was in full operation,” and “…even his dragon would not thwart Mirrim in this mood or under these circumstances.” But when you’re in a crisis situation, what most people need the most is a leader. The person that starts giving orders is the person that generally gets followed, and that can essentially get people to do something more than panic. This works for most people, whether it’s an operation to evacuate a Weyr from an incoming wave or to get a person out of a house with all the stuff they need before their abuser gets home. If F’lessan has time to snark about how Mirrim isn’t behaving like a dainty girl, he’s not using all the time he has to help with the evacuation. Which mostly seems to consist of directing people and helping them get themselves and their goods in the dragons so they can be transported away.

It was as well that dragons had an innate instinct for avoiding each other on the ground as well as in the air for the traffic in and out of the main Weyr clearing was amazing.

Once the Weyr is secure, dragons get dispersed along the coastlines to evacuate the holders, all still working on borrowed time. T’gellan leaves a final warning:

“Don’t shave time too close! Lessa would kill me if you got time-lost!”

And now I want to know how many tragedies happen of this nature that there’s a name for it, and if anyone has come back long enough to describe it such that it gets such a name. If you meet yourself in the timestream, do you both poof out of existence? (No. Lessa created a Stable Time Loop of warning herself of Fax.) Is it a reference to how Moreta got lost in hyperspace because she didn’t have a destination in mind? (Maybe. Beyond Between suggests that it was because rider and dragon were mismatched for each other, though.) Maybe if two of you touch each other at the same time, you wink out of existence because the timestream hates the paradox you created.

F’lessan does wonder to himself as to whether everyone is participating in a large-scale version of Moreta’s Ride, and what caused the fatal final jump, before the narrative hops back to the conference room, local time 1:10, where we should be starting to see the ripple effect of the Stable Time Loop that is forming. We’ll stop here and pick it back up next week.