Day 43. 141 pages, 64,145 words.
“The order would prefer to keep it quiet,” Mer said helpfully, “from the humans if not from the Fleet. Although of course, anything passed on to the Fleet might obligate them to share it during their meetings with the Earth leaders.”
“Yes,” Massington said carefully, “but – and again, forgive me – what was the purpose of us landing here? You could have synchronised, and told me about the group watching over your instance if you felt you needed to tell me, and certainly mentioned the Ogres to our aki’Drednanth allies … but this secret side-contact event – I’m afraid I don’t really understand it. For all that I appreciate meeting our new friends here,” he added, giving Adithol and the others a smile and respectful nod just in case they’d been following the conversation in detail. The humans, once again, were involved in their own mumured discussions with Osrai, but they smiled and nodded back cheerfully.
“I am not an officially-recognised authority in the Fleet, despite my ubiquitous nature and usefulness,” Mer said, “and I’m certainly not any sort of sentient-status entity here on Earth. In that sense, the Ogres and I are similar in our standing. But there are important facets of all this – the information I have synchronised with, and what it means to the Fleet – that needs to be disseminated to the Five Species population. It goes beyond the human leaders, although – as I said – we must exercise caution. You are a Fleet Captain and technically a part of the Council at this point, due to your presence in the Earth contact convoy and your position as Machine Mind Organic Interface to the Greater Molran Species if nothing else. No offence intended by that ‘nothing else’, Mass.”
“None taken,” Massington said dryly. “So I’m fractionally more likely to be taken seriously if I start talking about important facets of this contact event. And the more important facets are…?”
“This world,” Mer said. “It can’t have escaped your attention that it is unusual.”
“I had noticed that.”
“And the humans. It can’t have escaped your attention that there is something strange about their situation.”
“It’s almost like they’re squatting here,” Massington mused after a moment’s thought. “Like this whole world is … some sort of a derelict spacecraft that they just stumbled upon, and they’ve been squabbling and breeding in the cargo holds ever since. They’re completely isolated out here, and yet it seems like they’re making a conscious effort to be that way. They’re trying to do something that by its very nature would just happen – should just happen – without effort,” he frowned. “Which is a paradox, and downright contradictory when you consider how much shouting they do and the fact that they seemed to think there weren’t any other people to isolate themselves from,” he looked at the three humans and the two Ogres. “Secretive little brotherhoods notwithstanding.”
“Exactly,” Mer said. “It’s not just self-imposed isolation. It’s isolation from something they no longer even know about, and yet still rail against. They’ve locked their doors and are busy shouting that they’re not listening, they don’t care, they’re not coming out…”
“Are you saying this is a planetary-scale tantrum?”
“Maybe that was how it started,” Mer said, “but humans live and die so fast that within a single Molran’s lifetime any behaviour can become normalised and consequently invisible. No matter how bizarre. They don’t trust their recorded data, and they only have their grandparents’ word on what happened before they were born. And their grandparents look at the world the way their grandparents taught them to look at it, but there’s no continuity to it. And this normalisation is such a constant and low-key thing, it’s consistently overwritten by all the more blatant things they do to each other.”
“Okay,” Massington said, “but I’m not a political mastermind or a cultural xenopologist. What does any of this mean?”
“This world is […] gateway,” Adithol said calmly, as if he had been listening and following every word of Massington’s conversation with the machine mind. “It is a stepping stone in the great river, friend Massington Karturi-Captain. A gateway to a larger […] universe than the meagre galaxy of stars from whence you came. Other worlds than these. Your past, […], your future. It begins here.”
Massington was hardly listening as Adithol continued to hold forth with his ancient-speak mystical near-gibberish.
The gates of space, he thought. My father really should be here. This world is another gate.
“We need to get Myrael and the others down here,” he said in a low, urgent voice. “Like, now.”
“Myrael is already on her way,” Mer said. “I informed her of your meeting with the Ogres on a private channel in her refrigeration suit, and she has removed herself from the Council of Captains discussions in order to make planetfall.”
“Another alien spaceship?” Massington said. “This one aki’Drednanth? How are you going to hide it this time?”
“I’m not,” Mer said. “Myrael can take care of herself.”