Authors: Philip Bosshardt
Tags: #ocean, #scuba, #marine, #whales, #cetaceans, #whirlpool, #dolphins porpoises, #time travel wormhole underwater interstellar diving, #water spout vortex
And the great sound thumped and beat and
The expedition leaders created a space for a
hearing by using several kip’ts to carve a small opening in the
underside of the iceberg, a sort of niche into which a small
gathering of people could fit and which was relatively protected
from the worst effects of the wavemaker.
The light of the Notwater was failing
overhead and darkness crept over the waves as the hearing got
underway. Tulcheah and Kepmet were both present. Two Ponkti
prodsmen and two Omtorish craftsmen secured the hearing from any
unwanted visitors. Arktet em was one of the Omtorish guards. He was
well regarded by all, having been a key designer of the lifesuits
that Kloosee and Pakma had worn when they first came to Earth.
They all eyed each other suspiciously.
Longsee led the Omtorish contingent. Loptoheen headed the Ponkti
side. The two of them glared at each other.
“We have no Metah here,” Longsee said. “This
hearing is not official.”
drugs,” Loptoheen complained. “How can
we be sure of anyone’s memory without
“We have Tulcheah…the accused. She can
speak,” Loptoheen reminded them.
“But can we believe her?” Longsee
replied. “Tulcheah may be half Ponkti but she is
of Omt’or. She must face
“What evidence do you have, Longsee?
That of an
good is that? This is just a poorly disguised attempt to smear
Ponk’et, to keep us from working with the Umans, learning about
your precious Farpool. You can’t monopolize the Farpool forever.
The day will come when Ponkti explorers will enter the Farpool as
Longsee could well pulse a rising tide
of anger around them. “The
male can tell us what he saw. The knots failed because
…that much has been
There were snickers and chuckles among the
Ponkti over that.
Loptoheen affected a diffidence he
didn’t really feel. The Metah Lektereenah’s words still echoed in
the back of his mind. “Then bring the
here. It’s not normal, but we have no
Longsee sent Arktet to retrieve Chase.
They returned a few moments later.
Chase looked bewildered, nervous. His insides churned and many
turned away in disgust.
could never keep
Loptoheen came right up to Chase’s
face, an intimidation tactic he often used in
matches, before the bell rang.
, tell us what you
So Chase described how he had left Kloosee’s
kip’t, went looking for Angie and came across Tulcheah and another
Ponkti, how they had been applying some substance to the netting,
what it looked like.
“I don’t know what it was,” he told them.
Chase looked around. He was surrounded by Omtorish and Ponkti
people, arrayed in concentric circles, all of them clicking and
squeaking and whistling and grunting, sounding so fast his echobulb
couldn’t keep up. It was a cacophony that rose and fell, trilled
and shrank to a whisper, almost in unison. “But that’s what I
Loptoheen was abrupt. “Tulcheah didn’t
explain what she was doing?”
“She said she was strengthening the knots in
that section of the net.”
Here, Loptoheen snapped about in triumph.
“You see? This is a normal practice.”
Longsee would have none of it.
aren’t used to
strengthen fibers…we know at least that much.”
“And what, really, do you know about Ponkti
weaving techniques? For ten thousand metamah, we’ve been working
with tchin’ting fiber.”
And so it went, back and forth, argument
after argument. Kloosee told Chase, to one side, that no one could
beat Longsee in argument. Debate was his specialty. Loptoheen grew
frustrated. Tensions rose. The prodsmen circled nervously, trying
to keep order.
Finally, to maintain
, it was agreed that
Tulcheah would accompany Longsee and the rest of the Omtorish party
back to Omsh’pont. The matter would be put to the Metah,
Iltereedah, and a decision would be made by her.
Kloosee and Chase returned to their kip’t.
Angie was inside, dozing off.
“We’re returning to Omsh’pont,” Kloosee
announced. “No decision has been made. The shield is still
unraveling, pulling away. The sound, as you can hear, grows daily.
This whole expedition has failed and Longsee will have to explain
why to the Metah.”
Angie could sense the sadness in
Kloosee…maybe she could even pulse it. She’d been trying to do that
for some time, now the echoes were beginning to make some sense.
There were patterns. The recognition that she could detect feelings
from pulse echoes sobered her.
I’m becoming one of
That wasn’t what she wanted to
“What will happen now, Kloos?”
Kloosee was securing everything inside the
cockpit, powering up the jets. Their kip’t would be in the lead, on
the long trek back to the Omtor’kel Sea, and home.
“There’s nothing we can do here. The shield
can’t be fixed…and the Ponkti won’t help anyway. There’s too much
suspicion, too much bad feeling. Tulcheah is under suspicion as a
saboteur…she’ll face the Metah. Chase will also have to stand
before the Metah…he witnessed something that bears on the case. I
don’t know what will happen after that. With no shield, the sound
will destroy everything.” Kloosee backed the kip’t away from its
niche in the ice and turned them about. All around them, other
kip’ts and craft gathered into convoy formation…shapes flitting by
in the frothy green water, barely discernible. They jetted off and
the kip’t rocked, then settled down to steady droning cruise speed.
They went deeper and the light fell off. Kloosee negotiated ice
chunks expertly and soon enough, they felt the first faint tugs of
the Pomt’or Current.
Kloosee was thinking out loud. “I suppose the
Metah will have several choices. Either assemble a force to attack
the Uman base. We’ve tried that before…there were many casualties.
Or try to negotiate with them. That hasn’t worked either.
Negotiating with Tailless people is like negotiating with a tillet.
They treat us like pets, like animals.”
“And we didn’t have any luck either,” Chase
It was a long glum ride back to
Omsh’pont. And Chase was uneasy for the whole trip. Now he would be
intimately involved in a major case of Seomish justice.
You will stand before the Metah and speak what
you have seen,
Longsee had told him. Could they
imprison him? Could they charge him with something? The more he
thought about it, the more anxious he became. Even Angie could see
They spent a lot of time during the
long ride in each other’s arms.
he told himself. Maybe they had done
all they could do and it was time to go home.
For a day and a half, Chase’s emotions boiled
and bubbled so violently, that Kloosee finally had to say
, Chase…don’t fret so much. You’re family
now. Part of Omt’or. “
Chase didn’t know whether to be thankful for
Omsh’pont, kel: Om’t
Time: 767.2, Epoch of Tekpotu
Angie knew that Chase’s audience with
the Metah Iltereedah was her best chance to get help. She wanted to
go back through the Farpool. She wanted to undo the
procedure, and get her long
legs and cute butt and page-boy curls back. She wanted,
desperately, so bad she could taste it, to go home and hug her Mom
and run laps around the track at Apalachee High with Gwen
Now she was just mad. Longsee had told her
that none of this was possible…at least not any time soon.
Iltereedah had ruled that very day: the hearing and the trial of
Tulcheah would take precedence.
Even amidst the cacophony of the sound
and its relentless turbulent pounding, all of Omsh’pont was abuzz
over the matter of the half-Ponkti weaver. What would happen to
The Metah had been reluctant to furnish an
expedition to take Angie back to the Farpool but when Longsee
pointed out that studying the effects of what was left of the
shield on the Uman machine would be useful, she relented. She
questioned Angie closely about her decision, summoning both Angie
and Chase to her chambers atop the central seamount of
“I do not understand this request,”
Iltereedah said. “It makes sense that
would want to return to their home kels,
if they had only come for a short stay. But you have both gone
Angie, even if you go back
through the Farpool, you will still be…as you are. And Longsee has
told me that there is no assurance that such a trip will take you
back to your own time and place. Explain this to me.”
Angie always found the Metah’s chambers an
intimidating place. Nowhere else in Omsh’pont did she feel so out
of place, so obviously different from everybody else. The Metah was
always surrounded by aides and staff…the canopied pavilion was even
now draped with extra coverings and shielding to screen out the
wavemaker’s vibrations as much as possible. Iltereedah hovered
gracefully atop a broad flat pedestal that looked like a natural
stone formation, almost a coral reef in itself, multi-hued,
dazzling with textures and shapes and gilt-edged petals, almost
like a tiara or a chandelier.
“Your Majesty—“ Angie replied, not sure
how one really addressed the Metah, “—I don’t know if you have a
word in your language for homesick, but that’s what I am. Chase and
I came here with Kloosee and Pakma to try to help. I don’t think we
can do much more to help. I want to go home and be with my people.
Chase—“she glanced over at him—their eyes didn’t meet, couldn’t
meet. Something had happened, now the spark seemed to be dying, and
that made her sad. Still—“Longsee told me that
couldn’t really be reversed. I’m not
sure I fully understood that when we went through it. But it
doesn’t matter…even unmodified, I want to go back. I’m willing to
take the risk…even if Chase isn’t.”
…she had said it. It hurt like hell to say
it, but the words were out there now and couldn’t be
The Metah took the moment to leave her
nest and circle the pavilion. She pulsed Angie, finding only
sadness, determination, her words matched the echoes. Iltereedah
pulsed Chase as well, sensing in the
male confusion, anger, resignation…it was
hard to tell with these odd creatures. They couldn’t hide anything,
had no concept of
Chase, what have you to say about this?
You must stay…there is the matter of Tulcheah. You’re a witness.
But you and
something like affection here. A small core of affection, to be
sure, but it’s there.”
Chase felt his throat go dry. Now that Angie
had said it….
“Your Majesty, I love Angie…I’m not
sure why she—“ He looked over at her, all scaly and reptilian. Was
it really Angie? Had their relationship changed
The Metah seemed to sense the
conflicting feelings. You couldn’t hide echoes like that. “This is
against my better judgment. But I will approve a trip to Kinlok,
Angie to go back
through the Farpool. The
have done much, endured much, to help us. Now, perhaps, we
can help you. Longsee will see to it that the proper outfitting is
done. And a lifeship will be made available. The shield has failed.
We must seek another solution and something may yet come of this
understand that the
procedure cannot be reversed…not easily. You could
Angie wouldn’t look at Chase.
look at Chase.
Not now. If she did—
“Your Majesty, I understand. Kloosee and
Pakma have explained. I still want to go home.”
“Very well,” Iltereedah decided, “it will be
done.” She nodded to her aides and they whispered the proclamation
into small echobulbs. Later that day, the Metah’s words would be
broadcast throughout Omsh’pont on the sound layer, and by repeater
to a wider audience throughout the Sea.
Chase and Angie were dismissed. With an
official escort from the Metah, they roamed together silently for
awhile, heading back across the city to the Academy labs at the
base of the T’orshpont seamount. A steady rain of debris, rubble
and mud sloughed off the seamount and swirled like a dirty fog
above the city, the effects of the Uman machine up north, of the
sound that could not be shielded.