One odd thing about you Terrans, is the contrast between your physicists and your biologists. They occupy different poles of attitude. Your physicists are on a constant quest for underlying unity. Your biologists, on the other hand, know better - that if we really desire the truth, we must ramify our thoughts along the branches of complexity.
Here on Ooranye, all of us are on the side of your biologists. None of us are naive enough to hope that any simple answer is awaiting us at the end of the cosmic rainbow. Our savants realistically expect the physical forces of nature to be as varied and as multitudinous as the range of biological species. Full well do we realize that the full count of each will never be told: nobody is ever going to formulate a Unified Field Theory, any more than a Unified Personality Theory – and Dynoom had this truth rubbed into him again, when he probed the Snaddy-Galomm.
In that dimension where connectivity reigns, where every quality entangles every other, it would be useless to pretend that a “force” and a “personality” are two different things.
Next he must reveal to Hyala what he found there...
Dynoom’s centre of attention hovered in Hyala’s lounge, awaiting her return. He knew she had left the city – he had seen her leave. Almost, he had tried to stop her egress. He had methods, though he seldom used them, of turning individuals from their paths: he was able to produce a voice and an overwhelming image to arrest a person bent upon an unwise course. He could cause the image to flash into view, in the form of a hefty giant standing in the middle of a walkway, with upraised hand. Yet he had not dared to use this "Halt!" power to influence Hyala: astonishingly, he, Dynoom, the mighty city-brain, had not dared oppose his will to that of a girl scarcely out of adolescence.
Moreover, rather than brood upon the reason for this, or marvel at his sudden care for an individual, he preferred to wrap the theme into a fuzzy ball and put it aside, leaving it to hover on the wings of his consciousness. Right now, he was obsessed with the practicalities of his imminent encounter with the girl. He re-ran and re-ran what he had seen her do.
The data of her recent activities were safe in his memory. It had been child’s play for him, the omnipresent city brain, to tap the sensors of the Wilderness Surveillance Room, so that he could monitor the scenes from each of the televisual masts whose vantages were displayed upon the Room’s thirty-one screens. With his ability to watch all ways at once he had espied Hyala the instant she skimmed into the landscape that was visible from Mast 22.
At once he had guessed her purpose. For reasons unknown to him, she was going to rescue that nebulee...
One stroke of luck Dynoom had to have. It was granted to him – the lips of the interlocutors were visible, or at least half visible, to the mast’s camera eye. The young man half-slumped over his skimmer could fortunately be seen in profile. Hyala, likewise, when she had walked around to face the man, moved her lips readably for Dynoom...
...The girl contemplated the nebulee's dazed, mindless face, a face that made it impossible not to wonder what realms were passing under the gaze of those unfocused eyes.
She mused out loud: “If the gralm could speak, if the skies could speak…” With a sigh she continued, “And if nebulees could speak. How did you get this way, Nyav? And why am I so silly as to ask?”
Peering more closely she could spot a tremble of the lips – the lad had been murmuring all the while. She approached and put her ear to the face.
She heard an intermittent, senseless monologue:
“Flecks… spikes… blocks… brims... oahhh…”
Random monosyllables, they clumped together in word-groups which rhyme in our Jommdan tongue. Eventually the noise subsided.
Hyala put up her hand, touched the blank face, lifted the chin and, with intensified concentration, stared into the vacant eyes.
“Well, so that was the last dribble, Nyav? It’s like a tap, isn’t it, when the supply’s turned off, and you jog it and just get what’s left in the pipe, and then nothing.”
More silence dragged. Occasionally, as if in bleary search, the nebulee blinked and turned his head, then slumped once more.
“So many ways,” remarked Hyala, “to end like you’ve ended, Nyav. Too many ways of asking too many questions. Maybe you tried to work out some ecological detail, like who preys on whom around here... Or it could have been any other bout of dead-end curiosity.” She shook his shoulder. “Like, why did I come here? See, I’m doing it! It’s time we made a move. But first, as to why I’m here, I’ll tell you – in case, at some level, you can hear me – that when reports came, a few hours back, of what had happened to you, I felt a bout of non-acceptance coming on. A determination to flout custom. Sometimes one just has to go and see for oneself. And so, despite the fact that anyone in Olhoav from the Noad down would have told me not to bother, that there's nothing I can do, that it’s kinder just to let you fade off into the wilderness – I still wanted to try what could be done. Having met you just once, I know you but slightly, yet now I’m going to take you home.”
...Hyala had said no more, out there on the plain. She had pulled Nyav to his feet and led him, with his dazed acquiescence, to her skimmer. She had strapped him crosswise onto the vehicle and then started away from the field of view of Mast 22.
Dynoom, having played the incident through several times, now shunted the block of memory, plus
the speculations with which he had annotated it, into a filed slot in his
mountainous brain. He let it lie there for the present.
For although the business with the nebulee was interesting, it was hardly dominant. It was vastly overshadowed by graver questions concerning the woman, Hyala. Dynoom counted the microseconds in his eagerness for her return.
Knowing the distance from Mast 22, and guessing the speed of an overloaded skimmer, he kept revising his computation of when she would arrive… assuming she met with no accident…
That last thought caused dismal mental currents, dark waves which he found hard to control. The mighty Ghepion was not accustomed to care so much for one ephemeral human being. Well, he could hardly blame himself for that. Given what he now knew –
Interrupting that train of thought, his peripheral eyesight detected a dot approaching from the bearing of Mast 22.
A dot soon identifiable as a laden skimmer…
Dynoom's murk of anxiety was obliterated by a sunburst of relief. It must be she! Safely home! The overjoyed Ghepion mocked his own pseudo-human heart-flutters - but yet (he thought, as a human would say) 'who cares' if he secretly made a fool of himself? Let sentiments flap around inside him, so long as no one knew about them, and so long as he understood that rational preparation was now in order! How does one break news to a human? An art, is it, or is it a science? Shortly he must reach for a parcel of truth, which he'd left on a shelf in his mind, he must open that parcel and present it to Hyala... He had no way of knowing how she would take it. Or, indeed, whether she would believe it. Nevertheless his expectations were high. Logically so. She, as humans went, was intelligent. Besides, he, Dynoom, with his vaster brain, surely could break it to her skilfully. Here she came now. He watched her approach from street to street, still bearing the nebulee across her skimmer’s bow.
Bystanders stared at Hyala and the inert Nyav as they floated down the avenues and streets of Olhoav, but no one shouted a question, though soon the gossip must spread, and perhaps an official inquiry would begin within hours. To bring back a nebulee was, after all, a peculiar act. But by the time it's followed up, thought Dynoom, we’ll be a big step ahead. Switching his attention through successive eyes, he kept the girl in view as she parked her skimmer and led the nebulee by the hand towards the front door of her home. Still maintaining his watch he haunted the inside of the house, following her from room to room, while she settled Nyav in an armchair in guest quarters before retiring, deep in thought, to her lounge.
“Hyala,” murmured Dynoom.
She gave a start, glanced about and, seeing no one, realized how things stood. At once she plunged into her defence. “Ah, well, yes, Dynoom, this is a sort of a hopeful experiment..."
Let her talk first. That would be the best way...
"...I admit it doesn’t seem very humble of me to
hope I might succeed where all others have failed… but, you know, I have had some unforeseen
successes... haven't I, Dynoom?"
“Not with nebulees,” said the Ghepion, gently.
She hung her head for a moment. “You think I’m wasting my time with him, then?”
“I suspect so, but perhaps you know best.”
“Really?” she raised her eyes and smiled. “Better than you?”
“I don’t rule it out,” the city-brain replied. “I’ve found out something exceptional about you, which is why everything you do interests me.”
Not getting his drift at first, she leaned back on her sofa and chattered on, “I myself don’t know why I’ve done this deed. Up till today, whenever the word has gone round that some poor wretch has turned nebulee at such-and-such a place, what have I done about it? Absolutely nothing. And yet now look what I’m landed with…”
“An agrash,” Dynoom dryly remarked. (The word may mean something like “holy fool” to you Terrans.) “Or so many will say."
"But not you. It wouldn't be like you, to say that."
"I do not share popular superstitions about
nebulees," agreed the brain.
“Neither do I,” said Hyala; “um... all it is, is that I like to probe into coincidences! The previous time I saw Nyav, when that guardian of his brought him here, my strong impression was that the boy might come to harm. Dempelath struck me as being… evil.”
“How?” (Let her relax and chatter for a little while.)
“Sowing doubts about the lad's identity. An act with a nasty flavour... by which I mean... undermining his belief in (to be blunt) his... um... foregrounder status.”
Dynoom produced the sound of a laugh.
“If you humans had seen what I’ve seen, not a single one of you would have any doubts whatsoever about status. But you don’t know; you can’t know. And so, from where you are, from your worried little viewpoints, Dempelath's insinuations will continue to seem plausible.”
Hyala's pert retort was, “Well then, for the sake of little us and our worried little viewpoints, Big You needs to watch him."
“I'll watch him, yes. But healing... isn't that your field?”
“Evil is not my field,” the girl firmly replied.
The city-brain mused.
“I’ve found out something about you, Hyala.”
This time, something in the timbre of that phrase got through to alert her.
“What about me?” she asked.
“If you will allow me to float an image in your living-room… I will show you.”
She nodded, and straightaway a volume of space in the midst of her lounge turned a cloudy grey and condensed, becoming browner. It thickened into a sight which caused her to shrink back in her chair.
The thing looked like a sort of bulgy
tornado. Its bulging midriff whirled with muddy, stringy vapours. In a strangled whisper she asked, "What is that?"
“This,” said Dynoom, “is what I dared to investigate on my last visit here. Remember the encouragement you gave me, that evening when you agreed to lend me your human assistance? You were giving me the moral support I needed to behold this.”
“Ugh,” shivered Hyala, “what a monstrosity.” She gave a brittle laugh. “I remember you sort of asked me to hold your hand... and now I see why.”
“Seriously, you did help,” replied the Ghepion’s voice, while the girl continued to stare in appalled fascination. “In fact I your physical proximity may have been vital, although, in logic, proximity ought not to be relevant to that dimensionless thing.”
“Dimensionless? Looks fat enough to me. Gross, even.” It was not what she wanted to say, but she could not find the words. The thing wasn't vulgar; it was simply that the sight of it was too strong a mental mouthful - and yet she could not take her eyes off the whirling oblate bulge.
“Certainly," conceded Dynoom, "its name, the ‘spinning top’, the Snaddy-Galomm, implies a certain shape, fat and almost solid. But what you see here is a mere symbol. I'm showing you, in this holograph, my misleading recollection of a sop to my limited understanding. Never mind, though. What’s important is the hard information in it. For, as I now realize, the Snaddy-Galomm is nothing less than a view of our planet, seen not with regard to its material composition, but rather on what we must call the fate-wavelength. You are looking at Ooranye depicted as a tangle of fates. Time now for a close-up. Watch this…”
human beings can only “multi-task” in the sense of undertaking a rapid
succession of activities, darting from one to another of our pots on
the boil. It's not real simultaneity.
A great Ghepion, on the other hand, can really multi-task – can actually concentrate on more than one thing at the very same instant of time.
Dynoom, while regarding his session with Hyala as vital, was not forced to prioritize it, because the great city-brain was also able concurrently to allocate a separate chunk of its consciousness to watch over Dempelath, in a different quarter of Olhoav.
Interesting fellow, Dempelath. I can’t forget what I’ve seen, in the Snaddy-Galomm: that enormous spike of fate shimmering above his head. ‘Evil’? No need to set great store by that label. What is ‘evil’, anyway? Even the greatest human thinkers have never given me a logical answer to that one. The man has some strong quality (whatever word one paints it with) which makes him one possible candidate for what I have in mind. I therefore shan’t let harm come to him, if I can help it.
Readers must tolerate our facile attempt to put words into the enormous mental mouth of Dynoom, because like you we are limited by our humanity as we translate the instantaneous thought-blasts of a Ghepion into verbose soliloquies for the sake of our narrative. What we can say, without any falsification, is that Dynoom’s awareness shadowed the movements of Dempelath during that hour, following the man as he wandered into the district known as the Ghenengh.
Switching from sensor to sensor, the urban brain’s viewpoint stuck close, almost like an invisible rider on the man's shoulder, going where he went, seeing what he saw, but also seeing what was behind him and to each side of him, including the areas hidden from his view by the structures around him – the unplanned, chaotic structures that the Ghenengh had produced over neglected aeons.
From time immemorial Dynoom had protected the occasional moocher who rambled into that unsafe, unsupervised district. For the sake of Terran readers, we will describe the Ghenengh as an urban ‘waste-ground’, so that you may if you wish imagine vacant lots, hidden pits, weed-grown rubble, the increasingly shaggy green coat concealing injurious fragments of rusting machinery… Though your picture will not be literally accurate, it will guide you, via its connotations of unsupervised hazard, to the truth. The “weed-grown” aspect of the Ghenengh consists of mechanisms evolving into life… producing effects not dissimilar to those of a vegetable jungle, as wild Ghepions take form and grow there, from age to age.
The ‘wild’ can mature, and the ‘waste-ground’ is beneficial to the city in the long run, but what, in the name of all the skies, was Dempelath doing wandering there? Dynoom, for all his vast brain, watched with the exasperation of an anxious parent. Humans certainly were daft sometimes. Now the fellow was ambling up a decidedly unpromising cul-de-sac, an inlet so choked with boxy excrescences that it seemed befurred with a geometric mould…
To anyone with common sense the scene ought to have shrieked, “Stay back!” Dempelath, however, continued blithely to approach the head of the close.
Was he really going to saunter right up to that polished semi-orb on the truncated apex of the horizontally-aligned six-sided pyramid jutting from the end wall…? Apparently so. Dynoom took action. At noticeable cost, nen drew from Olhoav’s power-grid to cause a bright green holographic warning sign to hover in front of Dempelath’s face. The same force projected a whisper into the man’s ear:
“Take care, you idiot: you are facing into the muzzle of Tyarn.”
Without deigning to reply to the urban brain’s well-meant warning Dempelath went right ahead and placed a hand on the eyeball of Tyarn –
Actually to reach out and touch a live wild Ghepion was an act so rash as to boggle the minds of the machines who witnessed it and we Bards who narrate it. It is as if a Terran on safari were to poke a lioness with his finger.
Dynoom was not fazed by the snub to his warning. For a great urban brain, such pinpricks to the ego can be nullified at once by a leap of perspective. What was shocking was the exhibition of suicidal rashness on the part of a potentially valuable human being. Only a couple of days ago Dempelath's importance in the form of visionary spikes of destiny had been displayed in the Snaddy-Galomm. That meant the fellow must be one of the most fate-propelled citizens of Olhoav. For him to throw his life away - what a waste! Especially with regard to what had been revealed at the same time about Hyala!
To find a suitable support and mate for that woman would now be a harder task, since Dempelath must be crossed off the list of likely suitors.
That list, hastily drawn up in the naïve match-making corners
of the otherwise great urban mind, contained only a very few names...
Meanwhile the microseconds dragged as the options narrowed for Dempelath. All possible outcomes appeared to spell disaster to the foolhardy human.
Thus was wasted the tiny window of time in which, given foresight, or magical future hindsight, Dynoom might have struck.
For all its wisdom, the great city-brain possessed no great predictive power. In fact the latest knowledge gained from the Snaddy-Galomm had served, paradoxically, to mislead. In the long term those visions and discoveries would prove to be a boon. Glimpses into the destiny-dimension had already awoken Dynoom to a new sharpness in the way he viewed his people, and he would increase his appreciation of them as individual characters. But because this enhanced mode of perception made him a novice reader in a new cultural language, errors of judgement became more likely in the short term. It had to be thus; it was the hard way he had to learn. His exciting new chance to take the short view, to grasp the impress of a moment, allowed him to read a face both rightly and wrongly.
Now - as he gazed at Dempelath - he got it wrong.
Look at that stupid fool was the rhetorical cry which spread through all sections of the city-brain. Every bit as much of an arrogant idiot as his appearance suggests! Pitiful, dumb Dempelath, gangly, hatchet-faced Dempelath - look at him smiling his jagged teeth unaware that all his toughness is about to be swallowed up. Tyarn is going to make a meal of him – I can hardly bear to watch.
Tyarn, the wild, growing Ghepion whose eyeball the man had touched, was, after all, not likely to be humane, or public-spirited either, at this stage of nen's growth.
Thus soliloquized Dynoom, singing his thoughts in a recently-learned human key. During those micro-seconds of misplaced pity the great brain’s thoughts loped further down the wrong road, that of a caricaturist's simplistic frustration: The poor sap is going to get the last and worst shock of his life, like a Wayfarer who sits down on a live flurg. I, worse luck, must witness the drear event. Whatever spurt this morsel gives to Tyarn, I’ll need to know.
Dynoom thus braced himself to witness what he believed was in store.
The man’s right hand had gripped and had been stuck on the rock-hard eyeball of Tyarn. This contact opened the way for psychon-particle interaction between the two entities. Such a process must result in Absorption of the weaker by the stronger, and it did not occur to Dynoom to doubt which way the flood must flow.
Perhaps the great city-brain might have been forewarned by an analogy, if Terran martial arts had been known in our world in those days. (“Lunge at me, will you? By all means, here, let me encourage you in your chosen direction…”) And similarly to ju-jitsu experts, the recent victims of Dempelath’s mind-games might likewise have been less than astonished at the way Dempelath, in a few milliseconds flat, turned out to be, not the absorbed, but the absorber.
The expression of gorged
triumph on the man’s face as he turned to retrace his steps told Dynoom all he
needed to know. Surprise was total but did not permit
disbelief. Instantaneous reversal of opinions and preconceptions was now required, and so with machine-like strength
and honesty Dynoom duly performed, between one instant and the next, the U-turn
of opinion which the facts demanded. Here was a bad thing that had to be faced. Here was the moment of birth of a monster, a hybrid of human and Ghepion, an enormity without
precedent in our planet’s history.
Without one further instant’s delay, Dynoom elected by means of a drastic and expensive current-surge through one lane of the city floor to do his best to kill Dempelath there and then.
The lane of current was necessarily narrow. Speed and accuracy, on the other hand, together with magnification, should have made it effective against a human target. Unfortunately, the being against whom it was directed was now vastly less killable than the average human. Dempelath's malign psychic blaze had acquired the freedom of the wild Ghepion pathways, had flared into new and terrible greatness; the man had become as easily able as his would-be executioner to borrow power. Thus he could tell exactly at what moment to counteract one surge with another -
Dynoom in despair understood only too well what kind of strength Dempelath had probably acquired. Tyarn had been that variety of Ghepion known as a Simulator, or Predictor, and so, for the man who had Absorbed all that, the implication was –
Immunity from assassination.
Away lurched the engorged more-than-man, fingers clutching at the air, striding the shortest way out of the Ghenengh, to bring himself back among the people he could now seek to dominate. Dynoom meanwhile, unable to bear the double shame of having tried to kill and of having failed to kill, did what many a human would have wished in like case to be able to do: he wiped from memory his own unsuccessful stab at the monster.
However the central fact, of what Dempelath had become, remained in full view, foreshadowing tyranny for Olhoav.
The nature of Dynoom, like that of many another great Ghepion in our planet's long history, is far more than pure intellect: figuratively, a passionate heart beats in the breast of Olhoav's urban brain. Some aspects of its huge mind may suggest a cold nature, but that's merely because behaviour which would denote coldness in us, denotes vastness in Dynoom. In particular, the ability to self-compartmentalise, to parcel out one's consciousness, may remind us of callously "two-faced" human behaviour, whereas for a Ghepion it can be a sensible, even a compassionate choice, to keep one outlook un-besmirched by any horror and dismay which might waft through a diffrent window of awareness.
Thus, while Dynoom's "heart" was "in" the icy-grim business of tracking a new threat to the State, the said heart was also warm with friendship "in" Hyala's lounge.
"...Time now for a close-up. Watch this…”
Hyala obediently sat and watched an enlargement of the apparition that hung spinning in the air in the middle of her room.
Dynoom - with his 360-degree vision - meanwhile watched both it and her. Perhaps this session was going well. Her face was rapt, enthralled... but she trembled, too. He studied her expression minutely. How receptive was she going to be, to the fact which most concerned her? Mustn't allow her to be side-tracked... Must ease her into it, straight and true...
"What you see here," commented Dynoom, "namely the thing called the Snaddy-Galomm, our world's tissue of fate, has to be a sort of force-diagram. It's a spatial rendering of a non-spatial dimension, but it's as true as we'll ever see it. As our sight moves into it, we can begin to discern the fatal momentum of individuals." Noticing her lips start to move, he emphatically continued, "Don't ask me how we can, at that cosmic scale, discern individuals..."
"Cosmic? I thought you said earlier, it's just our world."
"Ah, you're sharp, Hyala! Let me explain. To obtain this vision I had to employ a sense of perception for which no name exists - none of our geometric logic applies in it - but I can summarize by saying: the Snaddy-Galomm shows us what concerns us. It's 'need-vision', not objective vision. In other words, we see what we need to know. Like - this!"
Close-up the Galomm had begun to reveal a fabric that seethed and tossed with its little spiky flames. Like a surging multitude of conical hats, the spikes were flaunted by individual blobs that pranced in the spinning currents. The sight was terribly self-explanatory. You could not look at it without knowing that those blobs were people, and their spiky flamy "hats" were their destinies.
"That's me!" shrieked Hyala like a little girl. "Oh - " she added in a more subdued voice. "Oh."
It was an almost drunken moment for Dynoom. Here he was, trying out his new emotional range - the first big test of what he'd dubbed his "department of transient relationships" - in a live and concerned rapport with an ephemeral human creature who was sure to be long dead in well under fifty thousand days. A large issue was at stake, and the girl wasn't letting him down. She wasn't requiring him to spoon-feed her the message. She was getting it.
To an onlooker who possessed the courage to absorb them, the sights in the Galomm were bound to explain themselves with inescapable suggestion, and, most suggestively of all, about one sixth of the spiky "hats" were inclining mutually, bowing to each other across stretches of the fabric.
One contemporary "hat" in particular quivered its tip at a very tall other one, a dazzlingly glorious one that stood afar, its home in an ancient time.
Dynoom saw Hyala blanch at the sight.
Ah, she was getting it, for sure. The contemporary "hat" was hers. And the other one? Gently now, he must soothe her over this hurdle. Just a few more nicely-judged doses of observation, and the job should be done.
"I've long been fascinated," he reminisced, "by two intellectual riddles regarding distribution: one in mathematics, the other in psychology... Both seemingly random, the distribution of prime numbers, and that of reincarnated souls, remain as mysterious as ever... Until now, the data for the first have been easier to display; here at last we see the second: the pattern of reincarnations, lurking in what we now behold..."
A lilt in his words sprang from pleasure and pride in Hyala's steadfast behaviour. At the start she had emitted only one little shriek; since then, while she eyed the particular pair of spikes that spoke her truth across the aeons, her mouth had settled in a solemn line. Dynoom did not doubt that she not only gazed but saw.
Reincarnated souls, double-life pairs, sprinkled throughout the history of Ooranye, gradually becoming more frequent as the long eras roll past... that's the general view you get as you first gaze into the Galomm.
Then, in accordance with your concerns, the vision becomes selective. If you're from Olhoav, what leaps out at you is the history of Olhoav, your place in it, that of your neighbours and connections, and - if you are a second-lifer -
The conic glowing Hyala-spike reached towards that other from the far past, that unmistakable, tremendous outsize brightness, that lone colossus of glory.
In magnetic attraction the two components of the bi-located soul of Hyala Movoun bowed, stretched and flickered at one another. Thus the living Hyala resonated in the Galomm with her previous self, Sunnoad Hyala Movoun 1, the first-ever Noad of Noads, who had lived so long ago, in the morning of civilization.
The two shapes' mutual inclination was proof which could not be gainsaid.
"You are she, Hyala," murmured Dynoom. "And you might as well be glad about it. Look at the situation this way: it certainly disposes of your problem about feeling like a fraud, does it not?"
It disappointed Dynoom very slightly, that she did not respond for some minutes. Instead of uttering any words, she brooded at the soul-swirls... But the great brain was patient. The girl had, after all, "taken it". The session had gone satisfactorily well.
When finally she did speak, his opinion of her went up even more.
"I'm not a fraud," she nodded. "Nor am I that 'self' of the Neon Era, umpteen ages ago. I am simply myself, a woman of now. I intend to live a calm life in this Actinium Era, from this day on. Thank you, Dynoom, for showing me this calming thing."
Dynoom was tempted to emit a human-style whistle. Amazing creatures, these humans. Full of surprises. Just when you think she's got only two options, either to admit the truth or to shy away, she picks a third, an awe-inspiring piece of constructive self-deception.
If this girl thinks she's in for a calm existence, well...
IN THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE OF TALES TO ASTOUND:
Uranian Throne Episode 5:
The Lever of Power