One quirk in you Terrans is the way your physicists and your biologists occupy different poles of attitude. Your physicists are on a constant quest for underlying unity. Your biologists, on the other hand, know better. While your physicists crave a Theory of Everything, your biologists are aware that truth demands we ramify 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 quite as varied, quite as multitudinous as the range of biological species. Species, forces, laws: the count of them will never be told: nobody will ever form 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 any stark difference exists between “forces” and “personalities”.
Dynoom restlessly looked forward to showing Hyala what he had found there. If only she had not left the city! His centre of attention hovered in her lounge as he awaited her return.
Almost, he had tried to stop her egress. He had methods, though he seldom used them, of turning individuals from their paths: he had what was called the "Halt!" power, which is to say he was able to produce a voice and an overwhelming image to arrest someone bent upon an unwise course.
To do this, he would cause to appear a hefty giant who stood in the middle of a walkway with upraised hand. Yet he had not dared to use this illusion in order to influence Hyala. And why was the deployment of his powers so inhibited in her case? No answer came to ease the fact: astonishingly, he, Dynoom, the mighty city-brain, had not dared oppose his will to that of a girl scarcely out of adolescence.
Rather than brood upon, or marvel at his sudden care for an individual, he preferred to wrap the theme into a fuzzy ball, to be rolled aside and left to hover on the periphery of his mind. Consciously, right now, he focussed on the near future. Obsessed with the practicalities of his imminent encounter with the girl, he re-ran what he had seen her do.
Her recent activities were safe in his memory. It had been child’s play for him, the omnipresent city brain, to tap all available sensors, including those of the Wilderness Surveillance Room at the Pnurrm. Thus he had been able to monitor the input from 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 that area of the Basin of Vnor that was visible from Mast 22.
At once he had guessed her purpose. It was clear to him that, for reasons as yet unknown to him, she intended to rescue that nebulee, of whom recent report had come from the surveillance team on watch at the Pnurrm, and who was still observable via Mast 22.
One stroke of luck Dynoom had to have. It
was granted to him: via the mast’s camera eye, the young man, half-slumped over his skimmer, could be viewed in
profile, while Hyala, even more clearly, when she had
walked around to face the man, moved her lips readably
And so Dynoom got every word, both muttered and aloud, including Hyala's announcement: "Though I know you but slightly, I have decided to take you into my 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 she had raced away, fast receding from the field of view of Mast 22.
Dynoom played the encounter through several times, and then shunted the block of memory, plus
its marginalia of speculation, 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 vastly overshadowed by graver questions concerning the woman.
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 dark waves, dismal mental
currents which the mighty Ghepion found hard to control, being unaccustomed to care
so much for an ephemeral human being.
Interrupting this peculiar anxiety, his peripheral sight - one of his views from a frontier tower - detected a dot approaching from the bearing of Mast 22.
A dot soon identifiable as a laden skimmer…
Dynoom's careworn murk was wiped out in a sunburst of relief. It must be she! Safely home! The confusedly overjoyed Ghepion mocked his own pseudo-human heart-flutters. And yet so what if he secretly made a fool of himself? Who cares, as a human might say. Let sentiments flap around inside him, so long as no one knew about them, and so long as he remembered rational preparation was now in order.
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...
How does one break flabbergasting news to a human? An art, is it, or is it a science? He had no way of knowing how she would take it. Or, indeed, whether she would even believe it. Nevertheless his expectations were high. She, as humans went, was intelligent. Besides, he, Dynoom, with his vaster brain, surely could break it to her skilfully.
Here she came now. From his many viewpoints he watched her approach from street to street. He shared the perspectives of the bystanders who stared at Hyala and at the inert nebulee borne across her skimmer’s bow, as she floated down the avenues and streets. No questions were shouted as yet, though soon the gossip must spread. Perhaps an official inquiry would begin within hours, for 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.
Still switching his attention through successive eyes, he kept the girl in view as she parked her skimmer, and he watched her haul the nebulee to his feet and lead him by the hand towards the front door of her home.
Haunting the interior of the house, Dynoom maintained his close observation, following the owner from room to room, until she had settled Nyav in an armchair in guest quarters and retired, deep in thought, to her lounge.
“Hyala,” murmured Dynoom.
With a start she glanced about and, seeing no one, realized how things stood.
“Ah, well, yes, Dynoom," she plunged into her defence, "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. “It is, indeed, actually possible that you may know better than I. I’ve found out something exceptional about you, Hyala; which is why everything you do interests me.”
She was not getting his drift at first, absorbed as she was in the puzzle of her own behaviour. She leaned back on her sofa and chattered on, “I myself don’t know why I’ve done this deed. Until 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…”
Dynoom dryly remarked. (The word may
mean something like “holy fool” to you Terrans.) "Or so many will say."
"But 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, 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..."
"I don't know about flavours; I don't eat," remarked Dynoom disingenuously.
"Oh, but come on... I only mean... the undermining of belief in (to be blunt) one's... 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 concerns whatsoever about status. But you don’t know; you can’t know. And so, from your worried little viewpoints, Dempelath's insinuations may seem plausible.”
Hyala's pert retort was, “Well then, for the sake of little us, 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. It was time for another attempt to raise the paramount issue.
“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.
The grey condensed, becoming browner. It thickened into a heavy smudge which caused her to shrink back in her chair.
The thing looked like a sort of bulgy
tornado. Its midriff whirled with ropy, muddy vapours. In a strangled whisper Hyala 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?"
"Yes. You agreed to lend me your human assistance. You gave me the moral support I needed to behold... the Galomm."
“Ugh,” shivered Hyala. "Yes, all right, I sort of remember. But tell me please, why I am able to see this monstrosity now, whereas I saw nothing on that previous occasion.”
"You're not seeing it even now, not really. Or, you're seeing it at a couple of removes. Seeing an image of my memory of it, rather than it, itself."
She gave a brittle laugh. “You kind of asked me, last time, to hold your hand, and now I can appreciate why.”
“Seriously, you did help,” replied the Ghepion’s voice, while the girl continued to stare in appalled fascination. “In fact your physical proximity may have been vital. I feel that to be the case, although, in logic, proximity ought not to be relevant to a 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 with which to swallow the mental mouthful of the whirling oblate bulge.
“Certainly fat," conceded Dynoom; "its name, the ‘spinning top’, the Snaddy-Galomm, implies that shape; but what you see here is a mere symbol. I'm showing you, in this holograph, naught but my misleading recollection of a sop to my limited understanding. Never mind: what’s important is the hard information it contains."
"Not sure I want to know."
Dynoom ignored that. "...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. Yes, you are looking at Ooranye, not cartographically area-mapped as a planet would normally be, but depicted as a tangle of fates. Time now for a close-up..."
human beings can only “multi-task” in the sense of darting from one to another of our pots on the boil. Such a sequence of activities, however rapid, is 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, therefore, while regarding his session with Hyala as vital, was not forced to prioritize it. Concurrently the great city-brain was also able to allocate a separate chunk of its consciousness to a different quarter of Olhoav, to watch over Dempelath.
Fascinating fellow, Dempelath. I can’t forget what I’ve seen in the Snaddy-Galomm: that enormous spike of fate shimmering above the man's head. Hyala calls him ‘evil’, but I don't see any need to set store store by that label. What is ‘evil’, anyway? Not even the greatest human thinkers have ever given me an answer to that one. Dempelath has some strong quality which makes him one possible candidate for what I have in mind. I therefore shan’t let harm come to him, 'evil' or no, if I can help it.
Readers must tolerate our facile attempt to put words into the enormous mental mouth of Dynoom, as for the sake of our human narrative we translate the instantaneous thought-blasts of a mighty Ghepion into verbose soliloquies. What we can say is that Dynoom’s awareness shadowed the movements of Dempelath during that hour, so as to follow 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 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, felt the exasperation of an anxious parent as he watched, thinking: humans certainly were daft at times. Now the fellow was ambling up a decidedly unpromising cul-de-sac, an inlet choked with boxy excrescences as though bizarrely 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 messy close! Such stupid rashness! Was the man really going to saunter right up to... that thing, there, at the end... 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, and to project 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 –
What a fool, actually to reach out and touch a live wild Ghepion like Tyarn. An act so rash as to boggle the minds of all who narrate it. Terran reader, if you were on safari, would you poke a leopard with your finger?
Dynoom's warning was thus snubbed. But for a great urban brain, such pinpricks to the ego are nullified at once by a leap of perspective. What mattered, 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, displayed in the Snaddy-Galomm in the form of visionary spikes of destiny, had suggested to Dynoom that the fellow must be one of the most fate-propelled citizens of Olhoav. And now this! For him to throw his life away - what a waste!
Especially considering what had been revealed at the same time about Hyala! It had been Dynoom's sudden hope, that those two special humans might have been nudged towards each other, but -
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 jaws of disaster appeared to close upon Dempelath.
Thus the curtain was drawn across the tiny window of time in which, given foresight, or magical future hindsight, Dynoom might have struck, but did not.
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 nen's intelligence. In the long term the visions and discoveries gained from the destiny-dimension would prove to be a boon, and they had already awoken Dynoom to a new sharpness in the way he viewed his people, increasing 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 were likely in the short term. It had to be thus; it was the hard way he had to learn. His exciting new chance, to grasp the impress of a moment, allowed him to read a face either rightly or wrongly: and on this occasion, as he gazed at Dempelath, he got it wrong.
Look at that stupid fool was the rhetorical cry which spread through every section of the city-brain. Every bit as much of an arrogant idiot as his appearance suggests! Pitiful, dumb Dempelath, gangly, hatchet-faced, 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 at this stage of nen's growth.
Thus soliloquized Dynoom, singing his thoughts in a recently-learned human key, during micro-seconds of misplaced pity. Down the wrong road loped the great brain’s thoughts:
The poor sap is going to get the worst and last shock of his life, like a hapless Wayfarer who sits down on a live flurg, and meanwhile I have no choice but to record the drear event, since whatever spurt this morsel gives to Tyarn is something 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 become stuck on, the rock-hard eyeball of Tyarn.
This touch opened the way for psychon-particle interaction between the two entities. Such contact must result in Absorption of the weaker by the stronger. 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, with machine-like strength
and honesty, duly performed. Thus between one instant and the next Dynoom underwent the U-turn
of belief which the facts demanded. Here was a bad thing that had to be faced: here was the moment of birth of a monster. Dempelath, with the absorbtion of Tyarn, had become a hybrid of human and Ghepion, an enormity without
precedent in our planet’s history.
Without one further instant’s delay Dynoom attempted by means of a drastic and expensive current-surge through one lane of the city floor to kill Dempelath there and then.
The lane of current was necessarily narrow. Speed and accuracy, together with magnification, should have made the surge effective against a human target. Unfortunately, the present target was now more than human, and vastly less killable. Dempelath's psychic blaze had acquired the freedom of the wild Ghepion pathways. Thus flaring into new and terrible greatness, the hybrid had become as able as his would-be executioner to borrow power, and to discern at which moment to counteract one surge with another -
Dynoom 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. The implication, for the man who had Absorbed all that, was –
Immunity from assassination.
The engorged more-than-man, fingers clutching at the air, strode 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. That however is merely because behaviour which would imply coldness in us, implies 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 in through a different 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 gazed while part of what hung spinning in the middle of her room underwent magnification.
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? How brave, in being forced to admit 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 not really what it looks like; it can't be, for 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 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!"
Closer-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 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 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. With that sudden "Oh" of hers, 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. 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 in the direction of a very tall other one, a dazzlingly glorious one that stood afar, returning the gesture across a vast distance of ancient time.
Dynoom saw Hyala blanch. 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 riddles concerning distribution: one in mathematics, the other in psychology. Both seemingly random, they are: the distribution of prime numbers, and that of reincarnated souls. Each of them remains as mysterious as ever... Until now, the data for the prime numbers have been easier to display; here at last the other, the pattern of reincarnations, is displayed in what we now behold..."
Hyala gave one, only one, shriek. Then, while she eyed the particular pair of spikes that spoke her truth across aeons, her mouth settled in a solemn line. Dynoom did not doubt that she not only gazed but understood, and he was proud of her steadfastness.
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 repeatedly to each other, 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 in the morning of civilization.
The mutual inclination of the two shapes 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?"
Instead of uttering any words, she brooded at the soul-swirls for some minutes. This disappointed Dynoom very slightly; but the great brain was patient. The girl had, after all, "taken it". The session had gone well.
When finally she did speak, his opinion of her went up further.
"Indeed," she nodded, "I'm not a fraud, but 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...
Uranian Throne Episode 5: