[Encrypted as heck because of Rock Fall and other discussions]
It had been quite for a bit. Adams and Marak were busy with setting Freedom’s Belters in. Dr. Bow let me download a century or so’s worth of medical articles and manuals for the new equipment. I was in the midst of reading up on the anti-aging nanites, when the Senate wanted us to meet on Janus 2. This is the first time I had go through full decontamination and meet in paper coveralls. It is just wrong to see Adams in coveralls.
Coral Bloom told the Congress about a Tikket fungal network. They use it like wifi, but it can be used to spy. It could be nearly anywhere at Aurora and Bayside, but for places we keep scrupulously clean. Things are coming to a head with Desert Bloom.
The big problem is that the Tikket can’t handle dissenting thought. Coral Bloom expects Desert Bloom to start assassinating her foes. There’s nothing we can do about it – the cease-fire treaty requires us to stay out of her continent. That doesn’t mean that Desert Bloom might not strike at us, and that’s why the Contact Team is here – brainstorming.
Mass casualties are off the table – somebody finally understands the problems of killing one half of a telepathic link, never mind the backlash of many deaths on a race of telepaths. Vicinius and I pull together a status update on the psi-rat program. The rats were developed on Aute and scramble psi in a 2 meter radius. (I hate working around them.) They work for kibble and water, no rare earths needed. Easy to monitor. So far, it’s a pilot project, but anything that goes outside the lab is sterile. (The prion hasn’t started mutating them, but we need to watch out for it.)
There’s the usual updates – Medical’s post-Party-Flu randomized testing for surprises, post-Volcano emergency drills and training. Pairing key biological personnel with AIs to make sure no one gets nudged to, say, shut off the fusion planet’s coolant.
The anti-aging nanites should work, in theory, for Tikket, but it’ll take a long while to adapt them. It would give the elderly queens an option besides depending on Desert Bloom. I’ve been doing some back of the envelop math about how I suspect that anti-aging power works. If Desert Bloom is supplying all of the power behind it and isn’t teaching anyone else (so she can’t gestalt), it’s a pyramid scheme doomed to collapse.
If we offer the nanites, what then? We replace Desert Bloom as the source of extended life? Do we want to prolong the Tikket gentocracy? Do our allies want us to offer that? At least the nanites aren’t a pyramid scheme – with enough rare earths we could extend lives of everyone. And that has all its own issues. I think I’m going to have to try the nanites. I need to know whether having little robots running around adjusting my body all the time is going to be distracting or distressing. And I can’t in good conscience ask the Tikket to try something that I don’t trust on myself. I’ll have Marak take a look at the programing – I like Dr. Bow, but I want to check for Athenians in this gift from home.
After the Volcano, we abandoned the Island of Understanding and never re-opened negotations. The treaty doesn’t give any provisions for another site, and doesn’t have any provisions for withdrawal. After hours of our usual bander, AUD1 breaks in – what does “yes” look like. If we re-open negotiations with Desert Bloom what do we want? To be left alone. Coral Bloom and the Tikket nearby to be left alone. Ideally, the Tikket to settle their problems without ichor-shed.
Finally, a plan. Clear off the Island of Understanding. With a meteor. Adams has been busy getting rocks into place as they mine out the big asteroid. Damn, he’ll be able to do it.
Give notice to Desert Bloom under the treaty that we’re going to await further discussions there. Move a portion of the Senate off planet during the negotiations. And start pre-planning a demonstration in case this fails. Other options are discussed. I still hate all of them.
And I still can’t get back to reading. Marak asked the Medynn to let us try using their gravity wave communicator on the planet. We try sending pulses in primes. Nothing. For days. Then the black crystals in the lab shift, and shift again. Repeating a pattern of primes. It’s very, very slow. The “plant” we found in the volcano seems to amplify whatever it does to control the crystals.
Finally, a rock falls. The Island of Understanding is swept clear. The Vigils go in when things settle to put up some earth-quake proof shelter. A violet Blossom and some ants arrives. We think Desert Bloom sent her because she had to respond by treaty. But Violet doesn’t see any point in negotiating with us.
Adams: (boiled down): We think you’re ready to declare war. We’d rather you didn’t.”
Violet: Your question suggests you have concerns about our success.
Adams, through the on-site team, shows them a map of the selected atoll. “We don’t.”
Our view shifts to orbit as six big rocks enter the atmosphere. The atoll and a couple of miles of rock under it vanish. I watch as it falls. If only there were gods left to pray to. But now, it is just physics. If this doesn’t work, many Tikket will die at our hands.
Adams starts to say something, and stops. I think Marcus kicked him in the shin.
Violet: We appreciate your concern. We’d like some time to put together a more formal delegation for extended talks.
Planet: (later) Seven pulses.
Lastly, on the eve of war, and neigh onto our fifth Landing Day, Cailen and I welcome to the world Ronan Theodore Flannagan Denhar. His sister, Elani is nearly two — how fast the time has gone.