Relearning the Life-suit
Sard rested after his labours with the kite. All he’d discovered so far was that really flying was going to be trickier than anyone imagined. The power supply, or in other words, the wind was in no way easy to understand. Its unpredictability had him stumped. Mornings a wind that blew from the east would veer to the north by midday. And he had only a day or two to learn them? Climate control out here would be so good.
The only flying he’d done so far was with the wing less than two metres above the ground and therefore dragging him along practically on his knees. Thanks you, Gammy, for the strength of the life-suit’s fabric, he thought numerous times as he picked thorns and sticks from his knees. Lucky they hadn’t scraped through.
The speed of the drag scared him witless. What if he’d been near the cliffs and had been tipped into the water below? All the sea-faring entertainments he’d ever researched flipped through his mind. There were fearsome predators down there. How was it that the mermen stayed alive?
How he’d finally stopped himself—and that at the brink—was also a mystery. He’d pulled the handles aka brakes every which way possible before he’d collected his thoughts, so had no idea which particular action cause the wing to deflate, and drop itself and him limp as rags to the ground.
He was so busy in his thoughts that he didn’t at first hear the voices of the Seapeople helping one another up the rocks to the top of the ridge. Then, by the time he realised, they had gained the plateau and were about to begin their trek south. Ahni wasn’t with them. Sard counted them, divided them, studied them by size but she wasn’t there.
A pair of older women walked fore and aft of just two mermen shading them with matting carried aloft. The reason probably that the men’s skins were bleeding, pale in patches and therefore liable to get sun-burned. And get this—Sard thought at his two informants—why would the poor saps themselves be bleeding now at this minute, if they’d been sewn into someone else’s skin sometime in their past? He dismissed Youk and Greg as a pair of ignorant know-it-alls.
Next came a pair of young women carrying babies, followed by a clutch of children. Harrying them all from the rear was a tattooed Amazonian who had Ahni’s bag bouncing on her back. Ahni definitely not among them. But, wait. The senior merman was also missing.
Though as leader, that merman was probably the one picked for the romance with Zoya. So what could Gammy possibly want with Ahni? Sard wished he’d asked more about the whole deal. If he’d been more aware he surely would’ve been able to camouflage his interest in Ahni. But when he had only Greg and Youk to ask?
< What do you want to know? >
Huh? That’s the life-suit talking? Almost normal phraseology.
< Thank you. I’ve had time now to study your turn of phrase. Time is precious and I don’t like repeating myself >
Sard crawled back into the hole where he had his camp, dragging the kite after him.
I was getting out of the scene to study the new you, he thought at the life-suit. You used to know exactly what was happening when it happened.
< The you + me amalgam only have a measured amount of energy to work with. I decided to put on hold some of our functions in preference for superior communication. >
Could a life-suit do that? There was so much he didn’t know that Greg might’ve told him if only they’d been friendlier.
< I am waiting >
Sard caught himself just in time not to say, for what? He threaded back through the dialogue. The suit asked him what was happening, the suit told him it didn’t like repeating itself, and it asked him what he wanted to know. That, probably. “What can Gammy possibly want with Ahni as well as the senior merman?”
The life-suit chuckled! The only word Sard had for the sound emanating from the chest plate. Remember that, he thought at himself. When I speak out loud, the life-suit can reply out loud courtesy of I suspect a miniature speaker on the chest plate. I’ll need to test its capabilities ahead of needing to use it. And I need to discover whether the new life-suit can read all this thinking. “Did you get all that?” he said.
< CAVE’s entity has been superseded by the implant brought by the Seapeople. >
Oh. Okay. My former life-suit—ignorant of anything not directly to do with itself—has just replied to my question as to why Gammy wants Ahni, with the fact that Gammy has been superseded. Gammy being the local name often used in relation to CAVE’s AI entity. I get it, frightening though the idea is and what if it is real?
Sard’s thoughts spooled nineteen to a dozen minutes. He’d stopped doing anything in his little cave—frozen in disbelief probably a good description—but now started to tidy. No fire-place meant he could lay the kite out and fold it. Stuff it in its pack.
Implant. Sounds like a thing implanted into someone. Brought by the Seapeople. I have to surmise that because Ahni is missing that she is the one with the implant in her?
He caught himself hesitating when an important thought rushed to the fore.
Brought by the Seapeople also sounds as though they brought Ahni specifically to bring the implant. Or they brought Ahni to do a deal and she is now a prisoner? Would they be prepared to give CAVE their implant in return for, for example, their men? But… if the implant now is in charge, what would that mean for Ahni?
< The girl will die if you don’t fetch her out. >
Did he want the girl? Yes. The life-suit is pushing me, he recognized. What’s an implant other than a kind of bot? The implant is hardly likely to kill its host.
He started worrying about the life-suit. This one doesn’t now behave the way life-suits are programmed. Could Youk have over-written the old program? I so don’t see him behind all this. Yet he’s the only one I can think of.
He shrugged. Flung his hands up and out. All of it a mystery he couldn’t solve. Go back to the last thing the suit said. Ahni will die. He concentrated on the content of this impossible output. How can I save her?
< We will need a plan. >
I thought I should take a look inside, Sard thought. Plan while I’m in the scene. What I do best. When you + I are alive-to-background its an an easy matter to stay out of sight.
There. All that was completely do-able with the old programming. This is me discovering the extent of the changes in the life-suit’s programming.
< Lie still. >
“What? What the fuck?” His arms and legs wouldn’t move. The life-suit did that? “You’re refusing me to move?” His voice petered out. Not a thing he could do about it. He concentrated on his breathing. What if the damned program took that as well?
< I can’t have you rampaging around while I’m still discovering my new capacities. >