Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Into the Ark Ship

First habitat in the Arkship that Jeb sees, photo by Fran Guard

This fragment of The Half Shaman in Space is the last instalment for a while. Since references to Kosi Lionhair's story have been so constant, and it is the first book in the saga, I thought some of you would appreciate a re-posting of her adventures up to the time that she becomes the 'machine pattern'.  

The doors into the Ark Ship slide apart. 

In my whole life I’ve never seen so many different greens as in that habitat. Hydroponic lettuce and algae in the water cisterns are the only two greens I've seen. 

I am fascinated. I see stones the size of houses. Trees. Plants. A hill. Blue sky overhead. I draw nearer to the doorway. 

A hard blow of air from the Ark Ship sweeps me off my feet. 

An outcry from the three men, Mongoose the loudest, grasping hands that don’t catch me, and I am rolled over and over from the airlock.

I expect to hit the ground with an almighty thump but I don’t. Being rolled over and over changes to being twirled. As in, I gyrate spread-eagled on a cushion of air because what else could be holding me up? I open my eyes and my anxious gaze catches on the airlock doors closed and moving away. 

By the time I sit up and look around, the doors have slid shut and are sliding away. No use running after them for I see rocks and stones along the wall to prevent that. 

And—yes—I see bones! A trail of them also along that wall. Which seems to have stopped moving. Though the door I came through is definitely out of sight. 

I look at the bones more carefully. Hard to overlook them there are so many. Are they of all the people in former times trying to catch a set of doors? Without trying, I suddenly see skulls. Only a few are human. Even the animals tried to get out? 

Or they came in as I just did and fell wrong. I wait. Could be that Mongoose and the other two were able to jump out soon after and are even now are running to find me. Well, Mongoose will be.  

Though I did see the doors slide out of sight in their closed state. And I saw them slide into the direction where my right hand is pointing when I’m facing that wall. I rise. 

Should I follow the doors because I might meet Mongoose? Or should I take the other direction? I cast my glance forward, to the side, and behind. 

 A rise not far from here running parallel to the wall I just came through.  

Or should I climb the hill and see what is what? 

Probably that. Give me an idea of how distances work in here. 

This hill is very very interesting. I’ve never seen so many different plants together in one place in my life. Between the rocks, I recognise mosses and grass that I studied in shaman school. Lichens grow on some of the stones. 

As I get nearer the face of the hill, there are shrubs and, look … even a tree with an actual brown-grey tree trunk that divides into grey branches that then divide into grey twigs that carry sage green leaves. I recall learning these divisions and thinking them useless information. If only they’d said it was about the Ark Ship. 

Overlooking the scene I’m stunned. How will I find anybody? Even though I know the Ark Ship is shaped like a doughnut, the scene I’m looking at in no way looks like the inside of the doughnut I imagined. 

Both the ground and the ceiling should be curving downward if the ground is on the inner curve. 

 I have to stop thinking of the doughnut as rounded like a sausage. Make it have a floor, a ceiling and two sides. The doors are on the inner curve or the floor in my new way of thinking about it. The ground and the ceiling are the two sides. This hill that I’m standing on is part of the outer curve. 
Can I see proof of that formation? .... (to be continued in the goodness of time)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: The Deal

A mongoose, image from iStock, is a formidable opponent despite its small stature
Jeb's husband Mongoose is a worthy Totem alterity
Jeb's adventures are speeding up at this point. She makes progress with the machine pattern, aka Kosi Lionhair, and Jeb and Mongoose finally make it up the scramble nets ...

More clothes are being shed to make into ropes, and now also into nets. Those of us who cannot climb will need to be pulled up. No one will be left behind. 

I see this from a distance because Mongoose and I are still under the central substructure supporting the listing Totem Reality. We are ringed by the Maremma dogs. Kosi Lionhair, the machine pattern, still inhabits the lead dog. 

“We’ll have so much fun, Jeb,” the poor machine pattern says. The dog she is embedded in ignores Mongoose a half pace ahead and right of me, with my shoulder behind his. 

Yes, I’m thinking the poor thing now, though she can prevent us from leaving. She can slide the inner doors of the central airlock to and fro, which would cut the knots wedged behind them with friction, dropping whoever. Fewer clothes to make into ropes would mean a more dangerous haul. And those are only two things I can think of. 

She must suspect there is no way I will be left behind. I’m racking my brains. How can I leave her happy? 

Mongoose whispers in my ear. “My mother travelled when I was young. Left me with my father. Always gave me a job to do for her return. Made me feel important.”

I nod. I see a couple of problems. I leave Kosi a job, I need to return to see the completion. What kind of job? “What sort of thing were you good at when you still lived with your mother and father?” I say at the Maremma dogs. 

“You talking to me, Jeb? You could say my name. It’s Kosi. Kosi Lionhair. I called myself that because I used to fluff my hair out to feel brave. I was very good at gymnastics despite that I had to do them totally silently. Because I lived in a Tween House?”

Tween House? I suspect that it would take too much time to have that explained. Gymnastics? “You mean tumbling and rolling?” Nothing in that I can use. 

“But Hen said I was way up there with researching,” Kosi says.

Could be something in that. “Researching using a desktop and a database, Kosi Lionhair? I did that at shaman school.”

Kosi giggled, then boasts. “I guess you had a Lotor-wide database. I had a world-wide database at my fingertips.”

“There is a lot we don’t know about surviving on the Ark Ship,” I say. “And later on Earth.”

Mongoose pinches the inside of my elbow. 

I look at him and he mouthes alarm. “Should you be telling her that?”

Nod. Whisper. “She’ll find out in a snap. Do we even know whether she could stop us?” 

He shrugs minimally. 

A couple of the dogs stare intelligently at our exchange. 

I address her again. “You said something about time travelling, Kosi. What’s that about?” 

“This ship doesn’t know anything about when, that is, about time. And so neither does the Ark Ship while they are joined. You are not the same people who left the Ark Ship to go to Lotor, are you? Could be a rude surprise for you—a rude awakening for the Ark Ship when you get there.”

Slip of the virtual tongue there, my girl. I knew you know I’ll be going with the rest. “Is there a database on this ship?” 

She laughs. “Wrong question. Is there a database on this ship that I can use? Answer is no. Everything on this ship is too alien. I patched myself into the Ark Ship’s database. It is very good.”  

“Oh good.” If I knew what she was talking about. “So could you research something for me? For us?” 

“I would clap my hands if I could, Jeb. You’re setting me a project. Hen used to set me projects when she went home for the weekend. I love research projects.” 

I feel Mongoose relaxing a bit. I figure it is going to take us some time to get to the Command Centre and to sing everybody back into their human shapes. But after that, would we trust the Ark Ship when we know nothing about flying a spaceship? 

“Could you find out how to make these ships move through space the way they are stuck together?”


Because she is thinking? 

“Because,” I say. “Could we trust the Ark Ship if we asked it that? To go back to Earth? Given everything the Ark Ship has done to its humans up to now?” 

“You want me to discover the thrust-program the Ark Ship will use to change the direction of travel,” Kosi says. “So that we can supervise the process and possibly stop it, if necessary?” 

Mongoose hisses. 

“Your husband does not approve,” Kosi says. “You’re not even wearing any rings. How was I to know you’re married?”

“How do you know now?” Mongoose says.

“You are still here with her when no one else is,” she says. 

He looks so pleased I dig my elbow in his ribs. I frown. “She’s is not a person. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by her.” 

“If the Ark Ship discovers how you Lotor-people have ruined its solutions, it might decide to send us all into the nearest star. Is that what you are afraid of, Jeb?”

I cup Mongoose’s muzzle to stop him hissing. Could the Ark Ship do that? I wouldn’t know. “So it’s better to have a way to check, I thought.”   

“That’s a huge project. How long before you return?” Kosi says. 

She sounds plaintive. I feel guilty that I blamed Mongoose for letting himself be influenced by her. 

“I’m not a fast runner and I don’t fly,” I say. “It will take me some time to get to the Command Centre. Get into the Command Centre and to convince my friends of this need, and then to set up …”

“Yes. Blah blah blah. It’s going to take some time,” Kosi Lionhair says. “Go now.”

Mongoose lays his arm around my shoulders and starts me walking. He whispers into my ear. “Prattling because you’re nervous.”

I look into his eyes and nearly burst out weeping because he sends me that special look of love. I manage a smile. “And you’re not?”

“Terrible case of heebie jeebies. Feel my tremble? They’re ready for us.”

They are only Lithe and Limber. 

“Had to throw Meerkat in, he was that keen to be last with you,” Lithe says as he hauls me up the two-man-high door sill. “I needed him to accompany Thyal. Jeb, wait here right by me for Mongoose.” 

“We’ll be right after you but that isn’t any confirmation we’ll all end up in the same place,” Limber says.  

“I want some of that rope,” Mongoose says. “Everything you’re telling me.” 

The airlock doors into the alien ship close behinds us when Lithe disengages the net’s knots. “Stuck in here now until the other deigns to take notice.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Totems vs Living Entities

The narrator has been battling a health issue that needed a couple of hospital stays and numerous doctor visits, the reasons for the sometimes late and haphazardly timed posts. Life, you know, getting in the way of story. 

The machine pattern's last gasp before she frees Jeb's people? Finally an explanation for the transforming into animals disorder?

My people show what they think of his efforts by shifting their gaze to not have to look at him, to not have to meet glances with anyone. A deep silence grips them. 

“See how my Maremma dogs don’t have shadows?” Kosi says. 

She no longer knows anything about human emotions.

“That’s what happens when you fight on this ship and you don’t win.” She laughs. “Of course you don’t win. Why would I allow winning?” 

I want to explode and punish her somehow. Mongoose changes his stance somewhat and grips my upper arm. 

“I heard losing a fight on the Ark Ship just gets you turned back into food for the survivors,” she says. “What’s the fun in that? Here you just lose your human life. You end up an animal in my zoo. With no human soul and no shadow.”

“You’ve heard my wolves howling, probably. And I have a bear. A moose. And a couple of dinosaury things. The Ark Ship of course wants you all back. I don’t know why when so many of you are predators? I mean, it can’t believe you’ll balance out any ecosystems?”

I see people perking up. I see them gazing toward the airlocks as if planning how we’ll get a bunch of animals up to them. We only hear that the Ark Ship wants us back. What do we know about ecosystems and dinosaury things? 

“So I have got me no shadow,” the wolf says. “I noticed that. I put it down to the weird light-play in this ship. But no soul? Did I ever have a soul? How come I can still talk human-style? And no opportunity to flicker back into my human shape? I don’t believe it. You’re just a yearling. Making it up to suit your story.”

The wolf makes people feel even better. Meerkat strokes her back. What if the Kosi pattern is making it all up? 

Thyal takes that as his cue. Stalks out of our little crowd. “What I know. One. Only adults who’ve completed the studies may have children. Only they can teach their children the bowstring tensity that helps them to stay in their human forms.”

“Oh. Yeah. That’s right,” Meerkat says. “I can still hear my father saying, Keep yourself upright. At all times keep yourself strung as tense as a bow ready to send forth the arrow.”

More people are recalling their childhoods. “Always the same words.” “Tense as a bow.” “Why?”

I blink back tears. I recall my father teaching me and my brothers. “Tense as a bow, ready to send forth the arrow.” He even made us a bow and arrows to demonstrate. 

“Why?!” Thyal says. “To shore up your human-ness. Without that training you’d be flickering in and out of your totem without control. Training you very young so you’ll not remember your pup-time.”

He glares, effectively stopping any questions. “Two. Everyone has genetic traits that result in animal characteristics. Well,” he shoots a glance at me. “Nearly everyone.” 

This time a dozen call their why’s regardless. 

Thyal cuts through the noise and keeps talking until everyone is listening. “Of course it didn’t take me six years to learn just those two facts. But I’m not about to set up classes here. You heard the machine pattern. The Ark Ship wants us back.” He stops.

Starts again. “I could feel threatened by that. After all, our forefathers jumped ship.” 

He stops again. 

I try to help without alerting the machine pattern to everything going on. “Seems to you that we’ll have a better chance surviving?” Vain hope, in my opinion. 

“Right,” says Uncle Puma. “Obviously we first need to get back into our ship. Are we planning toward that?” 

Half a dozen shout their agreement and surge toward him. 

 Thyal shouts. “Once we’re up and in, we need to negotiate the ecosystem, or in other words the desert, mountain, field or forest habitats where the doors put us, fighting if and where necessary. Make your way to the Command Centre.”

“What about getting lost?” Vulture says.

 “How hard can finding the Command Centre be in a doughnut-shaped ship? Just start running, or flying as the case may be, and you’ll get to it?” Thyal says. “The Command Centre is the size of a trio of round-towns, straddling the width of the torus. Safe from attack, we’ll sing our totem-songs to help ourselves back into our human alterities.”

There’s a buzz of hope. 

“He makes it sound so so easy,” Mongoose says into my neck.

 “Fine,” the machine pattern says. “I’ll let all you people go. But not you, Jeb. I need you to stay.” 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: What Thyal Knows

Add a few wrinkles and he is Jeb's Uncle Puma, although of course this cat could well be a leopard morph ...

Image derived from:

Part three of this information-loaded discussion. All important stuff to know should you wish to continue reading the serial. 

Thyal coughs a deep animal cough that is half a growl. “The Shamans on Lotor have been saving their people from their animal morphs all these years by requiring the totem study of everyone.” 

“Don’t give me animal morphs,” Uncle Puma says. “I’ve just never believed in that transmogrification crap fed to us.”

I fear he speaks for most of us. It’s beginning to feel like I’m in a communal nightmare if there is such a thing. 

“Easy for you to say, my friend,” Thyal says. “Your parents were highly trained Shamans,” he says about Uncle Puma’s mother and father. “You’re such a credit to your upbringing that you don’t recall your baby-flickering.”

Baby-flickering? Whatever anyone recalls of their childhood, no one is prepared to ask. 

“Yet here we all are,” Limber says. “Stripped of our human forms.” 

Limber is incompletely transmogrified. He’s torn off one of his sleeves to accommodate a wing. “And you, Chief, look to me like a cat. Big, but still a cat.”

“Yeah. But what actually happened?” Lithe says, twinning Limber with the opposite wing and sleeve. 

Kosi laughs. 

I happen to have the Maremma dog in my line of sight and see it shape its mouth to produce that sound. Doesn’t tell me whether she’s riding or embedded herself. 

“Your bad luck are the animal genes you all have?” Kosi says. “When your ship was still a generation ship, way before time-travelling became the main mode of travel in these parts, its humans ate and ate leaving none of the substance to rear any animals. Apparently, the ArkShip got pretty cranky and added animal genes into everyone it could lay its hands on. As told to me by the few human people that came through my airlocks.”

I’m pretty sure I’m not one of the afflicted but that’s not to say my heart doesn’t burn for them that are. I sneak looks at Mongoose, Meerkat, all those I know personally. I hardly recognise them in their shocked stillness. 

I swallow, I wish I did have animal genes and that I was one of them. 

Uncle Puma scoffs. “Animal genes!” 

“And I know the ship’s AI did that by the weirded human animals that came through the airlocks. I even kept a few of them for my zoo. Go and have a look. But there were too many, you know? I had to do something.”

“That’s why you stole the Ark Ship’s molecular reconstructor?” I couldn’t help but say. 

“That was the good thing I did.” The dog/Kosi combination sounds smug. “I reinstalled it into Reception as you discovered. I fixed maybe the first four hundred that came through."
"Fixed how?" Thyal says
"I started from scratch with bodies I had the boots retrieve from the silos and superimposed the human memories extracted by the reconstructor onto the bodies.”

Boots? Silos? I am lost.

She laughed. “A totally unthankful lot, they weren’t happy with their new bodies. I told them and told them about the animal genes. So, ironically, a lot of the ones we just helped into the Ark Ship are of the four hundred.”

“Boots?” I say. “Silos? What’s ironic about them?”  

 “The four hundred wanting to go back to the Ark Ship?” Kosi says. “They have no animal genes now. How will the Ark Ship know them? This is the short version, Jeb. You want to know everything, you need to stay here with me.” 

One interesting thing. Apparently Kosi does not know of the amulets the four hundred now have. The Ark Ship does not appear to have rejected anyone at its doors so perhaps the amulets helped. 

“Then what?” Uncle Puma says. 

“I discovered that a bunch of the Ark Ship’s humans jumped out onto Lotor when I took the Ark Ship by there, them to live or die. I suppose that’s you all?” 

Uncle Puma looks toward Thyal for him to take the initiative and I am glad his gaze didn’t stop at me. Thyal does not because Kosi continues. 

“My bad luck again that the molecular reconstructor recognised your genes and just replicated you. Fixing you in your genetic-breed mode from the get-go. I was going to have such fun hunting you flickers. See if I could add to my zoo?” 

That word again. I dig my finger into Mongoose’s side. “Flickers?” he asks.

“Flickers are the uncontrolled humans-into-animals-and-back-again forms from the Ark Ship,” Kosi says.

This time Thyal does speak up. “Not one of us here is a flicker.” He looks fiercely round our circle like he is desperately trying to convince us of that reality. “We’re all highly trained totem-alterities.”

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Kosi's Plan

This nonDisney Rapunzel is from
and very thankful I am there are still nonDisney princesses

A few lines from the previous instalment follow to catch up to the action: If anything, Mongoose becomes more vigilant. He steps in front of me, his right front paw on his curved panga. “Choose your fighters, Jeb,” Kosi says. “Every time I win, I’ll let another one of the rest go through an airlock.”

This is a plan Kosi has had for a while. There’s nothing in it about any of us winning a fight or about her giving out information. 

“That wouldn’t be fair,” I say. “The dogs are children. Maremma-alterities. My friends are warriors when they are human, and hunters when they are in their totem-form.” 

Plus, I decide, Kosi’s opening of the doors as a prize for someone falling in combat is not an option. 

“They can fight my wolves. And my bears. And …”

“No.” I make it unarguable. “Your Maremma girl needs her little brothers and you need your wolves.” Company for the long years that she will remain on this spaceship, I don’t want to add. How do machine-patterns die? 

As if she’s reading my mind, she says, “If you go, I’ll be alone again, Jeb. I need you to stay. We’re both girls as I said. We’ll have the whole of the alien’s starship to play around in.”

“I’m a married woman and a half shaman. I have three years of training owing me,” I glance darkly at Thyal. “And after that, I still will not be a girl with time for playing.” Whatever it is I will be doing, will be on the Ark Ship, or on Earth. 

“I will not let you abandon me,” she says. “It’ll be you promising to stay that’ll get me to spill my info.”

Mongoose backs me toward Thyal who leans his striped thylacine’s body against my legs. 

Then I see what he is seeing. The dogs have crept nearer, with the front one half on his haunches, ready for a leap? The dog has eyes only for me. Of course. Kosi is using the best visual and auditory sensors available. 

Thyal twitches his tail and more of the totem alterities crowd around us.

 “A lot of paws and hooves surround your feet on the floor,” Kosi says. “They’re all crowding you? Are you breathless from the squash? Shall I snip, snap, tear them from you?” 

The rest of the Maremma dogs join her. They display with barking, snarling and slavering. 

The wolf growls a deep chesty rumble. I’m in the crowd and I can’t see where she directs her displeasure but I hear the Maremma voices quaver. A couple of the dogs retreat even as they paw the deck. 

Kosi controls them but does she ride them or is she embodied in them? “You’re not alone either,” I say. “You have twelve Maremma totem-alterities and at least one Maremma girl. Where are you keeping her? You have the rest of the wolves…” though it does appear at least one of them has changed sides, “…and a number of very large animals that I heard but didn’t see.”

“The dogs are not human, Jeb,” Kosi says. 

I don’t allow myself to be distracted. “They are as human as I am, Kosi. Good thing you don’t know the totem I was or you might have changed me as well.” Oops.

“Oh! Me guessing your totem can be our Rapunzel game. Wasn’t me that changed the Maremmas, or your people. I told you your ship only wants animals.”

So not oops, a useful bit of knowledge. My people, my totem-alterities, moan at the news that it is the Ark Ship that changed them. 

Did my Earth-born mother ever tell me a story with a Rapunzel in it? It doesn’t spring to mind if she did. My Old-Earthborn father certainly didn’t. “You haven’t yet told us why the Ark Ship changed its people?” I make it a challenge. 

“You’re meant to be a shaman, I thought,” Kosi says. “They know.”

“I’m a half shaman, half-trained I told you.” I squeeze Mongoose’s paw and slide my hand down to Thyal’s head. I feel a snarl of fury on his snout. I whisper. “Talk, old man. Just enough and no more.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: What Kosi Knows

A threesome such as Kosi's Maremmas, perhaps. From the Guardian Newspaper site,
Victorian (Aus) Zoos are training Marremmas to guard bandicoots
All kinds of hints from several people including the machine pattern has this section pushing toward a crisis.
Lithe and Limber push a way through the scrum of dogs and jog back to us. The pack follows them but the wolf with her hackles up steps into their path behind Limber and Lithe. 

The dogs pause, seem to think the better of their situation and lay down in a half-circle. Awaiting developments?  

Limber starts talking at a fast clip. “We think the machine pattern inhabits the dogs. The Ark Ship has doors within doors. Sometimes they’re lined up, sometimes not.” 

“I got the idea we inserted people into a lot of different habitats,” Lithe says. “Ark Ship spooling?”

The machine pattern that calls itself Kosi Lionhair chuckles. That sound burbles from one of the dogs. “Only one of the tricks of the Ark Ship,” she says. “On a different track entirely, I believe the Engineer is preparing to bail out? He finds me a deal harder to cope with than his previous mistress. Funny that I never found anything resembling what he says he looks like when he’s embodied. He’ll take his shuttle because he’ll need all of his support systems. He’ll be making for Earth, I suspect. Won’t bother me. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say.” 

Her doggy laughter goes lost in a piercing steam-whistle-like scream coming from the top of the pyramid. We run to stand in the gap between the cliff and the disk and stare upward, paws or hands over our ears. We get a face-full of the hot dust roiling down and sudsing through the cavities of the stricken totem reality. In a few seconds, the scream becomes as shrill as a Lotor wind over sand, then to a metal-on-metal screech, and finally to the full-throated roar of a desert storm. 

We all fall down—the floor shakes under us like a Lotor-quake—when the alien’s shuttle lifts off. 

The silence afterwards is deafening. 

In a while we recover enough to rise and dust off. 

“What amazes me most about this event …,” the machine pattern says. The dogs have come forward and mingle with us. “….Is that we didn’t shake loose from the Ark Ship? I did a fine fine thing getting the two stuck, wouldn’t you agree?”

  “A fine thing? What is the machine on about?” Uncle Puma says. 

The lead dog barks dog-style to get Uncle Puma’s attention. Continues with the human-sounding voice, pulling his mouth in impossible ways, for a dog. “If I hadn’t got the alien’s ship stuck in the Ark Ship’s torus, I wouldn’t have been able to warn you of the Ark Ship’s temper tantrum?” 

Uncle Puma’s attention is riveted. I recall that I’ve heard the machine pattern before about this. Not so my companions. 

“Just because the Shamans jumped ship all those years ago doesn’t mean that they let the generations following forget the reasons for jumping,” Thyal says. 

The reasons-for-jumping more than we know from Soowei’s stories? I am interested! And I’m not the only one. Everyone in the younger set waits for Thyal to elaborate. He shakes his head. Now is not the time. 

Fine. Sometime when we’re all sitting around a campfire back in the ArkShip perhaps. 

“Let the machine-girl tell us what she has discovered in the two centuries,” Vulture says. “It sounds like we might find out something more.”

“More recent information is bound to be helpful,” Uncle Puma says. “How to get it out of a machine pattern mixed into a dog-pattern is our next project. Any ideas, given that our knowledge is two hundred years old?”

Thyal just shakes his head again.

“I could fight one of the dogs,” Meerkat says. “I will choose information as the prize.” 

“Oh good!” the machine pattern says. “I needn’t put Jeb up as a prize then. I need her to stay.”

If anything, Mongoose becomes more vigilant. He steps in front of me, his right front paw on his curved panga. 

“Choose your fighters, Jeb,” Kosi says. “Every time I win, I’ll let another one of the rest go through an airlock.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tha Half Shaman in Space: Wren is Taken

Fluttering wren from
Jeb and the others in charge send the small Totems through the airlocks. What possessed Wren to take the risk she did? Likely it's something we all have to wait to find out until the survivors meet again. 

The crowds by the airlocks decrease whenever the airlock doors slide apart and people manage to clamber in. Some then help haul up those coming after them. Some encourage the incoming farther into the little room. The doors slide shut. 

Breathe in … out. 

“We’re down to fifty, Half Shaman Jeb.” 

That could only be Shaman Thyalsene making a small joke to lighten the dark we are in. I’m the half to his whole, being only half-schooled. There’s so much I want to learn yet. I notice with a start that in his totem-alterity he’s as whole as I am, where in life he is missing an arm. 

“The machine pattern is a ten-ways liar,” says someone darkly-furred and the size of a wolf. “I’ve been watching the intake rate. She closes the doors on a whim. There’s no system to her rescue.”

I don’t recall a wolf in our troop after Thayne was taken back on Lotor, and nor in Isis’s group. Only wolves I know of are the ones in the over-world Kosi told us about, and I never saw them. Is this a trojan wolf carrying the pattern?

“The pattern is teasing us,” I say, controlling my anxiety. “She probably realises we’ve been adding totem-alterities to the mix. She was a human teen of thirteen when she was converted into a machine pattern.”

“Forever an inexperienced yearling then,” the wolf says. “In a wolf-pack, she would soon be dead through her own stupidity. Here and now, it is we that die.” 

So wisely said, I want to say. I don’t because I suspect this alterity to be …? What? Not a carrier of the machine pattern it sounds so denigrating. It seems to know things wolfish things like how a wolf-pack operates that she could’ve learned in totem study. 

“This fighting the pattern expects to …?” Meerkat says.

I shrug. Shake my head. I don’t know. 

“Thyal, can we break such a pattern?” Mongoose says. 

“It was her in conflict with the Ark Ship,” I say. “She says. She hints of things that she knows about our ship that we …” I search through appropriate words, totem-alterities just will not do “… of the Old-Earth-born need to know.” 

Vulture flies back in under the overhang and perches on the wolf’s head. “You thought the chief abandoned you? He wouldn’t miss this fight if you paid him,” she says. 

It’s Vulture and I take her word as truth.

Uncle Puma limps into the circle. “Getting the last of them through was always going to be the problem. No way to raise the ones being the pyramid,” he says indicating a handful of people resting on the floor at the base of the righthand airlock. “Took a tumble myself,” he says shaking his leg. 

“Any ideas about the fighting? The how?” He urgently asks everyone, but most particularly me. 

“Keep this overhanging place for our haven and guard it,” Meerkat says.

“That’s a given,” Uncle Puma says. “Her fighting us we can deal easily.” 

“She hasn’t got the life-suit anymore,” I say. “It’s a long story,” I add to his disbelief. 

 “Or she’ll make us fight each other,” Mongoose mumbles as though we haven’t decided that Kosi can’t hear us if she’s listening by way of sensors hidden in structural fittings. 

I stare at the wolf. She/it has shouldered into our circle. With her head slightly askance and the upper ear turned toward whoever is talking, she’s listening all right. 

Uncle Puma nods. “That’s one way.”

“Red-tail made it into the airlock,” Meerkat says. “Crow too.”

The left-side airlock doors slam with finality. We can have no idea what happens next in there. Go well, Red-tail. Go well, Crow. Perhaps we’ll meet again. 

At the eastern airlock a cacophony of barking, yammering and whining breaks out. 

I see the missing Maremma dogs. A dozen pale golden shapes leap and bite at Lithe and Limber boosting Man-of-the-Forest toward the centre airlock opening. 


Wren flutters from the airlock. She jibs and jives among the dogs, taking their attention from the struggle. Half crazy, they snap and bite, managing to graze each other and the air where Wren was. 

Isis wedges her feet against the half-closing doors and with an almighty effort manages to pull in Man by one of his long ape arms and a handful of his red hair. They tumble backwards and the doors slide together. Go well, Isis. Go well, Man of the Forest. 

Snap! One of the dogs sports a mouthful of feathers. 

Wren is taken. Ant? I don’t know.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Testing the Machine Pattern

What Man-of-the-Forest might look like in his Totem-alterity from
I don't at this point in the writing understands why Jeb cruelly encourages Ant to complete the transformation. How did that slip in? 

Red-tail seizes the moment and salutes Uncle Puma and Thyal. Masking the sound of Crow’s leathery wingbeats with the purposeful scuffing of her feet, she makes her way into the southern crowd. 

Crow settles on Red-tail’s shoulder. 

The rest of us wait for a reaction but there is no comment from the invisible entity who I am tempted to label the enemy. I breathe out silently. Crow is one totem-alterity saved from the hunt to come.

Uncle Puma narrows his eyes at me and I nod. We can do this again. 

“Ise, Man Lithe’n Limber, you organise in the east,” he says.

The machine pattern gives no indication that she heard Red-tail’s shuffle, or the barely separated names of Isis, Man-of-the-Forest in his totem-alterity, and Lithe and Limber. With an ape and two men on bare silent feet, Isis in her boots might be the only one making her way to the eastern doors. 

I guess I wasn’t the only one knowing there are sensors in the floors and walls. Well, duh. Everyone came through the over-world. All four melt into their assigned crowd without that crowd’s resistance. The airlock beckons a two-man-height above them. 

Uncle Puma names his next pair. “Vulture and I will lead the northern crowd.”

Mongoose tenses, but Uncle Puma with Vulture already settled on his shoulder turns and strides forward. Perhaps I agreed to his plan? Plus, we probably all agreed with Thyal that Kosi is not stupid. If she does have a presence in the floor and the walls and even the airlock doors themselves—didn’t she promise to open them?—there’s no surety that she’ll let the organisers get away with their respective crowds. 

Perhaps the volunteers don’t expect to escape. The trying is the thing, they’ll be thinking. I calculate. Seventy-nine totem-alterities minus four. Seventy-five creatures to be hunted? Way too many because Kosi has a low boredom threshold. I had those same words applied to me once and I know what they mean. I flap my hand in front of Ant. “Complete the change, my good friend.”

The process is horrifying. I turn aside because I can’t bear to watch. A man becomes a tiny ant? How will he be a man again? 

I find Wren, also small, a little grey bird, quaking on a strut. I point. Gesture. Take Ant. Fly. Join Isis and Man of the Forest.

There’s a stork. Who? Doesn’t matter. I send her on. Her long toes placed carefully make no sound on the starship’s decking. She presses herself against someone at the back of the crowd until he takes her under his arm, and folds up and tucks in her legs. 

That same easy acceptance again by the human. I’m suspicious of it. 

There are still too many of us though Mongoose and Meerkat and Thyal are helping send those with non-combative totem-alterities into the crowds. 

Which take them in, one and all. What do our Ark Ship-originating humans know about the transmogrification process? Surely only what they learned in the alien starship courtesy of a machine-pattern called Kosi Lionhair? 

It seems important. I’m suspicious of these humans. I mop my neck with my shirt collar. Sweat trickling from under my hair usually means I’m letting fright get the better of me. 

I breathe. Deep. In … out. Calm yourself, Jeb. The exit is happening. The crowd here under the disk becomes smaller with each creature we send on. 

Breathe in … out. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Kosi Back in the Picture

The last real Thylacine in captivity. 

I stare so hard into the crowd that has Lithe and Limber in it that they turn and stare back. I don’t know what expression they see on my face but they pass their work to the nearest bystanders and start to make their way to us. Lithe alerts Red-tail by tweaking her braided hair and she comes too. 

All the leaders in the same place again. What is it with us? “Were you in your Totem-shape when you first woke?” I ask Mongoose. 

“On the platform. When I didn’t see you, I thought I would go look for you. You’re getting an idea?” Mongoose says.

I’m remembering. “The once-human, now-machine pattern calling herself Kosi Lionhair stole the Ark Ship’s de-and-re-constructor and installed it in this ship. She says. In Reception. Where we came in.” I shudder. “I so don’t want to be the only one to know that.” 

“Well …” Red-tail says. “You have successfully spread it to the rest of us. And?”

As if it has been waiting for a cue, the Kosi Lionhair entity giggles. “One door-opener reporting for duty! Sir!” There’s a clacking sound accompanying that I’m not familiar with. Nor is anyone else going by their expressions.

 “Well, that fell flat,” the entity says. “Heels clicking? The salute?”

Everyone around me stares at the substructure. I don’t see anything about it that explains Kosi’s presence. 

“Never mind,” The Kosi-entity says. “What I’m on about is clearing the deck. Since the fighting will have to be down here?”

There’s no reaction from my companions.

“You forgot to tell them, Jeb?”

I am mute. Mongoose shifts his arm and hugs me to him like he will never let me go. 

“You’re not to fight, Jeb,” Kosi says. “I need you unhurt.”  

Doesn’t tell me whether she sees us or sees how Mongoose holds onto me. 

“Sounds like the doors to the airlocks are about to be convinced to open,” Uncle Puma says into the air while he also gestures at his crew. “Red-tail, you and Crow go to the south-side airlock. Help and organise.”

“How many per airlock intake?” he asks the air again. Red-tail doesn’t move. Crow doesn’t move. 

Oh. It’s experimental. 

Kosi giggles. “The airlocks sometimes hold fifty, sometimes only thirty. You should ask them that are so keen to get back into the Ark Ship and it only spat them out a few cycles ago?”

I understand from that that the human people with us were born on the Ark Ship and have spent a few cycles, whatever they are in length, on the alien starship. They do seem keen to leave. 

“It is uncanny how the machine-pattern’s replies seem to answer the Chief’s questions,” Thyal says. 

He can still talk! I’m so so glad. 

“But I assure you,” he says in the ponderous way he has sometimes, “That there’s nothing down here that she can use to see or to hear. No sensors. Her timing is so good that she must still have a superlative imagination.” 

“What has that to do with anything?” Uncle Puma says. 

“She is imagining the conversations that we might be having and inserting herself in them,” Thyal says. “Moreover, I suspect that her world’s level of technological development was higher than that existing in this starship.”

Isis raises her eyebrows at Thyal’s more-overing. 

“If I’m making any sense?” Thyal says.

“Hardly,” Isis says. “If she was human, she surely would have originated on Earth?”

“By which either of you mean to say…?” Uncle Puma says. 

“Thyal is saying Kosi’s pattern’s development over-reaches the level of technology of this starship,” I say. 

Seeing various people make ready to ask difficult questions, I hurry on. “And Isis is saying that if Kosi was human she surely would’ve come from Earth and how can Earth be more advanced than this starship when Kosi in this ship is meant to have beaten the Ark Ship’s AI into submission?”

Not just Uncle Puma is silenced. I get a lot of dark looks. I’m quite confused as to who knows what and who doesn’t. 

Thyal takes the heat off me. He shakes his blunt thylacine head. “I was astounded by the simplicity down here when we arrived to do mischief. The command dash is nothing but a bunch of illogically paired on-off switches. If the rest of this starship is the same, no wonder that the child-that-was, if she originally came from a technologically superior future Earth, decided to hitch a ride with the Ark Ship.”

Just like that Thyal gives all of us a different understanding of the machine-pattern and, more importantly, of the Earth we are all hoping to get back to. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Save Us Again?

Mongoose really really is a mongoose

An important segment in which Jeb faces her POD, her point-of-disbelief, which is the magic inherent in this science-fictional story-world. 
[PODs must be explained in such a way as to be believable to the characters and acceptable as an internal truth to readers ... but this segment is the set-up for that to happen on a later day]  

“A message for those near enough to an airlock to see it in detail,” Uncle Puma says. “Pass it on. I want to know about any ridge, door handle, or slot on the outside of the doors, and I want to know about any keypads or other features besides, below or above the doors.”

 He apparently does not expect any answers any time soon because he approaches me through the crowd by dint of changing places with the people in his way, each of them pressing past each other, and finally forcing Mongoose from his position. “Jeb, step down so we can talk without every man woman and child reading our lips?”

“Better if you step up, Chief,” Meerkat says. “See all the action from up here. Talk with your back to the humans if necessary. There cannot be any secrets from your Totems and so we all say."

All the totem-alterities that can add their growls to the and-so-we- all-say. Ant does not. I squeeze Mongoose’s arm hard to not cry. 

Meerkat steps down. He and Uncle Puma do a tight little dance to change places. It reminds me of the way people stepped by one another on the dangerous single-file paths on Lotor. Uncle Puma joins me on the disk’s substructure. 

“I see that you are your usual self,” he says.

Huh? Is he moaning about something I said? Did? Didn’t? 

Beside me, Mongoose stiffens. Thyal growls. His forepaws are on the pediment. His bared teeth are nearer than Uncle Puma is comfortable about. Thyal hasn’t a human voice? 

“Why didn’t Jeb transmogrify when you did, Thyal?” Uncle Puma says. “Why are eighty of our combined OldEarth-born troops in their totem-alterities, Isis? That’s what I’m asking.”

Isis leaps up beside us. She scans the three crowds. She slumps because Uncle Puma is right. Only the handful-and-one of those of us originally from Lotor are unaffected by the inexplicable. Red-tail, Isis, me, Uncle Puma, Lithe and Limber. Plus Jackal who didn’t make it. The four hundred minus their dead hitching a ride with us are as human as humans can be. 

Interestingly, the Maremma dogs in their Maremma-dog alterities were going to be joining us too. I haven’t seen them yet. 

Uncle Puma obviously doesn’t believe that every one of the totem-alterities is so advanced in their studies that they can transmogrify at will. And anyway, I wonder, if they were, and they could, why would they now at this moment? 

I feel weak in the knees thinking it because this is stuff I have never believed. I decided long ago that transmogrifying is a fantasy. Never in the two hundred year history of humans on Lotor has anyone transmogrified, and I didn’t respect any grown-up who spouted a witness-account. It was always a cousin of a cousin kind of story.

At Shaman School, I learned that the magic that the Shamanic Way taught was a cover to hide our people from the big bad planet called Lotor. That I could accept, and I settled happily into my studies. Then I was kidnapped and thrown down a well. Captured by the sand-people. 

The fauns I met in the prison shook me though in the main I could ignore their existence in favour of taking notice of their presence. How they fitted into the prison world and so on. In the goodness of time Uncle Puma’s band turned up and I escaped to join them. It was then or never. I met Mongoose and because I wanted him, I ignored his beliefs. I feel my face get hot. 

Feverishly I continue my thoughts. So how was it that I performed the shaman’s magic in the Yellow City to save us all? Remember how both Mongoose and Thyal transmogrified to fight the people from the block village? 

I thought I dreamed it. I remember Limber and Lithe in their black swan mode fetching me from the underworld. Dreams dreams dreams. I remember calling for bread-and-honey, what my mother always fed me when I was low on blood sugar, which was when I dreamed my visionary dreams. 

And they were just dreams! 

I search for Mongoose. He’s nearby, studying me with narrowed eyes—I didn’t know a mongoose could do that—as if he’s living my argument with me. I pull my lips into a sickly lop-sided kind of smile though I have never felt less like smiling. 

He frowns and leaps up onto the pediment with me. Uncle Puma on my other side almost falls off. “Easy,” he says. 

Mongoose says nothing. He lays his furry arm over my shoulders. Nuzzles my neck with his mongoose snout. His mongoose-whiskers tickle me along my jaw. What is he trying to tell me? 

“That I really really am a mongoose,” he says, confirming that he’s reading my mind or he’s better at reading me than I am. “That I really am furry. And like you, never in my wildest dreams did I think that that could come true no matter how hard I studied.” 

He speaks into my neck. I’m holding onto him to not fall, or fall apart, to be honest. “But before?” I say. “At the Rose-pink Tower? You and Thyal?”

 “Your dreams my Jeb, with which you saved us.” He nuzzles me. “Can you save us again?”