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.”