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.”