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"Don't look at me," he said. "I'm just a tourist."
"Come on," said Miro. "You're here because your people are at risk the same as
ours. This is a tough decision and you have to vote. You have the most at risk,
actually, because even the earliest descolada codes we have might well reveal
the whole biological history of your people since the virus first came among
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"Then again," said Firequencher, "it might mean that since they already know how
to destroy us, we have nothing to lose."
"Look," said Miro. "We have no evidence that these people have any kind of
manned starflight. All they've sent out so far are probes."
"All that we know about," said Jane.
"And we've had no evidence of anybody coming around to check out how effective
the descolada had been at transforming the biosphere of Lusitania to prepare it
to receive colonists from this planet. So if they do have colony ships out
there, either they're already on the way so what different does it make if we
share this information, or they haven't sent any which means that they can't."
"Miro's right," said Quara, pouncing. Miro winced. He hated being on Quara's
side, because now everybody's annoyance with her would rub off on him. "Either
the cows are already out of the barn, so why bother shutting the door, or they
can't get the door open anyway, so why put a lock on it?"
"What do you know about cows?" asked Ela disdainfully.
"After all these years of living and working with you," said Quara nastily, "I'd
say I'm an expert."
"Girls, girls," said Jane. "Get a grip on yourselves."
Again, everyone but Miro turned to her in surprise. Val wouldn't have spoken up
during a family conflict like this; nor would the Jane they knew -- though of
course Miro was used to her speaking up all the time.
"We all know the risks of giving them information about us," said Miro. "We also
know that we're making no headway and maybe we'll be able to learn something
about the way this language works after having some give and take."
"It's not give and take," said Jane. "It's give and give. We give them
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information they probably can't get any other way, information that may well
tell them everything they need to know in order to create new viruses that might
well circumvent all our weapons against them. But since we have no idea how that
information is coded, or even where each specific datum is located, how can we
interpret the answer? Besides, what if the answer is a new virus to destroy us?"
"They're sending us the information necessary to construct the virus," said
Quara, her voice thick with contempt, as if she thought Jane were the stupidest
person who ever lived, instead of arguably the most godlike in her brilliance.
"But we're not going to build it. As long as it's just a graphic representation
on a computer screen --"
"That's it," said Ela.
"What's it?" said Quara. It was her turn to be annoyed now, for obviously Ela
was a step ahead of her on something.
"They aren't taking these signals and putting them up on a computer screen. We
do that because we have a language written with symbols that we see with the
naked eye. But they must read these broadcast signals more directly. The code
comes in, and they somehow interpret it by following the instruction to make the
molecule that's described in the broadcast. Then they 'read' it by -- what,
smelling it? Swallowing it? The point is, if genetic molecules are their
language, then they must somehow take them into their body as appropriately as
the way we get the images of our writing from the paper into our eyes."
"I see," said Jane. "You're hypothesizing that they're expecting us to make a
molecule out of what they send us, instead of just reading it on a screen and
trying to abstract it and intellectualize it."
"For all we know," said Ela, "this could be how they discipline people. Or
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attack them. Send them a message. If they 'listen' they have to do it by reading
the molecule into their bodies and letting it have its effect on them. So if the
effect is poison or a killing disease, just hearing the message subjects them to
the discipline. It's as if all our language had to be tapped out on the back of [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]