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it."
Andrews nodded slowly. "Three weeks one-way for the
Pathfinder
. Any idea how fast Rooshrike ships are?"
"No, but we already know the Ctencri scrimped on the technology they sold us
way back when. I'm going to guess oh, a month at most for the other aliens to
get ships here for close-range analysis of the situation. Until then we'll
have to hope the Rooshrike can hold off any other bargain hunters."
"And that the Rooshrike themselves don't get ideas."
Meredith grimaced. "There's that, too."
"A truly great joke," the young Whist said, snapping his ripper claw with a
gesture of extreme pleasure.
"A great joke, indeed," the older Whist facing him on the viewscreen agreed.
"Second only to the finding of the Spinneret itself."
"True. And the M'zarch are normally such humorless people."
"We should send a representative to Rooshrike space to see this thing."
The young Whist pondered a moment. "But such an action will have no humor at
all to it," he said, touching a control with his leftmost antenna. Above his
compatriot's face a map appeared, accompanied by a list of numbers. "The
predictor calculates an eighty-nine fraction that the Whissst will take such
an action."
"I understand your reluctance, my scion. But you must learn the fact that not
all one's actions may be humorous. In this case it is more profitable to have
a representative available to observe than to extract a joke from the
situation.
Besides" the older Whist twitched his antennae "who knows what jokes the
Spinneret has yet to offer?"
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"True. I would rather take humorous action when dealing with offworlders, but
I
accept your logic. I will place my calls."
"Good." The screen blanked.
The young Whist wasted no time in keying the first number onto the screen, but
even so the monitor informed him there would be a slight delay. Small wonder,
with each of his same-year brothers trying to call their assigned less-year
kin, each of whom would call five others & and likely other families had
received the word and were engaged in similar operations. The pyramid was
undoubtedly an efficient way to pass news, but there was no humor whatsoever
in its practical application: the lines always jammed.
Still & Gazing at the map, the young Whist brightened. Even if the Whissst
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were
expected to go to Astra, the ships could trace a curve past Rooshrike space
and come in from the same direction as the Orspham. A small joke, to be sure;
but small was better than nothing.
The line cleared and the summons tone sounded. Settling his claws in the
proper posture for greeting a less-year brother, he waited for the other to
answer.
* * *
On the Pom home world the news went out as a rippling series of sonar waves,
amplified at thousands of strategic points along their journey until they
reached every reef and wavetop of the mighty ocean. To assemble the people
took far longer, even with the speed and tirelessness Poms prided themselves
on. The discussion could have been held more simply, of course, via either the
sonic amplifiers or the emergency ELF radio equipment. But from time
immemorial a
Gathering had been the required form for dealing with major issues & and a
threat to Pom borders definitely qualified as a major issue.
"It is not a threat to us," the Prime Male insisted, swimming a convoluted
path among the assembled Poms as he assessed popular agreement with his point
of view. "We need not act. The Humans and their Spinneret are the object of
interest.
Pom territory is not threatened."
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"Is it not?" the Prime Female countered from her own path. "What of the
possible violation of Pom space by aliens? Astra is approachable only through
Rooshrike or Pom space, and the Rooshrike are well known as fierce and jealous
warriors within their own borders. Will not invaders thus choose to travel Pom
space instead?"
"Space is free," the Prime Male insisted. "We have no indication Pom worlds or
ships would be threatened."
"See the opportunity for advancement," the Second Female suggested, her path
interweaving that of the Prime Female to indicate their basic agreement. "The
Spinneret cable has many potential uses, as do the other technologies
involved. To purchase from the Humans will undoubtedly prove easier than to
purchase from a successful invader."
"To strengthen our border defense thus serves our interests twice," the Prime
Female added. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]