When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
Week 5, Playing with Artifacts
We left our heroes on the pantope, trying to understand psychic artifacts from the saurian civilization of Late Cretaceous Earth. Sophie uses telepathy and patharchy to mull over the alien emotions they evoked, but fails to identify any of them.
We settle down for a couple of weeks of improving our techniques. Tom extends the spectrum of invisibility on the Glass Daggers further into the infrared and ultraviolet, until even Daewen can't find them without using feel or special psychic tricks. Daewen herself designs a non-gravitic flying belt she calls a "gravity tuner." She persuades the pantope to run off three copies of this.
After two weeks, everyone piles into the shuttle except Chris, Sophie, and Victoria, to try a slightly more invasive run of the Glass Daggers. We settle on a small, outlying town at the edge of saurian settlement, on a river in the East African continent. Alag, Daewen, Cantrel, and Jonathan disembark on the edge of a forest several miles away while Lorelei, Pfusand, and Tom hover high above in the shuttle. We launch our Glass Daggers and Daewen warms up her far-seer.
The saurian village is built mostly of wood, very naturally since it is near a forest. None of the buildings have more than two floors, and most have one. They are blocky, with very little slope to the roofs. We send our Daggers cruising about at second-floor level.
There are plenty of saurians wandering about. "Wandering" is the right word; their movements seem somehow aimless. Many carry things in their hands, though we can't always identify the things. (Could an ET identify a WalkMan?) The saurians come in a variety of typical reptilian colors, do not wear clothes, but do wear various kinds of ornaments.
We find a smithy. The proprietor (if there is one) seems to be a cooper as well as a coppersmith. There are two saurians at work there, but once again there is an aimless feeling to their actions, though they are brisk and coordinated. Cantrel suggests we are dealing with a hive-mind, and that activity is less efficient far from its central regions.
Jonathan steers his Dagger down to the river, to look over the boats and docks. There's nothing remarkable. He goes looking for a fish market, hoping to see their culture in action. Eventually, he finds an indoor fish market, where saurians are trading dried fish. The Glass Daggers have audio pickups, but we hear no language. Telepathy? Ultrasonic speech? There's only an occasional gesture, and that lackadaisical feel to their actions.
Daewen, meanwhile, has been having a dreadful time focusing the far-seer. At last, she finds the river the town is one, and starts steering the focus down it.
Tom has sent a Dagger after Jonathan's and brings it down to saurian face-level, to "lock eyes" with one. This is a test of the invisibility. The invisibility works fine, but in the process Tom figures out part of the aimlessness: it is very hard to "lock eyes" with the saurians because they do not fix their gaze intently on things, the way humans do. Tom theorizes that they have less distinction between foveal and peripheral vision. He also notes that their wrists are not as limber as human ones. They have three digits, one a good thumb and the other two semi-opposable.
Switching to a higher camera, Tom looks over the town. There is not much street plan and no obvious center of action like a temple or town hall. There IS a park or lawn or other form of green. Lorelei sends her Dagger over there and finds saurians frolicking (?) in some obscure way. She also runs across the (outdoor) fresh-fish market, half a mile from town. It's no more informative than the indoor one.
Jonathan now looks for an airport for the air-boats we saw earlier. The only candidate is a lawn with a spindly tower. This could be a docking tower as for dirigibles, or a fire-tower for overlooking the forest. Or both, or neither. Jonathan also figures out another piece of the aimless impression: the saurians do not appear to take any notice of each other. Not only do their eyes not fix on things, they do not seem to take one another into account by their body language, except when they actually hand things to one another. Well, if they are all telepathic, the telepathy can substitute for gesture and facial expression just as well as for language.
Eventually, we pack up into the shuttle and rendezvous with the garage door. We then show recordings from the Glass Daggers to the crew who stayed behind.
Tom remarks that he may just be insufficiently cosmopolitan, but the saurians strike him as rushed, or under-evolved. Chris theorizes that the Captain stowed the segment here and thus inadvertently caused the saurian evolution. This would tie in with why only the Captain and his associates can get here.
Sophie and Chris conduct a series of experiments with the saurian data-ball, using partial and triggered Shields. They want to see how well we can defend against saurian psychic contact.
The results are discouraging. The saurian telepathy recordings are both strange enough to worm their way AROUND human shields and powerful enough to simply push THROUGH human shields. (Elves count as human in this context.) Even ordinary psilencers won't keep the stuff out. Chris tries this and wakes in the autodoc. Daewen comes in and asks what all the mental screaming is about. You need a third-stage psilencer, such as we picked up in the CoDominion, to shut the stuff out. At least it CAN be shut out.
Undeterred by his psychic harrowing, Chris proposes to use elven Glamour to counterfeit the signatures of saurian psi. Daewen is impressed by his audacity and alliteration.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.