On Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. All three intelligences hover on the edge of extinction. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society might not only save all three – but become something not even they could predict. Something entirely new...
The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Xiomara; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.
“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
“Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
“Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)
After taking the biggest risk I’d ever taken in almost seventeen years of life, I held up my hands and remarkably, Herd, Pack, and the other half of the Tribe – Xiomara – shut up.
I took a deep breath, held it, then said, “Someone’s been on our tail since we left the Dome. We need to search our clothes and bags,” I looked at GURion, “And you need to scan everyone one of us – naked.” I waited for Xio to protest. The Yown’Hoo and Kiiote didn’t usually wear body covering.
I didn’t expect Dao-hi, Herd Mother, to say, “The Human Master will scan us with our tentacles all extended.” The Herd jerked as if they’d been shocked. I guess they had been. The entire group shuddered and swung their heads a little. Males in the herd did combat with their thick, heavy heads – their brains were deep in the heart of their ribcage, in pretty much the same place as a Human heart. Seeing two Herd males banging their heads together was impressive. But they almost always kept their tentacles sheathed. They treated them the way Humans treated their genitals – covered ninety-nine percent of the time. Because when the tentacles of Herd members touched, they were able to pass crude memories via chemicals modified by the sensory experiences of an individual. The practice of Herds appearing to “shun” a member was at first attributed to mental illness in the shunned person. Then some sort of disease. Humans finally settled on the person chased out as a sort of “scapegoat”. When Humans realized that the “scapegoats” were actually incredibly brave explorers, they had no idea what to do.
The Kiiote seemed to collapse like marionettes with their strings cut. When they did that, microscopic “nerve flowers” opened at the tips of individual hairs clustered in certain patches of fur. They touched similar nerves in other members of the Pack. It wasn’t telepathy. A Pack literally shared thoughts. The collective minds of the Pack were able to think at a level far beyond that of individual minds.
I swallowed then said, “Somebody knows where we are. Once we’re clean, we exit the tunnel and then meet up with it again west of the city of Foley. We can move faster overland – and anyone following us will figure we’ve kept on through the tunnel because it’s the easy route.” I looked around at everyone, finally turning to face Retired.
He grunted and said, “Sounds like a plan.” He pointed at Xio and said, “You. Back to the room.”
“Why start with me?” she exclaimed.
Retired looked at me and lifted his chin a bit. I took a deep breath and said, “He’s starting with you because…” I thought a moment, then said, “Would you want a Kiiote licking you from head to toe…”
She slugged me, snarling, “Fine.” She looked at Retired, adding, “Let’s go. Test me to see if I have some sort of tracking device in my head or something.” Qap and Xin belched with laughter, the rest of the Pack doing the same, though they sounded more like hiccoughs.
Retired rolled his eyes, pointed at the Pack Leaders and said, “Qap, Xin, you’re next.” They shut up. “Dao-hi, send Lan-mai-ti on ahead to see what we’re getting ourselves into.” The Herd Mother snapped a surreptitious tentacle which didn’t leave the sheath and the small Yown’Hoo scurried off into the darkness. He pointed at me and said, “Right after our glorious new leader.”
I gulped, my insides responding in an unexpected way. I can only explain it as a surge of excitement. Xio shot me a smirk as she headed back for the rooms. I deflected the sudden surge of excitement by saying, “Why both searching us. It’s obviously Great Uncle Rion!”
Everyone stopped moving. GURion turned to me. I thought he was going to smack me for being impertinent. Instead, he nodded, “A wise precaution, though I can assure you that I could know if I carried a tracker. A long-placed subroutine in my programming routinely seeks out foreign devices, analyzes them, then destroys them.”
Scowling, I said, “What if it’s not foreign?”
GURion held my look for a long time until it finally inclined its head and said, “Wiser than I had dared hope for.” He looked at Retired, nodded, and said, “Scan me first, then I can help do the others.”
Retired lifted his chin to Xio and said, “You want him to do your scanning?”
Her lips thinned. I knew the answer before she said, it in a soft voice, “Yes, please.”
“Come on, Data. Let’s get this over with so we can start moving. Then you do Xio and I’ll do Oscar the Great.”
I thought I’d found my voice when I started to say, “Let’s get moving.” It didn’t come out strong at all, and I’m pretty sure no one was impressed when my voice chose that moment to crack into a falsetto and then back to tenor. Shaking my head, I muttered, “Whatever.” I’m pretty sure Xurf burped, and if I’d been close enough, I’d have kicked him. As it was, I wrapped my arms around my chest and tried thinking about how cold I’d be when Retired searched me for tracking devices.
Then I thought about who might be tracking us, and my pounding pulse slowed down and I felt cold with fear.