Chapter Nineteen: Spider
Dreams had filtered through her long, restful sleep - they weren't bad dreams, she didn't think, just so outre that it was impossible to remember them, let alone understand them. Upon waking, she tried to recall a single one with clarity, but it was no good. She yawned and stretched out her legs, then sat to scratch at an itchy spot on her neck. Her toes struck the rim of the chip, reminding her that she now wore an accessory. To take her mind off the recent unsettling turn of events, she set about her waking routines, fastidiously grooming herself and filling her belly with the savory figs.
During the time she spent enjoying her meal, she gradually became conscious of - not a sound, exactly - a disturbance or vibration of the air (as she thought of it) which seemed to emanate from the far side of the chamber. She kept peering in that direction, but all she could see was the spider sitting motionless in the center of its web. She slowly came to the realization that it was not, after all, the air which was being disturbed; now she imagined that something inside of her head was vibrating. It was a curious and unnerving sensation which she had never before experienced.
She finished her meal and trotted to the far end of the chamber, meaning to investigate the source of her disturbance. She peered about again, but the only objects of interest were the bare patch of dirt and the spider in its web. Inadvertently, her whiskers brushed against one of the web's anchor lines, and the spider began to oscillate, like an athlete trying to jump while glued to a trampoline. In the muted radiance emitted by the chip, the spider's multiple eyes glittered alarmingly. As she watched the spider jangle back and forth, the realization dawned on her that the vibration in her brain was translating into a string of thoughts, at first chaotic and incoherent, but eventually resolving into a pattern which she discovered she could readily understand. On the surface they appeared threatening . . .
Fierce and terrible am I! Flee from me or die!
Yet she was also picking up a quieter undercurrent that belied the surface thoughts . . .
Too large to subdue! Danger to me! Must frighten off!
This was a novel experience! Never before had she had access to another creature's thoughts. It surprised her so much that she reflexively responded.
You have nothing to fear from me, and you're not as terrible as you think.
What? What moves in my head?
I am the mouse with whom you share this home.
Mouse? What is that? How do you enter my head?
I'm not sure. I didn't know I could do this. I've never been able to do it before. It may be that this chip I wear is causing this to happen.
Mouse? Chip? These I know not. Explain.
With your many eyes, I'm certain you can see me. I am a mouse. Around my neck I wear a special object called a memory chip which, I think, allows me to communicate with you, mind to mind.
Never mind. What is important is that we share a home. I hope we will be able to live together without conflict.
Do you eat bugs?
No. I eat seeds, nuts and fruits.
Good. It is well.
The bemused mouse was rapidly tiring of this limited conversation, constrained as it was by the spider's insistence on asking questions of her but seeming not to understand many of her responses. She turned away from the web, convinced that the arachnid would offer her no future difficulties, and trotted back to her bed.
She would need to ponder the meaning of this new ability that she appeared to have acquired. Was it now possible for her to understand the language of and communicate with any creature that she might meet? Perhaps she should seek out another form of life and experiment. Or maybe she should speak to the white mouse again and put her questions to him. What, she wondered, was the proper path to follow?
At length she determined that she would like to discover the answers on her own, at least for now, and with that thought in mind, she arose and made for the narrow passage leading to the outdoors, ready for whatever this new day might bring.
Chapter Twenty: Problem
"Excuse me, Director."
"Yes, Foster, what is it?"
"Sir, that memory chip that was lost in the microcosm two months ago? It's been activated."
"Are you certain? You're sure you're not receiving a false reading?"
"Yes, sir, it's a positive and it's real."
"Have you been able to locate it?"
"Thorough scanning has determined that it is located in GC 2834, in a system orbiting a class G star. We haven't been able to pinpoint it more precisely yet."
"Do you have any idea how long it will take to locate it?"
"Not yet, sir, but it shouldn't be much longer."
"Very well. Good work, Foster. Keep me apprised of your progress."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
With three fingers of his left hand, Ashton Roth massaged the deep gullies on his forehead. He closed his eyes and leaned far back in the black leather chair. Of indeterminate age, his general demeanor suggested he might be in his mid-forties. His smooth, even complexion and regular features displayed his concern.
Ignoring his paperwork for the moment, he lost himself in thought. That troublesome chip had finally been located and,with any luck, would be back in their hands before much more time had passed. The only possible problem that he could see was the difference in times. A lot could happen before they were able to retrieve it, given the years that would pass in the interim. He did a quick calculation - why, almost 6000 years had already passed in there; it was a wonder that activation had not occurred before now. Perhaps, he thought, after the chip had been retrieved, they should just destroy the microcosm and begin anew. It would be a shame to have to do that; so much work and so many years had gone into the creation of that miniscule universe, but the recent activation of the chip almost inevitably assured that the experiment would be completely compromised. There was just no telling how much damage could be done.
The director stood and paced his office, white lab coat swirling about his legs, absentmindedly stopping occasionally to adjust the set of a picture on the wall or to swipe at an imagined speck of dust. Ever since that stupid janitor had decided to indulge his curiosity while cleaning the chip lab, they had had to cover their backsides, manufacturing an inoperative replica so the original wouldn't be missed. Since most of the protocols had already been established, it had taken minimal effort, but still . . .
The janitor had been suitably punished, the scans were working much better than expected, and the chip was as good as found, but they would still have to send someone through the transposer to retrieve it, and that they had seldom done before. He disliked having to do that; there were still a few bugs that needed to be worked out, and there had been that terrible accident . . .
Still, it was imperative that they reclaim the chip. It was, after all, a prototype and very expensive. The fact of activation presumably meant that one of the creatures inhabiting whatever planet it had been transposed to had stumbled upon it and discovered how to use it. That could be very bad indeed.
The director returned to his burnished obsidian desk, sat, and picked up the pile of reports, intending to read them, but abruptly threw them down in a fit of irritation, scowling as a few of the sheets slipped off the edge, lifted by the barely detectable circulation of the air conditioning, and seesawed lazily to the floor. If only he could punish that moronic janitor more than once!
Unable to concentrate properly, he stood once again and moved to the door of his office. Throwing it open, he stepped into the corridor, directing his steps toward the cafeteria. Maybe a good hot cup of coffee would calm him and help him focus more clearly. He hoped so.
This concludes Book 1 of Lona's adventures. In the grand tradition of writers much more capable than myself, I have ended on a cliffhanger, although it was necessitated by the fact that I wasn't sure where the story was headed next. I hope you have been entertained.
Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005