Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pendant, Pensive

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Chax's legs were locked open, bracing him awkwardly between a lung strut and the gentle curve of the Kollen's upper shell. He had found two dangling egg clusters, one of which was firmly netted to the ceiling in a forest of sticky strands. On the other, the webbing was loose and excessive, causing the cluster to sag and dangle by a number of strained threads. These could be severed with a trivial swipe of the claw, leaving the egg cluster in a neat parcel that would be easy to carry down. Chax stared at this cluster, but his mind, still for the moment Craisht-free, was focused on another problem entirely.

Chax had been so happy to find Aun alive and healthy that Aun's scolding had not upset him much. Also, Chax conceded that he was party at fault—his panic had led him to frantic and ill-considered action that had left him in danger. But he had certainly not intended to land on top of Aun as Aun pulled him free; no more this time than any of the other times that Aun had mentioned. It was mere accident and Aun would surely perceive it once he'd had time to reflect and cool his emotions.

Chax had no fear that he had really hurt Aun. It was one thing to join with one's Oistrem comrades in mocking the Strasmin during a morale drill, to call them puny and ineffectual, or to bolster one's own courage by making light of the challenge they posed—but deadly foes they were, tough, swift and fierce, with the same ability to face terrifying peril with flippancy or self-abnegation.

And this was another factor in Chax's concern. The night creatures could fly and could track Aun, and seemed to be out for blood and vengeance against him. A simple sleep under the open sky could now be lethal. Aun did not seem concerned by the danger, or if he was, he was taking it with a measure of sang froid that could easily prove to be a mixed blessing.

Chax idly batted at the dangling cluster, watching tiny dark forms rock in fluid motion within the translucent shells. As near as he could make out, there was one proto-drone per egg. That was a good thing, when one considered—

No, not that, not now.

Chax forced himself back to the problem of Aun's survival. They could try to move towards Botaram in such a way that they always wound up near a safe station, such as the present one. This plan called for a fantastic amount of luck, and Chax discarded it quickly. They could try to switch sleeping patterns, resting by day—and put themselves at the mercy of any active Oistrem patrol. Or Aun could remain on guard all night, and Chax could undertake to carry a sleeping Aun during the day... Surely it was unwise to divide one's effective strength in this way, not to mention how unmercifully the Craisht would chide him for being such a simple tool and traitor as to carry a Strasmin straight to Botaram.

It was a thorny problem, and the solution might be equally tangled.

1 comment:

BiggerJ said...

Rant time!

Aun and Chax's roles in their mutual quest to not only reach Botaram but also find answers to questions not yet even asked by anyone around them remind me of a scene from the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana. I'm no literature geek - I saw an old foreign TV clip of an an adaptation on YouTube, which has since been removed.

While flying over the ocean on an important mission, Hanuman encountered two giant monsters. The second appeared after he dealt with the first. The first said that none who entered its mouth could escape, so Hanuman, sensing a clever solution, quickly flew in and out of its mouth, proving her wrong. The monster turned out to be a good being, who commended him for his wisdom. The second monster did not mince words and simply declared its desire to eat him. Hanuman sensed no loophole, so he just went into its mouth and bashed upwards through its skull and brain to escape.

This is similar to the roles of Aun and Chax. Aun solves problems with Strasmin wisdom, and perhaps, in time, a wisdom all his own. But some things simply need to be fought, or otherwise stopped somehow, and that's where Chax comes in - for both the usual primitive reasons of the Oistrem and his own reasons.

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