It is because you speak to me that I do not believe in you.

- Quoted from a Caleban

After several hours of questioning, counter-questioning, probe, counter-probe, and bootless answers, Furuneo brought in an enforcer assistant to take over the watch on the Caleban. At Furuneo's request Fanny Mae opened a portal and let him out onto the lava ledge for a spell of fresh air. It was cold out on the shelf, especially after the heat in the Beachball. The wind had died down, as it did most days here just before night. Surf still pounded the outer rocks and surged against the lava wall beyond the Beachball. But the tide was going out, and only a few dollops of spray wet the ledge.

Connectives, Furuneo thought bitterly. She says it's not a linkage, so what is it? He couldn't recall ever having felt this frustrated.

"That which extends from one to eight," the Caleban had said, "that is a connective. Correct use of verb to be?"


"Identity verb," the Caleban said. "Strange concept."

"No, no! What did you mean there, one to eight?"

"Unbinding stuff," the Caleban said.

"You mean like a solvent?"

"Before solvent."

"What the devil could before have to do with solvents?"

"Perhaps more internal than solvents," the Caleban said.

"Madness," Furuneo said, shaking his head. Then, "Internal?"

"Unbounded place of connectives," the Caleban said.

"We're right back where we started," Furuneo groaned. "What's a connective?"

"Uncontained opening between," the Caleban said.

"Between what?" Furuneo roared.

"Between one and eight."

"Ohhh, no!"

"Also between one and x," the Caleban said.

As McKie had done earlier, Furuneo buried his face in his hands. Presently he said, "What's between one and eight except two, three, four, five, six, and seven?"

"Infinity," the Caleban said. "Open-ended concept. Nothing contains everything. Everything contains nothing."

"You know what I think?" Furuneo asked.

"I read no thoughts," the Caleban said.

"I think you're having your little game with us," Furuneo said. "That's what I think."

"Connectives compel," the Caleban said. "Does this expand understanding?"

"Compels . . . a compulsion?"

"Venture movement," the Caleban said.

"Venture what?"

"That which remains stationary when all else moves," the Caleban said. "Thus, connective. Infinity concept empties itself without connective."

"Whoooooheee!" Furuneo said.

At this point he asked to be let outside for a rest.

Furuneo was no closer to understanding why the Caleban maintained such a high temperature in the Beachball.

"Consequences of swiftness," the Caleban said, varying this under questioning with "Rapidity convergence." Or "Perhaps concept of generated movement arrives closer."

"Some kind of friction?" Furuneo probed.

"Uncompensated relationship of dimensions possibly arrives at closest approximation," the Caleban answered.

Now, reviewing these frustrating exchanges, Furuneo blew on his hands to warm them. The sun had set, and a chill wind was beginning to move off the bluff toward the water.

Either I freeze to death or bake, he thought. Where in the universe is McKie?

At this point Tuluk made long distance contact through one of the Bureau Taprisiots. Furuneo, who had been seeking a more sheltered position in the lee of the Beachball, felt the pineal ignition. He brought down the foot he had been lifting in a step, planted the foot firmly in a shallow pool of water, and lost all bodily sensation. Mind and call were one.

"This is Tuluk at the lab," the caller said. "Apologies for intrusion and all that."

"I think you just made me put a foot in cold water," Furuneo said.

"Well, here's some more cold water for you. You're to have that friendly Caleban pick up McKie in six hours, time elapse measured from four hours and fifty-one minutes ago. Synchronize."

"Standard measure?"

"Of course, standard!"

"Where is he?"

"He doesn't know. Wherever that Caleban sent him. Any idea how it's done?"

"It's done with connectives," Furuneo said.

"Is that right? What are connectives?"

"When I find out, you'll be the first to know."

"That sounds like a temporal contradiction, Furuneo."

"Probably is. All right, let me get my foot out of the water. It's probably frozen solid by now."

"You've the synchronized time coordinate for picking up McKie?"

"I got it! And I hope she doesn't send him home."

"How's that?"

Furuneo explained.

"Sounds confusing."

"I'm glad you figured that out. For a moment there, I thought you weren't approaching our problem with sufficient seriousness."

Among Wreaves seriousness and sincerity are almost as basic as they are with Taprisiots, but Tuluk had worked among humans long enough to recognize the jibe. "Well, every being has its own insanity," he said.

It was a Wreave aphorism, but it sounded sufficiently close to something the Caleban might have said that Furuneo experienced a momentary angeret-enforced rage and sensed his ego shimmering away from him. He shuddered his way back to mental solidity.

"Did you almost lose yourself?" Tuluk asked.

"Will you sign off and let me get my foot out of the water?"

"I receive the impression you are fatigued," Tuluk said. "Get some rest."

"When I can. I hope I don't fall asleep in the Caleban hothouse. I'd wake up done just about right for a cannibal dinner."

"Sometimes you humans express yourselves in a disgusting fashion," the Wreave said. "But you'd better remain alert for a while. McKie may require punctuality." Copyright 2016 - 2024