Author Topic: Part 15: Hidden Celebrity  (Read 3234 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 15: Hidden Celebrity
« on: August 12, 2022, 01:10:28 AM »
Developing their new weapons had been an arduous experience, and perfecting them was still the stuff of dreams. Most of the original tubes had just exploded when sparked, hurling superheated metal into trunks and branches and roots. Fortunately it had rained on day two of this new project, so when Lars' leaves caught fire, they were damp enough to be extinguished quickly.

The noise had been tremendous, reminiscent of thunderclaps in high-altitude groves! Qars cowered and covered their heads with forelimbs every time the weapons had been used, at first. Even Moss' native qars got used to it quickly, though. He had bragged that they'd adapted faster than the 'stiff-carapaced military types' the others had.

Aiming had been a nightmare as well. Qars had remarkable short-range vision, but getting them to position the tubes properly to hit a target at a distance was like predicting if your roots would hit an underground stream or not. Trial and error had expended hundreds of 'ballets' before Aysa had accidentally grown a possible solution. Using the same interface that made radio use possible, she had shown them how multiple enzyme secretions could turn and raise or lower the tube! That way they didn't need qars at all to aim. Just a stable radio signal.

The work was grueling, but it brought them closer. Despite Tobor's and Lars' burns, they laughed along with Char as she brought in mixture after mixture to get the right speed. Or propellant as she called it. Moss' fascination with radio technology had convinced Aysa to train him first on how to aim and swivel the ballet tube. Unfortunately, they still needed qars to pour the explosive mixture into the tubes again, and then put the ballets in one by one after each throw.

Exhausted, they had pulled back from work last night and done their songs and prayers before getting together and just relaxing. Their design had been transmitted through Aysa's secret connection, and was now on its way to the front, where it would be built and used.

Tobor's presence was laced with satisfaction. "You know, I never understood what the supplier and builder treqars meant by 'a good day's work' until now. I must say, I like the feeling."

"Says the guy pampered since his seedling days," Rax said with mock derision, and Tobor's qars poked at Rax's several times in response. Moss was glad that he couldn't sense discomfort coming from either of them anymore. Apparently the heavy workload had worn away at it.

Aysa was her usual serene presence, but even she was emanating fatigue. "I had no idea there were so many variations of woods, liquids and powders that could burn or explode. I wish I'd devoted more time to it when I was a sapling. Your memorization skills are impressive, Char."

Char responded with just a trace of appreciation. "Did you know there are some kinds of trees in Sarka and Leyas provinces that actually need fire in order to thrive? Their seeds have to burn before they can open up and grow. I read about it when I was little." She seemed a bit disoriented, possibly from the repeated concussive noise they'd all been bombarded with. "Other trees douse their neighbors with flammable liquid, hoping they'll go up in flames. When it does happen, the neighbors burn to a crisp, but that tree has special sprouts that allow it to recover quickly from the fire! It's brutal, but it's also fascinating. I wish I could get samples of that liquid."

Whatever the reason for her sudden chattiness, Moss was just grateful she was opening up. He was still marveling at the sensation of controlling the motion of the ballet tube. How Aysa had gotten possession of such a chemical tool was way beyond him. He'd actually moved something as fast as a qar could! Not growing roots against it and slowly pushing it out of the way, or wrapping branches around some impediment in his leaves. Moving it! "I still can't get over that interface device," he said in amazement. "How did you come up with that, Aysa?"

"I didn't," she said simply. There was a slight leak of mischievousness into the group, and then she followed it up with, "it's the same design my mother used in grove Chaepa. I just adapted it so that the ballet tube could swivel side to side, according to your friend Noq's published works."

Their tiredness and camaraderie were instantly forgotten. "Your mother designed the radios?" Moss asked, stunned.

"That's right."

A nervous explosion of excitement inundated their network. "Corelight! We've been living with a celebrity this whole time?" Rax put in, and the twins sent out their own assent.

"We were both given a full briefing on all of you for security reasons. But we were sworn to secrecy until she decided to tell you herself," Lars said apologetically.

"You should feel your auras right now," Lens put in smugly.

Moss had read about the work done in grove Chaepa. The inventor's identity had never been disclosed, for fear of retaliation. The radio had been used to win a war, after all. "Did you… help her work on the signals and interaction between the machine and the roots?"

"She handled the signals. I handled the interface. That's why I'm all the way out here, actually. They planted me here as a seedling to keep me safe, and so that I could help test their new invention as they fought for survival. I suppose it's fitting that I should be doing this again in secret, to save my nation instead of just my grove this time," she added thoughtfully.

Her brief mention of Noq had stirred up some old memories, and Moss was suddenly back in his grove again, getting news of his friend's brutal murder. Briefly he realized he hadn't held back his sorrow this time. No one seemed to have noticed except for Char, who sent him a tendril of concern. He responded with a negative, forcing himself to keep up appearances for now. He couldn't get his friend back, but he could make the killers pay for it. Hopefully.