Language is a kind of code dependent upon the life rhythms of the species which originated the language. Unless you learn those rhythms, the code remains mostly unintelligible.
- BuSab Manual
McKie's immediate ex-wife had adopted an early attitude of resentment toward BuSab. "They use you!" she had protested.
He had thought about that for a few minutes, wondering if it might be the reason he found it so easy to use others. She was right, of course.
McKie thought about her words now as he and Furuneo sped by groundcar toward the Cordiality coast. The question in McKie's mind was, How are they using me this time? Setting aside the possibility that he had been offered up as a sacrifice, there were still many possibilities in reserve. Was it his legal training they needed? Or had they been prompted by his unorthodox approach to interspecies relationships? Obviously they entertained some hope for a special sort of official sabotage - but what sort? Why had his instructions been so incomplete?
"You will seek out and contact the Caleban which has been hired by Madame Mliss Abnethe, or find any other Caleban available for sentient contact, and you will take appropriate action."
McKie shook his head.
"Why'd they choose you for this gig?" Furuneo asked.
"They know how to use me," McKie said.
The groundcar, driven by an enforcer, negotiated a sharp turn, and a vista of rocky shore opened before them. Something glittered in the distance among black lava palisades, and McKie noted two aircraft hovering above the rocks.
"That it?" he asked.
"What's the local time?"
"About two and a half hours to sunset," Furuneo said, correctly interpreting McKie's concern. "Will the angeret protect us if there's a Caleban in that thing and it decides to . . . disappear?"
"I sincerely hope so," McKie said. "Why didn't you bring us by aircar?"
"People here on Cordiality are used to seeing me in a groundcar unless I'm on official business and require speed."
"You mean nobody knows about this thing yet?"
"Just the coastwatchers for this stretch, and they're on my payroll."
"You run a pretty tight operation here," McKie said. "Aren't you afraid of getting too efficient?"
"I do my best," Furuneo said. He tapped the driver's shoulder.
The groundcar pulled to a stop at a turnaround which looked down onto a reach of rocky islands and a low lava shelf where the Caleban Beachball had come to rest. "You know, I keep wondering if we really know what those Beachballs are."
"They're homes," McKie grunted.
"So everybody says."
Furuneo got out. A cold wind set his hip aching. "We walk from here," he said.
There were times during the climb down the narrow path to the lava shelf when McKie felt thankful he had been fitted with a gravity web beneath his skin. If he fell, it would limit his rate of descent to a non-injurious speed. But there was nothing it could do about any beating he might receive in the surf at the base of the palisades, and if offered no protection at all against the chill wind and the driving spray.
He wished he'd worn a heatsuit.
"It's colder than I expected," Furuneo said, limping out onto the lava shelf. He waved to the aircars. One dipped its wings, maintaining its place in a slow, circling track above the Beachball.
Furuneo struck out across the shelf and McKie followed, jumped across a tidal pool, blinked and bent his head against a gust of windborne spray. The pounding of the surf on the rocks was loud here. They had to raise their voices to make themselves understood.
"You see?" Furuneo shouted. "Looks like it's been banged around a bit."
"Those things are supposed to be indestructible," McKie said.
The Beachball was some six meters in diameter. It sat solidly on the shelf, about half a meter of its bottom surface hidden by a depression in the rock, as though it had melted out a resting place.
McKie led the way up to the lee of the Ball, passing Furuneo in the last few meters. He stood there, hands in pockets, shivering. The round surface of the Ball failed to cut off the cold wind.
"It's bigger than I expected," he said as Furuneo stopped beside him.
"First one you've ever seen close up?"
McKie passed his gaze across the thing. Knobs and indentations marked the opaque metallic surface. It seemed to him the surface variations carried some pattern. Sensors, perhaps? Controls of some kind? Directly in front of him there was what appeared to be a crackled mark, perhaps from a collision. It lay just below the surface, presenting no roughness to McKie's exploring hand.
What if they're wrong about these things?" Furuneo asked.
"What if they aren't Caleban homes?"
"Don't know. Do you recall the drill?"
"You find a 'nippled extrusion' and you knock on it. We tried that. There's one just around to your left."
McKie worked his way around in that direction, getting drenched by a wind-driven spray in the process. He reached up, still shivering from the cold, knocked at the indicated extrusion.
Every briefing I ever attended says there's a door in these things somewhere," McKie grumbled.
"But they don't say the door opens every time you knock," Furuneo said.
McKie continued working his way around the Ball, found another nippled extrusion, knocked.
"We tried that one, too," Furuneo said.
"I feel like a damn fool," McKie said.
"Maybe there's nobody home."
"Remote control?" McKie asked.
"Or abandoned - a derelict."
McKie pointed to a thin green line about a meter long on the Ball's windward surface. "What's that?"
Furuneo hunched his shoulders against spray and wind, stared at the line. "Don't recall seeing it."
"I wish we knew a lot more about these damn things," McKie grumbled.
"Maybe we aren't knocking loud enough," Furuneo said.
McKie pursed his lips in thought. Presently he took out his toolkit, extracted a lump of low-grade explosive. "Go back on the other side," he said.
"You sure you ought to try that?" Furuneo asked.
"Well -" Furuneo shrugged, retreated around the Ball.
McKie applied a strip of the explosive along the green line, attached a time-thread, joined Furuneo.
Presently, there came a dull thump that was almost drowned by the surf.
McKie felt an abrupt inner silence, found himself wondering, What if the Caleban gets angry and springs a weapon we've never heard of? He darted around to the windward side.
An oval hole had appeared above the green line as though a plug had been sucked into the Ball.
"Guess you pushed the right button," Furuneo said.
McKie suppressed a feeling of irritation which he knew to be mostly angeret effect, said, "Yeah. Give me a leg up." Furuneo, he noted, was controlling the drug reaction almost perfectly.
With Furuneo's help McKie clambered into the open port, stared inside. Dull purple light greeted him, a suggestion of movement within the dimness.
"See anything?" Furuneo called.
"Don't know." McKie scrambled inside, dropped to a carpeted floor. He crouched, studied his surroundings in the purple glow. His teeth clattered from the cold. The room around him apparently occupied the entire center of the Ball - low ceiling, flickering rainbows against the inner surface on his left, a giant soup-spoon shape jutting into the room directly across from him, tiny spools, handles, and knobs against the wall on his right.
The sense of movement originated in the spoon bowl.
Abruptly, McKie realized he was in the presence of a Caleban.
"What do you see?" Furuneo called.
Without taking his gaze from the spoon, McKie turned his head slightly. "There's a Caleban in here."
"Shall I come in?"
"No. Tell your men and sit tight."
McKie returned his full attention to the bowl of the spoon. His throat felt dry. He'd never before been alone in the presence of a Caleban. This was a position usually reserved for scientific investigators armed with esoteric instruments.
"I'm . . . ah, Jorj X. McKie, Bureau of Sabotage," he said.
There was a stirring at the spoon, an effect of radiated meaning immediately behind the movement: "I make your acquaintance."
McKie found himself recalling Masarard's poetic description in Conversation With a Caleban.
"Who can say how a Caleban speaks?" Masarard had written. "Their words come at you like the coruscating of a nine-ribbon Sojeu barber pole. The insensitive way such words radiate. I say the Caleban speaks. When words are sent, is that not speech? Send me your words, Caleban, and I will tell the universe of your wisdom. "
Having experienced the Caleban's words, McKie decided Masarard was a pretentious ass. The Caleban radiated. Its communication registered in the sentient mind as sound, but the ears denied they had heard anything. It was the same order of effect that Calebans had on the eyes. You felt you were seeing something, but the visual centers refused to agree.
"I hope my . . . ah, I didn't disturb you," McKie said.
"I possess no referent for disturb," the Caleban said. "You bring a companion?"
"My companion's outside," McKie said. No referent for disturb?
"Invite your companion," the Caleban said.
McKie hesitated, then, "Furuneo! C'mon in."
The planetary agent joined him, crouched at McKie's left in the purple gloom. "Damn, that's cold out there," Furuneo said.
"Low temperature and much moisture," the Caleban agreed. McKie, having turned to watch Furuneo enter, saw a closure appear from the solid wall beside the open port. Wind, spray, and surf were shut off.
The temperature in the Ball began to rise.
"It's going to get hot," McKie said.
"Hot. Remember the briefings? Calebans like their air hot and dry." He could already feel his damp clothing begin to turn clammy against his skin.
"That's right," Furuneo said. "What's going on?"
"We've been invited in," McKie said. "We didn't disturb him because he has no referent for disturb." He turned back to the spoon shape.
"Where is he?"
"In that spoon thing."
"Yeah . . . I, uh - yeah. "
"You may address me as Fanny Mae, "the Caleban said. "I can reproduce my kind and answer the equivalents for female. "
"Fanny Mae," McKie said with what he knew to be stupid vacuity. How can you look at the damn thing? Where is its face? "My companion is Alichino Furuneo, planetary agent on Cordiality for the Bureau of Sabotage." Fanny Mae? Damn!
"I make your acquaintance," the Caleban said. "Permit an inquiry into the purpose for your visit."
Furuneo scratched his right ear. "How're we hearing it?" He shook his head. "I can understand it, but. . . ."
"Never mind!" McKie said. And he warned himself: Gently now. How do you question one of these things? The insubstantial Caleban presence, the twisting away his mind accepted the thing's words - it all combined with the angeret in producing irritation.
"I . . . my orders," McKie said. "I seek a Caleban employed by Mliss Abnethe."
"I receive your questions," the Caleban said.
Receive my questions?
McKie tried tipping his head from side to side, wondered if it were possible to achieve an angle of vision where the something across from him would assume recognizable substance.
"What're you doing?" Furuneo asked.
"Trying to see it."
"You seek visible substance?" the Caleban asked.
"Uhhh, yes," McKie said.
Fanny Mae? he thought. It would be like an original encounter with the Gowachin planets, the first Earth-human encountering the first froglike Gowachin, and the Gowachin introducing himself as William. Where in ninety thousand worlds did the Caleban dig up that name? And why?
"I produce mirror," the Caleban said, "which reflects outward from projection along plane of being."
"Are we going to see it?" Furuneo whispered. "Nobody's ever seen a Caleban.'��
A half-meter oval something of green, blue, and pink without apparent connection to the empty-presence of the Caleban materialized above the giant spoon.
"Think of this as stage upon which I present my selfdom," the Caleban said.
"You see anything?" Furuneo asked.
McKie's visual centers conjured a borderline sensation, a feeling of distant life whose rhythms danced unfleshed within the colorful oval like the sea roaring in an empty shell. He recalled a one-eyed friend and the difficulty of focusing the attention on that lonely eye without being drawn to the vacant patch. Why couldn't the damn fool just buy a new eye? Why couldn't. . . .
"That's the oddest thing I ever saw," Furuneo whispered. "You see it?"
McKie described his visual sensation. "That what you see?"
"I guess so," Furuneo said.
"Visual attempt fails," the Caleban said. "Perhaps I employ insufficient contrast."
Wondering if he could be mistaken, McKie thought he detected a plaintive mood in the Caleban's words. Was it possible Calebans disliked not being seen?
"It's fine," McKie said. "Now, may we discuss the Caleban who . . ."
"Perhaps overlooking cannot be connected," the Caleban said, interrupting. "We enter state for which there exists no remedy. 'As well argue with the night,' as your poets tell us."
The sensation of an enormous sigh swept out from the Caleban and over McKie. It was sadness, a doom-fire gloom. He wondered if they had experienced an angeret failure. The emotional strength carried terror within it.
"You feel that?" Furuneo asked.
McKie felt his eyes burning. He blinked. Between blinks, he glimpsed a flower element hovering within the oval - deep red against the room's purple, with black veins woven through it, Slowly it blossomed, closed, blossomed. He wanted to reach out, touch it with a handful of compassion.
"How beautiful," he whispered.
"What is it?" Furuneo whispered.
"I think we're seeing a Caleban."
"I want to cry," Furuneo said.
"Control yourself," McKie cautioned. He cleared his throat. Twanging bits of emotion tumbled through him. They were like pieces cut from the whole and loosed to seek their own patterns. The angeret effect was lost in the mixture.
Slowly the image in the oval faded. The emotional torrent subsided.
"Wheweee," Furuneo breathed.
"Fanny Mae," McKie ventured. "What was . . ."
"I am one employed by Mliss Abnethe," the Caleban said. "Correct verb usage?"
"Bang"' Furuneo said. "Just like that."
McKie glanced at him, at the place where they had entered the Ball. No sign remained of the oval hole. The heat in the room was becoming unbearable. Correct verb usage? He looked at the Caleban manifestation. Something still shimmered above the spoon shape, but it defied his visual centers to describe it.
"Was it asking a question?" Furuneo asked.
"Be still a minute," McKie snapped. "I want to think."
Seconds ticked past. Furuneo felt perspiration running down his neck, under his collar. He could taste it in the corners of his mouth.
McKie sat silently staring at the giant spoon. The Caleban employed by Abnethe. He still felt the aftermath of the emotional melange. Some lost memory demanded his attention, but he couldn't bring it out for examination.
Furuneo, watching McKie, began to wonder if the Saboteur Extraordinary had been mesmerized. "You still thinking?" he whispered.
McKie nodded, then, "Fanny Mae, where is your employer?"
"Coordinates not permitted," the Caleban said.
"Is she on this planet?"
"Different connectives," the Caleban said.
"I don't think you two are talking the same language," Furuneo said. '
"From everything I've read and heard about Calebans, that's the big problem," McKie said. "Communication difficulty."
Furuneo wiped sweat from his forehead. "Have you tried calling Abnethe long distance?" he asked.
"Don't be stupid," McKie said. "That's the first thing I tried."
"Either the Taprisiots are telling the truth and can't make contact, or she's bought them off some way. What difference does it make? So I contact her. How does that tell me where she is? How do I invoke a monitor clause with someone who doesn't wear a monitor?"
"How could she buy off the Taprisiots?"
"How do I know? For that matter, how could she hire a Caleban?"
"Invocation of value exchange," the Caleban said.
McKie chewed at his upper lip.
Furuneo leaned against the wall behind him. He knew what inhibited McKie here. You walked softly with a strange sentient species. No telling what might cause affront. Even the way you phrased a question could cause trouble. They should have assigned a Zeno expert to help McKie. It seemed odd that they hadn't.
"Abnethe offered you something of value, Fanny Mae?" McKie ventured.
"I offer judgment," the Caleban said. "Abnethe may not be judged friendly-good-nice-kindly . . . acceptable."
"Is that . . . your judgment?" McKie asked.
"Your species prohibits flagellation of sentients," the Caleban said. "Fanny Mae orders me flagellated."
"Why don't you . . . just refuse?" McKie asked.
"Contract obligation," the Caleban said.
"Contract obligation." McKie muttered, glancing at Furuneo, who shrugged.
"Ask where she goes to be flagellated," Furuneo said.
"Flagellation comes to me," the Caleban said.
"By flagellation, you mean you're whipped," McKie said.
"Explanation of whipping describes production of froth," the Caleban said. "Not proper term. Abnethe orders me flogged."
"That thing talks like a computer," Furuneo said.
"Let me handle this," McKie ordered.
"Computer describes mechanical device," the Caleban said. "I live."
"He meant no insult," McKie said.
"Insult not interpreted."
"Does the flogging hurt you?" McKie asked.
"Cause you discomfort?"
"Reference recalled. Such sensations explained. Explanations cross no connectives."
Cross no connectives? McKie thought. "Would you choose to be flogged?" he asked.
"Choice made," the Caleban said.
"Well . . . would you make the same choice if you had it to do over?" McKie asked.
"Confusing reference," the Caleban said. "If over refers to repetition, I make no voice in repetition. Abnethe sends Palenki with whip, and flogging occurs."
"A Palenki!" Furuneo said. He shuddered.
"You knew it had to be something like that," McKie said. "What else could you get to do such a thing except a creature without much brain and lots of obedient muscle?"
"But a Palenki! Couldn't we hunt for . . ."
"We've known from the first what she had to be using," McKie said. "Where do you hunt for one Palenki?" He shrugged. "Why can't Calebans understand the concept of being hurt? Is it pure semantics, or do they lack the proper nerve linkages?"
"Understand nerves," the Caleban said. "Any sentience must possess control linkages. But hurt . . . discontinuity of meaning appears insurmountable."
"Abnethe can't stand the sight of pain, you said," Furuneo reminded McKie.
"Yeah. How does she watch the floggings?"
"Abnethe views my home," the Caleban said.
When no further answer was forthcoming, McKie said, "I don't understand. What's that have to do with it?"
"My home this," the Caleban said. "My home contains . . . aligns? Master S'eye. Abnethe possesses connectives for which she pays."
McKie wondered if the Caleban were playing some sarcastic game with him. But all the information about them made no reference to sarcasm. Word confusions, yes, but no apparent insults or subterfuges. Not understand pain, though?
"Abnethe sounds like a mixed-up bitch," McKie muttered.
"Physically unmixed," the Caleban said. "Isolated in her own connectives now, but unified and presentable by your standards - so say judgments made in my presence. If, however, you refer to Abnethe psyche, mixed-up conveys accurate description. What I see of Abnethe psyche most intertwined. Convolutions of odd color displace my vision-sense in extraordinary fashion."
McKie gulped. "You see her psyche?"
"I see all psyche."
"So much for the theory that Calebans cannot see," Furuneo said. "All is illusion, eh?"
"How . . . how is this possible?" McKie asked.
"I occupy space between physical and mental," the Caleban said. "Thus your fellow sentients explain in your terminology. "
"Gibberish," McKie said.
"You achieve discontinuity of meaning," the Caleban said.
"Why did you accept Abnethe's offer of employment?" McKie asked.
"No common referent for explanation," the Caleban said.
"You achieve discontinuity of meaning," Furuneo said.
"So I surmise," the Caleban said.
"I must find Abnethe," McKie said.
"I give warning," the Caleban said.
"Watch it," Furuneo whispered. "I sense rage that's not connected with the angeret."
McKie waved him to silence. "What warning, Fanny Mae?"
"Potentials in your situation," the Caleban said. "I allow my . . . person? Yes, my person. I allow my person to entrap itself in association which fellow sentients may interpret as non-friendly."
McKie scratched his head, wondered how close they were to anything that could validly be called communication. He wanted to come right out and inquire about the Caleban disappearances, the deaths and insanity, but feared possible consequences.
"Non-friendly," he prompted.
"Understand," the Caleban said, "life which flows in all carries subternal connectives. Each entity remains linked until final discontinuity removes from . . . network? Yes, linkages of other entities into association with Abnethe. Should personal discontinuity overtake self, all entities entangled share it."
"Discontinuity?" McKie asked, not sure he followed this but afraid he did.
"Tanglements come from contact between sentients not originating in same linearities of awareness," the Caleban said, ignoring McKie's question.
"I'm not sure what you mean by discontinuity," McKie pressed.
"In context," the Caleban said, "ultimate discontinuity, presumed opposite of pleasure - your term."
"You're getting nowhere," Furuneo said. His head ached from trying, to equate the radiant impulses of communication from the Caleban with speech.
"Sounds like a semantic identity situation," McKie said. "Black and white statements, but we're trying to find an interpretation in between."
"All between," the Caleban said.
"Presumed opposite of pleasure," McKie muttered.
"Our term," Furuneo reminded him.
"Tell me, Fanny Mae," McKie said, "do we other sentients refer to this ultimate discontinuity as death?"
"Presumed approximate term," the Caleban said. "Abnegation of mutual awareness, ultimate discontinuity, death - all appear similar descriptives."
"If you die, many others are going to die, is that it?" McKie asked.
"All users of S'eye. All in tanglement
"All?" McKie asked, shocked.
"All such in your . . . wave? Difficult concept. Calebans possess label for this concept . . . plane? Planguinity of beings? Surmise proper term not shared. Problem concealed in visual exclusion which clouds mutual association."
Furuneo touched McKie's arm. "Is she saying that if she dies, everyone who's used a S'eye jumpdoor goes with her?"
"Sounds like it."
"I don't believe it!"
"The evidence would seem to indicate we have to believe her."
"But . . . ."
"I wonder if she's in any danger of going soon," McKie mused aloud.
"If you grant the premise, that's a good question," Furuneo said.
"What precedes your ultimate discontinuity, Fanny Mae?" McKie asked.
"All precedes ultimate discontinuity."
"Yeah, but are you headed toward this ultimate discontinuity?"
"Without choice, all head for ultimate discontinuity."
McKie mopped his forehead. The temperature inside the ball had been going up steadily.
"I fulfill demands of honor," the Caleban said. "Acquaint you with prospect. Sentients of your . . . planguinity appear unable, lacking means of withdrawal from influence of my association with Abnethe. Communication understood?"
"McKie," Furuneo said, "have you any idea how many sentients have used a jumpdoor?"
"Damn near everyone."
"Communication understood?" the Caleban repeated.
"I don't now," McKie groaned.
"Difficult sharing of concepts," the Caleban said.
"I still don't believe it," McKie said. "It squares with what some of the other Calebans said, near as we can reconstruct it after the messes they've left."
"Understand withdrawal of companions creates disruption," the Caleban said. "Disruption equates with mess?"
"That's about it," McKie said. "Tell me, Fanny Mae, is there immediate danger of your . . . ultimate discontinuity?"
"Explain imminent," the Caleban said.
"Soon!" McKie snapped. "Short time!"
"Time concept difficult," the Caleban said. "You inquire of personal ability to surmount flagellation?"
"That's good enough," McKie said. "How many more flagellations can you survive?"
"Explain survive," the Caleban said.
"How many flagellations until you experience ultimate discontinuity?" McKie demanded, fighting down the angeret-reinforced frustration.
"Perhaps ten flagellations," the Caleban said. "Perhaps lesser number. Perhaps more."
"And your death will kill all of us?" McKie asked, hoping he'd misunderstood.
"Lesser number than all," the Caleban said.
"You just think you're understanding her," Furuneo said.
"I'm afraid I understand her!"
"Fellow Calebans," the Caleban said, "recognizing entrapment, achieve withdrawing. Thus they avoid discontinuity."
"How many Calebans remain in our . . . plane?" McKie asked.
"Single entity of selfness," the Caleban said.
"Just the one," McKie muttered. "That's a damn thin thread!"
"I don't see how the death of one Caleban can cause all that havoc," Furuneo said.
"Explain by comparison," the Caleban said. "Scientist of your planguinity explains reaction of stellar selfdom. Stellar mass enters expanding condition. In this condition, stellar mass engulfs and reduces all substances to other energy patterns. All substances encountered by stellar expansion change. Thus ultimate discontinuity of personal selfdom reaches along linkages of S'eye connectives, repatterns all entities encountered."
"Stellar selfdom," Furuneo said, shaking his head.
"Incorrect term?" the Caleban asked, "Energy selfdom, perhaps."
"She's saying," McKie said, "that use of S'eye doors has tangled us with her life some way. Her death will reach out like a stellar explosion along all these tangled networks and kill us."
"That's what you think she's saying," Furuneo objects,,
"That's what I have to believe she's saying," McKie said. "Our communication may be tenuous, but I think she's sincere. Can't you still feel the emotions radiating from her?"
"Two species can be said to share emotions only in the broadest way," Furuneo said. "She doesn't even understand what we mean by pain."
"Scientist of your planguinity," the Caleban said, "Explains emotional base for communication. Lacking emotional commonality, sameness of labels uncertain. Emotion concept not certain for Calebans. Communication difficulty assumed."
McKie nodded to himself. He could see a further complication: the problem of whether the Caleban's words were spoken or radiated in some unthinkable manner completed their confusion.
"I believe you're right in one thing," Furuneo said.
"We have to assume we understand her."
McKie swallowed in a dry throat. "Fanny Mae," he said, "have you explained this ultimate discontinuity prospect to Mliss Abnethe?"
"Problem explained," the Caleban said. "Fellow Calebans attempt remedy of error. Abnethe fails of comprehension, or disregards consequences. Connectives difficult."
"Connectives difficult," McKie muttered.
"All connectives of single S'eye," the Caleban said. "Master S'eye of self creates mutual problem."
"Don't tell me you understand that," Furuneo objected.
"Abnethe employs Master S'eye of self," the Caleban said: "Contract agreement gives Abnethe right of use. One Master S'eye of self. Abnethe uses."
"So she opens a jumpdoor and sends her Palenki through it," Furuneo said. "Why don't we just wait here and grab her?"
"She could close the door before we even got near her," McKie growled. "No, there's more to what this Caleban's saying. I think she's telling us there's only one Master S'eye, the control system, perhaps, for all the jumpdoors . . . and Fanny Mae here is in control of it, or the channel operation or . . ."
"Or something," Furuneo snarled.
"Abnethe control S'eye by right of purchase," the Caleban said.
"See what I mean?" McKie said. "Can you override her control, Fanny Mae?"
"Terms of employment require not interfere."
"But can't you still use your own S'eye doors?" McKie pressed.
"All use," the Caleban said.
"This is insane!" Furuneo snapped.
"Insanity defines as lack of orderly thought progression in mutual acceptance of logical terms," the Caleban said. "Insanity frequent judgment of one species upon other species. Proper interpretation otherwise."
"I think I just had my wrist slapped," Furuneo said.
"Look," McKie said, "the other deaths and insanity around Caleban disappearances substantiate our interpretation. We're dealing with something explosive and dangerous."
"So we find Abnethe and stop her."
"You make that sound so simple," McKie said. "Here are your orders. Get out of here and alert the Bureau. The Caleban's communication won't show on your recorder, but you'll have it all down in your memory. Tell them to scan you for it."
"Right. You're staying?"
"What'll I say you're doing?"
"I want a look at Abnethe's companions and her surroundings."
Furuneo cleared his throat. Gods of the underworld, it was hot! "Have you thought of, you know, just bang?" He made the motion of firing a raygen.
"There's a limit on what can go through a jumpdoor and how fast," McKie chided. "You know that."
"Maybe this jumpdoor's different."
"I doubt it."
"After I've reported in, what then?"
"Sit tight outside there until I call you - unless they give you a message for me. Oh, and start a general search on Cordiality . . . just in case."
"Of course." Furuneo hesitated. "One thing - who do I contact at the Bureau? Bildoon?"
McKie glanced up. Why should Furuneo question whom to call? What was he trying to say?
It dawned on McKie then that Furuneo had hit on a logical concern. BuSab director Napoleon Bildoon was a PanSpechi, a pentarchal sentient, human only in appearance. Since McKie, a human, held nominal charge of this case, that might appear to confine control of it, excluding other members of the ConSentiency. Interspecies political infighting could take odd turns in a time of stress. It would be best to involve a broad directorate here.
"Thanks," McKie said. "I wasn't thinking much beyond the immediate problem."
"This is the immediate problem."
"I understand. All right, I was tapped for this chore by our Director of Discretion."
"That's one Laclac and Bildoon, a PanSpechi. Who else?"
"Get somebody out of the Legal Department."
"Bound to be a human."
"The minute you stretch it that far, they'll all get the message," McKie said. "They'll bring in the others before making any official decision."
Furuneo nodded. "One other thing."
"How do I get out of here?"
McKie faced the giant spoon. "Good question. Fanny Mae, how does my companion leave here?"
"He wishes to journey where?"
"To his home."
"Connectives apparent," the Caleban said.
McKie felt a gush of air. His ears popped to a change in pressure. There was a sound like the pulling of a cork from a bottle. He whirled. Furuneo was gone.
"You . . . sent him home?" McKie asked.
"Correct," the Caleban said. "Desired destination visible. Sent swiftness. Prevent temperature drop below proper level. "
McKie, feeling perspiration roll down his cheeks, said, "I wish I knew how you did that. Can you actually see our thoughts?"
"See only strong connectives," the Caleban said.
Discontinuity of meaning, McKie thought.
The Caleban's remark about temperature came back to him. What was a proper temperature level? Damn! It was boiling in here! His skin itched with perspiration. His throat was dry. Proper temperature level?
"What's the opposite of proper?" he asked.
"False," the Caleban said.