ATTUNGA

Date 7 March 2013.
Author Iarwain iarwain@aanet.com.au
Subject Attunga.

The author retains copyright (2012) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.

This story is part of the TALES OF THE TERRAN DIASPORA.
Wirrin shares his life with two friends on one of the great space habitats.

ATTUNGA PART 10.



"What's going on?"

"I'm wrecked.... Totally!"

"We know that. But why?"

"Sonic's a slave driver. I can't keep up with him."

Wirrin was astonished. He'd never heard Calen say one word against Sonic, ever, and his surprise must have shown because Calen laughed as he collapsed onto the grav-sofa.

"He is not really a slave driver. He's just got too much energy and he's so excited about everything he does that he keeps going till it's right.
I think I'll start taking a double dose of protein structure for a while."

The protein structure was already working 100% according to Thom, so taking more wouldn't have any effect and Calen was really just complaining about being worn out.

"Calen, you've been wrecked every evening for the last two weeks."

"And it'll be the same for the next two as well."

"Two weeks? So it's something to do with Sonic's big day?"

"Smart Alec. ...It might be."

That meant it definitely was.

"So what makes you so tired?"

"Swimming. It's hard work."

"What sort of swimming?"

"You know. ...You move through the water from one place to another."

"Very funny. ...Why don't you tell us?"

"I just did. Water-swimming."

"We'll make you talk."

"No you won't. ...How?"

"We'll tickle it out of you. We'll get you on the grav-bed and keep going till you beg to confess."

Calen laughed and shook his head.

"I still won't tell you."

He probably would. Unlike Thom, Calen could cope with being tickled, but only in small doses.

"You'd have to. You couldn't help it."

"You won't do it. It wouldn't be fair."

Wirrin and Thom exchanged a wondering look. They'd just been told that finding out what was going on wasn't going to happen.

"It's a secret and you're keeping it from us?"

That was pushing hard as they had a pact about secrets. Calen didn't say anything for a moment.

"I can tell you if you think you really have to know, but it Sonic's idea and he wants it to be a surprise."

"A surprise? For us?"

"For everyone really. ...Well except for Gelar and Turaku of course. They see everything that goes on. I suppose I can tell Sonic you couldn't wait."

Calen's grin of satisfaction said he knew very well that he'd outmanoeuvred them. There was no way they'd go against what Sonic wanted. The intrigue level had just risen by five notches.

"You Dirty Dingo. Well, you're still getting the tickling."

"Not now. I haven't got enough energy."

Calen closed his eyes and Wirrin and Thom left him. Following his recent pattern it would be at least an hour before he woke and demanded food.

"It must be something big."

"Why?"

"They're spending four weeks on it and that's a long time for Sonic."

"That's for sure. Do you think he knows how tired Calen is?"

"Probably, but it must be all right or his health monitors would be giving warnings."

"Yes, I guess. ...What's happening tomorrow?"

"I'm not sure. It must be some sort of routine check for my implants."

"It can't be routine. You're not meant to see them for another month."

Today's request to go to the implant facility was a bit of a puzzle. As far as Wirrin could tell everything was working perfectly and the self diagnostics said exactly that.

"Well it can't be too big a deal because it was only a request, and if it didn't fit with EdCom I could go some other time."

"They're going to turn your implants down. You've been overloading too many data banks."

"As if."

"And I told them you sneaked into TransCom through an electronic back-door and they're going to set a tracer to watch everything you do."

"Sure, and if they do I'll put a governor program on you so nothing you fly will go over half a G."

Later, when they were preparing food, Thom wanted to know if Wirrin really could make a governor program.

"It would be too complicated. I'd have to set a program to follow you everywhere, and then there'd have to be another one that knew how to control every type of vehicle you used, and another one to make sure security was happy with what I was doing."

"But you could do it if you really wanted to couldn't you?"

"Um. ...Maybe. I'd have to learn more about how security works first. Why?"

"Just wondering. ...I've got a good idea for where we could take Sonic for an activity day."

"Where?"

Sonic liked to know about everything they were doing and after their latest venture to one of the major fauna parks scattered throughout Attunga he'd surprised them by saying he'd like to go with them on one of their activity days. That would be great, except that he'd be confined to a transport module.

"Well it has to be water so he can join in, and I thought we could go to a zero-G swimming pool. It would be interesting for him and I've never heard of him being in zero-G."

"Thom, that's brilliant. We could go to the one we missed the day we met him. Is it the biggest one on Attunga? There'd need to be plenty of room for him."

"I don't know about the biggest. All I can remember is that it was a thirty meter sphere. Check it out."

Wirrin was surprised to find thirty-five zero-G pools spread round Attunga and that three of them were fifty meters. Most of them were spheres but one was a torus."

"A torus?show me."

Wirrin imported the holo image from the pool site.

"How do they do that?"

"It says they use a complicated set of grav fields."

"A sphere would be better for Sonic. There's a lot more room to move."

"How will he breathe? He won't be able to use his blowhole properly in zero-G. He'll get water in his lungs."

"Gelar will sort something out."

"What about gravity sickness? First time could be a nightmare without proper training."

"I don't know. I think it mightn't matter so much for dolphins. Living in water is a bit like zero gravity anyway."

Gelar would know all that and he'd quickly tell them whether this was a feasible idea. It wasn't too late to contact him but that would have to wait till they discussed it with Calen. Wirrin and Thom grinned at each other and resisted the urge to wake Calen immediately and let him know about this interesting idea.

***

"Hello Wirrin. Are you ready for a lube and full-service?"

What was he talking about? Wirrin looked blankly at the doctor.

"A lube means lubrication with oil and grease, and servicing means checking all your parts are working well. I saw it on Old Earth movie the night before last. It's what they used to do to maintain the personal transport vehicles on old earth."

"Does that mean my parts need fixing?"

"No, not at all. We've been asked to watch you extra closely and give you any help we can."

This doctor was very friendly and Wirrin tried for more information.

"Asked? Do you know who it was?"

"Not really, but you've certainly impressed someone because you are now a priority case."

"I am? What does that mean?"

"For us, not a lot. A few extra people to work with and more frequent visits like this, and we'll have you on a tri-weekly schedule from now on if you can manage it. Climb on the bench and we'll get these tests started."

Most of the tests were familiar but there were several new ones which had to be done in different areas of the facility. It was all interesting and very pleasant to hear from different doctors and technicians that his implants were functioning perfectly and that his skills for using them were developing better than expected. There was particular interest in his ability to use transparency mode in retinal imaging without any sign of disorientation or dizziness, and some surprise when he informed them he could use it indefinitely with no trouble. Several hours later Wirrin was once again sitting with the overseeing doctor.

"All your parts are humming like a Swiss watch."

He looked expectantly at Wirrin and asked him to look up the reference in retinal mode. Wirrin knew from the context it meant everything was going well, he'd heard that all morning, but he checked anyway.

"It comes from a small country 300 years ago that was famous for its precision engineering and it means my implants are functioning extra well."

"Not just your implants Wirrin. We are particularly pleased with the way your associated skills have developed and we want you to apply them in a number of new areas which will be of great benefit to you."

He paused, as if expecting a query, then continued when Wirrin didn't say anything.

"There are two things to concentrate on between now and your next visit. The first is quite straightforward and will quickly reap benefits for you. Your study area involves gathering information and the faster you can assimilate it the better, so I want you to retake the speed reading unit you did four years ago with EdCom. I called up the records and I see you rate at nearly 2000 words per minute. With your memory enhancement you should be able to increase that considerably. Doubling should be the minimum but with your skills and ability I'm expecting you can at least triple that rate."

"Triple? In only three weeks?"

"It's a good unit. Last time you went from 750 words per minute to 2000 in four weeks. You know how it works. An hour a day for the first week and a concentrated half hour a day from then on. EdCom is being informed this morning and your courses rearranged to suit."

Wirrin was already pleased with the rate he could read and take in information, and the idea of tripling it was hard to imagine. Still, he did remember thinking the same four years ago when he'd first done the unit. Thom and Calen would be calling him a brainiac. But why couldn't they do the unit? They'd had the same memory enhancement.

"What about the rest of my trio? Couldn't we do the unit together?"

"Let's have a look. Everyone does the reading unit as a matter of course after a memory enhancement, but it's usually another six months down the track."

He called up information on his holo screen, started looking through it, and when he saw Wirrin's interest, rearranged the screen so they could both examine it. It didn't mean a lot to Wirrin as it was specialised information.

"Thom and Calen could both take the reading unit now, but they reach their optimal effective readiness in just under two months so it's best to wait. ...And there some kind of hold on Calen which prevents him anyway."

"A hold? Is everything alright with him?"

"Yes, it's some sort of administrative thing. ...Here it is. ...This is very interesting. It's a time constraint. His time is so valuable for the next few weeks that no demands can be made on it unless it's important for his well-being. I don't see this very often. What's he doing?"

"He works with Sonic, the special dolphin, and for the last two weeks he's had Calen doing so much he comes home exhausted every day."

"The dolphin tells Calen what to do? I don't understand. I know the work we did with him was to help with dolphin communication, but you sound as if the dolphin makes the decisions?"

Sometimes it was exasperating and sometimes funny that people could know so little about the Attunga dolphins, but as Calen liked pointing out, Wirrin and Thom had been no different till the day they'd visited the dolphinarium. This doctor was likeable and thoughtful and it would be enjoyable letting him know what the real situation was.

"He does, and everyone follows his decisions. He's more intelligent than we are."

Wirrin was purposefully being challenging and the doctor recognised it as such.

"That's difficult to believe, but I can see you're eager to persuade me."

Wirrin spent some time describing Sonic and discussing his accomplishments and character and finally he described the meeting with Akama.

"Have you got a record of that? I'd like to see it."

Wirrin didn't, but he connected to the dolphinarium and found multiple versions of the event. He picked one at random and was delighted with the amazement and interest from the doctor.

"I can't understand how I haven't heard about this. It's very much my area of expertise and I make a point of keeping up with new developments. There is no restriction on this knowledge is there? That can't be if you can tell me openly like this."

Wirrin hesitated. That's how it looked, but in reality he was using retinal mode and subvocal commands to ask Turaku if it was all right to talk about the Earth attacks.

"Turaku says I can tell you, but it's first level security."

"Who's Turaku?"

"He's the AI who works with the dolphins."

"You speak to an AI?"

The doctors amazement reminded Wirrin how unusual that was.

"Yes but only because my trio is connected with Sonic."

"You did it while we were speaking? I didn't see any signs you were concentrating."

Wirrin nodded and then went on.

"They have been keeping quiet about Sonic and there is a huge security barrier to keep the Directed Habitats from finding out about him, but it's not a secret on Attunga. I know it can't be because Akama is introducing him to the habitat in two weeks."

"Akama? Well people will certainly be watching that. But why are we keeping it from the other habitats? Knowledge should be shared."

"The Directed Habitats don't want anyone except humans to be clever. They killed a hundred Earth dolphins when they found out about the enhanced ones on Freedom."

"Killed? That can't be right. No one would do that. ...Are you sure it's not one of those conspiracy theories that come from Earth?"

In a few seconds the images of the two groups of dead dolphins were displayed to the horrified eyes of the doctor, and another quarter of an hour passed while Wirrin recounted the events at Monkey Mia. The doctor was particularly disgusted that 700 dolphins could be sacrificed to get at the smaller group associated with the marine research Station.

"Back to the business at hand. How much of your implanted data storage have you used?"

He had that information at his fingertips, after all the tests that had just been done, but Wirrin did the check and saw how closely the doctor was watching. So he was looking again for signs of concentration. He wouldn't see any. Even Thom and Calen couldn't.

"I've hardly used any. ...It's less than 100th of a percent."

"Hopefully we'll have you using it much more. For the next minute I want you to store everything you see."

Wirrin was completely bewildered. He might as well have been told to start flying.

"I can't do that."

"Yes you can. Look up Personal Memory in your implant command set."

Still using retinal mode Wirrin did so, and a whole sub-menu of commands flicked into view.

"Have you found it?"

"Yes, but I didn't know it was there."

"It wasn't till we gave you access about an hour ago. It's an important implant function which is usually only accessed as part of your monthly health check. The indicators show that you might be one of the rare people who can cope with using it consciously and the only certain way to know is for you to have a try."

He explained how tiny picobots intercepted and interpreted the messages being received by nerve endings as part of the routine used to check their health, then detailed the use of the new set of commands. Most of it was self evident.

"I can't do this myself Wirrin. I've tried but after about ten seconds my brain gets confused. You may be the same, but we'll soon know. Nothing can go wrong while we're monitoring and the worst you'll feel if it doesn't work is that slight dizziness everyone has during their health check, and you'll be out of it in fifteen seconds."

"And if it does work?"

"Then it may be very uncomfortable, but if that's the case you switch out of it yourself and we'll decide what to do next."

He talked till Wirrin, rather nervous, said he was ready. The commands were simple but Wirrin concentrated on the switch off one, making it as strong as he could in his mind before he sub-vocalised the start. It was awful. The doctors face kept disappearing and reappearing in a kaleidoscope of confusing images and sensations which sent his mind reeling till he was begging for an end. Stop! Stop! No, that wasn't it. ...Switch off! The doctor's features snapped immediately into clear view.

"What happened?"

"It didn't work. My brain got confused like you said it might."

"It did work Wirrin. That was twenty-three seconds from start to finish and you switched out of it yourself which means you were thinking consciously. Could you see anything?"

"Sort of."

Wirrin thought about what he'd just experienced.

"It was really strange. I felt like my eyes were seeing all right but my brain was mixed up about it. I could see you and then I couldn't and I was so overwhelmed I had to stop."

"You saw me? Excellent. Was it too distressing to cope with?"

"Almost. ...No not really. It was just so different I thought it was."

The doctor nodded with a pleased and quite expectant look.

"As soon as you're ready we'll try again. You know what to expect, so this time I want you to push the strangeness into the background, focus your mind on something else, and then see if you can hold any images steady."

Wirrin thought about it, tried it, and for a short while managed to watch the doctor before the need to switch off became too strong.

"That was thirty-seven seconds Wirrin. Any other progress?"

"Yes, I held you in view for a short while."

"Have another go."

After three more tries something clicked into place and Wirrin found he was watching the doctor quite normally.

"I think I've got it. It's hard and I can't keep going but I can push the confusion away."

"Wonderful. Now play that last effort back from your memory storage."

That was easy and Wirrin laughed.

"What's up."

"Nothing. It worked perfectly but it's confusing because I'm seeing you in transparency mode and naturally at the same time."

"Switch to holo and show me."

That done, the doctor said it was time for a drink and snack before trying the commands for sound recording. An hour later Wirrin was feeling very pleased that he could simultaneously store everything he was seeing and hearing for a period of almost two minutes before losing concentration. The doctor was excited and set guidelines for practice, and daily holo contact time to confer about progress or any issues.

***

"We always knew there was something weird about your brain."

Thom and Calen were listening, intrigued, to Wirrin's report about his day's activities and acting all indignant that they had to wait two months before doing the speed reading themselves. Underneath all the carry on about him being a super-brain and computer-head they were really proud of him. Calen pushed Thom down on the grav-bed and sat on him.

"You won't get away with anything Thom. We'll always have proof of when you go crazy."

He was referring to Thom's active libido.

"No you won't. I'll just turn the lights off and he won't be able to see."

"Won't make any difference. He uses infra-red vision instead."

"What?"

He squirmed to see past Calen.

"You can't do that can you?"

"Of course I can. Just imagine what you'll look like with your hot parts glowing."

Of course Wirrin couldn't do that, but the moment of surprise before Thom realised they were having him on set them all laughing. Thom started wrestling, but as Calen had had his evening rest that was hopeless and Wirrin joined in.

"Show us how it works."

"All right. Make Calen laugh."

"He doesn't know how."

"Teach him then."

With his happy disposition Calen was easy to set laughing and if you couldn't think of anything silly then tickling was a perfect fallback. Thom tried but Calen turned the tables. They stopped abruptly to watch themselves for a moment on the holo.

"Wow! Just like that. You look at it and it's recorded. It must be hard because you go all still and look dopey when you're doing it."

That made Calen laugh genuinely, not just tickle laugh.

"Wombat Head."

He turned to Wirrin.

"It's just the look you have that tells us you're thinking really hard. How much are you meant to practise?"

"I don't know. As much as I can without making myself tired for other things. I have to work it out for myself."

"Did that bit you just did make you tired?"

"That was as long as I can last."

"Well I reckon you've done it enough for today. You look worn out. Guess where we're going on our activity day?"

"The Zero-G pool?"

"Sonic loves the idea so he's taking a day off and Gelar's got everything organised."

"A day off? What from?"

"Can't tell you. It's a surprise."

That meant it was Sonic's meeting with the rest of Attunga, and since Calen was enjoying the opportunity to tease their curiosity so much, it warranted action.

"You've had it."

***

Travelling with Sonic like this was a real experience. At his request the transport module had been redesigned so he could either control it himself or let TransCom take over, and he was thoroughly enjoying his new type of mobility. At the moment they were stopped at a water fountain in the gathering area of the first big TransCom transfer station they'd reached and Sonic was watching the jets of water as they leapt in an ever-changing display of shapes and colors. Wirrin looked to Calen.

"It's the first time he's seen a fountain, and pushing water into different shapes is a new idea for him. He also wants to look at the people. He's never been close to so many before."

That worked well because the people certainly wanted to look at him. The transport module was unusual enough in itself to draw attention but the sight of a dolphin fixed it, and when Sonic stopped near the fountain people drifted close. Three children rushed over and stared, goggle-eyed and smiling.

"It's beautiful. I wish I had a dolphin. Will we frighten it if we get close?"

"Why don't you ask him?"

The little girl looked at her two companions then back at Calen.

"You can't talk to dolphins."

"Yes you can."

The children turned towards two adults who'd moved behind them and when the man shook his head to tell them 'no' Calen spoke again, this time in dolphin talk and Sonic answered. The hum of conversation stopped.

"Sonic says you can come as close as you like."

The little girl was still dubious, but one of the boys darted forward and put his hand on the clear panel of the transport module. Sonic touched his beak to the same place on his side and asked their names. The hush from the growing assembly of people was absolute.

"Sonic wants to know your names."

"Kania."

The little girl came close, pulling her younger brother with her.

"I am Alisa. And this is Baradine. But he's shy."

She put her hand on the panel and lit up with delight when Sonic touched it again. Sonic made the dolphin greeting and spoke.

"Sonic likes your names and he wonders what they mean."

Once again the children looked to their parents and the lady answered, putting her hand on each child's head in turn.

"Kania means a rock. Alisa means the sun and Baradine is a Wallaby."

Three bursts of sound came from Sonic and Calen interpreted.

"Sonic said your names in dolphin talk."

The children stared, big eyed, at Sonic and someone called from the crowd.

"Can it say the names again?"

Calen looked towards the man and nodded as three bursts of sound came from Sonic. The sceptical look changed.

"It answered by itself? Did you give it a signal?"

Hearing Sonic referred to as an 'it' really grated with Wirrin. Sonic's whistles and clicks sounded out clearly.

"Sonic doesn't need signals. He understands you and wishes he had translator machines fitted to his transport module."

It took twenty minutes to get away, and as the module moved slowly through the crowd Wirrin took in the smiles and looks of wonderment and marvelled at how Sonic had affected everyone. He'd taken over really, with Calen his mouthpiece, as he interacted, primarily with the children but somehow, at a different level with everyone else. There were two more big transfer stations on the way but their schedule meant they had to forego any similar stops.

***

"That was an eye opener. ...Inviting the children for a visit to the dolphinarium made them very excited."

"You know about that already?"

Gelar was at the zero-grav pool to make sure everything ran smoothly.

"Turaku let me know you might be turning up late so I watched. It sounds like we've got another redesign for the transport module."

"Yes, he wants panels he can open and a translator built in."

The group moved to a reception room and Gelar introduced the pool staff. Sonic greeted them and, through Calen, asked some questions before everyone moved to one of the viewing galleries around the pool. Wirrin watched the same change from interest to amazement they'd seen with the people in the transfer Hall, as understanding blossomed that Sonic was much more than their idea of a dolphin.
The sight of the pool gave Wirrin his own dose of amazement and he echoed the exclamations from Calen and Thom as they took in the slightly glowing, fifty meter, transparent sphere of water apparently hanging in mid air.

"This is incredible!"

The holo images they'd watched with Sonic the night before had been exciting in their own right, but no match for this impact of the real thing. Wirrin counted nine people moving in the watery globe, and while they watched, one of them broke surface almost directly in front with a great confusion of following water, drifted through the ten meter air gap, then after a stylistic turn, pushed powerfully against the transparent wall and arrowed back. The scattered blobs of water, quivering and weirdly transforming, gradually assumed roughly spherical shapes and settled towards the main water body. They'd learnt last night that although it was called zero-grav there was really a fractional field, focused to give the water mass just enough effective centre of gravity to hold its shape.
There was a burst of speech from Sonic saying he was eager to get into the pool and everyone moved to the entry area and put on breathing masks. This was routine for Gelar and the trio but quite an event for Sonic as he'd only trialled the specially designed device which fitted over his blow-hole in the last couple of days. Next, his transport module had to be moved into the pool itself as he couldn't launch himself through the air gap like the humans.
It only took a minute and he was floating motionless, with the trio and Gelar ready to help if the lack of gravity was too disorienting for him. He'd been okay in trials at the dolphinarium, but this was a confluence of different conditions. The freshwater had a slightly different density to his normal salt water. Zero-G meant there was no sense of up and down, and the water was so clear it might affect his sense of distance.

'Very strange.'

"Are you feeling dizzy?"

He wasn't and quickly deciding he'd sorted out this new environment, swam slowly towards the centre of the sphere. Everyone relaxed and moved with him.
Whoosh! He powered off in a rapid loop then nudged Calen with the signal to try and catch him.
Of course they couldn't, not in water, unless he let them, but he made the mistake of following Calen in his first transition through the shimmering water surface into the air gap. Calen, used to zero-G movement in air, let himself glide to the outer barrier and, with a practised body twist, push off and head back to the water.
Wirrin, following, watched in dismay as Sonic's glistening grey form, fins and flukes flailing helplessly, bounced against the outer barrier then drifted slowly back to the liquid interface. There was a great burst of dolphin sound.
What? Oh, dolphin laughter, but louder than Wirrin had ever heard it. Well he mustn't have been hurt.

'Do it again.'

Was Sonic really going to try again?
...He manoeuvred so his head was poking through the surface and watched Calen erupt next to him, drift to the outer panels and execute the turn and push to send him zooming back. With one careful flick of his tail Sonic left the water, much more slowly this time, and drifted head-first to the solid panels. Oh no, his rostrum was going to take the full impact. At the last instant he twisted his head sideways and managed a relatively gentle bump and rebound. Wirrin was impressed. There'd been none of the pointless flexing of his fins and tail on this second attempt.

"Slower."

What did Calen mean? Sonic would drift in the air, helpless. He did. ...And once again his dolphin laughter sounded.

'Trickster.'

Calen shot from the water then pushed from the panels in just the right direction to collide with Sonic. As their bodies met he grabbed tight in the classic move of combined momentum to help someone marooned in a no-grav situation. They re-entered the water and Wirrin stared in amazement as the two bodies followed a graceful curve, spiralling and looping in perfect and effortless harmony to a nearby position on the water/air boundary.

'Again.'

Sonic launched himself again, drifting ever so slowly till Calen rescued him with the rebound from the outer panels.
The rest of the time at the Zero-G pool was mostly spent with Sonic exploring and mastering techniques of movement and control in the air layer. It shouldn't have been a surprise that he was more interested in this than the pool itself because new experiences were so important to him.

***

"How much did you zap?"

Zapping was Thom and Calen's quick name for memory recording.

"Not much. There were too many things going on to concentrate properly."

"It must have been a fair amount. I remember seeing you do it at least three times."

"Me too. I saw you a couple of times."

"I kept trying but when you see Sonic barging straight at you, you forget everything else, and zero-G is hard enough by itself. I managed nearly twenty minutes but they're all short bursts. ...Have a look at this one. It's when he learned to flip himself off the wall with his tail."

Wirrin's prolonged recording time had stretched to over ten minutes in the week since he'd seen the doctor, and they were both pleased with the improvement. The current approach was for a sustained effort in the morning, another in the evening, and frequent short bursts in between. Wirrin liked the short bursts as he didn't notice any effect from them. The long bursts were hard work and left him feeling slightly dazed for a while.

"He's good isn't he? When we were doing some zero-G trials for him at the dolphinarium he kept saying he was going to be a fish out of water. It's some old saying he found on the InterWeb that caught his fancy."

"Hey, how long have you been doing that new swimming?"

"What new swimming?"

"The spiral thing you did with Sonic the first time you rescued him."

"We weren't meant to do that. He started it because he was excited."

"Why weren't you meant to?"

Calen laughed.

"You know why, and I'm not going to talk about it."

"But how do you do it? You can talk about that because we've already seen it."

"I don't know how to explain. I kind of caught it from so much swimming with Sonic. It's hard work."

"It looked easy."

"It's meant to, but it's really the opposite."

"Is it what makes you so tired each day?"

He laughed again.

"It's a part of it, but only a part. ...You'll see."

***

"It's only two days away and I'm scared I'll mess it up."

"Scared? You mean nervous don't you? It's okay to be nervous."

"I suppose so. ...No, I'm feeling scared too. Warrigal was there today and I found out it's even more important than I thought."

Calen had come in, tired as usual but instead of coming back to life after his rest, and eagerly attacking his evening meal, he'd stayed very, very quiet and Wirrin and Thom were closing ranks with him.

"Akama introducing Sonic to a lot of scientists and going on the InterWeb for all Attunga. More important than that?"

"Way more important. The conference with the scientists is only a part at the end. Every single Witness on Attunga is going to be there."

"WHAT?"

"I know. I've never heard of anything like it, and there's an invitation to watch being sent to everyone, and I've never heard of that either."

For each sector, a Witness, with special training for almost infallible recall and unquestionable integrity, was the final arbiter for any situation or decision, and with over 1200 sectors currently developed on Attunga that meant at least the equivalent number of witnesses.

"Calen, they can't. The viewing gallery isn't big enough."

"They've taken the seats out so they can all fit in. They'll be standing up the whole time."

"Every witness?"

There was quiet as they thought that over, then Thom leaned against Calen.

"Wow, now we're scared too and all we have to do is watch."

Wirrin gave his own reassuring pressure and Calen smiled in response to the support from his trio.

"You won't be scared Calen. You'll be with Sonic and people will like you whatever happens."

***

END OF PART 10.
I hope you've gained some enjoyment from this story.
Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
My email address is iarwain@aanet.com.au
Alternative address, iarwain7@ains.net.au
Should you be interested, my other stories can be found by looking under 'Iarwain' in the authors section on Nifty.
Iarwain.