ATTUNGA

Date 10 May 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 12.



***

"I feel like a Dead Dingo!"

Wirrin and Thom plonked themselves down beside Calen. They were all tired from the momentous day, but after all his energy and effort it was no wonder Calen was extra exhausted.

"Do you want to go to sleep or can you wait for the special meal Thom's got planned?"

"I won't sleep. My brain's going round in circles."

Normally that would draw rude remarks but at the moment Wirrin and Thom were rather in awe of Calen.

"No wonder. What was it like talking to all the scientists?"

"I wasn't expecting that. It was meant to be just Sonic but he says it's easier to talk to people he doesn't know when one of us is with him. That's why he wanted us all there when he talked to the Witnesses."

"What about that scientist who said we're a fake dolphin pod designed by the Dolphinarium?"

"I know. That was interesting, but he went quiet when Sonic said there was nothing fake about us, and that though we filled some similar functions we were very different to a pod."

"I like the idea that we're a sort of dolphin pod."

Wirrin nodded at Thom's comment because he felt the same.

"We'll ask Sonic. You could tell he's thought about it more than we have."

"I thought the scientists were great. They were all on Sonic's side."

"That's a funny thing to say. Of course they were on his side."

"You know what I mean. You could feel the atmosphere, and if Gelar hadn't finished things up I reckon they'd still be talking."

The talk with the scientists was the original meeting planned for Sonic. The introduction to the general population of Attunga, which had taken over in importance, was instigated by Akama and when the Witnesses left to go to their special conference the viewing gallery refilled with scientists and for over an hour Sonic and Calen answered all sorts of questions. Calen didn't answer so many, but Sonic included him in different ways in many of his answers. Wirrin was impressed by how much Sonic enjoyed trying to answer the tricky questions.

"Well they sure looked pleased when Sonic said he'd like to have regular meetings with them."

"I don't know how he's going to fit that in with every else he wants to do. We just seem to get busier and busier."

Wirrin felt concerned at this statement.

"You're not going to keep being worn out every night are you?"

"No, that was from practising the swimming till we got it right. We're back to normal routine now. Except I don't know how it's going to work if he wants me there for all these trips he wants to do."

The trips Calen was talking about had come out when Sonic told the scientists he had plans to meet people all over Attunga, and especially younger people in Nurseries and EdCom centres.

"You've never had a normal routine. It changes every time Sonic gets interested in something new."

"Well it makes life interesting. ...How much did you zap at the Gallery?"

"Nothing."

"How come? That's not what we planned."

"How come? Well, someone just happened to blow my brain with their incredible surprise didn't they. Our planning didn't count on you being so amazing I wouldn't be able to think about anything else."

Thom gave a snort of laughter.

"Snap out Wirrin. He's being useless again."

"What?"

"He's wondering what he looked like. Call it up from the InterWeb and show him with a big holo."

"Am not!"

The grin he was trying to repress said otherwise. Wirrin searched and let out a gasp.

"Bush-boys! Look at this. It's been watched over two and a half billion times. ...And there's ninety million people watching it right now."

They all stared at the data about the dual swim.

"That must be wrong. It doesn't make sense."

"Yes it does. No one could believe it the first time so they're watching it again."

"They must be watching it more than twice to get those numbers."

"... 73% of Attunga and Warrakan were watching. It's the biggest audience for anything that's been on the Attunga InterWeb."

Calen was shaking his head in disbelief.

"How many people is that?"

"It's there. ...Further across in that next column. ...910 million."

They all went quiet.

"... It's because of Sonic."

Wirrin grabbed Calen by the nape of his neck and gave a squeeze.

"And you! The first time was because of all the Witnesses being there, but the re-watches are because of you and Sonic."

Calen wriggled his head around but made no move to dislodge the grip.

"Dolphin boy! ...Look! They call you Dolphin Boy. That's good. I really like it."

The outburst was from Thom as he pointed to a heading on the far right of the screen. There was another startled silence while they made a quick perusal, then a simultaneous chant of, 'Dolphin Boy! Dolphin Boy!', from Wirrin and Thom as they tipped Calen on his side on the grav-sofa and joyfully attacked. Calling them idiots and bushwhackers, Calen demanded, after a while, that they watch the holo, and feeling particularly close, they did just that.

"You really are a Dolphin Boy Calen. You can't deny it after watching that."

"It does look more special than when we were practising, but it all came from Sonic. I just did what he showed me. It could have been anyone."

"As if. ...What did Sonic say about it?"

"We didn't get to talk much but he was really pleased. We'll find out everything when we see Turaku tomorrow."

"Turaku wants to see you?"

"No, the other way round. Sonic wants to see Turaku, and he's arranged for all of us to meet him tomorrow afternoon."

"All of us?"

"Yes, everyone. It's about Akama's message. Sonic wants something to happen."

"Did he say what?"

Wirrin and Thom were on full alert now.

"No, there were too many other things going on, but I think he must have ideas he wants to talk over."

Akama's warning about the negative external attitude to enhanced dolphins had been the serious note amongst all the positives for the day.

"That's interesting. He usually leaves things like that to Turaku. I wonder if he knows something we don't?"

"I don't think so. Gelar was as surprised by the call for the meeting as I was, and Turaku keeps him up to date with everything. I reckon Sonic got stirred by Akama's speech."

Wirrin nodded. No-one was going to know Sonic's thoughts better than Calen, and Akama had indeed been inspiring.

"What did you think of it? Akama's warning I mean?"

"It was really clever. I was scared at the start because I thought he was going to say more dolphins were being attacked."

"Me too, and then I was expecting him to talk about the ones that had been killed but instead of that he made a big deal about how well everything went at Monkey Mia."

"He wouldn't talk about the dead ones Thom, not when so many people were watching. It would be too upsetting. Children would have nightmares if they saw those pictures."

"That's for sure."

"He did tell them bad things had happened, without going into the details. I thought he might be letting everyone know about it without making it too much of a shock so it wouldn't take away from all the good things coming out about the dolphins."

Wirrin was really impressed with this idea from Calen. It fitted with Akama's strong assurances that the AIs were working to help the Earth dolphins. Calen continued.

"He sure made a big deal about the way you helped."

"That was awful. He made it sound like it was me who saved Monkey Mia."

"What's awful about that? You did save them and we're glad that everyone knows."

"I helped a bit, but it was really Turaku and the Australian AIs who did all the important things, and Akama hardly mentioned them."

"He wants you to be a hero."

"Very funny!"

As soon as he made his comeback Wirrin realised Calen wasn't joking.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I noticed how much he emphasised your part in it too, and I wondered if he was trying to show that humans are important for helping the dolphins. You know what I mean, building the idea that humans and dolphins and AIs all help each other and need each other. That's what Witnesses do, and I bet that's what took up most of their conference."

Wirrin was impressed again. Calen was saying a lot of good things and that thought could certainly explain what Akama had done. Still, it stuck in his mind that the same thing could have happened without making it so individual.
Thom jumped up.

"I'd better get our food ready."

"Aren't we going to watch the dolphins and the Dreamtime Concerto first?"

"Tomorrow night. If you watch it now your brain will be going round in even more circles, and you're going to bed as soon as you can because you're under orders from Warrigal to sleep in till midday."

***

Wirrin and Thom spent the morning studying at EdCom then returned home. When they came in Calen sat up in the grav-bed with a cheeky grin and demanded breakfast. Good, he looked and sounded full of life.

"SLUG! ...It's more like evening meal time."

"It is not. It's 12:30 and I've been awake for ages."

"Well you're still in bed so ages means about ten minutes. We've got an hour to get to the Dolphinarium so get up and get yourself ready."

Calen elaborately and lazily stretched his arms above his head and gave a fake yawn.

"I'll have breakfast in bed first. It's too nice to be getting up."

Wirrin grabbed a foot and pulled him onto the floor then, with indignant, fake cries of protest following, went to help Thom.

"That's not breakfast. ...What is it?"

"Too bad about breakfast. You've missed that. It's salmon-sub and if you don't want it we'll eat it for you."

"Are you sure you've cooked enough?"

"No we're not, but 600 g will have to do. If you want any more you can get it off Sonic."

"What?"

"Fish! That's what Dolphin Boys eat, and from now on you're having it for breakfast, lunch and tea."

Calen shook his head as if he'd never understand such foolishness.

"Did anything happen at EdCom?"

"We hardly got anything done. Even the tutors wanted to talk about dolphins instead of ordinary work."

It had been quite strange, to walk into the EdCom Centre and feel everyone looking. Mostly they'd kind of smiled, which felt good, and in the discussion groups where everyone knew each other they'd gathered round to talk and ask questions.

"Did they like Sonic?"

"I think so."

Calen laughed at Thom's typical understatement and turned to Wirrin.

"Of course they did. You'll see for yourself tomorrow. ...Are you going to wear your dolphin skin today?"

"It isn't dolphin skin and of course I'm not. I'd feel silly."

"Well that was one of the things they kept asking about."

The conversation slacked off and was replaced with murmurs of pleasure as they tucked into the food. Thom had picked the salmon substitute as a stir for the Dolphin Boy, but they all agreed it was so delicious it would be added to their list of meals for special occasions. The big chunks they were eating didn't come from real salmon of course. Like any other genuine meat, they were grown in a specialty food factory and quite limited in supply.
Just as they were finishing there was a splash of water in the pool and a rattle of clicks and squeaks as Sonic looked towards where they were sitting. It was something about being lazy and something about food. Wirrin had a good vocabulary of dolphin words, but it was always tricky to understand what Sonic was saying. He and Calen spoke so quickly for one thing, but as well, there were frequencies which Calen could pick up with his special implants which ordinary human ears couldn't hear. Calen laughed and said something back.

"He's learning bad habits from you two, telling me I sleep too much."

"What did he ask about the food?"

There was another rapid interchange of dolphin speech.

"I told him it was fish and he said it was disgusting."

"Eating fish is disgusting?"

Dolphin laughter sounded from the pool.

'No, but burning and spoiling it is.'

Wirrin turned to Sonic.

"Humans don't eat raw fish. That would be disgusting."

There was more dolphin laughter and Calen looked surprised.

"He says to look up 'sushi'."

In a second Wirrin had pictures and information on a holo for everyone to look at. ...raw fish and people enjoying eating it.

"How did he know that?"

"...That time when we talked about killing things for food he got interested in what people eat."

Calen pulled his shirt off and dived into the pool. Wirrin and Thom quickly cleared away the table things and joined them. Saying hello to Sonic wasn't properly complete without physical contact. Ten minutes of the play that was so important in dolphin society followed, and laughter and dolphin sounds rang out in happy communion.

***

Sonic was excited. Calen called it across from his skimmer as the four of them raced to the Dolphinarium, but it was obvious anyway, first with his exuberance in the pool and now as he powered through the reach. A glance at the skimmer's info-panel showed an impressive 29 km/h and at this rate the trip would only take couple of minutes. Their curiosity about the purpose of the meeting was higher than ever after their queries had just got Sonic's response that he wanted to help the Earth dolphins.

***

"We can't do that. It's far too dangerous."

Calen's words sounded into the pool of silence following Sonic's request to journey to Earth and persuade the threatened dolphins to return to Attunga. Even Turaku was looking rather shocked, though of course it would be the expression calculated as the most appropriate response for his holo.

'Turaku will make it safe.'

"He can't Sonic. He's bound to Attunga. If anything happened on Earth he wouldn't even know about it for twenty-seven minutes and we couldn't rely on the Australian AIs for the same reason. You'd be without proper AI protection for the whole travel time to earth and back. It's a terrible risk"

'There will be a way.'

Wirrin agreed with Gelar and he was sure everyone else did too. It had taken a combination of Turaku and several security AIs just to get Sonic safely to Warrakan and back. Gelar, shaking his head, looked at Turaku for support, and when he didn't respond, looked at Warrigal and everyone else. Wirrin could see other problems.

"How would you talk to them all Sonic? There must be thousands of them, and they're spread all over the Earth. It would take months and months to visit them. And how would we bring so many back to Attunga if they decide to leave their homes?"

'Talking is easy. Set up a holo screen for each pod and they can all hear me at the same time.'

Well, Sonic certainly didn't need Turaku to solve the communication problem.

"Varying in degree and complexity, there are approximately 2700 dolphins currently in association with 327 marine research centres or dolphin projects, and we don't have the capability to either transport them or provide a suitable living environment. Gelar is correct in his assessment that the risk in taking Sonic out of a secure environment is unacceptable, but this could be overcome as Sonic's proposal is the best solution so far considered.
With the targeted dolphins removed from the scene, the probability that wild dolphins would be hurt becomes minimal.
The high level of unwillingness for the marine centres to part with their dolphins could be alleviated by an invitation for human associates to accompany them.
There is, however, a serious drawback with the proposal, as Attunga would become the focus of attention for any new actions by the Directed Habitats, and Akama will be with us shortly to discuss this."

Wirrin stared. Everyone stared. Turaku was giving a go-ahead, but with reservations?

"But what about the security? We've only got one Sonic and the time lag would make you ineffective."

The concern in Gelar's voice sent a pang of worry through Wirrin. The thought of anything bad happening to Sonic really wasn't acceptable. Calen's intense frown showed he was thinking the same thing.

"1.7% effective as a reasonable approximation, but by travelling with you I can lift that to over 90%, and with a security presence we would approach 100%."

"You can't do that. You're part of Attunga."

"Yes I am and I will remain here, but with enough infrastructure developed on the transport vessel my identity and function can be replicated. With additional infrastructure a security presence could accompany us as well."

"You mean a copy of yourself would go with Sonic?"

"More like an extension. There would be constant communication."

A security presence? He meant another AI. Wirrin knew enough about the physical structures which enabled the existence of AIs to understand that Turaku was talking of a major, major project.

"Infrastructure? It would be a lot more than that. You'd have to design the whole vessel from scratch."

"You're correct Wirrin, and that design, including transport facilities for the dolphins, is ready for implementation."

AIs performed at incredible speeds but that sent Wirrin's mind spinning.

"Ready? You've designed it in the last minute or two?"

"I'm not personally capable in that time-frame. The function of the vessel requires maximum capability, and in order to be prepared for Akama, a group of AIs with expertise in engineering, defence, construction, security, science, and communication collaborated in semi-gestalt mode."

'Thank you Turaku.'

Turaku acknowledged the formal greeting. Wirrin was pondering what maximum capability must mean if it involved so many specialty AIs.

'I am concerned about the danger to Attunga. It clashes with my wish to protect dolphins.'

"We have to protect them, even if we don't bring them here. ...What about that idea of taking them all to Northern Australia? It worked at Monkey Mia, and the Australian AIs could look after them at Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef as well."

Calen sounded upset and Thom who was next to him put his arm across his shoulders. There had been many ideas about actions to assist the Earth dolphins in the eight to ten week respite which Turaku had confidently predicted before any new attacks were attempted. The complete disappearance without trace of every one of their predator drones would have been a major shock to K74 and require a full assessment on what might have happened before they instigated any new nastiness.

"It's the same dilemma Calen, except the attention gets directed against Northern Australia, and they aren't as well equipped to cope with it. ...You're right though, we do have to protect them, and provided Sonic can be kept safe I think this should go ahead. I don't know how we'd cope with two and a half thousand thousand extra dolphins. They'd have to all squeeze into the new reach on Warrakan and that's been designed for five hundred. We'd have to artificially stimulate the food production levels till any adjacent reaches became available. ...Can that be speeded up Turaku? They're already on a high priority."

"The first reach is ready now and it's extension in another three months. In six months we will have four neighbouring reaches available, and in eight months an extra twenty."

Twenty-four reaches? That was staggering. Wirrin did a quick calculation. ...Enough for 12,000 dolphins if they matched the specifications of the new one. Two and a half thousand dolphins would almost be lost in that amount of space. Gelar was showing the same amazement as everyone else and after a moment his smile of delight lit up. His attitude to Sonic's proposal had just taken an almost complete reversal.

"Twenty-four reaches? That's wonderful, but why so many, and why so soon? Has something else happened?"

Turaku gave a nod.

"Yes, I have been addressing the conference of Witnesses."

"The Witnesses? But that finished last night."

"They re-adjourned. Akama will be here in a few minutes."

The Witnesses were meeting again today? With what Turaku had just said about the reaches it must be connected to their meeting with Sonic, and Wirrin looked at him, wondering what he was making of all this. He hadn't said much and Wirrin had the impression he was doing a lot of thinking. With his fixed facial expression it was hard to tell. Everyone was keen to hear about the Witnesses but it was clear Turaku was leaving that to Akama.

"How long would it take to build a transport ship?"

"Time is critical Thom. Almost three weeks."

"Then nearly two weeks of travelling. Five weeks is getting into the danger zone."

"Travelling time would be twenty-nine hours. It's the logistics on Earth that can't be rushed."

Wirrin almost wondered if he was hearing right, as normal travel time to Earth varied from twelve to twenty days. A rapid retinal InterWeb check showed the record time was eight days and five hours. Thom looked like he'd been hit on the head with a club.

"You just said twenty-nine hours?"

The tone said Thom wanted to believe but couldn't.

"Yes Thom, it will be necessary."

Thom didn't say anything but the gears of calculation were fully engaged and Wirrin smiled at the excited earbashing they were in for.

'We will ride on a comet.'

Wirrin was savouring the imagery of Sonic's comment when it struck him that Sonic and Turaku had both just said, 'will', as if the journey was now definite. He was about to ask when there was a holo shimmer. Akama's image appeared and he smiled at Sonic and then everyone else.

"We've presented Sonic's request to the conference and it has unanimous support and agreement."

A thrill of excitement, mixed with a feeling of relief that the Earth dolphins would be helped, coursed through Wirrin's mind, and on top of that a sudden awareness that if Sonic went ahead he would be committing himself to what could be a dangerous situation.

"Already?"

"Yes, when Turaku explained the plan and its implications the only real concern was for Sonic's safety and that was quickly allayed. It's fortunate that we had reconvened to discuss the enormous reaction to yesterday, otherwise we would have had to organise a special holo conference.
It was dramatic Calen. After talking with you and Sonic yesterday a group of the scientists called for a complete new dolphin level to be added to Attunga and the idea has spread through the whole habitat and caught the imagination of the population in general. We were discussing how to handle that and I had to interrupt, introduce Turaku, and determine the will of the conference in very short order so we could get back to Sonic. It might seem rushed but the choice was really quite straightforward. Turaku has been explaining details and I must return as our conference has assumed a new level of importance. Sonic, Attunga supports you."

Akama gave a general nod and smile to everyone as his image shimmered and disappeared. Calen dived into the water with Sonic.

"We're going to earth."



END OF PART 12.
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.