ATTUNGA

Date January 28 2013.
Author Iarwain iarwain@aanet.com.au
Subject Attunga Part 6.

The author retains copyright (2013) 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 6.



***

Wirrin gave Thom and Calen his best reassuring smile and felt good when it was returned. They were all eager and excited about their implants but it was still daunting. Even standard Interweb wouldn't normally be available as implants for at least another ten years but Turaku had fast-tracked everything and these purpose-built implants were so advanced they could hardly believe they were getting them. After the meeting with Turaku, Warrigal had explained it all and then they'd had three months of special training to make them ready. A door slid open and Warrigal came in with their supervising doctor. Wirrin was delighted. It was great to know he was here for them.

"How's it going Thom? Are those concerns all under control?"

Thom laughed and pointed to Wirrin.

"Wirrin's the one with butterflies in his stomach. He didn't eat any breakfast this morning."

That was a joke. None of them had, as they weren't meant to.

"Well, I'm sure there'll be a nice lunch tomorrow when you wake up."

The doctor shook his head.

"Not tomorrow. There's no food till all the tests are done. At least three more days."

His smile meant he was kidding, but Thom didn't take that in.

"Really? For three days?"

"No, not really. After you wake up we'll monitor you closely but you can eat whatever you like."

He led the way to the treatment room and indicated the three comfortable benches.

"Okay boys. Do you know what to do?"

He was kidding again. They'd been here two days ago for a final explanation and tests. Wirrin slipped his shirt off, settled on the middle bench, positioned his head inside the containment cradle, blinked, and then looked at the doctor.

"Ready for that food?"

Wirrin wondered why he said that, wondered how the three extra people standing beside his bench had suddenly appeared and then realised that his treatment must be finished.

"Is it tomorrow?"

"Not really. We don't know how to do that, but yes, you have been here for twenty hours. How are you feeling?"

The import of the question sent Wirrin's mind racing. He thought for a moment, looked round and wondered, then stared at the doctor.

"Nothing's happened. I don't feel any different."

The doctor nodded.

"Good. That's exactly how you should feel. Let's try your Interweb connection first. ...Set your holo display going."

Wirrin gave the finger squeeze which activated his holo ring then quickly changed his standard-setting so the display didn't overlap the doctor.

"That's it. Now remember your training and subvocalise your input."

"What will I get it to do?"

"Anything. ...Something simple. ...Call up a schematic of the Transcom system."

When he'd been training in a simulator subvocalising required a great deal of concentration so Wirrin settled his mind and tried, with, 'transcom', 'portals', 'schematic', and 'image'. It worked. A glowing 3-D representation appeared in the space between himself and the doctor.

"Zoom it."

Wirrin automatically started his usual hand manipulations then blushed and switched to the new mode. The doctor looked to the display one of the technicians was using and gave a pleased nod.

"That's excellent. Now switch to retinal image."

Wirrin subvocalised the appropriate command and the hologram flickered. It took a moment to register, but then his excitement lifted.

"Everything is clearer. It looks totally real."

"Close your eyes."

The image stayed and Wirrin grasped just how different this was to a hologram. He opened his eyes and tried to look at the doctor. That was quite disconcerting because the image was too strong to see through, but then he steadied himself and remembered the options from his training. Turn the image off. Refocus. Change the transparency. And switch to holo mode.He tried the transparency command and after a quick trial had the doctor's face clear with the schematic just a faint overlay.

"What did you just do?"

"I couldn't see you so I tried transparency to make the level right."

"Transparency mode? Are you feeling disoriented?"

"No, it's just like looking at someone through a half strength holo."

"Well, that's impressive. ...Switch back to holo so we can all see what you're seeing."

The technician took over and Wirrin spent the next half hour testing his Interweb implants with everyone around him looking more pleased with each new result.

***

"Does it feel any different?"

"I'm not sure. I think so but it could be just because I know it is."

"Me too."

Calen was feeling sections of his skull, trying to detect the five extra millimetres that has been added by the implants. It was fun to call each other boofheads but in reality none of them could notice any difference. Wirrin put up holo images showing where the changes for each of them had been made, and then had fun making them bald and superimposing before and after to show the slight increase in size.

"79438216958."

"What?"

"Say it back to me."

"79438216958."

They exchanged glances and looked at Thom.

"79438216958."

"It's strange isn't it? My memory doesn't feel any different either and it keeps surprising me that I'm sure I'm right."

The trio had just arrived home after several hours of testing, instruction and demonstrations, and were excitedly comparing notes. The number thing was an example of how their memories had been enhanced, and they could all consistently and reliably remember a string of ten or eleven numbers, a jump from their previous six or seven.

"Go on Calen. Say something in dolphin."

Calen's implants were special and he now had the ability to accurately produce the sounds used by dolphins for communication. There was a soft mixture of clicks and chirps and Wirrin and Thom stared in amazement. Calen looked very pleased with himself.

"Hullo sonique."

"What did you say?"

"Hello Sonic. Well I hope that's what I said... Hang on while I check."

He concentrated for a few seconds then opened his eyes and shook his head.

"Hello Sonic."

"Was that different? It sounded exactly the same."

"It was different. It was better, but I know Sonic's going to laugh when he hears me."

Sonic didn't actually laugh but they knew what Calen meant.

"How did you check?"

"My implant's got a database of every Attunga dolphin. I watched the way Puck said it and copied her."

"Watched?"

"It makes me feel dizzy but it's one of my rules. Dolphins have body language and they expect me to learn that as well."

He must be referring to the retina mode.

"Can you show us on your holo?"

"Sure."

The image of Puck appeared and she made the sounds. Calen copied. Once again Wirrin couldn't tell the difference. Thom looked toward the pool.

"Are you talking to them today?"

"If they turn up, but Gelar told them I mightn't be ready till tomorrow."

"What will you say?"

"Not much. I only know about ten sounds and it will take a while to build my vocabulary. I have to practice like crazy."

***

Wirrin floated lazily in their pool, listening to Calen and Sonic talking to each other and thinking the sounds were almost like music. Calen was doing most of the talking, excitement radiating from him as he explained the progress he'd seen with the dolphin habitat on Warrakan. They always knew exactly what was happening as up-to-date information was available through the Interweb, but everything had come to life today when they'd gone to see for themselves. Just getting there had been exciting enough. Thom's interest in speed and motion had started him on a long term course of learning how to control the mobile units used in free space outside Attunga. He couldn't put much time into it as his organics training was so full on, but for several months now he was authorised for independent control of some of the smaller units, and today he'd taken them to Warrakan in a personal transporter. He was always raving about how exciting everything was so when he'd said they were going to have the ride of their lives they hadn't taken a great deal of notice till he blasted away from the docking bay at a full 2G. Thirty seconds later stars raced across the display screen as he pushed the thrusters in a 180 loop so they could face Attunga. Wirrin had gasped in astonishment and Calen whooped with total excitement while Thom grinned his delight.

"How did you like that?"

"You maniac!"

"That was 2G. Wait till I show you 8G."

"No you won't. That's too much. Even I know that."

"Don't worry. I'll set the grav field compensation so we never feel more than 2G."

"Aren't we too close to Attunga?"

"Don't you think I know what I'm doing?"

Trying to freak them out. That's what, and for the next half hour he'd done that with great gusto. Wirrin laughed when Sonic did one of his triple body rolls and nudged Calen's stomach. It meant he was excited too, and Wirrin wondered which part of the day was being explained.Probably their trip on the main reach. Zipping along on skimmers, Galen had shown them how the tiny marine life which would build a healthy environment for larger species was flourishing. He'd shown the length, already ten times the 1 km length of Attunga's largest reach, and he'd shown the deeper sections with reefs and even underwater caverns.

"What did you just tell him?"

Wirrin could recognise quite a few dolphin sounds but not when they were part of a rapid conversation.

"How the sea-grass has started growing, which means fish will be introduced in a few months and he's keen to see for himself."

"We could arrange that."

"We could? Well I suppose so. When the dolphins ask for something it always happens."

There was a quick interchange between Calen and Sonic and then Calen looked at his partners.

"He says to contact Gelar and organise it in the next few days."

"He does? Wow!"

"And he wants to see the ice asteroids too."

Watching an ice asteroid being manoeuvred into position beside Warrakan had been one of the day's highlights. Wirrin started to connect to Gelar and then hesitated.

"Can he wait till next activity days? I've got special stuff happening till then."

Sonic gave a calculated flick of his tail and a great splash of water hit Wirrin in the face. Spluttering, he stared in astonishment.

"What was that for?"

Calen asked.

"He can't wait that long. We have to go tomorrow."

Calen shook his head.

"He doesn't mean it Wirrin. You know he likes to joke."

"But he splashed me before you asked him?"

"He understands human words. He just can't say them."

Wirrin lunged forward and draped himself across Sonic, ready for any response. When Sonic was in a playful mood, which happened most of the time, anything could happen. At eight months old, and nearly a metre and a half in length he was as big as any of them but the strength in his muscles was amazing. Luckily he'd learnt very quickly how much bumping, pushing and rough stuff they could cope with. Nothing happened. He loved physical contact so that must be repressing his urge to play.

"He understands our ordinary talk? When did he learn that?"

"He's known lots of words for ages but three or four weeks ago he started understanding easy sentences and since then he's been really working hard to get better."

Wirrin was astonished. Talking to other dolphins was always interesting and quite routine, but it needed language translation equipment. Even Puck, who was the most advanced dolphin and also the best at communicating, couldn't understand whole sentences.

"In only four weeks? That's impossible."

"I know."

A shiver of awe ran through Wirrin and he let go so he could move and look into Sonic's eyes. What was going on in there behind them? What must it be like to be able to learn like that?

"How come you never told us?"

"I wanted to but he said he wasn't ready."

"So does he understand everything we say now?"

"Well I think so, mostly, but I'm not a mind reader. Ask him."

" ...He can't answer."

Wirrin looked at Sonic and got a wink. Well, a closing of the inner lid that blocked bright light from his retina really, but something about it made it feel like a wink.

"Was that a wink?"

Sonic did it again and Wirrin gawked at Calen.

"He knows about winking?"

There was a quick exchange in dolphin talk between Calen and Sonic.

"He saw you do it to Thom last week and asked Gelar about it."

"Gelar knows he can understand us?"

"Of course he does. Turaku told him as soon as it happened."

"But he's so young. The other dolphins are more than two years old before they even start with the translators."

"I know. He's special."

There was a burst of sound from Sonic and Calen grabbed a mask.

"We're heading to the reach for a while so see what you can organise with Gelar. ...And next activity day is perfect."

Wirrin watched the two forms disappear through the opening to the outer reach then connected to Gelar. He used the retina mode by preference nowadays as it was better than a holo, and now that he'd become so proficient it was much faster.

"Hi Wirrin. What's up?"

He must be wondering because it was only an hour since they'd parted.

"Nothing really, except Sonic wants to go to Warrakan next activity day and see the new reach for himself."

"Turaku has already arranged it. It's quite a big deal."

When an AI wanted things to happen they did, but as now, it was quite disconcerting. It was less than twenty seconds since Calen had voiced Sonic's request. Well, Turaku did monitor everything dolphin related non-stop, and AI time was very different to human time.

"And he winked at me."

" ...Did he get it right? Situationally I mean. Was it appropriate?"

"Yes, he was telling me he knew what I said."

"Was he? Well now that's in the open it means he's officially made history again."

"Gelar, he's smarter than any of us."

"That's a surprise? You've known that all along."

"Yes, but winking made it real."

"Well, there'll be a lot more surprises in the next few years as he's still only little, both physically and mentally."

"Physically? Is there something different about his body too? Calen's never said anything about that."

"Not really, but his growth pattern does indicate he'll come close to five metres in length by the time he's thirteen years old."

"Five! That's enormous."

Wirrin didn't have much contact with the Attunga male dolphins, as they kept to themselves most of the time, but he knew that the biggest of them just reached four metres.

"Yes, he's going to be very impressive."

Wirrin flashed an image of Sonic, scaled it up to five metres and superimposed it on the pool. Good grief! They'd have to enlarge the pool or he'd be too squished. Next Wirrin imaged one of the dolphin transport units Sonic and Puck would be using. These units were rarely used as the dolphins didn't like them. In this case Sonic's curiosity would be overriding Puck's reluctance as Sonic was still suckling and they never separated for more than a few minutes. He was eating fish now that his teeth were growing, but only small ones, and Puck would still be providing milk for another year. Gelar kept talking for a while and then half an hour after that finished Calen and Sonic returned. Calen was worn out. With the protein Thom had designed working well for him and all the time with Sonic, his water skills now meant he could leave Wirrin and Thom feeling slow and clumsy in the water, but he'd never match dolphins skills and trying to keep up was hard work. Sonic played for a while and Wirrin kept speaking to him, feeling inadequate because he needed Calen to translate everything, till with a burst of sound and a quick nudge against Calen's chest he flipped underwater and left.

"What happened?"

"Puck called him."

Calen left the pool, dried himself off then went and flopped on their grav bed. Wirrin moved beside him and gave him a big hug.

"What does it feel like being famous?"

"I'm not famous."

"You're the first person who can speak to dolphins and Sonic's the first dolphin who can understand people."

"That's all Sonic. Not me."

"It's both of you because you're a team, and in a couple of weeks everyone on Attunga will know."

Calen's head jerked round.

"Everyone?... What do you mean?"

"Gelar told me. In about a month there's another meeting at the dolphinarium viewing gallery and scientists are coming from all over Attunga to talk to you and Sonic. He said it's likely there'll be hundreds of millions of people watching."

"...."

***



END OF PART 6.
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.