ATTUNGA

Date 5 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 9.


***

Akama left the skimmer and spoke quietly with Warrigal, but that only lasted a moment because Sonic popped to the surface of the pool and gave a general invitation for everyone to join him. It was quite strange to hear the electronic voice of the translator, as the trio rarely used it. Calen didn't need it at all and Wirrin and Thom had discovered early on that they learnt new dolphin words better from Sonic and Calen.
Akama looked really pleased and dived straight in. Thom took Gelar and Warrigal to look for more dolphinarium shorts and Wirrin and Calen changed on the spot. They always kept shorts near the pool for convenience even though, as Thom had said, they usually didn't bother to wear anything. For the next twenty minutes the laughter and excitement steadily escalated with Sonic spending most of the time talking with Akama, and at the same time bumping, butting, and splashing the trio in the interaction that was normal for his visits. The pool was very busy with six people plus Sonic, and when Puck appeared for a short visit her adult bulk made it really crowded.
Wirrin felt wonderful. Being with Thom, Calen, and Sonic was always good but having Gelar, Warrigal and Akama as well made it extra good. Gelar was so much a part of their lives he was like one of the family. Warrigal were still their mentor but with all the developments involving the dolphins they'd seen him so often he also felt like a friend. He had always been friendly of course, but for the last few months he'd become closer and more relaxed.
And now Akama, the legendary figure who'd been the driving force behind the development of Attunga and it's open culture, was laughing and talking in the pool along with everyone else and obviously enjoying every moment.
Sonic liked him. That was easy to tell and Wirrin heard them arranging to meet again. The pool time finished and Gelar, Warrigal and Akama departed.
Sonic left to rejoin Puck and Flute and after a quick snack and drink the trio headed for their grav-bed.

***

"What do you think of Akama Thom?"

"Amazing. As soon as he smiled I stopped being nervous of him and he was ordinary, but meeting the dolphins he turned important I could hardly believe it was the same person. Then when he got back and was talking to Warrigal I saw him wipe his eyes and he was different again."

It had been amazing. Seeing every single dolphin make the formal greeting had been special enough in itself, but seeing how much it meant to Akama had made Wirrin want to rush over and hug him.

"I got a lump in my throat when I saw him do that and it made me feel he was the right person to get a greeting like that."

That was Calen. Wirrin knew they all thought much the same but he wondered if they'd noticed anything else.

"Well, what about the strange things?"

"You mean how he looked like you? That freaked us out at the start. You must come from the same gene bank or something."

"Did they have gene banks way back then?"

"Calen, they had gene banks way before that."

"They must have I suppose. ...What strange things?"

"Lots of them. Why did he put his hand on my head? He didn't do it for anyone else. And remember what he said after Warrigal introduced us? I can't figure it out."

"Which bit?"

"... 'I finally meet our notorious trio, our catalyst for change.'. Why did he say finally? That sounds like he's been waiting to meet us for a while?"

"Hey, you're right. I didn't notice that at the time. Maybe something Warrigal said made him interested in us? ...Wow!"

"Then he said we're notorious, but we're not."

"I thought that was being friendly. You know, to make us relax."

"And our trio isn't a catalyst. You and Sonic are."

"That's being too technical Wirrin. We're all in it together."

"Okay. Here's the strangest thing. Why did he call me his brother?"

"It was part of his formal greeting. I thought it was a heritage thing."

"Well, it's not. I did a search and I couldn't find it in any of the old greetings."

"When did you do that?"

"On the way here from the dolphinarium, while we were on TransCom."

"You were already puzzling about it then? With everything else going on?"

They gave him the, 'Wirrin has to know everything', look then Calen went thoughtful.

"If it wasn't a greeting then it is a puzzle. When I play it back in my mind it feels like it's something important to him. ...And he did know a lot about us."

"That doesn't mean anything. Warrigal told him things and he probably looked us up on the Interweb when he was travelling to the Dolphinarium, and Witnesses remember everything."

"But it felt like more than that to me, like he really did know us."

They discussed it more, arguing that someone as old as Akama, and in such an important position, would know how to impress people and influence them, but in the end they were all convinced there was something going on they didn't know about.
Thom was feeling frisky, he always was, but after the trip to Warrakan, hours of travel on the new reach and all the other excitement, it wasn't long before everyone was asleep.

***

Wirrin dragged his mind to consciousness at the insistent warning pulse and a surge of adrenaline sat him bolt upright as he activated his holo. An even bigger surge cleared all the cobwebs away.
The Shark Bay overview, which he'd pre-set for instant viewing, showed a massive barrage of red markers extending along the western boundary. A quick shake to either side should waken the others, though Calen was such a deep sleeper he would probably need an extra shake, and at the same time Wirrin tried to glean meaning from what he was seeing. So much red, with a big concentration to the north of Dirk Hartog Island. That was to be expected as it was the main entrance to the bay.
...87 inimical markers altogether.

"What? ..What?"

"It's happening Thom. The attack. It's started. Wake Calen. ...I already tried once. ...There's 87 of them but I don't know how to find out exactly what they are."

Thom stared at the images, shook his head to clear it, then rolled across Wirrin and started thumping Calen on the chest. They laughed about that later when the bruises started to show.
Wirrin looked for the blue markers closest to any red. ...Down at the southern end of Dirk Hartog Island a group of five dolphins looked very close, and he wondered how long it would take for the gap to close.

"Oh no! Look at them all!"

Calen was awake now and staring fixedly at the holo.

"Watch those dolphins at the bottom of the island. They're closest and we'll soon see how well the guardians work."

"I hope they're as good as we think they are. They're way outnumbered and that's when Turaku said they mightn't cope."

There was reason for Calen's worry. All the southern red markers were closely clustered in the relatively small entrance to the bay and moving rapidly.

".. There are twenty-seven of them coming through that passage."

"Twenty-seven against five. That sounds bad."

".. And they're moving at 72 km/h. They'll meet in a couple of minutes."

Wirrin looked back to the main, northern group of attackers, spread widely in the thirty kilometer entrance stretch. At the rate they were travelling it would be another hour before they reached Monkey Mia and another hour after that for the rest of the bay.

"72? That's way faster than dolphins. They couldn't get away even if you warned them."

"You couldn't warn them Thom. Earth dolphins wouldn't understand."

"Some of the home dolphins might if they've taught them any communication skills."

No one answered. Five blue markers were about to be enveloped by twenty-seven red.
Wirrin zoomed the view. At least he had that much control. The red mass separated enough to define individual points, and the change of scale made their movement obvious. They were all going to hit the dolphins at the same time.
The red and blue merged.
Something happened and Wirrin yelled when he realised that some of the red lights had gone out.
The red configuration kept moving but when more red markers blinked off there were now three voices yelling. Smiles started to spread as the remaining red markers moved away, but disappeared when three of the dolphin markers winked to yellow.

"Yellow? What does that mean?"

They all knew it meant that something had happened to three of the dolphins, and went quiet with the realisation of what that must be.

"It means that three dolphins have been infested, and we'll find out very quickly just how effective our protective measures are."

Everyone jumped in startlement as there'd been no usual warning shimmer with the holo, then looked to see what expression Turaku was wearing. The emotions he showed were all programs, they understood that, but he was so expert at applying what was appropriate you couldn't tell him apart from a person.

"How quickly? Those picobots don't take long to work."

Calen was remembering part of a report on the earlier attacks.

"Watch. ...There we are. All clear."

And indeed, the three yellow markers had all returned to blue.
Wirrin started smiling. Even if any attackers got past the guardians it looked like it wouldn't matter.

"The imagery from the first encounter has come through and our protective drones are performing as we expected."

Wirrin's holo changed to an underwater view and everyone watched a live re-run. It only lasted a few seconds. The stubby shapes came barrelling in, released smaller units which sought the rapidly moving and highly alarmed dolphins, then lost way and coasted to a stop. A guardian stayed close to one of the drifting shapes and Wirrin was impressed by the difference in size.

"They look dangerous. Why are they so big? They're three times as long as the guardians."

"Partly because of storage space for the picobot units, but it's most likely a design limitation. We'll know more after we've fully analysed them."

"The dolphins have gone off by themselves. Shouldn't the guardians be protecting them?"

"Those dolphins are safe now, and the guardians as you call them, need to stay close to the attacking drones to keep them disabled with a directed control pulse. It's highly unlikely, but if there's any renewed local threat those drones will be destroyed and the dolphins rejoined. That's not going to happen though, as countermeasures are under-way."

The overview returned with a striking new feature, a mass of purple markers blocking access to the inner and southern sections of Shark Bay.

"What are they?"

"Sixty unattached guardians. Once the attack logistics were known they were flown to the best position for interception and dispersed to the water. Judging from the effectiveness of the first encounter they will quickly eliminate the remaining threat."

It would happen quickly too, because the opposing forces were racing towards each other with an effective speed of almost 180 km/h.
A contingent veered south to intersect with the seventeen remaining attackers near the southern end of Dirk Hartog island, while the remaining forty-five forged ahead, fanning to match the spread of the approaching red markers. Wirrin leaned, first against Calen, and then Thom, with a thrill of excitement.

"K74 hasn't got a hope. There are forty-five guardians against sixty of the big drones and the first five guardians stopped two each, and these guardians don't have any dolphins to protect."

"I wish they'd blow them all up!"

Wirrin and Calen felt the same but they all knew that wasn't going to happen. The main groups approached and merged. The purple lights started blinking off, and in just under a minute there were none left.

"Wow! Just like that! Those other ones are space dust."

And they were. Ten minutes later the last red markers, a group of three heading south from the first encounter, disappeared from the screen.
Turaku stayed a short while to explain a few things and then showed Wirrin how to access all the related information streaming in from earth. The trio discussed the drama, with Thom being highly impressed that with over 700 guardians directly protecting the dolphins only five had to do anything. Calen was concerned for the five affected dolphins, but with tiredness and very busy days ahead, sleep became the priority.

***

END OF PART 9.
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.