Accepting the Lance – Chapter 53


In which there is a free and frank exchange of views.

In all the excitement, I don’t think anyone got around to reading the emergency pinbeam message. It should be okay, though; most likely it was just a heads-up about the thing that happens at the end of the chapter, which went okay anyhow.

At first, I thought — and I suspect the authors intended us to think — that the ship attacking was one of the arrivals from Sye Mon’s group, and that their announced intention to add their voices to the discussion was revealed as a euphemism.

But no, it seems they are sincere about wanting to discuss what happens next.

It also seems that Sye Mon’s group consisted of only six individuals. That fits with what Sye Mon said at the beginning of the book about the devices being organised in pods of six, and the fact that he’s only ever mentioned making a connection with one, but I hadn’t put it together before. It’s a good thing they didn’t end up having to go head-to-head with the rest of the Assembly.

It looks to be a settled thing now that Chernak and Stost are part of Bechimo‘s crew, with the time they spent on Surebleak being casually referred to as them being “on leave”.

3 thoughts on “Accepting the Lance – Chapter 53

  1. Ed8r

    Okay, so you think they never read the message? I was confused because I thought that somehow it was the pinbeam that “carried” the attack. So now that that’s clear, here are the rest of my questions:

    1) What about the object—one of the Assembled—that was restructuring itself into a sleeker form . . . did that have anything to do with the attack?

    2) At the end of the interlude where Theo is supposed to be asleep (or at least resting) as Theo dashes for the bridge, Bechimo says “Shields on full. We are under attack.” But then, after the description of what the group already on the bridge are experiencing, it seems as if he says it again: “Shields on full. We are under attack.” Was this second time (in the text) an attempt to give the reader a hint of how fast it all happened? Is it repeated in error and should have been edited out? Is it Bechimo repeating himself? What?

    3) Why does Chernak restrain Kara? Were Kara’s hands moving to activate weapons? Were they moving to do something else, but under mind control? (I am assuming it was not Chernak’s actions that were in response to mind control, because she would have the same protections as Stost)

    4) Just before the protections snap into place in Stost’s mind, it says the “device that had been transforming was now glowing brightly, as if its shields had been breached.” What is that about? Was it a breach? Or was something else going on?

    5) Why was Stost’s throat constricted . . . I thought he had protections in place?

    6) Were Hevelin’s physical actions a mirror of something he really was accomplishing in a mental or metaphysical realm? Something that wasn’t quite enough until the little Tree lent its strength to his efforts? And then, Hevelin took the brunt of the “dying defiance”?

    7) Why did two of the devices explode? AND then why did the orientation of a number of orbiting objects change, as if following the debris?

    8) After the attack is over and Joyita announces a message from the Assembled, the voice of the message is described as mellow and soothing, and Stost thinks: “The voice of a hero, and then—perhaps not.” Why did his thoughts change to “perhaps not”?

    9) At the end of the chapter a “grating voice in Old Yxtrang” (presumably from the machines that just arrived) says: “we heard the screams when the Old Universe died.” Aside from the confirmation that the Old Universe was destroyed, not merely sealed off, what were these screams? Was it the sheriekas screaming? Was it the screams of Tinsori Light, which we were told about in Neogenesis?

    In addition to these question about the text itself, I am wondering about Theo, Bechimo, and Joyita . . . were they affected by the attack? Could they have been? We don’t hear anything about an attempt to disrupt their functioning; it seems to be directed only at the biological minds.

  2. Ed8r

    Meanwhile, other observations in this chapter:

    Kara mentions The little Tree wishes that we would all eat of its fruits. The implication is that they have not eaten its fruits, or at least only Hevelin has. I wonder whether they all will after this incident and seeing that no harm comes to Stost? Stost says there will be “pills” for everyone, but we don’t actually see the rest of the crew consuming them.

    I love that Bechimo tells Theo that her scattering of the drones “will be for the songs,” meaning—I assume—it will become legendary!

    When Hevelin recovers enough to sit up, he expresses “none of his usual braggadocio or bright pleasure at his own prowess,” which worries Theo, and also Bechimo’s information about the norbear shows that physically, he does not seem to be recovering from the experience. I wonder if the lack of braggadocio could also be because this situation had been a real danger to everyone, as opposed to the little victories he’d perpetrated since he’d been with them. After all, even his “victory” over Stost had been utterly unnecessary.

  3. Paul A. Post author

    1 & 4: I take it that the transforming ship is also involved in the “leadership dispute”, on one side or the other; I don’t think we’re given enough information to solidly establish which. On a writerly level, it perhaps doesn’t matter which so much as establishing that Bechimo isn’t the only one under attack. On a writerly level, I think the main point of the transformation at the beginning of the chapter is to give it an identifiable feature so that the narrator can later say “remember that ship at the beginning of the chapter?”; in-universe, it may have any one of several possible explanations. If the ship is one of the attackers, it may be preparing to attack; otherwise, it may have noticed the incipient attack and be preparing to defend. Or it may just be doing the equivalent of arm stretches to pass the time in a long and dull meeting.

    2. I take it that the two scenes overlap a bit in time, so that the announcement is a single event but we hear it twice. That’s happened before; one example that comes to mind is at the end of The Gathering Edge, where we have the scene of the dock confrontation and also the scene of Theo at the same time hurrying back to her ship and hearing the noises from the dock confrontation.

    3. Yes, I read this as Kara being influenced to do something that will harm the ship, and Chernak under her own power intervening to stop her.

    5. The Pathfinders’ defenses are aimed primarily at preventing mind control from working on them, and they don’t appear to be very sophisticated. It seems plausible that they don’t also cover direct attack. (Looking at it from the point of view of Command, the defenses might not have been devised for the benefit of the Pathfinders themselves, but to protect whatever valuable might be around them when mind control kicks in. Command might have felt that the additional research required to block a Force Choke was more trouble than just unbottling a new Pathfinder to replace the one that got choked.)

    6. That sounds about right.

    7. I took it that the two devices that exploded were the attackers, and they exploded because a counterattack (possibly Hevelin and Tree’s) had got through their defences. And the other devices that followed the debris were making sure they were really dead.

    8. The “perhaps not” would be because, at the moment he thinks it, they don’t know yet which side Aberthaz Ferry was on, or which side won: she might have been one of the attackers, contacting them with an ultimatum.

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