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Chapter 12

"The similarity's only general, of course," she explained to Julius after she returned. "Until I learn the gukuy language, I won't be sure. Owoc is such a difficult language in which to convey precise meaning. Still, from what I could glean, their faith absolutely resonates with quasi-Buddhist conceptions."

"And just how did the teachings of the Buddha find their way to Ishtar—interstellar transcendentalism?" demanded Julius. "Have you become a mystic yourself now?"

Indira smiled. "No, Julius. I'm still the hard-boiled rationalist you know and love. But convergence operates on more than a biological level, my dear. It's not surprising at all, actually. Most of the great religions on Earth arose within a relatively short time, you know—in cultures scattered all over the planet. Beginning around a half millenium before the birth of Christ. In China, you had Confucius and Lao-Tse. In India, Buddha and the founders of Jainism, and the transformation of the Vedic traditions into Hinduism. In Greece, the rise of philosophy. For that matter, it was during the same general period that your Hebrew ancestors were hammering out their own faith. The last great world religion, Islam, arose not much more than a millenium later. A short time, really, in terms of the whole sweep of human history."

Julius was frowning. "I don't see the point."

"The point, Julius, is that this gukuy religion tells me a great deal about the general state of current gukuy society. Societies, I should say. The Earth's great religions and philosophies all arose in response to the development of civilization. Animism and tribal pantheons are inadequate to explain a varied and complex world. Intelligent beings inevitably begin to grope for universal truths. And a universal morality."

"That sounds like good news."

Indira shrugged. "Yes and no. All of the great religions created a basic code of ethics, which were actually quite similar in their principles. Variations on the Golden Rule, essentially. That represented a gigantic stride forward in human culture, no matter how often those principles were later violated in practice. But the great religions also quickly became a powerful tool for ruling classes to expand and strengthen their domination. Constantine's conversion to Christianity was accompanied by the Church's allegiance to the temporal authority of the Roman Empire, to give just one example."

"There are empires on this planet?"

She nodded. "At least one, that I know of. They call it 'Ansha.' Most of the gukuy in the valley are from there, in fact."

"Oh, great. Our next door neighbors are imperialist missionaries."

Indira hesitated, pursing her lips.

"I don't think so. I won't be certain until I learn their own language, but I'm pretty sure the gukuy in the big valley are refugees."

"Refugees? From what?"

"Religious persecution, I imagine. I don't think their religion is very old, Julius. A generation or two, at the most. The gukuy say the statue in the temple is a representation of someone named Goloku."

"Their god?"

She shook her head. "That's not the sense I get. More like a revered sage, or a prophet. The founder of their religion. But the point is that the gukuy talk about Goloku in a familiar sort of way."

Julius stared.

"Yes, Julius. If I'm right, we're not dealing with an old and well-established universal church."

She smiled. "We are there—with the apostles."


Later, Julius took her to the hut which had been formerly occupied by Hector. Once inside, she saw that the center of the hut's floor was dominated by a huge pile of clay, oddly shaped.

"What in the world is that for?"

Julius looked apologetic.

"Hey, I only got started. It's going to be a three-dimensional map of the mountain. I've already roughed out the western side."

Indira saw that the pile of clay was in the general shape of an oval. Julius pointed to one of the long sides of the pile.

"That's the southern slope," he explained. "I've just started there. That's going to be a lot of work, with all those canyons. But I've got the time, since it'll be a while before Ludmilla's expedition finishes exploring the east and north."

"It seems like a lot of work, Julius. It's very interesting, I admit, but why—"

She stopped suddenly, seeing the bleak look on her lover's face.

"It's a military map."

Julius nodded. "Yeah. Andrew suggested the idea, and Joseph immediately adopted it. Joseph asked me to start the map just before you left. He wants to have a good picture of possible invasion routes onto the mountain. And I think he's already thinking in terms of fortifications."

Indira sighed heavily. "Do you really think this is necessary, Julius?"

The biologist's voice was harsh. "Yes, I do. But it really doesn't matter what I think. Or what you think, Indira. Captain Adekunle wants it."

She stared at him. Julius shrugged. "You can't have it both ways, Indira. If the man's in charge, he's in charge."

She remembered the authority in Joseph's gesture when the gukuy were approaching, and nodded. And the fear in her heart suddenly flamed brighter.


Much to Julius' distress, Indira began making plans for an extended sojourn among the gukuy in the big valley. She would be gone for weeks, if not months, immersing herself in the gukuy culture and language.

But his unhappiness, and her plans, proved unnecessary. Four days after her return, a delegation of gukuy arrived from the big valley. Upon their arrival, they announced that they had come for an extended visit. So that they could learn from the humans.

"Except they don't call us 'humans,' " Indira explained. "Gukuy can't seem to handle hard aspirates at all, and sibilants are difficult for them. So I made it simple—we are now 'ummun.' "

Julius scowled. "Dirty, rotten linguistic imperialism, if you ask me."

Indira ignored the quip. She was frowning, deep in thought.

"What's on your mind, fair lady?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing. It's just—I'm not sure yet. They seemed to agree to the term 'ummun' readily enough, but I don't think—"

She fell silent. Julius prodded her, but the historian refused to speculate until she felt she understood the gukuy language well enough.

Two months later, she understood.

"They'll call us 'ummun,' out of politeness. But that's not really how they think of us. We're demons."


"You heard me. Demons. Powerful and fearful creatures from beyond the known world."

"But—why demons? We haven't done anything wicked to them. Or to the owoc, for that matter."

Indira smiled, and patted his cheek.

"Poor Julius. So stunted you are by that horrid Judeo-Christian outlook."

Julius scowled. "What's my ancestry got to do with this?" he demanded.

"In the rigidly monotheistic religions—which shaped your cultural views, regardless of whether you personally are still a believer—all powerful non-divine creatures are amalgated into devils. Pure evil. But the original conception of demons doesn't necessarily carry the connotation of evil. Although evil is always there, lurking below the surface. Not evil, actually. Power. Tremendous, unbridled, fearful power—which can, of course, often manifest itself in evil ways."

"Why should they think we are powerful? Our technological level's really no higher than theirs, when you get right down to it. Our theoretical knowledge is vastly greater, of course. That's even true for the kids, even though I often think the disrespectful little bastards think most of what we teach them are fairy tales."

Indira smiled. As much as he carped on the sins of the younger generation, she knew that the biologist adored them. Much more uncritically, in fact, than she did.

"It has nothing to do with technology, Julius. At a Bronze Age stage of historical development, there's really not that much difference between the technological level of civilized societies and barbarians. The difference is social."


"So these beings are not stupid, dear. They don't understand us, but they understand that we are very, very different. And then there's the frightening way we move."


She frowned. "Surely you, a biologist, can understand that fear. Other than size—and we're much taller than gukuy, even if they outweigh us—what's the other physical trait that all animals instinctively fear? Especially intelligent animals?"

Understanding came to him. "Speed."

"Yes. Especially uncanny speed, produced by unusual forms of motion. Didn't you tell me once that the reason humans have such an irrational fear of snakes is because of the way in which they strike?"

"Yeah. A coiled snake can strike like a lightning bolt, so most people think the reptiles are inhumanly fast. Truth is, a human can outrun any snake that ever lived."

"Have you ever thought of how the way humans move must look to gukuy? Like nothing they've ever seen. Almost magical, is the sense I get from them. Even with their excellent eyesight, their brains have a hard time processing our motion. To them, we—we flicker. Half-seen; half invisible. And so quickly. And we can move easily over terrain that they have to struggle through. You should have seen how their mantles were flooded with orange when they saw two of the children having a race up the mountainside."

"Orange? I've never seen that color on the owoc."

"No, neither have I. I'm certain that it's the color of astonishment. Owoc are never astonished. Puzzled, often. But then their mantles turn ochre with indecision and uncertainty. To be astonished—amazed—requires more of a rational sense of what is normal in the world. To the owoc the world simply is what it is. They may not understand it—they often don't—but they accept it."

Julius grunted. "True. They really aren't all that bright."

Indira's stare was stony.

"That's one way to put it. But there's another way to look at it, you know. The capacity to be amazed presupposes that you believe in your ability to understand the world. When something then happens which doesn't fit your conception of reality, you are astonished and amazed."


"So you see that as a sign of intelligence. To me, it's also a sign of arrogance."


"Of course. Only an arrogant creature thinks it understands the universe. Like a cocky biologist from the streets of Noo Yawk."

She smiled sweetly. "That's why you're so often astonished and amazed, dear."

Julius' face twisted into a rueful grimace.

"Skewered again, damme. But what are you trying to say, Indira? You don't really think the owoc are as intelligent as we are, do you? Or as intelligent as the gukuy?"

She shrugged. "What's intelligence? To you, it means the capacity for rational, linear thought. Problem solving. In that sense, no—the owoc are like retarded children. But if you use the word 'intelligence' in a broader sense, who's to say? The only thing I do know, after years of living with them, is that the owoc view reality in a totally different manner than we do. We think in terms of truth and falsehood. Things are, or they are not. But with the owoc—"

She paused, then continued.

"Do you realize, Julius, that there is no equivalent in the owoc language for the concept of 'falsehood'—or 'lying.' "

"Hey, lady, give me a break. I never denied the sweet critters are as honest as the day is long. I'd trust 'em with my piggybank in a minute, if I still had one."

She shook her head. "You're missing my point. Perhaps I put it badly. In the owoc language, Julius, there is no such idea as the truth."

"What? But how—"

She smiled. "You can't imagine that, can you? The concept of 'truth' is at the very bedrock of human consciousness. That's why"—the smile became a broad grin— "you are amazed at the idea that another species could even think at all without the idea of 'truth' at the center of their thoughts."

The expression on Julius' face caused her to laugh.

"Dear Julius! Did you ever read the poetry of Keats? 'Ode On a Grecian Urn'?"

He shook his head.


"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."


She stared into the distance. "Perhaps that ancient poet understood the way of the owoc. We never will. But do not sneer at it, Julius. If I might quote from another great English poet:


"There are more things in heaven
and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."


The next several months were a busy time in Julius' life, however, so he rarely had time to think about Indira's ideas. In truth, he saw very little of his lover. Indira, as she had years before with the owoc, insisted on living with the gukuy. Total immersion, she explained, was the only efficient way to learn a new language.

He missed her company, of course, but he was engrossed in his own work. Exploring expeditions were out constantly now, bringing back a steady stream of reports. The topographic model of the mountain steadily took shape and detail, until it was finally finished.

"I've decided to call the mountain Mons Ishtar," he announced to Indira proudly that night.

"That's nice, dear," she replied absently. "But the mountain already has a name. The gukuy were here first, and they call it the Chiton."

Julius was disgruntled, but he accepted the change in names. By way of obscure linguistic revenge, however, he began referring to the map hut as "the Pentagon."

The youngsters acquiesced in the name, although they didn't understand it. In truth, they thought the name was silly—the hut was obviously square, not five-sided. Indira understood the name, of course. She did not think it was silly; she thought it was grotesque.

But the next morning, when Julius examined the model, he admitted to himself that the name change was appropriate. Especially from the south, where all the gukuy seemed to come from, the canyons which were regularly spaced along the mountain's flank would give it the appearance of a ridged, flattish shell. Rising from the plain like a gigantic chiton, moving from east to west.

The view from the north would seem different, of course. There the long crest of the mountain broke sharply into a talus slope that, for the uppermost hundred meters, was almost a sheer cliff. From the north, the mountain would look like an enormous granite iceberg. (If there were such a thing as an iceberg on Ishtar, which Julius doubted.) But it was unlikely that many gukuy had ever seen the mountain from that angle. Beyond the base of the talus slope stretched a vast broken badlands, as far as the eye could see. By the verdant standards of Ishtar, the region to the north was a barren wasteland.

From a military point of view, that discovery was relieving. There would be nothing to fear from the north. The region was probably uninhabited. And not even humans could ascend the northern cliff, without specialized mountaineering equipment.

The danger lay south, and east. The eastern flank of the Chiton tapered down much more gently than did its western flank—like a flattened tail. True, the eastern slope contained the densest vegetation on the mountain—much of it a type of quasi-bramble which Julius suspected any gukuy would find well-nigh impenetrable. But there were still many open areas, providing relatively easy access to the entire plateau. When questioned by Indira, the gukuy confirmed that they themselves had reached the big valley through that route. (And still did. Over time, Indira realized that the gukuy in the valley maintained communication with their co-believers in the south.)

Joseph and his lieutenants, after discussing the question with Julius, decided to ignore the potential danger from the east, for the moment. The gukuy in the big valley would warn them of any invaders coming from that direction. It was decided that, after Indira established good enough communications with the gukuy, the colonists would request permission to station one of the platoons in the big valley. But until that time came, they would concentrate on the immediate problem. The southern slope, and its canyons.

There were six canyons along the southern flank of the mountain. Three of them veered off into cul-de-sacs, and could be safely ignored. But the other three led straight toward the summit—and one of them, the largest, reached almost to the crest.

Andrew MacPherson was assigned the task of planning fortifications. The task was daunting, given the small numbers of the colonists, but Joseph was determined to create a stone wall barring access through the canyon.

Andrew came to Julius for advice on how to design fortified walls. As he had years before with Hector, Julius steered him toward Indira. But Indira refused to discuss the matter. Later, she promised, when she was done with learning the gukuy language.


"Later" turned out to be much later. Indira had thought it would be easier to learn the gukuy language than it had been to learn owoc. True, she assumed the language would be more complex. But, on the positive side, she thought there would be two big advantages:

First, she suspected that the gukuy mentality was much closer to human than was the owoc. Second, the fact that both she and the gukuy could speak (at least to some extent) the hooting language of the owoc gave them a mutual verbal Rosetta stone.

Both of those assumptions turned out to be correct. But what she hadn't counted on was two other factors. One: there was no such thing as a "gukuy language." There were five languages represented among the gukuy pilgrims. Three of those languages obviously belonged to the same language group. They were among the languages spoken by the civilized societies which lived somewhere to the south. Two of them were quite closely related. (In her own mind, she thought of the relationship between the three languages as being similar to trying to learn French, Spanish and Russian at the same time.) Unfortunately, the dominant language of the three—and the language spoken by the majority of the pilgrims—was the "Russian" oddball. The language in question was called Anshaku, and she soon learned that it was the principal language of the largest and most powerful empire in that part of Ishtar known to the pilgrims.

The two other languages belonged to an entirely different language group—the language group spoken by most of the barbarian tribes which, she learned, inhabited the great plain south of the Chiton. One of the languages was Kiktu, the language of the largest and most powerful of those tribes. The other "language" was an argot, a Kiktu-based lingua franca which could apparently be understood by all of the barbarians.

After dithering a bit (as someone who was both adept at languages and enjoyed learning them), Indira decided that practical considerations required her to focus her efforts on Anshaku and Kiktu. All of the gukuy pilgrims from the south could speak Anshaku, at least to some extent. And while only two of the pilgrims who came from the barbarian tribes were Kiktu, the other barbarians could speak the language to some extent.

Even after narrowing it down, she was still faced with a linguistic task which would be equivalent to learning Russian and Arabic simultaneously.

And then another massive task was dropped upon her.

"They insist that I teach them to speak 'ummun,' " she complained to Julius.

The biologist shrugged. "So?"

Indira glared. "So? This—from a man who can barely speak one language?"

Julius shrugged again, grinning. "Hey, I'm bad at languages. But I don't need to be good at it. Most biological research is published in English. You don't really need any other language that much, except Spanish—which I can read well enough."

He chewed his upper lip. "Unless you want to be a dinosaur specialist. Then, of course, you have to know Chinese. Fluently." A shudder; another grin. "Not the least of the reasons I didn't specialize in dinosaurs."

Indira was still glaring. "But the whole thing doesn't make sense! There are only a handful of humans on this planet. Why should they take the time and trouble to learn our language when we're willing to learn theirs?"

Julius stared at her. "A question like that? Coming from an historian?"

He started counting off on thick fingers.

"I can think of three reasons, right off the top of my head. One. They don't know how many of us there are." He held up a hand, forestalling her protest. "Oh, sure, they can see there's only a handful of us here. Today. But where did we come from? And how many more of us might follow?"

"I have every intention of explaining where we came from and why there won't be any more of us. Not for centuries, at the earliest."

"And how will you convince them? The beings on this planet can't have the faintest conception of astronomical reality. In all the time we've lived here, not once has the cloud cover broken. Not for even a minute. The earliest civilizations on Earth—even barbarians, for that matter—had a highly advanced empirical knowledge of astronomy. These people can't have any whatsoever. We came from beyond the sky—that's the most they'll understand."


"But what, Indira? How can you possibly expect people at this stage of cultural development to understand the reality and the limits of an advanced technological culture like our own? You know and I know that the society was barely able to muster the resources to equip our expedition. You know and I know that it was a one-shot deal. You know and I know that humanity is still utterly preoccupied with the gigantic task of rebuilding our own planet. You know and I know that it'll be generations—centuries, more likely—before another interstellar expedition is sent out. You know and I know that faster-than-light travel has been proven to be a complete pipe dream, and that space travel is going to remain limited to slightly above 10% of the speed of light. You know and I know that means another expedition to Tau Ceti would take over a century to get here even after it left Earth orbit. You know and I know that even then the priority would probably be to try for a new solar system altogether."

He stopped and took a deep breath.

"When we signed up for this trip, love, the Society warned us that we couldn't expect a follow-up expedition for at least five hundred years. Minimum. More likely a millenium. But how are you going to even explain any of that to the gukuy—in any way that they could possibly understand?

"So how do you expect them to believe you?" He held up a second finger. "Which leads me to point two. If I were in their shoes (so to speak), I would damn well want to learn as much as possible about a bunch of strange demons who landed in our midst. Sure, right now the demons seem friendly, and there ain't many of them. But who knows? Best to learn what we can about them—and the best way to do that is to learn how to speak 'demon.' "

He stopped. Indira was scowling up at him.


"And what?"

"What's the third reason, dammit? You said you could think of three, right off."

"Oh." He grinned, and made an annoying clucking sound with his tongue.

"Such a question—from an historian! Indira, what's the language that all bright young kids all over the world want to learn—as soon as they get to school?"


"Yes. But why? It's a completely foreign language—comes from a small little island half way around the world from most of them. Originally spread by rapacious imperialists, in fact."

Indira sighed. "Because it's one of the global languages. The dominant one, in fact. And because much of the world, especially Africa and large parts of Asia, are still so fragmented linguistically that knowing how to speak your own tongue doesn't get you very far in the big, wide world."

"Exactly. My best friend in college was from Pakistan. His English was better than mine. So was his accent, according to everybody except Noo Yawkers. But he barely spoke Urdu. I asked him why, once. He asked me if insanity ran in my family."

"But none of that's true here, Julius," protested Indira. "No human language occupies that position on Ishtar."

"True—and not true. I'm interested in something. You just called this planet 'Ishtar.' Why? You're always chiding me for being a linguistic chauvinist, Indira. But here you are using a name for this planet which was adopted on Earth over a century before we even got here. Why not use the native word?"

Indira took a deep breath. "Which one? Each language has a different name for 'the world.' Most of them mean 'the Meat of the Clam,' but—"

"But which one should you use? Without offending the others? So you took the practical course—you fell back on a name that's not offensive to any local foibles because it's so utterly alien."

Indira's eyes widened. "You think—"

"I think you're underestimating these people, Indira. I think you're dealing with some very intelligent people. Visionaries, in fact. Who are struggling to forge a universal faith which can be common to gukuy from all cultures."

He reached out and stroked her cheek. "So give them the universal language they need, love. The language brought by demons from beyond the sky, that all peoples and tribes can learn to speak without fearing their own culture will be subordinated."


She initially thought to teach the gukuy Spanish, but finally settled on English. True, English was a notoriously difficult language to learn. In many ways, Chinese would have been the best choice, since all of the gukuy languages tended to be tonal. But Chinese was a difficult language in too many other respects. The Chinese themselves had struggled for centuries to fit the precise rigidities of technological society into the amorphous grammar of their language. (The ideogrammatic writing style had been abandoned completely almost a century earlier, in favor of a modified version of the Latin alphabet.)

In the end, her decision was not determined by narrow linguistic factors. It was a simple fact of history that English was well on its way to becoming the universal language of the human race. At the historic Singapore Convention, where the world's language practices were finally agreed upon, English had been listed as simply one of the four accepted "global languages." The decision had been a compromise. Even then, English was obviously in a league of its own as an international language. But there had been no reason to ruffle the feathers of the Chinese, who were prone to complain that as many people spoke their language as did English (even though, in private, their representatives would admit that Chinese had never spread very far beyond the boundaries of those who were ethnically Han). And the French, outraged at their own demotion to a "regional language," had made clear that they would under no conditions agree to the elevation of English to the world's sole accepted global language. (For the first time in centuries, the phrase "perfidious Albion" had echoed in the corridors and chambers of diplomacy.) So, wisely, the representatives of English had cheerfully agreed to the polite fiction that English was only one of four "global languages," trusting to the logic of history and the common sense of the world's population to settle the question in practice.

Spanish would have been easier to teach to gukuy than English. But English was the language of the colonists, and many of the younger generation spoke no other tongue. And, in the back of her mind, Indira knew that someday contact with Earth would be reestablished. Centuries in the future, true, but it would happen eventually. Better then for the gukuy to be fluent in English.

Then, just as she thought she had settled the question, a new (and, to her, disturbing) twist arose. Joseph approached her, a few days after her conversation with Julius, and asked which of the four global human tongues would be the most difficult for gukuy to learn—even if they already knew English.

"Arabic," she replied instantly. "It's a Semitic language, totally unlike English. So's Chinese, of course. But gukuy could learn Chinese easily enough. I'm not sure they could ever really learn Arabic. Not to speak it, at least—the aspirates in Arabic are brutal. They could learn to read Arabic, I imagine. But Arabic script's totally different from the Latin alphabet."

Joseph nodded thoughtfully, and left. The next day he instituted classes in basic Arabic (oral and written), taught by six of the youngsters for whom it was their (still-remembered) native tongue. All members of the platoons were strongly encouraged to attend (which meant everyone except Indira and Julius). For officers and sergeants, attendance was mandatory.

Indira was upset, but she made no protest. 'If the man's in charge, he's in charge.'

She knew what Joseph was doing, of course. She didn't think she'd ever mentioned it in the history classes she'd given the children as they grew up. But it hardly mattered. Joseph was extraordinarily intelligent—certainly as intelligent as the officers of the United States Army during World War II who'd thought of using Navajo soldiers to send radio messages in a language which was incomprehensible to the Japanese Empire.

Battle language.


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