Chapter III.

20 Jul

In the weeks that followed, Yie became familiar with the receptors, accumulators, capacitors, focalizers, and ampliators atop Zeviv Mountain. Their complexity astounded his limited experience as a belower.

“So far, it is only the beginning,” Emies said to him one morning. “You still have the condensator, transducer, and retroverter to study. And there is nothing as important to our safety as the last apparatus is.”

“The retroverter throws harmful rays back into space,” noted Yie, “while permitting the iotic energy to go through and be processed for practical purposes right there on the mountain height.”

“Correct,” nodded his instructor. “It contains the pulse repeater that allows it to act as a sort of galactic mirror, throwing back the dangerous radiation while allowing the good iotas to flow through. The retroverter is obviously the key, the cornerstone of all our energy operations. It is the device that allows us to tame and utilize the galactic rays of light.”

“When was it invented, sir?” asked the prentice with evident curiosity.

Emies gave him a broad grin. “That did not happen here on Tegumen. How could it have been? Our ancient ancestors had to possess retroverters from the very beginning in order to survive here. Every mountain community, every claustrum on this planet has them as its basic cosmic shield. No, they would have had to have been brought here by our original settlers who traveled from elsewhere. There was no inventing possible on Tegumen.

“It is too bad that our early history is so murky and obscure for us, but that’s the way it was back then. All that we have to go by is folk legend, which may be no more than fantasy as far as we know.

“But one thing that is certain is this: our forefathers journeyed to Tegumen as colonists with detailed plans, programs, and blueprints. At the center of their initial activities was setting up a system of galactic protection based upon the utilization of retroverters as radiation shields.

“More than that, it is impossible for anyone to assert very much about that early period of settlement and colonization.”

“I guess that is so,” said Yie with a barely audible moan.

“But I believe it is possible using simple logic to reach some reasonable conclusions about what had to be true at that time. That is certainly possible.”

“What do you mean?” inquired the prentice.

“Well, if the settlers came with plans and instruments, that indicates that their original world had to be similar to this one we inhabit.”

“Yes, that sounds like a logical conclusion to make,” agreed Yie.

“But beyond that, we possess nothing more than speculation to go by.”

The dorper felt great disappointment, but dared not express it.

A severe, unending blizzard struck the summit of Zeviv Mountain. Snow and ice appeared everywhere. Most work activities beyond the technical responsibilities of retroverting and iotic energy generation and storage had to be suspended and postponed. The complex machinery and devices operated in automatic mode. Yie was forced by circumstance to stay in the apartment of his teacher. One afternoon, while Emies had gone out to inspect some transceivers covered with snow, a knock sounded at the door of the flat. Yie was momentarily astounded to find Joa standing there, a large salver in her hands.

“I brought some food from the hegumenia cookery,” she announced. “Brother Emies and you are in all probability tired of feeding on hardtack cracker and barley cake.”

She entered, Yie closing the door behind her. After putting the tray down on a small round table, the upland girl turned to him and spoke.

“How are your studies progressing?” she timidly asked.

He pursed his thin, pale lips. “I have been slowed down some by this snow storm. It is a totally new experience for me. We never have anything like this down below.”

“I envy you,” she admitted, “because you are learning so much about how the instruments and apparati operate. My own education has never progressed as far as that. My curiosity has never been truly satisfied.”

Yie suddenly thought of something he was thirsting to know.

“You must have heard and read quite a lot about the history of this planet.”

He had to wait a bit before she replied.

“Oh, I have studied the standard texts. But my special interest is in Tegumen legend, the folk story of how and why we migrated here in the first place.”

“That sounds very interesting,” he said to her, “because we have a variety of stories down in the valley dorps. I wonder whether they are similar to each other or differ.”

The daughter of the Hegumen seemed to be suddenly in a mental trance. “That is completely new to me, for I never knew that there were historic legends down below among dorpers like you and your people.

“Tell me this, please: do the valley dorpers know the story of the Yellow Hats and the Red Hats?”

Yie looked confused. “I never heard anything of that sort from the story-tellers I knew. This is my first occasion. What is the story about?”

His curiosity was aroused and burning as he waited for her to speak.

Joa appeared to him transported out of herself, to another plane somewhere else.

“No one remembers the name of our original home. That is lost in the mists of long time and memory drift. Far back in the past everything is enveloped in clouds of oblivion. All that is now recalled is the warlike strife and conflict between the Red Hats and the Yellow Hats in another world.

“These groups were the opposite poles of a bitter battle over forgotten metaphysical concepts. It is not certain which group believed in what. They may have differed over the idea of the nature of the basic corpuscula of our universe. One party, sharing our present-day concept, believed in the independent autonomy of each and every corpusculum in existence. But the opposite group held that the foundation of existence consisted of membranes of integers that were interconnected. Imagine such a theory! They fought and argued over corpuscles and membranes to such a degree that actual combat resulted, with wounds and casualties. What were the rulers of our home planet to do in order to avert further bloodshed?

“The answer they reached was the exile of both sides to an uninhabited world. That, of course, was to Tegumen. Special space carriers were then employed to bring Red Hats to the mountain peaks and Yellow Hats to the valleys of the planet we now live on. Over centuries of time and many generations, none of the Yellow Hat descendants any longer wore the hats of their ancestors. Only the Red Hats of today continue with theirs. All of that early history was lost and forgotten. But folk like my family are descended from the Red, while your dorper ancestors can be traced to the Yellow who settled far below us. Each people went its own way and lived a different life.

“A different culture, a different method of survival arose for each of the groupings. They had little in common, nothing to share. The social distance between them grew greater and greater, and the cause of the initial division was forgotten. Each of the classes became as separated as possible from the other. Even our speech patterns and accents of language diverged from each other.”

Yie asked her the question that was troubling him more and more.

“How did the defenses against cosmic hazards arise on Tegumen? It had to be here from the start in order that colonization could occur in safety. There can be no logical alternative to such a conclusion.”

Joa appeared to shake herself out of her self-generated trance.

“That is something neither I nor anyone else can verify, for it is an unknown not mentioned in any folk legend that I came across in my study.

“Excuse me, but I must return to the hegumenia. I hope that you and your master like what I brought you. It is roast of wild cuon, one of the favorite dishes in the claustrum.”

Wild dog, thought Yie to himself. Not at all the game hunted by dorpers down in the valley. But he knew he had to appear to like such highlander food. That was his duty as a resident here.

“Thank you, Joa. I am certain that Emies, like me, will be happy that you bring us that special delicacy. And our talk together was so enlightening and interesting. Can’t we delve into early legend again? There are so many questions I would like to ask you.”

“Yes, we must find time for that,” she dreamily muttered.

Soon Joa was gone, and Yie had many things to think over by himself.

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