Monday, 10 February 2014

Chapter 21. Of a Cat and a Capuchin

Elise’s error caused more chuckles than censure. Particularly when, after dinner, Michael stood up and said, “I must take a lot of the blame. I mixed some small doses of sleep-gas as tests, to see which could best be used when we come to Pull people. But Elise took some of those doses for her mice, and I failed to tell her how short their action would be. So, the mice woke up and escaped.”

Cees smirked, for he had Pushed his dozen mice back whence they came within a very few minutes of Pulling them to Perinent.

“To make up,” continued Michael, “I have this afternoon mixed some larger doses of Numbers Two and Three. These are the sleep-gases Lily and Sabrina – as well as Neil and Ben – pronounced to be the most effective to help with Pulling. Any animal you Pull using the new red or blue capsules will be out for at least two hours.”

It was my turn. “Another of my random thoughts. Should we, perhaps, Pull a Team pet? I can think of two reasons. One, to confirm that Pulling doesn’t have any bad after-effects on the conscious beings we Pull. And two, the people we Pull for training may feel more comfortable if there’s a pet around. Your views, anyone? I’ll declare an interest – I’m not a dog lover.”

“I want a cat,” said Elise. Michael, Gabriel and the whole Team collapsed in laughter. Even the Tuglay waved their branches in what looked like amusement.

“I want a particular cat,” said Jenna, very forcefully. “Ray and I had a lovely cat in Australia. We had to leave him with neighbours at short notice, when we came on this project. His name is Kenny. I would love to have him here with us.” The Team, as a whole, agreed.

“What are the practicalities of having a cat here?” I asked Michael.

“You would need to make sanitary arrangements inside,” Michael replied. “I don’t think it is possible to have a cat-flap – the robots would close it again as soon as we made it. And you should be careful about letting the cat stray too far from the building. But survival should not be a problem – we can Pull cat food and milk from Earth. Or from Seraph – we have cats on Seraph, too.”

“Are all, then, agreed that we should Pull Kenny to be our pet?” I asked. There was assent.

“Elise,” I said to her, “will you please make up for your murine mayhem by Fetching our feline friend?” A few titters. “Jenna, please go with Elise tomorrow morning and show her where to look. And help her locate and Pull what is necessary to keep a cat here. You should also think about what, if anything, you want to tell your neighbours.”

Cees looked annoyed. And I knew why. He was our top Puller and Pusher, yet I had given this commission to Elise rather than to him. Michael picked that up too, and said to me as soon as he could talk with me privately, “Why did you make Cees angry like that?”

“It’s called encouraging competition,” I replied.

* * *

Next morning, Elise’s Pull was hitchless. Another first-time success. Gabriel and I watched it, but had no need to do anything to help. By 15 of the 22, Kenny was with us, awake and about. And Jenna had all the necessaries to feed him and otherwise take care of him.

Kenny was a black, three-year-old neutered male. He soon proved to be a typical cat, sleepy and supercilious at the same time. He liked best to curl up on the window-sill at the end of the dining room – the southernmost, and sunniest, place in the building. He also enjoyed insinuating himself between our legs whenever he could. It seemed to be his way of preening himself.

Jenna sent, via Elise, a mescap to her neighbours. It told them that she and Ray were fine. That Kenny was now with us, and he was fine too. That they shouldn’t worry about the odd means of communication. And please, please, to keep all this to themselves. She would explain when she got back.

Cees, on the other hand, was annoyed by Elise’s success. He took Tuglaydee to the room where he did his Pulling, and they plotted. Just after 16 of the 22, Cees came to me in the Pedia room – where I spent most afternoons – and announced that he had Pulled a monkey. A Capuchin, to be precise.

Almost the whole Team rushed to see. There, fresh from the jungle of Panama, was a fast asleep, rather ugly and very smelly monkey.

Cees had obviously solved one of the problems which had been worrying me about Pulling conscious beings, how to break the sleep-gas capsule at the right height. In Pulling Kenny, Elise had Pushed the capsule about five centimetres above the floor, right in front of him. The fall had broken it. That was good enough to put Kenny to sleep, because his head was close to the ground. It worked the same way for mice. But, “How did you put the monkey out?” I asked Cees.

“I dropped the capsule on to its forehead,” he replied.

“Now Push the monkey back, please, Cees,” said Ray. “I don’t know what it lives on, and I don’t want to have to prepare it.”

“It’s a capuchin,” I said in my I-don’t-really-mean-this tone. “So called, because it lives on capuccino.”

“Yes,” said Ben, “I suppose it’s deeply religious too. That’s why it’s called a monk-ey.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Cees, congratulations for Pulling the monkey here. Your next task is to Push it back. Let us now, please – everyone – get ourselves out of Cees’s way.”

* * *

Those of us waiting for the daily ride were astonished to see Cees coming towards us, obviously angry with himself. “I haven’t been able to Push the monkey back,” he said. “I don’t know what I am doing wrong, neither does Tuglaydee. I need Gabriel’s help.”

I spoke to Gabriel as I got into the ’mobile, and said to him, “I judge that we should give the monkey enough sleep-gas to keep it out till morning. Then let us review where we are.” “Agreed,” said Gabriel. “Do you want to wait while I do that?” “Fine,” I said.

It was only a few minutes before Gabriel came back. “Job done,” he said. Then, “Sit back,” said Michael at the controls.

This time, we went out straight up like a lift. Fast.

* * *

The following morning, Wednesday, after Cees had made no further progress in two hours of trying, we met in the room he used for his Pulling and Pushing. Besides Gabriel, I invited Elise there, and both Tuglay. Michael as well, in the hope that, not being directly involved, he might have a wider view. And, if it came to (metaphorical) blows, he might help me to restore order.

Cees showed us how he had tried to Push the monkey, and failed.

“Is the target area fully suitable?” asked Gabriel. “Even deeply asleep, a conscious being cannot be Pushed unless the place he or she is going to is safe and comfortable.”

“It is a decent bower,” replied Tuglaydee. “And we have tried several different places.”

“Is there an asymmetry?” I asked. “Is it, perhaps, easier for you to Push one way – left to right, perhaps, than the other?”

“I have not noticed any great difference,” said Cees. “But I will try the other way round.” Michael and I moved the monkey to the other end of the bed, and Cees tried again. No result.

I decided to drop a bombshell. “Would you like to give Elise a go?” I asked Cees.

Proud though he was, Cees wasn’t stupid. To refuse would make him look bad. “OK,” he said.

Elise took the controls. After a minute or so, she asked me to move the monkey half a metre to the right – back towards where we had moved it from before. I obeyed. Then Elise Pushed. The monkey disappeared, and re-appeared in the remote eye.

“Ah,” said Gabriel, “I understand now. The force fields are waves, not particles. Pushing a conscious being is the hardest Push of all. It is even harder if the fields tend to cancel out where the subject is.

“Cees was unlucky – the monkey was at a spot not well placed to Push from. But Elise seems to have the knack of reading the fields.”

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