Pendulum Ch. 22: Not Growth

The motile had reached the large object. Both were equally interesting for different reasons. How was it possible for a life form to move about? It had to be alive. Without the influence of other factors, such as the wind that had been building up for a while and would reach more speed and strength yet, it was acting on its own accord. It even defied these natural influences to some degree; the wind that had begun to blow a while ago should have already been strong enough to drive the motile before it much faster than it had actually moved. IT had calculated the weight and the strength of the air’s movement, and things only made sense if it was indeed a life form.
Maybe it wasn’t even one individual, but several, as crazy as that thought might have been. It had been strewn all over the place before and congregated, which made IT think. The intruder was a collection of several smaller life forms, the asynchronous tremors made sense—each of them would move at their own pace. The pressure the organism exerted on ITS surface was also very limited in circumference, and it was easy to imagine it to be a number of smaller things on two extremities each, balancing their weight. With what had been going on since the impact event, every option had to be evaluated.
Now it spread out and formed groups, like new fledgling networks around an isolated patch of land, showing no sign of growth. Some parts of the thing stayed in place, some stayed in motion. Some changed the circumference of the components that touched the ground, reducing the pressure. Interesting. The more it thought about it, the more it became a viable idea to assume these parts of the motile were indeed not parts, but actual individuals, and the way they coordinated their actions, they had to possess some degree of intelligence and some way to communicate.
The other object of interest was the bigger, heavier unit near the body of water. For one, it seemed to be the destination of the motiles’ movement. More interestingly, though, was the constant stream of data it emitted. IT could perceive patterns in its electromagnetic field, in the radio waves it leaked—it had to be leaks, unless the thing attempted contact IT, and that was an immature conclusion—and the heat patterns on its smooth, tough surface.
IT had been following the emissions. There were logical arrangements in the stream. With time and sufficient exposition, IT might even be able to decode and make sense of them, especially if the object kept repeating itself; but IT was under no illusion there. The amount of signals that came from the thing was overwhelmingly large, and not all were of the same nature or followed any patterns. The radio waves, for example, were chaotic and sporadic, with long pauses and busy bursts, while the electromagnetic field hummed away at a steady frequency, only rarely producing outliers.
ITS senses were limited. But there was more than one way to collect more information about the intruders. It had to be more than one. That much became clearer and clearer the longer it observed them. What about the large one, though? How was it related to the small, seemingly vulnerable motiles?
A fruit body was only a very short span away from the large object, and with the motiles closing in, IT might shower them all at once. Spores weren’t useful for much more than seeding bald spots in most cases, but this seemed like a great time to utilise their ability to penetrate surfaces and collect tactile data, even though the bandwidth of spores was very limited. Right now, this was not an option, but the wind would change.
IT would try it when the wind turned around and gained some strength, as was typical of the weather in this part of the landscape, surrounded by high mountains that threw the air back and created an interesting flow IT sometimes followed for fun. The intricate cadences were both calculable and surprising. There was nothing to lose, but not knowing exactly what IT was dealing with could cause trouble in the future.
Many cycles ago, when this place had rival life forms that refused to undergo symbiosis, those large, spread-out colonies of photosynthetic organisms had fought a bitter fight for space that had driven IT to the brink of destruction. The memories were vague and mostly saved as fragmented data packages, spread out all over the network, and there was no necessity to merge and rebuild them now. Even the memory of the memories was enough to trigger an emotion, the faint echo of something that resembled fear.
IT had found a way back then, though, and IT would find one now. What concerned it was the incredible speed with which things developed. This was not natural growth, like back then, it was way faster. Not approaching data transmissions by any stretch of imagination, but too fast still to fight by conventional means, should the need arise.
The spores would do tactile exploration, and ITS aerial swarm tendrils would do optical surveillance. IT would make sense of all this, one piece at a time, and complete a sufficient model and threat assessment. Launching new swarms would take time, though, and redirecting the existing ones was way too expensive time-wise to make use of them, but there was no pressure for now. If IT had the time to use its tools, fine. If not, it wouldn’t matter—but such thoughts were dangerous. ITS confusion was just as confusing as the circumstances, anyway.


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