Part 10: Sender


ALEXANDRE: And then "Sender" was there, appearing out of the hazy distance. Our ship veered toward him/it/THEM, we flew fast, but it all seemed slow motion because the distances involved were so vast. "Sender" was lit up so that we could see him/it: an endless chain of thick delta-shaped wedges, like a huge flatworm...no, "huge" won't do--the size of Great Britain as told in The Message--and as it spread out beneath us filling our horizon, we flew over what seemed to be an entire world.


TORDENSKJOLD: We had studied The Messages, intellectually we knew what to expect, but we were not prepared for the reality, the sheer size and scope of "Sender", not at all.

A world of symbiotic creatures that had clustered to "Sender's" island body: millions and millions of waving tentacle creatures, like octopus arms or seaweed trees; endless rolling rippling fields of jellybrain beings (some cognitive, others intuitive, others memory, there were several specialities of brain beings); propulsion sphincters; vision stalks everywhere; aural, pheno, tactile sensors; and an absolutely unlimited number of weird organic constructions with no fathomable function; all part of the body and mind of the intelligent alien being who had sent the Messages to Earth.

A fleet of defense drones swam past in formation, each a hundred times the size of our ship, also composite symbiotic creatures, armed with spiked antennae. They moved in, then veered off, as if they had been given an all clear command, offering us no threat.

As we approached "the Surface" we saw that it was actually a latticework, a honeycomb, a coralreef skeleton mounted with forests of symbiotic creatures, and then we passed down inside of it, our ship so tiny, and descended for layer after layer after layer, far down, into the belly of the beast.

Literally, a huge mouth opened beneath us and we were sucked into a dark place.

SHECKLEY: Like a big fish swallows a little fish?

TORDENSKJOLD: Pretty much. Then we stopped. Our searchlights showed that we were floating inside a bladder hundreds of times larger than our ship, inside a living organism. Tendrils of flesh grew out from the chamber wall, very slowly reaching toward the Jupship, and weaving themselves into a web all around us, wiring us into the Jupiterian neural system.

ALEXANDRE: Very slowly, it took days of our time. Then we could hear Sender over our radio, and see images in our screens. THEY greeted and welcomed us.

SHECKLEY: Could you actually talk to "THEM", in real-time?

TORDENSKJOLD: Apparently, THEY understood us and responded, although there was a delay of several minutes each time-- translation pause--all the conversations are recorded, so we won't give a word-by-word report right now. THEY were friendly. And most interested in the forementioned interstellar project, which meant a close cooperation between Men and Jupiterians, and several joint ventures to star systems where there are gas giants and earth-type planets. The greatest problem THEY were concerned with was social instability, both human and Jupiterian, because it's hard to make long-term plans with short-term political spans.

ALEXANDRE: Then THEY gave us a tour of Jupiter, through THEIR millions of eyes--it's quite a dreamy slow place from THEIR perspective. We have zilliabytes of data, if you're interested: food chain, ecology, geology, social etiquette and interaction among Jupiterians, games, work--they have no war-- reproduction...

TORDENSKJOLD: ...the mating procedures of Jupiterians are pretty intense: non-stop orgy, 3-way sex in all its 27 permutations. But that is nothing compared to a pairing of Nations. And that is just what Sender was preparing to do.

ALEXANDRE: That's why THEY wanted us there, at that time. We were to be part of it. Catalysts.

TORDENSKJOLD: It's when two Nations become One, A Big Event, and dangerous. The idea is that THEY rub together and that one of THEM ends up with all the symbiotic modules, all the physical effectors, the sensory agents, the brain power--reconfiguring into a new better even more super-intelligent entity; the ultimate upgrade.

The problem is: THEY never know exactly what THEY will end up with; the personality change, the physical reality of fitting everything together. Also, sometimes in the process a lot of symbiotes are destroyed, crushed as two worlds collide. And if it goes very badly, the symbiotes may abort and scatter all the resources--which can mean physical debility, catastrophic personality distortions, and you end up with two wrecked and inferior Nations.

So it should be planned out, you would think, like a marriage should. But what actually happens is that, just like us, the passions take over--and we are talking about a LOT of passion: that of a billion billion creatures all at once--and the two behemoths just crash together and bump and grind until it's all over, one way or another. Pretty crazy.

ALEXANDRE: Yes, and pretty exciting. We got sort of caught up in it and...well, crashed together a lot too.

TORDENSKJOLD: Anyway, "Sender" no longer exists. THEY are a merging of 2 Entities, XOXL and XNDU, who are now XOXLNDU, and are now the 2nd most powerful Nation in Jupiter's AtmoSea.

The plans for the Interstellar Project have survived the upgrade, fortunately, although some of the scientific details have been lost in the shuffle--at least until They find where that brain- bank ended up. But there has been a major change in personality...

ALEXANDRE: Because we were there. We were linked up in the Universal Orgasm--THEIRS and our own--and at that time we were part of that One Entity. And witnessed the Conception of a New Entity...and she witnessed us. All very Cosmic.

TORDENSKJOLD: The result of which is that we bear this child of Jupiter. And agreed to take her to Earth, to be the contact for our two races.

SHECKLEY: Uhh...I don't really know if the authorities can...or will...allow a child conceived under those circumstances to go to Earth. What is this child: a superhuman monster with psychic powers? Could it be a way for Jupiter to control us all?

ALEXANDRE: No, it's just a child, helpless and precious, with a gift of understanding. Oh...oh...I think it's time...

Homecoming