Trigger met Telzey Amberdon next morning in a room she’d taken in the Haplandia Hotel at the Orado City Space Terminal. She was startled for a moment by the fact that Telzey seemed to be at most seventeen years old. On reflection, she decided then that a capable young psi, one who knew more Federation secrets than most Council members, might mature rather rapidly.
“Ready to be euphorized?” she asked, by and by.
Telzey nodded. “Let’s check it out.”
Trigger switched off the psi block on the Siren container, and Siren euphoria began building up gradually in the room. Telzey leaned forward in her chair, watching the Siren. Her expression grew absent as if she were listening to distant voices. Trigger, having seen a similar expression on Pilch now and then, remained silent. After a minute or two, Telzey straightened, looked over at her.
“You can shield it again,” she said.
Trigger restored the psi block. “What was it like?”
“Very odd! There was a wisp of psi sense for a moment—just as you switched off the block.”
Trigger looked interested and thoughtful. “No one else reported that.”
“It was there. But it was gone at once, and I didn’t get it again. The rest was nothing. Almost like a negation of psi! I felt as if I were reaching into a vacuum.”
Trigger nodded. “That’s more or less how the Service xenos described the sensation. I brought along a file of their reports. Like to see them?”
Telzey said she would. Trigger produced the file; and Telzey sat down at a table with it and began scanning through the reports. Trigger watched her. A likable sort of young person . . . Strong-willed probably. Intelligent certainly. Capable of succeeding where Pilch’s xenos had failed? Trigger wondered. Still, Pilch wouldn’t have referred to her as a little monster without reason.
The little monster presently closed the file and glanced over at Trigger.
“That certainly is a different kind of psi creature!” she remarked. “Different from anything I’ve come across, anyway. I don’t know if I can do anything with it. I’m not your last hope, am I?”
Trigger smiled briefly. “Not the last. But the next ones more than a month’s travel time away.”
“Do you want me to try? Now that you’ve seen me?”
Trigger hesitated. “It’s not exactly a matter of wanting anyone to try.”
“You’re worried, aren’t you?” Telzey asked.
“Yes, I’m worried,” Trigger acknowledged. “I seem to be getting a little more worried all the time.”
Trigger bit her lip gently. “I can’t say specifically. It may be my imagination. But I don’t think so. It’s a feeling that we’d better get this business with the Sirens straightened out.”
“Or something might happen?”
“That’s about it. And that the situation might be getting more critical the longer it remains unsettled.”
Telzey studied her quizzically. “Then why aren’t you anxious to have me try the probe?”
Trigger said, “There hasn’t been too much trouble so far. In the labs, where they’ve been trying to modify the Sirens biologically, there’s been no trouble at all. Except, of course, that some people got addiction symptoms before they started using psi blocks and mind shields. But you see, all they’ve accomplished in the labs is to put some checks on the Sirens.” She indicated the container. “Like stopping this one’s growth, keeping the proliferation cycles from getting started, and so on. Meanwhile, there’ve been indications that the chromosomal changes involved have gradually begun to reverse—which, I’ve been told by quite a number of people, is impossible.”
Telzey said, “The midget here might start to grow again?”
“Yes, it might. What it means is that the labs haven’t really got anywhere. Now, the Psychology Service xenos didn’t get too far either, but they did learn a few definite things about the Siren. They got into trouble immediately.”
“And you,” Trigger said, “are supposed to be better than the Service xenos. You should be able to go further. If you do, it’s quite possible you’ll get into more serious trouble than they did.”
Telzey said after a moment, “You think the Siren doesn’t intend to change from what it is? Or let us find out what it really is?”
“It almost looks that way, doesn’t it?”
“On the psi side it might look that way,” Telzey agreed. She smiled. “You know, you’re not trying very hard to push me into this!”
“No,” Trigger said. “I’m not trying to push you into it. I don’t feel I should. I feel I should tell you what I think before you decide.”
Telzey looked reflective. “You told other people?”
Trigger shook her head. “If I started talking about it generally, it might turn us back to the extermination program. I think that’s the last thing that should happen.” She added, “Pilch probably knows. She’s looked around in my mind now and then, for one reason and another. But she hasn’t said anything.”
“Pilch is the one who recommended me to you?” Telzey asked.
“Yes. Have you met?”
Telzey shook her head. “I’ve never heard of her. What’s she like?”
“Pilch is Pilch,” she said. “She has her ways. She’s a very good psi. She seems to be one of the Service’s top executives. She’s a busy lady, and I don’t think she’d bother herself for a minute with the Sirens if she thought they weren’t important. She told me there was a definite possibility you’d be able to get into communication with our specimen—that’s assuming, of course, there’s something there that can communicate.” Trigger thought again, shrugged. “I’ve known Pilch nearly two years, but that’s almost all I can tell you about her.”
Telzey was silent for over a minute now, dark-blue eyes fixed reflectively on Trigger.
“If I told you,” she said suddenly, “that I didn’t want to get involved in this, what would you do?”
“Get packed for a month’s travel plus,” Trigger said promptly. “I don’t think it will be at all safe to push ahead on the psi side here, but I think it will be safer generally than not pushing ahead.”
“Well, I am getting involved,” she said. “So that’s settled. We’ll see if Pilch is right, and it’s something I can handle—and whether you’re right, and it’s something that has to be handled. I can’t quite imagine the Sirens as a menace to the Federation, but we’ll try to find out more about them. If I don’t accomplish anything, you can still pack up for that month’s trip. How much time can you spend on Orado now?”
Trigger said, “As much time as it takes, or you’re willing to put in on it.”
Telzey asked, “Where will you stay? We can’t very well work in the Haplandia.”
“We certainly can’t,” Trigger agreed. “We’d have half the hotel in euphoria if we left the Siren unshielded for ten minutes. I haven’t made arrangements yet. The labs where they work on Sirens are all a good distance away from population centers, even though the structures are psi-blocked. So I’ll be looking for a place that’s well out in the country, but still convenient for you.”
“I know a place like that.”
“My family has a summer house up in the hills,” Telzey said. “Nobody will be using it the next couple of months. There’s Ezd Malion, the caretaker; but he and his wife have their own house a quarter of a mile away.”
Trigger nodded. “They’ll be safe there. Unless there are special developments. The Siren euphoria couldn’t do more than give them sunny dispositions at that distance.”
“That’s what I thought from the reports,” said Telzey. “And we can keep the Malions away from the house while we’re working. There’s nobody else around for miles. It’s convenient for me—I can get there from college in twenty minutes. . . . If there isn’t something you want to do, why don’t we move you and the Siren in this afternoon?”
The Hana dwarf dreamed in its own way occasionally. Its life of the moment had been a short one and might not be extended significantly; but its ancestral memory went back for a number of generations before it began to fade, and beyond that was a kind of memory to which it came only when it withdrew its attention wholly from the life of the moment and its requirements. It had taken to doing it frequently since realizing it was on a Veen world and no longer in contact with its kind.
That form of memory went back a long way to the world on which the Hanas originated, and even to the early period of that world when they gained supremacy after dangerous and protracted struggles with savage species as formidable as they. They came at last to the long time in which the world remained in harmony and they kept it so, living the placid and thoughtful plant existence they preferred, but not unaware of what went on outside. Disruptions occurred occasionally when some form of scurrying mobile life, nervously active, eternally eating or being eaten, began to become a nuisance, to crowd out others, or attempt to molest the Hanas. Then the Hanas would beckon that overly excitable species to them and start it on the path which led it eventually to the quietly satisfactory existence of the plant.