“They knew about the first two?” Telzey said.
“Yes. They’re taking care of that quietly, partly because there aren’t enough of either around to be worth setting off a public panic. Attuk was a Gelver. It’s their name for themselves. Gelvers get checked out individually. Most of them have sense enough not to use their shape-changing in ways they shouldn’t, and they help locate others who might be doing it. They have an understanding with the Service. They can stay as long as they make no trouble.”
“Where do they come from?”
“They don’t know,” said Trigger. “A Gelver ship got wrecked on a Hub world before humans ever reached this galactic area. The ones here now are remote descendants of the crew. They have no record of their home world and, of course, it could be almost anywhere. It’s different with the Torai type of entity. They do know where that one came from and how it got here, and some other things about it. It’s in the exploration records . . .”
* * *
Most of the surface of the entity’s planet of origin, Trigger explained, was a watery swamp where no intelligent life had evolved. The host bodies available to it there had primitive nervous systems, and it was incapable of developing awareness which extended beyond that of its host. But a Hub expedition had spent some time on the planet and left it with numerous living specimens. The entities in the specimens began to transfer to human bodies. It was an instinctive process at that point; but with human brains, they acquired a human intelligence potential. They made use of it. Their existence wasn’t suspected until decades later.
“What’s been done about their world?” Telzey asked.
“It’s posted. Satellite warnings in Translingue and a dozen other major Galactic languages, explicit about the danger of psychic invasion. Fortunately, the entity can’t reproduce when it adopts a host outside its native ecology. There’s no way to establish exactly how many were set at large in the Hub by that one expedition, but almost all of them seem to have been located by now.”
“What do they do with them when they’re located?”
“Not much one can do with them really, is there?” Trigger said. “They don’t harm the host body. It lives and procreates and doesn’t mutate out of the species. It uses its brain and may be performing a valuable function in society. To the sentient individual, of course, they’re a destructive parasite. But that’s how they’ve evolved. They get a choice between dying when the body they’ve currently occupied dies or going back to their world and its water creatures. I understand most of them decide to go back.”
“So those three entities found one another,” Telzey said, “and formed an evil little coven, grouped about the Torai Sebaloun figure.”
“For their mutual benefit,” said Trigger. “You can see how Attuk and Perr could be useful to Torai. The Sebaloun family members who might have competed for control with her all seem to have died at convenient moments.”
Telzey said after a pause, “There’s still nothing to show what happened to Perr Hasta?”
“Nothing whatever. It was hardly three hours before I was back at the satellite in a Service ship with psi operators on board. But it was airless by then—open to space—the computer system off. And Perr was gone. It’s a little odd, because the delivery lock was sealed, and there are no other facilities for a second spacecraft on the satellite. But perhaps she wouldn’t need a spacecraft. After all, we don’t know what she’s really like. At any rate, I’m reasonably certain Perr Hasta is still around.”
“And being around, she could look you up,” Telzey said.
“Yes,” said Trigger. “That’s what makes it awkward for me. Of course, she’s a capricious sort. She may have dropped the idea of absorbing my personality by now.”
Telzey shook her head. “She doesn’t seem to have been capricious about waiting for her chance to get at Torai and Attuk!”
“I know,” Trigger said moodily. “I can’t count on her forgetting about me—and that doesn’t leave me much choice. I’m not going into hiding because of Perr, and I wouldn’t want to have a Service operator keep me under indefinite mind-watch, even if they were willing to do it. Or even you. So I’ll accept the Service offer to get those latent abilities of mine organized enough to turn me into some sort of functioning psi.” She looked at Telzey. “They don’t expect me to reach your level, but they think I should become easily good enough to handle Perr if she shows up. She didn’t try to tackle Torai or Attuk until she had them at a disadvantage, so she must have limitations.”
“They’ll probably have you that far along in no time,” Telzey said.
“Yes, I suppose so . . .”
Telzey smiled. “Cheer up, Trigger! It really isn’t all that bad, being a functioning psi.”
“Oh, I know.” Trigger returned the smile briefly. “I imagine it will be fun, in a way. And it certainly has its advantages. It’s just that I never planned to be one. And now that I’m about to get started—well, it still seems rather strange to me. Shall we go?”
“Might as well.” They gathered their purses and rose from the table. Telzey remarked, “You won’t find it any stranger than a number of things you’ve already done.”
“No?” said Trigger doubtfully.
“Definitely not. Take tangling with three inhuman monsters on a Rasolmen satellite, for example—”
And here we leave Telzey Amberdon, making a quip to Trigger Argee. Schmitz wrote no more Telzey stories, so we can only speculate what further adventures she might have undergone. We can only wonder, for instance, what he might have done with her new “twin,” Gaziel. Of one thing, however, we can be quite certain—Trigger Argee would have figured in many of those adventures.
So let me talk about Trigger, for a moment. For she, of all the characters who appear in Schmitz’s Hub universe, is my personal favorite.
Trigger, who is introduced in this second volume of James H. Schmitz’s Federation of the Hub series, and will be central to the next volume, is less familiar to most readers than Telzey Amberdon. Yet, in the final analysis, it is around Trigger—and not Telzey— that Schmitz’s Hub universe truly revolves.
Telzey, by virtue of her psi powers if nothing else, is basically a loner. When Telzey does have assistance—except for Trigger—her helpers are very much in the nature of sidekicks, not equals. Throughout the course of Telzey’s many adventures, which comprise a much larger percentage of Schmitz’s work than Trigger’s, she encounters few of the major characters who inhabit the rest of the Hub tales. And those encounters which do occur (again, with the notable exception of Trigger Argee), are of a relatively brief and glancing nature. Heslet Quillan, Holati Tate and Prof. Mantelish never appear at all, and Pilch only once. Of the most important of Schmitz’s Hub personalities, beyond Trigger, only the Kyth detectives and Keth Deboll figure prominently in the Telzey saga.
Trigger interacts with all of them, except the detectives. And the interactions are neither brief nor unimportant. Holati Tate and Pilch—even, to a degree, Professor Mantelish—are her mentors and teachers. Heslet Quillan is her co-adventurer and eventual romantic interest. And Telzey, when Trigger finally encounters her, becomes both a friend and a companion.
Trigger Argee is, without a doubt, the most well-rounded character that James H. Schmitz ever produced. Unlike Telzey, she does not possess extraordinary psi powers. True, after she encounters Telzey, Trigger begins to realize that she does apparently possess a considerable latent psi capability. But that ability figures little in her exploits. For the most part, Trigger makes her way by virtue of those basic human characteristics of intelligence, courage, tenacity, and a fierce sense of principle. (It doesn’t hurt, of course, that she’s a crack shot with her beloved Denton.)
There is none of the solitary splendor about Trigger that there is about Telzey. She is sometimes hot-tempered, frequently sarcastic and witty, always stubborn—and occasionally childish. Where Telzey is aloof toward romantically inclined males, Trigger’s attitude is far more complex. She is generally self-confident, true. But at other times she is hesitant, or flirtatious, or even downright prudish. And she is, in a way that it is impossible to imagine Telzey doing, quite capable of falling in love with the wrong man before she finds the right one.
None of Schmitz’s characters in any of his other Hub stories are as warmly portrayed as Trigger. None are, in the end, so richly human.
In this volume, the reader was introduced to Trigger after she met Telzey. Volume 3 will go back and trace the route by which Trigger got there. Trigger—and all the people who helped to shape her into the formidable figure that she becomes. First and foremost among them being Heslet Quillan, the roguish intelligence officer who finally meets his own match in Trigger herself and becomes the “on-and-off husband” that Telzey reads about.