A Darkling Sea: A Novel

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We will get back at about , just after breakfast. They may not even notice we have gone. Leave all the talking to me. Now: not another word! We have too much to do! I am going to sleep this afternoon to be fresh for our dive tonight. You must do the same. And do not speak of this to anyone! He cannot pay attention to the speaker, and constantly checks the reel holding his text. He is to speak next, his first address to the Bitterwater Company of Scholars. It is an audition of sorts: Broadtail hopes the members find his work interesting enough to invite him to join them.

Smoothshell 24 Midden finishes her address on high-altitude creatures and takes a few questions from the audience. They aren't easy questions, either, and Broadtail worries about making a fool of himself before all these respected scholars. When she finishes, Longpincer 16 Bitterwater clacks his pincers for quiet. Broadtail nearly drops his reel, but catches it in time and scuttles to the end of the room. It is a wonderful chamber for speaking, with a sloped floor so that everyone can hear directly, and walls of quiet pumice-stone. He finds the end of his reel and begins, running it carefully between his feeding-tendrils as he speaks aloud.

His tendrils feel the knots in the string as it passes by them. The patterns of knots indicate numbers, and the numbers match words. He remembers being careful to space his knots and tie them tightly, as this copy is for Longpincer's library here at Bitterwater. The reel is a single unbroken cord, expensive to buy and horribly complicated to work with — very different from the original draft, a tangle of short notes tied together all anyhow. Once he begins, Broadtail's fear dissipates.

His own fascination with his topic asserts itself, and he feels himself speeding up as his excitement grows. When he pauses, he can hear his audience rustling and scrabbling, and he supposes that is a good sign. At least they aren't all going torpid. The anchor of his speech is the description of the echo-carvings from the ruined city near his home vent of Continuous Abundance.

By correlating the images of the echo-carvings with the number markings below them, Broadtail believes he can create a lexicon for the ancient city builders. He reads the Company some of his translations of other markings in the ruins. Upon finishing, he faces a torrent of questions. Huge old Roundhead 19 Downcurrent has several tough ones — he is generally recognized as the expert on ancient cities and their builders, and he means to make sure some provincial upstart doesn't encroach on his territory.

Roundhead and some others quickly home in on some of the weak parts of Broadtail's argument. A couple of them make reference to the writings of the dead scholar Thickfeelers 19 Swiftcurrent, and Broadtail feels a pang of jealousy because he can't afford to buy copies of such rare works. As the questions continue, Broadtail feels himself getting angry in defense of his work, and struggles to retain his temper.

The presentation may be a disaster, but he must remain polite. At last it is over, and he rolls up his reel and heads for a seat at the rear of the room. He'd like to just keep going, slink outside and swim for home, but it would be rude. A scholar Broadtail doesn't recognize scuttles to the lectern and begins struggling with a tangled reel. Longpincer sits next to Broadtail and speaks privately by means of shell-taps. I think you describe some extremely important discoveries. Don't worry.

Review: A Darkling Sea

That's a good sign. If the hearers ask questions it means they're thinking, and that's the whole purpose of this Company. I don't hear any reason not to make you a member. I'm sure the others agree. All kinds of emotions flood through Broadtail — relief, excitement, and sheer happiness. He can barely keep from speaking aloud.

His shell-taps are rapid. I plan to revise the reel to address some of Roundhead's questions. The scholar at the lectern begins to read a reel about a new system for measuring the heat of springs, but Broadtail is too happy to really pay attention. AT that night, Rob was lying on his bunk trying to come up with some excuse not to go with Henri. Say he was sick, maybe? The trouble was that he was a rotten liar. He tried to make himself feel sick — maybe an upset stomach from ingesting seawater?

His body unhelpfully continued to feel okay.

Review: A Darkling Sea | Armed and Dangerous

Maybe he just wouldn't go. Stay in bed and lock the door. Henri could hardly complain to Dr. Sen about him not going on an unauthorized dive. But Henri could and undoubtedly would make his life miserable with nagging and blustering until he finally gave in. And of course the truth was that Rob did want to go.

What he really wanted was to be the one in the stealth suit, instead of Henri. It would be amazing to get within arm's reach of the Ilmatarans and film them close up, instead of getting a few murky long-distance drone pictures. Probably everyone else at Hitode Station felt the same way. Putting them here, actually on the sea bottom of Ilmatar, yet forbidding them to get close to the natives, was like telling a pack of horny teenagers they could get naked in bed together, but not touch.

He checked his watch. It was He got up and slung his camera bag over his shoulder. Damn Henri anyway. Rob made it to the dive room without encountering anyone. The station wasn't like a space vehicle with round-the-clock shifts. Everyone slept from about to , and only one poor soul had to stay in the control room in case of emergency. Tonight it was Dickie Graves on duty, and Rob suspected that Henri had managed to square him somehow so that the exterior hydrophones wouldn't pick up their little jaunt.

He took one of the drones off the rack and ran a quick check. It was a flexible robot fish about a meter long; more Navy surplus — American, this time. It wasn't especially stealthy, but instead was designed to sound just like a swimming mackerel. Presumably the Ilmatarans would figure it was some native organism and ignore it.

His computer linked up with the drone brain by laser. All powered up and ready to go. He told it to hold position and await further instructions, then dropped it into the water. Just to be on the safe side, Rob fired up a second drone and tossed it into the moon pool.

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Next the impellers. We know the Ilmatarans have been around for millions of years. Also, the lens is old and there's no indication that anyone's ever visited them before. The implication is that it was the Ilmatarans themselves who constructed the lens. Since the current Ilmataran society isn't capable of doing so and wouldn't have any use for a lens even if they were, they must have a more-technological past. That is, they haven't actually been a static stone-age society for millions of years, they actually lost all their technology at some point.

I'm pretty sure there's also a further implication that they lost their tech as the end result of the kind of path the Sholen are currently on, but it was a library book for me and I don't remember why I thought that anymore The ilmatarans probably had eyes in the distant past, evidence of evolution which would probably shock rob to know that ilmatar has been populated longer that earth. It was probably some sort of rare contraption, like one claws noisemaker.


Given that Ilmatarans had existed for at least a million years, I thought the lens suggested that, at some point in their distant past, they had vision. A million years is a long time, long enough that the planet may once have had an atmosphere, allowing them to live closer to, or even above the surface of the ocean.

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At least there may have been no radiation to prevent it. My impression was that the the locals weren't blind in the distant past. Maybe an ice age caused them to adapt to underwater living. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations.

Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. Ask Question. It was a lens.

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Oleksiy Oleksiy 7 7 bronze badges. Cambias Cambias 2 2 silver badges 2 2 bronze badges. A brilliant and very fast response. Great to see an author taking the time to interact with fans. Just finishes the book - loved it. I'd love a sequel! My initial thought before I came looking here was that the Ilmatarans made it themselves long ago. But a lens would be little use in the dark sea, so maybe it was used by part of an ancient telescope for use by Ilmataran astronomers who journeyed above the ice.

Micah Micah I can understand if they lost all their technology earlier. But why would they ever make a lens if they don't have eyes?