2006-5-23 星期二(Tuesday) 阴
A sound rose slowly from the Queen Grove as she spoke, deep and resonant, like the stroke of a big, old clock or the hum of a harp. The man in the aircar turned his head towards the grove to listen. The sound was repeated twice. It came from the giant greenweb at the far end of the grove and could be heard all over the farm, even, faintly, down in the valley wifen the wind was favorable,
llf said, "Lying Lou and Gabby were up here?"
"Yes. They went down to the factory first, then up to the house."
"What are they talking about in the house?" llf inquired.
"Oh, a lot of things." Auris frowned again. "We'll go and find out, but we won't let them see us right away."
Something stirred beside llf. He looked down and saw Lying Lou and Gabby had joined them again. The humbugs peered for a moment at the man in the aircar, then flicked out into the open, on across the road, and into the Queen Grove; like small, flying shadows, almost impossible to keep in sight. The man in the aircar looked about in a puzzled way, apparently uncertain whether he'd seen something move or not.
"Come on," Auris said.
Hf followed her back to Sam. Sam lifted his head and extended his neck. Auris swung herself upon the edge of the undershell beside the neck, crept on hands and knees into the hollow between the upper and lower shells, llf climbed in after her. The shell-cave was a familiar place. He'd scuttled in there many times when they'd been caught outdoors in one of the violent electric storms which came down through the mountains from the north or when the ground began to shudder in an earthquake's first rumbling. With the massive curved shell about him and the equally massive flat shell below, the angle formed by the cool, leathery wall which was the side of Sam's neck and the front of his shoulder seemed like the safest place in the world to be on such occasions.
The undershell tilted and swayed beneath llf now as the mossback started forward. He squirmed around and looked out through the opening between the shells. They moved out of the grove, headed towards the road at Sam's steady walking pace. Jif couldn't see the aircar and wondered why Auris didn't want the man in the car to see them. He wriggled uncomfortably. It was a strange, uneasy-making morning in every way.
2006-5-5 星期五(Friday) 晴
"They've been down at the factory?" llf asked.
"Yes," Auris said. "Hush now. I'm listening."
Lou was jabbering along at the rate at which the humbugs chattered among themselves, but this sounded like, and was, a recording of human voices played back at high speed. When Auris wanted to know what people somewhere were talking about, she sent the humbugs off to listen. They remembered everything they heard, came back and repeated it to her at their own speed, which saved time. llf, if he tried hard, could understand scraps of it. Auris understood it all. She was hearing now what the people at the factory had been saying during the morning.
Gabby inflated his voice pouch part way, remarked in Grandfather Riquol's strong, rich voice, "My, my! We're not being quite on our best behavior today, are we, llf?"
"Shut up," said llf.
"Hush now," Gabby said in Auris' voice. "I'm listening." He added in llf's voice, sounding crestfallen, "Caught me again!" then chuckled nastily.
llf made a fist of his left hand and swung fast. Gabby became a momentary brown blur, and was sitting again on llf's other side. He looked at llf with round, innocent eyes, said in a solemn tone, "We must pay more attention to details, men. Mistakes can be expensive!"
He'd probably picked that up at the factory, llf ignored him. Trying to hit a humbug was a waste of effort. So was talking back to them. He shifted his attention to catching what Lou was saying; but Lou had finished up at that moment. She and Gabby took off instantly in a leap from Sam's back and were gone in the bushes, llf thought they were a little jittery and erratic in their motions today, as if they, too, were keyed up even more than usual. Auris walked down to the front lip of the shell and sat on it, dangling her legs. llf joined her there.
"What were they talking about at the factory?" he asked.
"They did get in a limit order yesterday," Auris said. "And another one this morning. They're not taking any more orders until they've filled those two."
"That's good, isn't it?" llf asked.
"I guess so."
After a moment, llf asked, "Is that what they're worrying about?"
"I don't know," Auris said. But she frowned.
Sam came lumbering up to another stretch of open ground, stopped while he was still well back among the trees. Auris slipped down from the shell, said, "Come on but don't let them see you," and moved ahead through the trees until she could look into the open. llf followed her as quietly as he could.
"What's the matter?" he inquired. A hundred and fifty yards away, on the other side of the open area, lowered the Queen Grove, its tops dancing gently like armies of slender green spears against the blue sky. The house wasn't visible from here; it was a big one-story bungalow built around the trunks of a number of trees deep within the grove. Ahead of them lay the road which came up from the valley and wound on through the mountains to the west.
Auris said, "An aircar came down here a while ago . . . There it is!"
They looked at the aircar parked at the side of the road on their left, a little distance away. Opposite the car was an opening in the Queen Grove where a path led to the house, llf couldn't see anything very interesting about the car. It was neither new nor old, looked like any ordinary aircar. The man sitting inside it was nobody they knew.
"Somebody's here on a visit," llf said.
"Yes," Auris said. "Uncle Kugus has come back." llf had to reflect an instant to remember who Uncle Kugus was. Then it came to his mind in a flash. It had been some while ago, a year or so. Uncle Kugus was a big, handsome man with thick, black eyebrows, who always smiled. He wasn't llfs uncle but Auris'; but he'd had presents for both of them when he arrived. He had told llf a great many jokes. He and Grandfather Riquol had argued on one occasion for almost two hours about something or other; llf couldn't remember now what it had been. Uncle Kugus had come and gone in a tiny, beautiful, bright yellow aircar, had taken llf for a couple of rides in it, and told him about winning races with it. llf hadn't had too bad an impression of him.
"That isn't him," he said, "and that isn't his car."
"I know. He's in the house," Auris said. "He's got a couple of people with him. They're talking with Riquol and Meldy."
2006-5-4 星期四(Thursday) 晴
Sam swayed on into the next grove while llf considered the information. Limit orders were fairly unusual; but it hardly explained the general uneasiness. He sighed, sat down, crossed his legs, and looked about. This was a grove of young trees, fifteen years and lisss. There was plenty of open space left between them. Ahead, a huge tumbleweed was dying, making happy, chuckling sounds as it pitched its scarlet seed pellets far out from its slowly unfolding leaves. The pellets rolled hurriedly farther away from the old weed as soon as they touched the ground. In a twelve-foot circle about their parent, the earth was being disturbed, churned, shifted steadily about. The clean-up squad had arrived to dispose of the dying tumbleweed; as Hf looked, it suddenly settled six or seven inches deeper into the softened dirt. The pellets were hurrying to get beyond the reach of the clean-up squad so they wouldn't get hauled down, too. But half-grown tumbleweeds, speckled yellow-green and ready to start their rooted period, were rolling through the grove towards the disturbed area. "They would wait around the edge of the circle until the clean-up squad finished, then move in and put down their roots. The ground where the squad had worked recently was always richer than any other spot in the forest.
Bf wondered, as he had many times before, what the clean-up squad looked like. Nobody ever caught so much as a glimpse of them. Riquo Cholm, his grandfather, had told him of attempts made by scientists to catch a member of the squad with digging machines. Even the smallest ones could dig much faster than the machines could dig after them, so the scientists always gave up finally and went away.
"llf, come in for lunch!" called llf's grandmother's voice.
llf filled his lungs, shouted, "Coming, Grand"
He broke off, looked up at Auris. She was smirking.
"Caught me again," llf admitted. "Dumb humbugs!" He yelled, "Come out. Lying Lou! I know who it was."
Meldy Cholm laughed her low, sweet laugh, a silverbell called, the giant greenweb of the Queen Grove sounded its deep harp note, more or less all together. Then Lying Lou and Gabby darted into sight, leaped up on the mossback's hump. The humbugs were small, brown, bobtailed animals, built with spider leanness and very quick. They had round skulls, monkey faces, and the pointed teeth of animals who lived by catching and killing other animals. Gabby sat down beside llf, inflating and deflating his voice pouch, while Lou burst into a series of rattling, clicking, spitting sounds.
2006-5-4 星期四(Thursday) 阴
Sam rolled a somber brown eye back for an instant as llf caught the shell and swung up on it, but his huge beaked head didn't turn. He was a mossback, Wrake's version of the turtle pattern, and except for the full-grown trees and perhaps some members of the clean-up squad, the biggest thing on the farm. His corrugated shell was overgrown with a plant which had the appearance of long green fur; and occasionally when Sam fed, he would extend and use a pair of heavy arms with three- fingered hands, normally held folded up against the lower rim of the shell.
Auris had paid no attention to llf's arrival. She still seemed to be watching the factory in the valley. She and llf were cousins but didn't resemble each other, llf was small and wiry, with tight-curled red hair. Auris was slim and blond, and stood a good head taller than he did. He thought she looked as if-she owned everything she could see from the top of Sam's shell; and she did, as a matter of fact, own a good deal of itnine tenths of the diamondwood farm and nine tenths of the factory, llf owned the remaining tenth of both.
He scrambled up the shell, grabbing the moss-fur to haul himself along, until he stood beside her. Sam, awkward as he looked when walking, was moving at a good ten miles an hour, clearly headed for the Queen Grove, llf didn't know whether it was Sam or Auris who bad decided to go back to the house. Whichever it had been, he could feel the purpose of going there.
"They're nervous about something," he told Auris, meaning the whole farm. "Think there's a big storm coming?"
"Doesn't look like a storm," Auris said.
llf glanced about the sky, agreed silently. "Earthquake, maybe?"
Auris shook her head. "It doesn't feel like earthquake."
She hadn't turned her gaze from the factory, llf asked, "Something going on down there?"
Auris shrugged. "They're cutting a lot today," she said. "They got in a limit order."
2006-3-16 星期四(Thursday) 晴
Auris, who was two years, two months, and two days older than llf, stood on top of Sam's semiglobular shell, looking off to the right towards the valley where the diamondwood factory was. Most of the world of Wrake was on the hot side, either rather dry or rather steamy; but this was cool mountain country. Far to the south, below the valley and the foothills behind it lay the continental plain, shimmering like a flat, green-brown sea. To the north and east were higher plateaus, above the level where the diamondwood liked to grow. llf ran past Sam's steadily moving bulk to the point where the forward rim of the shell made a flat upward curve, close enough to the ground so he could reach it.
2005-8-5 星期五(Friday) 晴
James H. Schmitz
The diamond wood tree farm was restless this morning, llf Cholm had been aware of it for about an hour but had said nothing to Auris, thinking he might be getting a summer fever or a stomach upset and imagining things and that Auris would decide they should go back to the house so llf's grandmother could dose him. But the feeling continued to grow, and by now llf knew it was the farm.
Outwardly, everyone in the forest appeared to be going about their usual business. There had been a rainfall earlier in the day; and the tumbleweeds had uprooted themselves and were moving about in the bushes, lapping water off the leaves. llf had noticed a small one rolling straight towards a waiting slurp and stopped for a moment to watch the slurp catch it. The slurp was of average size, which gave it a tongue-reach of between twelve and fourteen feet, and the tumbleweed was already within range.
2005-8-5 星期五(Friday) 晴
Next is a farm story, if you like but this is no ordinary farm.Under the bucolic surface of this tale of another planet, with its consistent and beautifully worked out details, there is a tricky problem, about which I will give you one or two hints;Ecology is something human beings can adapt to suit their own purposes; right? But human beings in an environment are part of its ecology . . .
Or: if an experimental animal alters its responses in order to get food from the experimenter who is conditioning whom?
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