Just what is ‘The Ottotontic World’ ? It is a place not too far from us (on Earth), and yet, to the Ottotontics, it is a place without any other reality. There are clues as to where the Ottotontic world exists. For example: there is no sun, nor moon, nor oceans; no trees, mountains, or deserts. The Ottotontics know of fire and water and rock. They eat fish, spiders, amphibians, and fungi. Their clothes are made from the silk of silk worms.

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GRAND PANEL CHOOSER CAUGHT BY ‘CATCHER’

Authorities entered the Happenstatt environment in the Eerhing Section on the cycle of Middak MA at approximately 39:42 and discovered the Apparent or Alleged slumped over on a u-y (couch) holding the top of his head. Did not respond, at first, to inquiries by authorities. Apparent was not wearing any leg or waist coverings. There was no one else in the environment. There were two immediately obvious off spaces within  the environment. Authorities searched the two off spaces and found no one.

A conversation between the authorities and the Apparent ensued.

The AU in charge of the investigation asked the Apparent, “Are you alone here?”

The Apparent did not respond.

The AU asked, “Where is the catcher?”

The Apparent did not respond to that question either.

“Where is the Grapling?” asked the AU.

The Apparent took a breath and said, “Gone, I guess.”

The AU then asked, “Do you need Anatomic Examination assistance?”

“Probably,” said the Apparent, and he coughed.

The AU then called out, “AE required in the environment to assist Apparent!”

Another voice announced, “I found the catcher!” AU 2943 approached the AU in charge of the investigation.

AU 3733, the AU in charge, followed AU 2943 into one of the off spaces across from the sleeping center.

Partially hidden by a collection of shelves with various objects, AU 3733 observed the device. The catcher’s shape was undeniable. It had been worn.

AU 3733 ordered AU 2973 to: “Contain the catcher and take it to the Examination Center for analysis.”

AU 2943 retrieved a cloth bag from a collection of materials he had brought to the environment. He walked over to the catcher, squatted down, grabbed the catcher with an instrument, and placed the catcher inside the cloth bag.

“How many does this make?” AU 2943 asked AU 3733.

“How many does what make?” asked AU 3733.

Sighing, AU 5549, entering the off space, said, “Fifteen this makes, including the Apparent.”

AU 3733 looked at AU 2943 and asked AU 5549, “How is it you know that?”

AU 5549 replied, “I just looked at the specifics for the Apparent. He is a Chooser. He’s been keeping track.”

“So?” asked AU 3733.

“He won’t be choosing any time soon. That’s one more selector they won’t have to worry about.”

“Who?” asked AU 3733.

“The Graplings.”

“I don’t follow you,” said AU 3733.

“She trapped him for a reason, not because he is an invader. He’s already managed to tell me she was involved with him willingly.”

AU 3733 tilted his head. “And you believed him?” he asked.

“He has no history of invasion,” said AU 5549. “He has an important position on the Grand Panel. He is a cuppler. He has lives. Three of them. He and his cuppler and lives are members of Cupplers through the protection of the Haplings. Do you see a struggle in the environment? And where is she?”

“Let me see her first, and then I’ll tell you what I think,” said AU 3733.

“Chances are she looks exactly like you can imagine, and if she is willing to engage, then she becomes a conspirator.”

“On the other hand, if she can prove he invaded her, then he’s finished.”

“Another victory for the Graplings.”

“Not necessarily.”

“You don’t see it? This is all about intimidation and fear. Choose against us, and you risk disaster. They’ve already destroyed how many Hapling lives with their stories?”

AU 3733 stared at AU 5549. He said, “You’re showing your position on this. As an authority you have to be without position except on the assertions.”

“Hey. This talk is between you and me,” said AU 5549. “I have no position when it comes to dismissal. That is entirely a Grapling thing.”

“Not to the Haplings,” said AU 2943.

The Apparent was carried out on a platform and placed in a transport that took him to the Examination Center. Later, he was transferred to the Holding Center and awaited the date set for the Confrontation between himself and the Confronter, the Grapling who had trapped him.

TRANSPORTS : SLEDS KEEP THE OTTOTONTIC WORLD MOVING

All transports (sleds) were parked either at the top of the upper sections of each city or at the lower sections, depending upon their status.

Once raised by the enormous circular conveyors, each of which held hundreds of transports, gates opened, and the transports were free to descend multiple lanes to various exit points.  Diagonal cross lanes emerged from main lanes, providing alternative routes. At the destination, each transport was hooked to a line and pulled to its stop-space.

Transports were connected to the lanes by a T on the underside of each transport. The inverted T allowed the transport to run along the lane, with increase and decrease in speed provided by brake systems. Gravity was the main source for movement. Brakes had to be perfect all the time in order for transports to function properly. This was the responsibility of the transport owner and the city observers.

DETOLINZA, THE CONFRONTER, TELLS HER STORY

Sitting in the Authority Center for her city, Gild, in the Eehring Section, Detolinza waited for the authorities to question her. She had already been examined and was found to have bruises on her arms. Reflections of the arms were taken as evidence of her story.

A Grapling wearing a multi-colored costume covering her entire body approached Detolinza and sat down in front of her.

“You have been examined and there are bruises on your arms,” said the Grapling.

“Yes,” said Detolinza.

“I am AU 1071, and I am going to be asking you some questions. Please speak freely.”

“Thank you.”

“What is your identification clause?”

“I am Detolinza of the Eehring Section.”

“What is your type?”

“I am a Lins.”

“A what?”

“A Lins.”

“What’s a lins?”

“Not a Hapling.”

“Oh. You’re a Grapling.”

“No. I’m a Lins. ‘Grapling’ is a Hapling term we’ve rejected.”

“Until there is an assertion that you are a Lins, according to the current assertions you are a Grapling.”

“Then why did you ask me?”

“Because this is all for the authorities and the Grand Panel. And we have to be correct here. Right?”

“What’ll happen if you put Lins there?”

“Nobody will know what you are, exactly. And if they don’t know what you are correctly, how are they going to know anything else correctly? What’s a lins, after all? I don’t know what a lins is. I look at you and I see a Grapling. But a lins? If everybody came up with their own type, there’d be nothing done correctly. Or is that your intention? You want to make a mess of things? Cause confusion?”

Detolinza took a deep breath and said, “No.”

“Good, then. Now. What are the circumstances of you engaging a Hapling?”

“I did not engage a Hapling. He invaded me.”

“Where?”

“In my environment.”

“What was he doing in your environment?”

“I had invited him there.”

“Why?”

“He told me he had an interest in my collection of objects I had elevated from various Lins.”

“Had you noticed any particular behavior that might have alerted you to his invasion?”

“No. He knew exactly the type of Ottotontic he was going to be with. We had discussed the reasons why I had invited him to my environment. And he had assured me that he was not interested in any engagement. Clearly, he was not telling a story of any real truth.”

“Why did you believe his story?”

“He seemed to understand the circumstances. He conveyed self-control.”

“Describe the moments leading up to the invasion.”

“He met me at a location where we discussed and consumed and laughed.”

“Why him?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you meet him?”

“He was suggested to me by another, and I trusted the suggestion.”

“What is the name of the suggester?”

“What difference does it make?”

“The Apparent is a Chooser. It does make a difference. What is the identification clause of the suggester?”

Shaking her head, Detolinza said, “I don’t remember.”

“We’ll want a list of your knowns.”

“They didn’t invade me; he did. What do you need their identification clauses for?”

“It is appropriate for us to question those who know you. When it comes to the capture of a Chooser, questions are raised. Was this a random invasion, or was he compelled to invade in order to remove his selection?”

“This isn’t right! I met him; we went from one location back to my environment, and he invaded me without any approval on my part. I am so very thankful I was wearing that trap. If I hadn’t, there is no telling what he might have done to me.”

“The trap functioned?”

“Perfectly. He was already in it by the time I set it and there was no way out.”

“Did you scream?”

“He had his hand over my mouth.”

“Where were your hands?”

“Trying to push him off.”

“You wanted to trap him, though.”

“Of course I did. He was an invader and rejecting the assertions and he needed to be caught. I was so relieved when he passed out, and I could push him off.”

“Who elevated you to give you the trap?”

“The assertions allow it, and we encourage Lins to have them.”

“You mean, Graplings. How did you get it?”

“A known of mine, why? It worked; it’s approved. What difference does it make?”

“Did this known ever mention the Apparent’s name?”

Detolinza did not respond. Then she said, “No.”

“Did you remove your costume or was it removed by the Apparent?”

“He forced it off me. He grabbed at me. He was horrible.”

“But he never saw the trap.”

“No, all he saw was what he thought was me. The traps are very good.”

“Did you know the Apparent, or know of him, prior to meeting him?”

“No.”

“Our questions are finished now. Do you intend to pursue this story? Will you confront the Apparent?”

“Yes.”

“The authorities will contact you with a date of confrontation. I strongly suggest you obtain an adviser to ensure a proper resolution. You would not want to find yourself suddenly in a story of conspiracy. The authorities do not like Choosers being targeted.”

“That’s because most of the authorities are Haplings.”

“I am a Grapling, Detolinza, and I do not like Choosers being confronted for any reason.”

“Who are your knowns, Grapling? Do they speak so openly in front of Ubinika?”

“You are free to depart,” said AU 1071, and she closed her material, rose, and left the off space.

 

HAPLING CONCERN RISES FOR

GRAND PANEL CHOOSER CAUGHT BY ‘CATCHER’

In certain sections of the Hapling community, Haplings gathered to discuss the cycle’s events, and it had been undeniable that Haplings were getting trapped more than usual in their encounters with Graplings.

Two influential Haplings, Dordur and Espe, were concerned about how the Hapling leader Gavanar would regard these new events.  He was currently concerned about the transition from consumption illumination to material illumination. Consumption illumination had been the way of seeing and doing for endless cycles and then came the discovery of rotating material and push-pull spaces. Material could be used to illuminate without consumption. This astounded the Ottotontics. But it would take an organized transition to ensure illumination remained constant, and many were fearful of the end results. As with the transports, gravity played a key role in the production of material illumination.

Dordur and Espe had theories as to why the Graplings were claiming the Haplings had, over time, turned from cuppling to invading. Though the Graplings were opposed to cuppling permanently, they did believe engagement was essential for an enjoyable life. But invasion was a rejection of the Ottotontic assertions that no one should be invaded which can produce unwanted life which must, to the Graplings, be dismissed.

Cycle after cycle, there were stories told of invasions that could not be proven. And for that reason, someone, somewhere, produced an invasion trap that the Graplings could wear and capture the Haplings in the act of invasion. The trap mimicked a Grapling’s anatomic parts and, at the time of invasion, triggered by the Grapling invaded, the trap clamped down on the Hapling and injected him with a solution that forced the Hapling to fall asleep. And then the Grapling could remove herself from the trap and contact authorities who came and removed the Hapling for story confrontation and eventual permanent withholding from the Ottotontic society.

When asked about their concerns, Dordur and Espe responded.

Dordur: I think it is rather obvious to us and to the authorities what is happening here, and if such a thing can be proven to Gavanar, it will only make matters worse between the Haplings and the Graplings.

Espe: You know as well as I do that the introduction of Harmonika’s way of life, which he so thoroughly promoted, with his consenting Graplings, and the availability of seeing them in spite of Grapling disapproval, has offered up a false hope for Haplings who believe in Harmonika. He threatens everything we stand for. And suggests that Graplings are not the rigid anti-cupplers that they themselves profess to be. So, here we are, with invasions on the increase and, therefore, trappings on the rise. It seems almost inevitable.

Dordur: Harmonika is taking advantage of the Hapling hunger. So many are uncuppled. They believe cuppling enslaves them.

Espe: Yes, there has been a growing campaign among Haplings to avoid cuppling. To seek… what was the term they used?… Pleasure.

Dordur: Harmonika’s word for what they do. A total denial of what we all are.

Espe: It’s like playing with your eyes or your ears for… pleasure.

Dordur: It’s the… pleasure that seems so much more important than… the reality of the situation.

Espe: Harmonika has always been opposed to reality. For him, it has always been about dreams and fantasies. I think he, himself, is afraid of cuppling permanently, but he doesn’t want to be alone.

Dordur: Let’s not forget the elevation he has enjoyed by promoting this nonsense.

Espe: Which raises the question: What will Gavanar do, if anything, about it?

Dordur: Gavanar is too involved in the necessities for the Hapling society to think about Haplings like Hamonika, and Harmonika knows that.

Espe: But what if we can tie Harmonika to the rise in trappings? What if we can show that Harmonika’s way of life has led to this attack on these Haplings?

Dordur: I think more importantly we need to find out who created and distributed this trap. Was it a Hapling, a Grapling, or a Korn?

Espe: It couldn’t have been a Hapling. Why would a Hapling invent something that hurts Haplings?

Dordur: Elevation. Why is anything else ever done? I’m sure that the Graplings are thrilled to have this as their ultimate response to Haplings.

Espe and Dordur decided it was time to tell Gavanar and the others about their concerns.

APPARENT TELLS HIS STORY

AT HOLDING CENTER

Kekel of the Odont Section was the Apparent sitting in an off space and being held  for questioning at the Holding Center when AU 1345 entered the off space and sat down in front of Kekel. The Apparent had just met with his cuppler and lives and tried to assure them that this was all a trap, a setup, and that he had had no genuine interest in the Grapling who had trapped him. His cuppler, Onree, did not believe Kekel. She cried in front of her lives and said she would be consulting with an adviser about their, Kekel and Onree’s, cuppling. The lives also cried and didn’t want to leave. But they had to.

AU 1345 opened up some material in front of Kekel and said, “Tough cycle.”

“Yes,” said Kekel.

“How long have you been a Chooser?” asked the AU.

“Fifteen forty-nine fifty-two cycles.”

“Did your Confronter know you were a Chooser?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can you describe to me the circumstances leading up to you being trapped?”

“She was introduced to me by Coldra of the Fomk Section. I know that I was immediately stunned by the Confronter’s appearance. I had never seen a Grapling like her before.”

“But you’re a cuppler.”

“Yes! Yes! I know that! And a happy one too!… It was what she was wearing; it was how she smelled; it was the way she smiled.”

“What was the reason for the introduction? Why her? Why you?”

Kekel sighed. “She was new to the area, and Coldra said she thought a showing around by me, very knowledgeable of the region, would help. The Confronter leaned over at one point, to fix something on her foot covering, and…”

“And?”

Rubbing his forehead, Kekel said, “It’s all my fault. I take full responsibility for my (shaking his head) witless behavior. But she was completely and totally involved. She knew I was a cuppler. I even showed her reflections of my cuppler and lives. Do I really have to tell you all of this?”

AU 1345 said, “She has accused you of invading her. If you did, and she can prove it, you’re going to lose everything. If you can tell me what she did, perhaps you can prove she is not being honest. Perhaps you can prove she is a conspirator. And if that’s true, she would then lose everything. And she would be compelled to tell the authorities who else was involved. You being a Chooser will help you. On the other hand, after all of this is over, you may find your elevation removed.”

“I cannot believe I did this.”

“Did you consume anything while you two were together?”

“Yes, of course I did. We both did.”

“Was it presented to you by someone else, or was it presented to you by the Confronter?”

“By someone else. Why?”

“Where did you go?”

“I don’t remember the name. We met there. Coldra had suggested the place.”

“And you went inside with her?”

“Yes.”

“So someone then brought you something to consume.”

“Yes.”

“And then what happened?”

“We consumed, and then she said she was getting tired and wanted me to take her back to her environment.”

“And you went with her?”

“Yes.”

“And then what happened?”

“We arrived at her environment, and she was talking to me and then suddenly she reached out and pressed her motticott against mine. And then she led me up to her sleeping center and that’s when she kissed me again.”

“Completely willing.”

“Yes. She wanted to engage. It was obvious.”

“According to her story, you held her against her willingness, and you forcefully removed her costume, and you invaded her. She was thankful she had the trap.”

“No, no, no! She wanted to engage me! You should have seen her!”

“Did she tell you what she wanted?”

“She took off her costume in her sleeping center! She got onto the sleeping center and just waited for me to join her.”

“And you joined her. And then you were trapped. She has already told the authorities she intends to confront you. I suggest you get a good adviser.”

AU 1345 closed his material, rose, and left Kekel to remain where he was sitting.

GRAPLING LEADER LEARNS OF CHOOSER INVASION

Ubinika spent most of her time overseeing the Lins society which has its own sections in the Ottotontic world. Ubinika had been elevated to the most influential and powerful Lins anywhere through her appearance, physical strength, will, intelligence, and determination. She had all the strong characteristics that inspired other Lins. She watched the Haplings and what they did, and her main concern was that the Haplings, or the Korns, for that matter, could not and would not change the Lins way of life. And she rejected the Hapling identification clause for Lins: Grapling. Grapling as in grappling for something, as if desperate, as if hanging on to what? The Hapling better way of life? Aspiring to be a Hapling but never being a Hapling? The identification clause angered her and clearly reflected what the Haplings believed: Lins needed the Haplings to accomplish anything.

Engaging Haplings to produce life was on thing; allowing Haplings to dictate Grapling behavior and choices was quite another. And lately, Ubinika felt a rise in the Hapling intent to change the Ottotontic assertions that Lins had the entitlement that they could dismiss new life at will. This assertion, this strength, this freedom allowed the Lins to live their lives autonomously without interference or burden. And the assertion gave them what they believed to be true: control of and over their own bodies. What was life worth living, she asked, if her existence was to cater to the needs, whims, and demands of the Haplings? That is no life for a Lins, and if she should find, for whatever reason, a life inside of her, that life should not be allowed to dictate to her what her behavior is going to be as if the life were as powerful as any other Hapling or Korn. Dismissal was essential, without question or concern. That life, after all, existed because of her body, and her body was her own and no one else’s.

Ubinika and Gavanar, the leader of the Hapling society, despised one another. Gavanar was the exact reason that Lins should never drop their guard. They must always be vigilant in their effort to retain their autonomy over their own lives. The Haplings are dictators, Ubinika told her followers, and prison crazy monsters for all the nonsense they profess. There is  and never would be anything better than Lins total freedom over her own life. If she depends on others, Ubinika claimed, they will surely destroy her joy and sense of purpose. Ubinika had seen this happen many cycles.

It was Jundus, a close known of Ubinika, who found out from Coldra what had happened to the Grand Panel Chooser, Kekel. Jundus was herself involved with a Hapling, though she never spoke of this with Ubinika. Together, in Ubinika’s environment, Jundus informed Ubinika of the situation.

“Invasion? By a well known cuppler?” asked Ubinika.

“Yes,” said Jundus. She was shorter than Ubinika. And rounder.

“I will throw her to the wall, if she exposes herself as a conspirator. I will denounce her and deny any desire to have her in the Lins community. Do you understand that?” asked Ubinika.

“You doubt her story?” said Jundus.

“Who is she? Anybody?” asked Ubinika.

“A known of Coldra.”

Ubinika closed her eyes. Then she said, “What did Coldra do this time?”

“I think but have no real evidence that she first introduced a device known as an invader trap to her known, and then she introduced her known– I have forgotten her name– to a Chooser.”

“With the intention of trapping him?”

Jundus shrugged.

“If this fails, I am throwing both Coldra and her known to the wall.”

“But if it succeeds, it will delay any new selections.”

“Not necessarily. Just the opposite could happen. It could speed them up, and we get one step closer to losing our autonomy.”

“I thought I should tell you about it in case there is a major confrontation between you and Gavanar.”

“And there will be; I can smell it. Does Quinfek know?”

“I don’t think so, but I don’t know.”

“And Coldra told you she did this?”

“Not in so many words. But she was so anxious that you should know.”

“Of course she was. Where is her known now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe with Coldra.”

“That would be too obvious for the authorities. If Coldra is that unintelligent, I will throw her. Do you know this Hapling trapped?”

“No. Just that he is a Chooser and a cuppler.”

“When Gavanar finds out, he will confront me if he thinks there is the slightest chance of conspiracy.”

“But what can he do? The assertions require a confrontation of the two stories. If he acts before that happens, it will weigh against him.”

“I know that! But what he can do is use this as proof that the Lins are overstepping their boundaries and trying to force their way of life on everyone else; exactly what we tell of the Haplings their persistent demand that Dismissal be… dismissed. It could change the Ottotontic perception of what we are. That autonomy over our own lives is not enough; that we now want to control others. He could stir up the Korns against us. They could go back into selection and take away the power to dismiss. The Korns have always sided with us because they see in us the same fear of the Haplings and their desire to control everything. But now we will begin to emerge as a new threat. That’s how they will see us.”

“Do you want to speak with Coldra?”

“No. I want to see what Gavanar does first. If he does anything. Maybe he is too busy with his contraptions to worry about a single Chooser.”

“You think this will pass without effect?”

Ubinika stared at Jundus but said nothing.

 

HAPLING LEADER, GAVANAR, INFORMED OF INVASION

CHOOSER INVOLVEMENT REASON WHY

Gavanar, the leader of the Hapling community, stood on a precipice at the edge of the city and looked up at the working Haplings and Korns as they carefully attached lines to the vast stone ceiling above the city, while at the same time removing the ancient consuming wicks. For thousand upon thousands of cycles, too many to remember, the Ottotontic World had relied on consumption illumination to see.

Now, with the introduction of material illumination through power centers being built to specifications of the Haplings who had designed them, there would be no need for  wicks to be maintained. It was tedious work, cycle after cycle, igniting and extinguishing, replacing the wicks. The warning systems, the lighting systems, they would all be different. A connector in the centers would provide the illumination or lack of it. Cycles would rotate to provide light and darkness. An Ottotontic could see the cycle coming to an end as the illuminations changed from white to yellow to orange to red then purple and darkness. Buildings would be authorized to maintain illumination as needed. Bands of lines with the material illumination attachments covered the ceiling and changed to give a sense of the passage of each cycle.

To Gavanar, this was an amazing event for the Ottotontics. There was even a chance, he was told, that transports could be changing too. This new creation, this new rotation of material, might one day push a transport UP! The idea was almost too incredible for Gavanar to comprehend. Transports moving on their own without the pulling force of gravity could alter the way cities were created.

It was in this atmosphere that Espe, a close known of Gavanar and one of the elevated leaders of the Hapling community, brought to the precipice Dordur who had arrived to air his concerns regarding the Chooser invasion.

Gavanar was a daunting figure with his height and bulk. He was pure muscle and had an unwavering dedication to causes of the Hapling world. He knew precisely what was right and what was wrong for the Haplings. He had an interested Grapling who wanted to cupple with him, but there was too much to be done at the moment to consider that. The Ottotontic world was changing, and Gavanar didn’t want to miss one moment of it.

“Dordur!” Gavanar said. “It’s elevating to see you! Have you been outside to see what’s happening?! Look!” Gavanar presented the workers above.

“I can see it from the transports,” said Dordur. “Everyone is wondering if this will work.”

“Of course it will work! It’s already working in other sections. In only a few cycles, the idea of a wick will be totally outcycled. And you can thank those incredible Haplings at the Research Center for it.”

“Do you know a Hapling with the identification clause Kekel?”

“Do I what?”

“His name is Kekel. He is a Chooser. And a cuppler. And has three lives.”

“No, I don’t know him. Why?”

“He has been accused of invading an unwilling Grapling.”

“We hear stories often enough. Why tell me about it?”

“Because he was trapped. Just like the others. And because he insists she was willing and set the trap specifically for him.”

“For him? Why him?”

“As I said, he is a Chooser. A member of the Grand Panel. And you well know a selection may be coming up that challenges the assertion that Graplings can dismiss life autonomously.”

“These are old confrontations,” said Gavanar, leaving the precipice and entering an off space nearby. “Is this… Chooser… trying to make more of this invasion than what it is?”

“The question is, Gavanar, is it more? Was he lured into this? The authorities are interested. And so am I and Espe and others.”

“But you said he’s a cuppler. Why would he risk such a thing?”

“Some of these Graplings are undeniably enticing. They spend a lot of time and elevation to make themselves look that way. You know what I’m talking about. But she, according to the authorities, was different to this Hapling. She seemed to make it so effortless for him and then sprung the trap.”

“But that would make her a conspirator,” said Gavanar.

“Yes.”

“Is she confronting him?”

“Yes.”

“When is the confrontation?”

“It hasn’t been scheduled yet. I am here to inform you of the event and to inquire as to your position and intentions.”

“Does Ubinika know?”

“We would have to say yes, if she is as aware as she claims to be.”

“Removing this Chooser and finding another one delays any new selection,” said Espe.

“For who knows how long,” said Dordur.

“Do you think Ubinika is involved?” asked Gavanar.

“Speaking as a Hapling,” said Dordur, “of course she is. Speaking as a member of the Ottotontic world, I don’t know. No one does except perhaps some Graplings.”

“I want to speak to this Chooser,” said Gavanar. “I want to see him for myself. If he is telling the truth, then this is precisely the reason for the Grand Panel to schedule a new selection.”

“But even they cannot speed up the finding of another Chooser,” said Espe. “The selection has to go through all of the usual channels and methods.”

“Go to this Chooser on my behalf,” said Gavanar, “and assure him we will find out the truth. Then go to his cuppler and request that she show compassion and patience in this. I want his specifications brought to me. I want to know his story. And I want to see reflections of this Grapling who is confronting him.”

“The Graplings will never tolerate your opinion of her,” said Espe.

“I don’t need to convince the Graplings,” said Gavanar. “I need to convince the Korns.”

“Of what?” asked Dordur.

“That we are right. And the Graplings are wrong.”

“About what?” asked Espe.

“About the Graplings and Dismissal.”

“It is the one concession the Korns provide for Grapling support.”

Gavanar said nothing. He only stared at Dordur.

Then Gavanar said, “You’ve told me. Let me know what this Chooser and his cuppler say and arrange a meeting for me. If it has to be in the Holding Center, fine.”

“Ubinika will see this meeting as an accusation of conspiracy and support for Hapling invaders,” said Espe.

“Taking sides with a Hapling,” said Gavanar. “That burns.”

“She will attack your truthfulness. She will accuse you of encouraging invasion,” said Espe.

“You’re compelling me to confront Ubinika now. Do you think that’s wise?” asked Gavanar.

Dordur moved closer to Gavanar. “Perhaps that’s necessary. I have no doubt she is wondering if you know, and if you know what will you do.”

“The confronter’s story will tell me who she knows and why she’s done this,” said Gavanar. “If it is to trap and remove a Chooser, and that does make her a conspirator, do you really think Ubinika wants to be seen as part of that conspiracy? I know her. I know she had made it clear to the entire Ottotontic world she hates conspirators as much as she hates invaders. She is such a noble Grapling, while her followers dismiss lives so many…” Gavanar’s voice trailed off. Then he said, “The confrontations will continue, the stories will continue. The Grand Panel…” again Gavanar’s voice trailed off.

“Play it safe. As do we all,” said Dordur.

“They will not provide a reason to confront their own government. Their position is clear,” said Gavanar.

“And so we just allow Haplings to be trapped, confronted, and removed without any confrontation of our own?” asked Dordur.

“What kind of confrontation are you asking for?” asked Gavanar. “We’ve all heard the arguments; we all know our respective positions. Ubinika will never change, and neither will I. All that will come of this is the exposure that the Graplings are willing to attack through deception. They will use whatever means they can to remove Choosers and anyone else they deem is a threat to their way of life.”

“And so the new selector joins the Grand Panel already knowing what position he is supposed to support. That is not the Ottotontic world, that is the Grapling world, devoid of any input of the Haplings. We become grounds keepers, nothing more,” said Dordur.

“What would you have the confrontation provide?” asked Gavanar.

“I don’t know… Concessions! Compromises! Talks! Negotiations! Agreements!”

“To what?!” asked Gavanar. “Different levels of dismissal? A refusal to use these traps?! As if the Graplings care. They despise us! Cuppling to them is repulsive. The only reason they tolerate the Korns is because the Korns have shown no interest in affecting the Graplings’ lives the way we do. The Korns are too busy being Korns. Dismissal to them is just another day. They are more interested in recruiting more Korns than they are in anything else. I  want to know if what happened to this Chooser was a setup. But I don’t see any real change in the way the Ottotontic world exists. Certainly not from this.”

“What if this had happened to you, Gavanar?” asked Dordur.

“Dordur, really–” interrupted Espe.

“No, no, I want to know,” said Dordur. “What if you, Gavanar, had been the one trapped?”

Gavanar wasn’t staring anymore. He was glaring at Dordur.

“No Hapling would ever tolerate it,” said Gavanar.

“Tolerate what?” asked Dordur. “Your invasion or the trap?”

“Dordur, your tone,” said Espe, reaching for Dordur.

Dordur pulled his arm away from Espe and said, “Tell me something, Gavanar. “Are you a Hapling of Ottotontic assertions or are you a Hapling of conflict?”

Gavanar began to move towards Dordur. “Push a Hapling too far, and he will turn to conflict. And you should know that.”

“Except when it comes to the Graplings,” said Dordur. “Because, after all, the Graplings could never win a conflict against the Haplings.”

“How could they? We are bigger, stronger, smarter, and better equipped. They haven’t the capacity or the wisdom to conduct a successful conflict. It’s just not in them.”

“You ever said that to Ubinika?”

“Many times. That’s why she hates me. But any Grapling who thinks  she can actually win a conflict with the Haplings is clearly out of her mind. And any Hapling who thinks a conflict with the Graplings is essential to our well being is suffering from the same problem.”

“How many Haplings have to be trapped, humiliated, and removed before you would consider such a conflict?” asked Dordur.

“A conflict with the Graplings?… Is that what you want? Is that why you’re here?”

“I’m here to express our concern about what the Graplings are doing to us. How many losses are you willing to accept before you do something?”

“A conflict with the Graplings? You any idea what you are asking me?”

“You know, it may be, Gavanar, that Ubinika’s disdain for you is also a setup. She may be putting on a big front to ensure you remain elevated. Meanwhile, she can consume the Hapling community one by one, knowing you would never consider a conflict with her. After all, what are the chances of you or one of your knowns getting trapped? I mean, all of the Graplings you engage are honorable and honest. Right?”

“That’s enough, Dordur,” said Espe. “Gavanar clearly knows your position on this.”

“How many?” Dordur asked again. “The Hapling community needs to know.”

ACCUSED CHOOSER MEETS HIS ADVISER

FULL REMOVAL AT STAKE

A somewhat overly determined Hapling left his transport at the lock space and walked briskly to the Holding Center. He stood at a fit five feet  (1.52 meters) tall and wore a dark costume with little flair. He carried with him material to present to the Apparent. And when he reached the Holding Center he was met with amused eyes.

“You’re not old enough to come in here by yourself!” barked the AU standing behind the barred entrance.

The young Hapling held up his specifications and waited for the barking AU to respond.

“An Adviser?!” The AU leaned forward to examine the specifications further. “Santric of the Oborntrig section? Isn’t that an Ottotontic refuse area?”

The young Adviser stared back at the AU. “That’s one way of putting it,” said the Adviser. “Except you mispronounced it?”

“Oh, really? And how do you pronounce it? O-toe-tone-tic?”

“No. Re-fuse. As in we refuse to be mocked by authorities. I’m here to see an apparent.” The young Hapling held up some material and read from it. “Kekel. A Chooser. Accused of invasion.”

“You’re advising the Apparent named Kekel?”

“Yes.”

The AU’s (there were four of them) looked at one another. There were smirks forming on their faces.

“If I were the Apparent,” said the barking AU, “I’d call my anotomic and tell him I’m a lost cause. The sight of my adviser has made me sick to my stomato, and I can’t stop objecting!” The AU pretended to be throwing up.

The three other AU’s burst out laughing.

“Who is your AU in charge?” asked Santric.

The barking AU dropped the laughter and asked, “Why do you need to know that?”

“If you don’t let me in, your AU in charge will be notified you deliberately interfered with a Chooser’s ability to meet with his adviser. A member of the Grand Panel being denied an adviser of the Grand Panel? And do you know what the Grand Panel does to disobedient AU’s?”

The barred entrance was opened, and the young Hapling walked in.

“Where will I find the Apparent, Kekel?” Santric asked.

“I’ll take you there,” said the formerly barking, formerly laughing AU.

“No,” said Santric. “I’d rather go myself. Just tell me where he is.”

“He is in Holding Sector 529. You go down that corridor, make a left, and continue on until you come to sector 500. He will be in off space 29.”

“For the record then: I need your identification clause,” Santric explained.

“AU 1079,” replied the formerly barking, formerly laughing AU.

“No,” said Santric. “I need your real identification clause.”

“Lettit of the Jalurden section.”

“I’ll try not to be too obvious about you. Size, as you will find out, does not matter. Nor does age. In fact, I sense already you’ve become a prisoner of the big lie.”

“What big lie?”

“That what you care about is used for what you think it should be used. Makes one wonder what you with do with your eyes, your nose, your feet, and even your shoulders if any one of them or perhaps all of them did what you think what you care about does. Truth is they are not amusements any more than that is. It’s like sneezing or coughing for  joy. You will end up as abused as the abuse you inflict. No doubt what compels you to mock others. Just can’t seem to find the answer.

The AU silently glared back in anger.

“Careful with your eyes,” said Santric, “if you intend to plunge them into some dark oily places… for pleasure…you may go blind.”

“I don’t like you,” said the formerly barking, formerly laughing AU.

“Me? Or maybe pounding your ears into a pound of swamp husks? Will that satisfy you?”

“My ears ?”

“Ah! Not commodic plungers like that other part of you?”

“Plungers?”

“Because that part makes you dream of Graplings and all they have to offer. Right?”

“Are you a Korn?” asked the formerly barking, formerly laughing AU.

“No. I’m a Hapling. But I know the difference between an ear and an eye and a commodic plunger.”

“Good for you.”

“You, apparently, do not, if you spend your time treating your reason for being as if it were a force for happiness. You’re forcing it to be something it was never meant to be. You’re forcing it to be an obedient performer with no audience. Its act ends up nowhere, and the Graplings know it, and they lure you into a trap because of it.”

“I know what you’re trying to do,” said the formerly laughing, formerly barking AU. “You’re one of those tighteners who hate the idea of Haplings and Graplings engaging. You want us all cuppled. With lives popping out all over the place.”

“No. I’m one of those who wants you to admit yo yourself that you’re abusing your anatomy and costing a great deal because of it. I am here because someone decided their reason for being was for abusing for pleasure and nothing more, and now he faces potential removal for ignoring the truth: our anatomy, all of it, not just some part of it, is there for a reason– and only one reason– like our eyes, our ears, our blends, and any other part we respect enough to take care of and let it be. What it was meant to be. Meant to be, AU. What’s the term I recently heard referring to it?”

“When was the last cycle you even had the interest of a Grapling, Adviser?”

“Ah! Graplings who know me respect me. I don’t need to abuse my anatomy to appreciate them. Or they me. I soon will be cuppled. Happily. I suggest you do the same.”

“I like abusing my anatomy,” said the formerly barking, formerly laughing AU.

“Then maybe you’re a Korn. Not a Hapling.”

“I am… a… unified individual. Not a Korn.”

“Ha! I am late!”

The young Hapling hurried down the corridor, turned left, and ended up at Sector 500 where he was greeted by yet another AU standing in front of yet another barred entrance.

“Specifications!” barked the AU.

Santric obliged, offering his. The AU read the specifications, then said, “He is in off space–“

“29,” interrupted the Hapling.

“Will you need an AU with you?” asked the AU.

“No,” said Santric, hoisting his material closer to him.

The AU said nothing more, turned, and opened the entrance.

In off space 29, Santric found Kekel sitting by a platform with his hands crossed in front of him.

At the young Hapling’s approach, Kekel looked up and said, “Who are you?”

“I’m your adviser,” replied Santric, putting his material down on the platform in front of him and sitting across from Kekel.

“Spemata and Ergo,” said Kekel, looking away.

“A little too late for that,” said Santric. “You should’ve thought of them before you engaged.”

“I was tricked!”

“Oh. She put a weapon to your head and forced you then.”

“No. Not that. A trap! She was wearing a trap.”

“You mean the one that caught you… at it?”

“All right!” shouted Kekel, slamming his fist down on the platform. “I have myself to blame! So why are you here?! Clearly I engaged!”

“Questions have been raised. The most important one being that she didn’t engage you just to engage you; she engaged you specifically to trap you. Expose you. Confront you. And remove you.”

“I should be removed.”

“Perhaps. But your removal does not eliminate the possibility that she is a conspirator. And if she is, better she be removed as well.”

“Fine! Then remove us both and avoid this confrontation!”

“You ever heard of a Grapling by the name of Coldra?”

“Yes! She introduced us! I know her identification clause, but I don’t know yours.”

“Santric of the Oborntrig section.”

“Oborntrig? Spemata and Ergo! I’m finished!”

“Why? You have a problem with Oborntrig?”

“It’s a waste land! A dumping ground! It’s where all the unwanted go. Were your Hapling and Grapling ever cuppled?”

“I worked very hard to elevate beyond that section. There’s no need to lock me into it by simply identifying it as where I’m from. This is going to be a very different confrontation.”

“Oborntrig. This is incredible. What could you possibly do that is any different from any other adviser who has been defeated in a confrontation? Your very source of inspiration is defeat! Oborntrig!”

“Do you want advice or not?!”

“Why you?!”

“Because he is the best we could find.” Another voice by the off space entrance. It was Dordur. He walked into the off space and joined the other two.

“This is the best you could find?! A life from Oborntrig?!”

“He could very well be the most advanced adviser we’ve seen in many, many cycles.”

“Why?” asked Kekel.

“It’s the way he thinks. He’s hardly the average thinker.”

“Prove it!” demanded Kekel.

“I will,” said Santric, “during the confrontation. Right now, I need to hear your story. All of it. From beginning to end. Where you met your Confronter and why.”

“I’ve already told everyone. We were introduced by Coldra. Independently. And then we met and consumed and drank and went back to her environment. And the next thing I knew she was moving very close to me, kissing me,  and then eventually removed her costume and… and then…I love my cuppler!”

“Yes, I can see that,” said Santric.

“I couldn’t help myself!”

“Didn’t you see the catcher?” asked Dordur.

“No. The illumination in her environment didn’t allow it. And besides, she seemed so natural about it. I never sensed she might do such a thing.”

“She never protested. Not even once?” asked Dordur.

“No.”

“Well, clearly, she is a conspirator,” said Santric, “and she must be exposed.”

“You mean, you believe me?” asked Kekel.

“I did some research before coming here,” said Santric. “Particularly with regard to this Coldra. How well do you know her?”

“Not really. She attends many confrontations, many selections, knows many of the Grand Panel members by name. We talked from time to time and eventually she mentioned this young Grapling new to the area. I thought nothing of it… until I saw her.”

“She could be part of a much larger effort,” said Dordur. “And by the way, Gavanar wants to meet you.”

Kekel’s eyes widened. “Gavanar? Why?”

“I presented your story to him, and he is very interested in finding out the truth.”

“Does he know I’m a cuppler?”

“Yes. Unfortunately. But he seems more interested in the truth about this rather than any Grapling story.”

“But the Graplings hate him. They’ll see this as preference for invaders.”

“If Gavanar thought you were a genuine invader,” said Dordur, “he’d have dropped his interest. No. He sees something more to this. Her mistake was picking a Chooser.”

“But that may be exactly why she chose him,” said Santric. “To remove another selector who opposes Dismissal.”

“And how do you know I oppose Dismissal?”

“Because she picked you,” said Santric. “Coldra picked you. Surely if she has been to many confrontations and decisions, she must know your position on Dismissal. And removing a selector who opposes Dismissal would elevate her in the eyes of the Grapling world and to Ubinika.”

“Ubinika,” repeated Kekel. “She knows about this?”

“She may be involved,” said Dordur.

Santric pressed his motticott together. “That may be wishful thinking,” he said. “We have so far found no evidence Ubinika was personally involved. And she wants no part of either conspiracies or invaders.”

“Do you know where the Confronter is now?” Dordur asked the young Hapling.

“Probably with her own adviser and surrounded by supportive Graplings no doubt.”

“Has the confrontation been scheduled?” asked Dodur.

“No,” said Santric. “But it will be. Soon.”

“That means I have to stay in here until then.” Kekel looked horrified.

“You’re a cuppler and a Chooser,” reminded Santric. “It’s up to you to seek influence upon the Grand Panel.”

“But do you really want the Ottotontic world to think you have special privilege,” asked Dordur, “under such a circumstance as invasion?”

“It could be delayed for many reasons!” Kekel protested.

“Consider it appeasement to Spemata and Ergo,” suggested Santric.

“Spemata and Ergo,” repeated Kekel. “Spemata and Ergo.” He lowered his head onto his  folded arms that were set upon the platform.

“How do you intend to prove she is a conspirator?” asked Dordur.

“We’ll see,” said Santric. “I have a lot of work to do before the confrontation. I’ll speak with members of the Grand Panel; see if they are willing to reconsider the confrontation date. How well are you regarded by the Grand Panel?” Santric asked Kekel.

“Very well regarded… until now,” he said. “I miss my lives. They must hate me for this.”

“A lesson lived hopefully is a lesson learned,” said Santric. “Your reason to be is not an amusement. It’s not to be abused for any reason.”

“But you should have seen her,” said Kekel. “When she stepped across her environment everything moved in a wonderful rhythm. It was almost as if she was floating. And her smile and her eyes. I felt like the most important Hapling she had ever known.”

“Think, then, think. Even in the dim illumination, was there anything about her that you could remember that an invasion could have prevented you seeing? Invasions are all about control and domination. Force. The key to a willing engagement is being able to experience something that cannot possibly be experienced with an invasion. There has to be a difference between the two,” said Santric. “Something than can only occur with consent, with willingness.”

Kekel thought for a moment. He was obviously trying to remember the event. Santric and Dordur could see the event playing itself out in Kekel’s mind. Then Kekel closed his eyes and said, “She took off the costume as if brushing off dust.”

Santric made a note. “Perhaps,” he said, “her adviser will allow me to speak with her. Perhaps I can find an error to her story.”

“The answer may be Coldra and her involvement,” said Dordur.

“Yes, that’s true,” said Santric. “But only to the level of compelling the Confronter to meet Kekel. She can’t be held responsible for his hunger to engage. That is his doing, unless he can prove she held a weapon to him.”

“No!” said Kekel. “All she did was exist!”

“Can an Ottotontic be removed for weaknesses?” asked Dordur.

“Weaknesses?” repeated Santric. “You apply that to Ottotontic assertions and nothing will matter anymore. We are all weak when it comes to something. But weakness cannot support invasion. This is a universal assertion: invasion is a reason to remove someone. He had a choice. He could have said no, even when she removed her costume. He could have returned to his cuppler and his lives. But he didn’t. Yes, that may be a weakness, but it does not support or excuse what happened.”

“I didn’t invade her!”

“She says you did.”

“She is not telling a true story!”

“Where is your evidence?”

“I’m afraid pressure on other matters may be the only way to expose her,” said Dordur.

Santric smiled. “As I said, I have much work to do. Thank you for your time, Kekel, and your story. Damage has been done here, but perhaps not irreparable damage.”

This concludes the Free Pages

Now experience SEASON ONE

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