“Hidden Depths” by Eoin “Siskey” Dornan

*Recording begins*

*Original recording was in the Tarn language, this translated recording was provided by XerraYett and XerraLok. Transcript by XerraYett.*

XerraYett: XerraYett recording this aboard the Gilgamesh, New Tyess date 6.17.51. Subject of this recording is Tarn Survey #3. Can you state your name for the recording please?

Eyloon: I am Eyloon, a Tarn, and follower of the One Truth.

XerraYett: Thank you. Aren’t all Tarn followers of the One Truth?

Eyloon: We are, but adherence must be public and explicit, or else it cannot shine as an example to others.

XerraYett: I’ve been meaning to ask, is there an historic point at which the Tarn adopted the One Truth en masse?

Eyloon: There is an historic point for the One Truth, but long before that the different nations of the Tarn dedicated themselves to the Truth. The point when this began is not recorded, which I will admit is unusual for our species. For all of recorded history the Tarn followed the Truth in some form or another. There were many myths about the supposed origin of how one clan or nation found a Truth for themselves, many even involved some sort of deity or messenger entity. There were diverging philosophies at this time, and there was even violence over which interpretation was best, though this was often an ulterior motive for disputes over territory or other wealth. It was not until the thirty-eighth century, when Chonn-

XerraYett: Excuse me, but that name Chonn, I have a question about it.

Eyloon: What is it?

XerraYett: In our last session, you commented that Tarn names are carefully chosen to avoid linguistic ambiguity, that Tarn parents take great pains to select a name that will leave their child free to choose their own destiny, not to be burdened with expectations because they are named after an ancestor or someone celebrated.

Eyloon: This is true.

XerraYett: But this name Chonn, it means “Revered One”. It is used for your religio-political leaders, those who have the greatest understanding of the One Truth, isn’t it?

Eyloon: Ah, I see the confusion. Chonn is something of an exception. It was the first Chonn, the Tarn I was about to speak of before your interjection, who originated the name, and whose name is today used as an honorific. She united the disparate strands of the One Truth and brought Tarn society together.

XerraYett: How was this accomplished?

Eyloon: She travelled from nation to nation, swimming by herself through the deepest and darkest of our oceans, challenging the leaders of each philosophy to dispute with her. She had acquired such knowledge of each and every belief system that these leaders found themselves persuaded and in agreement. She promised to allow them to take part in her insight, which she called the One Truth, if they would join her at her new seat of learning in one year’s time.

XerraYett: Wouldn’t they all arrive at different times then?

Eyloon: I am getting to that. In fact, they all arrived at the same time, to a barren place faraway from any of the great cities, where the light of the skies filtered down with great beauty. This is called Orinkatayaveseen, where the sun meets the water. There they found no Chonn but instead a congregation of those with whom they disagreed so vehemently. Each believed that they were to be her chosen ones, that their particular philosophy was her favoured interpretation. And in the arguments that followed they realised something: they had all been told to arrive there in one year’s time from Chonn’s visit. Even though some of them were separated by hundreds of days’ swim.

XerraYett: Some sort of multi-location? I thought that Tarn rejected mysticism as a harmful charade…let’s see, in your words: A hood to blind the senses and suffocate reasoned critical thought.

Eyloon: Quite. Anyway, as each described their own debates with Chonn, a common thread emerged. She had shown immaculate knowledge of their philosophy, yes, but she unraveled and confounded different parts of each, and put forward her own arguments and proofs. In doing so she pointed the way to something different. The One Truth as Chonn described it was not a synthesis of all the pre-existing Truths, nor were those Truths pieces of a larger puzzle or anything so trite. Many of the bitterest rival philosophies overlapped except in one or two key areas, as is the way with religious disputes the universe over. From this discussion of the leaders of all Tarn, the First Symposium as it now called, the One Truth emerged as they reconciled their versions of Chonn’s visit, and they made an important realisation: the Chonn who visited them was not one woman.

XerraYett: Ah, so it was a trick?

Eyloon: Not a trick, but a strategy. These women who called themselves Chonn, who demonstrated such understanding and will, and appeared all on the same day to leaders worldwide, must have co-ordinated together. They engineered the Symposium, but did not appear to take control of it. Instead, they engendered a new era. At that Symposium, the first tenets of the One Truth were defined. Yes, they were the base-level assumptions about the universe and the Tarn’s place in it that all could agree on, but for some it represented a huge climbing-down from positions held for centuries. Many of those leaders who attended the Symposium returned to their people and were deposed for betraying the beliefs which they held dear. If they survived, however, they returned to Orinkatayaveseen, the site where Chonn had summoned them, and there was built the great capitol city and centre of learning that stands to this day.

XerraYett: As far as you know.

Eyloon: What do you mean?

XerraYett: Well you’ve been away on the Gilgamesh for a year, and the reports the ship received before the Jump Accident suggests that a joint Irif-Tarn force had launched an attack on the fatalities at Andis. Do you think that this would have sparked a wider confrontation in the Four Systems, or would it be blamed on dissident groups? My understanding of your home’s politics is somewhat limited, and I would appreciate an informed opinion.

Eyloon: I cannot comment on conjecture. The ships that attacked were of Tarn and Irif manufacture, but who knows who was piloting them. It could easily have been elements hoping to compromise the peace process with the Irif for their own ends.

XerraYett: So you haven’t heard the rumours that some elements in Tarn society had decided that other species should be forced to accept the One Truth, in order to bring a higher degree of civilisation to the galaxy? And that they were united with hawkish Irif in this purpose?

Eyloon: The level of misinformation that circulates around my people is galling. First we are mysterious, insular and close-mouthed, then we are subtly manipulating others for our sinister Tarn Agenda, now we are planning to force others to adopt our belief system. How can we be doing all of this at once, and how can these experts on our ways believe both are true? The relationship between the Tarn and the Irif is one of diplomacy only; they respect the Tarn because out of all Four Systems species they see us as reputable. Our adherence to the One Truth persuades them we are not trying to manipulate or deceive.

XerraYett: And what do the Tarn think of the Irif?

Eyloon: Our respect for them is the same as that which we show to all species. There was a tendency – particularly among the Hamak media – to portray the Irif as warmongering and monomaniacs. We have not found this to be the case, their attitude to warfare is much like ours. To the Tarn, war is a means, never an end. Like the Xerra, the Irif have innate linguistic ability, but this does not seem to translate into a species-wide syntactical or mathematical aptitude in their case either. It was a disappointment to me and the other Tarn aboard when we discovered the Xerra ability did not uncover any fresh axioms to add to our understanding of the One Truth, as I have said before.

XerraYett: But in the event of a breakdown of negotiations between the Irif and the Four Systems, a return to all-out war? Whose side would the Tarn be on? Do they see themselves as facilitators, middle-men, or an unbiased third party?

Eyloon: That is the decision of the Chonns. As I would have concluded in my potted history, those who attended the First Symposium took that title for themselves, in order to emulate those women who brought them to a united understanding.

XerraYett: To backtrack slightly, it is interesting that you compare the Irif and the Xerra. We both belong to the “Seeder” Races, if you subscribe to the theory that one of the Enemies purposely engineered life throughout these galaxies. Our linguistic abilities are similar, and both species seem to possess telepathy, though the Xerra ability is extremely latent. Had you ever met with an Irif before you came on board? Did you experience a meeting of minds?

Eyloon: I understood this interview was to be about Tarn societal structures, and now you are asking me about an alien species of which I have only a cursory knowledge. Is there a point or a trap behind these questions, or are you just idly wondering?

XerraYett: As a xeno-sociologist I am interested in all alien species as you call them. For example, I am intrigued by the similarities between certain species. The Xerra and the Irif, for example. Or the Tarn and the Anfar, the other blue-skinned species described by the Sol Unity when they met with the Four Systems species.

Eyloon: Please do not mention them again. I am extremely uninterested in discussing that particular species.

XerraYett: Yes, I suppose it is irrelevant to our current discussion.

Eyloon: You knew that when you raised it. I think your intention is to compare the Tarn with these Anfar, whom we have never contacted or known, and who by all accounts were an extremely aggressive and barbarous species, who in turn forced the humans in the Sol Unity into a kind of hyper-fascistic state, which later led to many Tarn being killed when the Unity came to the Four Systems. We naturally turn our minds to contemplation of the One Truth, and as I have said war is never its own end with us, as it was with the Anfar. If we are related, it is to the extent that any Seeder race has commonalities with others. I do not believe we are their descendants.

XerraYett: And yet the evidence suggests-

Eyloon: Whose evidence?

XerraYett: The report I read, from the archived reports of the Joint Commission for Scientific Enquiry by the Hamak and Sol alliance.

Eyloon: An alliance which lasted all of six months and had plenty of reason for their scientists to present xenophobic and damning findings. I would not be too credulous, if I were you.

XerraYett: So you reject the claims that the Tarn are descendants or an offshoot species of the Anfar?

Eyloon: I do, for myself at any rate.

XerraYett: And is it credulous for me to enquire whether you have heard that the Irif are able to influence the minds of others, and that reported incidents of abuse in this area by Tarn negotiators were suppressed, in the months prior to the attack on Hoboville?

Eyloon: What? Why do you even care about something like that, I thought this interview was for a report commissioned by the Flock for posterity? What possible interest can a ridiculous rumour like this be?

XerraYett: Well, in the event that the Gilgamesh finds a way to return to the Four Systems, the way might be clear for others also, to seek safe harbour from the Enemies.

Eyloon: And once the Flock don’t have to hide like mice any more, they’d like to know how many other species are ripe for folding into their collective? I see this is all just an intelligence-gathering exercise.

XerraYett: I think that would be an alarmist appraisal of this study, and a very negative spin on the nature of the Flock. I apologise for any offence I might have offered. If we could just-

Eyloon: No, I think that’s all I’m going to give you. Goodbye.

*Subject leaves*

XerraYett: Well that went well…

*Recording ends*