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Chapter 1 The Gameplayers of Zan Chapter 3

Chapter 2Edit

SynopsisEdit

Fellirian is giving a lecture on ler culture to a group of human visitors to the Institute For Applied Interrelationships, something she does on a weekly basis. When she tells them that birth order is more important a determinant of status than social class, the group begin having an argument, some of them taking umbrage at the very concept. Fellirian moves over to the window, pondering the boundary between human land and the ler reservation. She ponders her life, and the coming transition to elder phase.

Walter Vance is also present at the lecture; he is an old friend of Fellirian, the one who brought her in as the first ler lecturer on ler culture. He thinks about how much she is still a stranger to him, the strangeness of her differently-shaped hand and her family structure.

The conversation dies down, and Fellirian returns to the group. A woman speaks up with a few questions, about whether ler see themselves as being superior to humans; Fellirian senses something odd about the questioning, and tries to defuse it. She says they have few real advantages--their total-recall memory is better, but not always advantageous, and their birthrate is much slower, though Fellirian's three children makes her unusual. When the woman finishes, she seems to wait until another man speaks up, when she sits down in relief.

He addresses the question of how some braids of ler have reached their fourteenth generation, a number of some significance to the ler. Fellirian feels more oppressed by the line of questioning, though she admits that the two Player braids, the first ever formed, were close to fourteen generations. The man then asks about a book called The Wisdom of The Prophets, which predicts 'marvels and wonders in the house of the last single generation'. Fellirian says that the book is of questionable origin, possibly not even ler, on par with the "Elders of Zion". He asks about the ler's disdain for technology, and she says that having seen the unforeseen effects of it on human society, ler are taking a more cautious approach.

Another man stands up, and Fellirian and Vance both notice a decrease in the palpable pressure. He asks about what the ler do for entertainment. Fellirian points out that their low-tech lifestyle demands much of their time, but they do have their amusements--games, socialization, storytelling and dance. She realizes belatedly that she was being monitored during the previous questions, as the visitors begin to lose interest and eventually leave.

Vance turns down the lights for Fellirian's comfort, and she gets out her pipe while he makes some tea. Fellirian asks Vance about the visitors' behaviour, the way their questions seemed to be orchestrated, and if there is some reason the government should be showing interest in the ler. Vance dismisses it as a momentary mood-shift, though he mentions that since Parleau took office, his sources in Region Central have dried up.

Fellirian says that it has gotten harder to fill the paperwork to get off the reservation, and there have even been a few disappearances, so far mostly of elders. Vance asks if she knows of anything happening among the ler that might be making humans hostile, but she knows of nothing. Finished her tea and pipe, she decides it is time to go. She says she will give next week a miss, and asks if Maellenkleth or Linbelleth can fill in for her. She says they are behind with the record-keeping work of her braid, and she has seen little of Morlenden, her insibling. She talks of their relationship, how they have been constant companions from birth, and sometimes it is a little wearing, and she wonders how they will fare in elderhood.

She asks Vance if he has heard from the Fertility Board yet about his own request for children, but he says he has heard nothing. Finally she turns to go, getting on the monotrail train back to the reservation.

In the darkened room, he looks up and addresses the ceiling, where the voice of the listening Controller replies. The Controller compliments Vance on his performance, the notes of authenticity he added. He says that they will probably no longer monitor Fellirian, since she doesn't seem to be hiding anything of importance. Vance is annoyed at the shortchanging of "index points" for his covert work, well below what he was promised, and he is docked more for protesting having to spy on a friend. After signing off, the Controller transmits his report to his superior, and they decide that Vance should be moved to a more innocuous position in future.

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