think tank

Excerpted from Voyage of the Calico Tigress, to appear in Volume Six of the Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches.

Within the caverns of an uncharted asteroid, an inhuman mind meditated upon the nature of time, the fates of stars, and all it had learned in the past two months. To assign an identity to this mind would be problematic indeed, for it was composed of hundreds of beings, each with eight neuron-filled tentacles.

The group mind of Mags’ mutant octopuses included the mind of their mother, who had merged with them. And the mother’s consciousness had been expanded to include the scientists who created her, plus all she had learned in her union with Mags and Patches.

In the cool water filling the cavern swarmed a synthesis of all these minds. Food concerned it on a basic, biological level, but the goddesses had promised more food, and the mind believed this promise with a faith both animal and religious. Direct communion with the goddesses left no room for doubt.

But the cephalopodic group mind was not so simple as to petition its goddesses with prayer. Those who lived beyond the water had their own agendas. They required no worship. They only loved with all their hearts, and it was joy enough for this mind to bask in that love’s radiant beauty—and return it.

In honor of the star-covered object of their love and her calico companion, the meditating octopuses began what could only be called a song. Instead of vocalizing, they sang in silent, electric impulses flashing between their synapses.

For structure, they plundered Mags’ vast musical memory. The raga and tala of India’s classical music formed the basis for drone, melody, and rhythm. From Patches’ memories, the octopuses took bird songs, buzzing insects, and the whispered symphonies the wind writes with leaves and the water lapping at the riverbank.

At will, the group mind could summon any sound it had ever known, and shape it. Saxophones and jet engines wove through a tapestry of human voices—from Mags’ first cries as a baby, to the Latvian women’s choir. Mags’ awareness of twelve-tone composition informed the singing as much as her mastery of James Maxwell’s equations. To the octopuses, knowledge existed all at once and everywhere, without conceptual boundaries.

Humans have often said music is the universal language. But to the swirling mass of mental power in the asteroid cavern, music was the very substance of the universe. The octopuses sang, and they waited without hurry or expectation, creating an object of unparalleled wonder for their feline goddesses of creation and destruction.

Then they felt one growing nearer.