Phaethon addressed the giant being: “Pardon me, sir, if I am intruding, but could you tell me, please, if you saw a man come by here just now? He looked like this … .” and he opened up channel 100, the common-use channel, and downloaded a few hundred frames of images and sensorumedia from his recent memory into a public temporary file. He had an artistic subroutine add background music, narrative comments, and some dramatic editing for theme and unity, and then he transmitted the images.
Phaethon felt the tingle of his nape hairs as his name was read (he still had not put his mask back on), and then a signal came in on a high-compression channel, saying: “This is the translator. My client is attempting to convey a complex of memory files and associational paths which you either do not have the ability to receive or which I do not have authority to transmit. The amount of information involved may be more than one brain can apprehend. Do you have stored noumenal personalities, backups, or augments?”
Phaethon signaled for identity, but the Neptunian was masked. “You have me at a disadvantage, sir. I am not accustomed to revealing the locations of my mind-space to strangers, and certainly not my resurrection copies.” Phaethon wanted an answer to his question, and would have preferred to remain polite, but the request that he open his private thoughts was extraordinary, almost absurd. Not to mention that the Neptunian reputation for eccentric pranks was too well known.
“Very well. I will attempt to convey my client’s communication in a linear format, by means of words, but only on the understanding that much substantial content, and all secondary meanings, nuances, and connotations will be lost.”
“I will be tolerant. Proceed.”
“My initial data burst consists of four hundred entries, including multidimensional image arrays, memory respondents and correlations, poetry, and instructions on nerve alterations for creating novel emotional receiving structures in your brain. These structures may be of use later for appreciating the emotions (which have no names as yet in your language) which other parts of the communication will then attempt to arouse. The initial burst contains other preliminary minutia.
“Then follows a contextual batch of six thousand entries, including volumes of art and experience, memories and reconstructed memories, real and fictional, intended to give you and him a common background of experience, a context in which certain allusions and specifics will be best understood. Other greetings and salutations follow.
“The first entry of the core message contains rote formalities of timesense and identity continuity, establishing that you are, in fact, the same Phaethon of my client’s acquaintance, or, in case you are a copy, reconstruction, or simulation, to ascertain the relative degree of emotional and mental correspondence with which my client must regard you. The core message itself—”
“Pardon me,” said Phaethon. “Did I know your client before he joined your Composition?” He amplified his vision (opening additional wavelengths) to look curiously at the several brains and brain groups floating in the icy substance.
“The Neptunian legate produces an emotion-statement of three orders of complexity, with associated memory trees to show correspondence, but otherwise does not respond to your question, which he regards as fantastic, disorienting, and not at all funny. Pause: Should I explain further about the emotional reaction, or shall I continue with the central message of the first datagroup? The process could be considerably sped if you will impart your command codes and locks to give me direct access to your neurological and mnemonic systems; this will enable me to add files directly into your mind, and alter your temperament, outlook, and philosophy to understand my client in the way he himself would like to be understood.”
“I was required to ask.”
“Can you make your summary more brief? The man I’m asking about is someone who—well, perhaps he offended me, or—this man said some confusing things, and he—well, I’m trying to find him,” Phaethon finished lamely.