Tagg

Tagg carefully tucked it’s brain into one of the small gaps between branches of the Tangle. The tips reached out in a chaos of jagged angles, emitting rivulets of acid that made Tagg cringe. It flicked at them nervously with a flagellum. The water here tasted sour, with menacing overtones of alkalies and esters. But that’s why Tagg was here: all of this made it a good hiding spot.

With its brain securely stowed away, Tagg’s bodies swam outward and leeward, following the crinkly edges of the Tangle, until the water tasted clean and fresh and the breathing was easy at last. Tagg had come here plenty of times before, and knew exactly how much distance it could put between its bodies and it’s brain before it started to feel sluggish and fuzzy-minded.

But I’m alone, thought Tagg. Nobody should bother me here.

When Tagg reached the top of the Tangle, it flattened its bodies to wide thin disks and floated: feeling the water draw the heat away from its skin. Tagg floated and let its senses expand, falling into a deep reverie as it took in the sense of overpowering vastness Tagg always experienced in this place.

Hey Tagg reached out with their senses. The smell of vast volumes of unobstructed water coming from above. Gentle vibrations from the Vent far in the north. They thought they might even be able to detect a little warmth coming from that direction, too.

That’s probably just a mind-trick, though, Tagg thought to themself. Like how I think I can feel the microfilaments and microtubules of my cytoskeleton stretching to pull my bodies into flattened discs.

Tagg’s friend Agata sneered at this, the day Tagg admitted to these sensations.

You learned about microfilaments and microtubules sitting on Academe Rock. So now you think you can feel them, but it’s just your own mind telling you things. There’s no way you could actually feel that.

Nuh uh, Agata had insisted. No how.

But as Tagg lay in the quietness of the open water, body cells flat and rotating slowly a few lengths above highest branches of the Tangle, they could have sworn they could sense something more from the Vent than the reassurance of its gentle vibrations. If not the heat, then what? Was there a smell that could make it this far, and not be overpowered by acid of the Tangle or the sweetness of the podfields just to the east? Was it possible to hear the distant murmur of thoughts from people in the town beyond?

Nah, thought Tagg. Agata would definitely call bullshit on that one.

Tagg’s mind wandered.

I’m putting myself in danger out here, Tagg reflected. My senses have to travel from my bodies back to my brain to be integrated with my consciousness, and that time has to pass again for my bodies to receive the signal of any decision to act. This makes me very, very slow: slow-times-slow. If someone found my brain, hidden at the base of a Tangle Tree and unguarded by bodies…

The cynical conclusion came unbidden to Tagg’s mind: Well, if someone wants me so badly that they followed me here… who am I to get in their way? Let them take me.