Fort Weyr - Lower Caverns
This volcanic bubble is smaller than the Living Cavern, but no less well crafted. The walls are smooth, with electric lights placed into niches that used to hold glowbaskets. Another hearth burns here, with a pot on always keeping water hot for making tea or cider. Worn but comfortable couches and chairs are arranged by the hearth around a few tables where game boards and a few packages of dragon poker cards are laying.
From this cavern you can get to many other places - the tunnels of Fort Weyr having been dug far back into the caldera where the Dragons make their home.


It's early evening, a bit before supper will be brought out, and several people are lingering in the lower caverns, either anticipating the call to eat or finishing up evening chores. Amongst the former: Polsie, who is slouched comfortably on a venerable old couch, feet up on a table and a pleased expression on her face. She's borrowed one of the dragon poker decks always left around in this area, and is entertaining herself practicing card tricks. The girl is rather good at it: she nearly manages to get through a particularly elaborate shuffle without error, though two cards escape her grasp towards the end.

Idralia emerges from the resident caverns, clearly tired but also clearly not ready to call it quits, even though her day started long before Fort's dawn. The techcrafter glances around wearily, her eyes first passing over Polsie before she recognizes the apprentice. Nodding slightly to herself, Idra heads toward the couch where Polsie is slouched, saying as she approaches, "I never did catch your name, apprentice."

"That's 'cause I never gave it," observes Polsie, glancing up at Idralia from an awkward position: angled over the couch arm, straining to pick up the two runaway cards. Mission successful, she rights herself, and gives Idralia a warm smile. "Real sorry 'bout that, ma'am, dunno where my manners were. I'm Polsie. Smithcraft, obviously. By way of Bitra, if ya can't tell." Sure enough, her high-pitched voice has that notorious Hold's soft twang. She shoves the cards into a single deck with one smooth motion, eyes still fixed on the Techcrafter. "You had a chance to speak with the Weyrwoman yet?"

"I noticed that," Idralia replies dryly, smiling. "You were a bit excited, so I don't mind the lapse. It's a pleasure to meet you, Polsie." She pauses a moment, watching the apprentice push the cards together. "No, I haven't, but I imagine I will by the end of the day. In the meantime, would you have time for to show me around a bit, or are you… busy?" The last is said with a curious glance at the cards.

Polsie gives the cards a final shuffle, then leans forward to set the deck down on the table, removing her feet from the oaken planks as she does so. Then the girl pushes herself out from the couch's cozy embrace, brushing her clothes into place as she shakes her head at Idralia. "Not busy at all, ma'am. Like I told ya earlier, Sarz is off in the hinderlands today, so I've been kinda on my own schedule all day. I'd've found you earlier, but I ended up kinda making an interesting little discovery today -" her smile widens briefly into a slightly conspiratorial grin "- so I was busy. Not doing anything now, though. Anything in particular you'd like to see?"

Idralia raises a brow at the mention of this 'discovery'. "Oh? And what was this discovery, if you don't mind my asking?" she inquires as she steps back, giving the standing apprentice room. "As for what to see, I'm really not sure. As I said before, it's been a while since I was here last, and it might be wise to treat me like someone who's never been here before. I know where the basics are - where I'm to stay, the living caverns, and so on - but I've no idea the finer points of the Weyr."

"You'll see," Polsie says, with deliberate mystery. The effect is quickly ruined by a wide grin. "It's down in the library, and I'm thinking we oughta make a tour of the inner caverns the priority, so I might as well just show it to ya." She nods amiably as she steps past Idralia, repeating, "Living cavern, dorms… right, well, you keen on seeing either the infirmary or the bathing cavern?" With each location the girl points towards an exit from the cavern in which they stand. "And have you seen the crafter's cavern yet? It's off the resident's cavern, which it sounds like you've already seen."

Idralia chuckles as she steps over to be a half-step behind and just to the right of the apprentice. "That sounds logical. Why waste the trip, hmm?" she says lightly. "I imagine those are both good places to know how to get to. I'd rather not smell, and getting prompt care for injuries is a preference," she adds in that same amused tone. "I haven't been to the crafter's cavern yet, no. I'd say that's a good ending point, though."

Polsie nods, and sets out in the direction of the infirmary. "Always good to know where to get looked at by the Healers, right!" As she walks, she chatters amiably: "Do Techcrafters get injured much? Smiths do, a'course - there's a Master at the Hall who's lost every single finger on one hand, and two on the other - but I dunno if Technicians have the same hazards." She holds the door to the infirmary open for Idralia to enter.

Idralia agrees, "Yes, it is always a good place to know. How much we get hurt depends on what kind of work we do. Working with heating and cooling systems is more dangerous than working with radio control systems. Most technicians aren't likely to lose digits in most situations, but there are some who have. Especially those who work on the fans for air circulation."

Polsie chuckles. "Wish you'd been here earlier this winter. We had three of the furnaces break, and I had to help repair 'em. It was *fun*, but real confusing sometimes." They come to the end of the little tunnel, and into the infirmary proper. The girl gives a cheerful greeting towards the Healer on duty, with a quick, "Hey there, Journeyman Grigoriy! Just showing Journeyman Idralia about - she's the new Techcrafter." The man, busy with paperwork, barely looks up, muttering a greeting then ignoring them both. "*Anyway*," says Polsie, smile briefly turning into a smirk, "Here's the infirmary, obviously. We're real close to the Healer Hall, and Weyrwoman Galina is a Healer herself, so it's pretty nice for a place I'd rather avoid."

Idralia nods slightly, saying, "I have a feeling that is why I am here now. Your systems are some of the more advanced ones that have been added in recent Turns, and they really need regular maintenance. Like your link to Landing - that's once delicate system, right there." As the Healer on duty is identified for her she gives a nod of respect and greeting to the man, seemingly not bothered by his lack of interest in them. "I'd imagine that makes for a well-run infirmary, having a Healer as Weyrwoman. She'd certainly know the needs of the area better than many leaders."

"Probably!" Polsie chirps. "I think Sarz might've complained about it, even, so I wouldn't be surprised if word got around to the Techcraft that Fort needed a posting made." She gestures towards Grigoriy again - who shoots her a Look - then makes a sweeping gesture towards the infirmary as a whole. "Anyway, if you're needing care, just talk to whoever's on desk duty that day and they'll take care of you." The girl pivots on one heel and starts back towards the entranceway. "The Weyrwoman's pretty bright, from what I hear, so she's not bad to be a crafter for. But yeah, I think the infirmary's probably pretty important to her."

"That may be. I wasn't told the specifics, only that a Techcrafter would be a of value here, and was dispatched," Idralia comments. "I'll be sure to do that, should the need arise," she adds, in regards to receiving aid here. "I'm glad to hear such praise for the Weyrwoman - but what of the Weyrleader? Does he share her appreciation for the craft folk?" Idra asks curiously, voice soft so as to not be overheard - after all, she wouldn't want the apprentice to get in trouble.

"I can't say, really, 'cause I've never met the man," explains Polsie, as they exit back out into the lower caverns. The bathing cavern is next, and the air grows more humid and the stone more slick as she ambles down the tunnel leading to it. "And, I dunno, when you aren't a rider the Weyrwoman's kinda the one you see more of, I think? Especially since Weyrwoman Galina is…" a pause, as the girl searches for the diplomatic word, "memorable. But I haven't heard anything *bad* about him."

Idralia says, "Oh? Well, that would make sense, if that's the arrangement here. And nothing bad is just as useful as knowing something good." As the air grows humid she loosens her blouse, then trails fingers along the damp walls. "Hmmm, there should be better venting down here. There shouldn't be this much moisture in the air past the pool room. I'll have to mention that when I see the Weyrwoman."

Polsie shrugs. "That's the impression I've gotten. I'm Holdbred myself, so sometimes Weyr ways are real strange to me." The girl listens to Idralia's observation with interest as they come into the bathing cavern proper. "S'pose that might help. 'Though, these pools are heated by thermal vents," and indeed, the room is steamy and warm, and is making Polsie's already expansive hair expand further, "so some of it's probably just that they kick up a lot of steam." She gestures towards various points of interest. "Areas with different water temperatures… soapstone's always available… there are towels provided, you can see, but sometimes someone nicks 'em all as a prank or because the laundryworkers are running behind schedule, so *check* first before hopping in."

"I'm given to understand," says Polsie, just a little too innocent as she gives the room a final look over and starts for the exit, "that the pranking around Fort is *moderate*." The girl shoots Idralia an angelic smile, then adds, "It gets a little worse during Candidacy if M'lo and Ely are to be believed - ah, that's Weyrsecond M'lo and Wingleader Ely - 'cause candidates pull pranks, but…" She gives a small shrug, then grins. "If your venting system's useful, I'm sure you can talk the Weyrwoman into it. Lemme know if you need help setting up parts for the vents, should it come to pass."

Idralia follows Polsie toward the exit, ruefully remembering her own days of pulling the odd prank - was it really that long ago? "Well, so long as no permanent harm comes of it, I can't say that I'd object too much. And I've heard about candidate pranks. It's almost too much to credit. What is it about candidacy that drives people to such extremes?" she wonders aloud. "Since you helped with the heating system over the winter, you probably know more about Fort's hypocaust drawing system than I do, so do expect to be pressed into service should I that come to pass. The air vents are probably all in place already - our ancestors thought things through very carefully on that front - but I would expect there are either blockages or failed equipment in some of them."

As Polsie leads Idralia down into the Weyr's depths, she chatters cheerfully at the older woman. "Well, please don't overestimate my abilities! I understand the *basics*, and I can show you where a lot of the vents are and all that, but it's kinda out of my field a little. I'll be real pleased to help if you'd like, though, assuming I can get the time - but Journeyman Sarzin's pretty willing to let me flit off and help out with things around the Weyr, since getting experience is the whole reason I'm posted here in the first place, and also I think he likes having me outta his hair on occasion, so…" She gestures cheerfully as they finally clear the tunnel and make it into the huge cavern beneath the rest of the Weyr. "Neat, isn't it! D'you wnat to see the computer lab first, or the library?"

Idralia emits another soft chuckle as Polsie qualifies her experience. "That's what I need. Someone who knows not to touch things they aren't familiar with, and where to find all the machinery, in whatever odd corners that it has been hidden." She falls quiet for a moment as they emerge into the cavern, eyes widening at the sheer size of it. "I'd forgotten just how large Fort Weyr is," she says softly, looking around. "Ah, if we could visit the lab first, I can get a feel for what the setup is like these days. I imagine that's where I'm mostly likely to find journeyman Jayashri, for that matter."

"Then I'm your girl," Polsie says, much more confidentially. "Just drop Sarz a note when you need my help, and he'll probably let me go without a grumble." The girl strides towards the entrance to the lab, smiling with some pride as her dark eyes flick across the scope of the room. "It is huge, isn't it? Biggest Weyr on Pern, if I recall rightly. And oldest too, a'course." She tugs the door open, ushering Idralia inside with a slightly dramatic gesture from her free hand.

"I'll be sure to do that when the time comes," Idralia agrees as Polsie leads the way to the lab. "I think you'd be right about the size. Not that I've been to many of the Weyrs to compare. The southern Weyrs might be larger in potential capacity, but they have the advantage of having been designed to have exterior weyrs," she muses. And then the door is opened, and she's gazing about curiously. "Hmm, not bad. I'm glad to see this has been kept in good repair. These terminals are the only ones outside of Landing that have any kind of satellite uplink in place, and the relay towers were a pain to install," she says with a grimace for the memory.

"You mentioned! They don't even have it at Xanadu? 'Cause I've heard they have a real impressive setup there, in terms of tech." Polsie glances around the room curiously, running one hand gently along a metal shelf full of coding manuals. "No Journeyman Jayashri in sight - not that I'd know her if I saw her, we've never crossed paths before. You may want to leave her a note here, though - or in the crafter's cavern, I s'pose." She ambles doorwards, commenting as she does, "I really oughta spend a little more time around here. Not everybody's got access to this kind of stuff, I should take advantage of it."

Idralia blushes slightly at the notice that she's repeating herself. "Well, I helped install it all here, so I'm a bit fond of it," she admits. "Xanadu's computer system is a bit odd. I've looked at their tech history, and it is probably the most confusing set of documents ever. They've been flooded, burned, and hit by electrical storms, but between us techies and the computer crafters, it still gets by. I like this system a lot better - it's safe from fire and flood, and the conduits are insulated against energy surges," she says, a trace of pride in her voice. As the lack of the journeyman crafter is noted she nods, letting Polsie lead the way back out of the room. She continues as they leave, "I'll make sure I drop her a note soon, here or there. I'm sure Sarzin would approve of you spending time here to study - you can access all the blueprints on file at Landing, if you want. Ah, library sounds fine. I'm not all that hungry."

"I can understand that. I'm pretty fond of those furnaces nowadays. At least, when they're running right." Polsie shakes her head and grins, making for the library door. "Ah, right - Xanadu was founded after Thread, wasn't it? So it's not all one big complex the way Fort is." She pushes open the door, displaying a records- and books-filled room. "Probably makes installing certain things easier, as they wouldn't need to go through foot after foot of stone the way *we* gotta. But there's not much that could hurt tech down here, short of cave-ins, and those aren't too common." The girl makes a path for a table towards the front of the room, on which sits the corroded box she was carrying when Idralia met her that morning, along with three containers - one of which is open, revealing hides of great age inside. "*This* is the find I was talking about," she says, with some pride. "That box was *filled* with old documents."

Idralia grins at the apprentice, nodding slightly, before she shrugs. "A lot of the southern Weyrs, and the Weyrholds, for that matter, were not built into the mountains. There just aren't as many cave systems there - I think it has something to do with the kind of stone on each continent, but I was never very good at geology studies," she admits ruefully as she trails after her guide. "I'm glad all the expansion these days is outward, instead of inward - I can't imagine how hard it was to create air vents into rooms like these, especially as the machines for cutting stone wore out." As they approach the table Idra looks at the box and containers curiously, moving around Polsie to inspect them. "Where did you find this?" she asks, carefully shifting the hide-holding container to let stronger light fall upon it.

"Abandoned in the storage area," Polsie explains, patting the metal chest affectionately. "Weyrwoman Galina gave me a list of things she wanted looked at when I was first posted here, and that was at the bottom of the list. I thought it was just gonna be scrap metal, but once I got it open I found out it was full of *stuff*." She sounds very enthused about 'stuff'. "I *think* someone found it further back in one of these tunnels, back when they were cleaning up from a cave-in a few turns back. Must've been real dry and dark, 'cause those hides have to be *old*." She taps the container Idralia is shifting. "These ones here are safe enough to handle, though. Gonna have to talk to one of the Harpers and see if they've got some advice on handling the others -" the girl nods towards one of the other containers "- 'cause those are so fragile one of 'em fell apart when I picked it up from the chest."

"Quite the find," Idralia says, carefully lifting out one of the 'safe' hides and inspecting it. "You might ask someone in the Paper craft as well. They have a lot of tricks for making records more durable, and might have something that will help with the oldest of those hides," she says absently as she looks the record over. "Is this a recipe for some kind of ointment? I wonder if it's on file already…" Thinking hard, the journeywoman returns the hide to it's bin with care. "You might see if there's a free scribe to copy the first paragraph or so of each of these, and have them cross-references against the database at Landing. If there is something new, you might have just made yourself some friends," she says after a pause, smiling to the apprentice.

"Do you know," Polsie says, slowly, "I didn't think about cross-referencing? That's a real good idea, ma'am." There's a moment when the girl's glance shifts from the 'safe' box to the 'don't touch' box and turns calculating, though it's over in an instant. She looks up at Idralia, beaming wholeheartedly. "Thanks. I think there's a scribe or two floating around, I'll see if they're willing to help me out. It'd be real nice to get some help on this, my area of expertise having ended when I got the box open." Her gaze drifts towards the 'don't touch' box again, before she pulls away from it and grins. "Sorry for focusing on my little find - you might wanna see the rest of the library, too." She lifts one graceful hand and gestures to the shelves and shelves of books. "Nice, idin't? Though perhaps not so nice as what you might find at Landing."

"Everyone needs a good project now and then," Idralia replies, still smiling. "If you have any trouble finding a scribe let me know, I'll be happy to help where I can. You never know what interesting tidbits are hidden in old documents," she adds. At Polsie's guesture she glances around the rest of the room, but her interest also seems largely fixed on the box. "Honestly, I like computers better than books, so the library itself is less intriguing than this find of yours. But if I'm to be coherent when I meet with the Weyrwoman I should be going," she says, her voice touched with regret. "Do let me know how things go with these. And if any are pronounced sound enough, I'll scan them into the database for you myself."

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.