by Siri Paulson
Oyez! Oyez! Gather, people of Epsilon Dome City, and listen to the data!
This bard standing before you has made her rounds through your neighbour, Gamma, for many years. They have known her since her implant was new, her limbs straight and her eyes clear. They are a small community with many small data of news, none significant except to those within that dome, and so she is the only bard that visits. Yet this bard has made her rounds faithfully and spoken to them the data from outside. She has listened and remembered. She has imparted, to the best of her ability given the needs of her audiences, the data from Gamma to other domes, so that all may hear and know.
Yet when she landed her flyer in Gamma Dome City ten days past, something was different.
A man from Gamma asked her once, several years ago, whether she remembered every data she heard. She said yes, of course. That was what the implant was for. Then he asked her whether she told every data she heard. Are no conversations private, he asked. She told him that part of the training to be a bard was discerning what to tell and to whom. The confidence of a friend, a family matter that has no bearing on others, those things may be kept silent.
Then how, he asked, may we trust that you are not keeping other things silent. How do we know that you are not, by omission, misleading us. If you made a grave error, for example. Or if there was a tragedy or an uprising in another dome. Would you tell us? How would we know if you did not? You are the only bard who comes here on your rounds. As for us, we send our ore and receive our goods by mechanized transport. We do not have the means to cross the blasted wilderness between domes ourselves. We have only your word.
The bard listened. Telling data that has been curated for an audience, she said, is who we are. We can give you no clearer answer.
He was quiet, and did not speak of it again. Nor did she. She thought the matter forgotten. But it was not.
Ten days past, when she arrived in Gamma, the people confronted her. You said that all other domes were like ours, they told her. We have spent years working to send messages through the mechanized transport, and we have learned many data. We know now that domes have failed, a crack or a rupture bringing in poisonous gases from the atmosphere outside, and if such a thing were to happen here, we would be trapped. We know now that people in some domes have the means to travel from one to another. Yet other domes also did not know these data, as we did not. You bards have lied to us. Why?
Her training had not prepared her for this.
We have not lied, she said. We have told you the data you were prepared to hear. As to the rest, you made assumptions. It is regrettable that you have not been properly prepared for these data. Act not in the heat of your anger, but consult your sages and consider well the wisest course of action.
Oh, we’ve considered all right, they said. Many of us have decided we will stay no longer in this forsaken place. We’re taking our cargo transports and we’re leaving.
You cannot, she said. The cargo transports are not built for humans. You will die.
Why should we listen to you, they said. You are not to be trusted.
This bard has not lied, she said again. Curated, yes, but never given false data. We cannot.
But nothing she could say would stir them. She had lost her audience.
Many of them left. She stayed to try to calm the few that remained, but they would no longer listen to her words.
When at last she boarded her flyer and left Gamma, she followed the tracks of many transports heading away from the dome. All of them she found stranded, out of air and fuel, all within dead of asphyxiation or exposure. She had given them this data, and the data do not lie.
Pardon me. Even a bard has moments governed by emotion. Even we cannot remain untouched by the data we carry.
People of Epsilon Dome City, your expressions say that you have not heard tell of these transports, or of the other data that was collected by the people of Gamma without the use of a bard. This bard knows. For she has performed curation for you, too. Until now. Now you have all the data she can impart to you.
Believe what you may, and do what you must. This bard will listen and remember, and when it is appropriate to the needs of the audience, the data will be told.