The novel Corr Syl the Warrior introduces an Earth on which intelligence appeared long before humans.
Corr Syl, Alex Maypole, and Rock, Paper, Scissors
The messenger streaked through the trees toward an uproar of groans and cheers coming from among the boulders at the base of White Cliff. There, on a flat granite shelf, a raucous group of variously furry, feathery, and scaly creatures crowded around an intense rock-paper-scissors contest between Corr Syl, Alexander Maypole, and a rookie, a new librarian trainee. Corr had a rare lead over Maypole, and total dominion over the young student.
Corr needed three points to win. He did win now and then, unlike when he’d first started playing and had lost every match to Maypole.
A solemn opossum, the official starter, raised his hands. The priming judge narrowed his gaze. Each contestant rotated an eye sideways toward his opponents, tried to sense their intentions, and tried to hide his own. Spectators jostled, swallows spiraled in to see, flycatchers and humming birds hovered near. A large yellow butterfly, drawn to all the excitement, floated in and out among the contestants. Then the butterfly drifted beneath the starter’s hands, almost causing a false start and making spectators and contestants grimace and gasp.
The butterfly drifted up and perched; the opossum slashed his left hand down. The left hands of the three contestants pumped—triple rock—and the crowd exhaled. Next throw, the opossum slashed both hands down. Both hands of the contestants pumped. Their left hands yielded rock, scissors, scissors, and their right hands yielded paper, paper, paper. Corr gained two points and the crowd cheered. Next throw, the right hand fell: scissors, scissors, rock. Alex scored two and the crowd jeered.
Corr saw a faint ripple crossing Alex’s nervous system just as the starter’s hands fell. Such electromagnetic fluxes occurred when thoughts and activities changed, and they didn’t relate to intentions. Or do they? Corr decided to begin studying Maypole’s transitions for clues to the squirrel’s next throw.
Corr looked in on his running analysis of Maypoles shield. Years of observation and careful replay of the movements and the electrical and chemical signals produced by the old squirrel’s mind and body had revealed nothing. Maypole’s ability to cloak his thoughts was as good as a warrior. Maypole. The old squirrel lived alone and spent his days in the library studying a math puzzle. Word was he had studied the same problem for decades. Why did he live alone? Math? Could there be something in the squirrel’s understanding of math that gave him control over his thoughts. Corr added math to the variables in his Maypole thought stream.
The starter raised his hands. Corr watched for the ripple. The crowd closed in—and the messenger thumped to a swaying landing on Corr’s shoulder.
Corr snapped, “What?”
The crowd froze, all eyes on the small bird.
The bird tweeted, “Councilor Korhonen needs you.”
The crowd groaned.
As she leapt into the air, the little sparrow trilled, “Did you know you look stupefied with your eyes walled like that?”
The librarian giggled.
“Ah, too bad, boy,” said Alex. “Perhaps you can try again tomorrow. Now, go get ready for your new job.”
Corr dug out the sense of relief he had felt earlier when he decided to refuse the Council’s appointment as its agent. “Tomorrow, squirrel.” Then he smiled at the little librarian. “I’m sorry, I have to go,” and away trotted the soon-to-be former agent of the council.