Tarzan's Tripes Forever, and Other Feghoots

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A Tall Ship Tale #64: Tao Is Company

Category: alt.callahans, Puns, Rated G

The epic from Paul DeAnguera continues.


Tendrils of mist along the shores of the Yellow River glowed pink and peach in the rising sun, parting now and then to reveal sampans already busy between the junks and warehouses of 12th-century Kaifeng. Captain Quid emerged onto the quarter-deck, surveyed the pleasant scene, and began his morning ablutions. He extended his left arm skyward and scratched under it. He was just starting in on his other armpit when, suddenly, he glanced down and saw a pinnace exposed in the fog.

“All hands on deck!” Quid shouted. “Cut the anchor! Clear for action! After that pinnace and snatch it!” By the time the frigate got underway the interloper was rounding the next bend; but with her greater sail area the H.M.S. Legume was soon drawing near to it. Through the starboard gunports the First Mate watched two oddly familiar robed figures working frantically on the little craft’s deck. Their hoods jerked backward anxiously when they noticed the approaching frigate. The Legume’s gunners shifted nervously as the two figures pulled a tarpaulin off a peculiar structure near the bow. What fearsome weapon was this? But at that moment the pinnace dematerialized, leaving only a ripple spreading across the water. Evidently the little ship was equipped with a chronomotor such as their own. Quid called an officers’ meeting in the great stern cabin.

“I’d say those two characters were monks of the Brotherhood, if this were the 19th century,” Owen speculated.

“I was sorry to lose that anchor,” the First Mate grumbled. “A 3270 is hard to come by these days.”

“Never mind that!” Quid barked. “We need to figure out what the Brotherhood is up to here in the past!”

“No good, I’m afraid,” warned Professor Peabody. “Take a look at this!” And he unrolled a chart on the table:

         THE INFINITE
               |
               V
         THE ABSOLUTE
               |
               V
         YIN AND YANG
             |   |
             V   V
THE 8 DIAGRAMS   THE 5 ELEMENTS 
             |   |
             V   V
          ALL THINGS*

“This is the Sung dynasty’s grand design to merge Confucianism and Taoism, China’s two guiding philosophies,” Peabody continued. “Any interference with this event could have severe repercussions on our own time!”

“These eight diagrams,” Quid asked, pointing at that part of the chart. “What are they?”

“They are the eight Taos — that is, all eight of the possible binary trigrams, representing all states between heaven and earth,” he explained. “The Chinese rely on them for divination; their origins in Taoism are ancient even to this time period.”

“By george, let’s not beat around the bush!” Quid exclaimed. “If the Brotherhood went back in time, obtained the original eight Taos and burned them, they could cause the future a lot of trouble!”

The ship’s officers chewed their mustaches and considered this, their fearful imaginations already illuminated with the crimson flames of…

Eight Taos and points of light!

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