What is interesting here is that from Isham’s point of view, things like racism, homophobia and sexism are non-issues. (Of course, he considers homosexuality to be a non-issue because there is only one homosexual person in the entire world.) Isham has experienced bigoted individuals such as Alia’s father, but he has been more or less sheltered from actual systemic racism. Contrast this with Jordan (or even Jacob Stone) who have experienced systemic racism and whose personalities have been shaped by it. When Jordan tries to get Isham riled up and knocked of balance by calling Isham “boy,” Isham doesn’t even realize that he should react. Jordan seems to read Isham’s non-familiarity as evidence that Isham “acts white.” (Jordan also levels this accusation at Isham’s father.)
I am kind of wondering how sheltered Isham is, where systemic racism is concerned. You would have to cut out a lot of books and other media in order to be as non-familiar as Isham seems to be. This could mean that part of the “Fresh Start” philosophy involves avoiding historical topics like segregation and social topics such as racism. (Or it could mean something entirely different.)
Isham and Alia spend a lot of time starving in the cave, with Jordan’s people occasionally bringing them water. When no one else is around, Isham tells Alia a little more of what he knows about Muskies. It turns out that Muskies are not just weird gas creatures, though that’s pretty close. Muskies are plasmoids, meaning that they are made of plasma–ionized gas. This is a very important piece of information that Isham did not want Jordan to find out about, even if Jordan is a technophobe, because plasmoids can be detected by radar, and the main advantage Muskies have is that they can generally only be detected by scent. (Jordan, being “practical” is likely to use technology if it gives him a weapon to use against Muskies.)
After some more starving followed by some hallucination, a Musky and its Name make an appearance. It seems that someone urgently requests Isham’s presence elsewhere, and the Muskies are not able to take “um, kind of a prisoner here” for an answer. Isham and Alia head out of the cave in the company of the Muskies and find Jordan and his people strategically pinned by the Muskies. This creates a standoff where the Muskies are very insistently wanting Isham to get a move on, but Isham is unable to get a move on because Jordan.
Isham makes an attempt to communicate to the Muskies that Jordan is the reason he can’t go anywhere, but Alia distracts him before he can get the Muskies to kill Jordan. Jordan uses this opportunity to take Alia hostage. (Alia very much does not want Isham to kill Jordan, or anyone really.) The standoff continues! After some more arguing, Isham is forced to leave with the Muskies.
Isham trudges along in the company of the Muskies. He does not understand why Alia stopped him from killing Jordan! On the other hand, he understands that at least a few of his motivations were suspect. He does a lot of navel gazing, and has a number of insights about man’s struggle against capital N Nature. He also has a number of Deep Thoughts about his current situation. This leads him to having a jam session with the Muskies, where they talk about the unavoidability of doing what you have to do.
It turns out that the Muskies were sent by Michael Gowan and Carlson, who now appear to be in cahoots.
Greetings are exchanged and Isham expresses irritation that the Muskies would not let him make an attempt at freeing Alia. Isham’s plan is to get some supplies and go back after Alia, but this creates a problem. Gowan and Carlson have come to the conclusion that only Isham is capable of reaching the High Muskies. It also turns out that Isham is the most powerful human telepath on the planet because he is really good at meditating. There is a lot of talking about alpha waves and EEG devices but it all basically comes down to Isham being a telepath.
Isham would like to know why the Muskies can’t just deliver the message upward. Gowan and Carlson don’t know why not, but are theorizing that there is something in the chain of command that prevents the Muskies on the ground from delivering a message. After all of this exposition, Isham reveals that not only is Alia being held hostage, she is also pregnant. Gowan assumes that this means Isham will not be going along with this expedition, but it actually means the opposite. They continue to do some talking, with Gowan providing therapeutic advice.
This chapter opens with Isham doing something phenomenally stupid! Okay, he does not actually know he is being stupid. We’ve established that Isham has some pretty severe Daddy Issues, right? Isham is not actually able to work through them because his father is dead. He has latched onto Carlson as a replacement father-figure and attempts to reach out the Carlson, assuming an emotional attachment which is not actually present! (In other words, Isham is trying to have a child-parent emotional connection to a guy who does not want to be a father figure.) This results in a meltdown from Carlson and another therapeutic jam session with Gowan, after which Isham apologizes for being phenomenally stupid.
While working on getting Isham ready to make contact with the High Muskies, it is discovered that Isham’s internal “sentries” while very useful for an assassin, are an extreme detriment to achieving telepathic communication! The only way Isham is going to be able to reach the High Muskies is if he himself is high. High as in stoned.
When he finally makes contact with a High Musky called High Mistral, he learns a great deal of information! The High Muskies have been sending the lower Muskies down to lower elevations in hopes of teaching a human how to be a telepath so that they can communicate. They kept doing this, even knowing that the lower Muskies would become infected by humanity’s negative emotions. Isham shares this information with Carlson and Wendell, admitting that he was not actually able to propose a treaty, because most of the encounter with the Musky had been learning how to communicate with it.