The Talkative Tree
It was tenuous, almost a haze. Close examination would have revealed it to be made up of myriads of tiny spores. They resembled those cast forth by one of the bushes Kolin's party had passed. Along the edges, the haze faded raggedly into thin air, but the units evidently formed a cohesive body. They drifted together, approaching the men as if taking intelligent advantage of the breeze.
One of Chief Slichow's staggering flunkies, stealing a few seconds of relaxation on the pretext of dumping an armful of light plastic packing, wandered into the haze.
After a few heartbeats, he dropped the trash and stared at ship and men as if he had never seen either. A hail from his master moved him.
"Coming, Chief!" he called but, returning at a moderate pace, he murmured, "My name is Frazer. I'm a second assistant steward. I'll think as Unit One."