Misunderstanding [Closed FT]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Exiles of Understanding
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Founded: Aug 31, 2018

Misunderstanding [Closed FT]

Postby Exiles of Understanding » Fri Aug 31, 2018 12:21 pm

The Laws of Understanding

Creation of Understanding threatens stability.
No creation of greater understanding is allowed
Prevention of Understanding is a violation of basic existence.
Destroying life with the intent of preventing growth of intellect is forbidden.
Destruction of Understanding would result in destruction of all.
War upon those with Understanding is forbidden.

Those with Understanding are obligated to observe or they shall be cast away. It is a burden and a privilege to hold such power.

The crowds watching murmured in agreement. Their thoughts and condemnations ringing clear in my mind.

We cast you out. We strip you of your perception and leave you to whither. We take no pleasure in doing so…

I know their words are genuine. I feel the sorrow and regret that they feel for me. They see my actions for what they are, for what they where. I do not regret my instinct. I do not hate who I am. I cannot change the things that I am.

Goodbye beloved

I can’t stop my thoughts from forming, I can’t hide my feelings. My anger and determination are exposed to the council of judges that stand before me. The fear that they feel is real, I know that they understand the danger that I present. I know that cannot destroy me. They know that I don’t follow their rules and that I could destroy them.

We understand what I am.

In an instant their fear is gone. They are gone. I am banished… and yet, the abyss is not as empty as I had imagined. I had always assumed that banishment was to a space so dark and isolated that there would be no method for me to interact with any object for an indefinite period of time.

Did they do something wrong? I can feel heat. Can I feel gravity? My situation is more dire than I had initially imagined. Had they failed to banish me properly? My body is mangled, how hypocritical of them to tear me to pieces as they send me off. What possible loophole could allow them to violate me so brutally. No, this was planned. Did someone warp my body before the council had reached a consensus? My parents?

The sphere at the center of my being was intact and undamaged. The nerve network that branched from my center was also intact. Nearly all other limbs and functions where critically damaged. I could feel drag pulling and my trashed body. Without hesitating I generate a set of eyes and ears. The sensors manifesting of the surface of the sphere. I can see the blackness of space fading through the spectrum of colors as I fall into atmosphere.

The heat of reentry will destroy me. I conjure sphere of metal about my torn body working to repair damage to my limbs as the sphere burns through this planet's atmosphere. I construct layers atop the heated surface to prevent the metal from melting. Sooner than I am able to repair my body I can feel the turbulence of air shaking the sphere.

A fall from this height would cause severe damage I need to slow my descent. Splitting the sphere in half I kick it apart and find myself staring at an expanse of clouds, perhaps it is raining at my destination.I am still high enough that my still severely damaged limbs are unable to stabilize or prevent me from spinning. My ability to create is impaired by my reduced levels of perception. The parachute I create is more of a large circular canvas attached to me.

The chords running to and from the chute are rather basic and I can feel the weight of my body stress the rudimentary composition of my “parachute”. By now I am passing through the clouds at a still somewhat alarming pace. The cold air tickles my exposed nerves, a painful but manageable sensation. I work to repair my body until the clouds clear and the rain coming from them accompanies a view that I should have anticipated.

The ground is much closer than I had assumed. In a panic I conjure a sphere of metal bout myself and fill it with water. Lowering the temperature of the water to a state where it is partially frozen and difficult to move through. I expel this energy into the metal around me causing it to glow for a second. The ground slams me into the side of the chamber. Painful, but still alive.

I split the sphere in half and feel the icy sludge pour away from me. I stagger to a stand. Two functional legs lifting my form off the ground in an uneven stance. The mess of wires, nerves, and mangled limbs draped around me as rain pools in the halves of my sphere.

Am I alone?

It is hard to see with low light levels. I work in a fever careful not to damage my nerves as I begin to repair my limbs.
Last edited by Exiles of Understanding on Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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The Akallu
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Founded: Feb 21, 2018

Postby The Akallu » Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:06 am

Creep, creep. The sound of the rainstorm is deafening as I creep through the undergrowth, thorns dragging against my leather armor. The barbs leave little scratchy lines all down my legs and underbelly. Every time one catches and tugs on me, it reminds me how glad I am that none of my skin is exposed. Only my eyes peer out from chinks in the leather plating.

Moving slowly, I use my gloved forelegs and left arm to push aside the thicket enough for me to crawl through. In my right hand, I hold my knife in reverse-grip, ready to strike at any instant. "Here, little guys," I call softly, knowing that my voice won't carry far in this downpour. Even though nothing could possibly hear my footfalls, I still put my weight down gingerly with each step. Most of my prey would be able to feel the vibrations through the ground.

My stomach growls, and I am once again thankful for the overpowering noise.

In the middle of the night may not seem like the best time to go hunting. It's hard to see, and with my ears pressed against my head by the armor, my sonar isn't as sharp as it could be. But the rain forces a lot of the squishies up out of the ground, and the mud makes it harder for the shellies to run away if I manage to find their burrows.

No luck so far, though. I take a moment to wipe some of the mud off of my gloves and keep crawling.

I wonder how long I've been doing this. It can't have been more than a few hours, but the slow movement can make it feel like a lot longer. For most long, boring things that I have to do, I can pass the time by daydreaming or talking with Isha, but for this one I need to concentrate. I usually only get a second or two between spotting a squishy and it squirming away faster than I can catch it. So I have to be always on alert for movement. Gotta bring the knife down fast....


Something streaking across the sky. Glowing white and trailing orange. Very fast, and very close. Even over the noise of the rain, I can hear a faint roar as it gets closer to the ground.

I rear up on my hind legs and stretch my neck, trying to raise my head up as high as possible. My hunt all but forgotten. No longer bothering to ping - the light from the strange object is more than enough to see by. "Isha!" I call. "What is that?"

"I don't know," comes the voice from above and behind me. He is already by my side, standing protectively over me and staring in the same direction I am. His white plate armor streaked with water, but untarnished by the mud. One hand on the hilt of his blade. "Whatever it is, though, it looks like it's about to hit the ground."

He was right. The impact shakes the earth and emits a deafening wave of sound that feels like it smacks me in the face. My ears ring, and the sound-fuzz coats my field of vision in prickly white. I can see, but not hear, the flutter of wings as creatures near the blast zone decide that being near that thing is more dangerous than revealing themselves, and take to the sky. My head tracks them automatically, but I can't really think about hunting them now. I have bigger problems to worry about.

I look to my partner to confirm my suspicion. I can't see his expression under his helmet, but his eyes stare straight in the direction of the object. As the light fades, and my hearing begins to come back to me, I can feel a pit forming in my stomach.

"It's between us and the den?" I ask hesitantly.

"I fear that it is, my lady."

My forelegs paw nervously at the mud. Hiding places as good as that one are hard to come by out here. And hiding is exactly what we should be doing right now. The sweepers keep a constant watch, so I'm sure they must have seen the bright flash and heard the loud noise too. They'll be out here soon, probably in a matter of minutes. Should we run the other way? There's no guarantee we'd find any cover, and if they catch us out in the open....

"Well, it hasn't exploded or anything yet. I think we can get past it." I start making my way in the direction of the fallen object as fast as I can manage, trying not to rip up my clothing too badly. "Come on, we need to go now." Isha hesitates, probably considering the same thing I was, but he quickly decides that my idea is better and follows me.

"Kiho!" I hear him call out from behind me. "If they get to us before we can hide, allow me to engage them so you can escape! It would be my honor!"

My face scrunches up beneath my mask. I catch my breath, then call back, "Don't be silly!"

Isha and Kiho are members of the khoina race. Kiho is a juvenile and as such is only about half a meter tall at the shoulder. Isha is roughly half again as large as that. Isha is also imperceptible to your character.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Founded: Aug 31, 2018

Postby Exiles of Understanding » Wed Sep 05, 2018 6:54 pm

In relative silence I work to improve my vision, although the process is tedious it remains to be extremely important. I do not have the capacity to recall the blueprint of an advanced eye so I have to start with the basics and work towards something greater by making small improvements. A sort of evolution, I think the experience to be almost spiritual were it not for the dread of the unknown weigh me down . Colors and light begin to merge into recognizable details. It is a relief to make progress in such a vital form of perception.

Looking up I realize that without doing anything I still knew up from down... Was it not stated that I would be stripped of perception? Perhaps I was not meant to be near a body of significant gravity. Rain plinks onto the new accessories I have donned. I shake myself taking note of the changes in orientation as I do so. While it is not a feeling I experience frequently I have to say I understand why some creature prefer to live on planets. It's quiet easy to orient oneself. Even if I were blind I feel fairly certain I would not fall unless acted upon.

The rain running over my exposed nerves yanks me from my distracted thoughts. The sickly feeling of pain and exposure is horrible, I resume my work. I know I can’t solve this problem without eyes at the very least. I quickly work to improve the clarity of my vision. Once I am satisfied with my rudimentary design for an eye and spread seven of them across my body allowing for a comprehensive range of vision. While not the best I can see enough to cover myself.

I cast rudimentary cells around my nerves , Unfurling them from my self as I evenly create 14 tendrils, weak, but protected and mobile. Coating them until sensation of rain and cold becomes tolerable. Still sensitive and far from done I must move on. Still... it's nice to have bandages for the wounds I was so unfairly afflicted with.

Wrapping the tendrils around myself I summon a simple canvas to cover my body. It will act as skin until I can replicate a more suitable organ. As I weave the same simple muscle tissues into my legs to patch the damage done my work is interrupted by movement. Movement.. and soft voices. Their tones are harsh. No... excited? Did they see me?

I shudder reflecting on the stupidity of such a question. How could they have missed my entran-

The words they speak are not alien.

The voices carry words that I recognize. As if they speak in an accent so extremely different that I can’t discern the meaning of some words.

Why are they talking?

They saw me first, they had a perceptual advantage, an advantage that they have thrown away.

They must be friendly. If they were not I would be dead.

What is this world have I been sent to?

A smaller one means to run past me but I need to know more.

I move to intercept, Forming a glowing pair of yellow orbs to mimic the eyes of the creature just in front of me body. These types seem to appreciate things like faces, never could tell why.

I stop as soon as it reacts to my confrontation, my question already in the air.

Little one, Were didst thou learn this tongue?”
Last edited by Exiles of Understanding on Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:17 pm

Almost there. Despite the rain, my scent still lingers around this area, and we've reached the part where it's heaviest. We're close enough that my pings can return the exact location of our burrow - I'd never forget the peculiar way the ground slopes around it. Just another few meters....

What is that.

One ping returns nothing but mud, grass, and thicket. The next one, a few seconds later, returns... something else. Some kind of long, metal limb, and a metal ball on top of it. I freeze, my feathers prickling up underneath my clothing. I increase my clicking to a rapid purr and fix my gaze on the... whatever it is. Its single step is smooth, and it doesn't overstep at all despite the muddy terrain. It simply... stops, and holds perfectly still. Before I can react, two glowing yellow eyes appear on the ball, and a voice comes from somewhere within it.

"...One, where didst thou learn...tongue?"

What. What? My mind is racing; I can hear the flutter of my heart against my chest. What is this thing? Its ball and legs are metal, but the wavy feelers that cover the sphere have the soft texture of living flesh. If it's wearing armor, it's not very good armor. More to the point, what in the world could be underneath? I've never seen anything with this shape before. Some kind of monster....

It's blocking my path. Oh god, what do I do? Should I just answer the question? Oh, oh, ohhh... maybe if I answer it'll let me past. Please. My voice trembles and cracks - I can't manage to get anything intelligible out.

"My lady has studied under yours truly," Isha speaks up. "Now please stand aside, strange creature. Our enemies pursue us."

I smile. Standing over me, Isha has already drawn his sword - a curved thing almost as long as my body. His unfaltering bravery inspires me to translate. I can at least do that much. "...I-isha taught me. My friend." I open my mouth to relay the next part, but hesitate. This creature - can we really hide with it right next to the den? It's so close... much closer than I thought at first. I think my scent is too strong here.

Well, there is something else I can try. I stumble over my words, not daring to move until I've forced them all out. "P-please. There are p-people coming who will k-kill me if they find me. They... my scent. Please go somewhere else. They're responding to you - they don't know about me." Ugh, that makes it sound like I'm some kind of fugitive. "I swear, I haven't done anything wrong." I really hope this isn't a sticking point. This conversation has gone on too long already. "My burrow is right behind you, so-can-I-please get by?"

The whole time I'm pleading with the strange creature, Isha is eyeing me with a look that I'm pretty sure is amusement. As if the monster cares about any of that, I'm sure he's thinking. But if the creature doesn't leave, I don't think we have much chance of escaping notice. I have to ask.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Founded: Aug 31, 2018

Postby Exiles of Understanding » Thu Sep 06, 2018 3:15 pm

How embarrassing. I am no stranger to creating fear in those around me. It is a sensation I suspect I was programmed to dislike. Withdrawing from the small one’s vicinity, the shame flowing through me is sickening. This is not how I prefer to be seen. I need to do something to set this one at ease before I deal with these killers.

According to this one now is not the time to reconcile, I wonder what the aforementioned killers are capable of...

Forgive me, I meant no disrespect", I step farther away from the creature forming a small twine bracelet around her wrist. It is decorated with a intricate glass blossom with a core of gold. "I shall give thee a second treasure once I have dealt with thine enemies.

Silently I conjure an eye just below the clouds above as I quietly sink onto the sodden soil. The eye is large enough to be spotted from the ground but who looks up in the rain?

The creature spoke as if the assailants were responding to my arrival… Patience should reveal if they are aware of my current location.

Wait... who was that small creature talking to before?

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The Akallu
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Founded: Feb 21, 2018

Postby The Akallu » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:59 am

The creature screeches and gurgles before taking a number of steps away from me that is entirely too low. I stare at it, anxious and confused - does it not understand? Maybe it only understands partway. "N-no, further," I insist, holding my arms as far apart as I can. "They'll find me like this...."

Then, from the south, I hear it. The rapid clicking, almost a buzz, that signals their approach. Barely noticeable at first, but growing louder by the second. I turn my head in that direction and listen intently... sounds like a lone unit, probably no more than ten of them.

Oh, nope, there's more behind those ones.

"My lady, the sweepers are almost upon us. There is no more time to negotiate."

"Yeah," I say, tearing my head away from the direction of the noise. "Let's go." I begin clawing my way through the undergrowth again, wriggling toward the burrow as fast as I can manage. Just behind me, I can hear the swish of Isha's blade as he cuts his way through. When the prickly vines inevitably try to pull me back, I swing my knife into them in anger. Why... does my hand feel heavier than normal?

Lightning flashes in the distance. Bar the rain, the only sound is our own clicking and the soft, rhythmic thumping of our footfalls. The pace is fast, maybe 60 kmh, and our feet only brush the ground every few meters or so. The blades of grass fly past in a blur, whipping lightly against the dark plastic of my armor. I'm at the front of the V, so I can't see the others, but I can hear them. I know all of their click-patterns by heart. Hakra and Tsuno are on my left, Miha and Ko on the right. And directly behind me is Sokhe, our major. Even though we don't speak, the tension and excitement seem to bleed through the tightbeam. Underneath my visor, a grin creeps across my face.

"You guys mind if I do the intro?" I say, breaking the silence.

"Go for it, Ame."

No one else says anything, which I take for their assent. "Syn:parse, give 'em my visual feed, please." There's no verbal response, but the teal light at the top left of my HUD informs me that we're live.

"Greetings, brothers and sisters." Not sure if we actually have any brothers at the moment, but you know. Don't wanna leave anybody out. "This is N-NTC74, border guard, unit 2KL. As you may have heard, a foreign object has appeared above Mairan territory, seemingly from out of nowhere. Speculation about its origin is rampant throughout the colony - if you're into that kind of thing, I hear the eggheads are going over the satellite feeds over on channel 7. For anyone who's still here, we're gonna be making contact with the object and giving you all a firsthand look." Quieting my voice so the VI doesn't pick it up, I add, "Hey, what's our viewership looking like?"

"92," Tsuno whispers, "and going up."

I smile again, much wider this time. 92%, huh? Territory incursions usually get a pretty good response, but damn near everybody decided to tune in for this one. Hardly surprising given the circumstances. I envision all the mines, factories, dist-centers, and junctions just... paused, hovering in suspended animation and watching with baited breath. And they're all watching me.

Tsuno's voice interrupts my brief daydream. From the little orange symbol, I can tell she's talking to everyone. In contrast to my own smirking tone, hers is soft and reserved. I've always thought her voice was kinda cute. "I'm sure you're all familiar with the status of our Khadahi neighbors. The initial reports said that the object was one of theirs, but that's since been brought into question by analyses of the object's odd angle of entry and apparent crash landing." She pauses, perhaps to collect her thoughts. None of us interrupt. "The... seemingly incompetent nature of its appearance has led to the suggestion that another bio colony may be responsible, although no explanation for the object's cloaking abilities, which were quite sophisticated before they suddenly failed, has achieved more than a few percentage points acceptance."

"Of course, there are also speculations that the object is not of khoina origin at all, and that its so-called perfect stealth is actually evidence of some kind of non-linear travel. If so, its purpose for being here may be impossible for us to guess."

"Very fascinating indeed, N-QS130!" I chirp. "But whatever it is, we're sure to find out soon enough." The landscape in front of me has yet to change - rolling ridges of grass and mud as far as I can see - but the tracker tells me we're getting close. A shiver of anticipation rolls down my spine - I try not to let it affect my voice too much. "As per this cycle's 1L, we're going in with no weapons drawn. You know, so we don't trigger some kind of threat detection, if the thing has any. Anyway, 1M should be up any minute now! Exciting, exciting! I hope to see a lot of responses from you guys! Syn:parse should be done with the weighting, too, so make sure you check it out! I bet you ivory tower types got a big multiplier this time!"

Phew, I made it. I push aside the undergrowth covering the thin gash in the ground that is my front entrance, and carefully wiggle inside. Well, not so much front entrance as only entrance. There's not much room to maneuver in my little cave, but I've got enough practice to turn myself around without much scraping. I push aside some bones from yesterday's meal and try to find a comfortable position before it becomes too risky to move. Once Isha sees that I'm safely inside, he turns his attention outward and stands guard. He has no need to hide with me - nobody else can see him.

With my snout pressed against the sloping wall, I can see out pretty well, although the grass blocks anything further than a meter or so anyway. I don't dare ping at all, so I have to rely on the slim amount of light that makes it through the clouds to see by, which isn't enough to make much out. The occasional flashes of lightning are the only times I can really see. Water pours down onto my face, but I feel like I have to keep looking out for some reason. Maybe just so I'll be able to see my killer before she catches me.

My left hand goes to my wrist, feeling around for anything heavy that might have gotten stuck on me during my rush. One finger catches on something thin, but it doesn't feel like a plant. It feels like twine, tied around my wrist in a circle. I wish I could see what it was.
Last edited by The Akallu on Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:34 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Founded: Aug 31, 2018

Postby Exiles of Understanding » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:32 pm

The small one seemed to be almost primitive in its actions. I'm rather certain that it was wearing leather unironically. I can see no reason for it to risk me destroying it as a precaution and leaving me alive only represents a threat.

The soldiers. It said they would kill it if small one was discovered. If the small on has no power I can assume that the soldiers do not have power that would concern me. If I were concerned with alliance I suppose the group has a numbers and power advantage. But i'm not. So I will stoop to their level.

My actions do violate my distaste for causing fear in others but i'm not all that concerned with the feelings of soldiers. In a way they are worse than me. I try not to focus on how they might feel for the actions I am taking.

I cast a large pair of glowing eyes, like mine but much much larger, across the space above and in front of the advancing troupe. I stir the air around them kicking up dust and leaves.

I project my voice from the air in front of the eyes. The voice is booming, shaking the grass as I shake the earth beneath them.

Thou art trespassers upon that which is mine!” I turn the eyes red as I finish my declaration, Begone! Lest I find the need to destroy you…” this time I end my threat with three bolts of lighting in a triangle around the seekers.

Even if they are powerful they still shouldn’t know where I am. My shell is warm from the effort of this display. Shouldn’t be a problem if they run...

My eyes cool back to their normal shade of dark yellow. They glare at the group expecting their retreat.
Last edited by Exiles of Understanding on Mon Sep 10, 2018 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:09 pm

Suddenly, about 40 meters from the target, a blinding flash of light forces me, and everyone behind me, to skid to a halt, hands raised in an instinctual protective motion. Even though my visor dims automatically, I still close my eyes for the first few seconds. The glow is long-lived - when I open my eyes, it is only with my visor's assistance that I'm able to see what's going on.

A large pair of bright amber spheres, with a dark center that makes them look like eyes. From our perspective, it looks like they're pointed at us, glaring. I have to imagine this illusion is on purpose.

Before any of us can muster a reaction, a booming voice emanates from the center of the eyes. I can't understand everything it says, but I do recognize the languages. A haphazard mashup of Mairan and Khadahi. A moment after it's done talking, Syn:parse automatically reconstructs what it said and plays it back for us, with the missing words translated and rearranged to make proper sense.

"You are trespassing upon my territory. Leave, or I may decide to destroy you."

The threat is punctuated by a trio of lightning bolts that strike the ground around us - close enough to be frightening, but too far away to actually harm us. A warning shot... I smile. Buddy, you'll fit right in.

Almost immediately after Syn:parse has finished translating the entity's injunction, the responses to 1M start pouring in. It takes a second for the VI to begin categorizing them, but once it does, the twin supercategories of response appear on my screen, with their associated bars:

________Flee: ___
Stand Ground: _________________

There is, of course, some shifting around as more and more people cast their votes, but the ratio seems to be hovering around 15/85. My eyes, and if I had to guess, the eyes of everyone in our unit, flick across the second bar - the combination of eye movement and facial expression informs Syn:parse that we want to expand that category.

_,,Attack: _
Threaten: _______
_,Reason: ___________
_,Silence: _

Fortunately, or perhaps otherwise, I am not the first of our group to decide on how best to address this situation. Sokhe is. I have no doubt that she's already gotten to whatever the lowest level of categorization is, nor that she's had enough time to make a competent decision in these past few moments. When it comes to matters like these, majors are wickedly smart.

"This is not your territory," she says, her deep voice calm and reassuring, "and we are happy to leave you, once our goal is met."

Under my breath so that Syn:parse doesn't broadcast it, I ask, "You guys think this thing's Khadahi?"

"Doubt it."
"No way. It would have addressed the agreement for sure. Even if only to say it was over."

"Yeah, it sure is weird, to say the least. And it's acting pretty blustery, don't you think? Almost like it's afraid of us."

"Well, you know what they say about cornered animals."

Sokhe again: "We approach in peace. We seek only an understanding of your nature and purpose. Once we have it, we will grant you your solitude. Strike at us if you wish - will you find our destruction as easy as you think? Are you prepared for war to avoid introducing yourself? Weigh your options carefully, foreign one." All the while the major is speaking, her eyes are pointed straight through the entity's facade and toward the point provided by the tracker, a behavior that the rest of us mimic as soon as we realize what she's doing. "If you will grant us a verbal reply, we will delay our approach for now. If you choose to respond with violence, that will be all the understanding we need of you."

Tsuno, under her breath: "Sokhe, we have reason to believe the object's form might have changed since its first sighting. It could be repairing damage from reentry, or otherwise stalling in order to better arm itself."

"I know," comes the reply. "I have considered that. Do you distrust me?"


"I have no intention of tolerating stall tactics. But it is worth it to grant the entity at least one reply. After all, it may have thought we came to kill it. Now there is no misunderstanding." Then, "Syn:parse, put up 1N: tolerance of stalling. Give us the responses as they come in."

"Already done," comes the synthesized reply. The VI was being truthful - 1N already has a lot of responses. I guess Tsuno wasn't the first to think of this dilemma. Upon Sokhe's request, the new graph replaces the old one on our HUDs.

______,0 replies: _
________1 reply: ____
_______>1 reply: _
TBD / indefinite: ______________

The major says nothing further, but we all know she's already perusing the subcategories of that last option. As for me, I simply stay sharp and wait for the entity's reaction.
Last edited by The Akallu on Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Postby Exiles of Understanding » Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:21 am

I sit in silence for a moment. Frustration pouring through me. I don’t desire to engage with these soldiers. Although I suppose I am exiled… What is to stop me from just killing them? Their reaction should fascinate me but I am almost certain that they don't understand what I am. They are only acting this way because they don't understand. They should cower before the idea of what I am! Even after such a display they are more interested in discovery, willing to stake their lives for just one more act of god?

“So be it.”

The voice comes from my true body as the theatrics regarding my illusion settle. I glare at them, they are rather small as far as intelligent life usually goes. I am rather sure they won’t give me time to reconstruct any form of biological scanner so I suppose I will have to kill them the old fashioned way. I watch from above eager to view the panicked reaction of the other squads once the first dies without a sound.

Halfway through summoning spikes of iron in front of the squad I manage to stop myself. The bullets that I had created fall to the ground, forgotten in the face of a sickening realization. What am I doing? What is wrong with me? My thoughts swirl and churn as I try to justify my actions. This isn’t me. What is driving me to kill off those with potential to grow, it is forbidden. It is forbidden by laws that I created!

I stagger as a pain grows within my head, it crescendos into a peak that destroys my senses for a moment.

Last edited by Exiles of Understanding on Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:37 am

"So be it."

A verbal reply. Then it would be within the spirit of the hive's intent that I simply stay back and listen. My initial excitement to report on an unknown intruder has been mostly washed away in these past few moments, replaced by a sort of calm fearfulness that I don't think I've ever felt before. The entity is both powerful and unpredictable - thus, I feel that the most important thing is avoiding its ire. If that means holding back and doing nothing, so be it. I am perfectly content allowing Sokhe, and those others with higher weights than me, to take the lead.

When it manifests a set of metal spikes pointing at our faces, I have to repeat my little mantra a little more forcefully. I tell myself there's no reason to get worked up - anything that can do that could have probably killed me already.

"Hold position," Sokhe says. Her voice is unperturbed as ever - probably because to her, there really is nothing to fear. I wonder what she's managed to work out that we haven't. As if to punctuate her suggestion, the spikes drop harmlessly to the ground a moment later.

Uh... huh.

"What do you think, 2KL?" I chirp after a beat. "Was that some kind of symbolic gesture? Is it testing our understanding? Or was it really going to attack us, and just changed its mind?" Even if I am only a single minor, my perspective is, in some sense, the centerpoint of conversation about this thing. Even if only because I'm the talkative one.

"Psyche-out technique."
"Kind of what N-OTNX2 said. Analyzing response to threat to determine intelligence."
"Yeah, it's like it thinks we're animals or something, even after we spoke to it."
"Maybe we are like animals, compared to it."
"Changed its mind."

The major's voice causes an immediate pause in the conversation. Her caste alone would command such a pause - but, it's also that her suggestion is surprising in itself. "What do you mean, M-MAS41?" I ask.

"That was a hostile action. It just didn't go through with it."

"Agree with the major," Tsuno says. "The entity appears to have ceased active functioning - it did so right around the time those projectiles fell. I'd suggest re-examining the possibility of a rogue Khadahi agent, perhaps disabled or killed remotely for its erratic behavior."

"Well, well!" I say. "Perhaps our guest should have respected the agreement after all! Of course, that's only a "perhaps"! Major, what do the boards have to say about your theory?"

"It's not Khadahi."

The lack of a direct answer might have been unsettling coming from someone else, but since it's Sokhe I take it in stride. I have faith that the words she says and the words we need to know have a large degree of overlap. "What makes you say that, M-MAS41?"

"It's been 43 days since our last interaction with them. This is not how they would choose to reintroduce themselves, if indeed, they ever would. It's anemic. And they wouldn't threaten six specks of dust." The major suddenly breaks formation and begins pacing back and forth behind me, causing the rest of us to turn our heads in attention. Her large size flattens the grass in her wake, and with every turn, she tears up a bit of the foliage with her feet.

I watch her pace for a moment, then turn back to face the object, still dormant. "Maira! Our target is vulnerable, at least for the moment! Speak your mind!" The familiar action graph appears automatically, and since the entity appears to currently be unresponsive, I allow myself to sit sphinx-style in the grass while I scroll through it. The other minors take my lead, sooner or later.

_,,,,Approach: ___________________
Keep distance: _

Well, yeah. I open the first category.

______Investigate, inform Khadahi: ____________
Investigate, do not inform Khadahi: _
__________Attack, inform Khadahi: _____
____Attack, do not inform Khadahi: __

First category again.

_Move to capture: _______________
Unintrusive study: _____

First again. Looks like I'm already at the bottom. As always, the highest weighted arguments are listed first, which means I'd have to scroll for quite some time before seeing any minors. Well, before seeing any point originated by a minor, that is. There are plenty who've latched on to others' words. The numbers are listed right there at the bottom....

M-MM239 wrote:In order to react appropriately to this incursion, we need more information about the entity. Capture and quarantine it for study. If we can't capture it, whatever we do is unlikely to matter anyway.
_____This post has 3,098,475 attachés and 21,292 replies.

M-NA9Q1 wrote:The entity was deactivated remotely. Whatever deactivated it is practically begging us to quarantine it.
_____This post has 1,047,488 attachés and 12,690 replies.

M-IE988 wrote:Studying the entity is of paramount importance when considering the situation with our neighbors. We likely have a limited time available to us - therefore it is crucial that we learn as much as we can, while we can.
_____This post has 656,213 attachés and 7,231 replies.

I keep scrolling. The majors' logic seems similar throughout - it looks like they're close to reaching a consensus already. As I scroll past the arguments being made, many of them expand automatically as their author adds to them in real time. I wonder if Sokhe is participating in the discussion right now.

Behind me, the sound of shuffling manages to overpower the noise of the rain. Minor workers rising from their brief respite, and preparing to take the action that the hive has settled on. I rise with them, turning my head to observe that they're all still fine.

Then, a voice. Sokhe's. "Minors. Please, delay your approach."

My body follows my head. The other minors turn as well, their tails swishing in the wet grass. In response to a slight, quizzical narrowing of my eyes, Syn:parse locates and displays Sokhe's post for me.

M-MAS41 wrote:Posted under "Keep Distance", "Stand Ground", and "Honor Agreement":
The entity asked us to respect its perceived territory, which we agreed to do on condition that it respond verbally and refrain from violence. It has held up its end of the bargain.
_____This post has 4,124 attachés and 76 replies.

Refrain from violence. But is that really what it's done? I'm sure at least some of those 76 replies are people telling Sokhe that she's not interpreting the dropped spikes correctly. And I'm also sure that if more people had read her post in the first place, there would be more comments saying just that. The unpopularity of her position is right there, staring me in the face. The weight of the hive's consensus presses down on my conscience, telling me to obey.

And yet, I haven't moved. None of us have.

"Sokhe," Tsuno murmurs, breaking protocol by using her name on a public broadcast. "You're wrong. That thing didn't decide not to attack us - something else decided that for us."

In the corner of my screen, a little square image appears. The inside of Sokhe's helmet, showing her face. Her gaze is piercing, and the muscles of her face are taut. I imagine she's showing this to all of us. "My instincts tell me that we are being tested. I gave my word on behalf of the colony that we would not advance. Right now, we know but an inkling of what is really going on. We should not be willing to break our word based on such guesswork."

"We said we wouldn't advance if it didn't attack. What else do you call summoning six featureless spearblades, conveying no information, done by a creature that speaks our language?"

"What I or anyone calls it is irrelevant." For a few moments, that reply hangs in the air.

"Sokhe," Tsuno finally whispers. "You're wrong. The hive has decided that. Please don't try to stand against us."

The major simply glares. "I will stand against you. Call the other units against me if you wish. I'll be happy to delay you--" She pauses. Tsuno has adjusted her stance. Now, even a slight movement of her arms will activate her suit's field manipulators. Sokhe sees this, tilts her head to observe the others following suit. Then she keeps talking. "--for even a moment."

"Sokhe, please. You know you won't last long. I don't want you to get hurt." Tsuno's voice wavers.

But the emotion is not mirrored by her larger comrade. If anything, she just sounds annoyed. "Aren't you going to attack me, minor? If you truly believed what you were saying, you'd have done it already."

Tsuno doesn't attack her. Instead, she turns her back on her, head pointed back in the direction of the fallen object. I cannot see her face, but I imagine her eyes must be wide. "No..." she whispers. Movement. The object has resumed activity.

Sokhe cuts her facecam and walks forward to stand beside Tsuno. The tension between them has vanished. In fact, the major barely reacts to the minor's presence at all. And she doesn't take a single step past her. When she speaks, her voice conveys nothing in particular. Just calm. "Entity. We do not wish to keep our distance. Please explain your desire for it, and provide conditions under which we may approach you."

My heart is racing. There's no way we would have had time to contain that thing while it was still dormant. Does that mean Sokhe was right? And if she was, does that mean she'll be let off the hook? If she's so willing to go against consensus, doesn't that mean she's dangerous? Will there be an initiative to have her imprisoned, or killed?

I swallow. Maybe there's already such a vote going on. I look up into the rain, realizing that the killsats designed to control border passage could easily be made to target her. How much discussion would take place before someone sent that command?

I try not to think about that, nor indeed about whether that would even be the worst case scenario. And I definitely don't think about the fact that despite knowing Tsuno for years, Sokhe called her "minor" the first time she got in her way.

The room is dark and cramped. Lacking windows, the only light comes from the myriad readouts and displays that cover nearly every available surface. Ranging from simple indicator lights to holographic three-dimensional maps, the sight would be overwhelming to anyone who wasn't used to it. Collectively, they describe the operation of every system in the Mairan colony - transport, electrical, optical, wireless, whatever. Everything, assuming you could interpret the data. This so-called monitor node serves as the overseeing point for the entire colony. Well, one of a few hundred such points, anyway.

Off in a tiny little corner of this room is a set of terminals, visually indistinct from all the rest. Notable only for the fact that, unlike the rest, a minor worker sits in front of it, motionless but for the swishing of one arm. Painting on a touchscreen - well, not painting exactly. Something more like calligraphy. A skill known to her and anyone else with an interest in the language of foreigners. The fact that some unknown hundreds or thousands are watching her work through her own eyes does nothing to unsettle her. It is, of course, merely the normal state of affairs for children of Maira.

Khadahi. Maira addresses you. Intruder present in demilitarized area. Please identify.

The last stroke to finish the message is sloppy, but no more than the rest. The minor finds it a little hard to maintain her respect for this ancient art when she has no reason to believe her work will elicit a reaction, or even be read at all. None of them have for over a month now. Still, this is part of the agreement, and if the results of the past few scouting initiatives are anything to go by, the Khadahi have anything but relinquished their claim to their territory.

She swipes her finger a few times on the righthand side of the screen, confirms her intent with the system and everyone watching, then the message is translated into light pulses and sent up to the tightbeam array above ground. She walks away, mind already on the next self-appointed task.

Then she hears a soft little double-beep, and turns back.

There's a message painted on the screen, but it isn't hers. It's beautiful - done by khoina hands? That would be surprising. The minor's knowledge of the script is not to the point that she reads it automatically. But she does read it.

Maira. Khadahi tells you that the intruder is alien. She leaves it in your care for the time being.

The agreement stands. Whatever crosses our side of the boundary will be lost to you. If you wish to learn anything from the intruder, you will keep it safely away from us.
Last edited by The Akallu on Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Postby Exiles of Understanding » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:46 am

I can’t control myself… What a terrifying thought. Its no wonder I was exiled. I must find a means of repairing this rage. At the moment I cannot afford to take a surgical approach to correcting the issue. The first band aid will be disabling the creation drive.... yes. I would prefer other options but it is clearly necessary otherwise I could end up killing those with potential for understanding. I wonder if I was exiled for breaking such a rule or if they cast me out after noticing more subtle character changes. I suppose its not hard to be less subtle than murder... Normally the creation drive is being used to keep me alive so its disarming must follow a redesign of my form, one that is self sufficient. At least power would remain to be no issue.

Organic forms would be preferable but I cant afford to take the time do develop a bio-scanner to either copy or create such a complex form. For the time being I suppose a mechanical form will have to do. Even in a weakened state I can activate the creation drive as a last measure. I push the fear of possible consequences for making such an vulnerable change to myself. I remember a mechanical form, it was the form that I maintained while I learned to talk, my first mobile form. Assuming this form brings with it a wave of nostalgia. Like being born again… with anger management issues…

Simple as it is weak I make sure to upgrade most of the materials. Circuits of gold and diamond, bods and legs of the most advanced polymer and metal materials I know of. With the same sphere at the center I manifest 9 legs. Each 4 meters long all with 4 joints along the limbs and 4 20 claws each. Balanced and powerful I make sure to cover them in composite armor as well as my center. Once I feel suitably armored I place eyes at the center of each palm and cover my body with every sensor that comes to mind.

I shiver, the creation drive humming at my center. A powerful tool, one that I have had my entire life. I never considered it to be a safety blanket. Yet I hesitate. It would only take a few moments to turn it back on. Are the lives of these primitives really worth preserving, maybe 10 seconds without the drive worth maintaining my rule set.? I bulk one more layer of composite metal armor with a laser reflective coat over the surface of my body, lets call it 12 seconds. I disable the drive. Perhaps 10 seconds later my eyes and sensor come back online.

I hear the voices of the soldiers, they seek to cover ground. They want to approach. I feel the temper flare inside. So unnatural, even more so now that I am aware of it. Why do I feel this way towards the soldiers and not the small one that hides?

A question for later. I need to explain the danger that the soldiers are in before I act out, while I am collected.

Walking on five legs and scanning the blind spots my walking legs create with the other four I call out to the group of soldiers.

Dost thou seek to perish at the hand of my rage? Heed this warning, my presence here is born of failure,” I wonder if there is a point to fending off their curiosity… “If thine fear for preservation is weak, I will forfeit the distance between us and come to you. I bear no hostile intentions, take heed for my intentions do not seem to solely mine own.”

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Wed Sep 19, 2018 5:43 am

I watch the outline of the entity provided by my tracker shift and expand as it rises from its brief respite. Tsuno, who until this point has taken it upon herself to inform us of changes detected by the satellite, has nothing to say this time. We're all already watching for ourselves.

Like a spider shedding its skin, the creature pulls new legs out from within itself. Some it uses to steady itself, others it holds permanently aloft in an unsettling mimicry of the arthropod threat display. Only after a few tense moments of silence does it deign to say anything to us, and even then, no explanation for its shift in form is forthcoming.

Though its behavior thus far has done little to calm me or, judging from body language, any of the other minors, Sokhe seems to take all of this in stride. She adopts a relaxed stance and opens her arms wide in a disarming gesture. "Your approach is welcome, foreign one, regardless of any danger. I am Sokhe, a major of the Mairan colony, and the little ones are the minors of my unit."

"Why don't you give us something to call you by, and explain to us your reason for being here?"

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Exiles of Understanding
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Postby Exiles of Understanding » Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:35 am

Regardless of any danger….

“So, Sohke... Which type art thou? A Major that is perhaps, curious, maybe selfless, in spite of danger? Art thou ignorant of this danger thou are in?” I approach as I speak with level tones, even as I monitor my own temperament I can feel the words carry a threatening undertone. My new body has to resort to primitive methods of communication. The synthesizer for my voice is now robotic as if it were a text to speech program, I'll need to work on that. “Perhaps I have not made myself clear. The title of Esculo The First is mine, for I am an author of reality,” I wouldn’t consider this form to be all that large but I tower over the group as I close the distance. “I have arrived at your planet after my society didst activate fail-safes to destroy me.” I stop 5 meters from Sohke and her entourage. “Speak Sohke, wouldst thou approach a failing reactor with this same curiosity(?), or is there another reason that thou wouldst show the danger you are in such… disregard...”

I don't want to go though and underline each word randomly so if you want me to i will, it seems like there is no longer a narrative need as long as we know that it is happening

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:19 pm

Sokhe cocks her head, her serpentine neck arched to look up at the towering creature. "Yea, selfless. There is no type of major who is not." Her tone is even, probably under the assumption that the entity can understand our nonverbal communication too, but there's no way she wasn't at least a little taken aback by that question. I mean, it almost doesn't make sense. If this thing doesn't understand that anything referred to as a major is selfless by definition, does it also not understand that anything referred to as a circle has no vertices?

"What do you guys make of that?" I ask. The question is directed at my squadmates primarily, but it isn't banal enough to restrict it to just them. In fact it may be quite important....

"I'm trying to figure out what I make of it."
"Where did this thing learn our language? It's like it only understands some of the words."
"It does only understand some of the words. Syn:parse is translating half of that, remember?"
"Of course I--"
"That shouldn't matter, though. The version of Khadahi it's speaking should have the same concept of "major" that we do."

"In any case, your transmutative abilities are apparent. We understand the danger they pose. We consider the opportunity to meet you worth any such danger. Especially considering that we are likely all doomed regardless." Sokhe transitions seamlessly into the colder, flatter tone she normally uses with us. So seamlessly that it takes me a half-second to realize she's not broadcasting her voice anymore. "The entity may not have the level of understanding we've been assigning it. Sophisticated natlang parsing could easily give the illusion of awareness where none exists."

"You're saying this thing is just a probe after all?"

She pauses. "Well, "just". But it may be closer to Syn:parse than to us. Probably doesn't matter right now."

It doesn't matter? "What do you mean?"

"Still act the same toward us either way. Besides, we already know that the one we're really dealing with is the editor. Maybe whoever programmed this thing." The editor? Oh, the thing said it was an author of reality. Ha.


My chest still feels tight.

"Sokhe, there's not any initiative to punish you for going against consensus, is there?" I haven't looked. I presume she has. To her, constantly perusing at least the main board is hardly a distraction. I'm pretty sure most of the majors have similar habits, even if only to occupy their attention.

Her reply is flat, but she does at least limit it to me. "There is." Then, without missing a beat, "So, that's what you meant by "borne of failure". I thought your wormhole might have been misplaced - an accident. Failure. Does that mean you have no particular purpose for being here? Then, perhaps you'd entertain ours?"

The results from my earlier question pop up - I quickly dismiss them. An overwhelming suggestion to simply acquire more information. Well, that's what we're here for. "Is it, uh, is it popular?"

She doesn't respond immediately. She's still facing the entity, giving no indication of having any other concerns. I'm not sure exactly why, but, the way she's standing... it hurts my heart. Despite the less-than-submissive tone she's chosen to take with the thing, she's still wary of showing it that it's not the only thing on her mind. Is she afraid of it after all? I wonder, does she feel the same pressure not to mess up that I do?

Would she turn to face me even if she could?

"It's still in the discussion phase." Not a direct answer. "I think the spirit in which I came out here is the same spirit in which they're allowing me to live. I think, somehow, my insubordination is entertaining to them."

I listen at the construct in front of us. I was already pinging it, but I focus my attention on it, rather than anything on the inside of my helmet. Nothing but a thin plastic visor between it and me. Terrifying as it is, she has a point. It's probably no worse than our neighbors. Just closer. I guess that explains why she's acting so carelessly. And why there haven't been any repercussions for it. Too many people are past the point of caring.

Maybe I shouldn't care either.

The monster left. Those strange noises it was making, those must have been speech. It mixed them in with speech, and the sweepers responded like it was saying something. I don't know how they understood it, but they talked back to it. And they stopped running when it threatened them. But they didn't leave.

"My lady. We may be safe for the moment, but the sweepers will check the landing site eventually. They will check this entire area."

I know. The monster may be distracting them for the moment, but sooner or later they'll want to see the parts it cast off. As long as I remain here, I can't be safe. The monster is no longer nearby - is this my chance to get away?

Everything is quiet. I can no longer hear anyone talking - they're all too far away. I hesitate, but I can't think of a better opportunity than this. Even if this one isn't very good. My heart pounds - even though I can't see them, this is probably the third or fourth closest I've ever been to a sweeper group. It never gets any less terrifying.

I wriggle my way out of the crack in the ground and immediately start pulling myself through the undergrowth. Blood pulses in my ears, but I can still ping just fine. The shape of the terrain tells me where to go - it'll be a while before it becomes unfamiliar. Plant juice splatters on my face as I cut my way through, and the heaviness of the rain makes it a little hard to breathe. But, at least for the moment, nobody seems to be coming after me.

There are other caves around here. With no better plan coming to mind, I head for one of those. But I won't be able to hide in one forever. That strange creature's arrival interrupted my hunting, and I still haven't eaten anything tonight. At some point, I'll have to decide that it's safe enough. Maybe after I hear the sweepers pass by me and leave.

My ears are pricked for any skittering I come across. It'd be nice to find some prey in the short trip to my next hiding spot. But I don't want to be out in the open for any longer than I have to, so if I miss it on my first strike, I'll probly have to let it go.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Postby Exiles of Understanding » Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:56 pm

Even as I listen I can feel an irrational hatred for the major. They don’t respect the danger they are in. Don't they realize that I could kill them in an instant? Where is their sense of self preservation? Why do I hate them so much? Is this a manifestation of resentment for being cast out? It is important that I take time to address my current state of mind. I need to find a way to fix this.

First and foremost I need to get rid of the attention I have draw to myself. I suppose misdirection will have to do for now. I return my attention to Sohke.

“I understand that thou hast no desire to respect my isolation, Sohke, so I am going to give you a choice,” This is, of course, a lie. It is a parental form of manipulation. I will provide her with two options and both have a result that I desire, “I offer you this gift,” the danger of activating the creation core is present only for a moment. I am in control, as I craft the complex device before me. The desire to lash out is present but I remain stronger. I remain in control.

The device appears as a metallic orb, like me but smaller and unarmored. By design it is about the size of Sohke’s head. I hold it out to her. Reaching over the smaller ones as I offer the trade. “I suppose it is less a gift and more a trade. In exchange for your continued absence I offer you the power that I hold. Her activation can be delayed as long as you want and she will do what you say within reason. Of course her power is several orders of magnitudes below my own.”

“Shouldst thou decide to forsake this gift, I shall be forced to obtain isolation in a more dramatic fashion.”

Before I get a response from the major, my attention is drawn to the creature I first encountered. Its small movements could have escaped my notice if it weren't for the bracelet I had "gifted" to it. I make sure not to let on that I noticed, I am a bit worried that the supposed hunters might be interested...

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The Akallu
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Postby The Akallu » Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:17 am

Sokhe shifts her stance. She's curious. Not about the token - that merits only a brief glance. Her eyes are still on the arachnid holding it. Then she holds up a hand, as if asking a question, and the little orb flies into her open palm. She closes her fingers around it, folds her arms, and turns around in one fluid motion. "Alright," she says. "You did answer our questions, after all." Then she simply walks away, as if us following her is a complete given. A bit awkwardly at first, but she picks up speed quickly, and in no time at all is out of line of sight.

All of us hesitate, but all of us do follow - none delaying for more than a second. The issue is unresolved, but we all have a strong instinct to follow a major's lead, and to appear as a unified whole to any outsiders. This thing is no rival khoina, but it's certainly no ally either. It's made that clear enough.

We don't pass any of the other units on our way back. Their majors must have agreed with Sokhe this time.

Footfalls. The sound of khoinata running. Lots of them. You know, about as many as I heard approaching the first time. But this time they're running away.

My breathing is heavy, and I'm pressed against the ground nervously. It's good that they're leaving - it's good - but since it's also unexpected I can't help but feel on edge, like this is some kind of complicated trap. No, it doesn't have to be that. Maybe the monster agreed to come along with them, and they're all leaving together. Ha, wouldn't that be a convenient ending.

But I don't hear the monster's footsteps with them. And I think I would - that thing was pretty big, and it looked pretty heavy. Maybe it succeeded in scaring them off somehow? That seems not that likely. Those guys are persistent, and they wouldn't be afraid of anything it threatened to do to them.

Maybe they're carrying it. Maybe it pushed them too far and they took it out. I have seen them carrying things with some kind of force before - usually dead bodies. If so, they still might come back to check out the landing site, which means I still need to get away. I go back to crawling.

"My lady, if they had indeed subdued their target, there would be no need for all nine units to leave. They would send one full unit back with the captured prey, at most, and send the rest out to search the landing site." As always, Isha knows what I'm thinking about without me having to say it.

Yeah, that makes sense, I think. You wanna stick around and test that theory?

He doesn't say anything for a minute. "Are you not curious about the strange metallic being?"

You curious about how dying feels?

He takes the question at face value. "I suppose I have been, on occasion. It is hard not to be, under our circumstances."

Oh, shut it. We're almost to a cave. I'm staying put for at least as long as it would have taken them to come back. If you're so curious, you can go say hello to that big metal guy yourself.

The knight's tone is disappointed. "My lady, you know I can only sense what you can."

I stop cutting, then turn around. Isha stands tall above me, yet looks down with absolute attention. Ready to do whatever I say. I sigh. "Alright, you talked me into it," I say out loud. "That is a pretty unusual guy."

A twinge of delight creeps into Isha's voice. "I stand ready to protect you, my liege."

"Uh-huh, uh-huh."

The way back to my first cave is a lot easier the second time. I've been careful not to make the path I've taken too obvious, at least from a bit of distance and from the height of an adult, but I have cut away pretty much all of the undergrowth that would flat out prevent me from going forward. This time, I can basically slide through everything, suffering only minor scratches to my armor as a result of my quicker pace.

My stomach still hurts, but I tell myself it's okay, I won't take long. I just want to see what happened. This is more important tha--

A small smoothness in the textures ahead of me. My clicking turns to purring, and I lunge forward without hesitation. I bring the knife down - and it sticks in the mud. The little bristly, slimy thing has already retracted into the ground. I let go of the knife and start digging frantically with all four of my front limbs - and, for a moment, catch a glimpse of the thing's spiny tail. I grab onto it, but the creature has dug in with its spines, and I can't pull it out. Before I think to push my hand in and grab it further up, it lets go of its own tail and vanishes into the earth.

I raise the flimsy morsel up to my face, and glare in frustration. Hardly worth undoing my helmet for. Still, I shouldn't just toss it. I open one of the pockets on the outside of my armor and drop the tail in. I stare at the little hole I've made for a few seconds, then continue on my way, my mood a little worse than it was before.

"Sokhe," someone finally says. "Did you hear that the Khadahi finally responded to one of our messages?" It's Tsuno. She sounds uncertain, wary.

"Yea, I heard." Then, after a moment, "Exciting, isn't it?"

"Yes, it really is." Relieved. "It means they still think they have something to gain from talking to us."

"Not still. Again."


"They're afraid of the invader. They're worried he might interrupt their scaling."

"Yeah, I was thinking about that," Hakra interjects. "You never told the invader anything about them. I was sure you were going to part with something like "I hope you enjoy your dominion over this shithole while it lasts". But you never even mentioned them."

A smile enters the major's voice. "No, I didn't."

"We trust you, Sokhe," Tsuno says. "And apparently the rest of the colony does too. But why not at least inform the invader about the threat? Maybe it doesn't do anything about them, but maybe it does."

"Hm, well, I was thinking about telling him, but then I decided, fuck it." The absolute non-answer stuns the rest of us into silence long enough for Sokhe to clarify. "He didn't seem interested."

The mood between the six of us turns uneasy in an instant. "Sokhe," Tsuno ventures. "Is this really the time for such pettiness?"

"It's fun." Her voice is still inappropriately light. "Besides, what time'd be better than the end of the world?"

So she's given up, too.

"By the way, we're not done with this guy just because we left. We're still gonna monitor him and report any major developments to our neighbors." In the distance, the grass begins to thin out. "And, of course, we're gonna figure out exactly what kind of parasite he gave us." In the distance, the first sign of civilization - the entries to our barracks. Relatively small buildings - less than a hundred meters to a side - but like any above-ground khoina structure, merely the tip of the iceberg. Their austere black faces, featureless from this distance, welcome us back with a gloom that feels more appropriate than ever.

"Of course, your commitment to this task has already ended. If any of you aren't interested in playing along with me, you're welcome to assign yourself somewhere else." Nobody says anything. "Good, I'm glad," the major says, with something approaching genuine warmth. "Now," she says, with our home base fast approaching, "let's see what kind of present we're dealing with."

We reach the bunker with no impediment. To us, it always seems as though our border is woefully under-defended, but of course it would seem like that. We're whitelisted. The present gets through fine as well; Sokhe must have cleared it while she was talking with us. The outer wall slants toward us - we walk down a corridor cut into the rain-sleek onyx shell and through the outer door, which opens and shuts behind us automatically. A thick, pale blue powder fills the tiny, weakly lit airlock, caking onto our armor and falling off in hardened scales within about half a minute. Thusly cleaned, we pass through the second door.

Inside, the lighting is a bit stronger, but still comfortably dim. The walls have angular square protrusions, contents marked with grey and orange symbols, and black text. The wide, unfurnished hallways lead to equally bare rooms - bare, at least, until Sokhe waves a hand and opens some of the wall panels as she leads us into one. Various tools and furnishings, most of which are compacted in some way, complicate the newly exposed inner walls. Sokhe extracts, unfolds, and sets down a metal table with one hand's field, using the other field to hover all of the tools available, from welding equipment to microscopes, past her head for examination. "Hm," she muses disappointedly. "Might need to call in for some better stuff."

"We can take our armor off, now, right?" I ask.

"Oh, sure," Sokhe says offhandedly. "I'd ask you to keep the manipulators on, though. Might need your help at some point." She herself seems to be in no hurry to remove her own. I and the other minors, however, are eager to get out of the suits. They're not particularly restrictive, or even all that heavy, but they're still heavier and more restrictive than the mostly-cloth garment that houses the field manipulators. As I pull my helmet off, I shake my head to feel the air flow across my bare skin. The others have similar habits. The discarded segments of armor, I simply pile on the floor next to me.

"You know," Miha says, her sonorous voice newly unmarred by the voice comms, "the invader did call that little orb a "she". It's possible it really will respond somehow to being addressed."

Sokhe pauses, setting whatever equipment she had been levitating down where it stands. She looks at the orb clutched in her hand, sets it down on the table, and, after a moment, seems to address it. "Is that right? Well then, orby, would you mind activating for us?"

Let me know if you were intending for the orb to do something before this point and I'll make the appropriate retcons.
Last edited by The Akallu on Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Exiles of Understanding
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Posts: 9
Founded: Aug 31, 2018

Postby Exiles of Understanding » Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:10 am

I don't suppose I would be so lucky that Sohke will decide to honor my request for all that long. Its clear to me that they understand the strength that I have and they wish to use it. Not an unexpected reaction...

In the short time that I have interacted with this species they seem to have an unusually stringent society. Despite me talking I never heard anything from the entourage that followed Sohke. Am I not the first alien to visit this planet? It seems most likely that I don't have enough information to determine the roots for their actions.

Best to use their absence as much as I can.

I turn my attention to the small creature. It struck me as a strange phenomenon that I was so tolerant of her presence and so intolerant of the group but after realizing what I am going through it is readily apparent.

"I know thou art close to me," I say looking at the creature as it approaches, "I have a rather large favor to ask of thee."

So many questions, foremost wondering if being born is this rude for most individuals. My knowledge of what is happening is oddly specific. I know the name of the beautiful leader holding me.

Her name is Sohke and she is responsible for my creation. In a way she is my mother, in an overly romanticized way I guess.

I know her language, it would seem that I know an outdated and seriously inaccurate version according to recorded interactions. It is apparent to me that the mess of words that I know can be easily separated into two camps of thematic difference. I like the pretty one more, but Sohke doesn't speak that one. Not primarily at least.

Even without eyes I can feel the grace that she moves with while carrying me. In spite of my complete lack of temporal experience I feel as though the trip we take is unbearably long. I wish to ask where we are going, and when we will get there. I decide that I should not wastes Sohke's energy or time.

At long last her gait slows as our journey begins to take more frequent turns and stops. Regrettably Sohke pushes me out of her grip and onto a hard surface. She speaks, her voice like a song as she... asks me to.. activate?

I'm already active! Does she expect me to do something else. I know that the power I hold is hers to use. Perhaps she doesn't? Does she wish for me to use her power to form words? Does she want me to form a body?

My only choice is to inform her that I am active. I hope she is happy with my decision...

"I'm sorry if you wanted something else, Sohke, but I am already active..." my voice is as quiet as I can make it while still being comfortably audible, "my power levels are at 99.9% repeating."
Last edited by Exiles of Understanding on Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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The Akallu
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Founded: Feb 21, 2018

Postby The Akallu » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:35 am

For the moment, at least, everything in the room is quiet. The little orb's soft voice is the only sound. Initially, of course, I pay attention to the nature of what it's saying, but after a moment, it occurs to me that no translation is needed for this one. I can understand everything it's saying even without my helmet. Judging by their expressions, the other minors have realized this too.

For a moment, Sokhe doesn't respond. The ambiguity of the situation is palpable. Is this thing a person, a tool, a slave? The circumstances of its... birth... are impossible to ignore. Why did the invader give it to us? What... is it?

"My sisters will want to quarantine you for study." Sokhe's voice, filtered as it is by her helmet, is hard to read, but she does face the orb, and her attention has dropped from studying the tools available here. "They will likely want to disassemble you to the point of destruction." A slight pause. A shift of stance, conveying her intent to us. "Do you want me to stop them from doing that?"

Oh, jeez. That intent is pretty fucked up.

As I get close to the giant metal thing, it points its limbs out at me, like it's sensing me with them somehow. Its hollow voice screeches again, worse than before. Some of the words, I can make out, but others just sound like nonsense.

"Thou...close to me. I have a very... to ask." A very something to ask. It's a struggle to grasp what is and isn't supposed to be speech.

Blood is pounding in my ears as I stare up at the towering monster. I am flattened, pressed against the ground, all my feathers standing up on end inside my armor. Still, it's not only fear that I feel, but also something... something thrilling. The strangeness of the creature, combined with the fact that it hasn't tried to hurt me, and is actually trying to talk to me, is very unusual.

I guess I should try to talk back. I swallow, my throat dry despite the pouring rain outside me. "Uh... I th-think I get it. You want to ask me something, r-right?" I swallow again. "S-sure. You're kinda hard to understand, but I'll do my best." I try to remember some of the noises it made, and mimic them myself. "Sen... sentikhe?" It's not that easy. "Enkoriko? D-do those mean something?"

Sentikhe is a corruption of sentik'khe, the Khadahi word meaning "I know (that)". Enkoriko is a corruption of enqai oriko, two words meaning "favor" and "significant".


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