NATION

PASSWORD

Cold Topics [Closed]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Kyasiouna
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Founded: Jun 17, 2016
Psychotic Dictatorship

Cold Topics [Closed]

Postby Kyasiouna » Sun Jun 19, 2016 11:13 am

Even though the tools did all the work it was still work and Sarah hated it, she hated the tight folds of the suit holding her body in the lukewarm gel that filled a thin layer between her skin and the fabric. The ship wasn’t much better but at least the water in the ship had current and was comfortably cool. The ship itself was actually quite spacious and accommodating considering the circumstances. It was nearly 500m long and at its widest it was 100m but overall it was shaped like a stick with large doughnut like structures along the length of varying size the largest 2 being 100m in diameter and 3 smaller rings. The engines at the base of the craft, the closest to Sarah, where the largest part of the craft taking up nearly half of the size of the vessel. They had large clamps extending off of the sides, rooting the spaceship to the asteroid that Sarah was drifting next to.

Currently Sarah was working with large partially automated tools that were cutting massive chunks off of the asteroid and breaking them up before transporting them to the engine portion of the craft to be melted and broken down into fuel and air. They had another use as well, the water that came from the ice would be used to refresh the water that filled the living quarters of the craft. Sarah was a Kyasian and as such she and all members of the Pure Ocean where aquatic, while they needed air to support their habit of breathing with lungs, Sarah’s mermaid like body was best suited for swimming. With a lower half body that functions similarly to an aquatic flatworm, with the center of her tail’s mass not moving but the sides and tip would flex and swirl to push through the water. Just the thought of swimming caused her to body to flushing with anger for having to spend so much time outside of the crafts much more comfortable interior. Sarah used her four arms to lift a large tool in front of herself, jets on her suit held her in position after the shift of inertia. She aimed the tool and the ice pausing before unleashing an invisible blast of radiation that began to eat away at the ocean of ice that sprawled in front of her. The asteroid was massive at least 45 kilometers wide in some directions. This side was mostly flat and covered in ice.

As Sarah cut through the ice she flexed her jaw cracking her bone ridged lips apart, the bone stretched along her head which was lizard shaped and had nostrils at the top. The jagged teeth like carapace opened to reveal a snake like tongue and pink flesh. Aside from talking no one really used their mouths anymore. Once a tool for hunting and eating now everyone slept through the voyage and ate through tubes and needles. The voyage had lasted so long that Sarah had been born into space. As she cut the ice she could feel her resentment building she began to imagine the ice was the source of cause of her problems and transitioned into cutting with malice, no less effective but it made her feel a little better.

It’s unhealthy to stay angry,” a small angular drone with an excess of jets covering its body, which was under 1m across, shuffled towards Sarah as it spoke through light emissions blinking to fast for the eye to see, like a flash light but in a form that could be translated by the receiver on Sarah's helmet, “You should be more positive, is there any way I could help you feel better.

Go away,” she spoke with a more directed hatred, “I don’t want you around.

Well it's not always about what you want, but i am here to make sure that you are functioning the best that you can and anger can be very distracting. It would be fine to take a break, if we have anything it’s time.” the drone drifted closer gently bumping into Sarah.

I’ll just have to come back to work later I would rather get it over with.” She shoved the drone away causing it to spin and forcing it to cancel the momentum with several well timed thrusts.

I would arrange for a copulation session if you would like it's important that you are relaxed and focus when handling the drills.” The drone moved closer but not within arms reach, “I know that you didn’t ask to be on this voyage but surely you understand that we are trying to keep you happy

Yeah, artificially injecting chemicals into my brain sure made me feel a whole lot better,” she shifted the laser as she switched the direction it was cutting in, “don’t you have someone else to bother?

Of course not,” the drone followed her movements staying close but out of reach, “you are the only person to react negatively to dopamine injections, we believe that your reaction happened because you were so dissatisfied with your environment that you were in a position to believe you had no reason to be happy. Unusual but that’s why i suggested copulation, as a primal and continued reason for existence most individuals find it to be fulfilling, besides the reproduction facilities could always use more eggs, and i didn't hear a no.” The drone drifted within arms reach as it spoke.

If you are always monitoring what goes on in my head how did you miss that I would get mad when I found out?

We made a mistake, and i'm still not hearing a no, are you sure you don't want to take a break now?

You are only saying that to make me feel better,” she shifted as she changed direction again, “and shut up about sex i’m not in the mood.

Very well, but i'm afraid that you need to do something to start feeling better the anger you feel stems from malcontent,” the drone remote deactivated the drill and flew in front of Sarah’s visor, “what is it you want?

For a moment Sarah almost thought that the drone was genuinely trying to help but then she remembered it was all a lie these robots existed only to make her feel better to fulfill their purpose of keep the crew happy and working. “Just let me finish my work.” she spoke expectantly shifting the deactivated drill.

Very well,” as it spoke it reactivated the drill and moved out of the way, “Just to let you know we will to be reactivating the discovery beacon when the new fuel reserves are finished processing. Your visor will automatically protect you from the light source on the ship so don't be alarmed when it activates.

~~2 Hours Later~~

The tip of the ship exploded with light as the long range light array began broadcasting for the first time in 10 years.

Code: Select all
>>>
Vessel Deep Ocean
>>>
Seeking life and Intelligence
>>>
coordinates 23409857 1423985
>>>
Anchored to body Kelvin 7431 Class 4 H2O Fe Asteroid
>>>


The transmission turning on cast a blinding light outwards, casting a sharp silhouette of Sarah over the ice in front of her, despite the warning she flinched, agitated by the shock she wondered, "Whats the point to wasting all of that energy on a bright light?"
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:30 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Camila I
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 110
Founded: Jun 20, 2016
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Camila I » Tue Jun 21, 2016 1:29 am

The starship named Distant Touch was on the tail end of its journey when the signal reached it. Currently in the process of decelerating, a huge, multi-megameter sail flared out behind it, gathering stray hydrogen atoms to be channeled into its fusion reactor. Even with the drag provided by the massive apparatus, the ship's forward thrusters had been firing for many years now to burn off all of the ship's accumulated speed. Compared to the sail, the ship itself was tiny, hardly noticeable at the moment one spotted its parachute. It stretched only a few kilometers along its longest axis, the majority of which consisted of long rectangular radiators glowing across multiple spectra. The next largest component, the fuel tanks, took up most of the rest of the ship, arranged tubelike behind a disc-shaped frontal shield. Though the rest of the ship looked fresh off the orbital docks, its shield bore countless, infinitesimal pockmarks that were the hallmark of a long voyage. Only a tiny portion near the center was dedicated to the ship's crew, who would remain in their current state of half-life until awakened.

As Distant transitioned into its final stage of approach to the gas giant it was planning to refuel at, the onboard computer reached the alert stage of processing the signal - the point at which its content is brought to a level of attention above the very lowest. Though a computer in the strictest sense, the term is an incomplete one. Distant's shipmind had once been a living being much like those that now crewed it. Extensive genetic and surgical modifications combined with centuries of adjusting to its mechanical body had done much to destroy any Camilan identity it might have had. Still, it bore the vestiges of its ancestry, and hyperthreading notwithstanding it could be said to think in much the same way an organic does. It is not merely personification to state that this new development excited it. Distant's explicit purpose was to seek out and contact new life, but having gone so long with no leads had somewhat dulled the shipmind's enthusiasm with the prospect. Now, having been alerted to the complex yet regular nature of the light patterns being flashed at it, its old vigor was renewed immediately. With what imagination it had left, the shipmind could not help but speculate as to the nature of the entities that had produced it.

Exciting though the signal was, it also carried a hint of dread. Distant was not worried that the entities might be hostile - not because that wasn't a possibility, but because the ship was simply not prepared for that possibility. One of the many executive decisions that had been made before the ship's launch was that the costs of outfitting a Liaison-class for combat far outweighed any potential benefits, and Distant didn't disagree. A single ship had little chance of overcoming any kind of civilization it was likely to encounter, and more importantly, "winning" in combat against another race wasn't even really a good outcome in the first place. If the shipmind's constructors had wanted a simple contest of might, there were plenty of cultists outside the walls who would have been happy to oblige.

No, what worried Distant was that, in order to make any further sense of the signal, or open any kind of communications with its source, the ship's xenolinguist and cultural ambassador Ukeiri would likely have to be awakened. Even with the shipmind's modifications, there was only so much one mind could do - it was deemed easier and more efficient to rely on existing experts in the field than attempt to graft all necessary knowledge onto Distant. For similar reasons, the vast cultural databanks that the ship had brought with it were stored separately from Distant's consciousness. Therein lay the shipmind's problem. During the first few years of the journey, when the crew were all awake and functioning in order to learn the ins and outs of spaceflight, Ukeiri had developed a fascination with the Sistrite cult from which he had been sheltered all his life. At the journey's outset, nobody had seen any reason to restrict the contents of the databanks to the crew. After all, they had already been vetted for any occult sympathies when they were admitted into the program. But these things are more obvious in hindsight. Distant suspected that something about the Spartan rigors of living aboard it had changed the xenologist for the worse. And though in theory Ukeiri should behave similarly to how he did before being put into preservation, no one really knew how the process affected a Camilan's brain. Nobody knew if the subjects dreamed, or even remained aware of their existence and the passing of time. Ukeiri's curiosity might have faded during his slumber, or it might have deepened into an obsession. The only way to find out was to flush his system and let him demonstrate.

Distant knew that at some point a decision would have to be made. With regards to the other two crew members, its decision was easy. The shipmind swam through its own nerve fibers, the seat of its attention flowing from the navigational computer at the posterior end of its domain to the preservatory chambers closer to the center. It observed the four (three occupied) pale green ellipsoids through a scattering of wall-mounted cameras, and triggered the flushing sequence for two of them after triple checking their contents. The shipmind watched both with equal attention - the changing of the liquid from green to white, and then slowly to clear, revealing the bodies of the lifeforms stored inside. On the majority of their bodies, where the skin is gnarled and darkly pigmented, no change was evident, but on the flowery tendrils surrounding the creatures' necks, the fluid could be seen slowly leaving their bodies, and after some time their deathly pallor gave way to their more vibrant natural coloration - green sepals, one with light blue petals and the other with purple.

Once the fluid had solidified into gel and retracted into the walls of the chambers, the shipmind peeled back the outer shields and allowed the two organisms to leave their containment. Neither one did so immediately.

"What is it?" asked the blue-petaled one, Najma. Biologist, medical practitioner, and head of research. She shifted slightly, obviously not fully awake yet.

"Good morning," Distant greeted her, its synthesized voice originating from the nearest wall-mounted speaker. "We are currently fuel scooping from a class II gas giant, which due to its significance I have provisionally named Chalcedony I."

"Class II means water clouds, right?" the Camilan interrupted. "Is that what you mean by significant?" The excitement and hope was evident both in the creature's voice and in the way she sat up straight in her container. By this point she was lucid enough to understand why she had been awakened.

"Your excitement is warranted but slightly misplaced. As of this moment I have no evidence to report of life on the planet we are orbiting. However, I have received and logged an articulate visible-spectrum transmission originating no more than 30 light minutes from our current position. All evidence suggests it originates from a point in the system's asteroid belt. Whether its source is native to this system or not, it strongly suggests some type of intelligent presence here."

Far from being disappointed, Najma's posture straightened up even further. "Well that's orders of magnitude better, isn't it? Here I was perking up over the possibility of life," she grinned, "but a signal is way better. Of course." The Camilan wriggled back and forth so as to get a good look outside her chamber, glancing left and right at the ones next to her. Upon seeing her darker colleague, she gave a friendly wave, and received one back. The absence of anybody to her right drove her to comment, "I guess we don't know what it says."

The synthesized voice paused, and Najma imagined it sighing. "No. Its content is almost certainly not a Rosetta Stone of any kind. It is possible the transmission was not directed at us, as it is too short to extract any meaning from. However, it is also possible that the message has already served its purpose - getting our attention."

"Ukeiri could tell us what it says?" The Camilan gazed at the spot on the wall where she knew a camera to be. The question had more than one meaning.

"Probably not. As I said, the message is very short - even with his expertise he will likely not have enough to work with. This is almost a relief, as it allows me to postpone the decision of whether or not to wake him up. A decision that, as I'm sure you remember, is not trivial." The voice paused again. "This, too, is a reason for me having woken you. It is comforting to have someone to discuss this with."

"We'll need him eventually," remarked the other Camilan, Silmiyen. He was the ship's machinist and expert in biomechatronics. "Even if we do get a Rosetta Stone out of them, it could take us years to work out a translation system. And someone has to figure out how to ask for one in the first place." He gave these observations coolly, as if he expected no disagreement.

"Years may be an acceptable cost under some circumstances," came the mechanical reply. When no one responded, Distant went on. "Hypothetically, if we were to harbor an actual Sistrite aboard this vessel, I am sure you would agree that it would serve as a poor cultural ambassador. If the Sistrite were to get it into its head that the aliens we are trying to communicate with are unhappy with their lives, the consequences could be disastrous. The fact that this vessel is nominally unarmed may or may not pose a hindrance to the mad thing. That risk, surely, is more costly to accept than a few years downtime."

"And I am sure you know what I am going to reply to that, Distant: We almost certainly do not have an actual Sistrite." Already the male Camilan's voice was tinged with annoyance. "What we have, if evidence is to be believed, is a loyal xenologist who has never been exposed to the morbid details before, and finds them fascinating. They gave me a score of, like, 130 and I find them fascinating." As if anticipating some form of backlash, Silmiyen retorted preemptively, "I should think the two of you do too. It doesn't mean I'm rushing off to drink pyralia, it just means I have a healthy amount of curiosity."

"Be sure you are not polarizing yourself based on the position I have offered," Distant said. "While it probably does not mean that either of you are 'rushing off to drink', it could. I agree that the risk is small, but you have not contested that the negative outcome could be very great. For good reason. Keep in mind that your brains are biased, and often make mistakes when analyzing fringe cases such as these."

"Oh, you're so mentally superior, mister ad hominem," Silmiyen replied, but he was smiling.

"Perhaps we should put it to a vote?" Najma offered.

"Honestly, I'm fine letting Distant have the final say. He's probably right about me being biased, and whether or not I'm equipped to make a decision with those kind of consequences, I'm not in any rush to."

"Nevertheless your input has been requested," Distant said.

"Well, if we were voting, I would say wake him up immediately and get his help as soon as possible. I still think we're going to need him, and besides, he won't appreciate being kept out of the loop for any length of time." Despite the confidence with which he delivered this opinion, the Camilan added, "But that's just my perspective. Put as much stock in it as you feel appropriate."

"And you, Najma?"

The female did not reply immediately. "Even if he's farther gone than we think, he's just one person. Assuming things are still as they were when I went under, you have control over 99% of the systems on this ship. If he does by some miracle figure out a way to hurt our contacts, odds are slim he'll actually be able to influence whatever part of the ship that plan requires. All things considered, I think both of you are letting your fear get the better of you."

"Very well. I will devote all but one thread to deliberation."

"Oh, speaking of which, what exactly do you know about the message?"

"Visible spectrum, method of encoding consists of very brief flashes interspersed with darkness in an arbitrary pattern. Well, most of it is arbitrary. The arbitrary parts are interspersed with regular instances of three flashes in rapid succession, five such before the message repeats. It was these regular parts that first caught my attention."

"Whatever's sending this out sure went with the lowest common denominator on that one, huh?" Silmiyen commented.

"Yes, the fact that there are no significant mathematical patterns or constants is partly what led me to my conclusion that the message is either not intended for us, or is intended solely to get our attention and communicate nothing. If the latter, it is probably wise to take the approach they have taken, although one can only wonder why they didn't lead off with the Rosetta."

"They probably just want ours," Najma said softly. "Maybe their other transmissions contain information they don't want us to have."

"That's a good point," said Silmiyen. "You know, I don't remember what the best strategy is in that case. Without asking Ukeiri, my instinct would be to allow them their privacy."

The shipmind confirmed this. "If they are unwilling to provide a Rosetta, providing one of our own is a better alternative than any other."

"So we don't even need to ask them, then."

"No. We have ample resources on this ship to draft up something sufficiently workable to send them first."

"By 'we', you mean Ukeiri, right?"

"I am confident that the three of us could make do without his assistance. However, I am less confident with regards to the range of time that this would take us."

Silmiyen smirked. "So how's that deliberation coming?"

"I have confirmed the accuracy of Najma's statements and factored them into my risk-reward calculation. Considering the expected threat level that our xenolinguist poses in light of his relative dependency on me, I am forced to admit that I may, indeed, have been overly cautious with my initial estimates." There was a brief pause, and then the soft gurgle of churning fluid from the last occupied chamber. Both the Camilans smiled with relief - despite their concerns, they had spent a lot of time on the ship with Ukeiri before going under, and the atmosphere had been ever so slightly uneasy without him present. Only now did either of them notice it, but they had both been secretly hoping for this course to be the wisest one.

As before, the fluid filling Ukeiri's chamber became steadily more viscous as it drew itself out of his cells, then out of the capillaries. However, as the Camilan's natural butter-yellow coloration began to flood back to his tendrils, the creature could be seen shifting uncomfortably. Najma approached his container worriedly, only for the squirming to stop as the gel became too thick to move through.

"Is he okay?" she asked.

Distant took a moment before replying. "The exsanguination is progressing normally, and I'm not detecting a typical pain response. He may not have slept well," the shipmind added, only half-joking.

When the gel had receded fully, Distant opened the container, and Najma immediately tried to help Ukeiri out of it. The yellow-petaled Camilan, seemingly still dazed, curled his tendrils instinctively around the support and allowed himself to be brought up to a more dignified position.

"Are you feeling alright?" the female asked.

"Ungh, yeah, just a little groggy." Ukeiri looked up at his colleague and grinned. "No need to break out the scalpel yet."

Najma laughed, more out of relief than anything else. "Good, good. I'm sure you can guess why we're all awake!" Her worries about the linguist temporarily forgotten, the Camilan's earlier exuberance returned in full force. "We got a message!"

"Oh, yeah?" Ukeiri was still smiling, though his reaction to this news didn't live up to his colleague's. "That's awesome! Let me have a look at it."

When Ukeiri was caught up to speed, he frowned. "Asteroid belt. Huh." A pause. "You know there's not enough here, right? I don't even need to analyze the message to tell you that - not enough information content to deduce what that information might be. And as I'm sure you already noticed, they didn't include a key. So what's the real reason you awakened me?" When he said this, the atmosphere of the room darkened a bit. "Do you need my help on what to do next?"

"We awakened you because you're a part of the team," Najma said firmly, "but since you mentioned it, we haven't exactly come to a concrete decision yet."

"Send them a key of our own, and along with it, a message requesting permission to advance on their location to lessen the delay. Yes, I'll make the key, and yes, we are going to ask permission for that." No one argued. "We don't yet know if we're meeting them as equals, both adrift in a random system, or if they live here. If it's the latter, we want to take every possible precaution to assure them that we're not invading, or worse, scouting."

"Of course," Najma replied. "We should probably outright state that, too, right?"

"We're going to do one better than that. We're going to include the specifications of our ship, so they know exactly what kind of threat we pose. They're going to empirically verify what they can, and when they find out that we weren't lying, they can structure their interactions to minimize the risk of interacting with us. Should do wonders, putting them at ease."

"An admirably elegant course," Distant said. "I'll make you a writeup of our specs so you can include them in the first message."

"Good, thanks. Once that's sent out, we sit still and wait for their response - should be about half an hour travel time on top of however long it takes them to come up with one. If their message is comprehensible to us, we go from there. If not, it either means they didn't get the Rosetta and we need to modulate the frequency or, you know, they didn't 'get' the Rosetta. I'm going to take a page out of their book and lead off with the simplest version I can think of, so if it ends up being the latter, we may be dealing with a lower-order intelligence, or possibly some kind of structured instinctive behavior. So prepare yourselves for that possibility."

"What if the message wasn't for us, and they ignore us?" Najma's voice wavered slightly as she suggested this.

Ukeiri gazed back solemnly. "Well, we can try to learn what we can from afar, but I'm thinking the number of cases where we force the issue of making contact is pretty low. Just because they don't reciprocate our curiosity doesn't mean any of our previous concerns aren't valid. We still want to avoid upsetting them, or bringing any kind of ire upon ourselves."

"Right, of course." Just thinking about this appeared to have dampened the Camilan's mood substantially.

"Hey, cheer up. All the aspects of a race that lead it to colonize an asteroid belt are the same ones that would lead it to want to interact with us. You know, a hunger for answers, a desire to always be pushing the boundary - we don't have those traits by happenstance, and it's not likely they would just happen to lack them." Unless whatever's making the flashes is nonconscious, or purely reactive, or... hunting. Or so far above us that we look like the reactive ones. But he didn't say any of that.

"If you don't mind, though, I'd rather get started on this Rosetta thing. Even with the databank's help, it'll take me a bit of concentration to work out a system universal enough to work with. Have we decided what medium we're using?"

"Flash back at them," Distant offered.

"Yeah, okay. Right, good. I'll let you know when I've got it." The Camilan had already begun to circumnavigate the life support equipment in search of a particular circular door. "Sure has been a while since I tried to get around in this place," he grinned, then placed a tendril in the small beige slot next to the door to open it. It only took a second to pull himself through and close the door from the other side.

Roughly two hours later, he addressed Distant from the small cylindrical room he had chosen as his workspace. "Okay, the basic mathematical key is done, and I've manually encoded the message we're sending them for maximum clarity. All the semantic primes are done too. The 'factorialization', if you will, of our entire lexicon should be included with the dictionary in the cultural databanks - should be no problem for them to line that up if we send both. Bit rate is up to you, but I'd go with an approximation of the one they were using. Duh." Ukeiri held up the small tablet device he had been using to one of the ship's cameras. "Can you see that okay, or should I upload it directly?"

A pause. "I've got it." Another pause. "I hope you brought your Sunday dress, because your picture is going in the history books, friend."

"Yeah, the ones on board this ship." The Camilan grinned - notoriety was never why he applied for this mission anyway.

With that, the official Camilan response was beamed back in the direction of the source, with just enough tolerance to account for any change in position on the source's part. The message was long, much longer than the one it was replying to, but it contained enough information for a mathematically literate species to comprehend the entirety of the Camilan language, and use it themselves for any potential reply. Appended to this massive codex was a message of the Camilans' own, comprehensible to anyone who had understood the first part. It read as follows:

This is the starship Distant Touch. We have received your message, but not understood it. We request that you will use the language that we have just explained to you in order to communicate with us. We request permission to approach, so as to lessen the delay between communications. We have attached a thorough documentation of our ship's design and capabilities, and permit you to scan us in any non-damaging way you like. In doing this, we wish to allow you to dictate the course any further interactions may take, using this knowledge to place yourselves in a position where we cannot significantly harm you.


Appended to the message was a textual description of various aspects of the ship - internal structure, the purpose of each component, hull strength, power output, et cetera. In most respects, this description remained faithful to reality - certain claims would be more or less obviously true depending on the capabilities of the scanner. However, descriptions of the ship's engines, reactor, radiators, and light array would not be faithful, instead describing an older and less efficient model. In effect, the message claimed that the Distant Touch had a total power output only about a tenth as high as it really did. The descriptions of these systems were carefully worded, making sure that the lower output and lower efficiency canceled each other out as much as possible. Observations of the ship's radiators, thermal signature, and gross reactor structure would not reveal any claims to be false - only with a very high fidelity scan of the reactor's design and sufficient knowledge of similar models' workings could one tease out the lie.

That, or observing the ship utilizing more power than it supposedly had available. But Ukeiri knew it would be quite some time before that became a concern.

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Kyasiouna
Bureaucrat
 
Posts: 49
Founded: Jun 17, 2016
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Kyasiouna » Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:12 am

As Sarah worked her malcontent festered. She cut more and more ice off the asteroid and drones would grab the chunks and whisk them away back to the ship’s fuel processors which were part of the engine complex. As she worked, without warning, the engine began a process called “venting”, the sight caught Sarah’s eye and she turned to observe the columns of water streaming out of the ship's engines, directly towards the asteroid. The clouds of roiling hot water turned to ice and became clouds of snow drifting outwards towards Sarah. The steam decompressing into the vacuum of space acting as a form of thrust. It was not enough to push the asteroid but more than enough to shake it violently and kick dust and ice into clouds that completely enveloped Sarah and began tossing her about.

Her suit acted quickly to stabilize and pull her away from the commotion. As she was pulled from the cloud she noticed that the discovery beacon was no longer lit. The sight of the clouds of ice rolling out from the engines was beautiful. Still holding onto her drill she began to fly back to the ship, angry that she would not be able to finish her work but also scared as to why the ship was burning so much fuel that it had to vent steam to regulate heat.

Deep Ocean please report, what’s going on?” Sarah’s voice seemed to fall on deaf ears as she flew to the ship.

The lights from the drones, of which none had stopped working, refracted through the clouds like thunder and lightning, Sarah drifted across the surface of the billowing mass toward the ship the lights occasionally shining up towards her. As she moved one of the drones lifted a 20m wide chunk of ice from the storm, the ice clouds billowing up and around the chunk before it shed the last remnants of snow, the chunk was partially see through and as Sarah watched it the light from her transmission device was refracted through it temporarily casting a kaleidoscope of patterns across the hull of the deep ocean. For a second she forgot about her anger.

The feeling lingered as she approached the center shaft of the spacecraft and floated into a pressure chamber, leaving her dill attached to the outside of the craft. The chamber began to flood with air until the pressure reached a point at which water would not boil, upon the point being reach the chamber flooded with water. The low gravity caused bubbles to float away from each other until their wasn't enough distance between them and they began to fuse into a solid body of water, during this process Sarah disrobed casting aside her clothes and removing the breathing apparatus from her head. Finally the chamber was filled with water and the door opened to the central shaft of the ship. Moving fluidly Sarah floated through the doors into the elevator shaft. There was a current in the shaft moving away from the engine shaft, fortunately this was in the direction Sarah was headed.

As she drifted up towards the tip of the ship she slipped off to the side and pushed her way along a rotating shaft until she got to the open portion of the doughnut like structure. The artificial gravity caused by spinning of the ring meant that the closer portion of the ring had breathable air in it and the shaft she swam in used pressure to remain filled with water leading through the air and into the water. The environment of the ring was meant to mimic the ocean. With coral and fish spread everywhere along the bottom or outside of the ring. The fish fled Sarah’s presence as she drifted into the current that was created by the spinning of the structure. Moving to her living quarters, a space covered with tendril like coral that gently latched on to any and all substances, she dove lower before racing to the surface breaching the water and latching onto one of the many handles on the ceiling. Taking the opportunity to grab a breath as well as a tablet like device which was see through and had opaque consoles and letters that she could interface with. She dropped off the ceiling splashing into the water and drifting down to her bed of coral which secured her to the craft in spite of the current. She was trying to use the direct console to speak with the captain to find out what was happening but there was no response. No surprise either.

Broodchamber

The Captain, or rather Broodmother, sat in her chambers, surrounded by her eggs, aware of Sarah’s return to the Deep Ocean but paid no heed. Of course the brat would want to know why she was being inconvenienced. Her opinion seemed to grow more linear and selfish every passing day. Truly irrelevant in light of recent events. This ship was on a mission to determine the fate of the Kyasiona’s Might a warship that had ceased all transmission after reporting unexplained calamity. Speaking of the unexplained the ships beacon seemed to have returned an alien response, an unsettlingly close response. The message had come complete with a codex of discernible information. Of course any organic being would struggle to discern the pile of code, but the ship's computer had much less of a language barrier so to speak.

The venting was taking place to support the computer running at its highest capacity to translate the received message and with the process almost complete it would begin to compile a similar codex to return in kind to the aliens. Broodmother thought at a higher level than her children but still she was uncertain of how to respond to this message. The contact seem almost suspiciously open with information providing not only their location through means of triangulation but also detail of their ship's capabilities and specifications. Perhaps they truly mean no harm, perhaps not.

Broodmother had never before felt unqualified to make a decision, as a result she deliberated for several hours before she began compiling a message. Hours after this once the computer had completed its task of compiling a codex the beacon that the tip of the ship once again sprung to life dousing the environment in a wave of light.

This is the starship Deep Ocean. We have received your codex and we have found success in deciphering it. While speaking in your language now we have also attached a codex of our own way of speaking coded as similarly to yours as we can. The opportunity to contact another species was deemed unreasonably unlikely and as such we are not outfitted for the trade of specimens, although we could easily provide several subjects for trade we in all likelihood do not have the necessary housing to support any specimen of yours. Furthermore from your description of your vessel I can discern no real threat. If you wish to interact we will determine no hostility if you approach to 2km. Any significant approach of the main body of your ship past this point would be discerned as a threat. In line with your transmission standard we have attached a schematic and explanation of all ships functions.


The information transmitted houses no inconsistency. As the light blinked the message across the depths of space, the plumes of ice began to dissipate. The mother watched as Sarah returned to the field of ice. Above anything else Sarah at least seemed to be loyal to her work. Perhaps she needed a different job.
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Camila I
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Founded: Jun 20, 2016
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Camila I » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:51 am

As the Distant Touch approached the end of its deceleration process, its shipmind began the lengthy process of drawing in the sail. The massive structure creased like an umbrella as it started folding in on itself. Due to its size, it would take hours for it to fully retract. For similar reasons it could not actually be stored anywhere on the Distant's main body, only folded into a position that minimized its surface area. When the process was complete, the ship would be even longer and spindlier than it was now, the sail stretching back for almost the entirety of its length, fully behind the ship's frontal shield. Only then would it be safe to approach Chalcedony I close enough to scoop from it. Not that that was the plan - due to the variable distance between stars, the ship carried more fuel than it usually needed. Distant would only strictly need to refuel before leaving the system - it had more than enough to travel the comparatively tiny distance to the asteroid belt and back. Under the circumstances, mundanities like that could wait. The main reason that the shipmind was drawing in the sail was so that the ship wouldn't have to fight against the solar wind on its approach to the belt.

"That's that, then," came Ukeiri's voice from the just-opened doorway. The other two stood up in their chambers to face him. "All we have to do now is wait for them to talk back."

"That was fast, even for you," Najma commented.

"I've been thinking about how I would put one of those together for almost my entire life," Ukeiri shrugged. "Most of the novelty was in adapting the codex to their specific mode of transmission. And really, even that wasn't too hard, considering the mode they picked." The Camilan kicked off from the doorway and floated back to his chamber, grasping the edges with two of his petal-like tendrils. There was a brief shuffling as the creature settled himself, then silence.

"So," he said after a little while, "I guess that means my work is done, right? If we get a message back, it should be in our native tongue. You guys won't need me to translate that." Nobody said anything back, and Ukeiri couldn't see their expressions, but he imagined they knew where he was going with this. "Are you going to try to put me back under?"

Najma shivered, and hoped Ukeiri had no way to sense it. It was almost like they were back before anyone had entered preservation - all of the tension regarding Ukeiri's place on the vessel had been brought back with his question. And something about the way he phrased it - "try" to put him back under - gave her chills. Like it was a challenge or something. She didn't respond immediately, instead weighing the pros and cons of the few responses that jumped to her mind. Unlike Ukeiri, the biologist had no formal diplomatic training or experience, so she wasn't confident in her ability to diffuse the situation. Neither did Silmiyen or Distant, though....

Her train of thought was interrupted when Silmiyen spoke up first. "If your place on this ship was warranted solely because of your abilities as an interpreter, I think we could have prepared a codex before we left and saved ourselves a chamber. You know as well as I do that you're the best person to lead any diplomatic efforts between us and them, probably by a lot."

"You're not worried I might try to kill them if they complain to us about anything?"

"Obviously not that worried," Silmiyen replied, confident and slightly exasperated. "Should I be?"

"You're asking me?" Ukeiri was incredulous. "Of course you shouldn't be worried. Those databanks weren't put on the ship for window dressing, you know. We get one hour into a conversation with our contacts and the issue of why we're here is going to come up. As the designated envoy I should be the most familiar with that explanation, don't you think? Certainly more familiar than I was when I got on this thing, which was a frankly laughable-"

Silmiyen cut him off. "Oh give me a break. You know why detailed information on one of the most violent sects to ever scar Camila's face isn't freely available to schoolchildren. Some things you need a certain level of maturity to process."

"Fine. But the circumstances have changed since then. Whether or not I should have already known about the Sistrites, I certainly need to know about them now. Frankly I'm still in disbelief that you would have ever accused me of being too curious."

"I never did," Silmiyen replied calmly. "You clearly harbor some defensiveness about the whole situation - I would suggest you hash that out with Najma, not me."

Ukeiri paused. "Well, Najma? If anyone would have voted to keep me under, it would have been you."

"You're wrong, Ukeiri," she said. "Your level of interest in the Sistrites does worry me, maybe even scares me a little, but you're a member of the team just as much as we are, and I do trust you. Remember that some of us have been more affected by the cult than others. Some of us might have a good reason for being paranoid when someone they care about shows an interest in learning the cult's ways."

There was a second pause, longer and more awkward. "I see. You never mentioned anything like that before. Do you... want to talk about it?"

"Not really. I've made my peace with it. Just know that I want the best for you, same as I want for anyone. We all do." Najma fell silent for a moment. "Feel better?"

"Yes, I suppose I do. It would seem you have done your own thinking since we last went over this."

The female shrugged. "I believe it is only your own perspective on the matter that has changed."

"Fair enough. And you, Distant? You've been awake in some form this whole time, haven't you? Plenty of time to decide what to do with me."

The shipmind's voice, a cold mimicry of Camilan speech, rang out from one of the speakers. "Whether or not you sympathize with any of the ideals you have read about is irrelevant to my decision making. Remember that you are a useful but highly specialized subroutine on board what is, fundamentally, my ship. If I depend on you, it is only to a tenth of the extent that you depend on me. I do not believe you will attempt any acts of mutiny or subterfuge, but if you do, they will prove fruitless."

Ukeiri smiled fakely. "Glad to see we're all on the same page."

The next one to speak, some time later, was the shipmind. "I have received and decoded a transmission from our contacts. It seems they have understood our codex."

Everyone immediately sat up straight, fully at attention. "Great, let's hear it!" Silmiyen beamed, to the other two's agreement. The shipmind read out the message in its entirety, assigning an exotic accent to the alien's speech. When it switched back to its own voice to say that the rest of the message was a schematic of the alien vessel, a silence fell over the room, and it was a few moments before anyone said anything.

"Specimens?" asked Silmiyen finally, putting into words what they were all thinking. "Do they mean members of their own species?"

"The message is in Camilan and bears exactly the ambiguity that that entails," Distant said. "From the way that they preemptively decline any of our specimens, I would suppose that your interpretation is correct."

"What do you make of that, Ukeiri?"

Ukeiri thought about it. "Either they think that is a good, universal way to trade information, or they're baiting us. If the former-"

"Baiting us?"

"Yes. The best way to interpret these messages isn't at face value, but rather, considering what the intelligence on the other side is getting out of sending them. For example, our purpose in sending them our schematics wasn't to give them information they might find interesting, but to disarm them so we could learn about them. Similarly, them mentioning a trade of specimens might not be because they actually want to do that, but to learn about us."

"Learn about our physiology?" Najma asked.

"Maybe, but if we do accept, it also tells them how much we value the life of one of our own. If we do give them a specimen, we're accepting that they might kill and dissect him. Or her. They're giving us the opportunity to do something morally abhorrent in exchange for information. Or at least abhorrent to us - they might be expecting us to make that kind of sacrifice. Who knows how they'll judge us either way."

"We're not going to, right?" Silmiyen asked, mostly rhetorically.

"Yeah. Even if they get lucky and can house one of us, we can hardly afford the loss. That still leaves us with the decision of whether we want to ask for one of theirs."

"No!" Najma exclaimed, nervous laughter in her voice. "Just because we have an empty pod doesn't mean we're going to ask them to hand over a living person for us to do whatever we want with. What kind of message does that send?"

Ukeiri shrugged. "Might not necessarily be a person. They could have multiple hierarchies of intelligence, or simply not have the mental capacity to care what we do to them."

"Are we really in a position to be making that kind of judgment?"

"Their offer could be taken to imply that they've made it for us."

"It could also be taken as bait, like you said! We're taking the bait if we say yes!"

"Not in the same way we would be if we offered up one of our own. Consigning a member of our species to whatever fate they inflict shows a certain level of callousness, but there's nothing to say we have to inflict any particularly bad fate on whatever they send us. In fact, it would be a good opportunity to show our benevolence."

Najma considered this. "I guess that makes sense. What if they insist on a trade?"

"We're not making a trade. Like I said, we don't have anyone disposable enough. But if they are willing to provide us a specimen without getting one in return, I believe we should accept it."

"Okay." Despite her misgivings, Najma had to admit that the prospect of meeting one of their contacts in the flesh was an enticing one. A large part of the reason she was on the ship was to study any physical samples the crew could get their tendrils on, and there was no sample more fascinating than one that could study back. "I'm on board with that. If they do give us someone, I believe their care should fall primarily to Distant and myself. Including any decisions about how to study them."

"How we treat our guest has a strategic component to it, Najma. It would be wise to consult me."

"Consult you sure, but they're going to be my ward."

"Very well. I trust you won't make any drastic decisions without me, and your natural compassion should be a good default course of action. Distant, I take it we have the capability to transport and house someone if they agree?"

"It depends on the nature of the specimen, but anything remotely similar in size and composition to you should pose little challenge."

"Good. I'll draft the message and have you review it when it's done. We're going to be approaching them, right?"

"Once the sail is fully retracted. The combined wait and travel time until we are at the two kilometer limit should be between twelve and thirteen hours."

Ukeiri nodded, pulling out his tablet and beginning to type. Though the message's content had already largely been decided, he took his time composing it. After all, you could only send the second ever message to an alien race once - might as well make sure everything was perfect.

We are beginning our approach and will be at your designated limit within thirteen hours. We cannot afford to provide you with a member of our species without sacrificing significant functionality, however we are most likely capable of housing one of yours, depending on your physiology. If you are willing, we are interested to shuttle a member of your species onto our ship for interaction. They will be treated well and sent back at your request, along with any information they learn about us during their stay. We believe that this arrangement will be mutually beneficial. If you are interested, please send us a documentation of your species' atmospheric, temperature, and pressure requirements, size, dietary requirements, and anything else you think will be of note. We will prepare a holding environment for them en route, and will provide the shuttle if necessary. If your species is polymorphic, gonochoristic, or undergoes significant metamorphosis, we would request one specimen of each morph so as to gain a more complete understanding of your species.

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Kyasiouna
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Founded: Jun 17, 2016
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Kyasiouna » Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:28 pm

The mother sat in a coral throne eggs piled around her and the coral. If there ever was a ecological niche that transitioned into space with ease, a hive queen must be near the top of the list. Never moving before or after trips to space the only one who suffered from the changes that space brought were the workers. Life had always been somewhat unfulfilling for workers once work had been somewhat automated. Sarah was prime example, she did work that was unnecessary because the drone could do it just as well, but she worked all the same because she knew nothing else. It didn't help that the emptiness of space held nothing else. The ship was not in need of repairs and even if it was drones could do that too.

As the Mother mulled over what she could do to help Sarah she used the console to respond to Sarah's complaints. Had to do something to pass time while waiting for the light of her message to get to the aliens and the light from their message to get back.

Sarah, i’m sorry for venting without warning, the ship received a message from a nearby ship that we are recognizing as alien, as I speak with you the news board should report that we are in communication with them. It should also state that the venting was done to allow our computer to work as fast as it could to decode the transmission they sent us.

Sarah checked the notification panel long enough to see the notice, she didn't bother to reading it. “I would have seen it just like the rest… why are you telling me in person?

I wanted to talk about your reaction to the injections not working.

I understand why it was done, it's not a big deal,” Sarah spoke respectfully, pacing her sentences.

“Your conversation with the sentry drone would lead me to think otherwise.”

Sarah felt a pit in her chest as the Mother responded. She didn't respond.

After waiting for a second the Mother continued. “There is likely to be an opportunity for us to interact with the aliens and I have given them the opportunity to explore our physiology. Before you ask I am not asking you to let them dissect you. If they want anything like that we can provide that information in other ways. I am asking if you would like to be part of this first contact?

Of course!” Sarah responded out of habit rather than desire, if asked to perform any task all workers would comply. However Sarah knew the excitement welling up inside her was manufactured. The machines that she held inside of her body would work to make her feel dedicated to any cause even one as unnatural as exploring space.

The mother could see Sarah’s thoughts though the machines she was currently thinking about, there was no reason to be subtle, “I understand that you say are agreeing with me because I asked and for no other reason but I am going to ask you to withhold your decision until we remove the emotional modifiers,” as she spoke the mother began the process of notifiying the surgical quarters to prepare. Normally these facilities were used for insertion, but today they would be extracting. “I know this is what you want whether or not you do. Report to this location when you are ready,” she sent a map location to Sarah’s device, “be sure to let me know if you have any concerns

Sarah for the second time in as many minutes was to shocked to respond. She recognized the location and dropped the tablet onto her bed of coral which secured it to the ground and Sarah swam towards the elevator. The Mother had said to go when she was ready, but Sarah had never been more ready for anything. The knowledge that her mind was being manipulated was a constant weight on her actions. If Sarah knew anything it was that she was ready to have these devices removed.

By the time Sarah arrived to the operating area she was out of breath, she hadn’t been moving particularly fast but she also hadn't been paying that close of attention to how fast that was. Once she arrived she was greeted by two drones. One got behind her and nudged her forwards while the other led her from the elevator out to the ring and from there to a section that she noticed was very clean water. It was most likely from the complete lack of coral or any other life. These room must be completely artificially purified.

The Mother watched all of Sarah’s actions as she got up and as she bolted to the surgical area. The poor thing must really be uncomfortable with the presence of the emotional modifiers. It was fortunate that there was a good reason to have them removed to allow for a more organic interaction with the alien, should they show desire to interact. But also it would be good to see if it was even possible for Sarah to be content with her surroundings or if it was a completely lost cause.

Sarah was whisked into a room that was sealed off from the rest of the ring and the drones positioned her in the middle. There were several vents on the walls that generated a current that pushed objects, including sarah, to the center of the room.

You are going to remain conscious for the entire procedure so as to make sure you are completely sure that the devices are removed.” The drone spoke as it floated around seeming to check various parts of the room. “We will also be fitting you with a breathing mask shortly, it's important that you take a deep breaths, the air will contain muscle relaxants and light anesthetics

Ok...” As she responded the second drone did as advertised and moved a mask, attached to the ceiling with a long tube, to be on top of Sarah’s head. Rather than object she exhaled the breath that she had and filled her lungs with the provided air. The air tasted most similar to alcohols but was not that similar. As she took the breath she instinctively coughed at the taste expelling large bubbles around her head, the current in the room was not strong enough for the escaped air to become trapped at the center of the room and it floated to the top of the room and disappeared through a vent.

The drone stopped inspecting the room and moved to be closer to Sarah. A large screen was then projected in front of Sarah showing an apparently live feed of her from behind. She briefly tested the perspective by moving her tail and watching the motion reflected accurately. The drone twisted to face the screen before moving behind Sarah. “This screen will allow you to watch the procedure and verify that we have removed the devices. As you are aware there are three separate devices. These devices are here, here, and here,” the drone prodded her in the back of neck, at the back of her chest, and then slightly below that.

Sarah was able to watch and feel herself being prodded but already she could feel the effects of the cocktail that she was breathing. She nodded weakly to affirm that she understood.

The drone wasted to time and unfolded an arm with a large scalpel and started first with her lower back making a crescent cut that allowed the skin to be folded back. Sarah’s reaction was to recoil from the tool but her body was not so quick to respond. While she could feel the drones action they were not painful but rather itchy. Unable to see the drones action by looking behind she instead watched on the screen in front of her as the drone cut away her flesh before revealing a strange hexagon capsule that was attached to an organ and had several tendrils that reached farther into her body. The drone used its light transmission issue a command that caused the tendrils on the object to loosen. The drone then removed the device from her body and sprayed a thin foam onto the organ that now had several small holes.

It moved on to the next location at the middle of her back and repeated a very similar process, finally it cut into the skin behind her neck and instead of revealing a device it used the incision and a different tendril like are to reach into the wound and up into her skull. The sensation was wildly unnerving, literally. She couldn’t see the drone issue a light transmission command but she assumed that it had as she felt tendrils loosen and retract from various parts of her head and face. Most notably from behind her eyes. As the drone closed the last incision is sprayed the various cuts with a final layer of a similar foam.

Please take a few more deep breaths we are switching the feed to normal oxygen content.

The air, as promised had lost its strange taste. The drone moved around to face Sarah and began performing various mental test to assure that no damage had been done. Moving a light from left to right and asking Sarah to follow along with other more complicated tasks as the muscle relaxant wore off.

The Mother watched the majority of the procedure from the same perspective as Sarah until, towards the end, she was notified of the alien response. Leaving the drones to complete their take the Mother manufactured her response.

I have read and understand the entirety of your transmission. I also understand that the crew of your ship is unable to provide a specimen which is also very understandable. Attached to this document I have provided the best specifications for a proper living environment for our kind. Specifically we are most comfortable while submerged in water. This is not a requirement for living but if it cannot be met it would most likely be best for the individual to spend equal parts of time in both environments. If you lack water then we can easily provide as we have an abundance. As for your question about the different periods of metamorphosis we do have several different periods but we do not have members in all of those periods, similarly we have separate male and female but currently only females are present. More specifically I am speaking as a hive queen for this shuttle and all members on board. I have significantly different physiology from other females. If you wish for an audience we can later arrange for a meeting provided our impression of you doesn't lead us to believe you would have reason to kill me. In the meantime I have attached various pictures of both queens and workers.


Attached to the message are documents regarding environments and pictures of the species. There is also a mathematical series of instructions for the decoding of the pictures onto a black and white matrix as well as and RGB matrix.

Should the pictures be viewed it would show that the queen is very structurally similar to the workers but with a swollen abdomen. The abdomen takes up more than seventy percent of her body mass. Her chest is larger as well and is shown in several images to house very large lungs. The overall size of the queen is larger both her head and arms are much larger, her sitting position normally allows her to view and interact with the tip of her abdomen which has a passage for laying eggs.
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:27 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Camila I
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Founded: Jun 20, 2016
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Camila I » Sat Jun 25, 2016 11:13 pm

Thirty light minutes fell to twenty nine, then a little sooner to twenty eight. As the distance between the two ships dropped, so too did the time between communications. There would be less time for his colleagues to fill before the next message arrived, assuming their contacts thought at a reasonable speed. Which was good. Ukeiri hadn't enjoyed the intense scrutiny he had been subjected to in the absence of any distractions. Obviously his job was important - at the moment, probably the most important one on the ship. Obviously the others would want to make sure he was on the same page as them before allowing him to do it. Still, the pressure weighed on him. He believed he had successfully assuaged them but could never be sure - they were all very smart as well, and while not nearly as practiced as he, were no strangers to the concept of preferentially saying what benefited them over their true opinions.

In passing, Ukeiri wondered if Najma would be the target of any more suspicion once her role became more important than his. Not that it necessarily would. Certainly if the aliens accepted Distant's proposal this would occur almost immediately. If the shipmind was really as independent from its crew as it claimed, it wouldn't allow Ukeiri in the same room as their guest. Even a .001% chance of something going wrong was better avoided than taken, if it didn't need to be taken. The situation was regrettable, but Ukeiri couldn't be too upset by it. The shipmind lived and breathed the same coldly rational flowchart that Ukeiri had dedicated his life to studying. And though the Camilan had only a vague idea of what exactly they did to Distant in order to produce its current state, he was fairly certain the entity was no longer producing any hormones that might interfere with its decision making.

Ukeiri's thoughts were interrupted when their focus spoke up. "We have their reply," it said, and recounted it. As the shipmind spoke, the largest available viewscreen rendered the accompanying images in a slideshow format. Najma and Silmiyen could see it from where they were, but Ukeiri had to stand up and lean over the back of his chamber. All were entranced, the biologist in particular gazing at the detailed imagery with stars in her eyes. "Hive queen," she murmured. "What do you suppose that means?"

Silmiyen laughed. "If you don't know, I'm sure none of us do."

"The labeling strongly implies that she's swollen up like that in order to lay more eggs," she continued, talking partly to herself. "And those same structures that are so engorged in her seem to be reduced or absent in the 'workers'. She said there were males but none on the ship...." the Camilan shook her head. "I think they're assuming we know more than we do." She laughed. "Glad to see we're not the only ones who have to worry about physiological chauvinism. Whatever their weird-ass system ends up being, they might very well think it's the only viable one. Or the only viable one for a race of starfarers." The launch of the Distant was preceded by many scholarly debates over what a technological civilization was likely to be like. Najma had participated in some of them. In the end, the line was drawn fairly inclusively - the Distant Touch was prepared to house specimens from a wide variety of planetary conditions, and the ship's ambassador had been given training generalized to almost any form of intelligence. But Najma remembered more than one expert who argued that intelligent life would take a very similar form to the Camilans themselves, if it existed at all. Perhaps this type of thinking was common among the aliens as well.

"Or they're overestimating us," Ukeiri offered. "Maybe the meaning we're supposed to take from these sparse data is obvious to any so-called intelligent lifeform, and we simply don't meet that criterion."

Najma remembered this topic being brought up, too. "Maybe, but we've been able to communicate successfully with them so far. If they are smarter than us, they're irrationally willing to talk down to us. No reason for that to change as far as I can see - they can just explain this in a manner that's on our level, too. And if they're not smarter than us, it's perfectly possible for a misunderstanding to occur."

"Either way, optimal strategy to ask for clarification," Ukeiri drawled. Najma wanted to say she knew that.

"It's also possible that that's not their natural state," said Silmiyen. "Fifty percent of this ship's crew have been modified to suit a purpose, and twenty five percent are arguably unrecognizable as a member of the same species." The viewscreen displayed a symbol equivalent to a smiley face in the top right corner. "Could be that there's no males because they had some kind of a cultural revolution, and the 'hive queen' is supposed to be the end-all-be-all of reproduction because she's their leader. Not to disparage your field or anything, but not every aspect of a species has to be the result of evolution."

"That's debatable," the biologist replied. "I see your point though. If she is some kind of monstrosity, I guess she's no worse than what we've got with us." She smiled at the camera.

"I wonder if her subjects feel comfortable dispensing this kind of abuse to her," the shipmind said, changing the smiley face to a winking one.

"You're all ignoring the more important aspect of their message," Ukeiri interjected seriously. "Did any of you notice that she said yes? I asked them to send a specimen over because they brought the subject up, but I didn't think the chance of them accepting was all that high. I really thought they were going to insist that we give them something in return, possibly in advance. Not only did they not do that, they also provided us with a wealth of moderately sensitive information without any demands attached to it."

"What they sent us isn't that sensitive," Najma interrupted.

"Regardless, that's hardly the point. They have demonstrated something quite important here, and that is that they have some driving desire to interact with us. We can't say yet whether it's simple curiosity or that they think they can get something out of us, but their actions don't lie. They're willing to invest up-front in the relationship, so they must want it."

"Well, yeah. We could have gotten that from the content of their messages."

Ukeiri shook his head. "You can get a lot of things from the content of their messages if you're creative enough. You two have demonstrated that quite clearly. But I have been keeping a fairly short list of what we actually know about them, and we have another item to add to that list."

"I suppose you're not wrong. I guess I just didn't think it was that monumental of a discovery."

"If I may hazard a guess, that's because you happen to have been imagining them correctly this entire time. I have been more conservative with my mental imagery, and so have only recently been swayed to the opinion that they are living beings with a desire for knowledge, like us. Before this, they could easily have been... any number of other things." Ukeiri didn't elaborate, but by the tone of his voice Najma assumed that he hadn't been imagining anything pleasant.

"You're a natural, Ukeiri." She paused. "Well, you know what I mean."

"You guys want me to draft our reply?"

"Yes," said Distant. "As your message will necessarily include an acceptance of their offer, I will begin to prepare a suitable containment area. Najma, please join me in room 10. I will need to ensure you remember the proper access protocols for the alien's containment area. I would also like your help interpreting the documents they sent us regarding their metabolic requirements."

"See you there," the Camilan nodded, pushing off from her chamber toward the room's anterior door.

We have received your documentation and are preparing a suitable habitat for your specimen. Due to the design of our vessel, the habitat will be directly adjacent to a shuttle dock (see our ship's schematic for details). However, it is recommended that, if possible, the specimen be provided along with a suit of some kind. This will ease transportation, and allow for the possibility to leave her habitat and traverse other parts of our vessel if desired. It is also requested that you include a device of some kind that will allow your specimen to communicate with us, preferably integrated into the suit. Our species is air-breathing. Our ship maintains an atmospheric composition of 68% nitrogen, 31% oxygen, <1% water vapor and <1% carbon dioxide. It maintains an atmospheric pressure of 120 kPa. If your suit can survive these conditions, you will be able to survive the environment of our shuttles and of the remainder of our vessel. We will be able to synthesize food for your guest if necessary, but at moderate cost, and not indefinitely in our current state. If possible please send a supply of food on the shuttle with her. Our offer to provide the shuttle remains open, however we will not send one without express permission as its launch may be mistaken for an attack on your ship.

Your additional documentation of your species' physiology is very interesting and very appreciated. We are not familiar with a naturally-occurring reproductive system consistent with what you describe. Is the hive queen the sole reproductive female as we infer? If so, has your species always been like this or have you induced the state artificially? Are the males necessary, and why do you not have any on your ship?

As you have volunteered information regarding your physiology, we will reciprocate. The remainder of our transmission will consist of documentation analogous to what you have provided us. The images are encoded in an identical way.


The images showed the internal and external anatomy of an adult male and adult female Camilan, with a scale showing size and labels indicating function of various body parts. The labels were not fully comprehensive, and the images were not photographs but rather textbook-style anatomical illustrations. The male was shown with red petals and the female with blue, but it would be explained that this was not sexual dimorphism and that either sex could have blue, purple, red, or yellow petals.

As it happened, Ukeiri had managed to infer something else from the aliens' message. The queen had implied that she didn't yet trust the Camilans not to attempt to kill her. That could mean many things, but one thing it certainly meant was that she felt there was some possibility of this happening. Distant Touch's attempt to disarm her by providing its schematics hadn't worked. Either she didn't have the capabilities to scan the Camilan vessel to her satisfaction, an outcome Ukeiri would be fine with, or she had scanning capabilities beyond what the xenologist had expected. This second possibility sent chills running down his spine. Did she know about the deception he had managed to slip into their first message? Maybe she knew enough to be suspicious, or maybe she had worked out the vessel's true capabilities and had decided that she could never reasonably be safe from attack. Maybe she had it in her to strike first - the Distant Touch may have more offensive capabilities than it was letting on, but still was unlikely to withstand any high-energy blast from the Deep Ocean's array, especially if it was aimed at some small, critical component. The locations of all of which the aliens had.

Or maybe the Camilan was just being paranoid. For a moment, Ukeiri wished he had Distant's modifications, so he could analyze the situation without the influence of fear.

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Kyasiouna
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Kyasiouna » Tue Jun 28, 2016 1:58 pm

Sarah was ushered out of the operating area rather quickly after she had “passed” the simple tests that had followed the surgery. Things like touching her fingers to each other and following object with her eyes. Seeming to have no issues they escorted her to the colder and darker elevator and told her to get rest. While Sarah was tired, probably from the drugging she had received, she was not planning on sleeping. This was, as far as she knew, the first time in her life that everything that she felt was genuine. The water pulled her down towards the quarters as is slowly flowed through the ship. She flipped around and began to swim against the current towards the tip of the ship where the captain's quarters.

The Mother sat waiting for the response from the Distant Touch. The liquid in her chambers swirling about, because her room was not in a ring there was no gravity. The swirling was caused by jets pushing fresh water and nutrients in circles. At the center of the room there was a large globe of air ensuring that the water had oxygen in it. Several workers drifted about from egg to egg ensuring that the eggs remained in areas with strong current. The Mother watched them work thinking of what the aliens might way.

As she waited she noticed that Sarah moving towards her. While she could guess as to what the misfit was doing she would rather not be unprepared for the worst. Even as a worker she was now the only “unregistered” member of the Deep Ocean. While she could be trusted, in the worst case imaginable, she could no longer be controlled. The Mother realized that was not technically correct, she could be controlled just not remote controlled.

She spoke to her caretakers, “Sarah is seeking my audience, please watch her actions…” she paused, realizing the ramifications of what had ordered. “Be discreet if you can.

No sooner had she finished her sentence Sarah buzzed in through the doors, swimming towards the center of the room. She brushed past the bubble, taking a breath, before moving in front of the queen and stopping to bow in a sorting of dipping motion.

I don’t know how much deliberation you had to put into deciding to remove the components inside me,” she paused looking about the chamber realizing there were several others watching her, “I just wanted to give you my thanks, I never thought you would let me take them out.”

You know why I didn’t remove them until now.

Well, I guess but is that really the only reason?

The reason I asked you to interact with the aliens is because you are the only person who wants to have the monitors removed,” she spoke in a demeaning tone, “I speak with some level of certainty that the aliens that you are going to meet would want to have an organic interaction with our species.

You would have left the machines inside me if they hadn't messaged you?” Sarah tried not to sound like she was accusing her Mother, but she knew that the content of what she had said was enough of an accusation regardless of her tone.

Before the Mother responded she realized that she had no feedback on what Sarah was thinking, at least no the level that she had for everyone else. Normally she would be able to see exactly what she was thinking and how she felt. Hive queens of the past had to manage the wellbeing of an entire hive, she could only imagine what kind of effort that had required. “The decision on what would become of you was and had been on my mind for some time. I am sorry but I cannot tell you what would have happened if the aliens had not contacted us.” she reached out towards Sarah pulled her are so that they were closer together, “You know that everything I do is in yours and everyone’s best interest.

Yes, but-

Then there should be no further concern on your part,” she held Sarah by the shoulders looking directly at her. “I love you, I will do everything I can to make you happy… does that make sense?

Sarah was barely able to respond, she felt lost in the Mother’s eyes. They seemed to hold so much emotion that Sarah’s own feelings were small and less important. Sarah wasn't upset that her emotions were small, in a way it was comforting that the Mother cared so much for her. She felt safe in the Mother’s hands. “Yes,” she spoke softly, “yes.

The Mother released Sarah and settle back onto her bed of eggs and coral. “You need to rest for a number of reasons. Make sure that you are feeling well and return to my chambers when you are rested, the aliens are already on their way and will soon be waiting on us.

Sarah nodded but simply turned away and hurriedly swam towards the living quarters.

The Mother sighed in relief one Sarah had left, once again surprised by how much effort it took to calm even one worker. A troublesome worker at that, regardless the was grateful that technology allowed her to normally focus on less demanding tasks. While she had calmed Sarah she had received the transmission from the aliens which she immediately read through before deliberating on her response.

From what she could tell the natural atmosphere of the ship was fine for breathing, more oxygen than necessary but nothing that would cause any sort of problem. They had requested that there be food sent with Sarah as well as a suit. Simple enough. She read through the descriptions of the species rereading several part fascinated by the colorful and plant like appearance. She worked to log all of the information in a fashion that was analogous to a factbook so it could be recorded and sent back for more dedicated minds to research. Finally she began preparing her message realizing that she had taken enough time that the ship would most likely be within visual range soon.

I have read and understand the your transmission. Before proceeding I wish to apologize for the length of time this response has taken and also for sending the last transmission with incomplete information about our reproductive cycle. I must admit that you will never speak with an individual trained to interact with aliens, we were not prepared for this interaction. If you feel any information we send is incomplete it most probably is and I will answer any question you have to the best of my ability. In regards to your request to send a vessel to retrieve the specimen, you are permitted to launch it a soon as you wish. We will return it stocked with food for 12 days and the specimen, who will have a suit that will allow her to survive outside of a vessel for 6 hours, assuming it has a full oxygen supply. If you want more food let us know, the food is synthetic and easy to produce if you wish to create your own instructions will be attached to the transmission. If you need a supply of water for housing the specimen we can provide any requested amount.Should you send the vessel to retrieve the specimen it will be stocked immediately but the specimen is currently resting and will not wake for 4 hours.

The following attachments should provide clarification for the questions about our reproductive process. We currently have a small amount of males on the ship including what would be considered a hive king. The limited numbers of males increase the values that their lives have and we are not currently in a position to expose any to the potential threat of harm on any front, you or the vacuum of space.

The attached documents explain the reproductive process to involve males competing to successfully impregnate a female, in most case a queen and in fringe case a developing queen (one who has no developed the larger organs for reproduction). Upon being impregnated the queen releases hormones coded to the male that impregnated her that cause the King to develop into a defensive and armored and very large version of his previous self. The king also has enormous lungs allow him to hold his breath for massive periods of time and ferry air from the surface to his queen. Clocking in at 40 meters long the King is viewed as a demigod even to this day. The King will continue to mate with the queen until the death. The queen is the only member of the species and in case where the queen is removed from her colony the King will produce a chemical aura that will cause many queens to develop. In these fringe cases a King can develop a harem of ten or more Queens which results in explosive colony growth.

This state is completely organic but represents the minority of reproductive cycles observable on our home world.


As the queen sent the transmission she could make out the silhouette of the approaching vessel. It was much bigger than she had imagined.
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Camila I
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Postby Camila I » Wed Jun 29, 2016 8:07 pm

Ukeiri floated gently above his containment chamber, pressing his tendrils against his skull. "Why?" he muttered, partly to Silmiyen and partly to himself. "Why would they tell us they had males on board?"

"I'm with you," the other Camilan still in the room replied. "By all accounts it doesn't make sense." Silmiyen fell silent, strongly suspecting that Ukeiri was about to talk out the inconsistency with himself. He wasn't wrong.

"Can there be any possible advantage to damaging our trust like that? What could they possibly get out of casting doubt over their own statements?" He paused, then shook his head. "No, nothing. Nothing I can fathom anyway, not without assuming they don't use the same logical system that we do. It must be something else."

"We have approached to within what is likely to be visual range," Distant interrupted coolly.

"Hm. That could be it. Maybe they're acting irrationally because they're worried, or intimidated. Maybe they're bailing out on the lie now, so we don't somehow find out about it later. An extremely risk-averse strategy if I've ever seen one, but it could make sense to them."

"That's not what I meant," the shipmind said. In actuality the shipmind had left its meaning ambiguous on purpose, and was planning to offer the other meaning regardless of which one Ukeiri inferred. "Well, not exactly. I do believe it's possible that they have changed their tactic based on our close proximity. But perhaps not out of worry, but because they think we can scan them now."

Ukeiri stared at the viewscreen. "Well, we can. But shouldn't they have known this beforehand? They were the ones who suggested the 2 km figure, after all."

The shipmind betrayed no emotion. "I suppose. Their capacity for foresight may be limited."

"Right. Well, it seems like their decision was a sub-optimal one in either case. An irrational one, even. Either that or a ploy so advanced that I am simply not capable of grasping it, but frankly I'm a bit tired of entertaining that possibility. If they are playing us somehow, I don't see what we could possibly do about it." The Camilan's features softened a bit, and the tension in his muscles loosened up. "Unless my colleague has anything to add, I think it's settled. Mistake of some kind on their part."

"I didn't even realize that what you're talking about had any significance at all," Silmiyen shrugged. This was not entirely true - just being around Ukeiri had allowed Silmiyen to pick up on how he went about analyzing their contacts' messages. He knew there was something unusual about the aliens providing this information only now, but had been willing to let his colleague determine what exactly they were getting at. If Ukeiri thought it was a mistake, it probably was.

"So, does that mean you're going to strike anything off the list of what we know about them?" Distant asked. Ukeiri thought the question might be rhetorical, but answered anyway.

"No. Of the two facts on that list, that they possess a certain level of intelligence and that they are invested in interacting with us, both have been derived from their honest signals rather than anything they've said. You'd need a certain level of intelligence to communicate with us, and they've shown their investment by continuing communications and offering to send a specimen in exchange for nothing." Ukeiri cocked his head, uncertain of how much of this the shipmind already understood. "I already wasn't believing anything they told us - I don't trust them any less now, I'm merely noting that they've given us another reason not to trust them."

"If you didn't trust them already, why is that worth noting?" asked Silmiyen innocently.

"Because they didn't know that. Now they do, or they should if they understand the ramifications of retconning what they said earlier." He twisted to look at the other Camilan, smiling slightly. "And because, in a more general sense, everything they do is worth noting."

"They have accepted our offer of a shuttle," Distant interjected. "I already have my own opinion of whether we should send someone along with it, but I am accepting input."

"No," Ukeiri replied without hesitation. "Remember, we know nothing about how friendly these things are. Sending someone on board the shuttle is essentially the same thing as abandoning them to their fate, and we already decided we're not doing that."

"What if something goes wrong with the docking procedure?" Silmiyen countered. His tone suggested that he was merely playing devil's advocate, but Ukeiri seemed not to pick up on this.

"Then something will have gone wrong." He sounded slightly annoyed. "You're not seriously suggesting we send one of our three living crew members so they can make course corrections, are you?"

"No, I wasn't."

"Good. Because we're not doing that."

"Your analysis corresponds with mine," Distant said. "Although the shuttles are designed to accommodate a Camilan pilot, it will be equally easy for me to remote control one. I have performed all preflight checks that I believe are necessary - the vehicle is ready for launch. Is there any commentary you would like to send with it?"

"Yeah, just give me a few minutes to type it up."

"Of course." The shipmind waited a few moments, then spoke again. "It occurs to me that they will have another opportunity to signal us honestly, as you put it. In how they handle the shuttle, and what they put on it."

"They'll put what they said they'd put on it," Ukeiri replied absentmindedly. Distant was a little surprised with how confident he sounded. "Because if they don't, they're going to be sending a whole lot of signals that, at the moment, I don't think they can afford to send." The Camilan looked up for a moment, and grinned. "We're quite close to their ship now, and it's much smaller than I had anticipated. Helps take the edge off of talking with them."

"It may or may not be their system."

Ukeiri crossed his legs in front of him. "Hence why I said at the moment. Who knows what kind of reinforcements are already on their way to help deal with us. That's a risk we accepted when we set out on this thing. But, at least for the next few days, they're still in the position of not being prepared for us. It's they who have to play their cards right - we've known what plays we're going to make for years. And believe me, going back on your offer is something you do when you can see your opponent's hand. Not when you've just met them."

Distant hesitated. The Camilan's self-assured attitude was disconcerting. It considered reminding the creature of its standing on the ship, of the fact that the Distant Touch was not in the business of making itself threatening, much less retaliating against any perceived slights. It decided against it. Ukeiri already knew this - he was the one who suggested all of the submissive gestures the ship had already done. His bravado was likely just the result of newfound confidence - which by all rights should be a good thing.

Still, the shipmind couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't.

"If that's what you think, you are probably right. I will assume that those particulars of their messages have been honest. Are you done with our reply?"

"Yeah, here."

At the moment you receive this, the shuttle will have been launched and is underway. You should already have its blueprints - it is unmanned and receiving directional commands from our main vessel. Differences in ship architecture may present some difficulties in docking, however the shuttle is designed for atmospheric entry and should be sturdy enough for you to acquire it in whatever way your ship is designed to, within reason. Once the shuttle is loaded, simply eject it in our general direction and we will guide it the rest of the way back.

Though the shuttle has no life or intelligence aboard it, it is still a valuable piece of equipment, and we would request it back undamaged if possible. Failing that, we would request it back in whatever state it happens to be.

This may be our last message before we make close contact with your specimen. We look forward to meeting you.


True to the ship's word, the message was accompanied by a small flash from one of its massive flanks. The shuttle, tiny and sleek in comparison to its mothership, was launched at full speed and spent most of its journey slowing down. By the time it actually reached the Deep Ocean, it would be moving at a relative crawl. Two large, circular ports on the sides of the shuttle could be opened to place cargo inside the padded bay, and a smaller elliptical port on the front face opened to reveal something like a four-person cockpit. All of the instructions for operating the vehicle were painted in dark orange somewhere on its unmarked silvery hull.

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Kyasiouna
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Kyasiouna » Fri Jul 01, 2016 9:52 am

While the shuttle approached the ship the Mother continued to oversee preparations for the supplies and suit that Sarah would be sent with. The production of the food was routine but the suit seemed to be a more complex matter. The decision of whether or not to send her in an armored suit had many consequences. The suit wouldn’t appear to be armored because the armor was a form of reactive gel that was layered over the vitals. If the aliens knew this was an armored suit would they see it as a threat? As she mused over these things she observed the shuttle approaching the docking bay.

Fortunately flashing lights seemed to perform a good enough job of guiding the vessel towards the section of the ship for full bodied docking. The bay doors opened from the center in two halves and soon closed behind the vessel allowing for the chamber to be pressurized, air only no water since there was no certainty about the ships waterproofing. The ship was quickly scanned for contents before the vessel doors were opened as instructed and the cargo was loaded onto the vessel’s cargo bay. This included a 1x.5x.5m crate that jingled gentle when shaken it contained the food that Sarah would inject. The process when without incident.

The vessel had been docked for 3 hours before Sarah woke up. Hovering before her was a drone holding a folded up suit. Sarah immediately recognized it as an armored suit.

What…” Still waking up Sarah did not complete her sentence, instead she stretched out while swimming away from her bed. She sluggishly reached for the suit.

The drone seemed to be understanding of the incomplete question. “It was determined that for you protection an armored suit would be preferable. It will not be a surprise to the aliens, we will inform them ahead of time.

Okay, but what will it protect me from?” Sarah’s thought began to form with greater ease, although they were accompanied by a headache.

The aliens,” the drone released the suit into Sarah’s arms as she began to pull it on, “or perhaps other impacts but presumable just the aliens. It shouldn't be a problem. You are not being sent with any weapons, the suit is purely defensive.

Mother is listening, right?” Sarah knew she was but it would be silly not to ask.

Yes, do you wish to speak to her?

Sarah hesitated, “I just wanted to know why you wanted me to speak with the aliens instead of anyone else?

The Mother's voice reached out though the drone after some delay. “I picked you because I believe you to be the best option of those on board. I know that you have great reason to be worried but rest assured that interactions with the aliens have no potential to be dangerous. For both parties it would be suicide to perform any act of hostility. However you should pay close attention to what they do and say. I believe they are a deceptive species. That, they have very inefficient engines, or there is something taking up the interior of their ship they don't want us to know about.

Sarah was surprised that she had never heard the amount of caring that was in the Mother’s voice. As she spoke Sarah could hear the worry in her voice.

The Mother continued, “I will be in contact with you though a head piece, you shouldn't rely on my input though. I want your interaction with the aliens to be as organic as possible. There will be a final transmission that I will compose for the aliens that will outline who and what you are… does that all make sense?

Sarah had been somewhat lost in the voice of her queen so that she had not been paying perfect attention but the last question stood out enough for her to reply hurriedly. “Yes! I... I understand.

The Mother paused again before speaking. “I know you are worried… I’m worried as well, the aliens promised to send you back at your own request. Sarah, I want you to promise me that you will come back.

Sarah stared at the drone, she was almost finished with the suit the helmet being the last piece. Sarah wanted to speak formally, she wanted to announce that her love and devotion to the Hive would drive her to return. She couldn't find the words. To avoid hesitation she blurted out, “I promise. I promise to return.

The Mother could no longer see into Sarah's mind but she could hear the thoughts behind her words. She nodded to herself before sending instructions to the small computer in Sarah’s suit. Following them with a small transmission to Sarah’s headset.

You should receive instructions on the location of the aliens boarding shuttle in the bulkhead docking area. Stay safe and remember that I will be able to respond to any questions you should have while you are there. I will watch you until you are out of sight, and then I will listen.

Sarah’s began her swim to the bulkhead listening to the Mother as she swam. She arrived and the alien vessel and felt a chill as she drifted out of the water and into the open air. The vessel was certainly alien and the sides were painted with strange symbols that seemed to swirl across the silver hull. The ship almost seemed to be liquid underneath the lights in the bay. As she approached the ship she could see that the cockpit was open and she drifted up to the cockpit before pulling herself into the area careful not to bump into the sides. As soon as she was inside the canopy began to close.

Sarah felt her heart rate rise as she looked about the cabin. Assuming the ship would take off soon she got into one of the chairs and fumbled with the contraption until she was able to fasten herself to the chair. By the time she was done the bay that the ship was in was already in the process of flooding with water and the ship was soon submerged. Once the small bay was full a electronic voice began counting down. Sarah double checked her straps suddenly unsure if they had been used correctly. While she was checking the countdown hit 0 and the bay doors snapped open.

The water surrounding the ship explosively decompressed into the vacuum of space sucking the alien vessel out with it. The water around the ship maintained some of the pressure for a short while making the transition to vacuum gradual to prevent stress to the hull. The result of the process was a large cloud of ice that projected from the ship like she muzzle flash of a gun and the alien vessel acted like a bullet. Sarah could only stare in disbelief at the alien ship that loomed in the distance.

The cloud of ice was illuminated by the next transmission.

The vessel and your transmission where both received. The ship is now on its way back, it contains a refrigerator with rations for the specimen on board. The specimen’s name is Kalsuri and she will be wearing an armored suit, fit for the dangers of working in space, the suit is not combative and can present no credible threat. The suit is separate from a headpiece that Kalsuri is wearing that will translate what she says before transmitting the translation over the light spectrum we have been using for you to receive. It will also allow her to speak to me though a drone that has been sent with the ship he drone can connect to the headset when within range and then transmit message back to the Deep Ocean. The drone is small and should, again, be no credible threat. If you feel the presence of the drone is unsafe please destroy it. Finally the specimen I have sent you is unique in that it has no biochemical equipment inside it to monitor and control it as the rest of the workers normally do. The control is not to prevent the creature from being a danger but it used to ensure the creatures well being. In order for you to have a complete and unbiased understanding of how our species acts these have been removed and you may notice the healing wounds from where the equipment was removed. There are three on her lower back, in the middle of her back, and on the base of her neck. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Camila I
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Postby Camila I » Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:22 pm

Once the shuttle had flown a ways away from the Deep Ocean, Distant aimed its backscatter scanner in its direction and took several snapshots. The angle was such that the Deep Ocean would not have the radiation directed at it. Because the shuttle had been designed with foreknowledge of this particular kind of scanner, no part of its hull or internal component was completely opaque to the chosen wavelength. In other words, Distant could identify everything on the shuttle that hadn't been there previously. The one exception to this would be if the aliens had hidden one foreign object behind another one that did happen to be opaque (the scanner only provided a 2D image). The multiple snapshots were taken in part to help alleviate this weakness, as well as to provide multiple angles for better context. Fortunately, the aliens had not decided to shield any of their cargo with multiple decimeters of lead.

"True to their word, and all previous words," Distant informed Ukeiri. "The specimen comes with a hermetic suit - the only water on the shuttle is inside of that."

"Excellent. I suppose we can update the list - non-hostile." Ukeiri proclaimed this with a proud smile.

"Oh?"

"Well, I suppose a more precise trait would be something like 'not interested in attacking us at the moment despite having a good opportunity'." He paused. "The shuttle must be nearly upon us if you're giving me scan details, which means it has long since passed the total conversion radius. It has probably also passed the radius at which a bomb they plant of imperfect efficiency would be enough to kill the three of us, and cause great damage to yourself."

"There's also the fact that I scanned them, and didn't see anything that could function as an explosive." Distant's tone was cold as ever, but Ukeiri got the sense that the shipmind was a little impatient with him.

"I believe you, but really, who knows what kind of weapons they have at their disposal, or what they might look like. Their version of a bomb might be some kind of antimatter reactor, or some even more exotic thing we couldn't predict. Just because their cargo isn't chemically similar to one of our warheads doesn't necessarily mean it can't hurt us."

"An antimatter bomb would need to power magnetic fields in order to prevent immediate detonation. My knowledge of the shuttle's contents is complete enough to state that they did not send over any such thing."

"The fact that our ship isn't being powered by antimatter should be quite enough evidence that we don't know exactly how such a device would function."

"On the contrary, we have theoretically workable designs for an antimatter reactor in our databanks right now. Our principal problem is lack of resources rather than lack of understanding, and has been since 1221. They did not send one. And while we're on the subject, their ship is not powered by one either."

Ukeiri hesitated. That actually sounded vaguely familiar. "Very well, I suppose you do know more than me on this matter. Nevertheless, the general practice of assuming them to be dangerous until proven otherwise is still valid."

"If I thought otherwise, I would not have allowed you to guide our interactions under that assumption."

The Camilan smiled dryly.

Back on the shuttle, the viewscreen toward the front of the cockpit lit up with a message in Kalsuri's native language. It read something like "fasten your seatbelt please; the docking procedure will be initiated shortly". Until this point, the shuttle's deceleration would have produced a gravity-like effect toward the front of the vessel - this effect would briefly intensify before ceasing entirely. The alien would be able to hear and feel the soft whines and thuds of the docking mechanisms through the shuttle's hull. Shortly after the noises had stopped, the shuttle's forward port lit up around the edges before sliding up and exposing the cockpit's interior to the world around it.

From inside the shuttle, Kalsuri could see that she was inside the Distant Touch. The lack of significant pressure change when the port was opened told her that the room was filled with air. There was still no gravity to speak of, and she could see that the walls were designed with this in mind, with no particular wall being designated as the floor. Instead, all visible surfaces were covered with inscrutable mechanical and computer equipment. Much of the ship was grey metal and white plastic, with various small, brightly-colored markings across the entirety of the visible spectrum. Even if she could read the symbols, she would find them to be utterly useless to her, with meanings like "ACV-4" or a neon stripe of no obvious significance. The room was also much more cramped than she was used to - there was enough space to move around the equipment without bumping into it, but one would require a reasonable level of self-control to do so. Every square meter was precious, and had been utilized to its maximum efficiency.

Kalsuri heard a soft pitter-patter from on top of the shuttle, and a moment later its source became visible through the front opening. If the alien were familiar with the anatomical drawings the Distant Touch had sent, the Camilan's gross structure would not come as a surprise. Still, there were certain things that just didn't come across in the pictures. One was the way the Camilan moved - slow, graceful swaying punctuated by periods of perfect stillness. When the creature moved, its arboreal heritage was apparent - it seemed to have no trouble navigating the three-dimensional environment of the ship by grasping onto the occasional protrusion and swinging itself about. When it held still, Kalsuri could almost fool herself into thinking it really was a flower, so perfect was the mimicry it had evolved.

Another was its color. Though the drawings had included blue as one of the possible tints for a Camilan's petals, they had simply given a color code and left it at that. The Camilan's actual appearance was not monotone, but rather a brilliant iridescent gradient that shifted depending on the angle one viewed it from.

Unlike its guest, the Camilan was not wearing a spacesuit - in fact it wasn't wearing anything at all. The only non-biological items on its person were a white rubber band around its beak and a tablet held in one of its hands. Crouching on the nose of the shuttle, the creature leaned forward and tilted its eyestalk to get a better view of the alien. After a few moments of swaying and tilting its head, the Camilan turned its attention to the tablet it had, appearing to type something on it before holding it up for Kalsuri to see. For a split-second, text in the Camilan's language would be visible, but then the tablet would translate it into something Kalsuri could read. The message was something like "hello there! welcome to the distant touch! my name is najma," this word would be transliterated into some close approximation, rather than translated, "and i will be your guide and caretaker for the duration of your stay. we have other people on this ship too, but for the moment they are only allowed to interact with you through me."

The Camilan waited until it was sure the alien had had a chance to read the message before pulling the tablet back and writing something else. "if you're wondering about the tablet, one of those other people insisted i talk to you this way so i can think carefully before speaking. you can feel free to respond any way you like."

"so, how are you feeling about all this?"

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Kyasiouna
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Kyasiouna » Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:50 pm

Perhaps the strangest thing about the appearance of the alien in front of her having the obvious semblance of a flower but at the same time it was a flower unlike any Kalsuri had ever seen or heard of. She lifted herself away from the ship's seats undoing the seat belt after realizing it was containing her. She was eventually forced to turn her focus away from the alien to address the seat belt that she was unfamiliar with. Kalsuri finally managed to free herself and turn towards the alien again. Realizing there was a question in the air she reached up towards her helmet to remove it. The action would normally offset her balance and center of gravity but Najma would feel the lightest of gusts indicating their was some form of propulsion that was stabilizing the visitor.

Removing her helmet revealing the ridged teeth like mask alongside the small headpiece attached to the side of her head. As Kalsuri spoke the words triggered the headset to light up with an apparently continuous green glow, any appropriate receiver would detect a signal. Kasuri's words would not carry nearly as far as they would underwater and therefore were difficult to hear.

Your petals look much different than what was in the drawings, they remind me of the inside of some shellfish.” She tucked her helmet under her lower left arm. “Are they meant to be so distracting?
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Camila I
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Postby Camila I » Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:12 pm

When Kalsuri removed her helmet, Najma shifted back slightly. She hadn't expected the alien to be able to do that. She was also taken aback by the creature's appearance - even across species and worlds, the bony ridges were clearly designed for ripping apart flesh. Though she tried not to let it show, the Camilan found Kalsuri's skeletal visage rather frightening.

Also, the alien hadn't answered her question. The Camilan would be more bothered by this, except that the question the alien had posed was one Najma didn't mind answering. She was versed in the evolutionary history of her own species - well qualified to explain. In the back of her mind, she knew Ukeiri would be complaining about the unstrategic way she was handling things, but as long as Distant didn't intervene, she figured it was fine to just have a friendly conversation.

"they're meant to resemble a pyralia, a flower from my homeworld. the pyralia looks that way to attract pollinators, we look like the pyralia to trick those same pollinators into getting close enough for us to catch and eat them." After she had typed this, she stopped typing for a moment and wondered if that was the best way to phrase it under the circumstances. She soon decided that there was no less threatening way to put it - it was the truth after all. "in one sense, they are meant to be distracting, to catch the eye of other creatures. in another sense, though, they serve as a disguise, so those creatures don't recognize us for what we are."

Najma looked upward and raised her body a little. "when i was younger, my aunt used to tell me that blue-petaled children were angels sent from the sky-mother to be an example of her love to the other colors. silly, right? whenever i used to get angry or argue with someone, she would remind me about my purpose on camila, and i would instantly stop fighting because i felt so guilty. i usually tried to make up, too, even if the other person started it." The Camilan sighed. "most people don't believe in any such deities anymore, but they still expected you to apologize for everything and let them get away with whatever they want. the other colors had their own, equally arbitrary expectations of what you're supposed to be like, too. i'm glad none of my colleagues subscribe to that nonsense."

"so, how about you? i hear you're a 'worker' on your own ship - what is that like?"

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Postby Kyasiouna » Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:35 pm

Kalsuri watched Najma's hands dance across the notepad as she, presumably, manufactured a response. While waiting she realized that she had not answered her original question. In her defense the the petals were very distracting. She didn't have much time to look about the bay before Najma held up her message.

Kalsuri’s eyes darted back and forth in a brief saccade. She looked up apparently immediately ready with a response.

Before I answer I forgot to say that, in regards to my feelings, I am a little uncomfortable with how small the inside of you ship feels. In a quite astounding contrast to its outward appearance.” She paused to take a breath, notably through her mouth and no the nostrils on the top of her head. “Like you said I am a worker but it's mostly just to keep me busy. With drones capable of most tasks the requirements of the crew is mostly to ensure that the ship will always have life present. We are actually part of the ecosystem on board.” She paused again this time without taking a breath, she continued, “It's quite a coincidence that you had to be reminded of your purpose, we spend most of our lives suppressing instinctive purpose. What is your purpose, is it different now that you aren't at Camila or is this ship considered to be Camila?

Kalsuri appeared to be on the verge of asking another question but she seemed to decide against it. She began to move away from the ship. She moved to her right in an arc that maintained the distance between her and Najma stopping as soon as she was clear of the cockpit doors.
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Postby Camila I » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:46 am

"i'm the ship's head of research. our vessel was designed to seek out new life. if and when we found it, it would be my job to study and catalogue it. i've only just now come into my own, so to speak. until now our interactions with your species have been orchestrated mostly by ukeiri - he's the cultural ambassador, and has been composing all of our light messages." Najma thought hard about how much she should tell the alien. About the tensions on board her ship, and how she worried that Ukeiri might be orchestrating something else, too. It might be best to try and present a unified face, to keep her visitor from worrying unnecessarily, or, less optimistically, trying to exploit the situation somehow. On the other hand, there was only one chance to be up front and honest with the alien, and it might end up being worse for her if she found out later.

She would decide soon enough, but said nothing at the moment, electing first to answer the rest of her visitor's questions. "camila is the name of my homeworld. well, camila I, technically - camila is the name of the star. but nobody lives on the sun, so people just use the same name for both a lot of the time. to answer your question, i suppose my purpose is different now that i am no longer there. back on camila i studied biology, particularly evolutionary biology, but right before i left i was working as a surgeon. i actually learned most of what got me on the ship a long time ago, before then. but the more... immediately practical discipline was what the country needed. i'm probably one of a handful of camilans with any education in my field who's still alive." She stopped and stared at her screen for a while after writing this, trying to decide if this was really the time and place. She didn't delete anything and kept typing. "actually, i don't know if anyone from my home country is still alive. there's no way for me to know. so as to whether this ship is considered a part of camila, it's kind of a moot point. we're totally separated from them now."

"anyway, i'm sorry the ship is too small for you. if it helps, the containment area we have prepared for you is more spacious, not least because it's not being partially taken up by a shuttle. or any of its controls," she gestured to the densely packed walls. "since we're both communicating through light anyway, i don't see any reason why you shouldn't go hang out there instead of here." Assuming Kalsuri would readily agree to this, Najma pushed herself over to the airlock that separated the shuttle dock from the aquarium. "you will be able to take your suit off, too, if you want to."

The Camilan hesitated before typing again. "speaking of ukeiri, if you ever get into a situation where you have to talk to him, take whatever he says with a grain of salt. obviously i don't know exactly how this stay of yours is going to progress - i'm only in control of so much. if it were up to me you'd never have to deal with him. but if you do, just try to be careful. there have been some... questions regarding his loyalty before we met you."

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Postby Kyasiouna » Sun Jul 03, 2016 9:14 am

Kalsuri was already moving after Najma until she read the last bit about Ukeiri, on top of striking a bit of a chord with part about questioned loyalty she was a little unnerved by the idea that a crew small enough to be unable to spare a single member had a member that was untrustworthy, or at least a little untrustworthy.

Not pausing for long she followed after Najma not even trying to hide her fascination with the ships almost scary machine like look. She felt like she was in a video game, the environment was so machined. It was as if the aliens had not even tried to make the environment enjoyable. Kalsuri continued to move as if she was naturally swimming through water with the suits jets moving her along compensating for the lack of water to push off of.

As they were leaving one of the hatches on the side of the ship would open from the inside and the drone would lift away from the ship sporting much more conspicuous jets for movement. The Drone was a cube but was oriented so that the corners acted as the polar sides. The front corner sported an obvious camera that could be heard to adjust and focus as it moved about. It followed behind Kalsuri before speaking to Najma.

I am Drone A1, I have no conscious or mind to speak of and am meant to act as a means of communication between Kalsuri and The Mother. I can only do this if I have a line of sight with the Deep Ocean. It is not yet a matter of urgency and I will simply follow Kalsuri until I can be jettisoned from the ship.

Instead of continuing the conversation with Najma Kalsuri waited to her respond to the drone opting to follow silently still maintaining the distance between them as best she could. This practice was somewhat compromised by the airlock size. She covered her mouth with one hand as she got in the airlock, concealing a portion of her teeth. She also turned her face away from Najma not so that she couldn’t see her but just so that she was not directly facing her.
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Postby Camila I » Mon Jul 04, 2016 12:33 am

"What is this?" Ukeiri had been observing Najma and her guest through the network of cameras permeating the ship. So far he had watched in annoyed silence, but he could no longer hold his tongue. "What actually is this? I thought she was supposed to be gathering data on the alien's living environment, not trash talking other members of the crew to it."

"I understand your frustration, Ukeiri," Distant intoned. "And I agree that her statements regarding your loyalty were unprofessional. But I would ask that you view the situation with some perspective. She has been trying to get the alien to open up to her, it's not her fault that it isn't cooperating."

"Yes it is," he shot back. "She's no good at this."

The shipmind, perturbed by the level of aggression in Ukeiri's voice, didn't respond immediately. "She has followed your suggestions wherever applicable. And her friendliness toward the alien is the attitude you recommended."

"There's a difference between being friendly and having a casual conversation with it." The Camilan rubbed his forehead. "Look, I understand she's been trying to do what I said, but there's only so much you can explain to someone with no training in this area. You have to show some rigor, think out what you're going to say and what kind of response it's likely to evoke. Extracting information from someone is a fine art."

Distant could find nothing to say to this.

"If we want to learn anything about this creature, then I should be down there talking with it. Not her."

The shipmind remained silent. It had been worried that this was where Ukeiri was headed. Scarily enough, the shipmind could see his point. Najma's current, and most likely preferred, approach was indeed not working very well, whereas Ukeiri had had nothing but success in communicating with the aliens. Not like that was a surprise, as it was literally his entire job description. Perhaps the shipmind had made a mistake in choosing her to be the first contact.

On the other hand, if Najma were making mistakes, they were the kind of mistakes that made collecting data more difficult. Not the kind of mistakes that might lead to the death of their guest.

"You already know what I'm going to say to that. While the questions regarding your loyalty have been almost entirely resolved, they have not been entirely resolved. There is still a minute chance that you are by far the worst person for that job, even if in the other 99% of cases you are the best."

"Oh spit it out. You think I'm going to try to kill it?"

"Probably not. But maybe."

"Right. So you're letting Najma be the diplomat in my place, believing that I can still help from a distance. I can see it. But there may be a few facts you're neglecting to put into your flowchart. One, there is clearly a difference between her following the letter of my suggestions and following the spirit of them. It is likely that she cannot be taught the spirit of them in any reasonable amount of time."

"I have observed and considered this. I do not think she is doing a bad enough job to warrant her replacement."

"And two, that one percent, or point one percent, or whatever you think the risk may be, can be eliminated with a bit of cleverness."

"...go on."

"At the moment, she's not wearing anything to interact with the alien. But that's by no means a hard and fast rule. We have spacesuits of our own. With time, we could modify one to restrict the wearer's actions to nonviolent ones, as determined by you. If the success of our mission is at stake," Ukeiri paused for effect, "I would be willing to subject myself to this form of containment."

Distant considered this. Certainly at the moment none of their suits could do anything of the sort. But the ship had plenty of miscellaneous tools and components on board - the crew was supposed to be able to adapt to any situation they encountered.

"I admit, I had not thought of anything like what you suggest. It is an outlandish proposal. But allowing you to interact directly with our guest may still pose an ideological hazard."

Ukeiri laughed, genuinely. "I could talk it into committing suicide?"

"Well. It is my job to prevent any negative outcomes, however ludicrous they may sound."

"No, that's fair enough. But if I were going to pose an 'ideological hazard', why wouldn't I try to talk someone on the Deep Ocean into hitting the self-destruct?"

Again Distant could not find a comeback. "I suppose you are right. That is an honest signal of your intentions if I have ever seen one." The shipmind paused. "Very well. Silmiyen and I will attempt to modify a suit to serve the purpose you suggest. In the meantime, I will inform Najma of the situation."

Ukeiri smiled. "Glad to hear it. While you're at it, maybe you could inform her of the reason for the switch. It might help to mitigate the damage until I get there."

"I will do so to the extent that it does not damage her morale. And if you happen to see her, I expect that you will keep the same goal in mind."

"Hey, you know me. I'm not one to gloat."

Back in the shuttle dock, Najma regarded the drone curiously. "we'll keep to a schedule of updating the deep ocean," she wrote. "probably best to wait until you have something substantial to report, though." The Camilan ran a tendril down the door's beige concave handle and it opened by itself, allowing Kalsuri to float inside. The actual airlock room was quite small, just large enough to perform its intended function like the rest of the ship. The Camilan did not follow her guest, instead closing the door and executing a series of commands on a keypad next to it. As she did so, the airlock began to fill with water, and parts of the opaque plastic on the doors seemed to change composition to become transparent.

Najma held the tablet up to the newly formed outer window. "there it is, your room. there's a smaller, faster airlock for transferring food to the aquarium's inhabitants. just signal to the camera out here and i will send it through. the water will be constantly rotated out and refreshed, same with the air." She took the tablet away to write something else. "you can take your suit off if it's more comfortable - the water is the temperature and pressure that your mothership recommended to us."

Around this time, the airlock would be completely filled with water, and the door on the other side would slide open to allow Kalsuri into the main aquarium. True to Najma's word, it was much less cramped than the dock had been, if somewhat less visually interesting due to the relative lack of equipment on the walls. The room looked like it was suited to house much more than one inhabitant, but because Kalsuri had it to herself it was unusually spacious. Like everywhere else on the Distant Touch, the room featured a viewscreen, camera, and speaker, as well as a few of the control panels that seemed to be ubiquitous. However, these were clustered on the wall that had the airlock door - the other surfaces were comparatively uninteresting. The room was not a perfect rectangular prism, instead bearing curved corners and several large indentations, as if there were some kind of equipment outside that the aquarium had been built around.

At the moment, the room was completely full of water, with nowhere obvious for Kalsuri to breathe. Najma held up the tablet to explain. "if you do decide to take your suit off, you can get air from one of the six nozzles around the room. they're connected to air tanks outside the room, so we can replenish them separately from the water. you should be able to refill your suit's air supply with them, too. i know, it's not a perfect system, but our ship isn't built to rotate like yours is, so we don't have any gravity to keep the air and water apart." She pulled the tablet back again. "hang on, someone wants to talk to me."

Najma withdrew from sight, leaving Kalsuri to her own devices for a moment. Distant had addressed her through the speaker in the shuttle dock, though it hadn't said what it wanted to talk about. "What is it?" she asked of the general area around her.

"It has been determined, primarily by me, that your lack of formal diplomatic training is posing more of an obstacle than initially anticipated."

Najma's heart sank. "This isn't about what I said about Ukeiri, is it?"

"Partially, yes. It is poor form to show any kind of hostility or disagreement between crew members."

"I know, I didn't forget that. I just thought it was more important to be honest about every aspect of Kalsuri's environment, so she didn't think we were keeping anything from her when she found out later on her own."

"Had you not told her, she would not have found out. Additionally, while your methods of communicating with the alien are suitably benevolent, they are less efficient than Ukeiri's in terms of acquiring information. Which is why it is unfortunate that you had to disparage him in the alien's presence."

"I'm sorry. Maybe it was wrong of me to make that decision." Najma had been confident in her choice when she made it, but now a creeping sense of guilt had wormed its way into her. The shipmind was right - she wasn't supposed to do anything drastic without consulting the others first.

"I did not mean to imply that. You were assigned a task and have done it to the best of your ability. It would be foolish of me to blame you for any diplomatic blunders, considering your relative lack of training and expertise. If anything, it is my fault for having given you a task you could not have been prepared for."

Najma looked up at the camera. "Thank you, but I knew the requirements of the job. Don't make any strategic decisions without Ukeiri's input."

Distant hesitated. For a moment, it wished that it still had a body of flesh and blood, and a voice made by a syrinx rather than a synthesizer. Try as it might, it knew that a large part of comforting someone was physical in nature - it could try to talk the Camilan down but, without being able to even place a hand on her shoulder, there was only so much it could do to improve her mood.

"Attempting to assign blame in such a situation is a sticky and ultimately pointless exercise," it said. "Please, for my sake, give up on it."

"Okay, if you insist." The Camilan took a deep breath and shuddered. "So what are we going to do? Is no one on this ship capable of diplomacy on a high enough level?"

"No. One person is."

"Uh...."

"Please, your protests have already been anticipated. A way has been found to lower the risk of direct interaction to an acceptable level. I have been made for the purpose of determining what that level is and whether a given course of action successfully reaches it - you have not."

Najma thought about this. "No, I'm not protesting. If you think Ukeiri will do a better job than me, then I believe you."

"Oh. I am glad you are not resentful."

"I don't dislike the man. And I try to keep a realistic view of my own weaknesses. As long as you think it's safe, I would be happy to see him outshine me." She smiled. "There will be plenty of time for me to study our guest on a more physical level later."

"Yes, you're right. It is still planned to make a full record of the alien's physiology, a task you are much better suited to than he."

"How are we going to break the news to Kalsuri? I mean, what if she's worried about talking to Ukeiri because of what I said?"

"That is a definite possibility but one I cannot think of a way to avoid. The best I believe we can do is to have you remain in proximity to the specimen alongside Ukeiri. It may help to reassure it of its safety."

"Reassure her, you mean."

Distant paused. "I am surprised to hear such a correction from you, of all people."

"Some people prefer to dehumanize their subjects to lessen the stress of working with them. I prefer to keep my sensitivity. You wanna have a debate over this?"

"Reassure her, then."

"Thank you. And I would be happy to stay with Kalsuri, as I'm sure you guessed. Can I explain the situation to her?"

"Run what you plan to say by Ukeiri and me, then you can."

A few moments later, and Najma would again be visible through the window. "sorry about that. i was talking with the other members of our crew. they don't think i've been able to learn enough about you to successfully ensure your wellbeing, and i agree. so ukeiri is going to come and help me talk to you. i'll still be here, and you can still talk to me if you prefer, but i'll have to discuss with ukeiri before replying. what i said about his loyalty is still true, but he's going to be handicapped to the point that he won't be able to harm you even if you're right next to him, and to the point that i'll be able to protect you even if he tries."

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Postby Kyasiouna » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:49 am

As the airlock closed Kalsuri withdrew her hand from her mouth and looked about the airlock as it started to flood with water. Somewhat surprised but not scared she realized that the next room was the aquarium. For some reason she had thought that the aquarium would be a structure in a room as opposed to a room of its own. As the process finished Kalsuri moved to explore her chambers. The water tasted like metal, she realized that the novelty of this room was going to wear out very fast. The system for breathing seemed awkward but the ship was probably not designed for an underwater species so that made sense. She turned to see Najma’s message before she moved out of frame. A little concerning but probably not a big deal.

While Najma did whatever it was she was doing Kalsuri removed her suit twisting and writhing to flick the last bit off of her tail. It always felt great to be in open water even after only a couple of minutes in a suit. Her pale grey green skin was lighter on her belly and gradually became darker on her back to the point that it formed dark diamond like patterns that were almost black. She decided she would wait to explore her quarters. She floated over to the door where Najma was last seen and waited.

Upon her return Kalsuri again read the message and responded quickly, her posture was a puzzled one but it was unlikely that Najma would pick up on that.


What did they think you would learn in five minutes? Regardless I… well…” Kalsuri’s tail moved back and forth in the water for a second before she continued, “Does he really need to be handicapped? He must be quite a bit larger than you. What makes him so dangerous?
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Postby Camila I » Mon Jul 04, 2016 4:44 pm

"no, he's not larger than me. and nothing in particular makes him dangerous - he's not really. but we think that even the small threat he poses is worth mitigating." Najma was surprised to get this particular reaction out of the alien - it seemed she was not familiar with the brand of risk analysis that was standard procedure on this ship.

As for what Najma was expected to learn, she said nothing. That would become apparent soon enough.

A few moments later, one of the doors opposite the nose of the shuttle slid open, and a dark figure floated through. Najma recognized the slight frame as Ukeiri's, though his attire was unfamiliar. What he was wearing resembled a cross between a gimp suit and a powered exoskeleton - Najma could not tell what the other two had started with to get this result, so extensive were the modifications. All of his body was covered with the black material except for his eyestalk, which happened to be black as well. The only flashes of color came from the exposed metal bars surrounding his limbs.

"Oh, hi Ukeiri," she said, tone slightly worried. "I, uh, take it that's the risk-lowering thing Distant told me about?"

"Whatever helps that thing sleep at night." He paused. "Or, you know, whatever it does instead of sleeping."

Najma pushed off the shuttle and drifted over to him. She ran her tendrils along the metal cautiously. "It looks uncomfortable."

"That's probably because you're only seeing the outside of it. Aside from the restricted movement, it's actually quite comfortable."

"So how does it work?"

"These hydraulic-looking parts are designed to augment the actions of the wearer. Distant simply set up a system whereby they're linked to his nerve tissue remotely, rather than to mine through the existing interface. It's set by default to limit the acceleration of my limbs to a certain low amount, and Distant can also override any slow actions that he thinks may be problematic."

Najma wasn't sure how to respond. She felt sympathy for Ukeiri's situation, but she also understood why the shipmind had insisted on it.

"Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to go introduce myself to our guest."

Najma hesitated. "I don't think it would matter if I did mind."

"Good answer. I can already tell this arrangement is going to work out great." With that, the black-clad Camilan swung himself around to the airlock door and grabbed onto the handle. "There's a normal spacesuit in the adjacent room - go don it. I'm not going to be using a tablet to communicate with her."

"O - okay." Najma didn't question why this was.

"While you're doing that, I'll set the airlock to vacuum and dry so we can both go in. We should both be able to stay in there indefinitely using the filtration system we have set up." He entered a few commands on the keypad, now fully visible to Kalsuri. "Might as well bring as much food as we can carry from the shuttle while we're at it."

A short while later, Kalsuri would see the inner door of the airlock open up, and the two Camilans swim through. It had turned out that the entire crate of food fit inside the airlock, albeit extremely awkwardly, and so each of them supported half its weight as they pulled it through. The dark one directed the other to the nearest corner and they pushed the crate down into it - barring any sudden acceleration on the ship's part it would mostly stay there.

This done, the black-clad Camilan approached Kalsuri, with the lighter-suited one following closely. Her suit was somewhat thicker and made her look even larger in comparison to Ukeiri than she normally did, as its original purpose was to survive the vacuum of space. It was composed primarily of a white fabric, with various small multicolored markings in a similar design to the ship itself, and a reflective sphere that covered the center of her flower, where her eyes were.

"Wow, it's cold in here," Ukeiri commented to Najma, before turning his attention to the alien. He addressed her in her native tongue, and in his own voice, with no hint of a translator. All appearances suggested he had learned the language in the ~1 day since they had received its codex, which, with the help of his implants, he had.

"Greetings. I am Ukeiri. I presume Najma has told you about me. I'm sure it would mean very little for me to say that I mean you well - instead, I will leave you to draw this conclusion on your own through my behavior." The Camilan blinked and rubbed his eyes, apparently not used to having water in them. "In order to ensure your wellbeing, and for our own purposes as well, there are some questions I must ask of you. You are free to refuse to answer them, or be dishonest if you like, but you will primarily be hurting yourself if you choose to do so, as we will use your answers to improve your living conditions." Ukeiri fell silent for a few moments to let the alien process this.

"First question. Please describe your emotional reaction to being on this ship, and to all aspects of it that you think are relevant. This includes your quarters, your treatment so far, any feelings you have about any of the crew members, et cetera. I know that Najma has already asked you this, but I would like a more detailed response." Ukeiri paused again. "As a further reward for providing me with a level of detail sufficient to satisfy me, I will answer a question of yours to whatever degree of specificity you desire. It can be about anything, and I will answer completely. If you desire physical evidence of any kind, it will be included in the answer. If you do not have any questions, you may save this right for a later time. This exchange rate, of one detailed answer for another, will hold true for any questions I ask of you in the future as well."

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Postby Kyasiouna » Mon Jul 04, 2016 5:28 pm

Listening to what Najma said she waited for the rest of the answer when another figure entered the room. Kalsuri couldn't help but back away from the strange being in the exoskeleton as it approached the airlock. It was dressing in a very concealing suit with what seemed to be an exoskeleton. Black and metallic it defied an idea that Kalsuri had developed. That, after talking to Najma, it seemed there wasn’t something on the ship that would be inherently frightening. Until meeting, she assumed, Ukeiri. Her lungs began to absorb more oxygen than they had been previously causing Kalsuri to long for air, although it was not yet a concern. She floated farther away from the airlock. She moved to provide room for the two aliens that were going to enter, at least that’s what she told herself.

Kalsuri almost flinched when Ukeiri spoke, his voice was the first she had heard on the ship. While Ukeiri did have an accent it was very fluent and not very distinct. Kalsuri stared at the small black flower as it provided what seemed to be a very straight forward deal so to speak. She floated mostly parallel to the floor and ceiling and waited for Ukeiri to finish, and then some to make sure she didn’t interrupt, before she spoke.

Hello Ukeiri,” She moved her hand to her mouth and bowed her head before looking up, moving her hand away, and continuing, “I sure you know my name is Kalsuri. I am sorry if my answer is not as…” She paused again apparently searching for a word, “articulated as you might desire. The reason being is I have a lot of emotions about being on the ship as well as leaving my ship and… other reasons.” Kalsuri realized how suspicious that sounded but continued but speaking more carefully. “I am scared, and… well intimidated. Your ship is large and you are very different from us, it is also unnerving that you have such a grasp of our language. I am also excited to meet you, well… to meet you and also to see your ship. Unless something happened while we were traveling this is the first contact to my knowledge.

The length of her own words caused her to fidget, these actions manifested as a tail motion to slowly push her forward however this was countered by her hands moving to push her back. The motion was very slow and deliberate. “I am perfectly content with my quarters… while it is, without a doubt, a worse living condition than the ecosystems back on the Deep Ocean. It is not the quality of my chambers that I would concern myself with, after all this is about meeting aliens. Whatever the cost, the Mother knows that it is worth it.” Kalsuri secretly wished that the alien hadn’t asked such a complicated question she continued after another brief pause to think of the rest of her answer. “I don't have any outstanding feelings about any of you guys yet, but.. I mean… we only just met. My feeling aside I think I have the perfect question.

Kalsuri paused longer than before clearly in thought, she looked at Ukeiri as she spoke, “My question is, do you think there is a chance of conflict between this vessel including those on board versus our vessel and those on board? If you do why?” With Ukeiri’s knowledge of physiology he might recognize that Kalsuri was quite apprehensive about his response.
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Postby Camila I » Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:42 pm

As Kalsuri spoke, Ukeiri was obviously listening intently, much more so than Najma had been. At certain intervals, often when Kalsuri paused to think, he would give some kind of quiet commentary to show he was paying attention. "You are intimidated by the nature of our ship and of ourselves. Of course." A little later on, "I see. You would prefer the living conditions of your own vessel."

When Kalsuri had asked her question, Ukeiri spoke in a louder voice. "I am sorry to hear that your overriding emotion is fear, but I can understand it. This ship does not constitute a very welcoming environment. I admit that I myself have been quite worried at times while communicating with an alien vessel, but I am sure it does not come close to what you feel being on board one."

"As to why I am able to speak your language, it is not a natural ability of my species. Najma cannot understand us except with the help of our shipmind. Rather, I have been gifted with a suite of cybernetic implants that improve my pattern recognition and allow me to store information separately from my natural memories. They are very useful for communicating, as well as for discerning subtleties in your speech and body language, but they do not grant me any of the general intelligence that my ability to learn a language within a day might suggest. Also, I have not derived any knowledge of your language from observing your species or anything of the like. The Deep Ocean sent us a codex containing all of your linguistic information, which I have drawn from in my studies."

"Though I am always happy to hear more from you, I will accept that level of detail as satisfactory. As promised, I will attempt to answer your question. The answer is no, there is no possibility of conflict, for the simple reason that it takes two to tango. Our shipmind will never authorize a strike on your vessel - all it would serve to do would be to end lives and destroy valuable information, two things it is very opposed to. Even if you were to strike first, the previous fact remains unchanged - the shipmind has no concept of revenge and would evaluate the situation exactly the same way. And before you ask, the shipmind is the ultimate authority here. The three Camilans are equal in rank, and we may discuss amongst ourselves and offer our opinions to it, but it controls the ship wholly independently of us."

Ukeiri looked at the alien for a few moments before speaking again. "Next question. What was your role and status on the Deep Ocean, and what were your living conditions like there? Again, please include as much detail as you think could possibly be relevant."

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Postby Kyasiouna » Mon Jul 04, 2016 7:37 pm

If Kalsuri was to later recount this instance she would not have said that she visibly flinched when Ukeiri stated that he had “cybernetic” implants. However she, without a doubt, flinched as well as drew a sharp breath. The breath was into her mouth and not her lungs, so no drowning ensued, she tried to suppress any further reaction. As she composed herself, trying not to think about it, she listened to the remainder of Ukeiri’s answer. It was more or less what she had expected, although he had not specifically said the people wouldn't attack it sounded like it wasn't up to them. Kalsuri was surprised to hear the next question was also about her, although she didn't know much about anything else now that she thought about it.

Kalsuri thought longer than before and after a moment she realized that it would be rather difficult to explain what her purpose on the Deep Ocean was. Not that she didn't know, rather that she was unsure of how to put it into words. She looked at Ukeiri for a moment before she began.

It’s a bit more complicated than having a certain job, my status is simply worker, or child of the Mother. She is my purpose, it’s as simple as that. The only thing is that with machines that are able to perform most of the applicable task that a worker like me would normally do, we end up doing work alongside drone and other machines in order to serve the queen and... I guess most people seem okay with it. I’m different though.” Kalsuri hesitated realizing what she was saying, she continued casting doubt aside she wanted to share her secret and the Mother had made her promise not to tell other workers. “I learned that workers have uh…” she looked at Ukeiri intently, “Workers normally have cybernetic… well, I think bionic might be a more appropriate term. They have these machines inside them that create a false sense of happiness and fulfillment. I’m not saying i’m smarter than other workers, but none of them seemed to be aware. Once I figured it out it seemed obvious… it's kind of a long story but I eventually had them removed before being sent here. The Mother said it would be important for her to send someone over who had unmodified behavior.

Kalsuri spun away from Ukeiri, looking about the room before circling to face him again, “The Deep Ocean is much different from your ship, in more ways than i can describe, the biggest one is probably gravity and the second is how most of the ship is made to mimic the natural ocean. We have coral and fish and all sorts of organisms living on the ship. All of them are part of our natural habitat and are meant to promote health and well being... or something…

Kalsuri trailed off but did not continue.
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Camila I » Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:24 pm

"Yes, I suppose you're right," Ukeiri commented in regards to the alien's correction of terminology.

"I assume since you have not asked a question, you wish to log the opportunity. I will keep track of it, as may you if you wish. If I may say, your hive queen is wrong - it is not important to us that you act in any particular way. A modified behavioral suite tells us just as much about your species, if not more, than a natural one. What is important to us is your wellbeing - which it sounds like your implants were helping to improve. It is regrettable that you had to have them removed in order to be sent over."

The Camilan swam a little closer to Kalsuri, in a manner that suggested he had never formally learned how. "Actually, that's very regrettable. Please, tell me more about the nature of the implants. What exactly did they do, to you and, in your estimation, to the other workers? And are you unfulfilled or unhappy without them?"

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Postby Kyasiouna » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:15 pm

The notion of exchanging questions seemed unnecessary, Kalsuri decided she would let Ukeiri keep track and would just talk normally until the question quota ran out. She stopped fidgeting her hands when Ukeiri presented the notion that their removal was “regrettable” she was barely able to hold her tongue while she waited for him to finish his question.

No no no no, I think you misunderstand.” She backed away from Ukeiri as he advanced, “The other workers live fulfilling lives, or at least they think they do. I longed for the removal of the bionics. I felt like the emotions were forced and unnatural… that actually how I figured out that the bionics were there.” She thought for a moment as if she was trying to remember or piece something together, “I’m not entirely sure how the machines function but to my knowledge they control and manipulate several different organs in the body to create a natural production of happiness and fulfillment. Now that I, not only have gotten rid of the bionics, but also have purpose in interacting with you I am happier than ever.” Kalisuri dragged her arms though the water absent mindedly. “Honestly I haven't felt this good in a long time…”

Snapping back to attention she realized she had to think of a question, “Uh… Since you said there was no threat between our two ships, why are you wearing that restrictive suit? Is there really a chance that you will attack me?
Last edited by Kyasiouna on Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Camila I » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:25 pm

"Ah, that's good to hear. See, we're making progress. The way you had phrased it, and the way your mothership phrased it earlier, made it sound like the queen removed the implants against your will for our benefit." Internally, the Camilan didn't believe a word of what the Kyasian was saying. It was clear to him that the tentacles of the hive queen's control ran deep - there was currently no way for him to tell whether Kalsuri had really wanted the implants removed in the first place, or even if she was correctly remembering their effects. The alien might also be sound of mind, but simply lying out of fear that her leader would find out about it. No way to tell. Which was unfortunate as this was information that Ukeiri strongly desired. It might be obtainable, eventually, but he would have to wait at least until Najma completed her physiological survey to get any kind of context on what the alien was saying.

"It may be that the sensation of forcedness is caused by a lack of sophistication in the implants. If you wish, we have the capability to design implants that will produce a more nuanced and context-dependent sensation of happiness. If you feel that the problem was that the emotions were inappropriate, we can also design an implant that amplifies positive emotions and dulls negative ones, allowing them to retain their usefulness. This would only be possible with an extensive knowledge of your species' neurochemistry, but we plan to acquire such an understanding anyway."

"On a similar note, we will be requesting samples of the coral and other organisms your ship houses for our own purposes." Sure enough, around this time a light message would be sent to the Deep Ocean with exactly this content. Again the offer to shuttle the cargo was included - no other details would be. "Since you said their presence was intended to increase your wellbeing, there seems to be no reason not to store them with you. Filling up another aquarium would be somewhat wasteful anyway."

"As for your question. The simple answer is that I am required by our shipmind to wear the suit in order to interact with you, and as I am the most qualified person to do that, I am willing to comply with that requirement. I hope you can see by my chosen lines of questioning that I wish only to help you. If you do not believe this, I would not begrudge you your disbelief. There will be more evidence of my goodwill the longer you stay here - you may become convinced sooner or later, either is fine with me. You will find that this is my general philosophy in life - talk is cheap, actions can be expensive. The more expensive they are, the more telling."

"You may ask yourself, if that's true, then whence would the shipmind get the idea that I was dangerous in the first place? That question, too, has a relatively simple answer. Each of us here on the ship have different academic interests, mine are socially unacceptable. Perhaps you understand already."

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Postby Kyasiouna » Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:16 pm

Already feeling uncertain about her surroundings Kalsuri was quick to feel threatened by Ukeiri. For reasons that she was unsure of she had not felt so nervous around Najma, perhaps it was her beautiful petals. Whatever the basis for her uncertainty she made up her mind to treat Ukeiri without prejudice despite her gut feelings. She was almost sure it was just the fact that he was so hidden by the suit that it created an air of mystery. As he started to speak Kalsuri wondered what color his petals were…

Realizing that she was partially ignoring what he was saying she snapped back to attention, not letting her change in focus show, she managed to catch that he thought the mother removed her implants forcibly. She shook her head when he said this but she did not interrupt. Ukeiri continued to explain that they had better, more sophisticated, implants which he also offered to provide. Kalsuri subtly backed away from Ukeiri, the motion was slow and did not appear to be a conscious decision on Kalsuri’s part. Shaking her head she muttered something about how she didn’t feel that it was necessary. Her statements were not spoken clearly and could not be translated as they were not complete words or sentences, simply a verbal protest. The words spoken were uttered in a jovial ‘thanks but no thanks’ manner.

As Ukeiri continued he did lighten the mood, somewhat, with the information that they were planning to bring the aquarium up to standard by importing coral from the Deep Ocean. Assuming the Mother was willing to provide the resources necessary to make these changes Kalsuri was sure that the environment would soon be much less stressful. Although the stress was mostly from the new environment, and not a worse one, it was most likely a problem that would solve itself but she wasn't about to complain about this change. She repeated the curtsy gesture that she had used before, covering her mouth with one hand and dipping her head. The hand involved seemed to be random.

Finally Ukeiri began to answer her question about the suit and his own nature. As the words flowed out of Ukeiri’s mind and into the water Kalsuri was reminded of a predator from the natural waters. While she had never seen one before the behavior of the predator was to move its body forward in segments so as to advance without appearing to move forward. The videos she had seen showed it reach out towards other fish and the fish didn't seem to react until the creature was so close that they had no chance of escape. Remembering the warning about the possible deceptive nature of the aliens came to her mind and by the time Ukeiri had finished talking Kalsuri realized she had backed away from him at some point.

Kalsuri corrected her position moving closer as she struggled to find the right words for a response, the way that Ukeiri spoke seemed to portray a great amount of forethought and she wasn't used to such calculated speech. It didn’t help that she couldn’t take her mind off what he meant by saying that his “goodwill” would be proven. Why didn’t he just say that he wasn’t planning on hurting her? She noticed that Ukeiri had stopped talking and she had no idea for how long. Managing to compose a sentence before too much time passed she suddenly spoke up.

I look forward to seeing the changes… to the uh… room. I think the coral will make it a lot nicer!” She felt her chest tighten subtly as her need for a breath of air became apparent but not yet important. “What uh… about your academic interests will a-” The pause in Kalsuri’s speech was brief, someone learning the language might not even realize there was a pause, “allow you to explore our neurochemistry? I’m not a scientist, what would the method for that be?

Kalsuri’s posture, while still alien, was one of forced calm. She wasn’t poised for anything but it was clear she wasn’t relaxed.



The Deep Ocean quickly responded to the transmission from the Distant Touch.

We apologize for overlooking the fact that you would want to emulate our environment. While seeming obvious in hindsight we had not anticipated this. We will have supplies from replicating our environment sent over as soon as your vessel for transporting them arrives. Kalsuri like all workers is very talented when it come to maintaining coral forests. You should find that with the proper temperatures and currents the forest will flourish. If you have any other question please let us know.

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