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 I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep

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MissingAxis



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PostSubject: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:46 pm

It was just two hundred years after the Flenser Movement unified the city-states of Khashar that the first interstellar probes were constructed and sent off to distant stars, loaded with dozens of frozen minds and just enough Focused crewmen to breed replacement bodies for a hundred or so years of travel. Only two decades later did Flenser realize the effects his decision may have. For any nearby stargazers, the nuclear fire of each probe's engine would be a beacon broadcasting the khashi presence around their little yellow star. The old mind hastened to construct proper interstellar colony ships, and loaded them with permanent crews and passengers.

Several hundred years later, those colony ships still wait in orbits around various bodies in the Khasharnat system, self-sustaining city-states among the stars. Observatories around the system look outward, watching for any sign of preemptive attack or retaliation.

---

The nearest telescope installation hadn't gotten a chance to see the object before the state-of-the-art silicon circuitry was radiation-killed. It was that telescope's cousin, driven by the archaic gears and optics of Khashar's early space age, that made the report. Situated in a highly elliptical orbit around the system's sole gas giant, the mechanical telescope passed its apoapsis and began to hurtle back toward the gas giant after beaming a crude image of the object back to the brains on Khashar. It would be the first image in a collection of hundreds with better quality and resolution, but those wouldn't come for several K-secs at least, as the telescopes re-oriented and focused.

On the far side of the gas giant was the Worldship I Dreampt I Had A Little Death, spared the blast of radiation but also ignorant of it. In a dozen K-secs' time, it would come to peek around the Jovian, exposed to whatever threat there may be and unable to flee with only e-jets for propulsion. It hung in an incredibly low orbit, circling the planet in just under a Khasharnat day, at a hundred kiloseconds per orbit.

Unarmed, unaware, and unable to be helped for several days, the people of Little Death continued their daily routine.
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Inada



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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Oct 29, 2014 6:23 pm

The atmosphere aboard the Chiselwing's bridge was cacophonous, a mess of chirps and hisses and the click clack click of heavy switches and toggles being thrown. The crew were all wearing bulky environment suits, one or two with scarves wrapped around their scaly necks.

"Emergence vector is low, I repeat, emergence vector is low! We're in the orbital plane!"

"Cameras operational; immediate PDS bubble is clear! Gathering further data as we speak!"

"Captain, the drive is unwinding and heating coils are working full-time. Environmental levels returning to normal!"

"Thrust has been reduced, we're drifting clear of the emergence zone."

Warning lights continued to flash along several consoles. The captain hit some switches and the navigation display flickered to life on one of the screens arranged around her crash seat, showing a tactical map overlaid with data the camera arrays and other sensors were pulling in slowly. Runic script scrolled alongside a few highlighted points, indicating the jump course from which they had apparently deviated. A gas giant loomed far closer than it should have been.

The captain adjusted the headset clipped around her horns, switching on the speaker system. "Engineering, run a diagnostic on the X-A engine; our emergence vector was nearly level with the orbital plane and we need to know what happened and how to prevent it from happening upon exit."

"Copy that, captain," came the tinny reply.

A click as the captain killed the intercom. Running through the list of post-jump checklists on her monitors, the captain pushed them back up to the ceiling and glanced around the bridge. It was roughly octagonal, with a raised dais at one end for the captain's seat and the other control nooks arrayed around the outside. Each crash seat was set up on gyroscopic springs to help cope with sudden movements of the ship and to allow them to swivel from the enclosed tactical position to the more informal arrangement in which they all faced inwards towards each other.

Already most of the bridge crew had swung their seats down and were exchanging glances while they continued to work; traversing a wormhole bridge was a stressful event. As the chilly air began to warm back up, a flush of relief-laden pheromones filled the air.

"Well," the captain sighed, "at least we didn't smash into anything. Or anybody, for that matter. Communications, are we getting anything?"

"Broad radio chatter. No idea what its supposed to be, just noise. Artificial noise for sure, though."

"And sensors, any signs of movement?"

"One major sighting in a wide orbit around the gas giant, not too far from us. Looks like a satellite? It would have been within the flash zone of our emergence event. Proper scans will take a while to cover the rest of the system."

The captain's eyes lit up, ears twitching. "A satellite? You're sure?"

"We haven't gotten a good look at it yet, but it fits the profile."

"Well then," the captain grinned with sharp teeth, "I think we've found what we were looking for. Navigation, get us into a stable orbit around the gas giant. Communications, sensors, keep our eyes and ears wide."

Engines flared orange across the length of the Chiselwing, a long and narrow ship like a railroad spike swaddled in boxy compartments and networks of scaffolding. The angular length swung about and fired its main torch, accelerating towards the gas giant at a decent pace.
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MissingAxis



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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Sun Nov 02, 2014 3:55 pm

Ship Master Shadisiik was not a large man by normal standards. As a foursome with an equal sex split, it would have been expected that both his males had twice the girth of the females, easily dwarfing them. Instead, the master had only one large male, even then only one and a half times larger, but with an unusually powerful arm. The other male was almost indistinguishable from the females. With them alongside, the width of his head's crest gave him away, but with no females nearby to compare him to, Ik could easily pass for female until he spoke.

In the fifty and some-odd years he had been Ship Master of the I Dreampt I Had a Little Death, Shadisiik had never been woken from his sleeping period.

The master of sensors and communications had fetched him personally, cutting into his sleep by nearly a dozen kiloseconds. The woman waited politely in the hall while Shadisiik slid into his uniform, and when he opened the door, he found that she was already across the wide hallway, so as not to overlap her mind-chatter with his. Shadisiik's females and small male grasped the straps on the back of the larger male, Di's, back. The single powerful arm of Di pulled them a little way up the hallway before crossing over some meters ahead of the sens-comms master. They floated up the hallway, the overlapping mind-noise only the occasional annoyance as they worked into a comfortable pace.

"You haven't told me why I'm awake, Master Lilykima."

"I assumed you would want to see for yourself." Their talkers faced each other, both females.

"Not when my sleep has been interrupted. Tell me."

"There's a ship on a course to Rakuu, Master. Its drive is preventing us from getting a good look at it, but..."

Rather than demand she continue, Shadisiik waited. A hundred and a half seconds passed before Lilykima continued.

"Shadisiik, there's no record from Khashar of any ship heading out here. And it's coming from the wrong direction."

The Ship Master pulled himself along faster, arriving a hundred seconds later at the ship's bridge.

It was a large room, with several console filled nooks and plenty of open space where someone could pass through without much mind overlap. Shadisiik put on an appearance of calmness, climbing into his command nook. His smaller members stayed low in the nook, making Shadisiik's Di look like a singleton.

With a voice like a large, angry drunk, Shadisiik spoke through his Di. "Hear this! Hear this! All crew to battle stations!"

Without hesitation, they leapt to obey. The Ship Master let a smile spread along his hidden, smaller members. He ran a tight ship, even if it was only intended for interstellar colonization.

"Shall I hail the craft, Ship Master?" It was Lilykima asking, her voice tiny through his nook's intercom.

"Wait a hundred seconds and do it then."

---

The Worldship begins to broadcast a relatively short-range radio signal on a number of frequencies, each pulse of the radio no different from the last.

One pulse. Another. Two pulses. Three. Five. Silence.

The Worldship continued slowly along its orbit.
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Inada



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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:36 pm

"Captain, the camera arrays focused on the gas giant have picked up another heat signature rising over the horizon."

"A third satellite?"

"Bigger. Much bigger. Looks like an orbital platform, maybe a very large ship."

The Chiselwing had settled into its burn, roaring silently through space under the might of its engines. Not long after setting their course they'd refocused their sensors towards the gas giant itself, hoping to get a clear picture of their destination. The first thing they had noticed had been a second satellite, this one far enough away as to have been unharmed by their emergence flash. The object had made no attempt to communicate, and the captain had ruled against sending it any direct messages.

But now this third object, that was certainly interesting.

Some dark fringe of the Iliska had noticed the distant flare of atomic engines in this system, ancient light reaching sensitive eyes hundreds of years after it had been emitted.

The response had been... mixed.

On the one hand, it was evidence that Hwaa was not the only bastion of sentient life in the galaxy, something which indema scholars had suspected ever since finding complex (although unintelligent) life throughout the fringes of their territory. But on the other hand, whatever had created those flares of heat and light was unknown, a mystery. Were they hostile? Were they friendly? Was that distant star their home, or merely the edge of a civilization vaster than anything the indema could comprehend?

The Arkos' inner circle had been in uproar over how to respond. A fleet? A probe? Should they send scientists, or soldiers?

The Lady of the Iliska, Arkos Viy-Kya II, She Who Sits The Throne, had made her choice clear and had put an end to the debate. A single ship crewed by loyal (and above all critical) members of the Armada would be sent to make contact. Their orders were simple: establish communication with the source of the energy readings, ascertain their strengths, gauge their weaknesses, and above all seek to avoid conflict unless it could be ended swiftly and decisively in the favour of the Iliska.

Captain Quo (firsthatched of her clutch and one of the officers involved in the swift and conclusive establishment of the Quarantine Zone) had been chosen to lead the expedition.

And so here she sat, right at the convergence point of history.

They received one pulse. Another. Two pulses. Three. Five. Silence.

The Chiselwing was silent itself for long minutes, but then...

Eight pulses in return. Thirteen pulses. Twenty-one pulses. No more. The ship's course corrected, thrusters flaring, adjusting its orbit so as match that of the I Dreampt I Had a Little Death.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 4:53 pm

"Response received, Ship Master. They continued the sequence."

"Thank you, Lilykima." Shadisiik paused, heads turning slightly to view his displays. "Astrogation, I want an updated vector on my screens no more than a hundred seconds after their burn is finished."

"Yes, Ship Master. I'm feeding the data straight into the wetware, you should be getting live updates any moment."

Good, he thought. The astrogation manager was new, the replacement of a less desirable specimen. Shadisiik made a mental note to have another look at the man's file. He seemed promising enough, and perhaps his family tree had some untapped potential in it as well.

The Ship Master ordered a taxi prepared, and took the sen-comms master aside...

"You can't really want me to go out there!"

"Not all of you. We'll suit up your talker and keep semi-thawed replacements on standby--"

"It's been ten years since they were cut out of me!" Despite the distance between them, Shadisiik could feel Lilykima's anger and fear as the mind-noise of her members grew louder. He raised his Di's arm reflexively, poised to strike. Lilykima calmed and pulled her heads back some.

"You're the best one to send. I'll keep a flenser on hand to stitch you back together, the best one we have. You know we can't risk a miscommunication."

Lilykima looked back at him with understanding, but the fear remained. Shadisiik inched forward, Di's large arm extended to stroke the side of her head, but she withdrew and pulled herself down the hall, taking care to go far around the Ship Master before passing him. She glanced back with one head.

As she disappeared around the corner, she let a shudder run through her. It had been his Di that reached out to her, the strong armed male just a bit below average in size. The heads of the Ship Master's females were visible on either side of Di's large head-crest, looking not at her but up and down the hall. But above Di's headcrest, Lilykima could see the beady eyes of Ik, the tiny male. Those eyes didn't hold the same gentleness of Di's. Something about them seemed malicious and deviant, but it was the gleam of intelligence on top that scared her.

Those were flenser eyes. Those were Flenser's eyes.

---

As the Chiselwing drew closer, a small craft deployed from one side of the I Dreampt I Had a Little Death, opposite to where the Chiselwing would be if it came up alongside the Worldship. It was a tiny ship in comparison to the other two, a relatively featureless brick twenty meters long, wide, and tall, driven by small chemical engines.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 5:35 pm

As the Chiselwing flipped and spun to realign its main engines, decelerating and bringing it into distant visual range, the movement of the little shuttle was logged and noted. Eventually the Iliska vessel was drifting silently, radiator panels glowing warmly in the aftermath of the recent manoeuvres. Like a distant mountain, the I Dreampt I had a Little Death loomed ominously.

They were close, now. Very close. If the larger ship deigned to, it could almost effortlessly pierce the Chiselwing with a beam weapon. There'd be no time to get out of the way.

This was a time for caution.

A chime woke Rir from her slumber. Automatically, she reached out and flicked the switch to bring the lights on inside her sleeping capsule. A hiss of recirculating air cleared the tiny space of the aura of drowsiness that hung around her while bright eyes took in the information on the screen positioned strategically within view.

Quote :
Destination reached. Initial contact made: no sign of hostilities. Please prepare for assignment.

A jolt of excitement raced down the noble's spine, all the way to the tip of her tail. They'd made it! And whatever they'd found had been contacted to some degree.

Hastily, Rir popped the seals on her sleep capsule and pushed off into the common room, catching herself on the edge with her tail and somersaulting around so that the door to her capsule was now "up". From there it was a matter of opening her locker and slipping into her environment suit, drab rubber and fabric over top of pastel-pink scales and violet feathers. Fiddling for a few moments to get her feathers nicely tucked inside, she zipped up the front and buttoned the straps.

There. Nice and professional. The strict dress code in the Armada had taken some getting used to; if you were up and about, you were wearing your environment suit. The suits were clearly military, with nothing in the way of frills. They were there for minor radiation shielding and built-in temperature regulation, not to mention protection from blasts of steam or shrapnel.

It was quite the change from the breezy gowns and robes Rir had worn during official functions planetside.

Pushing off again and half-flying, half-climbing her way through the corridors, soaking up the golden-green lighting, she eventually made her way to her station, tying herself down loosely into the crash couch reserved for her. A few other indema were gathered in the lab, most looking similarly excited.

This was it: all that remained was to wait for their "hosts" to make the first move. Better to let them do things on their terms, so the line of thought went, so as to better gauge their initial reactions. Understanding the temperament of whatever aliens resided in this system was of utmost importance, and the Iliska did not want to push them.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:09 pm

The suit wasn't for everyone.

It was like any other single-body khash space suit, a thick body glove with the necessary life support modules and an angular metal helmet. Speakers were pressed against Lilykima's earholes, and several microphones were situated around her headcrest, where the various air passages for interbody intramind communication were. The suit design itself was fine, it was the effect it had that bothered users and prompted the creation of various shared spacesuit designs.

Li, the talker, looked around habitually. Uneasiness surged forward as she once again noticed she was alone, aside from the Focused pilot in the cockpit and the space-suited animal beside her. The rest of her was seeing a wholly different environment, and it was as if she was a quarter-asleep. Neither the black walls of the Worldship's flensing room or the light gray walls of the taxi were comforting, and the contrast further agitated Lilykima.

A tiny voice hissed in her ear. "Taxi in position. You're on, Master."

Her hearts skipped a beat as she unfastened herself from the couch. What do I do? Invite them for some brakhwas?

Even as she unfastened the service animal and ordered the taxi doors opened, she wasn't entirely sure what she was doing.

---

A white-suited quadroped with two arms and a long neck floated through the taxi doors, connected to the ship with a small tether. It turned its neck this way and that, clicking a flashlight on and off, shining the light up and down the alien ship's hull. After almost two hundred seconds of this, it spun around and pulled itself back into the taxi with the tether. The taxi doors slowly closed and re-opened repeatedly for the next hundred seconds.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:21 pm

The Chiselwing watched impassively as the shuttle put on its display. There was brief discussion among the bridge crew and the contact team, followed by the Iliska vessel mirroring the message; it flashed its spotlights, then rolled until the cargo doors were presented to the taxi. Heavy pistons pushed open, closed partly, and then opened again. Inside the cargo bay, a crew member in a bulky spacesuit waved towards the taxi.

It was an invitation as much as an acknowledgement.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:53 pm

The taxi doors opened again as it maneuvered into the Chiselwing's cargo bay, first using a quick burst from the chemical engine to maneuver towards it, and then positioning and slowing with the RCS thrusters. Lilykima and the quadroped dangled in the taxi's passenger compartment, grasping overhead supports.

The taxi halted a short way into the cargo bay, uncertain. The quadroped poked its head outside the doors, looking around curiously.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:14 pm

Various crates, barrels, and tanks occupied much of the cargo bay, held securely in place by heavy netting and a variety of clamps and locking mechanisms. Catwalks and ladders crisscrossed the walls, giving way here and there to solid airlocks of varying sizes. The whole thing was very much vertically-oriented, towering up the thrust axis of the ship. As the taxi eased itself inside, the spacesuit-wearing figure from before jetted carefully towards the open doors and halted some distance from the quadruped.

The suit was fairly cumbersome, thick white fabric striped with red bands and articulated plating over the vitals. The helmet was wedge-shaped, with angular viewing ports cut into the sides so as to give a wide field of view while still protecting the face. Nearly a third of the suit's bulk was in the tail, as long as the figure was tall.

Waving again, they made an elaborate show of detaching a cylinder from the bulky pack of their suit. Turning it over in their hands a few times, they indicated the nozzle by letting a small jet of pressurized air spurt out of it before gently pushing it towards the door.

It wasn't exactly the most sophisticated of methods, but the hope was to demonstrate the sort of atmosphere the indema breathed; conducting the entirety of contact inside the depressurized cargo bay or in space suits was certainly possible, but if whatever sort of alien life the Chiselwing's "hosts" were could breathe the same sort of stuff as them it would certainly be handy. Of scientific note, too, of course.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:47 pm

Lilykima mimicked the alien's waving as best she could with the single arm protruding from her Li's chest. As the canister floated to her, Li opened her claw and carefully grasped it. She reached down and release the canister in front of the quadroped, tapping one of its two air tanks. The trained beast quickly swapped out the tank, looking up to Li expectantly. She gently pressed down on one of the suit's buttons, released it, and waited.

A hundred seconds passed as Lilykima waited. Two hundred. The beast waited, looking between Li and the alien. After three hundred seconds, Lilykima was satisfied and slowly pulled herself outside the taxi. Steadying herself against the taxi with her tail, Li waved her arm at the alien.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:26 pm

The indema in the space suit fired their pack's attitude adjustment jets and slowly drifted off back towards the catwalks, still facing towards Lilykima. Once they were close enough they switched on their magnetic boots and clung to the metal surface, shuffling their feet briefly to test the strength of the connection.

Elsewhere in the ship, the contact team was watching through the camera mounted on the crew member's suit, chirping quietly to each other about what they were seeing.

"Just one limb? That's a little unconventional."

"The quadruped looks pretty dexterous; do you think it's artificial, or is that some other creature?"

"It moved quite fluidly; depends how advanced their robotics technology is. They plugged the air tank Hva gave them into it; either its got analytic equipment inside it or they used it as a test subject."

"Probably not sapient in the latter case. Or, I don't know, more durable than we're assuming."

Rir clicked a switch, speaking over radio to the indema in the cargo bay. "Hand Hva, see if you can encourage them to follow you through the upper crew access airlock. Be sure to demonstrate how the airlock can be cycled; I'd like them to understand they can leave at any time."

Hva returned their acknowledgement, then tried to catch Lilykima's attention by pointing towards one of the airlocks higher up in the cargo bay. Plodding along the catwalk in their magnetic boots, they stepped into an elevator cage and started up towards the door. Hopefully Lilykima would be willing to follow. Meanwhile, Rir disentangled herself from her crash couch and tapped one of the other members of the contact crew on the shoulder, motioning them to follow her down to the other side of the airlock.

"Rir, remember that we've prepped that deck for quarantine," one of the other indema cautioned, "so once you're down there, you're staying until we've made sure they're not carrying anything infectious or parasitic."

"Right," she nodded smartly, fiddling with the headset clipped around her horns. "Quarantine Zone precautions. I've been briefed on those."
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:09 pm

Li nudged the quadruped and gestured toward the catwalks. The creature pushed off and Li followed.

"It seems we're not yet likely to be slaughtered. Pilot, stay where you are."

Li followed the alien, and the quadruped followed Li.

---

Back on the I Dreampt I Had a Little Death, Lilykima spoke to Ship Master Shadisiik through her other three members. None of them were as good at talking as Li, but they would do.

"What do they want?" If Shadisiik was glad Li hadn't yet been killed, he didn't show it. The Ship Master's Di lay sideways on the flensing room's floor, females at his back. His Ik looked like Lykima with those beady eyes.

"I don't know. I haven't seen much of their technology, and they haven't seen much of ours. I suppose, for now, they'd just like to learn more about us."

"I'm most interested in how they appeared from nowhere. Stealth technology? I can't think of anything that would mask their approach so well."

"I'll investigate, but my priority is making sure they don't kill us."

"Of course."

---

With a combination of pulling and pushing using her arm and tail respectively, Li followed the stranger. Through her eyes on the Worldship, she could see the quadruped's video feed, and it's zig-zagging path across the catwalk, jumping from rail to rail. Faint amusement spread through Lilykima as she was escorted through the ship.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:55 pm

Once Lilykima had caught up with them at the airlock door, Hva patted it with one gloved hand. It was broad, rectangular, and marked with various cation signs in a blocky runic text. Stepping to one side, the indema pointed at a sturdy control panel. There was a keypad with fourteen buttons, a row of toggle switches, a small display screen, and a sturdy circular switch large enough that you had to grasp the handle with your whole hand to effectively turn it.

Making sure that the alien was paying attention, Hva deliberately pressed three of the buttons and flipped one of the toggles, pausing after every step. When they twisted the larger master switch, a red light lit up above the door. There was a pause, and then the light shut off and the two halves of the door retracted into the walls.

Hva twisted the handle again and the doors closed. This time the light didn't switch on. The indema methodically repeated the first few steps, and the door opened again. Stepping inside, they waited for Lilykima and the quadruped to follow into the spacious interior of the airlock (built to accommodate teams of crew members all going through depressurization and depressurization together). They repeated the process of opening the doors at the far end of the airlock.

When the red light came on, jets of oxygenated air rushed into the space from vents along the floor and ceiling. As the pressure was equalized and the doors slid open, Hva stepped out into what looked like a large locker room, plodding along with an audible clunk with every step now that there was an atmosphere.

Rir and her colleague were in drab grey-and-brown environment suits, drifting at the far end of the chamber. The suits obscured most of their bodies, but Rir's soft pink scales and vibrant, straight-edged plumage was evident, as was her companion's mid-blue scales and longer, more curved feathers.

"Good job getting them here, Hand Hva," Rir chirped, studying Lilykima intently. "Although that was... probably the easy part. If you'll remain here, in case we need further assistance?"

"Of course."

Unhooking a boxy virtual slate from her belt, Rir tapped at its keyboard carefully. A few moments later, the device would play a series of tones, mimicking the Fibonacci sequence exchanged earlier. It wasn't much in the way of solid communication, but it was perhaps a nice affirmation of the existing contact that had been established.

Where to go from there?

Pointing at herself, she said, "Rir."

Then she pointed at her companion, this time saying "Ila."

Finally she pointed at the indema in the space suit, "Hva."

Names were hopefully better than nothing. Now it was time to see just how far they'd be able to communicate their respective intentions. While waiting for the alien to respond in some way, Rir prodded at the virtual slate some more and pulled up a series of pictograms that had been composed.


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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:57 pm

Once in the ship's atmosphere, Li bumped a switch on her suit, shutting down the life support and piping the foreign air through her helmet. Floating into the room, Lilykima (and through the quadruped, the command crew of the Worldship) got a first close look at the aliens.

Outwardly, they showed signs of intelligence but none of group-mindedness, not that group-mind behavior would be so easy to pinpoint in the first thirty seconds. Their bodies did seem a little odd for creatures meant to be as close as the members of a group-mind, and the khash were aware of semi-intelligent creatures without mind-noise and/or that functioned independently. Perhaps they were trained, or linked with radios?

"Rir. Ila. Hva."

Li mimicked the sounds perfectly, though it came out muffled through her helmet until she activated the atmospheric speaker and repeated it. She pointed at each member while saying their names, and then swept her claw in a line to connect the three.

"Ririlahva."

She tapped herself gently. "Li."
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:39 pm

Rir glanced at Ila, slightly confused by the gesture and the amalgamated names. Touching her headset, she asked, "Any suggestions on what that meant?"

One of the members of the contact team still in the lab spoke into her ear momentarily. "It might be suggesting you three are a cohesive unit; a team, or a family maybe. Or maybe they think of groups in very literal terms, and a group of individuals is referred to by the names of the individuals involved."

"Hopefully they'll be able to explain it at some point. I'll continue on with contact."

Returning her attention to the virtual slate, Rir gently pushed off the wall and drifted closer to Lilykima, catching herself on a padded handhold running up the length of one of the lockers. Turning the slate around so that the alien could see it, she pressed one of the keys and the screen lit up with a series of images that slowly cycled through.

First, there was a star chart of the local region, rendered in fairly simplistic terms. As the series of pictographs progressed, a circle was drawn around the Khasharnat system. Next, a series of lines began to radiate out from the star. "Zooming in" on one, the pictographs depicted what the indema had seen of the atomic engine flare of the ancient colony ships that had been launched. The whole scene was then depicted being seen by a telescope.

Next, a rendition of a solar system. Not that the Khash would know it, but the arrangement of planets didn't correspond to any actual system the Iliska knew of; it had been deemed a potential security risk to give the inhabitants of the system too many clues as to the location of indema civilization.

Around one of the planets was show a minimalist rendering of the Chiselwing itself. With an exaggerated engine flare it flew up above the orbital plane of the system and then vanished into a "hole".

Back to the simple rendering of the Khasharnat system, another "hole" appeared above the system and the Chiselwing emerged to fly down and take up an orbit.

Things got slightly more abstract at that point. The image of the ship was expanded, with tiny indema shown inside. An indema opened their mouths and sound waves emerged, flying into the ear of another indema, who then repeated the exchange. The Chiselwing emitted a sound wave towards the Khasharnat system, and the Khasharnat system bounced it back. Then the Chiselwing flew into a hole, returning to the system it had originated from. The indema system sent sound waves towards the Khasharnat system, and the Khasharnat system returned them back.

The animation ended, and the screen went dark. Rir studied Lilykima curiously, trying to judge if they'd understood the message. It was, perhaps, a little complicated. It didn't match up perfectly; their jump hadn't gone according to plan, so they'd entered the system nearby the gas giant rather than above the orbital plane. Additionally, with no way of knowing what the inhabitants of the system looked like they'd been forced to abstract the idea of communication.

Still. A spacefaring species was expected to have decent imaginations, and Rir hoped the message would be clear enough.
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MissingAxis



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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:29 am

Lykima spoke in the flensing room while Li watched the animation intently.

"Two things."

"Go on."

"They did not get here by conventional means."

Lykima waited for Shadisiik to demand clarification, but he didn't. He's too damn patient.

"As far as I can tell, they don't use real-space for interstellar travel. And they'd like to communicate with us, even after they leave. I think."

"Excellent."

---

Lilykima thought a moment before opening a pouch on Li's suit and withdrawing a pencil. She pushed off towards the largest open spot on any wall in her line of sight, and pressed her body against it so her arm was parallel to it. Gripping the pencil in her claw, she began to draw seventeen symbols on the wall. When finished, she began marking them with dots, starting with the second symbol, under which she put a single dot. For the next, two. And the one after was marked with three, after that four, and so on.

Finished, she tucked the pencil away and tapped the second symbol, pointing to Rir. Then she tapped the third symbol, pointed to Rir and then to Ila. For the fourth symbol, she included all three of the aliens, and the fifth included Ririlahva and Li. Moving her claw back to the second one, she bobbed her head up and down, causing her body to do something similar. Finally, she pointed to the first symbol, cocking her head to both sides repeatedly.

With a quick jab of claw and mouth toward the alien data slate, she began to bob up and down. After repeating the pointing and bobbing a few more times, she tapped the second symbol again.

---

"Hopefully they got that one."

The cam-beast's feed had been focused on Li for the duration of her communicative dance, and now the quadruped began floating around the room, investigating the aliens as quietly as possible from below Li's -- and hopefully the aliens' -- eye level.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:11 am

Rir's eyes tracked Lilykima as she sketched out the numerals on the wall, her ears twitching and perking up as far as her curling horns allowed. The ensuing pointing and gesturing seemed clear enough, although she was slightly confused by the number of symbols.

"There's three too many," she informed her colleagues over the headset.

"They're using a different base set than us. It's just a different way to record numbers. Binary is base two, for instance."

"Got it. I'm going to show them our numbers."

Fiddling with the virtual slate, Rir had soon pulled up another series of images. These were similar to the ones that Lilykima had drawn: runic numerals displayed next to dots. If Lilykima had been paying close enough attention, she'd recognize them as the same symbols that had marked the keypad used by the airlock control panels. Rir mimicked the pointing and grouping that Lilykima had engaged in for the first few numerals, just to make sure they were on the same page, and she sounded out each number as well: they seemed for all the word like rising musical notes.

The indema numerals were not only shown on their own, but also in some simple mathematical equations. There was even a brief sequence of primes.

Meanwhile, the other two indema occupied themselves. Hva (an experienced member of the Armada and the prolonged discipline found in the military) seemed content to stand rooted to the spot by their magnetic boots, stock-still except for occasionally turning his head to follow the alien's movements. Ila, on the other hand, seemed interested by the quadruped; it didn't take long for him to notice it nosing around, and he watched its movements intently while fiddling with some of the straps on his environment suit.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Sun Nov 09, 2014 8:43 pm

"Shadisiik, prepare some linguistic wetware. I'm almost done with my part."

--

Lilykima experimented with the indema sounds for a while before finding another blank space on the wall. A low whistle came from Li's helmet before she began to write, and the quadruped came to gaze at the scribbles head on. Like before, the symbol drawing was slow going as Li fought the unbalancing effects of zero-g writing, pausing between each symbol. When she finished, she began another communicative dance.

The first three symbols set a fairly simple foundation for the rest. Li pointed between herself and an elaborate squiggle, a sort of S with a sharp line going up and backwards from the top end-point, and a hook coming off the middle. For the next symbol, she repeated her interpretation of the indema's earlier waving gesture a few times. The last simply required a short jab in the direction of Rir. [Li] [wave] [Rir], or more generally, [khash] [wave] [indema]. Li repeated the gestures a few times before continuing to the rest. For each new symbol, she performed a new gesture or pointed at something or made a nosie. Some of the symbols were taken straight from the indema's pictographic animation, and Li's gestures seemed to confirm they had the same meaning.

[Chiselwing] [sound wave] [Worldship]. [Chiselwing] [taxi] [Worldship]. [Li] [wave] [Rir]. [Li] [taxi] [Worldship]. [khash] [taxi] [Chiselwing]. [khash] [sound wave] [indema]. [Chiselwing] [sound wave] [Worldship]. [star] [sound wave] [star].

When she was finished 'explaining', Lilykima waited.

--

"Are you aware that I studied communications equipment and protocol in naval college, not linguistics?"

"I'm loading the wetware on a taxi. Let me know when you're ready for them."
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:06 am

Rir pressed one hand against her headset, twisting her ear to fit more comfortably against the ear piece. Speaking softly so as to avoid interrupting Lilykima, she asked, "You're getting all this? Be a shame if we missed something."

The tinny response came through from the lab, the speaker sounding utterly fascinated. "Security cameras are getting it all, along with Hva's suit feed. The alien seems to have a pretty good grasp on things, wouldn't you say?"

"Lucky us. I'm glad that they didn't turn out to be something from the grimmer songs... they're certainly not the songless leviathans that Qii wrote about, even if they are a bit strange looking. It's good to be able to communicate like this, even if its all a bit crude right now."

The Chiselwing had come with a vast linguistics database, stored on racks and racks of storage drives and accessible over the network. Rir and Ila would have access to it over the equipment they'd brought with them, and the laboratory full of indema a few decks away were prepared to work at the problem of cracking the language barrier for as long as it took.

At this point, it was just a matter of time (and plenty of frustration) until things became easier...
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:39 pm

* * *

The linguist Shadisiik had sent her was one Lilykima had experience with using. It was a sixsome, made of all different shapes and sizes, with about as many sets of parents as there were members. It would've been difficult and time consuming to zip each member into a separate suit, and a multi-body suit would've been just as painful to manage, so the linguist came on a pressurized cart of sorts, a miniature taxi used to transport mentally and/or physically handicapped passengers around the ship. The linguist was both, but good at its job.

A second quadruped piloted the cart, tapping color-coded buttons on the bulky control panel when it received the command to do so through the radio. Once through the airlock and in the pressurized sections of the Chiselwing, the cart was partially unzipped, to allow the heads of the sixsome to poke out of the cramped passenger compartment.

Lilykima waited patiently over the next half-dozen ksecs, and then a bit more. She occasionally answered questions, whether they were routed through the linguist or otherwise simple to understand and answer. The sixsome worked fast, with a single-minded devotion to learning the indema language, though Lilykima wasn't sure the indema were keeping up. The linguist would be able to do rudimentary translations for Ririlahva and Lilykima in a relatively short while, if so.

Blabberbabblerhissis the linguist ignored most questions, or passed them onto Lilykima before continuing with its learning. All six heads tried out the indema words at once, and occasionally the wetware asked different questions all at once, directed at different indema in the room. The result was somewhat confusing, and Lilykima hoped it wasn't impeding their progress.

So Lilykima waited, silent except to answer questions, largely preoccupied by the Ship Master of the I Dreampt I Had A Little Death.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:21 pm

As it turned out, the ability of the khash to learn the indema language, Elisium, far outstripped the indema's ability to learn the language of the khash. While Quo insisted that the science team continue to make attempts to understand the khash, the focus in the laboratory soon shifted towards delivering as much information on Elisium to the alien linguist as possible.

The results were surprisingly swift, much to the excitement of the crew.

However, the translation efforts were not the only thing that had drawn attention. While Blabberbabblerhissis diligently toiled away, Ila took a particular interest in it, jotting notes and sketches onto a pad of thick paper and occasionally relaying observations to the rest of the science team.

The implications of the linguist were certainly interesting, although it was too early to tell what exactly it all meant.

As the language barrier began to dissolve, Ila conferred with Rir for a moment. The pink-scaled indema gave a little chirp to gain the aliens' attention.

"Hopefully this comes through clearly enough... We've been trying to pick through your grammar, and we've noticed something that goes together with Ila's observations of your linguist. There seems to be a concept in your language of... groups? Grouped individuals. The linguist is a 'sixsome', yes? We're not sure we really understand entirely. When we're speaking to 'Li', are we speaking to an individual, or a component of a compound personality?"
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:39 pm

They caught on quick. Li looked toward Ila as she spoke, and one of Blabberbabblerhissis' heads translated for the indema, as Lilykima was much further behind in comprehension than the linguist.

"This member is called Li, but my whole is Lilykima. I am of four, and Li is my speak-mouth. The khash do wonder before that indema were group-minded, but I see you must not be so. Is that of truth? Do I answer you?"

Li cocked her head at the indema, postured as if she herself had been speaking their tongue, not dictating to the linguistic wetware in its cart.

The quadruped that had come with her had spent the last kilosec trying to get the attention of the pilot beast, but went ignored. As the many heads of Blabberbabblerhissis jerked and twisted and turned, the cart needed frequent adjustments to keep it oriented properly, and the quadruped diligently tapped away at the board, tiny puffs of gas easing the craft's wobbling.

Somehow, the linguist managed to remain silent, waiting to translate a reply.
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:56 pm

Rir nodded her affirmation at the question, feathers bobbing in the null gravity. "Indema don't have compound individuals, or 'group-minds'. Every indema is an individual. Ila and some of the other crew members we've been communicating with are very interested in how your group-minds function; maybe once our translation efforts have gone a little further you'd be able to share information on it?"

A string of chirps and hisses filtered through her headset, and the noble listened intently. "Oh, uh, question. Is it safe to assume that you're working at the behest of a superior aboard the 'worldship'? If so, our captain would like to relay a message."
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PostSubject: Re: I Dreampt I had a Little Death, but Camed for the Big Sleep   Fri Nov 14, 2014 6:12 pm

Li bobbed her head. "Yes, that is of truth. I can speak your words to the Ship Master, though I do not know if he will reply. What would your Ship Master like to say to mine?"

---

Lilykima shushed Shadisiik while he was mid-sentence as Blabberbabblerhissis spoke to her Li. She had updated him regularly for almost a dozen ksecs. He hadn't been waiting on her the entire time, however. Though light speed limited their ability to communicate quickly, the Ship Master had been speaking to the Masters on Khashar. They were a mixture of confused, afraid, and curious, but all seemed to agree the Ship Master would use his best judgement in dealing with the aliens. If he didn't succeed in securing a peaceful relationship with the indema... the khash couldn't win a war against an FTL civilization, but...
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