Oct 20, 2018 9:32 PM
ignorance is strength
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jean finds ardas suspicious. because we are mean, we drop him in one where this is a bad assumption
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The sixty-third colony project to get approved by the Valar after the discovery of faster-than-light travel is for a gorgeous tiny planet full of towering spires and waterfalls and Maiar-supported floating islands. The appealing thing about the site is that gravity is low enough that the terminal velocity of an Elf in its atmosphere is far less than would be dangerous. Floating islands. You can jump off of them and land on the ground.

 

It's a popular colony project. Of the sixty-two that preceded it forty-nine had only Noldorin participants but this one has people of all three of the Elven peoples of Valinor, and tentative interest reported from Endorë. They decide on a Vanyarin king because the Vanyar feel the most strongly about their colonies having a king and everyone knows a Vanyarin King is not likely to actually do anything which might make having a king less aesthetically delightful.

 

They call the place Glorious Contentment and they build such tall, beautiful, shimmery spires. 

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The shuttlecraft flies into a spacial anomaly, and what was supposed to be a routine subwarp hop becomes ... not that.

There are flashing purple lights, and alarming high-pitched humming noises, and when they emerge out of what is presumably the other side it closes behind them, leaving them in orbit around an unfamiliar planet.

Also, the pilot has turned into a salamander.

 

(Jean figures out how to turn on the distress beacon.)

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After a little while the orbital station around the unfamiliar planet gamely tries to establish communications. It tries seven languages. 

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The universal translator has been busily slurping up miscellaneous transmissions to establish a corpus, but it's not quite there yet. All of them come through verbatim.

This, of course, means that the reply won't be translated either. Jean tries English and French anyway -- and Zari breaks out her rusty Arabic -- but without much hope.

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Orbital station dispatches an outrageously large, outrageously pretty ship to ...escort them down? They're cheerfully explaining themselves but the translation hasn't got it worked out yet.

 

It's an enormous ship. 

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"That is an excessively large ship," Jean comments, transmitter off.

     Zari peers out the viewing window. "Maybe they haven't got warp yet and it's a generation ship, like in sci-fi."

"Christ, I hope not. The last thing we need is to add a Prime Directive violation to the list."

     "You know perfectly well you're hoping it is."

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Before the excessively large ship has met them, the translator is starting to make some progress.

 

"Welcome garble garble Glorious Contentment! Questioning your garble garble garble garble garble rescue-coming garble garble delighted to meet you."

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"Well that's not ominous at all."

     "It's probably just the translator," sighs Zari.

"Glorious Contentment?"

     "Please at least wait for the translation to be up and running before you start judging their aesthetics."

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"This is the Eternal Starfarer, first of the fleet of Glorious Contentment! Welcome! We're having difficulty deciphering your transmissions, but [garble garble] would be in distress under your current conditions, and so we're sending a rescue ship! We're delighted to meet you. This is the Eternal Starfarer..."

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     "He doesn't actually seem all that distressed," Zari says, observing the salamander. (It is exploring the pilot's chair.)

"I think they probably mean appearing in space out of nowhere not speaking the local language."

     "I'm pretty sure they don't mean distressed by their naming choices, in any case."

"Mm," Jean says, unimpressed.

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By the time the Eternal Starfarer arrives (and opens a very large side airlock they apparently would like the shuttle to dock itself inside) the translator has got the last garble garble; it's "a member of our species".

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In which case the translation is probably reliable enough for Jean to try sending a message back.

"Neither of us can fly this vessel. We can try to figure it out, but if you have a means to tow us, that's probably safer for everyone."

(He doesn't mention the pilot. Bringing salamanders into the conversation seems unlikely to reduce the amount of confusion.)

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"We will attempt to evaluate how to safely tow your ship! We will seek the guidance of [religious authorities/minor deities] on this matter. Are these conditions tolerable for you in the meantime?"

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"For another eight hours."

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"We will move as quickly as possible. We are so sorry."

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"...thank you, that's very kind."

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"[religious authorities/minor deities] believe that it should be safe to tow your ship," they report about thirty minutes later, and then the ship starts moving.

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"This should be interesting," Jean remarks, not over the transmission, and waits.

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The orbital station above Glorious Contentment looks like what you might get if someone tried to build a cathedral, and was unconstrained by gravity, and had probably excessive access to gems and precious metals but admittedly good taste with them. Once they're towed on in they can get a view of the locals.

 

They're humanoid, tall, eerily pretty. They all wear their hair in elaborate braids. Many of them seem to be wandering about singing; others are congregating interestedly, though good nature or extremely subtle station security seems to be keeping them well back from crowding the visitors. 

 

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More humanlike than Vulcans, maybe, but only a touch so; aliens being that close to humans in appearance isn't a new mystery. Jean's watching for body language, mostly, how they move, how they emote. The last thing he wants is to live out the old joke about the first human on Vulcan, saying "we come in peace" and shaking hands.

The braids are probably significant, somehow; he's memorizing the various styles as best he can, watching to see if he can pick up on reactions to his own hair (short) and his sister's (long, pulled back under a scarf).

Also, he's judging their architecture. How long since they got replicators working, he signs unobtrusively to Zari, five years? Ten?

     Behave, Zari admonishes.

The singing is good, though.

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Braid styles are gendered and children have different ones and all of them are elaborate enough to probably communicate a lot of information aside from age and gender but not anything he can pick up by looking. They're not blatant about it but his hair is upsetting and Zari's is fine. Hair color might be a social category of some kind; two people of the same hair color seem likelier to be dressed in the same style and to be travelling together. No one here is speaking, just singing, though the transmission to the ship was definitely spoken. 

They seem fascinated and excited. They don't seem nervous. Someone lifts up a child to get a better view. No one is taking pictures.

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Oh dear. He hopes that communication isn't supposed to be sung outside of technical environments or something like that, he can sing passably but not to anything like these standards and that's the sort of thing the translator struggles with.

Is there an obvious spokesperson to talk to?

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They seem to be sorting that out but after a minute, yes, there is! Golden hair, very cheerful. "Welcome to Glorious Contentment, the sixty-third colony of the Eldarin people, a colony dedicated to exploring the artistic and architectural opportunities associated with very low gravity. I am Milyatyaro Tehlan, representative of His Grace Túron Yuldaldië, the King of Glorious Contentment. Is everything all right? You appeared quite abruptly."

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Jean does not allow his face to reflect any of the things he is currently thinking. (These are largely 'Glorious Contentment'??? and a monarchy, charming.)

"My name is Jean Dulac, and this is my sister Zari. We were making a routine trip when we encountered, and failed to avoid, a spatial anomaly; it seems to have transported us here." As well as transforming the pilot into a salamander, which Zari is currently carrying in an empty cup. There just keeps not being a natural time to work that into the conversation. "Other than that, we're quite all right, and very grateful for the rescue; and, despite the circumstances, delighted to meet you."

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"The gods did not know of any more people in the universe! They will be very surprised."

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(Sufficiently-powerful-aliens, he wonders, or just the conventional sort of religion? Either way, this should be ... interesting ... for the Federation to deal with.)

"You're the second alien people our own civilization has encountered; we were aware of the possibility, but it will nevertheless be quite the event."

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