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Oct 31, 2020 7:05 AM
an exploratory vessel is stranded in a dreadfully prismatic bit of space
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Well, that certainly didn’t imply a terrifying informational advantage at all-

“For pity and for shame. I was so eager to once again enjoy your gracious and genteel accomodations. Lead the way, unless obscure alien taboo demands I be made deaf and led around by the cartography of cats beforehand,” she says.

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She nods to Aleshen, who does so, leaving her and the still silent Ridabet with Rakaskem.

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And so she does a brief spell to render herself immune to the perils of vacuum, glowers a bit at Aleshen, does a second spell to increase her duplication range, and produces a duplicate right outside of the station- and then another one, and another one, and so forth. She isn’t in the mood to spend another sacrifice on outright teleportation right now- she doesn’t have another one from Kadlawen stocked, and using too many sacrifices from people of lower station, too quickly, tends to leave people spread a little... thin.

It’s going to take a few hours.  

 

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That is thoroughly unnecessary given the ship's own teleportation capabilities, but if the woman wants to waste her time, whatever, she's already out of verbal range and Tanna doesn't feel like revealing their communicative telepathy.

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Tashalkan would presumably produce a concise, biting riposte to this sentiment if it was communicated to her, but, alas, it isn’t.

(And she’s sort of enjoying her unobstructed view of the stars and relative relaxation time, not that she would ever admit that fact.)

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Meanwhile, back on the tour, after a substantial conversational pause:

”... On an entirely separate topic, Nyall, darling,” says Sira, attempting to traipse on the tightrope between ‘awkward’ and ‘overbearingly self-assured’. “Would it be excessively invasive in some unfortunate sense if I asked as to what your home planet was like, and, most pertinently, if I asked as to your own circumstance upon it? I admit no small degree of curiosity.”

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"Not really invasive, though we apparently have weird privacy intuitions so that might not go for everyone? Hm, biologically, most common differences - our physical sexes exist on a spectrum with three ends, and we don't all look like me, but our phenotypes don't vary thanks to inheritable characteristics, unlike most species. General phenotype is determined by astrological circumstance - I was born when our largest moon Himsu was waxing gibbous, our middle moon Kaeshi was a sliver of a crescent, and our smallest moon Azoko was waning crescent, so I'm mostly towards the sex-point that rounds off to 'female.' The constellation Kanzu was ascendant, so I'm the shape I am, and the planet Rymni was closest to apogee, so I'm furred in a certain pattern, and the wandering star Shianxo was in the first house, so I'm yellow."

"We put a lot of importance on the stars, because they determine - well, everything. We're mostly nocturnal, though a few are more diurnally adapted - that depends on a combination of shape, pattern, and color. We structure our governments a bit different, too, we're predominantly a tribal people. Each person is a member of a tribe, which is rarely more than a hundred people. Each tribe elects a chief, who is a member of a tribe of tribes, which contains a hundred or so tribes. Each such tribe of tribes also elects a representative, who is a member of a geographically defined tribe, which elects a representative, and so on, until you reach the Council of Thirteen Stars, which is the highest tribe, and is the polity we joined under. Almost everything is resolved at the lowest level, and our population density's low enough people can just get up, walk off, and find food elsewhere if they don't like how their tribe's run. Disputes that involve multiple tribes or that otherwise can't be negotiated within each level get referred to higher groups."

"We have an average of about one to two kids per adult when we're not space-stressed, but we get antsy if there's too many people around and stop being able to reproduce, so our population fluctuates a bit around a set point. There's not really problems with fighting over space, though, like some species get? Probably because the amount of space we need to reproduce is higher than the amount we need to feed ourselves, so there's no pressing need to fight."

"Socially, we pretty much have chiefs, story-keepers, and everyone else, so there's no - set position in society. I wanted to be an explorer, so I became one."

"Geographically - hm, unlike this one. There's a variety of terrains, but it's effectively normal for a temperate rocky planet, I can look up the exact classification, there should be a briefing on it somewhere in the mess the scientists were trading..."

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What an informative answer. Kelsiran likes this person.

”I must admit that the idea of biological sex not being determined by or at very least correlated with color remains somewhat bizarre to me, and the extent to which other societies lend importance to the stars is intensely interesting- our own asterisk objects are the simple result of a Way leading to another system’s sun, and don’t have substantial cultural significance. The phenomenon is striking in roughly the same sense as if we met a society of aliens in which they placed intense cultural significance on green rocks, and had their gender determined by which kind of green rock was closest, and they summarily ignored every other color. There was, in fact, a geographic briefing. Another briefing also included the word ‘constellation’, which translates oddly, as a matter of necessity- we don’t have a similar concept.”

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Kadlawen is mostly attentive to this prolonged series of monologues, but occasionally spots Ateshai out of the corner of his eye and ends up distracted by the ever engrossing task of beaming adoringly at him. They are still holding hands. Kadlawen is happy about this turn of circumstance. 

“That sounds like a lovely place to grow up!” he says, once Sira finally takes a breath. “I’m not sure that I’d like it if I decided to live there, or anything, but the whole thing with- minimalistic expectations, and everything, it sounds like a nice culture to be born to. It sounds like the sort of place where you’d have a fair amount of free time- did you have any hobbies?”

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"It is! We have a lot of old martial traditions I trained in - most of them are half performance art now - and I loved exploring caves even as a kit. Studied languages and cultures in my free time, too, though I'm no scholar."

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“- I am unfortunately reminded of the brief section of scientific exchange related to linguistics that made absolutely no sense and I would like an explanation, as soon as one may feasibly be constructed- words do not form that way-“

And then they can comfortably fill the rest of the tour with Sira pestering Nyall about morphology and etymology and phonology and syntax, and then they’re back where they began.

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Tanna, having had a long and rather revealing conversation with Rakaskem in the meantime, arrives just as they do. She nods to her crewmembers, says, "I trust your visit was enlightening."

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“It was!” beams Sira. “- Raka, darling, what was that little meeting about, I neglected to ask-“

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“Confidential medical information.”

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“... oh,” says Sira, in an unusual display of concision. 

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Kadlawen: also not going to tactlessly pry.

“Um, I can just sort of decline to mention that part to Sasha or Dato- is there anything else we ought to know about or see before we go?”

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"Rakaskem was also very helpful in discussing potential points of cultural divergence, especially as relates to state-craft - it's easier to get these things out of the way face-to-face. I will send you each with a document with the summary of what stood out, but I can also verbally highlight certain factors, and these summaries will be included in future communications with new governments from your species."

"Part of this was highlighted because we found a spy. The Federation publicly disapproves of spies, though obviously that mostly affects public policy, not private actions. We will be tightening our informational security measures, and temporary sanctions will be placed against the spy's place of origin - which was outlined in the legal briefing as our policy."

"Also: in most places, and on a federal level within the Federation, credibly threatening to commit a crime, especially a violent one, especially with the intent of effecting policy, especially towards an official of any level, is in and of itself a crime. This is not often prosecuted, but it's at a minimum rude, and not how we prefer to go about politics."

"We have considered that it might be best to dial back first contact until we have more thoroughly been able to establish communications and what differs. I apologize for any policy irregularities - neither I nor my crew are trained in first contact, and only one crew member has any diplomatic training, which applies poorly here."

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“Um. That’s all sort of sudden- which polity was the spy from, what did they do to make ‘credibly threatening to commit a crime so as to influence politics’ relevant- unless that came up separately?- and is there anything on our end that we can do to prevent future incidents?”

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Luckily she's been coached telepathically on this by Ridabet, Aleshen, and her better-traveled helmsman, and the initial emotion spike from her surprise has faded. She needs to get better at not letting emotion spikes dictate her words or actions; Aleshen has suggested pulling her out of time when he senses such a spike, so she can calm down on her own, as a stop-gap measure.

"Shezligraia. The spy threatened to kill me if I took a certain action. It wouldn't have worked, but an attempt would have ended messily."

"As an explanation for those laws: in general, the Federation mostly passes laws that are intended to govern behavior between states and species - and species vary a lot in expectations around freedom of movement, freedom of information, and privacy. Species with strong privacy intuitions tend to object more strongly to those being breached than species with strong freedom of information intuitions, and are more common, so Federation law does tend to favor 'innate desire to keep privacy' over 'innate desire to discover secrets.' On a larger level, the Federation itself trends towards keeping certain matters confidential."

"Threats to commit crimes are broadly illegal because many species respond to threats with escalation, and the Federation desires escalation be kept to a minimum, and because prior to the proliferation of divination magic it was hard to tell who making threats had a high probability of following through. It's still hard. The usual example case used to justify the law is someone who threatens to set off a bomb in a crowded public area; stopping that person has a chance of saving lives, which weighs heavily against the chance of acting unnecessarily. Usually threats short of murder are responded to with a warning and perhaps required counseling."

"My species has high expectations of privacy, so I'm not sure on how to reliably communicate 'what is intuitively a private topic or space' to someone without those intuitions, but in general - if you're in a private space, which is generally defined as anywhere with limited or presumed limited entrance, you should make certain people know you're there before conversation begins. If the conversation relates to state concerns, or could be reasonably expected to touch on secrets, it's generally considered spying. A conversation between two leaders is one expected to have the potential to touch on secrets, even if the topics actually discussed are innocuous. Don't open locked doors unless you have permission. If a place has limited entrance, it's usually discouraged to illegal to enter it without permission."

"Places separated from common areas by closed and especially lockable doors are usually private. Entrance areas - like this teleport bay - are common areas, but this particular bay is a common subset of a private area. Don't come on the ship without permission, don't come on the ship without letting me know you're there, and don't wander around the ship when I can't tell where you are, should cover general policy. Individual crew members can discuss relative privacy expectations for their own quarters planet-side, though so far our presumption has been that information expressed planet-side isn't secure, so we don't have any overarching, political objection to planet-side spying."

"I will also include more information on cultural and intuition differences, especially as applies to the species that make up my crew."

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Kadlawen has a strong suspicion about which Shezligraian would be capable of getting on the ship, and willing to casually threaten murder. He doesn’t voice it.

“Um. Okay? We most certainly do have privacy intuitions, they’re just normally not as... prominent, as yours sound like? Less ‘this is a horrible crime’ and more ‘this is rude and if you do it particularly often people might not like you’? And there’s an expectation that important people and governments and such have less default expectation of privacy, rather than more... I already presumed the ‘don’t come onto the ship without permission’ thing from how Ateshai, you know, asked permission...”

He processes a bit of Tanna’s previous monologue. He glances (adoringly) at Ateshai.

“... what, exactly, would ‘dialing back first contact’ consist of?” he asks, tentatively.

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"I'd like to trade information relevant to open and honest exchange first. Cultural differences, intuition gaps, legalities, that sort of thing. Sorting out distance communication protocols is a high priority. We're not in a rush to exchange scientific and magical advances right away, especially since those are in my experience more likely to butt up against taboos. I would advise but not take disciplinary action against personal romantic or sexual relations between locals and crew at this time, given the high possibility for misunderstandings."

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He nods.

”Should we go ahead and get out of your hair?”

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"I can answer more questions, and of course I'm available if anyone else has business best discussed face-to-face."

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“Of course,” Kadlawen agrees. “Have a lovely day!”

 

And then- one fiddle-fiddle-swish-swish-mutter-mutter later- everyone relevant is sucked up by a remarkably tiny tornado, and pop-pop-popped back to the planet’s ground, and then he’s just going to abruptly cling to Ateshai like a ten-tentacled octopus that’s unsure if they’re about to be broken up with.

“- are you going to want to stop going on dates and having me compose poems about how great you are and stuff,” he says, in a rush, voice quavering a bit.

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"I wasn't planning on it! We seem to be pretty good at communication, but the captain does make a good point, we should probably sit down and iron things out some - "

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