Jul 05, 2020 6:03 AM
Space Krissan meet Amenta
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The Unity Star Ship Rachis is meant to be a survey ship. It's outfitted with the latest in hyperspace engines, capable of stretching farther than their prior expeditions have ever gone.

They're surveying all the planets in this sector, of course, marking down wherever there's irregularities in hyperspace, plotting the routes for science teams to come through with observation stations and robots with telescopes and ansibles.

The most exciting feature - and the reason their crew is surveying this sector so early - is a planet their scientists think should be a rocky planet with a Kris-like gravity, a Kris-like star, and a breathable atmosphere, based on some very complicated analyses of how its star behaves when viewed through a telescope.

The Rachis drops out of hyperspace well clear of any theoretical planets or asteroid belts, and begins working its way into the system, scanning and taking pictures of everything, avian crew fluttering their wings excitedly.

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The entire habitable planet starts yelling at them in radio! Also its night side is lit up.

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!!!!!!!!!!

Lights!!!!!!!!! Radio!!!!!!!!!! Sapients!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They do not have people whose primary job radio cryptography is, but they slow down a polite distance away, and start trying to figure out local radio protocols in a rush of excitement before the most level headed Avi on board reminds them with a harsh caw that they should really report this in.

Sheepishly, they get into a better position for solar energy and start powering up their ansible.

Deployment of instantaneous communication is, ironically, not actually instantaneous, so that leaves them time to filter out and translate some of the radio yelling! And yell back in their own radio protocols, since the planet probably has more radio specialists than a survey ship.

The message is the standard encoding for the first twelve simple numbers (Interspecies Kris, so base twelve, rather than the aesthetically correct base six, but they are representatives of the Unity League) and audio of one of them warbling the melody for "Most excited hello!"

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The yelling turns into a fairly consistent chorus of numerical encodings and some audio of the locals talking in a couple dozen languages.

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Gosh they also don't have linguists. Or recordings of sounds producable by... Those sound like tallfolk voices...

They get the ansible powered on and update back home all their survey data so far, the planet with the sapients flagged for extremely high priority review.

Hmmmm the locals figured out their message pretty fast...

They're still arguing over what to send back when the ansible updates with a message that the nearest diplomatic ship is en route, and that the Rachis should hold position (barring an emergency) until then. Do not land on the planet. Seriously.

Also they get sent the apparent local radio protocols, and a promise that the Unity Science Association is working on cataloguing and decoding the languages, and directions to start establishing translations.

Which all makes sense!

So the Rachis sends out an picture of one of their crew members (a black bird with a purple sheen to her feathers, in a shiny blue uniform that nests snugly under her wings), and a description of their species (small birds), and an identification of their ship, along with a picture and a description and a little narrated video of what they were doing most recently (exploring!), and more messages of peace and excitement and scientific curiosity, though those later might be hard to translate, and a simplified picture dictionary (downloaded over the ansible) with visual and audio captions in both the crew's language (Broad Avian) and the dominant tallfolk trade language (Medaki), and a picture of another ship containing both bird people and tallfolk (which, unbeknownst to the Avi, look like Amentans with hair dye) and eight-sea-people (which look a lot like colorful octopuses) and rumbling-scale-people (very large lizards, with mottled grey and brown scales) coming in six local days (accompanied by an animated image of the planet rotating six times).

(The Rachis is a very, very small ship).

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Are they sure they don't want to land on the planet? The locals really want them to land on the planet. They will suggest this in attempts at all the offered languages, and their own, and in animated pantomime short films.

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...The team send back over the ansible and get a short film that expresses concern over first contact diseases and a desire to get a ship actually designed to fully sterilize the exterior of spacesuits and with shuttles capable of landing on or taking off from the surface of a planet, rather than the more basic sterilization the Rachis has for their emergency suits or the fact that the Rachis was built in space and is not designed for landing somewhere with an atmosphere.

The team passes on this film! And continues not landing, and also not actually coming very near the planet at all.

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This actually gets the planet to stop yelling about how they should land. They send language data and music samples and pictures of themselves and stuff instead.

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Wow! They look a lot like the tallfolk!

One of the crew members sends his entire music library (mostly vocal, mostly whistles and warbles and melodies), and another her audio books, and a third his art collection, and a fourth also her music collection but she mostly collects rumble-rock, which is the music of the rumbling-scale-people, and more language data on Broad Avian and Medaki, and because the Unity Diplomatic Corps insists they also send specs on the sanitation protocols and capabilities of the incoming diplomatic ship.

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The planet can tell them about their own cleanliness practices for anyone they'd be likely to meet! If the visitors given their experience with interspecies relations want to request additional precautions they can do that.

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Their current plan is to go down in spacesuits with their own air systems and sanitized exteriors, as well as thoroughly sanitized shuttles, until they've either established pathogens can't cross the species barrier or they've gotten vaccines developed, tested, and deployed for diplomatic staff - their experience is that things that aren't pathogenic to one species are sometimes pathogenic to another, or even to members of the same species who've never encountered the organism before, or even just that people sometimes have unexpected allergic reactions to things like plant pollen they've never encountered, and they really prefer being cautious.

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That's super reasonable! The locals are just REALLY EXCITED, because these are their FIRST aliens.

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The Rachis and everyone they're talking to back home are REALLY EXCITED too!!!

The members of the Unity League actually all evolved on the same planet, just in different environments of it! (Picture of their home planet, whose continents are very fragmented; the rumbling-scale-people are this isolated continent, and the eight-sea-people are these oceans, and the Avi and tallfolk co-evolved on this network of continents by filling extremely different niches). They've had a lot of chances for internal first contact, and have found a few planets with actual atmospheres and biomes but without sapients, but this is their first extrasolar planet with sapients!!! So they're trying very hard to get it right.

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That's amazing! The Amentans are so called because that is the (a) name for their planet and they don't think there are any other people there or used to be.

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Their planet is 'Kris' in Medaki, which is the tallfolk's trade language, and (long melodic warble) in Broad Avian, which is the Avi's trade language, or (low ululating rumble) in the rumbling-scale-people's biggest language, or (animated image of ripples of blue and green sleekness) in the eight-sea-people's language. The eight-sea-people don't have a verbal language, and it took a really long time to figure out how to communicate with them, or even confirm they were sapient. 

Medaki's writing system is more prevalent, though, so the official documentation calls the planet Kris. Its inhabitants are the Krissan; this used to just mean the tallfolk, but now it means everyone from the planet. The tallfolk now call themselves the Meda. The rumbling-scale-people are Radhia in Medaki, and the eight-sea-people are the Tanyee, and the specifically sapient birds are technically the Lanau but they usually just refer to themselves as 'bird people' when writing in Medaki.

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That is really cool! By the way, their translation projects usually have actually bilingual people working on them and they should report bugs as they find them so they can be fixed and they can talk to each other.

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They're sending the linguistic information back home for analysis, too. And yes, that is one problem with meeting a new language - they have software and processes designed to help, but problems still happen. They'll let the Amentans know if any broadcasts seem strange!

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Some of the Amentans (there are a few dozen countries and they ALL want to talk to the spaceship) want pictures of alien babies. Here are pictures of Amentan babies!

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They used to have hundreds of countries! Now they have a lot of provinces of one League, which is kind of like a country but only because the tallfolk are weird with how they do governments. (Talking to all the countries would be a lot harder if all the provinces back home weren't interested in helping process things, but the Rachis is mostly responding to things very generically.)

The Amentan babies look an awful lot like tallfolk babies! Here are pictures of Avian fledglings (obviously the cutest type of baby), and variously small tallfolk, and tiny eight-sea-people, and very not tiny baby rumbling-scale-people, which apparently weigh more at birth than most adult tallfolk and definitely all Avi and eight-sea-people. (The rumbling-scale babies are very round and chubby lizards with huge flapping ears, like someone decided dragons aren't enough like elephants, and the Avian fledglings are very awkward looking baby birds, and the eight-sea-people babies look a lot like the adults just with short stubby arms arrayed around their bulbous heads, and the tallfolk babies do look very weirdly Amentan).

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The Amentans are perhaps predictably most excited about the recognizable babies but the others are also appreciated. How were they all unified into a League?

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Unification was a pretty slow event. The tallfolk started it - they got communications technology and such first. They formed the International Science Association, to share scientific information, mostly towards medicine and space travel, and then started forming other knowledge exchange programs, and eventually diplomatic and peace-keeping programs. Most of these had overlapping membership, but some nations would be part of only one or a couple. The International Science Association cracked communication with the Avi pretty early, but the Avi didn't really have large nations - just localized flocks - so there was a lot of effort by the contacted Avi to first get the Avian flocks talking to each other so they could form a voting bloc in the assorted Associations. The rumbling-scale-people weren't very hard to contact after the Avi, and they did have something a lot like nations, so getting them integrated was easier. At that point it started becoming obvious that disconnected Associations were a really inefficient way to manage international cooperation, so the three peoples started slowly restructuring and recombining them into the Unity League.

The Unity League already existed when scientists figured out how to talk to the eight-sea-people; the eight-sea-people don't form social groups at all, though, so they negotiated some rights for the ocean dwelling creatures, and what territory would be in their trust, and some individuals joined the Unity League and its branches, but there still isn't really an eight-sea-people province or voting bloc.

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That's so interesting! Amentans are not politically unified but they do have global coordination on some issues - population control and cleanliness standards are the ones everybody is signed onto, and people are almost all also sharing an internet and war crimes treaties and cooperating on the use of radio bands and stuff.

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The tallfolk invented the International Science Association before they invented the internet, though the International Science Association becoming almost everyone did take a while, and was mostly pushed by the collaborating on medicine. The Avi don't have population control treaties, but they're also very small, so it's easy to find space and food for them, and they don't tend to have nests with a lot of viable eggs anyways. The ones on board aren't sure about the other species.

The organizers back home send a request over the ansible for copies of local population control and cleanliness and war crimes treaties.

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They can have them in every Amentan language they've been translated into, which is all the official languages of the countries and some minority languages, plus they can have the shorter public announcement versions in the even less popular languages so nobody can say they didn't know even if their parents have raised them monolingual in something hopelessly obscure with only ten thousand speakers!

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They've only cracked a handful of these languages themselves, but they have their linguists go over them, mostly with an early eye to cultural differences - they're hoping to at least know what each other's treaties look like by the time the diplomatic ship arrives.

The Meda seem to have a lot more obscure languages than the Amentans do, is one early comment - probably more languages in general. The majority of their languages have fewer than a thousand speakers, though most people learn two or three languages, and most people speak at least some of one of the the top twenty languages - but for native speakers, you'd get maybe sixty percent of the population with the hundred most widely spoken languages. (The classic definition of 'language' gets a bit weird when applied to the other three species).

The Krissan as a whole don't directly have population control treaties, but they do have land use and environmental impact treaties, which work out to mostly the same thing, and apply more broadly to provinces with mixed species populations, while allowing those nations to implement whatever program works best for them and having more flexibility as new technologies emerge. The treaties mostly cover the release of certain industrial byproducts into air, land, and water, the release of unknown industrial byproducts, excess light production at night, destruction of forests and other reserves for nature, the preservation of 'common heritage' species in the wild, release of industrially heated water into waterways, and accumulation of space debris in the orbital bands typically used for satellites.

The equivalent of the cleanliness treaties are mostly split between a couple of related concepts, which have varied historically. The current system is mostly that the Unity League can declare and enforce quarantines worldwide, can shut down inter-province travel given declaration of a pandemic, can enforce contact tracing worldwide, can waive parts of environmental preservation treaties in pursuit of eradicating animal vectors and reservoirs for disease, and can require compliance with checks for novel diseases and anti-pathogenic measures like limiting antibiotic use (mostly a historic power, due to the approximately forty Amentan year period where they'd just introduced antibiotics but hadn't introduced antibiotics that pathogens can't quickly evolve resistance to) and distributing new anti-pathogenic technologies. This usually doesn't come up, because the minimum quality of healthcare a province can have is also regulated on a global level. There's mostly historic provisions for measures taken to prevent large-scale disease not being war crimes, causes for war, or crimes against sapience - these are some of the oldest ones, from before the Yellow Plague, which was a massive disease outbreak prior to the invention of antibiotics.

Crimes against sapience are the more strictly and universally banned things; these include torture, killing non-combatants, forcibly moving populations, forced pregnancy in a population, trying to eradicate or forcibly reduce a people or their culture, not accepting surrenders, and a few other things that mostly came up with historic technologies. The definition of 'a population' has historically been debated. War crimes are usually classed more as cause for total war by the target, but historically usually wouldn't get all your neighbors or (in one crimes against sapience case, the majority of the planet) attacking you - generally using indiscriminate weapons, damaging the environment, seeking to limit freedoms of conquered peoples, assaulting non-combatants, and destroying sites of cultural importance. 'Total war' is the complete mobilization of a population for war, either defensive or aggressive; this has usually been really rare among the Meda, because defensively it makes a territory nearly impossible to hold without massive ongoing casualties, so the leaders of belligerent nations generally tried to avoid inspiring it, and aggressively it can really mess with your non-war economy.

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Amenta digests this information. They wonder if Krissan machine translation is better than theirs, that they have so many languages surviving into modernity. Land use and environmental impact is an interesting angle from which to do population control, and makes sense given that they have so many species to juggle and it makes sense that the carrying capacity for small birds wouldn't be the same as for large mammals.

Amenta has managed to universally ban torture. Killing non-combatants in general is not considered a war crime on Amenta even if you get all of some group, though killing medics is, and it's certainly unpopular and rare to kill random purples. (Did they mention they have castes? They have castes.) Their mechanism for avoiding total war is the caste system! Only greys are allowed in combatant roles, so a desperate war can't overwhelm the rest of the population. They... don't have.... a forced pregnancy problem, and are morbidly fascinated by what historical conditions could have ever made a going concern. They don't oblige acceptance of surrender but do forbid perfidy while trying to discuss the terms of one.

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