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Oct 27, 2020 5:22 PM
matirin would like it noted that he is a better judge of character than seerow and just had fewer options
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They make the z-space jump with a badly damaged ship, which is disrecommended because of the 10% chance of missing your target star system and 3% chance of a horrifying death of being smeared across the cosmos, but the odds of a horrifying death if they stay here in this firefight are much higher and the odds of a horrifying death where they're headed is much higher so he can't even really get worked up about it. They end up not smeared across hyperspace, in any event. The external sensors are all shot so they have to resort to literally looking out the window, but the planet looks right, blue and green. 

           <I would have predicted some visible lights on the dark side, from a civilization which has reached its moon> Cayaldwin says. 

<Are electrical lights visible at this distance to the naked eye?>

          <Ordinarily, yes. On some planets we would not observe it because they prohibit external lights at night to minimize light pollution, because they do not require them, or because they do not have any aboveground cities. None of those were mentioned with respect to Earth but >

 

The shields have another hour in them, maybe two, and then they'll be visible to every Yeerk ship in orbit. They're honestly gambling a little bit that they aren't already, who knows what Yeerk sensor technology looks like these days, and if the ship's been spotted they'll have no warning before something breaches the hull. If the ship's not spotted, it's enough time to make it to the planet, narrowly. It's not enough time to try to jury-rig any sensor system better than staring out the window. He picks a landing site far from civilization. They're going to need to kidnap some humans and learn to imitate them and they can't afford to be noticed or make the news.

It's a rough landing; several people have to morph off broken legs. There is time, barely, to confirm there's no one around within the range of human eyesight, before the shields go out. The ship's in terrible shape, not that he's expecting to ever get out of this gravity well. There's one plane in decent shape but the Yeerks will be able to detect it.

Enough of the internal sensors are working to confirm that the air in the airlock is four to one nitrogen to oxygen with traces of other things none of which kill Andalites. Cayaldwin says this is expected for Earth.

They send a scout out as a bird. The aim is to find the nearest human habitation where they can kidnap some humans to talk to to get oriented.

 

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They've landed in scrubby boreal forest interrupted by the occasional glacier-melt lakes, presumably sourced from the gorgeous snowcapped mountains about fifty miles north of their location. The closest sign of human habitation is thirty miles away, a tiny hamlet clinging to the banks of a major river, mostly consisting of a cluster of farmhouses and a big communal barn. 

It does not have electric lights. Or any signs of technology more advanced than plows and candles. 

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There is a debate when the scout gets back to report this. 

 

Some planets develop unevenly, depending how they first get to clean energy (and Earth isn't there yet). It is possible that a village far from civilization wouldn't have electricity. 

 

Does it have humans. They're supposed to be bipedal, vary in coloration from off-white to off-black, hairy on their heads and an unpredictable percentage of their faces, two eyes in the front, walk unsteadily on two feet...

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It totally has humans! These ones have tan skin and dark head hair and some of them have dark or reddish face-hair. Eyes and feet are in the right place. There are some tiny humans as well, being watched by an adult while they splash in the shallows of the river. 

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Is there an adult human off on their own somewhere where they could be grabbed and dragged off for a conversation.

 

(Some people would feel mildly bad about this so he gives this instruction to one who wouldn't. They're preventing all these humans from being killed or enslaved anyway.)

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It takes a bit to locate one, but there's a young adult human picking berries some distance away from the rest of the village. 

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The young adult human is shot with a stunner on its lowest setting in case they have weird physiology that makes them more vulnerable to that than average; if they're instead average it won't hurt it much but there'll be time to fire another before it can object very loudly.

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The human gets partway into a startled sound and then goes down in a heap. 

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Good to know!

 


The human is dragged out of view and acquired and then they wait patiently for it to wake up.

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She wakes up within five minutes, but after glancing from side to side without moving her head, she lies still and waits to see what the people who hurt her are going to do - it must've been magic they hit her with, they're mages, she's so scared. 

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The person who hurts her looks like her, right now. (A different person is hiding in the bushes in the form of a Leeran, which can read minds.)

<Hello> says the person who looks like her. <Do you happen to know where San Diego is.>

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Is this some kind of creepy sick illusion, she's heard mages can do illusions to look like other people - and also talk in your head, her cousin's husband had an aunt who had that Gift.

She understands the mind-voice but she's never heard of anywhere called San Diego and also she is absolutely panicking and most of her thoughts are about what the creepy illusion mage is probably going to do to her. 

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<I am not going to hurt you.> says the person who looks like her, whose eyes are darting about rather frantically. <How about London, have you heard of London.>

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She doesn't believe that at all. No, she hasn't heard of London. The only countries she's heard of are Valdemar and Iftel, she thinks the capital of Valdemar is called Haven, but that still seems hard to misunderstand as 'London' especially when someone is talking directly into your head

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<Where is Valdemar from here?>

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South. If you follow the river you'll get there eventually but she knows it's over a hundred miles. No one in her family has ever been more than twenty miles downriver to visit Hogshatches. 

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<Thank you. I think you collapsed in the sun and had a weird dream> the illusion-mage who looks like her says seriously, and then stuns her again, with the correct setting on the first try this time. 

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She is now stunned on the forest floor. None of the other humans have come looking for her yet. 

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He drags her back to where she started, retreats to the forest again, and once he's rested flies back as a bird. 

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<No Valdemar, no Iftel, no Haven. But the list of cities I was provided with is incomplete and also thirty years out of date.>

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<And they definitely didn't have hyperspace or anything close to it thirty years ago ->

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<They had reached their own moon rather recently. I think the next step is to go to Haven.>

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<I agree. I'll work out assignments for that. We should acquire some more humans, too, in the meantime - ideally from a different village, so they can't compare stories - I want Sovyal and Firinar and Alkar on that, and Talik and Insar on aerial surveillance of Haven as birds, and you on -

- figuring out whether this ship could ever jump again. Just in case we're not on Earth.>

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<How would there be humans somewhere else?>

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<I don't know. Just - give me an estimate of whether it merits further study.>

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Elsewhere, someone in an underground facility on the other side of said facility is staring at a scrying-crystal, trying to hunt down the source of the very clear alarm that was recently tripped. It doesn't seem to be magic, is the problem, but the wards over the scantly-inhabited northern forest are pretty thin, it would take a very big non-magical explosion or other disaster to set them off and he doesn't recognize this signature at all. 

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