Dec 05, 2020 7:51 PM
yeerk ma'ar in golarion
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Visser Three paces, swishing Alloran's tail. 

The small ship is out in hyperspace jump range, he's checked all of the calculations for the dozenth time, and there's no particular reason to delay any longer. The engineers have already done a handful of shorter-range experimental jumps without Mhalir on board, verifying safety. He wouldn't be here if this were especially dangerous. 

'Not dangerous', of course, isn't the same as 'will work', and he has no idea if they'll actually land in the destination system or not. 

<Go ahead> he says to the ship's engineer. 

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They order the jump. There's the brief moment of disorientation -

 

- and then the stars are unfamiliar.

They race to the windows to look, even though the computers will be far faster than they will at mapping them and determining if they reached the intended destination. 

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Mhalir doesn't recognize the sky from any angle, but it's not like he memorized the stars for where they were trying to go. He looks out curiously, though, checking whether they're at least close-ish to a star system, and whether the computers have located any planets yet. 

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A cheerful middle-aged yellow star. 

A bunch of planets - seven so far, now eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven and they're pretty sure that's all of them. 

"Not confident this is the intended destination," the pilot says, reading off the computers. "...promising nonetheless, though? There's life on at least two of those..."

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<Interesting.> Watching with one of his stalks, Visser Three is also dubious that this is where they meant to go. There aren't that many known star systems with life on multiple planets. <Any indication of a technological civilization on either?>

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"....life on at least four of these. Which has got to mean a technological civilization, that doesn't happen by accident - okay, we've got cities on the surface of three." He puts a picture on the screen; from here, of course, it's very very blurry.

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He paces closer. <Fascinating. Do we know of anywhere on record with four inhabited planets?>

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"Sure, if they developed terraforming a lot sooner than z-space jumping, but - then there should be satellites, and we're not detecting any." Lights flash on the console. "Okay, we have initial scans, from the sun outwards: one is hot and barren, some artificial structures on the surface. Two has tons of plant life and an atmosphere we can't scan through very well. Three has oceans, plants, and surface cities. Four has cities too, though it's colder at its hottest than Three is at its coldest, and has a tenth of the atmosphere, and they haven't terraformed either - Five is tidally locked, Six is lifeless and radioactive, Seven is dead, Eight and Nine are gas giants but Nine has six inhabited moons, Ten and Eleven are dead. 

And no visible spacecraft or stations anywhere. They've got to be shielding -"

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<How odd.> He paces for a minute, thinking. <I want to go in closer, I think, but - very carefully. If they have the capacity to so easily shield all of their space infrastructure, they might be able to penetrate our shielding.> 

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They direct the ship in. The pictures are replaced by higher-resolution pictures. The artificial structures on #1 are hard to interpret. #2 remains shrouded in cloud cover. #3 has cities in the places you'd expect them, on rivers and on the oceans, and fields of crops, and ice caps and deserts and so on. No electric lighting; the cities are dark at night. #4 has limited surface structures that are obviously the infrastructure for a more complex underground civilization. Nine's moons have fascinatingly varied plant life.

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This is very odd. 

<Are we picking up anything at all in space, now that we are closer?> 

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"No, Visser."

 

Picture of the non-plant life on #2, very blurry: enormous reptiles and oversized arthropods.

Picture of the non-plant life on #3, equally blurry: humanlike

Picture of the non-plant life on #4: taller than a hork-bajir, many-armed and tough-skinned

Picture of the non-plant life on #9's moons: octopus-things? floaty things with gas-bladders?

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This is baffling

<...I think we should take a cloaked shuttle in on the third planet, the one with the humanoids. It has the least confusing signs of civilization.> He looks around. <I think only a handful of people should go down with it. Possibly I can explore the surface alone, since I am best placed to stay concealed.> 

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"I can get a shuttle ready. And route further updates on Three to the shuttle."

 

(Alloran hopes very sincerely that these people do have cloaked ships, and shoot them down at once.)

 

Further updates on Three:

Population estimated at about a billion.

Four major continents, all of them populated with preindustrial humanoids. 

They recommend a landing point in the north, which is sparsely inhabited, and....also has a bizarre spatial anomaly the sensors can't make sense of, which he should stay away from.

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Huh. Mhalir will stay away from it, although he's also curious to look at the sensor data on it later. 

He watches as the shuttle descends, tugging at the various bits and pieces of his confusion. 

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Atmosphere: breathable in his base form and the following of his morphs. Climate: cold, here. There's a village about ten miles west of where they're on track to land. The spatial anomaly might be - a tear to another plane? They realize that sounds kind of nutty but it matches the readings and also their visual on the place, which is that creatures keep crawling up out of it and the locals have a forcefield of some kind up to stop them.

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That is bizarre. He'll try to learn more about it, if possible. 

Alloran's base form is going to be incredibly conspicuous, here. Instead, once the shuttle is down, Mhalir leaves the pilot to guard it on the surface, cloaked, and he chooses a flying morph that shouldn't stand out too much from a distance. He'll attempt to acquire some of the local wildlife before actually venturing into a village; he doubts he can pass undercover as one of the humanoid locals, at least not yet.

He flies in the direction of the village. 

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A group of locals are out hunting an enormous mammal of some kind. A pack of dogs is with them. Otherwise the snowy landscape doesn't have a lot of animals; there are other birds, but mostly they stick to the coastline. 

 

At the village the locals are mostly indoors, huddled around fires in long wooden houses. Occasionally one of them leaves to use an outhouse.

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This place looks incredibly low tech level! He's not clear on whether the village is the most informative place to spy, but he'll start out here, see what he can learn. 

He watches for any sign of technology more advanced than wooden house and fires in use, and looks around for a place where he might be able to demorph unseen and use his Leeran morph to read the thoughts of anyone passing by. 

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The hunters have spears. No technology more advanced than that is in evidence.

 

He could hide behind one of the houses; he'd be visible to anyone approaching from that direction, but there's no one for miles.

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He'll risk it. The Leeran morph is small enough that he won't be conspicuous once he's in that form, and he won't be in Andalite form for long. (He also won't be able to stay in Leeran morph for all that long, it's cold, but he can maybe get some thoughts through the wooden wall.) 

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The Leeran morph is so so so cold. These people are praying for the successful return of the hunters and worrying about whether their boyfriend likes them and being annoyed with the baby for groping them and complaining that the dog smells like shit and spinning thread.

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This is really not that helpful. 

He demorphs and morphs the not-bird again, hopefully without being seen, and flies back to the shuttle. 

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He is not interrupted. The shuttle has maps of the planet, by now, with cities marked and a couple other confusing-to-the-sensors points marked. 

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He wants to demorph and rest, first, morphing a lot in quick succession is exhausting.

<I want to land closer to one of the cities> he tells the pilot eventually, after recounting his rather meagre observations. <I still know very little, except that the tech level in this region does not appear especially high.> 

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"Understood." Which of these cities does he want to check out. There are what look like permanent war-camps near the portal, there are cities farther south...

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