In an ordinary Midwestern suburb is an ordinary two-bedroom house containing an ordinary couple. One of them has a plate of chicken and green beans and the other is kneeling beside him with his hands tied behind his back, opening his mouth to receive a green bean.
[Mom, I tried. You have no idea what Earthlings are like! If you show them how not to do it wrong one way, they find a different way to do it wrong instead! But fine, if you want to put it that way, there is now a dath-ilan-karnen that is definitely not obeying me or anything.]
(Thellim's exact grammar used for this last statement evokes a dath ilani character archetype that is similar to an Earth "tsundere".)
How does her daughter get herself into these situations, Helorm doesn't even
"May I have clarification on the overall secrecy status of your presence? It sounds from the background story like you have opted, for what I presume were reasons, and successfully, to keep your presence secret from local institutions and the greater population."
[I made no particular effort to keep my origins secret, after realizing that the aggregate cognitive competence of the world was not high enough to detect myself as an outsider. I simply spoke openly of myself as a dath ilani and everybody assumed it was a storytelling conceit, even after I dumped the concept of logical decision theory on them and yelled about how probability theory doesn't work like that and so on. Understand, Keeper, there is no analogue of your own position on Earth, no Keepers, very little that we would recognize as a shard of true governance. There is no person on Earth who is responsible for detecting somebody like myself, or who has explicit responsibility for handling somebody like myself if detected. The entire planet runs like a car on autopilot, with no autopilot.]
"The entire planet lacks any analogue, at any level, to Very Serious or highly ambitious people who would wish even individually to seize responsibility for an issue of that magnitude?"
[They might if I decided to provide them with definitive proof. Absent that, all Earthlings will just ignore an issue on that level, both individually and collectively, if nobody is absolutely forcing them to pay attention; the step where they have to decide whether it's true is enough to defeat their mental procedures. I mean, there's one native who decided that somebody ought to be handling this at all, and she's the psion Isabella Marie Swan, who was told about the event by the people who directly saw me materialize. Isabella is the psion actually handling this communications channel and repeating my words into it.]
"That seems like a fine cue to switch conversation-thread to her. Isabella, I greet you on behalf of Civilization. Much has been said of your people, by one not of your people; do you wish to provide a different perspective on what has been said?"
[Well, I don't know what she was saying, because I don't speak Baseline, though I'll be able to retroactively interpret the conversation when I pick up the language, but based on having ever spoken to Thellim on the topic of Earth, yeah, probably. Is there something in particular you wanted my perspective on?]
"...I should have mentioned that, Keeper; my apologies; it was in the okay-to-designate-private-info section just before Thellim said she was alive."
Perhaps he should not have told Helorm that, then. "She mentioned lunar eclipses that granted powers to 1 in 1,000 of your population; that seemed like relatively technical information and I will not prioritize it for perspective-checking. She claims that our world, from your world's perspective, has a central intelligence factor roughly three standard deviations above yours, though with three-quarters the variance; such comparison across worlds would seem potentially fraught, but ultimately guesstimable. Still, if that is false, it is a priority to say so."
"But primarily, what I would wish to ask you is this: assuming Thellim was able to describe accurately to you dath ilan for purposes of contrast, how would you describe to us - the differences between Earth and dath ilan, especially as they relate to how dath ilani try to coordinate groups to achieve more of the goals of the individuals in those groups? Has Earth chosen a way unlike ours deliberately, whether or not for reasons we would understand as wise? Is it indeed true that there is nobody on Earth whose job it is, and rightfully so as seen by Earthlings, to deal with such as I, in the way that it is my own acknowledged delegacy to treat with you?"
[I got an IQ test for Thellim one time and she scored within a few points of me, and I'm four standard deviations up from average for here if you count my psionic enhancements, though I got my test normalized so that memory in particular wasn't tested for because mine's magically eidetic. Assuming Thellim was accurate, let's see... it is not meaningful to say of Earth that it as a whole has made any choices. There are certainly - organizations who it would come to mind to go to about aliens landing in some more legible fashion, but not only is there not widespread agreement on which institution is the best one - almost all obvious candidates are national governments, of which there are dozens - but also none of those institutions is anywhere near as widely trusted and respected as your thing seems to be, so a lot of people, presented with aliens who were not obviously setting anything on fire literally or metaphorically, would not choose to inform them, and might tell somebody else or no one at all. I'm not a completely ludicrous pick for this job but also I was not in fact picked for this job by any picking-people-for-jobs apparatus, I just precognitively detected a mass email a former classmate of mine had been going to send about how there was a person in his living room who didn't speak the language and he wanted to know if anyone from school was an omniglot. Which I'm not but my telepathy can cross language barriers.]
Derrin listens, processing as best he can, as it goes. It seems like mostly confirmation. "It is not meaningful to say of Earth that it as a whole has made any choices" seems more scathing to him than anything Thellim has yet said. Presumably they have, in a sense, made the choice not to set their whole planet's land areas ablaze; but a charitable interpretation of Isabella's statement would be that this is only because people have individually not wanted to set those fires, not because coordinated Earth made a decision apart from those individual choices.
Then one point jumps out at him. "You are yourself a precognitive psion?" In retrospect Derrin should have prioritized asking about this point much earlier, but he is smart, not wide; he is juggling a very large number of knives. "Is this conversation, itself, one that you have selected from among many possibilities?"
Shit. But Helorm doesn't interrupt, even if a thousand copies of her are potentially running and truly-dying on an otherworldly metaphysically-strange computer right now; this is very much a Let The Keeper Handle It conversation.
[Thellim asked me not to precog this conversation, which I, uh, somewhat reluctantly deferred to her on.]
"Thank you and her. She estimated correctly what might greatly horrify us, for multiple reasons, without other long conversations first."
"That gratitude brings up another topic; what do you hope to gain, either for yourself, or for Earth?"
[For me, steering power, and for Earth, uh - gains from trade, and any of your assorted insights you can non-destructively transmit, with the caution that I believe you may have historically become acclimated to a destructive form of transmission; Thellim doesn't know enough history to contradict the supposition.]
"Nor yet do I know what horrors may have occurred in our past, though the traces laid down in human nature by natural selection speak of it not being good. I do hope Thellim mentioned that we are not currently in the habit of taking by violence rather than trade."
[I believe her that you aren't currently in that habit but I don't think you've had the means or the motive in a while.]
Derrin is slightly confused by this, but manages a plausible decoding: Dath ilani may individually have such means or motive, but their entire civilization has never before been faced with the temptation of a whole other parallel-planet, full of people that the smartest dath ilani (if not average dath ilani) could perhaps outwit, and without the power of organized resistance.
"Would you, Isabella, take all that we have in dath ilan, if the power to do that lay within your capability alone, and we could not oppose you? And if not, why not?"
[No, because I'm a nice person, and also I am not especially horrified by anything I believe you are ongoingly doing as opposed to my suspicions about your history. To be clear, I expect that your motive would be in a sense humanitarian, I just think based on Thellim's example you need a lot more orienting to the situation before you try to take humanitarian actions more complicated than selling us customized chairs. Which, to be clear, you can't do now, but I can go forward with publicizing dath ilan's existence and get some mages on it if that seems like a good idea.]
The main reason dath ilan would try to take Earth by force is if it looks like Earth is about to erupt an unstoppable horror that expands at lightspeed, or faster given the fundamental possibility of mages and psions, consuming all surrounding galaxies in both its own dimension and in every other resource-bearing dimension Earth can causally contact, including dath ilan, and any other worlds that can be contacted by psions, mages, and whatever psions and mages turn into after they get eaten.
Thellim either has not realized this (75%) or has not mentioned it to Isabella (25%).
[Do you know whether the powers of mages and psions can transmit causality faster-than-light, especially without prior slower-than-light transmission of a receiver?]
[My telepathy doesn't have lightspeed lag but it needs a person to talk to, if that's what you mean.]
"I meant to ask more broadly than your own personal telepathy. Have any mages opened two-way portals to the poles of the Sun-closest planet for colonization, for example, especially if they did not need to send another mage by ordinary rocket to that planet first. Or just tapped a finger on your Moon."
[Nobody has that yet. There are planetside teleporters, and some mages are working on getting out of the gravity well but haven't cracked it yet.]
"Do you know whether the planetside teleportations or other such phenomena can occur, in round trip, faster than lightspeed limitations permit?" He wants to think that surely their curious ones have investigated that, but if the whole planet is like a car on autopilot with no autopilot...