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Generated: Aug 05, 2021 1:08 AM
Post last updated: Aug 05, 2021 1:08 AM
we can share with you if there's peace
au yeerks meet stork
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There's a lot to worry about, of course - the andalites could declare war any day and are probably up to something already - but this mission is for science and diplomacy. Ideally. As long as that seems like a safe set of priorities.

They find an inhabited planet. The oceans are made of water; the animals are carbon-based and use DNA and keep their brains in single locations. At least one species is definitely intelligent and probably infestable. The atmosphere is probably safe for gedds. There are no radio transmissions to intercept.

Which is odd, because there are robots. Those are almost definitely robots and not just weird-looking animals.

There's no sign that these people are spacefaring and maybe that doesn't have to precede z-space-based communications, or maybe they control the robots exclusively by getting up close and pressing buttons, but whatever is going on with their technology is definitely new and unexpected. They puzzle over that one while they confirm the risk of xenonotic infection is acceptably low.

Then they find a nice out-of-the-way place where they can land a shuttle, cloaked, and wait for one of those bipeds to come nearby.

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Here's a biped! The biped is collecting kindling.

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And here is a gedd and a yeerk, armed and obviously carrying tools and pouches of alien make. They're trying not to be visibly threatening. They wait till there's a tree between the cloaked shuttle and the biped and get out then, when it's slightly less obvious that they were invisible.

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The biped is very startled! They drop all their kindling and back up a bit without trying to pick it up.

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That is not far enough to even begin to be concerning. The yeerk and gedd back up two steps.

They're totally willing to take this person by force. But that's plan B.

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The human is kind of frozen, staring at them, looking at all the anatomical differences between the gedd and all the other organisms he has ever seen.

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That's very understandable of that human. It does slightly lower their estimate of the human's intelligence but they're not making high-confidence predictions about that yet anyway.

They start moving, very slowly, to take something off their belt. Not the watertight metal canister. Not yet. Just a handheld computer that they can use to show the human videos.

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The human watches this warily. Glances over their shoulder, maybe assessing escape routes.

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Well, it will suck if the human tries to run.

But here is a video, which they can see if they stay put. It shows an alien planet, but recognizably a planet with water oceans and white clouds and a couple of continents, and zooms out to show the solar system, and keeps zooming, smoothly, until the entire galaxy is in view. Then it zooms back in on a different spot, shows a slightly lower-quality render of a new solar system, and zooms in on this exact planet as seen from orbit a couple days ago.

The screen is one of the newer ones; it's made for nahara and gedd eyes, and happens mostly by chance to work fine for humans.

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The human is fairly transfixed but does not obviously recognize their own planet from space.

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That's fine. They have another one. This one is animated - more obviously animated, that is - and shows a couple of groups of stylized  nahara trading stylized fish with each other and mingling, and a couple of groups of gedds trading things too stylized and alien to parse with each other. The gedds and nahara in the video keep moving awkwardly toward each other and backing away, until they put - objects - to each other's heads and then they seem to be able to communicate better, or at least they're depicted trading with each other.

The objects in question are shown in more detail than most things in the video. They look like the watertight metal canister on the belt this gedd is wearing.

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Whether the visitors can interpret human facial expressions or not, the human looks real puzzled, but isn't running for the hills yet.

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And they touch the metal canister and wait to see if the human seems at all supportive of the implied plan. If not they can show more videos, but maybe they'll have gotten somewhere already?

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The human looks at the canister. He looks at his kindling. He looks over his shoulder. He looks at the canister again.

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Well, that suggests the human understood the video. It's not yet clear if the human is going to be cooperative, though, and that looks like it might be the behavior of someone in the middle of making a decision. They wait a little longer to see how that resolves.

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The human makes some sort of human gesture with his human hand and then turns to go.

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Hm. Hard to tell if that's screw-you-I'm-done or wait-here-I'll-bring-the-government. Hard to be sure whether they want the latter, and whether they can avoid it if they don't. This would be a much easier call if they could have just eavesdropped on some local radio.

They try following slowly for a few steps just to see what kind of reaction that gets.

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The human looks back when he hears footsteps, and makes the gesture again.

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They stop. They'll wait here, at least for a while; that person was at least sort of communicative and maybe trying to cooperate and they're only risking two people and a gedd if the thing that happens next is an ambush. Probably. The shuttle is still hidden nearby.

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The human comes back 20 minutes later with another human. They are talking to each other in human a language that is probably not called "human".

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That's... possibly the government, probably not an ambush, and almost definitely resolvable in a way that gets them at least the local language without making the galactic community angry. ...Angrier.

They greet the humans in Galard. Gedds are terrible at pronouncing it, but these people's civilization shows no evidence of spaceflight so it's probably just as comprehensible to them.

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The new human makes an attempt to pronounce it back!

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Looks like they at least want to seem cooperative.

Perhaps the new human would like to see the videos from before.

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The new human is delighted by the videos and approaches closer for a better look!

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Their enthusiasm is convenient for winning them over and their lack of wariness might be convenient for kidnapping them if that comes up which it might not.

Same strategy as before: show the videos, touch the container, hope for something they can later spin to the galaxy at large as having at least looked like consent...

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The human approaches for a closer look at the container.

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It's a container. The inside has a neat system for shock absorption in case it gets tossed around too much but that's hard to see. From the outside it just looks like smooth steel with a couple of alien symbols on it.  It has a simple mechanical fastener holding the lid shut and a clip for keeping it on a belt, which they unfasten since they don't, at this moment, want to be wearing it.

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The human holds out her hands in its direction curiously.

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They are definitely not handing anyone over to the aliens. They gesture to the gedd's ear, and then to the human. But while they do that they do hold the canister up where the human could touch it.

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The human pokes it with one finger!

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The canister doesn't respond to that.

Will the human balk if they uncap the canister and reach out to try to hold the human's head steady?

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She doesn't want the Gedd touching her head and flinches away! She tries to get a look in the canister though.

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The opening is sort of small and the inside is in shadow but there's something wet inside probably.

They try to mime that they'll trade the computer for the chance to do whatever it is they're trying to do.

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She goes and consults with the other human, then walks back, holds out her hand for the canister, taps her ear.

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That is... pretty hard to distinguish from holding her hand out for the computer, so they'll try to hand that over and put the canister to the human's ear unless she's very insistent about doing it herself.

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She is pretty insistent about doing that herself! Does not seem to be a big fan of Gedd hands.

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On the one hand, that's not anywhere close to the weirdest thing to object to about this situation. On the other hand, that's a person she's asking them to hand over.

Well, they wouldn't be here if they couldn't accept some risk. So, sure. She can do that.

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She takes the canister, gets a better look in there, and then slowly moves to pour its contents into her ear, looking at the Gedd for confirmation that this is what they have in mind. Her friend is anxiously wringing his hands a few meters back.

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Hard to figure out what will parse as confirmation but they can mime the best angle and duration.

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Pour!

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This is definitely not how liquids behave when poured - well, there's some liquid - but if she doesn't panic and lets it happen then, well, then she'll have a yeerk in her head.

This one was chosen for being fast and efficient. No one can get everything instantly, but orienting to the whole planetary situation and who this person is and what their goals are for this interaction and what's been happening in the last few minutes is the kind of thing that might, in this totally unfamiliar alien brain, manage to take as much as a second and a half. If he gets the chance.

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She makes an eeping noise when the Yeerk goes in, and the original human calls out, "Shuna?"

Shuna's brain has two halves, which is unusual among species known to yeerks. She and her husband Soreza back there are farmers; they and a couple of their friends and a couple random kids they got from a creche for extra hands have a vineyard and ducks and sheep and a dog and a cat and a donkey and barley and a kitchen-garden. She was spinning and pacing the fence to see if it should get fixed up anywhere when Soreza came to find her to show her the weird thing. He always shows her weird things he finds; he's timorous and indecisive and brings her in to kill bugs, to do amateur veterinary work on the animals when they have gross problems, to deal with - well, they were at first guessing "weirdly designed servant from far away" but she's not really sure -

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He doesn't need motor control right now so he doesn't take it.

Huh. Two of them? But eavesdropping on the signals they send each other, they don't quite seem like two people. Maybe it's like if one person had the same host for their entire life and never left; maybe they'd end up a gestalt like that. Either way, not in the top five things to focus on right now.

Trying to use this language he didn't know anything about five seconds ago that doesn't have words for most of the relevant concepts would be slower than just showing her - this is what a spaceship is; this is what a computer is for, like the one his friend owes her; this is how far away they came from. And this is what a yeerk can do.

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Wow! Shuna is kind of overwhelmed by all this information but like in a fun way. She's glad they didn't manage somehow to convince Soreza, he'd be freaked out. "They're from a whole other planet! Like ours but far far away!" she tells Soreza. "The little ones that go in people's ears can learn languages this way, that's why - also they were trying to trade me the thing with the videos - the little one can talk in my head while he's here -"

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<It's true, I can. We're here to learn more about the world and maybe to trade with you - we have technology you don't and we want friends with very good hands and eyes.> And servantmakers, probably, but he's not sure yet whether they should let on that they don't have that.

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<Yeah, the other guy's hands are weird! How do you make anything with those?>

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<With difficulty,> he says dryly. <And with tools that make it easier to make other tools.>

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<You should get some puppets, maybe.>

"Shuna, uh, how long are you keeping it in your head?" asks Soreza.

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<I can't stay forever anyway but if you want to arrange to meet again or - if you're thinking of telling anyone, remember you can't un-tell them so be very sure of them.>

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<I wasn't thinking of telling the young'uns or anything, just -> The other adults who work on the farm with her and her husband, Chern and Ouzar and Zake.

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<That's fine, of course.>

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<Do I just put you back in the jar for now?> She's imagining picking him out of her ear like earwax.

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He can show her a slightly more graceful way to arrange that. <And then hand the jar back.>

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She jars him and hands him back over. Then she rubs at her ear with a corner of her apron.

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She can have the computer if she wants.

And either way, then the aliens will head in slightly the wrong direction for the shuttle and wait to see if the locals leave.

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She will take the computer! She starts playing with it while her husband gathers up all the kindling he dropped.

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It has the videos she saw before, and a few others - including some live-action footage of an alien reef and some cartoon representations of math concepts of varying complexity and abstraction - and besides the videos there's a calculator that doesn't know the local math notation, a translator that doesn't know any local languages, a clock that doesn't know what time zone this is, a timer, a camera, an audio recorder, and an app that can name most plants and animals local to any of three different alien planets if told which of those planets it's on. There has never been anything sensitive on this computer or even anything that might give more than a very vague hint about the broader galactic political situation, but even if there were, it would probably be in Galard.

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She's happy with her acquisition! She brings it with her to go back to fence-checking. That evening they tell their friends about their adventure over dinner.

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Meanwhile, Garren 177 reports back on the planet and then starts teaching the computers Shuna's language.

It's a weird planet and the humans - well, obviously they didn't evolve, so they're probably created somehow. Figuring out who set it all up and if they're still around goes somewhere on the to-do list. They have a serious but ill-informed debate about how likely it is that that person is still around and likely to interfere here, and if so, what that person's goals might be. It seems like it's not a planet made by a loving creator.

They want servantmakers. They want humans, regardless; their hands and eyes and ears are all pretty good, and they're a convenient size, and they can probably breathe the air of at least half a dozen other planets. But they specifically want servantmakers.

They have a discussion about who might be able to charm the locals and plan out how to handle their next interaction and... next they wait to see if the locals might come back later or send someone else to come look around. At least for a while. If a day passes and nothing happens then they'll try something else.

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One of the kids from the farm is there! He's spinning - he has an automaton handheld spinning device, actually - and hanging out where the aliens were last seen!

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Garren 177 is borrowing a host and can come say hello. Gedd mouths aren't great at this language, but he can make himself understood.

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"- hi! You're back!"

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"We are. We talked with each other and decided we want to invite some humans to partner with us."

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"Like you want to hire them?"

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"Yes. Very much like that."

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"Hire them to do what?"

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"To let us borrow their hands or make servants for us. We could take them to the stars and introduce them to other aliens or give them things that show movies and do math."

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"Like the one Shona has? It's pretty neat. I think servantmakers need materials though and they need money to buy those?"

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"Yes, like that. We don't have your money yet but I bet we can get some, don't you think?"

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"Probably, yeah! Servantmakers'll live in the city, not out here."

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Nod. "We might want to have human partners just for talking to them. If people in the cities would be startled to see us." And because they'll want to judge humans' reactions with the help of a human brain.

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"They would be, yeah. Shuna might go except it's lambing season soon... they could probably spare me if you pay them back later?"

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"I think we can pay you back. You're interested? What sort of personality do you think you'd be able to get along with?"

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"Huh. I guess I never really thought about it. I like Shuna, she's the one who picked me out of the creche."

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"I wonder if you'd get along with Rellis 786. Seems worth a try." That's one of the people specifically selected for being nice and endearing and bad enough and the nuts and bolts of host control and information-gathering to make them seem nonthreatening, and he has a certain sense of wonder in common with Shuna. "How much would you and your household want for that?"

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"Oh, I don't know, maybe - hm - how long?"

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"Can't do too long at a stretch but we might want a few chunks of a day or so each." Not three days at once. The current plan is to vaguely imply that even one entire day is a long time and two is probably pushing it, without actually saying anything they can't pass off as excessive caution later on.

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"Yeah so like - five, six rounds per day? Would cover me probably."

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"We'll probably have that much in not too long. Do you need to go let anyone know you'll be with us?"

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"Yeah, I shouldn't just skip off. Should I meet you here in, like, an hour?"

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"Sure!"

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Off he jogs. He is back in, like, an hour. "They said okay!"

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Then he can hand over one of the canisters and explain what to do with it.

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He will pour a Yeerk into his ear!

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This yeerk is enthusiastic about aliens and looks somewhat clumsily through his memories of the recent conversation and the entire new biosphere. And somewhere in the middle of that remembers to say hi (or at least send the concept, the language being one of the least interesting things here).

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<Hi! My name's Yorn. You're Rellis?>

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<Yes. Well, one of them, anyway. It's great to meet you and see all this! At some point after we're done talking to some servantmakers maybe you could help me get a better look at some of the local organisms? I'd show you how to work a microscope and of course you'd see everything I did.>

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<One of them? What's a microscope?>

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He can infodump about microscopes, optical and otherwise. A lot of it isn't really verbal, just concepts and muscle memory (from some kind of aquatic dragon thing). He thinks this is very cool and of course everyone should get to see things under a microscope (and, for that matter, see things at all).

"Hey," Garren 177 interrupts in the local language. "Aren't you going to take some stuff and head out?"

And he takes a step forward and holds out Yorn's hand.

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<Oh wow, Shuna didn't mention you could do THAT!> Yorn isn't definitely upset about it, but he is startled and thinks it should have been mentioned in advance. Also he was going to ask about the aquatic dragon thing but now he's distracted.

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<Whoops! I didn't realize you didn't know. Well, I don't have to, if you'd rather I just ask for things, I guess unless you were going to try to starve me?> He just kind of drops the concept of kandrona starvation into Yorn's mind, being vague about the exact timeline, because it seems potentially reassuring. <Want to grab that stuff and head out or will we need to find someone else?>

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<I'm not going to starve you!> objects Yorn, collecting the objects. <Where are we going?>

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<I think to... hm, actually everywhere's kind of far, we should ask for a ride in the shuttle. Can I or would you rather...?>

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<Oh, I don't know your language, go ahead.>

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An excuse to speak something other than the local language, good. Well, one of the things he says is that they need to borrow the shuttle, which of course they're allowed to do. The hatch opens, apparently out of thin air.

<You want to get on or should I? Oh, and don't press any buttons or anything while we're there if you don't know what they do.>

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Yorn gets on and doesn't press any buttons, though he does gawk.

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It's pretty gawkable, although most of the things in it are unclear as to their function. They have a pilot, a copilot, and someone (well, two someones) looking at text on a computer. It's pretty cramped.

It's not a long trip, to get somewhere in even a very expansive definition of walking distance. Rellis can spend it answering questions if Yorn wants.

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Yorn wants to know what kind of servants they want, he thinks people specialize. And he wants to know how many aliens there are, both species and individuals.

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Their major use-cases here are automating assembly lines and potentially more efficient power generation.

Of the species that are people - that's kind of a fuzzy concept but there are dozens of known species that have languages and make plans. And of course there are many orders of magnitude more known species that don't. The number of individual people in the galaxy is hard to estimate, but it's probably somewhere between a hundred billion and a few trillion.

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Probably they want automata for that? Or maybe golems?

That's so many people, wow.

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Sounds about right.

They land a more convenient distance from the city. <Can I go talk to people or do I need to use you as a relay?>

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<Oh, go ahead, just let me, like, scratch my nose or whatever if I itch?>

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<Sure.> He's not good enough at this to make it seamless but he can mostly manage that.

And now to go see the city and look for servantmakers.

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Yorn knows vaguely what part of the city they live in. With some meandering and some following golems and pets they can find the row where they mostly collect, workshops and storefronts full of animals and statues and motes of light with houses overtop.

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It's a cool place.

He'll pick a place that looks like it has more golems and automata on display than shines or pets and step in.

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"Good morning!" says an apprentice who's sweeping the floor.

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"Good morning! We have an unusual business proposal to make, who could we talk to about that?"

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"I'll go get Nidar!"

Nidar is fetched out of the back room; she's an old woman with gnarled arthritic hands and hand-like puppets worn strapped to her shoulders. "Unusual how, young man?"

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"First of all, I can prove most of my weirder claims easily, if that ends up being necessary. Just want to say that up front. What we're looking for today are, in increasing order of weirdness, very durable servants that can handle tasks like turning a crank over and over - like for grinding grain but that's not actually what we want them for - extremely precise ones that can be used to manipulate objects small enough to be awkward even with the deftest hands, help figuring out where to sell things like calculators and sound recorders, and people - preferably servantmakers - who would be interested in lending their hands and eyes and in spending time being puppeted. In exchange we... will be able to offer cash soon, and can already offer things like calculators, and science and engineering knowledge."

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"- you want to puppet people?" says Nidar.