Sep 26, 2021 9:21 AM
amenta colonizes delena
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Colony ships whiz this way and that. Here, for instance, is Teani-3, a beautifully habitable (if short-yeared) planet in orbit around a small yellow star.

Teani-3 has natives! The natives are... weird. For one thing they're telepathic, which is incredibly cool and all the greens are SO excited. You'd think this would make communication easier, but it kind of doesn't, because they are also weird in other ways. They have several traits which no one can figure out in terms of evolutionary stability - they can't actually approach each other's homes, which seems like it would collapse as soon as one managed to mutate to be otherwise, even presuming they must have reproduction figured out in some fashion. Initial attempts at one-at-a-time peaceful introductions are met with violence, and some of the greys die, but Tapa has warp now and doesn't have to just let aliens commit some murders so they can beg to be let off their rock; the violent aliens die. The less violent natives don't get killed. That ought to improve the gene pool a bit.

The natives can't approach Amentan territory either, once they've got it. Enough adjacent violent ones, enough native-unclaimed land (perfectly good land of the sort they seem to like, even, fancy that, what is with this species), and they have a big blob they can mark with a locally legible perimeter, and they have room for a city and farms. There's a secondary local species that seems just shy of being full-on people, also telepathic plus those can go in cities, but they're little birds. Some Amentans like them a lot, actually, and start trying to convince them to be pets (it is provisionally illegal to insist on it).

Figuring out how to talk to the aliens is hard; they only broadcast and can't receive. The greens are SO excited, though. They will try Very Hard to figure it out. Here is an anthropologist turned xenologer whose botanist husband is safe back in the city with their baby, hiking out with a grey escort to meet an alien.

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It's a bit of a hike; the natives don't like the newcomers, and have mostly left en masse, scattering with warning of their destructive ways. A few remain, though, too stubborn to leave or too confident in the defensibility of their territory, or, in this one's case, more interested in learning about the newcomers than worried about the risk.

The edge of her territory is not just marked but fortified, with the type of thick wall of heavy crafting-material that's usually only necessary in places with the most hostile of wildlife, and the surrounding countryside is patrolled by a number of animals donated by her fleeing neighbors - domesticated hawks and their accompanying crows form the outermost perimeter, warning her of the approaching aliens while they're still a few miles out, while patrolling dogs nearer in have a better chance of scaring off intruders.

She's prepared to leave if she needs to, with all her belongings and livestock packed into the same walking houses that her neighbors used to flee, but she doesn't, yet. Instead she mounts a smaller, purpose-made vehicle - also fortified; she's heard that the newcomers touch people, and with her neighbors gone that could be catastrophic for her, but a transparent wall of crafting-material should keep her safe - and heads out to meet them.

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Inua Sun (it means "person") has a video camera mounted to her shoulder, and makes sure it catches the approach of the vehicle. She tries waving, and waits to see if the native says anything telepathically, like, say, 'can you tell me how to say the following list of vocabulary because I really want to have a chat', though she knows that's ludicrously optimistic.

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She stops a little ways out of easy communication range and just watches, for a moment, then eases her walking machine closer.

The telepathy is odd; there's nothing about it that's like speech, no sense of having been told something, just an odd sudden knowledge that a certain thing is the case: This local doesn't like that they're here, but since they are, she's curious. About why, about what they want and what they think they're doing here.

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Now it is time for Sun to attempt to laboriously reply. This is done mostly with pictures on a big LED tablet; she can try to play hot-or-cold if the local is amenable, at least, to stick with pictures that are working and drop attempts that are not. Sun (she introduces herself out loud) is here to LEARN THINGS. She is curious, just like this local is curious.

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The local is fairly patient with this, and eventually steps her vehicle back, peels a section off of the (oversized, for just this reason) backrest of her seat, and fashions it into a round-cornered tablet of her own, on which she writes 'foreign-person says they are here to learn things' in her own language of ideograms, and translates this for them when she shows it to them.

She can bring books, she tells them, and read to them until they learn the language.

She shows them the glyphs for yes and no and maybe and something-else.

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That's AMAZING and Sun is DELIGHTED and writes yes yes yes yes. She will take photos of the books and write down the telepathic translations and some linguists can get cracking.

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She will need to make the books; it will take about an hour.

They should stay here, or nearby; if they cross her wall she will leave.

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That works for Sun. She has some camping stuff along and the greys will set that up for her.

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She ambles off; she's back in an hour, with a basket of books glommed onto the front of the walker and a similar stack inside, plus a small potted bush; she pauses again before approaching, and comes a little closer this time, kneeling the walker to deposit the basket and backing up again to keep her distance as they retrieve it.

She's brought a variety of fairly simple books: there's one about the basics of crafting, and one about medical crafting for patients, and one about running a household, and one about plant husbandry and selective breeding, and one that's a collection of essays on interpersonal interactions, and one that's advice about taking one's household nomadic.

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Sun has the absolute time of her life transcribing all these into the best Tapap she can manage at speed. She is most especially fascinated by crafting basics and how the relatively asocial natives do interpersonal interactions.

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Crafting seems to be partly instinctual; even something intended as a primer assumes its reader has figured out the basic actions of converting other matter into crafting-material and giving it simple traits, and instead focuses on guiding the reader toward figuring out how to make less-obvious traits, like the 'invisible light' they use to purify water, and explaining how to use various traits to good effect. It also has a section on dangerous traits, and how to avoid harming oneself or others while learning new crafting techniques - best practice involves making small quantities of material with mild versions of any new trait, and being alert for any strange results either from the material or from the crafter's own body.

Medical crafting is also pretty interesting: it seems that this species can grow new body parts on themselves or each other, and handle serious illness and injury that way, for example by growing a temporary new external lung in a sterile crafting-material enclosure to allow a patient to breathe while their original pair are clogged with pneumonia. The book takes it as a given that working so directly with a patient's body is difficult for a doctor, and discusses how the patient or their head-of-household should get a clear explanation of what they're intending do to before medical crafting starts, so that they can prompt them through it if they freeze up.

The book of essays is largely about being a good host, guest, head-of-household, or household member; it seems that the locals can enter each others' territories, and even live there, but only at the cost of some of their ability to make decisions and carry them out, so it's important for the territory-owner to accommodate this impairment. Different individuals have different specific impairments - one might have trouble entering buildings, even ones assigned to them, while another might have trouble moving items from one place to another or making changes to objects around them - and the book gives examples of a number of them and cautions a host not to assume that their guests will have the same difficulties they do. The advice for guests is more detailed, explaining how to think one's way around these impairments: being explicitly invited to do something helps, but without the host right there it's not always sufficient, and staying mindful of the invitation is important. For longer-term cohabitation, it's important for the head-of-household to know that a household member's abilities can change over time and for them to make sure that their household member can still do everything they need to; it discusses how to avoid giving the impression that you don't want your household member doing something, which can make them unable to do it, and how to encourage them to gain or regain these skills, and how to accommodate household members with various sorts of impairments in the long term.

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...why do these people even form households, Sun does not ask because she is still trying to get everything down so the translation project can get off the ground.

This is a lot of books and eventually Sun is flagging and retires to her tent.

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The native takes this gracefully, and makes her way back to her territory to sleep. She comes back late the next morning, stopping at more of a distance now that they've made camp; two of her dogs have followed her out today and lounge at the vehicle's feet.

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A pack of linguists have been up all night deciphering the writing and turning the glyphs into a font. Sun is still learning to type it, but she can set up a screen and do that, slowly. Greetings!

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...okay, that's fairly impressive for one day, she's impressed. (Also yes good morning.)

Do they want her to read them the rest of the books today, or are they ready to ask and answer questions, or something else?

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More books, or, I can try answer questions by you!

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All right, she'll read them more books; she does have a question first (though it can wait if they don't have the vocabulary for it) - they've noticed the colors; grey foreign-people are the most dangerous, green ones more or less aren't physically dangerous but are much more likely to randomly touch someone, and the crows report that there are other colors, some of which leave their househive and some of which basically don't, that act differently in ways they have trouble explaining; what's up with that?

(The glyph she's using for househive is like so; it won't be in any of these books, being a new invention.)

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[Househive] is [picture of city]?

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Yeah. (She wants to know what's up with the househive, too, but fully expects that there might not be more of an explanation than 'it's a species trait'.)

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[Different colors do different jobs! Green do learning and thinking jobs. Grey do fighting and protecting jobs. Orange do caring for people jobs. Yellow do organizing jobs. Blue do deciding jobs. Purple do making and moving things jobs.]

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That's... bizarre? But, okay, if they say so.

She starts in on the remaining books. The one about running a household barely discusses having other people as household members at all, but uses that same word to refer to livestock in someone's care (and refers to crows with the same 'neighbor' glyph that it uses for neighboring people); it's mostly about the logistics of managing what's essentially a personal farm, with a focus on what needs to be done for different lifestyles the reader might want to live, from the most basic vegetarian diet that only takes a few minutes of thought a day to something complex enough to produce meat and milk sufficient to share with neighboring households. It seems like most people keep a reasonably-sized food garden, chickens for their eggs, and dogs for companionship and labor, and use a combination of hunting (with hawks or dogs), trapping, and keeping meat animals for their protein, and can manage all of this on an hour or two of work a day.

The plant husbandry book goes into more detail about the care of specific plants than the household logistics book, including giving advice on how to properly harvest from them with crafting: it seems that the natives can harvest nearly arbitrary amounts of food from a single plant, as long as they fertilize it correctly. They can also modify seeds to grow into plants with more desirable traits; this is complicated enough that the book doesn't assume its reader will know how, but seems to be a common enough skill that they can be assumed to know someone who can do it, in at least the lesser form where the traits don't breed true if not the greater form where they do. It also discusses selective breeding; they don't seem to understand genes as physical objects, but they have a good practical grasp of how traits are inherited, and can force-grow seedlings in a crafting-material growing medium to check them for desirable traits with only a few days' work per generation.

The book on nomadic lifestyles is again mostly about logistics, this time of making sure the reader has absolutely everything they'll need for their household on board before they go; a nomadic household doesn't appear to be limited very much on carrying capacity, but can't count on neighbors or their surroundings to provide any given thing in a timely manner. They do have the additional logistical concern of needing to use dogs (or people, the book mentions in passing) to steer each of the houses making up their household as they travel, which means a nomadic household will need more meat than a similar settled one; some households manage this by keeping a herd of otherwise-unpopular large meat animals, like cows, while others rely on well-trained hunting hawks or simply keep extra groups of the more common smaller meat animals. It also discusses trading with settled households one finds; the focus there is on exchanging new or unusual miniaturized objects or seeds, since of course once a household has something in their object-library they can make as many copies as they'd like. It points out that this kind of trade is worth doing even alongside any rare skill the nomadic household might have to offer, since it can be done with such little effort.

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Sun is ENTHRALLED. This is probably the highest density anthropological research ever performed. She will be in all the history books and learn SO much stuff.

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The native settles back to watch them, when she finishes the last book, taking the opportunity to grow a fruit from the bush she's installed in her walker and have a snack.

She's been thinking about their colors, and it seems like they might work a bit like a multispecies household normally does - not entirely, the scale is all wrong, but there's a similarity with the way different species contribute different things. Does that seem right? Are there additional parallels?

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That seems near! The castes (she renders this in Tapap, in a cartouche to set it off as a full word like each ideogram) depend on each other to be a whole Amentan househive.

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That sounds incredibly stifling to her but of course different species work differently.

Why are they here?

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