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Generated: Oct 06, 2021 7:46 PM
Post last updated: Oct 06, 2021 7:43 PM
etic
amenta colonizes delena
Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

...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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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!

Permalink Mark Unread

...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?

Permalink Mark Unread

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

Permalink Mark Unread

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.)

Permalink Mark Unread

[Househive] is [picture of city]?

Permalink Mark Unread

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'.)

Permalink Mark Unread

[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.]

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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?

Permalink Mark Unread

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.

Permalink Mark Unread

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

Why are they here?

Permalink Mark Unread

We are here to have more places to live. This planet is very empty.

Permalink Mark Unread

...no, it's really not? There are people almost everywhere.

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentans have houshives, and you have small households. When our househive here is done built it will have as many people in it as this whole planet has people your species.

Permalink Mark Unread

...the fact that they harmed fewer people in claiming their territory than would have been harmed claiming a similar territory where they came from doesn't mean they didn't harm people. The land isn't empty.

Permalink Mark Unread

It is not all empty. It had some people but only a few and they hurt Amentans who tried to meet them.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yes, that's not an unreasonable response if you trespass on someone's territory and refuse to talk to them.

Did they have some sort of plan for claiming territory without harming anyone? What was it?

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentans do not have telepathy. The ones who tried to meet people first tried to learn to talk to them, and were attacked.

Permalink Mark Unread

And part of what she's doing here is trying to make sure that doesn't happen again.

She still wants to know what their plan was.

Permalink Mark Unread

They wanted to learn about people here and how we could live together. We still do.

Permalink Mark Unread

She can think about that.

Do they understand now how to tell when a territory is claimed, and that they can't go into claimed territory without harming people?

Do they intend to claim more territory for themselves?

Permalink Mark Unread

We have learned how some of you mark edges. People far away might do it different, and we might not notice different edges. We know that you do not like it when people cross your edges. We might try to find places where no one is, or try to find ways to trade for land, and if anyone attacks Amentans we will fight back and then their land will be empty, but I don't know about plans for more claiming.

Permalink Mark Unread

People far away do it about the same way as far as she knows, but her species of people always claim territory, so if they find someplace with people like her and don't see territory markings that they understand, they should assume that they don't understand, not that it isn't claimed.

She steps back and begins pacing, not communicating anything for a few moments.

They seem to think that attacking is okay if they are attacked first. If they enter someone's territory without invitation they are the ones attacking first; real harm is done when they do that even if noone physically attacks anyone. They need to stop doing it.

Permalink Mark Unread

We know that you do not like it. We do not understand why, and we are not telepathic, so we cannot talk from far away without things you do not have yet. We could give you things, but could not explain them from far away.

Permalink Mark Unread

Going into someone's territory uninvited is a claim that it isn't their territory at all, and unless they can refute that claim satisfactorily enough it will cause them to lose the ability to do things, as happens when someone is in someone else's territory rather than their own.

Some people won't want to talk to them and they still shouldn't trespass on those peoples' territories.

Permalink Mark Unread

We are very surprised about the not able to do things. No species where we are from does that.

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Well, it's how her species works.

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We are learning. We want to learn more. There are things we can do to be careful and things we will make mistakes with.

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That's probably the most important thing. In general her species isn't violent unless severely provoked; they should assume if they're attacked that they've done something very wrong.

Permalink Mark Unread

Thank you for telling me. Our species is usually peaceful too. Some individuals in any species are different. We did not know we had not met special violent ones.

Permalink Mark Unread

It's good that they're usually peaceful.

Do they have any questions for her before she goes home for the day.

Permalink Mark Unread

Do you have a thing I write to mean you? A meaning I could say in my words to mean you?

Permalink Mark Unread

Not a standard one; people generally choose for themselves how they think of other people, among her species.

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentans use sounds that mean things to talk, and write those sounds. Every one of us have sounds that mean us. Is there a meaning you would like for you or should I invent?

Permalink Mark Unread

She will need to think about that. What context will it be used in?

Permalink Mark Unread

I am here to learn from you and tell other Amentans what I learn and who I learn from.

Permalink Mark Unread

...they will probably need to decide for themselves how their species is going to decide how to refer to members of hers. (There's an undertone of territory-feeling to this conclusion; a sense that this is a boundary she considers it improper for her to cross.) Crows usually settle on a descriptive name of a type similar to the ones her species uses for each other, but the whole flock will use the same one for a given person, so there is precedent for that, but the whole flock is involved in the decision; she's not sure what factors are important for a single member of their species making that decision for their whole hive. - she supposes 'by asking' is a way for them to make that decision but she's also not sure what factors would be important to them for her to use in making that decision for their whole hive.

Permalink Mark Unread

For Amentans, a name is given by the people who make the new person, to sound pretty, and another name is chosen by that person, when they have a decision about their work, to mean that.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's helpful - she's not going to do that but it's helpful to know what whatever she does will be compared to.

She paces again, thinking, and proposes 'lone sassafras' - it's a type of tree, colorful in the fall, known for the tea made from its roots, not usually found growing alone, popular to encourage in unclaimed territory; the glyph is like so.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sun translates that, although all the names for local species are fairly preliminary and not very aesthetic. Then she explains that her given name Inua means "thoughtful" and her job name Sun means "person" because she studies people.

Permalink Mark Unread

She will pass that along if she tells anyone else about them. - probably not the sound part, it's hard to remember sounds like that and even harder to describe them. But if she shares the meanings someone might recognize her.

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Thank you. Do you want to see the picture-writing I have made of you?

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She'll be interested in seeing it tomorrow; she's going home now. And so she does.

She's back the next morning with a different pair of dogs at her walker's feet, a third at her feet inside, and a trio of crows riding on the roof.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sun will show her some of the video she's been taking!

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The crows are very excited about the video - they apparently call this native three-hawks, and announce to everyone that that's her in the picture - but she's much more reserved about it: it's certainly an interesting capability, she'll allow.

Permalink Mark Unread

The crows are so cute but these ones probably haven't been hanging out with Amentans enough to know any words, even "hi crows". Sun does note the "three-hawks" moniker. Are there more books?

Permalink Mark Unread

She brought a book printer, today; now that they can communicate it makes more sense to let them request things.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sun would like to know how natives have babies, given that they don't interact with each other much and are so disabled by trying!

Permalink Mark Unread

Any book she has on that is going to be more focused on the biological details than the interpersonal ones; she can print one up anyway if they'd like. She only has enough material with her for a dozen or so books, though.

She explains it herself, once that's settled and the book is printing or not: courting in her species, like most socialization, happens on unclaimed land, where they can act relatively freely; there are some things that are still just not done, like making major modifications to it - this would be making a territory claim, and isn't possible in a place that's trafficked by others - but as individuals they can cohabit there just fine. By inclination her species mostly leaves each other alone even there, without some specific reason to interact; there's variance in that, but someone looking to make friends is generally well advised to bring the most social of their other-species household members with them, to make the initial approach while they gauge the other person's reaction - someone who's friendly with a dog or a chicken is likely to be friendly with their head-of-household, too. Friends do sometimes visit each others' territories - some people do this quite frequently, in fact - and this is some effort for the host, as was discussed in the book she gave them yesterday, but generally worth it for people one likes to spend time with, romantically or otherwise.

It's generally considered a good idea for someone wanting to have a child to arrange to be a member of someone else's household for the last few months of the pregnancy and first few months of the baby's life since being heavily pregnant makes it hard to keep up a household and new babies tend to interrupt sleep; that's usually arranged with the other parent, but some communities have people who like children enough to be interested in helping with other peoples'; hers did. Crows can be useful for simple baby-sitting, too; they're entirely capable of going and getting someone if a baby starts to cry. Once the baby is sleeping reliably enough for their caretaker to get enough sleep themselves, it generally works pretty well for the new parent to take up their own household again, with the new child as a household member similar to any other; the other parent is likely to visit through all of this, and take the child to visit their own household from time to time as soon as they're weaned, or earlier if they've opted to help with nursing, and it will be up to the three of them to work out how much time the child spends in each of those households (or others, if the child makes friends they want to visit) as they grow up.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's clever, maybe the Amentans who are making friends with crows will teach them to help with childcare. Do native children always live with their mother? Are fathers involved much?

Permalink Mark Unread

It's pretty evenly split once children are old enough to decide for themselves - they're more likely to start out with their mothers because fathers often don't breastfeed, it's a permanent modification to enable that for a fairly temporary benefit unless they want to have lots of kids. They are usually around for the whole process - her species doesn't have children with people they don't like spending time with or wouldn't have in their territory or be in the territory of, that doesn't change during pregnancy.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sun is going to go back to the city to see her own child after another day or two. He's with her husband now. They all live together.

Permalink Mark Unread

Uh-huh.

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When does the not being able to do things in other people's territory thing start? It seems like it can't apply to babies.

Permalink Mark Unread

Babies can barely do things to begin with, so that doesn't really make sense as a question for them. They vary as they get older - some children need lots of encouragement to be able to do things and others are more independent, though still mindful of what they're welcome to do; on average they're a little more capable of functioning well in other peoples' territories than adults are, though that seems to just be that they're more used to it and better at accepting help with it. They usually settle into their permanent capability patterns in late adolescence or early adulthood, when they first claim territory for themselves - it's a big deal, being truly free for the first time, and it's a pretty profound change for most of her people.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's neat! Amentan children mostly need to practice things to be able to do them alone, either for competence or safety reasons, so she was imagining that being difficult for a child to whom the territory thing fully applied.

Permalink Mark Unread

It can be, but children don't have the experience to know how much easier things could be, and of course parents have reason to encourage their children to be as capable as possible even in the immediate term; the more things they can do for themselves the less their parents have to do for them.

Permalink Mark Unread

Can she explain more about how it is hard to do things in other people's territories?

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It would be easier to answer questions than to come up with helpful insights on her own. It's mostly a felt sense - it feels very obvious that the place belongs to someone else, and what they might want for it is very salient; being sure they'd want you to do something makes it possible, though some people find it hard to be sure of that even when told, if it seems to them like the sort of thing someone might not actually want in any case. Being unsure that an action is welcome makes it impossible, either outright or without significant mental effort to talk themselves into it. Having a subterritory helps, like the book said; assigning one makes it clear that the head-of-household wants the person they've assigned the subterritory to to be able to operate freely in certain ways within it, and doesn't consider it as much their business what happens inside - the former gives a sense of having permission, and the latter gives a sense of not needing it, and both of those contribute to being able to do things.

Permalink Mark Unread

Does she think any natives would be interested in having a place within the city they were explicitly welcome to come and meet people?

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She might try it. She'd need an escort and she'd want a clear path to leave the whole time, and to bring her dogs. She's not in contact with any other members of her species in the area, but the crows might know some who would.

These crows don't think any of the other crafters they know would want to go into the househive but the dogwood stand flock knows more, they'll ask!

Permalink Mark Unread

What good crows.

If it's likely to be popular they might do something like a tunnel into a dedicated building, would that work?

Permalink Mark Unread

She doesn't expect it to be popular soon in any case, but there's nothing inherently unacceptable about that idea. Having it indoors suggests more intimacy than they presumably intend, among her species, and some of them might be put off by it if they're having trouble with the concept of the newcomers as a truly different species, but that doesn't seem like a downside to her.

Permalink Mark Unread

Intimacy like sex? If natives want to have sex with Amentans it can probably be arranged but she wasn't especially expecting it to be worthwhile to set up, buildings just let them get out of the weather.

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Not like sex, just that letting someone into a house in your territory is more of a sign of trust than just letting them into your territory at all, they'd be skipping a step or two in the ways things are usually done among her people.

(It's not impossible that they'll get to a point where some people of her species are interested in that sort of relationship with people of theirs. She's not interested, and she definitely doesn't expect that to be soon at all either, but it's not impossible. Probably someone will take an interest in figuring out cross-fertility, if it comes up.)

Permalink Mark Unread

They could do an awning instead, maybe, with outdoor-style heaters for winter. Cross-fertility would be neat, Amentans were not expecting to find any species with whom this was remotely plausible but the biospheres here seem kind of similar.

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She notes that it would be rude of her to express opinions about what they do with their territory.

She does expect fleshcrafters and genecrafters to be interested in their species in general, if they can be assured that it's safe to be around them; that may not work out to crossfertility being possible, but it's the sort of thing they'd try.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sun explains that all the Amentans in the colony have been firmly told never to make the first violent move with the natives, they just don't consider trespassing to be violent. If meetings occur on Amentan-occupied territory presumably that will work out fine?

Permalink Mark Unread

There's a similar sort of harm to trespassing on someone's territory that's done by touching them without their permission; that's not as likely to get a violent response but it's still possible, and would be a big problem in any case. If the people of her species are in enclosed vehicles like hers it should be fairly safe. She can make a miniature of it for them to share with any guests they'd like to invite, if they'd like.

Permalink Mark Unread

That would be very handy. Amentans usually don't consider non-injurious touch by people who aren't sick or anything to be violent either, though it can be impolite; what's the issue there?

Permalink Mark Unread

Her species' sense of ownership of themselves works similarly to their sense of ownership of their territory; expressing some kinds of opinions about them is a minor to moderate sign of not considering them to own themselves, and unwelcome unnecessary touch is a major one. Losing that sense of self-ownership is much harder to recover from; it's not always possible at all.

Permalink Mark Unread

Do they have any idea how they happened to become this way? See, species have traits they pass on - they seem to know about genes? - and the genes that work well become more common because the genes that work badly will tend to make it hard for their owners to survive and reproduce. There is no obvious advantage to shutting down if touched.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's true but it's not that simple, genes have all kinds of side effects. She's not a genecrafter but she'd guess that it's a side effect of the regular territoriality, which keeps them from causing problems for each other.

Permalink Mark Unread

How does that advantage the possessor of the gene, instead of just advantaging their neighbors?

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...well in normal circumstances if you wander blithely into someone's territory they'll probably kill you.

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A genetic trait allowing an individual to choose the time and place of conflicts and granting them resistance to touch-induced cataonia seems like it would be pure advantage even if they still had to be circumspect.

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Getting into a conflict at all is a bad idea compared to going and doing your own thing, in any normal circumstance, and the problem with being touched almost never comes up.

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Amentan geneticists have discovered resistances to even very rare diseases in their gene pool, but if Lone Sassafrass doesn't know why they're like this that's fine. Sun has been asked to inquire after the possibility of trade in general?

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She assumes they won't have much use for most miniatures, and she's not running enough of a surplus right now to trade away anything significantly bigger, but did they have something in mind?

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Well, they have transmutation magic and there are raw materials Amentans would want, and things Amentans would want to have transmuted by way of disposal, and Amentans will also trade for land from anyone who's up for working that out nonviolently, and they could get technology and whatnot from Amentans. Amentans use "money" which is basically a number to smooth out trade; if you have land and want a phone and the person with phones doesn't want land, you make the trades with money.

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Transmuting material for them probably won't work at the currently available scale, but if and when people start moving back in they might, and she can designate a spot near her territory for them to dump things for her to use as feedstock if they'd like. Trading for land only sort of makes sense as a concept and she doesn't expect anyone to go for it. She'd need to know more about their technology to know if they have anything she'd want.

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Sun can explain some things her pocket everything can do.

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Some of them are interesting - the calculator, definitely, and the camera once she feels more comfortable leaving her territory, and she doesn't have much use for the map or communication features right now but if other members of her species move back in and have them too they'd be handy. Can Sun give some examples of things she'd expect her people to be willing to take in trade for one of those?

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A pocket everything retails for about 200 tap these days, which can be earned with a few hours of unskilled labor and probably even less of Lone Sassafrass's magical labor though there will be overhead in figuring out what she can trade to get it.

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She'd be interested in that, yeah.

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Also Sun can pay her for her anthropological cooperation, there's some funding for that if she wants to keep meeting!

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Sure, that sounds like a plan.

Do they want her to bring anything in particular with her next time, or anything?

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Books are still pretty high value. Would she like physical cash or for Sun to teach her to manage an account?

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Physical cash makes more sense for now. She'll leave the book-printer installed in her walker and bring out more crafting-material for it, and she can still print several more books for them today if they'd like - books take more material than miniatures and she'll run into limitations on that sooner or later if she keeps spending this much time away from home, but it'll take a little while at least.

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Sun will bring some cash with her after she decamps and returns! Would feedstock help on the materials front?

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If they have it in big pieces that'll help some, but she's mostly bottlenecked on crafting time right now. Meat for animal food would also help if that's easy for them, she's sinking a lot of time into making that happen for her household.

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Their farms are all set up to produce Amentan-biome meat but it seems likely they're compatible if she wants some of that.

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Someone's going to have to try it sooner or later if they want to find out whether it's safe; she'll just take a little to start with and see what the dogs make of it.

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All right! Meat samples, big chunks of disposable junk limited by the greys' carrying capacity. If the walkers don't have to be operated magically they might be marketable to Amentans, who mostly use vehicles that are faster but require building reasonably smooth paths.

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She can make ones that don't need crafting. The standard method for that is to harness a dog to the vehicle and tell it to follow you, but she can also do physical controls basically any way they like.

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Sun can bring along control panel specs from various vehicles to copy!

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Sure, seems like a plan - actual control panels would be better than descriptions but she supposes that's harder for them. If they know what kinds of vehicles they're likely to want first she can bring out some minis for them to look at and see what kinds of modifications they might want to make and features they might want to include, too.

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Sun can take some minis back to give to relevant purples, sure.

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Seems inefficient compared to letting her talk to them directly, but if that's how they prefer to do it. She's not going to make copies of her whole collection for them, though, there's too many.

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Purples will tend to have less practice interpreting translated words, and also it's kind of a hike to get out here so not that many people are going to want to till there's at least a bike path. Maybe some will if that seems best though.

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In theory she can make an excursion closer to the househive but in practice the logistics don't work while she's having to manage her meat production so carefully. Maybe if their meat works for her animals that'll make sense to do; she can spend a few days away if she has the reserves for it.

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Sun hopes the meat works. She hasn't tried local meat herself but some people she knows have and it seems fine for them, so it probably goes the other way too.

Is there anybody else who might want to talk to Amentans?

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Some of her neighbors who left are curious about them but none have asked her to pass messages; admittedly she hasn't offered yet. And their old network-host isn't hosting the network while they're on the move, so she can't put out a general announcement about it.

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Network? What kind of network?

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She's not sure at all of the details of how it works, it's incredibly technically complicated, but one of the things a specialist crafter can make is a network-connection, a little gadget that communicates at a distance with a paired one to send written pages between them; she has some for staying in touch with specific people who left, but generally it works best to just have one to the network-host for your community, who can then make messages available to specific people or everyone else on the network or reply to specially-written messages in simple automated ways. The machinery for doing it is very sensitive, though, so it can't be used in a moving vehicle. Her book printer works on the same principle - her old network-host had a spare connection gadget to a big library somewhere and she got them to leave it with her when they left, that's where it's getting its books from.

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Oh, like the internet! Amentans have that and it works in moving vehicles.

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Huh, okay. It's never really been that interesting to her, just useful.

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It's very useful and a pocket everything will be able to do it, though they don't have planetwide coverage yet. Anything else Sun should know before she goes home for the weekend?

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She considers this.

For clarity's sake: They shouldn't bring her any feedstock that will be dangerous to leave sitting out in the weather indefinitely right now, or anything that's dangerous just to be near or that needs really non-obvious special handling; if they want to do that they'll need to discuss it with her first. She'll make a separate section for feedstock that's potentially dangerous for her to handle in a way less obvious or harder to avoid than 'don't touch the blade of this easily noticeable knife'; she'd prefer not to get any of that yet either but as long as she can approach it at her own pace it's fine. She doesn't like smelly things for feedstock but weird textures are fine, she doesn't mind wearing gloves to work in.

She still doesn't know which vehicle minis she should bring next time, if she's going to do that. And presumably they want her to print them some books before they go.

Should the crows give the dogwood stand flock any particular message to pass along about talking to them.

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Probably the most readily available nondangerous feedstock to be had right now is various dirt and rocks excavated for the establishment of the city, though if anybody wants to turn more unpleasant waste into not-that there is definitely a market to be had. Sun doesn't know what the range of vehicles is; a wide variety of all-terrain options seems good? And yes, more books would be great, especially if they can print overnight and be ready to go in the morning. The crows can tell people that it is reasonably safe to approach Amentans as long as they don't actually injure them, and failing that they can send messages by crow if they would like to talk about trade or the exchange of knowledge or anything else! Amentans and crows are getting along well so far. The ideal recipients of those kind of messages would be people with blue or green hair and she can get more specific if the crows are likely to understand more precise directions.

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Vehicles can come in pretty arbitrary sizes, she has walkers in everything from 'stool with legs' to 'two-adult-two-child house with second-floor aviary' and combination walker/boats in most of that range, plus miscellaneous pure boats, balloon vehicles optionally in combination with walking or boating or both, and small gliders. (They probably don't want the balloon vehicles, those are hard to control usefully even with crafting, but she has them, they're pretty fun if that's your thing.)

She can print them books; she still needs to know what they want.

She'll think about what to best advise the crows to tell people. If they want to set up some sort of mail system the best way to do it will be to put up landmarks they can see from the air and direct them in reference to those; they can find people they've met before but it's harder for them and they don't always handle it well if they get frustrated.

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Sun would like books about history, parenting, and crafting, and maybe some of the most popular fiction.

The main government building looks like this from the air.

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She sketches the government building on a tablet of her own, and sets her book printer going with a collection of crafting books; she'll leave when it's done if that's all for today.

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That's fine with Sun! She and the grey escort have their dinner.

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One of the dogs follows them over to watch them eat.

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Would the space dog like a bit of this egg thing?

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He would totally like a bit of their space egg-thing.

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Then he can have some! Hopefully he won't die!

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Nom! Tailwag!

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What a good dog. Weird none of the other animals around here have the territory thing like the people do.

In the morning the greys start packing up camp.

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The dog is hesitant to leave when the rest of his group does, but comes along when the native insists.

She's back in the morning with another twenty crafting books - these come in both 'how to' and 'what you can ask of your specialist neighbor' varieties, and she's favored the latter for everything complicated - half a dozen books of childrearing advice, and fifteen old memoirs of peoples' lives and communities plus two tomes of compiled observations from memoirs in particular regions in particular times that attempt to find larger regional patterns in things like weather, animal species populations, and migration patterns among the local people.

The dog is doing well, she reports.

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Sun is very glad of that. They'll be gone for two days and then come back! Maybe with more people along.

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Her household will watch for them, and she expects to have the feedstock dump ready by then.

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Sun goes home. Her husband's been feeding a crow and calling it Shadow. The baby loves Shadow.

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Shadow (sure, why not; she even answers to it sometimes, when she's not too distracted and pretty sure that's what they're saying) likes Sun's husband, too, and the baby is great. Which, of course, they're a baby. It's very strange that the adults don't communicate normally with her - she's pretty sure at this point that they can't, none of her flock's other newcomers do either - but maybe the baby will figure it out if she talks to them enough, and anyway it's less weird for a baby not to. She tells them all kinds of stories and narrates her clowning and the husband's puttering around the house and the things they can see out the window, and generally has a very good time.

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Sun introduces herself to Shadow in case that helps get her used to Sun being around and snuggles her baby VERY MUCH and lets her husband get some sleep.

After a nice long break at home she and her escort and a purple with a bagful of vehicle controls hike out. The greys drag some sacks of rocks.

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Lone sassafras meets them a little farther from her territory this time, with half a dozen dogs, one of which is harnessed to a small walking shed.

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The greys and purple unpack while Sun types out a cheery greeting.

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Yes, hello.

The feedstock dump is ready; she'll bring out a utility vehicle tomorrow to haul the things they've brought her home. The crows tell her there's someone else who's theoretically interested in meeting them in the dogwood stand flock's range, but having problems keeping their household going so that it's not an option right now; she's waiting for more information. They've passed the message on to the next flock around the househive perimeter, too.

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What kind of problems?

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She's not entirely sure; it sounds like a feedstock shortage but could be something taking up all their time so they haven't been able to convert what they have - crows are not the best at identifying important details to share and she's not in direct contact with the crafter yet, they should get the network-connection she sent over in the next day or two.

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Sun would like to be informed if there's anything the Amentans could do to help!

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She'll pass along the offer.

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Why don't the natives use stuff like trees and dirt as feedstock when they're running low?

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They do convert trees, though that runs the risk of disrupting the local ecosystem if they do too much of it, so they're careful about it. They'll convert dirt in an emergency but it's hard to restore an area that's been converted like that and it's not a great material to work with, it's too grainy and heterogeneous. If the person the crows told her about is having a feedstock shortage, she expects them to still be fine personally, just not willing to damage their surroundings to run a surplus that'd let them leave home for a significant length of time.

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Hm, if heterogeneous things are undesirable then they might not be as much of a miraculous solution to waste disposal as hoped.

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Maybe, maybe not - crafting-material making is normally meditative and soothing, and working with something like dirt takes more active attention and strategizing, like a puzzle; some crafters like it, it's just more like a hobby than a form of relaxation and not something everyone enjoys.

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Maybe someone will specialize then. What does it feel like to do?

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It's kind of its own thing, but it's very sensorily immersive, like lying in a sunbeam or letting a stream run over your hand or petting a quiet dog. Converting dirt is like petting a dog that keeps moving, or floating down a river and having to be careful not to drift into the banks, or trying to get comfortable lying outdoors on a blustery day.

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Those are such wonderfully evocative descriptions.

Sun would like to introduce Uta Meston! Meston's here to talk about vehicle controls.

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Cool.

Lone sassafras, as it turns out, is a nerd about vehicles.

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Then she'll get along great with Uta Meston, who is also a nerd about vehicles! Here is how scooters and bikes are controlled - here's how tuktuks do it - trucks - trains - airplanes - spaceships -

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Trains are neat! Airplanes are neater! Spaceships are amazing!

She brought most of her vehicle collection, and steps back eventually to get out of her walker and go into the shed to retrieve it, boxes on boxes of two-inch-long miniatures that must have taken up half the space inside. She gets a brick of crafting-material while she's in there, and crafts it to enlarge one after another into functional models to explain how walkers work and what they've figured out about making balloon vehicles and all her opinions about control-cabin design.

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Can Meston try some of the vehicles?

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She has enough crafting material with her to make sequential full-sized versions of some of the small ones, sure! She hasn't worked out how exactly to hook their controls up the way these vehicles need yet but she can put in a more familiar kind of manual control system, and soon the purple has a walker of their own to take around the campsite.

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Meston tromps around, getting the hang of it gradually.

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Lone sassafras follows, occasionally getting briefly stuck and having to back up and choose a new trajectory when she comes too close to the tents and once flinching badly when a grey unexpectedly passes too close to her.

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Sun thinks this is very fascinating and makes sure to get video of these events, though she also shoos the grey. "How do you figure where our camp starts?"

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For a temporary encampment like this the boundary is about the distance that it'd feel reasonable to interact with them at, for example by waving; they've made it clear that they want her here and they don't have a true claim to the area, so she can approach closer than that without too much effort, but she still feels it. The tents are separately awkward because they look flimsy, if she was relying on a shelter like that she wouldn't want anyone to get too near it and that makes it hard to approach them.

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Can she teach Sun how to encourage her closer or would that be scary?

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In theory she can invite her to do specific things closer to the tents, and if she does a lot of that it will eventually get clear enough that she's welcome to be near them that avoiding them will feel silly and she'll stop; in practice that's not entirely reliable even under normal circumstances, and Sun only mostly seems to be the head-of-household here which makes it less likely to work. Also lone sassafras is pretty much neutral on the idea of doing that; she doesn't see a reason for it - it doesn't bother her at all to be respectful of their territory and possessions - but won't mind if Sun wants to anyway.

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It seems like it would be a good idea to know more about this topic in general; Sun can tell all the other Amentans what she learns, and then if they ever work more closely with natives, in general, they will have more collective experience to draw on. For example, they currently have no idea what they'd do if an Amentan ran across an injured native, since touching them is so bad.

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That's really contextual and right now there wouldn't really be any good options, the best-practice advice for finding a stranger who's too badly injured to communicate assumes that the stranger has chosen a nomadic lifestyle and the risks that come along with that, and that's not likely to be true here, and it matters.

If they find someone who's unconscious then touching them to move them won't harm them, usually even if they wake up during it, but the situation they're moved to definitely could and she doesn't think she can list all the potential problems there - being confined and being told what to do are the most obvious ones.

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She supposes that Amentans can just abdicate responsibility for intervening in native medical situations but they have such similar anatomy it seems like it would be a waste not to find some way to share their expertise.

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She assumes everyone who's still in the area here has come to terms with being on their own for medical purposes, so yes, leaving them alone unless they ask for help is the best option. If crafters start moving back in they can start figuring out how to interact with their communities in better ways than that, if they want. If nothing else she expects crafter doctors to be interested in sharing knowledge.

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Sun can start lining up some oranges who'd like to talk about that!

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She still doesn't expect that to be soon, mind.

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Of course. Ballpark estimate?

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It really depends on how things go here; she's reporting back to the people from her old community that she's still in contact with, and they'll spread the word from there. A year would be very optimistic, five would be more what she'd expect if things go well. There'll probably be nomads through sooner than that if the nearest remaining communities of crafters don't warn them off strongly enough, which they definitely might.

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Okay. Can she tell Sun more about how communities are structured?

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They aren't, really; a community is just a group of households that live near each other and mostly know each other.

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Is it typical to find partners and friends from within the community? How does this interact with nomads? Are there norms about entering a general area mostly occupied by a community?

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Most crafters only meet people in their communities or nomads, so that's typical, yes. Nomads usually travel in small communities of their own, and aren't part of settled ones. They're welcome to stop in unclaimed land within or near settled communities, and sometimes they stay long enough to form close relationships, or come back regularly enough that people plan for them; neither of those is especially common, though. Unclaimed land is the same whether it's near a community or not, except that unclaimed land that has crafters hanging out there with any regularity isn't available to be claimed, that just fails if someone tries it.

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Is "crafter" a good term for the species? "Native" will stop working very well after a while. Just fails how?

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They call themselves crafters, yeah. Trying to make a claim to land that other people are using just won't work - the first step of making a claim is staying somewhere until it feels like it's yours, and that won't happen if there are other crafters there.

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The border markings don't help?

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They can't make that kind of modification to the land until they've already established their sense of it as their own territory. It's not an easy process, that's part of why crafters react so strongly to things that might force them into it.

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What does that sense feel like?

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It feels like freedom - being somewhere that isn't one's own territory feels like being in a too-small, too-cluttered room, to varying degrees; it's not that you can't move, it's just that it takes extra thought and caution to make sure you aren't going to step on anything or knock anything over or bang into a wall. Being in your own territory, that all falls away - it might be a bad idea to pull down every tree in your territory, but it's totally up to you whether you want to do it anyway, and nobody else's business or place to complain, you just don't need to worry about that any more.

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How long would a place have to be left alone before a crafter could claim it?

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If there's no signs of it having been used when they move in, it'll take a few months, maybe half a year if they're stressed or otherwise not in a good mental state for it - maybe longer but she doesn't know much about what happens if someone keeps trying after that, most people give up and try somewhere else if it hasn't worked by then. If there are signs of recent use that can slow it down, but it depends on context; a common example of that is moving into the territory of someone who's recently died, which is pretty quick if the new claimant isn't too shaken up about the death.

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Do people who die and have crafter household members not pass their territory on to those?

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Basically no; crafters are only household members rather than heading their own households if they can't or don't want to run a household of their own. The exception would be if someone died while they had an adolescent child of just the right age who wanted to keep the territory, and she's never heard of that happening, it'd be terrible timing and strange of the child.

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What do people who can't or don't want to run households whose head of household dies normally do?

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Find someone else in the community to take them; the details depend on the exact situation but it's rare for someone not to have any friends they can call on in an emergency, and most communities have a household or two that's generically willing to take someone in for a while, some people like the company - that's what heads-of-household do if they come down with an illness bad enough that they can't look after themselves, too, is move in with a friend or a household like that. And sometimes someone who isn't suited to running their own household but can if they need to will do that for a while, but it's easier to make a claim in a new place than try to take ownership of someplace you've had restrictions about operating in.

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They seem very willing to move around. Amentans are less so, but since Amentans don't have crafting magic they are much impaired in setting up in a new place, especially alone. What is the typical content of crafter friendships - how do they normally meet, become friendly, what do they do together?

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Sun maybe hasn't gotten the best idea of how rare moving is; it's a solution to someone's living situation becoming unworkable but that's not common - do children of Sun's species live with their parents forever? That's not a common species trait, but then neither are dense colonies, she could see it.

Friendships aren't very different from romantic relationships that way, just less intense; they're formed in the same range of ways and involve most of the same activities - rarely overnight visits or sex, but it's not unheard of for people to surprise their neighbors by having a child together.

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Children of Sun's species usually do not live with their parents forever, but often wait to move out until they get - uh, committedly pair-bonded. Sun herself lived with her parents after she was first "married", for a while, because it was cheaper to move her husband in and child credits are expensive.

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Lone sassafras looks up at Sun in startled concern when she gets to the bit about child credits, but doesn't actually clarify what's worried her.

Just being able to live and do normal things is almost never too expensive for a crafter, she shares instead. Crafting is nice that way.

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It sounds really nice! Amentans are basically never self-sufficient like that.

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It would probably be a logistical nightmare, but she's wondering now if there'd be any way for small groups of Sun's species to join crafter households, it seems like that might get them some of the advantages of it.

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Probably someone would want to try it! More likely a student than someone like Sun with a baby at home. Would lone sassafrass do that or does she just expect someone somewhere would be up for it?

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It's not a lifestyle choice she'd make for herself, exactly, but it'd be interesting to try temporarily if she thought it wouldn't be a disaster. Right now she thinks it'd probably be a disaster, though, Sun's hivemates that she's seen so far don't express deferring-to-a-head-of-household in a way that makes sense to her.

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What way of expressing that would make sense?

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There's a lot of body language to it - being oriented to the head-of-household, checking for their reactions to things, choosing where to sit or stand in reference to them, being thoughtful rather than confident about how things are done, that sort of thing. If Sun's species acts noticeably different around their blue members that might be the same thing, at its core it's about who should be making decisions about things.

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Sun has not taken specialty courses in intercaste body language but she wouldn't be stunned if there were something like that. It's subtle if it's there, though. Presumably an Amentan who got overwhelmed by having to behave that way could step out past the border for a bit sometimes?

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Or have a house where she couldn't see them as their subterritory - that's standard to do anyway; even crafters who don't like the idea of having their own household find living in someone else's hard, and it helps.

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That makes sense! She can put out a call for possible interest (without expecting particularly quick slot-appearance). Any other filters that should be applied to prospective household-visitors?

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Hm.

She has a lot of animals right now; being comfortable with that would be important, and basic animal-handling skills would be good. She doesn't know what Sun's species eats; she can set up a garden plot for food plants they bring, but she won't be familiar with caring for them, so knowing things about that could be important. She doesn't know what they'll want to do for meat but she can figure out the logistics of that closer to the time, probably; if they think it'd be better for her to start learning to care for some of their livestock now she can do that.

Being able to communicate will of course be important. She thinks for this temporary experiment it'll be safest to go with people who are fairly quiet and not too active. Alternately... actually it might be best to introduce her to some adolescents of Sun's species and see how she reacts to them; crafters often have a slightly easier time being permissive with them among their own species, and she knows that works well for her from her own kids. If they're doing it that way - ones who are interested in learning from her? Or artsy ones, she's not that much of an artist herself but she likes being around them.

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Green four year olds who like animals and gardening, sure thing. Probably they'll mostly pick up food from the city occasionally though; Amentans like to eat a lot of staples that are best farmed in mass quantities rather than individually gardened, so the plot will probably have, like, herbs and stuff, not most of the visitor's calories. They have checked and Amentans can eat local chickens, and they're very tasty.

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She has chickens, but for eggs, not for meat, pigeons are better for meat. She has those, too; she can spare a few for them to try. She - isn't actually sure she'll be able to set aside storage for their food, she's not sure how much space to expect that to take up.

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An Amentan who isn't very picky can live on about three pounds of food per day indefinitely; in their own homes they use cold storage, which she's not sure if crafters have, but it's possible to do without, again if one is not very picky. Their camp has this much food for their planned three-day stay for Sun, three greys, and the purple. Sun would be surprised if Amentans could eat chicken meat and not chicken eggs but there hasn't been a proper study about that yet.

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She can do cold storage, both above and below freezing - she should actually walk Sun through one of the house models she has with her and all the amenities that comes with, crafters like their houses comfortable and crafting can do lots of things like that. Anyway. She will in fact have to get enough crafting-material together to make houses for anyone who's going to visit, now that she thinks of it, and food storage won't make a significant difference on top of that, the whole thing is just going to be slow.

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They might eventually establish a routine helicopter route for dropping off people and supplies, and that can include more rocks if lone sassafrass wants!

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It would definitely help. The dog who tried their eggs is doing fine, by the way. Does Sun want to see what a crafter house looks like?

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Yes!

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She can with some finagling and awkward leaning out of her vehicle get ahold of the relevant box of minis and some crafting-material left over from Meston's walker and make a roofless scale model to show Sun through the window.

Crafter architecture uses rounded, lumpy shapes rather than straight lines, and this one, which she describes as a very normal common sort of house, is roughly lima bean shaped, with the entrance at the center of the inward curve. The back wall across from it is lined with a workbench, with two protrusions dividing it into three workspaces surrounded on two or three sides by work surfaces - one for cooking, with built-in water dispenser and food waste chute, one for crafting-material conversion and miniature enlarging, and one for whatever other project the resident might be working on, generally, with storage cabinets underneath and lamps rising on stems from the countertop to light the workspace; the missing ceiling would also have light panels. The far walls can have different sorts of storage put in; perhaps a freezer for someone who hunts or a pantry cabinet for someone who likes food from plants with a limited growing season in the kitchen, or a cabinet for extra cooking appliances, and usually storage for frequently-used minis on the other side but sometimes storage for tools, or a display cabinet for favored knickknacks. Some people also put a conveyor belt along the back wall, to let them send things to one side of the space or the other to be put away later without having to get up.

The two lobes flanking the door each have a raised, rounded enclosure built into the wall; these are beds, and she peels the roof of one of the enclosures back to show the soft crafting-material mattress set into the bottom of it. The person who lives in the house will take one, and the other is for visiting romantic partners, small children, or the sort of emergency where you need someplace for someone to stay right away; some people will replace the second one with something else, like a reading nook or more storage, instead. The bed enclosures are climate-controlled separately from the main space, with their own heating, cooling, soundproofing, ventilation fans, lights, and water dispensers; some people will add a network connection or miniature library or similar recreational option. Adding lots of pillows is popular, too.

The climate control panel for the main space is on one side next to the door; the other has a small cabinet for emergency supplies that would be dangerous to lose in with the general household storage - medical supplies, mostly, plus a very loud automated drumming machine that can be deployed to let neighbors know that they're needed to help with an emergency.

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The conveyor belt is clever! It looks very cozy overall. Why is it lima bean shaped?

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It's nice and efficient for everything that goes in it, mostly. People who want very different things in their houses will make them different shapes - here's a rounded-square four-person house with a side for each person and the kitchen and crafting station and a spiral staircase in the middle, as another example. (The upper level that she's not rendering in this model was an aviary, in the original.)

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Amentans usually do rectangle houses and rectangle furniture because that packs efficiently, but these are certainly very nice looking and she supposes they don't have to be that concerned about packing efficiency since they have lots of room per household.

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That makes sense. Crafters generally like to have their houses fit in aesthetically with their surroundings, as the next concern after fitting everything inside efficiently, and boulder-ey shapes are good for that.

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Now Sun wants to know about crafter art!

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It's actually not common for crafters to make art as its own thing; they do pay attention to the aesthetics of the things they make, though, and there's rarely a reason not to pretty things up. Most crafters have fairly consistent aesthetics that they use in most places - lone sassafras favors the subtle blue and crosshatched grey, divided horizontally, that's visible on her walker and shed, with green or gently yellow complementary objects for highlights, and a darker grey with blue and yellow detailing for her own clothing and personal effects. Representative art is rare; realistic copies of natural objects are more common, and abstract patterns fall between the two in frequency. Personal aesthetics also act as a subtle - or occasionally not-so-subtle - territory marker: a crafter household-member's house will use the head of household's aesthetic on the outside, but generally have the household-member's own aesthetic inside and perhaps around the door to help remind them that they can go in or that the head-of-household won't; similarly, the head of household presenting them with tools in their own aesthetic can make it clearer to them that they're meant to use them. Territory markers always use the head-of-household's aesthetic, for roughly the same reason.

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Oh that's SO cool. Sun is really interested in the use of aesthetic markers for psychological support. At what age do people settle on these? Do they change? What if two people want similar ones?

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They do change, usually pretty slowly over time - she used to use a slightly lighter shade of blue and use a sky blue sometimes for highlights, for example. Children and young adults are more prone to dramatic changes; that generally settles down after they've had their own territory for a few years and figured out how they like to do things in it. Very young children first learning to craft tend to copy their parents' aesthetics as often as not for the first few months, insofar as they have much intentional control over it at all, and then start experimenting from there; lots of crafters settle on at least one element of their personal aesthetic that they'll end up keeping permanently by the time they're ten or so. (Lone sassafras's personal example is the horizontal divide; she favored brighter colors and circular or blobby motifs when she was small.) People with very similar aesthetics will tend to add or change elements to differentiate themselves, and might find it uncomfortable to be in each others' territories over and above the usual issues, but it's not generally a particular problem.

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How do young crafters lack intentional control?

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It's the same sort of thing as a small child being clumsy at walking or using tools; they have to figure out what to do to get the results they want, and they're bad at it at first. Plus crafting is on the complicated end of that sort of thing; there's only a little skill involved in keeping existing traits steady while changing others, but there is some, and little kids don't have it at first. Like balancing to stand while using a tool, if Sun has watched a baby learn to do that.

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She has! Babies are so cute and good.

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Yep.

She can craft up some examples of traders' aesthetics that she's seen, if Sun would like.

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Yes please!

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She cannibalizes the house model for material for a set of six-inch-tall copies of her walker: this one in a striking dark metallic gold with burnt umber legs and roof and black interior and trim; this one garbed in a realistic rendition of waves on a beach, complete with starfish and seaweed washed up on the shore, with deepwater-blue legs with sandy tips; this one apple-red and apple-mottled on the outside with a spring green interior splashed with pale yellow; this one studded with protrusions like giant tumbled amethysts on a midnight blue background, with a slightly abstracted rendition of the stretch of the galaxy across the night sky running diagonally down the sides to curve under the windshield; this one a crazy-quilt patchwork in patterned teal; this one giving the appearance of being coated in iridescent dust, glimmering through a warm pastel rainbow, with a plush-looking pink and yellow interior and a pair of fluffy backswept moths' antennae sprouting from the roof.

Of course the best-looking ones are the most memorable, she notes.

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Sun is curious now if Amentans and crafters have similar aesthetics. Here are the ten most popular artworks on a popular art uploading site, as of the last local update from the homeworld; do they look nice to lone sassafrass?

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...drawings of people are kind of offputting; less-realistic representative styles are too, but she expects she'd get used to them if she saw them often. They seem to have pretty similar ideas about composition and color palettes; crafters favor simple primary colors a bit less and like texture and other visual effects a bit more.

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Here's a site dedicated to color palettes and another one for textures you can download for Pixelpaint?

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The color palettes all look fine to her; someone who was more interested in art might have more to say about them, though. The textures aren't bad, but if it's supposed to be showing best-of-class type ones, they're more simplistic than she'd expect.

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They're intended to be small parts of larger artworks, like this example here, if you zoom in you can see this texture was used for the cloth.

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...yes, even so? - this is probably a manufacturing difference; she doesn't have any kind of guess yet at how Sun's species does things but crafters can give arbitrary things near-arbitrary visual properties. There's nothing actually stopping her from doing up her clothes in any of these aesthetics except for the amethysts being too awkward to practically wear at that size.

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That does seem like a manufacturing difference. There's another thing crafters have to trade, then, cool custom fabric.

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Sure, if they want. She'd do some of that, maybe, once she's got a little more time.

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Now Meston wants to do the talking for a bit about walkers and other cool crafter vehicles!

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Lone sassafras continues to be a giant vehicle nerd! And very curious what Meston thinks of the walker they've been trying out, she personally has some opinions on the gait options on that model.

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He likes it and is curious how it figures out how long a step to take on uneven terrain! Amentans haven't been able to do very much in this area because it gets too close to robotics.

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With some very clever sensors! Complicated machinery like this can be a bit tricky since while crafting material can be made to react to the states of other crafting material around it, it can't react magically to non-crafting-material objects, just physically - if a leg comes down on a rise in the ground it'll move differently than if it comes down on flat ground, see, but without some other kind of sensor none of the machinery can know what the ground is like before the leg hits it. Meston's walker uses sonar in the legs to get around that - if they look close they'll see a tiny protrusion a bit less than a handspan up from the bottom, that's the sensor, it makes a brief, very high-pitched noise and then 'hears' it and vibrates when it bounces off the ground, which takes longer if the ground is farther away, and that way the leg can tell if it's close and adjust appropriately. Some models use light for the same kind of thing, but that's harder to design around.

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OH that's so cool. Does it work less well in noisy conditions?

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A bit, but it's listening for pretty much the exact sound it makes, so it's not usually a problem, you just might see a minor misstep from time to time that the other legs will compensate for. You can add a system to listen to the sounds around the machine and pick a specific one to make that nothing else is making, but she's not sure that's ever actually necessary, and it's fiendishly complicated to get the ear working with it; she'd add another set of legs, practically speaking, before she tried to solve a real problem that way.

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This will be a huge boon to whatever brave souls want to try to develop robotics more! Amazing.

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- they have something going on that makes this kind of thing dangerous?

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There are some elements in Amentan society deeply opposed to the development of robotics. The crafters shouldn't worry, though, they won't be allowed out of the city.

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Huh. Weird. She's curious what their issue is.

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Advanced robotics would make a lot of jobs unnecessary, and for Amentans, that affects how many kids members of the relevant castes can have. They have to buy child credits and a caste that recently became much less useful won't have as many to go around.

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This child credit thing sounds like a real lousy situation all around, to her. - also isn't purple the moving-things subspecies? Meston doesn't seem upset about walkers existing at all.

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Purples do lots and lots of different things. Many individual purples will need to change careers to accommodate robots, but on a population level, they'll be fine. There's another caste with a much more restricted career set that has murdered roboticists in coordinated actions before though.

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...huh. Well, if they can't get to her, she won't worry.

(That sure sounds like a potential genocide in progress, she doesn't say. This species is weird about violence but weirder about taking valid grievances seriously and treating people well. She'll check her notes when she gets home and see if she can figure out which subspecies it is with the problem and whether there's anything she wants to do about it - unfortunately keeping them from learning about machines is probably a lost cause, too many of her people know about them, but maybe there's something.)

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Once Sun manages to take over from Meston she wants to know how crafters govern themselves. It sounds like "not much" but how are disputes in general resolved?

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Really not much, yeah, they very much don't go for restricting each other and backing off from doing something that would hurt someone is pretty natural and automatic for them. Sometimes people will have a complicated misunderstanding or otherwise get stuck in a situation where everyone is coming out worse for it and ask community elders for advice, which works well. Someone accidentally harming someone else is handled by them explaining how it happened and what they would do differently now or why they wouldn't have been able to avoid it, and spending a little while mourning the harm with the person who was harmed. Serious intentional harm - more than just a minor destructive expression of anger that can be taken as a communication and talked out - is very rare and taken very seriously, they'll need to explain themselves to most of their neighbors and are liable to be run off or worse; that hasn't happened in her community in her or her parents' or grandparents' lifetimes, though, she's just heard stories.

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Sun speculates that maybe since they have to invest so much effort in interacting at all and their BATNA (she laboriously explains this concept) is pretty good with the magic, they are unlikely to wind up in many of the situations that provoke serious disputes among Amentans, but they would probably still have, say, breakups resulting in custody issues, or maybe intellectual property issues if they've got that concept, or nuisance complaints about noises or smells...?

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Crafters have a very strong default stance of just leaving each other alone, yeah, it works well for them. For specific scenarios -

Children get to chose how they spend time with their parents from a very young age and usually only one or the other is breastfeeding, before that, so it'd be obvious who should take them; she could see an elder ever having to sort out a situation with a child who was weaned but too young to express an opinion, but that's a pretty narrow window when it happens at all. (Sun's species might start communicating later? Crafters' communication starts early, around the time babies start to walk - around the first anniversary of the birth, if that varies too. And breastfeeding well into the second year isn't rare.)

Crafters don't have intellectual property at all; copying someone's personal aesthetic in a rude way is close and would be kind of a dick move but generally accurate to treat the same way as a destructive expression of anger, unless they were, say, doing it to get the person into trouble with a third party, which would edge into being serious intentional harm to both of them, depending on the details.

Crafting does very good soundproofing and airtight containers, which makes it easy to avoid inflicting those kinds of nuisances on neighbors. It does ever happen that someone doesn't realize they're causing a problem, but that's easily solved by telling them; on the other hand it is the sort of thing that'd interfere with neighbors' territory claims if talking didn't solve it, so that would get taken very seriously, but it really doesn't happen.

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Amentans start saying a few words at roughly the same age but don't usually have very clear consistent opinions till later on, and also Amentans have baby formula for people who aren't able to nurse their babies, so that's less of a factor for them. Can lone sassafras go into more detail on how destructive expressions of anger play out?

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It really depends on the situation - the basic pattern is just someone getting too frustrated or otherwise emotional and doing something unwise, and which unwise things look satisfying to do depends on what they're frustrated about and what they're like as a person. Plenty of things in that category aren't particularly destructive - say, storming off - or don't damage anything belonging to anyone else - one of her siblings liked to break sticks into little pieces when they were angry - but under enough stress they'll sometimes take it out on someone else, for example by insulting someone; that's not very serious, but it's a clear sign that they need to deal with the underlying problem, whatever it is.

As another example, the thing during the last visit where she told Sun outright that her species should not go into crafters' territory would be taken as a destructive expression of anger if she did it to another crafter, and only not as intentional harm because not going into peoples' territories uninvited is such a fundamental thing; as a rule they don't order each other around unless they're under some sort of fairly extreme duress, and it does cause some harm for a crafter to be on the receiving end of something like that. It seemed necessary to get the point across, though, and it's clear that Sun's species isn't like hers in that way.

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Sun wasn't offended! What would have happened to a crafter who was ordered like that?

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For that specific thing they'd most likely just be very confused and worried about her, it'd be a very weird thing to say in an intra-species context. More broadly, there are two things going on with orders: one is that they're a territory claim thing, and the other is that they're a very rude way of expressing something. Orders that are about how to act in someone's territory or with their belongings and that don't compel action only have the problem of being rude; the polite way to do it is to just mention that you prefer something, possibly with an explanation of why - that works, it's a species trait of crafters that it does, and implying it wouldn't can be a pretty serious insult, it's essentially saying that the ordered person is incompetent as a crafter. And then orders that try to compel action are a territory-claim on the person being ordered, and get about the same sort of reaction as unwanted touch.

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Huh. How much does lone sassafras know about other crafter cultures elsewhere in the world?

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Not very much directly, but nomadic crafters sometimes come from very far away and she's never known them to have trouble getting along on that level.

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What things are different about them?

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Sometimes they have different ideas about how close people should be able to freely come to their houses; sometimes they set up explicitly-temporary territory markers; sometimes they have different ideas about where to settle relative to other community members or how long it makes sense to stay; sometimes they want explicit permission from an elder to settle near the community, or from the nearest few households; sometimes they have different ideas about hunting or fishing or gathering feedstock on unclaimed land, and either upset someone by taking too much or confuse people a bit by wanting to trade for it.

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How does trade play out (in this region)?

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Among the community people would often already have an idea of who would have whatever they wanted to trade for, or if they didn't they could ask the crows for help or put the question on the network. Once they knew who to talk to they'd do that either over the network or by setting up an in-person meeting - crows can pass messages like that, or they can leave letters at each others' territory-markers - and from there it's just a matter of working out the details. With nomads, people will wander by to see what they have after they've had a few days to settle in, or they'll work out where the socialization grounds are and bring their things for people to see, or they'll leave letters with the community members they've settled nearest to asking them to send the right sort of people to talk to them.

For the trades themselves, crafters don't use money, but crafting-material is a partial substitute; it's not very valuable, since most people have no trouble making enough for their needs, but also everyone has some use for it and it can be stored easily and traded along in the future, so it's a reasonable fallback if someone doesn't have anything better. Livestock is another common option, but it's not as guaranteed that someone will be interested in it. It's also rarely really necessary to trade; most people with special skills pick them up because they want to use them, and won't need any extra incentive to help their neighbors out.

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They don't get bored of doing those tasks, or have trouble prioritizing among many interested neighbors?

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Sometimes, yes, but most things people trade for aren't necessary in the first place, so that's inconvenient but not disastrous. If it is a disaster then not wanting to doesn't matter so much - she was very, very busy making sure all her neighbors had good walking-houses not so long ago, but it needed to be done and she doesn't begrudge them any of it.

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Sun would like to apologize on her species' behalf for scaring people.

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She appreciates that.

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Is there any sort of compensatory gift that would be culturally appropriate here?

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It's a situation of accidental harm, she just explained about how those are resolved. She's not super in the mood for it right this minute though.

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Well, when Amentans wind up talking to any of the affected crafters Sun hopes they will take note of her recommendation about the correct apologetic construction.

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She's very skeptical that that'll ever happen; it would be meaningful for her to pass such a message along, though.

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Okay. Whenever's convenient for her.

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Shrug: whenever.

It's important that it be good (accurate, sincere, complete), not just timely, though.

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Would lone sassafras be willing to workshop apology wordings once the blues have something written up?

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That's reasonable, yeah.

(One of her dogs that's been wandering around the campsite comes over and whines at her; she lets him into the walker, and he deposits his front half in her lap for her to pet.)

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One of the greys remarks that his daughter wants a local puppy, are they particularly hard to take care of?

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It's important to train them and she doesn't know how they'd do that without being able to communicate with them; otherwise no, they're quite thoroughly domesticated.

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Amentans have some similar animals - here is a picture of his daughter's last dog, aren't they similar apart from the horns? - and they train them with food rewards and behavior shaping techniques. Most pet dogs don't learn quite as many things as a crafter's dog but they learn to behave in public and contain their waste and so on.

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Well, if they're confident they can manage it, a litter is usually six to eight but can be over a dozen - and she'd want homes arranged for them all, she doesn't need any more dogs - and the pregnancy takes two months and it's another two before they're ready to be away from their mother. They should start meeting a variety of people at the end of the first month, though, whatever species they'll be expected to get along with as adults; it may be a good idea to send the mother and pups to the househive at that point.

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The grey's daughter does not want six to eight puppies but they can probably be homed without trouble and there's almost certainly a vet or something in the city who can take the mother to get acclimated to Amentans, though they don't look super different from crafters. Maybe they smell very different.

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Her dogs have been fine with them, but she doesn't know what other sorts of livestock they might have around, that part is important too. They are carnivores, and pack hunters at that, they'll eat species they don't see as family.

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Non-pet animals would be on farms but it might matter if they'd attack cats on the street, sure.

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Well, there they go then. Anyway, she'll think about pairings - she assumes they'll want a companion line, not a hunting or labor line - and they can tell her if they decide they want to go through with it.

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Yeah, a companion dog, and they will for sure get back to her about that. Do crafters breed crows at all or do the crows just manage themselves?

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They sometimes use crow eggs for fleshcrafting or genecrafting, but they don't arrange pairings, no.

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What sorts of things have crow eggs been crafted into?

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Well, the easiest kind of genecrating is just to bring out traits that an individual's ancestors had that are hidden in them; doing that to a crow makes them a little clumsier in flight but stronger and better at hunting and fighting, and the flocks like having a few of those around - if they've seen ones with long tails, feathered legs, and toothy snouts, that's what they are. Fleshcrafting options are pretty limited on flying species, it's so easy to disrupt that, but she knows there's a few modifications to wing shape that work for crows, and a couple for better senses - sight and smell that she knows of.

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Can they have some more examples of how genecrafting and fleshcrafting work in practice?

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Genecrafting's a specialist skill even for the basics and her community didn't have one, she doesn't know that much about it personally, but she can print them up a book if she hasn't already. It overlaps some with fleshcrafting, which can add basically arbitrary body parts to a living being - when she grows fruit from her plants, that's simple fleshcrafting. It can also do modifications - she's made her dogs temporarily infertile via fleshcrafting, and it's used to correct peoples' vision if they have trouble seeing things too nearby or too far away. She could probably make her hair grow a different color with it, if she spent some time reading up on how; some people do custom food that way, as a fairly easy use that's beyond the basics everyone learns. Functional organs are harder, especially if they'll need to be removed afterward - the medical book she read to them the first day talked about that, and it's how men can breastfeed and bear children and women can sire them. Advanced uses include giving people prehensile tails or wings that are, with lots of caveats, functional, though the latter is very hard to prepare for: like all crafting, fleshcrafting can't create mass, and the mass it uses can't come from crafting-material, either; the person receiving the wings has to eat enough to gain that weight, and wings big enough for a crafter to even glide with are pretty huge.

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Wow, that's all incredibly amazing and is again something Amentans would be super into trading for. Amentans are actively doing genetics research into milder springs - Amentans have a seasonal cycle and spring is the one where they can have babies, and it's pretty unpleasant to spring and not have a baby, and even with faster than light travel they aren't finding new planets so reliably that they can just pull out all the stops on that. Does that sound feasible?

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...huh. Fleshcrafting can probably do something about that and she wouldn't be surprised if genecrafting can too - they probably want it as genecrafting if they can get it, since genecrafting can be made to be passed on to children and fleshcrafting can't. (Hmm.) It's going to take some luck for her to find a genecrafter for them given her current constraints, but she'll try; it sounds like this is a bit of a big deal.

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It's a really big deal, yeah. Nobody wants to be totally hypovernal, that would be cutting themselves off from a huge part of the experience of being an Amentan, but mild springs are good.

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Well, she'll do what she can.

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Awesome!

They have come up with lots of valuable things crafters can do; what sorts of things will crafters want from Amentans?

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Well, she's noticed that they seem less resource-constrained for basics, which makes sense with such a huge household; crafters really like their households to be self-sufficient, but being able to trade for big quantities of things would make some kinds of projects feasible that aren't usually, she expects they'll get people interested in that - not being able to make crafting-material themselves is a limitation, but if they're going to pay for people to convert things it could work out well enough. Their tech is neat; they'll get people wanting that and wanting books and expert consultation to reverse-engineer it and make crafting-material versions. Livestock and plants, of course, once they're sure they're safe for crafters and their domesticates. Interesting designs for things are always a popular trade good - new clothing or furniture or vehicles or whatever. Books in general, probably. Any special skills they have to trade or to teach.

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Books! Are there any sorts of books lone sassafrass would like? They'd be machine translated, and that's never perfect even with much more training data and people who speak both languages fluently, but it might be better than nothing.

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Not right now; she doesn't have time for reading.

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Fair enough, they're keeping her pretty busy. Sun's been advising against sending parties farther afield to find more crafters to talk to, since some farther-afield crafters will have been deliberately getting out of the Amentans' way.

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And the rest will have been warned by the fleeing ones, around here. Once they have their apology written she can make some headway on getting that distributed, maybe include a suggestion that they make contact with it. (That should be written separately from the apology and she should probably be the one to write it if they're going to be sent out together.)

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Sun has some questions about that - is there particular formal language suited to apologies, how long is it supposed to be, should it be a personal apology from the director of the colony or several from the people who actually initially walked up to crafters or just a collaboratively written apology from the colonists as a group...

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Well, the point of it is to explain what went wrong and that they regret it; the details will depend on what exactly did go wrong and what's going to change as a result of the regret - if the head of the hive made the decision to handle things that way and everyone else was just following orders in a predictable way, it'd make sense for it to come from the head-of-hive; if the directions were vaguer and decisions about how to implement them were made by the people who trespassed then it could potentially go either way, depending on what changes will be made to solve that problem; if the people who trespassed were under clear orders but feel that they should have disobeyed them and will do that with similar orders in the future then that'd be a good apology, too - ideally in conjunction with an assurance that they won't get those orders again in the first place, of course. But usually when something like this has happened there were several things that could have been done differently, and it's up to them which one or ones they want to change, and the apology should reflect what they're doing with that.

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"Okay, I'll pass that on to Governor Tauko." They have speech to text going now.

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Good.

It's starting to get a little late; anything else important to discuss today?

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Nope, good night!

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Good night!

She's back the next day with a couple of more advanced genecrafting books - she's not sure if they'll answer their questions, but they come broadly recommended - and mostly-bad news about the dogwood stand crows' crafter friend; they're in the middle of making a new territorial claim, having decided to move to somewhere more naturally defensible than their old territory, and they're very reasonably not interested in contact with the newcomers until they've settled in there. They did include a network-connection in their message, and she's sent a letter asking about their skills and what they expect their household to run lean on once it's up and running properly again, but she hasn't heard back yet - she'll probably get another letter today, and she has the connection with her so she'll get it when it's sent.

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How do network connections work?

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Specialized crafting can give crafting-material all sorts of weird properties; network connections have one that keeps them connected to each other at arbitrary distances - she doesn't know if Sun's species will have encountered the property before or what they might recognize it as if they had. The actual mechanism is that they match each other - if one changes the other one will change the same way - and a machine on the sending end reads a page of writing and encodes it into changes in the connection for a machine on the other end to read and use to write a new copy of the page. Or the machines on either end can do more complicated things instead, but that's the basic principle; she can get a book on how the encoding and decoding is done if they'd like.

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Cool! How arbitrary a distance are we talking about, here, does this exceed the speed of light?

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- she didn't know light to have a speed; she does expect that she would have heard if distance was ever a problem in practice, though, it would be in the books on nomadism, and it isn't.

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You'd have to get thousands of miles away to notice even if you were looking for it, on a single planet. Could they have a connection to test this with?

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She doesn't have both ends of one and doesn't expect any of the people on the other ends of the ones she has to want to be involved at this point. The dogwood stand crafter might be able to make them, though, it's a little odd that they had one on hand otherwise.

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That would be really important information to have. If it does work faster than light, it could be faster than subspace, which they figured out when developing warp and which is faster than light but not instant.

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She doesn't even know what those concepts are, she's not going to be any help. She'll check the library for likely-looking books tonight, she guesses.

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They'd appreciate that!

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Mmhmm.

She also has some preliminary ideas about getting the new control setup working in walkers; she doesn't expect to have a good version immediately but if someone can bring the one she left here out a ways she can try a few things, see what they think of them.

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They would be happy to do that for her.

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Cool.

(The main problem, she explains while that's happening, is that the vehicles their control system are for have a very different kind of propulsion system; they push themselves forward, like a boat or a balloon, instead of stepping in arbitrary directions like a walker does. Their steering system is therefore based on modifying that push to send it in a different direction, but walkers don't have a push to modify; a natural steering system for a walker will tell it that its forward is at a new position on its circumference, not that it should turn its circumference to put a set forward point in a new place. It's not insurmountable but it's going to take some experimentation to get the translation right; in the long run they'll probably want to change either the walkers or the controls to get a more natural match going.)

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That makes sense. Meston can look up some more obscure vehicles to see if they have anything like that.

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And lone sassafras gets to work, largely deconstructing the walker - the base stays intact, but the cabin is reduced to a flat platform, with most the extra material transformed into a tripod to lift the whole thing off the ground by a couple of feet, and the legs are shortened to nonfunctionality; these changes reveal more clearly how the cabin platform rotates independently from the base the legs are attached to. She sits on the central platform to work on the new control panel, pausing frequently to try different controls and watch the stubby legs react; occasionally they flail uselessly or fail to react at all, but most of the time the problem is that the base winds up rotated incorrectly relative to the now-tethered upper platform, so that the forward gait of the legs is askew from it, or that the rotation is too fast or too slow.

She's not going to get a version that's safe to ride working today, she eventually reports, but she has a good idea of what problems she'll need to solve to do it; she can set it back into working order now if they'd like.

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It's not urgent. How much load can it bear? How does that need to be distributed?

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She hasn't reinforced this one but that can be done; a reinforced walker is limited by volume rather than weight for any normal sort of material. Distribution does matter - crafters solve that sort of problem by adjusting the carrying platform to compensate, but their species will just have to do it manually until someone invents a better solution for them - she doesn't think that'll take long, though, it's similar to other solved problems.

There's a letter from the other crafter waiting for her when she gets back into her walker, and she takes a few minutes to read it. They dabble in lots of kinds of crafting, she reports; they do know how to make network-connections, and they know more fleshcrafting than she does including a few medical tricks, and some things abut pebble machines, the sort that do complicated network things. They're going to be pinched for livestock - or, would be, part of her problem is supporting her surplus, their problems can solve each other. And they sound very nervous of the newcomers - they weren't planning on making contact, they were just intending to pass along information they got from the crows to, she assumes, other members of their old community. The apology will probably help with that but she'll see if she can draw them out about specific things that might need to be addressed for them.

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Okay. Sun's received an estimate that there will be a draft apology first thing in the morning.

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Sounds good. Is there anything else for now?

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Nope, good night!

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Good night!

She's looking more well-rested the next day, and has good news and bad news: the good news is that she had time to go through the genecrafting books, and she's pretty sure that it can solve their problem and that she has a lead on who to talk to about that; a few of the books recommend a genecrafter who writes under the name goosewing to go to for cutting-edge training or unusual problems, and their books have directions at the back on how to find them. The bad news is that the other local crafter may be a lost cause; they're taking care of a sibling that the newcomers approached and touched, and have no idea if they're going to recover, and they quite reasonably don't want to have anything to do with them while dealing with that.

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Unfortunate. The apology is written and they have a draft translation now?

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Mmhmm?

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It reads:

An open apology from Governor Impen Tauko to the crafters of Teani-3:

I wish to convey my sincerest regrets for the initial approach of the Amentan colonists toward the natives. It was careless, unworthy of our better intentions, and the greatest error of my career. My hope is that with this letter I can explain the mistakes leading to this tragedy and reassure those willing to read it of our commitment to do better going forward.

Amentans have dreamed for generations of meeting other intelligent species. We yearned for space and the neighbors we hoped to find there. We speculated, endlessly, about what those people from the stars would be like. We have some very creative imaginations among us. But I don't think I've ever seen a story that speculated that there would be a species to which trespassing would be as unthinkable, or to whom touch would be as dangerous - at least, not by any mechanism such as yours; we had made sure the first explorers were in full coverage outfits to protect you from microbes, while we began biological research to determine if the concern was at issue, but we hadn't realized how the trouble would manifest.

I should have reined in our enthusiasm, and gone with a more conservative, less bold approach, which might still have led to deaths but would at least have been fewer. We could have afforded the days or weeks it might have taken for a cautious landing party to be investigated by curious crafters, and we might have been fortunate to set down in an empty spot with our first landing if we had taken more care, and that we didn't wait for you to come to us was my mistake.

Nothing I can do now will restore anyone harmed by our actions, but if it is any consolation to the surviving loved ones of those who were killed, I have passed on my recommendation in the strongest possible terms to all the leaders of Amenta that future colony projects encountering native peoples should take particular care to remember that not all possible aliens have already been dreamed up in our fiction, and not every vulnerability to be found among the stars should be expected to make instant sense to our evolutionary psychologists.

I have instructed my people to remain within the boundaries of the city and its agricultural surroundings as marked with locally understandable symbols on penalty of expulsion from the colony and a seizure of their assets into a fund I have begun pending the discovery of appropriate reparations to be made to the remaining injured parties and their families. The fund will also be paid for by a percentage colonial credit revenue. It is my sincere expectation that this order will be followed with great care. I would ask that in the particular case of children gone astray that non-lethal means of repelling them from places they are unwelcome be tried first if at all possible; I will not request the same for my adult citizens, who by now have all been told that we will not protect them if they provoke our crafter neighbors.

As an excuse for my failure in judgment I can only offer that we had hoped very dearly and for so many years to meet you, and if there is anything I can do to restore the possibility that our peoples will become friends, I would be eager to know.

Your neighbor,
Governor Tauko
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...Sun's species can be very cute when they put their minds to it, wow.

This is overall very good; the two things that lone sassafras would change would be to assert that they would have done things differently if they'd known, not just that they should have even unknowing, and to explain more clearly what the intended point of the fund is - she's picked up by now that their species does a lot of things by trade and considers it important, but crafters don't consider it so valuable among themselves, so it isn't going to be obvious that that's a meaningful gesture.

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Sun will pass that along for revisions! Uh, what's cute about it?

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It's very, hm, smoothly emotionally expressive? In a way that her species doesn't generally do, as adults.

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Huh. What would it have looked like from a crafter?

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A crafter wouldn't've talked about their emotional state except insofar as it directly caused their actions, just about their goals and intentions and opinions and assumptions and so on. She thinks the letter is stronger for including it, though - it helps drive home that they're aliens in a way that invites the reader to share their perspective and helps explain how they can have sincerely made such a major mistake, and it feels - not vulnerable exactly but inviting of intimacy in a way that's similar to that - she's not sure she could write something with this much emotion in it without coming across as demanding, it's very impressive that they managed it.

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They probably teach blues how to do this sort of thing in blue school.

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Well, it's well done however they do it.

Oh, and she expects the thing about children to be fine - she does recommend that they leave it as is, it's an error in the right direction, but assuming newcomer children look like crafter ones they shouldn't register as a territorial threat until mid to late adolescence - they might still see crafters nervous about having newcomer children in their territory if they don't trust adult newcomers not to come in looking for them, but she doesn't expect there to be any serious trouble over it if the children are reasonably well-behaved and the adults stay out.

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Is there a good way for adults to retrieve disobedient children without entering a territory they've disobeyed their way into?

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It's not a problem crafters have often, and the standard solution would be to ask the crows for help, but yelling at the border could work, or setting off an emergency drum if it's really urgent - she can bring them an emergency drum and some ear protection tomorrow, they should have at least one of those around anyway. Emergency drums are very, very loud - if you set one off without ear protection, you'll probably go deaf - and let crafters in range of them know that something's going on such that you need help to come to you right now; they're an implicit invitation to enter the territory where they're going off.

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Okay. Crows, yelling, emergency drum and heavy-duty earmuffs, in that approximate triage order. (Has she mentioned crows are great? A crow is her baby's best friend now.)

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Crows are very good, yes. She's been assuming they can't communicate with them any more than they can communicate directly with crafters, have they been making headway with that somehow?

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The crows seem to be able to pick up spoken words! Not super fast but enough that they can guess-and-check back with the telepathy about details. The baby's crow can use the toilet, that was covered pretty early, and her husband is trying to teach it to read a clock. (They are not sure what sex the crow is, they don't know how to check and don't have sufficient vocabulary established to ask.)

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Huh! She has a lot of trouble with telling their different communication-sounds apart and even more with remembering them, it's neat that crows are better at that. And not at all surprising that they're learning behaviors from the newcomers, that's crows for you.

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Do crafters not use speech sounds for anything much? Can they make them at all?

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Many but not all crafters learn to mimic some of the animals they're around often, that's kind of similar, and some of them hum and make similar percussive sounds recreationally; it's probably possible to learn more of the newcomers' sounds but the idea of randomly trying it in their territory feels inappropriate to her.

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Maybe crafter kids would be able to learn it if they get to the point where any crafter kids are around Amentans that much.

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It'll be interesting to find out, definitely.

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The revisions don't take very long and are as well-crafted as the rest of the letter.

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And lone sassafras writes out a cover letter and her own synopsis of the situation and sends them along.

It's not even a whole day later when a glimmering indigo balloon scuds into view overhead and begins to circle toward the ground.

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Oooh. Sun makes sure to get video of the balloon.

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It lands a ways off, walker legs unfolding shortly before it reaches the ground, and the balloon shrinks to half size over the course of a few seconds before it starts moving towards the encampment.

It stops a polite distance from the tents; the elderly crafter inside is almost literally vibrating with excitement watching them.

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Sun waves real big!

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Is that an invitation he thinks it's an invitation he can always back up if they're unhappy about him here he comes! Hello!

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"Hello!" Sun replies through speech to text.

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Gosh, aliens! He quickly comes to conversational distance and is halfway out of his vehicle when he stops short, looking to the other crafter - it sounded to him like this was safe enough but she's all walled up, is he wrong?

    He's not - she's not sure it's safe, but the walker is just habit at this point, she thinks he'll be fine.

Great! Aliens! He disembarks, bringing a walking stick with an elaborately curved golden decoration on top out of the vehicle with him to lean on.

So from the letter - the other crafter wrote it, right, he doesn't want to assume - but from the letter they have kind of a lot going on, he can probably help with some of it, is anything very urgent?

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Nothing is very urgent but his offer is appreciated! Does he have relevant skills of some kind or does he just want to hang out with them?

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He likes crafting tricky feedstock and he knows people with lots of other skills. Also the letter said something about wanting people to visit their househive and he's very interested in that.

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He is totally welcome to visit their househive if he will be able to, like, do stuff, there!

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He probably will, if it's clear enough that he's welcome to! And he minds getting stuck less than most people, it won't be a huge deal if it goes kind of badly.

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If he gets stuck what should they do, since they shouldn't, like, pick him up and deposit him out of the city?

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He'll still be able to talk, he can tell them what's wrong? If he really can't handle it he might have to ask them to lead him out by the hand or something but that's fine if he asks for it.

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Okay! If he'll still be able to do the telepathy thing that will be fine. Would he like a helicopter ride? Somebody back in the city is watching this video and has offered a helicopter ride.

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He would absolutely like a helicopter ride. Do they want him to get his vehicle out of their campsite first.

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It's not really in the way or anything, up to him.

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-he'll move it back a bit, that seems polite. (And doesn't involve him getting back in, it turns out, just resting a hand on the cabin door and leading it beside him.)

So. They're aliens, that's super cool! What are they like, he has no idea what to expect here.

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They like to live in cities, and don't have the territory thing (they have a "personal space" thing and a "privacy" but that's much less pronounced). They have castes, and love babies, and can't do any magic.

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Babies are great, yeah. Subspecies are an interesting thing for aliens to have. He's very curious how they get by without crafting, that's hard to imagine.

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They have better technology than crafters in most respects but it was a bit of a slog to get there, for sure.

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He'll look forward to seeing that, too, then. What are the subspecies like? Can they describe what not having a territory instinct is like, or is it just not like anything much?

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It's not like anything much! Sun repeats her caste explanation.

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Huh. Crafters really value being as self-sufficient as they are; it's surprising the aliens seem to go the other way with that. Does it have any implications he should watch out for?

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There are some subtleties but all the castes are united in being excited about space and meeting aliens! Sun doesn't expect there to be situations where what caste of person he's talking to matters and their individual job doesn't.

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He's not used to peoples' jobs mattering very much either but probably he won't mess anything up too badly if they don't have any obvious warnings for him.

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One thing he should know is that if he's going to come into the city he shouldn't go anywhere marked with red, that signifies places that are unclean.

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Mmhmm. Do they have reason to think he needs to worry about alien disease or is this just about general principles?

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They don't think anything's very likely to jump the species barrier soon, but they seem to be broadly biocompatible so it's not out of the question, and even if he couldn't catch anything, he could spread it.

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So, like, be a little careful but it's not worth bothering his medic friend to come here immediately over, that makes sense.

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Right. Their tech is pretty good at cleaning things and they keep good track of what might be dirty, plus nobody is allowed on a spaceship sick, so it's not a big risk to take.

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Mmhmm. He's honestly not all that worried about risks - he's not going to take any blatant ones, he's got a few good years in him yet and he expects to be a great-grandfather soon and wants to meet the new generation, but on the other hand he can't pass up aliens and if it's him rather than someone younger who discovers a problem, well, that's not a bad death.

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That's very brave of him. Does he have a designation they can use to refer to him to each other? Something the crows say is fine.

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His pen name is traveler, if they want to use that. He's curious how they usually do names now, that's not something one crafter would generally ask another.

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Usually one's parents give someone a given name - Sun's is "Inua" - which tends to have once meant something in an older version of the language but be chosen mostly for sound. If there are several people in a given context with the same name, they pick adjectives - Sun's never needed hers but had "Dazzling" in reserve if she needed it. And when someone chooses a career, they pick a name that is suited to that career. A lot of careers have a few standard ones, but you can always do a metaphor or foreign word or something instead if you want. Sun means 'person', because she studies people.

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Neat! He should write that down - he does, adding some tiny glyphs to one of the curls on top of his walking stick.

He writes; not, like, literature or anything, but he goes lots of places and sees lots of things and it's useful to have that information in libraries for other people to find - he assumes they won't mind if he writes about them?

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That's fine! They'd be curious to see what he writes.

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Sure, once he has something.

So, hm - oh, what's their world like? Any obvious differences from this one?

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Amenta has less land area, longer years, more but smaller moons, and of course different wildlife, would he like to see pictures?

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Yes!

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Amenta from space! Amenta from space when it's night on the continent! Amentan moons! Amentan cities! Amentan animals!

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Wooooah it's so lit up at night! The animals are so colorful!

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Yeah, animals here are a lot drabber, they're not sure why! Though the biologists are finding some neat ones near the equator (very carefully).

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Have they found the parrots yet, some places have parrots instead of crows and they're much brighter.

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They have found some of those, yeah!

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Cute, aren't they? And there's a bunch of different species that talk and every so often one of them figures out some really simple crafting, it's very neat.

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Does anyone have any idea why this planet's species can do magic?

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If they do he doesn't know about it. Among species on this planet it has to do mostly with intelligence, they think - that doesn't really explain prairie dogs very well but maybe they're smarter than they seem and they don't talk much - and he would have expected any species as smart as crafters to be able to craft, no matter where they were from.

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Prairie dogs can do it? Wow.

Maybe there is some kind of magical substance on this planet and Amentans who grow up here will be able to craft.

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Maybe! If so it's everywhere; it's obviously ubiquitous on land, and seasteading isn't all that common but he knows there've been children raised out there with no problems.

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Could be in the air! Or the sunshine, who knows. They'll try to figure it out.

Here's his helicopter!

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He blinks at it when it gets close enough to be uncomfortably loud and takes a portion of the top of his walking stick to turn into earmuffs; lone sassafras does the same with her backrest. He goes to get more crafting-material from his vehicle, turns back to the helicopter, and - yeah, he can't approach it. Does someone want to guide him?

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Sure, how can they do that?

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...one sec...

 

That's very disorienting to try to answer when he doesn't feel sure who the machine or the territory belong to. But, uh, some suitable person, they can figure that part out, can ask him to follow them and then walk him over there. They'll probably need to explicitly tell him he can get in if he wants, too.

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They summon the pilot out, and she introduces herself and says, "Will you follow me? You're welcome aboard!" into the speech to text program they have for talking to crafters.

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Sure, thanks!

It goes without a hitch from there, and then he's on the helicopter!

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They have earmuffs for people inside the helicopter, but he seems to already have his own. Up up and away! They land on the roof of a skyscraper.

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Woah, good thing he's used to heights. Is this a normal way for the aliens' hives to be?

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Yeah! They can fit a lot more people into a lot less land by building tall, and it makes getting around on foot more convenient, too. Does he need to be invited into the elevator? Here is a blue who came to the roof to meet him and owns this area of town if that helps.

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Being asked if he needs an invitation works for him as one, he reports after a second or two of contemplating the elevator door. Also hello to this blue alien!

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Hello! Welcome to the city! He's so glad traveler decided to visit. The elevator goes down, and they are let out onto the street! There's a relatively discreet perimeter of greys.

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The buildings are so tall, that's - kind of dizzying, actually - he's fine, he's got his stick, he just needs a second. And maybe a brimmed hat or something, good thing he grabbed that extra crafting-material. Incredible architecture, though. Everything's so straight, it's quite a look. So what are all these buildings for, they said for people to live in but the lower bits look like they've got other stuff going on.

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The one he landed on is actually offices, where the government of the colony works. Over there is a restaurant, there's another one, there's a hair salon, there's a clothing shop, that's a bike rental, that's the subway station - they're still working on the subway, mostly they're getting around by bus for now - there's a school over there, blue and green.

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Huh, he feels like there must be a hundred good questions to ask about running vehicles underground and he can't think of any of them. What does it mean for a school to be blue and green?

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It means blue and green kids go there. Schools specialize, because the castes do, and most schools are just one caste but the colony is still pretty small so there's no blue-only school, it'd have like sixty kids in it. Instead they're sharing with some greens, who can pick between this and some other green schools.

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A children's school, huh! Not what he was expecting. What kinds of things do they teach to children?

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How to read and write, though some already have that down before they're old enough to start; history and civics; science and math; most schools have some sort of phys ed, though grey and sometimes purple schools are the ones where they do organized sports much; art and literature... A blue-green school in particular is probably heavy on the history and civics, whereas an all-green school would go harder on the art and literature and science and math because greens are at the top of all those fields.

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That makes sense. Crafter children learn those things from their parents and neighbors and books and experimentation, mostly. He's not sure what they mean by organized sports though, that might be something crafters don't have.

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If they go this way a few blocks they can see a grey playground, which almost always has some sort of sport in progress!

The sport in question turns out to be something with kids charging up and down the field, tackling each other and fighting for possession of four balls and control of eight goals.

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Goodness, are they... yes, they're fine, he sees... crafters definitely don't have anything like that.

He keeps watching.

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The kids - they're on the older side, four year olds - notice the alien and wave during the next time out.

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He waves back!

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They go back to playing. "There are a lot of different sports," the blue mentions. "Some of them are played professionally - people like to watch them."

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That sounds interesting! What's involved?

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Depends on the sport! Arcball has only one ball and it's smaller and the players don't crash into each other, for instance. There's also competitive sports that aren't on teams, like skiing or running or hang-gliding.

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And if he wanted to watch?

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Oh! Most often people watch on TV at home but they do have a couple public sports arenas in this city, would he like tickets to a game of something?

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He thinks he would, he answers after puzzling over the translation for a few moments. And what's a TV?

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A TV is a screen, like the pocket everything he's reading what this blue says off of, but bigger and mainly used to watch recorded entertainment and educational media.

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Interesting. Is that popular?

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Yeah! Most Amentans watch some TV, though plenty prefer books.

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It sounds like it'd be popular among crafters, too. He certainly wants to see.

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They can find a hotel that has TVs in the rooms and book a room - here, he can have the key card, maybe that will help him be free to act in the hotel room? - and put on an arcball game.

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Getting him into the hotel room is a bit of a process, though giving him the keycard beforehand and tasking him with getting the door open helps with everything up to the point of walking through it. (He's very sensitive to architectural choices that divide up the internal space of the building, seeing each instance as a threshold he needs permission to approach and pass; he's very patient about it, at least, and seems to relax about it a bit over time even separately from having the keycard task to propel him.) Once he's settled in to watch the game, though, he's rapt.

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Greys throw balls and run! Greys whose team has scored whoop and high five and hug each other and one pair of them start making out before half the couple is called up to the field!

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Um!

Good for them!

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One of the making out greys has a softcore porn sideline in the off-season.

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They have a what?

What?

...are they doing that on purpose?

Meep!

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Doing what on purpose? Is he okay?

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He was really not expecting to be attracted to the aliens but apparently that's a thing that's happening. Maybe put the example porn away and give him a minute.

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Okay. It doesn't seem that weird that some members of either species would be mutually attractive? They look pretty similar and honestly Amentans get pretty out there and you could find some who were into tentacle aliens.

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It wouldn't've surprised him for it to happen at all but among crafters it usually takes a while, and at least having met the person.

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Huh! That's pretty rare among Amentans, needing to meet someone before being attracted to them, though they do need to know each other pretty well before moving in and having kids together or anything.

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Well, it might have something to do with crafters not having video or photograph tech, but he doesn't think so.

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Seems to be likely a species thing.

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Most likely, yep.

So what else should he see today? More TV, since he's here with it?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure, if he likes TV! There are a lot of fictional TV shows, and there are nonfiction ones about stuff like cooking or cleaning or ancient times or whatever?

Permalink Mark Unread

How about a little of all of it, focusing on whatever they think he'll find most surprising?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure! They can flip through a gymnastics contests which is doing an episode on human towers, and a cartoon about a magical princess and her friends, and a cleaning show where somebody restores old rusty cookware very patiently until it shines like new, and a how-it-works about the manufacture of crayons, and a thriller with a lot of special effects and, lo and behold, tentacle aliens in it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Gymnastics are great. He has trouble making sense of the cartoon, both visually and in terms of plot. The cleaning show is nice to watch - he comments that complicated crafting is a bit like that - albeit slightly confusing in its subject matter at first. The manufacturing show is fascinating; he hadn't imagined that their methods took nearly that much work, and there's probably a book or two to be written about it at least, in order to properly explain the situation to the rest of his species. The thriller is a bit concerning at first until he gets clarification that it's not even supposed to resemble real events, and then it's kind of a mixed bag - the special effects are incredible especially given their manufacturing problem but he's not really a fan of scary stories. He does take note of how the tentacle aliens are portrayed, that seems worth knowing.

Permalink Mark Unread

There are several factions of tentacle alien and one tentacle alien who doesn't belong to any of those and is a member of the protagonists' starship crew ensemble and sometimes drapes his tentacles over the ship's tactical officer.

Permalink Mark Unread

Reasonable.

Has it been mentioned to them that fleshcrafting can do things like tentacles?

Permalink Mark Unread

Gosh! No it has not! There will be a market for that. Crafting is really really marketable and if he sees anything he likes he can certainly afford it with a little work.

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't personally do fleshcrafting that complicated but he has a friend he bets he can talk into visiting who does. He might be interested in having a TV if it'd work in his house? The helicopter was cool and he bets he'd have fun playing with something like that but he doesn't spend much time in places remote enough to use something that loud without bothering anyone. -do they have any interesting technology for babies, his eldest grandkid isn't expecting their first yet but it could be any time.

Permalink Mark Unread

A TV would work in his house if he could power it there, though if he goes very far afield his reception will be worse so he might want hard copies of whatever he's interested in watching. They have stuff for babies! They can go visit a toy store right now if he wants. And a bookstore, which will be less applicable for language reasons but some baby books just have pictures.

Permalink Mark Unread

What's involved in powering a TV? And sure, visiting a toy store sounds like fun.

Permalink Mark Unread

The blue can look up and have his everything translate some basics of electrical code standards while they head out to the toy store.

The toy store has kids in it and the greys have a bit of a time keeping a perimeter. It has a train table where the kids can try out possible train related accessories. It has things to sit on and spin in, and stuff that hangs from doorframes and pre-walking babies can bounce in, and it has thirty kinds of blocks, and it has puzzles and stuffed animals and dolls which blink or say "nuna! amu!" in recorded voices, and it has cooking playsets and board games and magnet tiles and toy trucks and playmats with the alphabet and digits on them and ruggedized music players and kidsize instruments and a section of everything games and everything cases so the devices can survive a toddler. There are arts and crafts supplies and hard plastic turtles of assorted designs and tie-in cartoon merchandise from the kids' show they saw and a few dozen others. There are toy spaceships, some of which are inert and some of which actually spin little rocketry-themed propellors and can hover. There are remote controlled creatures on wheels. There are ribbon wands and bouncy balls and chewing beads and dressup sets permitting children to garb themselves as anything from birds to queens.

(This is the first Amentan colony on a new planet, and nothing says "SPACE" like a well-stocked toy store.)

Permalink Mark Unread

The greys can relax a bit, he quickly tells them, the little ones won't bother him.

Many of the toys are similar to ones crafters make - baby walkers and blocks and plushies and toy tools transcend species, it turns out, even if the specifics are a bit different. He peers at the other offerings without touching them, only sometimes managing to make sense of what they're meant to be.

Permalink Mark Unread

His escort will translate any labels he lingers over, though the machine translation doesn't have enough to work with to make more than a vague attempt at "EXTREME CHOMPING BEAK ACTION" and "Discover all 572 unique Creature Containers and the friends within!".

Permalink Mark Unread

That helps!

He's slightly perplexed by the alphabet mat, but thinks he should get one after the concept is explained. The magnetic toys are very cool in his opinion; crafters don't magnetize things often and haven't hit on the idea of giving them to children. Board games are a very interesting idea and he wants one of those for himself, to play with whatever other crafters move into the area - it seems like a nice gentle introduction to the idea of the aliens being here. He's curious what their art supplies are like but not interested in getting any, exactly. The baby will definitely need a toy spaceship. And he might want one of the remote controlled creatures for himself, he's not sure; they're definitely neat, though.

Permalink Mark Unread

Does he want all these things right now or does he want to figure out a way to earn some money and swing back to buy them?

Permalink Mark Unread

None of that is time-sensitive except the board game, which it'd be nice to have time to figure out before he's in a situation where he wants it.

Permalink Mark Unread

In that case the blue will buy him his choice of board game as a gift.

Permalink Mark Unread

...can they give him a recommendation? It seems important to get one that's simple to learn, especially, and he can only sort of guess at that from the box art.

Permalink Mark Unread

How about this one where you jump pegs over other pegs?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure, that's reasonable. He appreciates it!

Permalink Mark Unread

Game is bought! Now it is his.

Permalink Mark Unread

He reshapes some of his spare crafting-material into a bag - he's been wearing it as a heavy collar and epaulets over his robe - and tucks the game inside.

At some point he's going to want to sit somewhere and sketch the architecture, and also get something to eat - he's been sort of assuming he can eat their food but he's got seeds with him too, he'll need maybe half an hour and a patch of dirt to grow himself a meal that way.

Permalink Mark Unread

He is welcome to try their food but they can also find him a park for the seeds thing if he doesn't want to take his chances. Restaurant?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sounds good!

Permalink Mark Unread

The blue will treat him to lunch at a place with picklepot and onion steak and interesting filled breads.

Permalink Mark Unread

He makes such a face about the pickles: why would they do that to themselves. The ribbing is good-natured, though, and the steak is fine. Bread is new, and he's a little performatively suspicious of it after the pickles, but he turns out to quite like some of the milder varieties.

He notices that they don't have any fresh food on offer; is that something they have a hard time with?

Permalink Mark Unread

Most Amentans don't really like their food raw, except for some fruits and vegetables; they can get a salad if he'd like, though. Amenta has much longer years than this planet, which might have given them an evolutionary incentive to enjoy foods made from ingredients that keep well, since the winter lasts a long time and they don't like to live at the equator if they can avoid it.

Permalink Mark Unread

That makes sense. Crafters do cook, but raw plants are so much faster and easier that they eat a lot of them, even in winter - they can make lit heated plant houses for the more fragile kinds and they've bred or genecrafted others to tolerate being crafted from all year outdoors, there's only a few food plants that are seasonal for them.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's really neat! Amentans have greenhouses but are also usually not eating things that were grown especially nearby; things get shipped all over the planet, and now between them, though they're trying to keep the cargo space for things less locally duplicable than food.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah - crafters don't have to have more than one or two of any given plant, he's sure that makes a huge difference; it's easier to put things close if they don't need to be so big. It sounds like their way works all right for them, though.

Permalink Mark Unread

Their way works fine but it's exciting to have the possibility of so much innovation!

Permalink Mark Unread

He certainly doesn't expect it to be hard to get crafters growing produce for them around the edge of the city. And the genecrafters and fleshcrafters are going to be all over the new sorts of plants, he bets.

Permalink Mark Unread

If they can get enough trade with the crafters going to reduce the area they need to allocate to farms they can put in a botanical garden with Amentan plants that aren't just for eating, and maybe a zoo.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sounds exciting. He'll have to get writing; books are one of the main ways crafters find out about things they might want to travel for.

Permalink Mark Unread

Eventually they can all have their own pocket everythings and satellite internet, if their network thing isn't that efficient at spreading news.

Permalink Mark Unread

He hasn't heard about those yet.

Permalink Mark Unread

Here is a pocket everything! Here is, oh, let's see, how about the latest updates on that arcball game they were watching - looks like the folks in stripes won by six points. That information wasn't on his pocket everything a moment ago.

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh huh! Like their networks but more, somehow? He's surprised at the same machine doing both that and translating but it makes sense - and makes sense of the size - if it's talking to two different ones elsewhere. Is it hard to learn to use?

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentan kids learn to use them, but they use them for a lot of different things, so there's a lot of pressure to get comfortable with them; it would probably take longer for someone picking it up recreationally. The translation is actually happening onboard the everything, it has to because otherwise it would be less secure and sometimes people need to have secure conversations.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. Well, he's interested to try it and there's probably a book to be written about what crafters can use them for but he's not so sure he's the right one to write it; probably better to get a network person out here, for that among several reasons. Unfortunately they tend to be pretty immobile but maybe he can find a young one and collaborate on the book, or something.

Permalink Mark Unread

Maybe! Hey, does he have a guess about how many crafters there are in the world?

Permalink Mark Unread

Not off the top of his head but he bets he can figure it out, hold on -

He makes himself a large oval of crafting material and a pen to write on it with, and roughly sketches out the continents, then subdivides them into climate regions, noting on each one its size in walker-travel days and the rough population density there; a good bit of arithmetic later he has an estimate of maybe seven or eight million.

Permalink Mark Unread

Wow. That is not very many.

Permalink Mark Unread

Compared to a planetful of cities it's really not, no. Cities really wouldn't work at all for crafters, though.

Permalink Mark Unread

It would definitely be hard, though they could live more densely if they wanted, they don't need so much farmland.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's not the limiting factor; most crafters are kind of miserable without a territory claim and there's a minimum size that'll click properly, for those. And then unclaimed land is important too, they'd have other problems if they got rid of that. There could be more of them than there are - he'd guess maybe half again as many, comfortably, if they really tried? - but there doesn't seem to be a reason to try for that.

Permalink Mark Unread

They don't like babies as much as Amentans do, maybe?

Permalink Mark Unread

They are pretty slow-growing population-wise compared to other local species, yeah. Not worryingly so, they're comfortably at replacement, but crafters aren't having a dozen children or anything, usually.

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentans are not at all comfortable at replacement. The anthropologist has mentioned this to lone sassafras already, actually, that they could stand to be more comfortable with it. Though it would be ironic if they found it only after cracking faster than light travel.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. Do they know what their problem is?

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, they love babies, but beyond that, they have a seasonal cycle where in spring they are fertile and really especially want babies - some people on this planet are finding the years too short, actually, and have gone home since they can't just have fifteen children about it. Better to be in spring only a quarter of the time than constantly, and a confused seasoning system will go into emergency perma-spring until it gets unconfused.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's definitely something crafting can fix in theory; in practice he's not sure how long it'll take, it'll depend on how much they know about their biology and whether they can get volunteers to have their systems nudged in various ways and see what kind of usually-unpleasant week they have about it. If they do know exactly what needs to be changed and just don't have a way to make it they can probably have a fix inside a month or two; if not they probably want to see goosewing about it, they're the best research genecrafter on the planet - he's fairly confident goosewing will take the case but they don't travel, the aliens would have to go to them.

Permalink Mark Unread

They can probably get some volunteers, there are a lot of Amentans and some of them spring so badly they'll try anything. Is there a map of goosewing's environs so they could know where to land?

Permalink Mark Unread

He could draw one up - or point it out on theirs, he bets they have amazing maps, speaking of things he wants - but it'd be a better idea for him to go with them, he doesn't expect news of the aliens to have made it there yet.

Permalink Mark Unread

They don't have labeled maps with everything you might want out of a map for this planet yet but they have satellite images! Here is one of those.

Permalink Mark Unread

Delightful!

Goosewing lives here, up in the mountains on the southern paired-continent, he can point it out more exactly if they've got a closer view but it's just south of that one bulge in the mountain line.

Permalink Mark Unread

Here's a closer view.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yep, there - the bridge across that ravine is a good landmark, and this one clearing - how are they going to get there, helicopters? It'd make a bad first impression to take a helicopter as close as that clearing, they'd scare everyone.

Permalink Mark Unread

They could land a water-landing helicopter over here and hike the rest of the way?

Permalink Mark Unread

That's a reasonable distance, mmhmm. It's an odd approach, though, so it might well be trackless, he'd personally want to take a balloon from there.

Permalink Mark Unread

If he can get a balloon into a helicopter that works for them!

Permalink Mark Unread

Hmm - depends on how much cargo a helicopter can take and how many people they bring - he has a low-material one-person design but that's still a decent amount if they're going to want half a dozen of them.

Permalink Mark Unread

Helicopters can be pretty big, and they have some big ones here, and they'd like to bring several geneticists at least to talk to goosewing.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, he can pull his mini out of storage and refresh his memory on exactly how much material it takes and get back to them. - do they have a source of crafting-material yet?

Permalink Mark Unread

Feedstock or the actual converted material? They do not have the latter.

Permalink Mark Unread

The converted stuff - converting feedstock is much slower than crafting things from crafting-material that already exists, you want to be in a safe comfy place to do it if you can be. He can convert some feedstock or try to get it from the locals for them if they have something to trade.

Permalink Mark Unread

Amentans can trade basically anything he has seen available for sale. And services, though those will be more complicated, probably the locals don't want to hire prostitutes or guards or - well, they might want tutors? -

Permalink Mark Unread

...?

(He's blushing to the tips of his ears, all of a sudden.)

...tutors maybe, yeah? And objects, he can ask around about them.

Permalink Mark Unread

Tutors and... landscape designers or do they like to do that all themselves? Art or music commissions, musical instruments? Exotic Amentan foods, maybe.

Permalink Mark Unread

Landscape design might actually work, yeah, crafters like their territories to look nice but not everyone has very good design sense that way, they already hire each other for it sometimes. He could see some crafters hiring someone to help with fine-tuning their personal aesthetic or how their buildings look, too. Musical instruments probably, art and music commissions maybe - he's not sure how they're imagining a music commission to work but he could see a community coming together to pay for a concert if they knew they liked the style. Food definitely, once they're sure it's safe; hard-to-get food is the most common thing traded within crafter communities. Inventors, maybe, once the aliens know more about the abilities and limitations of crafting; getting a specific idea for a new variant of something working is another thing crafters hire each other for sometimes. And it seems like they're better at transportation, in the long run they can maybe do something with that.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Amentans are really looking forward to a bustling trade here! Trade is the bedrock of civilization.

Permalink Mark Unread

Crafters might well disagree with that, he sends, amused. But it doesn't seem likely to be a problem.

Permalink Mark Unread

What do crafters consider the bedrock of civilization?

Permalink Mark Unread

Being good to each other? Everyone having what they need? He expects that's the answer that would shake out, anyway, it's not exactly something they talk about much. But he does expect, like - if they needed to go talk to goosewing now, if the couple weeks it'd take him to make them crafting material for it was really going to cause a problem for them, he's sure he could go to the locals and explain the situation and get crafting material from them for it, with no trade necessary, even with the locals shy of them. Because people having the things they need is the way the world should be, and crafters in general will put their surplus towards that when it comes up, if it'll help. Not that they can't cross a line that exempts them from that - it might well not have worked a week ago - but it takes a lot.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's very lovely, he'll have to think how to put it into words and write it down as a quote.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sounds good. He'd be interested to see it.

Permalink Mark Unread

It'll wind up on the internet for sure.

What else would traveler like to see here?

Permalink Mark Unread

Hm, well, he wants to sketch their architecture, like he said, and he's curious what the city looks like at night, but he doesn't think he wants to stay that late today. He kind of wants to people-watch? He expects he'll pick up some interesting insights that way. If they have feedstock for him he can do some conversion while he's doing it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay! There's a construction site over this way and he can take chunks of excavated dirt and rock that haven't been carted away yet and sit on this bench nearby and people-watch and draw.

Permalink Mark Unread

He crafts up a spindly-legged push-cart to put a modestly-sized boulder on, after a bit of negotiation about which boulder, and sits where he's told, first sketching the skyscrapers and then getting started on the rock while he watches the crowd.

Permalink Mark Unread

The blue sits with him, peering at the drawing occasionally but mostly doing stuff on his pocket everything.

Permalink Mark Unread

He's not a proper artist by any means, and mostly just wants to capture the sheer scale of the buildings; it takes him a couple of tries to find an approach that does the job, but he eventually finds something he's satisfied with and fills it out with renditions of the different textures of the buildings.

Converting the rock is relatively slow, producing a fist-sized amount of crafting-material every five minutes or so, but doesn't seem to take much of his attention, leaving plenty for watching the crowd and occasionally waving back or sending a little crafting-material bubble floating through the air for a particularly charming child.

Permalink Mark Unread

The child, a little yellow, runs after it and tries to catch it in his little hands!

Permalink Mark Unread

It's sturdy enough to be held after it's caught, if he's gentle, and very wobbly, more so than a soap bubble; it's a little darker than a soap bubble, too, in traveler's signature indigo iridescence.

Permalink Mark Unread

Wobble wobble wobble squish pop yelp!

Permalink Mark Unread

This leaves a thin film on his hands that's smooth and easy to rub off, more inclined to stick to itself than to his skin. Traveler sends another one floating his way.

Permalink Mark Unread

He catches that one too and pops it on purpose and rolls it up into a squashy ball of goo.

Permalink Mark Unread

Traveler chuckles and crafts up a squishy little glider out of the same sort of material and sends that his way, too - it won't keep its shape more than a minute but that's fine, it doesn't need to.

Permalink Mark Unread

Woo! This one the child attempts to throw back to him.

Permalink Mark Unread

It doesn't have the structural integrity for the return flight at all, but he just giggles and makes something sturdier this time.

Permalink Mark Unread

The kid is VERY excited to play CATCH with an ALIEN and keeps looking at his parents to make sure they're watching (they are, and the mom is taking video).

Permalink Mark Unread

The alien's having fun too, both with the game and with showing off different designs and appearances of gliders.

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh good.

Eventually the child strays closer to him chasing a glider that veered off course and his parents panic and grab him away before he passes within plausible outflung-arm range of the alien.

Permalink Mark Unread

Traveler flinches back - not when the child gets close to him but in startlement at the parents - right into the blue. He immediately jerks away again: Oh no, he didn't mean to do that, is the blue okay.

Permalink Mark Unread

"- of course, I'm fine, are you all right -"

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, he's fine, he's not the one who just got touched. -uh. -aliens, right. Well, he's fine, that was fine.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, good -" The child is disconsolately squishing his accumulated ball of crafting material while his parents trot away with him flopped on his mother's shoulder.

Permalink Mark Unread

- the kid's going to be all right, right?

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, yes, he'll be fine, he just freaked out his parents. We've told people that children don't trigger the territoriality thing but I suppose they're skittish."

Permalink Mark Unread

...yeah, that's fair. Uh. (He scoots over on the bench, giving the blue a bit more room.) Is there some usual way of letting everyone know things are fine after something like that?

Permalink Mark Unread

He's going to send a text to his secretary to go chase them down and tell them everything's okay and maybe buy them dinner or something.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's good. (He's also a little worried about concerned passerby, and checks to see if there are any still watching.)

Permalink Mark Unread

A construction worker taking a break is looking at them but this is otherwise not a very crowded area and the construction worker seems reassured by the blue being calm.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's fine then. He goes back to his crafting, his mood a bit more subdued, and when he gets to the end of his boulder he suggests that he head back home for tonight and visit their researcher again tomorrow.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay! He can be helicoptered back out to where they found him.

Permalink Mark Unread

He pauses there to look for the crafter diplomat - gone - and then for Sun, to ask if she'll hold onto a network-connection to pass along if she sees them before he does.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure, she'll do that. Does he know how to make them? The physicists really want to experiment on one.

Permalink Mark Unread

He does! What do they know about them so far?

Permalink Mark Unread

They know they transmit messages pretty fast, but it's very interesting if they can do it faster than light and in particular if they can do it faster than a subspace transmission.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay, if that's all they want to know then a standard pair will work fine - standard pairs change color and magnetization, color for a visible indication of what's going on and magnetization so they can interact with other machine parts in a dark box, always changing both aspects at the same time. Do they have a preference about the colors? Do they need a machine to change the magnetization on one or both sides?

Permalink Mark Unread

Any color is fine and they can provide their own magnets but one designed to work with the machine will be convenient!

Permalink Mark Unread

Hmm, okay, give him fifteen minutes -

And fifteen minutes later he presents them with two hand-sized ovals, each with a three-position toggle marked 'concave', 'empty', and 'convex' on one end and a patch of sky blue on the other; setting the toggle one one oval to empty and the other to convex changes the sky blue to midnight blue on both, and similarly setting them to empty and concave changes them back to sky blue. Empty is the receptive state, he explains, and convex and concave are the types of magnetization; setting the ends to convex and concave at the same time will have unreliable results and will tend to damage the connection parts if they leave them that way for long. (A proper network machine will have safeties for this but he'd need to check a book to see how to make them.)

Permalink Mark Unread

Cool. There is actually some cash to be had on-planet, they were building their network from the ground up and didn't want everything to screech to a halt if it went down for some reason, so here is a pile of cash the physicists put up for this.

Permalink Mark Unread

...sure, he guesses?

Anyway here's a network-end for the crafter diplomat and if there's nothing else he'll get going.

Permalink Mark Unread

They look forward to seeing him tomorrow!

Permalink Mark Unread

Yep!

 

The network connection they're holding for lone sassafras starts changing colors in the wee hours in the morning, quickly blinking between indigo and gold for a minute, waiting ten, then blinking for another minute, with no apparent sign of stopping in this pattern.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. The grey on night watch writes that down in case it matters later.

Permalink Mark Unread

Lone sassafras comes by in the morning, as usual, and quickly identifies the blinking as a message trying to be sent through. She pops the connection into her machine while it's resting between sendings, and on the next cycle it prints her out a page: Indigo's had a rough night after eating the aliens' food and won't be by today. Their doctor friend thinks they'll be fine and should just have started more slowly with it. They might send some questions later for their book.

Permalink Mark Unread

...indigo?

Permalink Mark Unread

From yesterday? ...writes under the name traveler?

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh! (Amentans have mutliple designations too, they just aren't used to the context switching.) They wish him a speedy recovery and if the doctor friend has any other guesses about what might be easier on the digestion they would be eager to hear.

Permalink Mark Unread

She passes this along; the reply comes back quickly that his doctor friend thinks food more like what they're used to eating will have much less risk of this sort of thing but that it should be possible to get used to new things if they just take it more slowly and give their digestion a chance to adjust.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay. Maybe they will put together sample sized collections of things for crafters to taste at a gentler pace.

Permalink Mark Unread

Indigo writes back that that sounds like a good idea.

 

Meanwhile, in the city, there's a crow who's heard about threehawks' request for information about other kinds of newpeople. It took a few days, in between making the rounds between all his newpeople friends, but he finally spotted one! They also come in red-haired! He's going to get such a tasty treat from threehawks, and maybe more if he can tell her more things about them. The newpeople like to live in treecliffs all together with other newpeople with the same hair, so he shouldn't need to find this exact newperson again now that he's followed them home, just check all the windows of this treecliff until he finds one that's open and then he can go in and see!

Permalink Mark Unread

The windows in the red-haired-people building are basically never open. The ones that are open - when someone has burned something cooking, when someone's air conditioning is broken - have screens over them.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's weird!

He catches a thermal to check the roof.

Permalink Mark Unread

The roof has netting over it, two layers of it a couple feet apart, but there are red haired people on it, growing some food and lounging in the sun. A child runs up to the edge of the inner netting to get a closer look at a crow.

Permalink Mark Unread

Hi kid!

He perches on one of the supports and plucks at the netting, checking it out.

Permalink Mark Unread

The netting is actually fairly tough metal cabling, insulated to protect from the weather, barely flexible.

"Hi bird!" says the kid.

Permalink Mark Unread

He pecks at it again and then steps out onto it, carefully, and attempts to get a good bounce going on it. Disappointingly, it doesn't work.

This stuff is mean, he tells the kid; he wants to play!

Permalink Mark Unread

"Aw poor bird," says the kid.

Permalink Mark Unread

Can the kid help? He wants to play!

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can't let you in, bird, that's not allowed."

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't catch the words this time but the tone is clear enough.

He flaps over to the edge of the building and starts checking out how the netting is attached there - newpeople make worse edges sometimes, they don't leave them all smooth like crafters do, maybe there's something he can pick apart.

Permalink Mark Unread

The netting is bolted into the concrete once every inch.

Permalink Mark Unread

He spends a few minutes pulling at the various bits of this arrangement to no effect - maybe he'll get a toothycrow to come try later - and then hops back over to watch the newpeople some more.

Permalink Mark Unread

One is mending clothes, two are weeding their little garden, one is spraypainting something, some are just sitting in the sun, a bunch of kids are playing with some very miscellaneous toys and empty boxes. One of the sunbathers notices his pocket everything going off and leaps up to run back into the building.

Permalink Mark Unread

Not very different from any other newpeople, really.

Hey newpeople! Why can't he come in?!

Permalink Mark Unread

The gardeners look at each other. "Can they - understand us?"

"I don't think so."

"Which means it's no harm to explain, I guess."

"Sure."

"You can't come in because it would make you polluted," says gardener the first.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can understand them if they use words he knows and talk slow!

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"What words do you know?" asks the chattier gardener, switching tasks to putting the other's picked weeds in their weed bag since that requires less attention than picking them herself.

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He knows lots of words! (He puffs up a bit about it.) He knows, uh - bird, and no, and yes, and understand, and treat, and can-you, and good, and baby, and meat, and toy, and here, and...

And shortbeak said hawkbotherer said threehawks will give treats to crows who tell her about the other-color newpeople! And he found them!

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...oh dear.

"We could tell the social worker."

"Do you think that will... help?"

"...no, but I don't know what else..."

"We could tell Stam."

"I know you like Stam but what's he going to do?"

"He could make out like he heard a bird talking to us himself."

"...I guess that could work."

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Hey! Why are they worried all of a sudden?! Are they secret newpeople? Should he not tell threehawks?

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"...don't tell threehawks," tries the red.

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He won't tell threehawks. He doesn't think threehawks is bad, though? Hawkbotherer and shortbeak wouldn't've said things for her if she was bad.

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"We don't think threehawks is bad," says the red slowly, "but don't tell people."

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He won't tell threehawks.

He will tell shortbeak to tell hawkbotherer to stop telling the crows to look, because some of them wouldn't ask before telling.

Why are they secret?

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"That's... complicated."

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Why are they so worried they're getting him all worried too.

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"It's complicated, I'm sorry."

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Do they have a problem he can do something about. He's a very clever crow, he knows lots of tricks and words and things.

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"I don't think so, but thank you."

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He fluffs up grumpily and flies off to find shortbeak.

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A couple hours later, Sun mentions to lone sassafras, "The governor's office thinks I should try to explain the seventh caste now."

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She can't really hide that she's not all that surprised by this, though she doesn't mention it.

Yes?

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"Apparently some of the crows are interested in them, and we're not sure how to best explain that they need to stay away. The reds are polluted and it's important that nobody else touch them, and we're leaning towards crows counting as people for that purpose."

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That might be tough, even cooperative crows don't have the best attention span for that sort of thing, especially if they haven't personally seen the consequences of it. She might be able to help explain it to them if she understands the problem a bit better?

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"We're not making it hard for crows to avoid them, but someone saw one picking at the netting over their rooftop, and if some poor crow got in there it would be so miserable while it was washed off. Reds do unclean jobs, like incinerating bodies, removing garbage, and dealing with wastewater. We've been assuming you craft those things away, but we can't, so we just do our best to keep all the dirty substances contained."

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Ah. Well, crows don't have the best grasp of contagion as a concept, but they know about diseases and plenty of them will have lost someone they cared about to one, it shouldn't be too hard to get the idea across. Also if they end up washing a crow they should make sure they can fly properly before they set them loose again and bring them to a crafter if not, it's easy to damage their feathers with too much handling.

She's a little confused why this subspecies was secret?

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"It's not exactly a secret, but most Amentans prefer not to look at or think about or interact with reds, so it hadn't come up."

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That's a little odd to her but she supposes if it's easy enough to do then people might want to. Some crafters might be annoyed at the omission if they present the list of the other subspecies as a complete one.

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There aren't very many reds, and they're less relevant in most situations than blues who have a similarly tiny population, but that's reasonable and future lists should have reds included even if it's uncomfortable for whoever's explaining.

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Hopefully it won't take too long for it to get to be common knowledge so they don't have to. Anyway, she'll explain to her crows and ask them to pass it around; it'd be a good idea to have indigo talk to some of the crows in the househive about it, too.

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Yeah, they can't make themselves understood in much detail to crows yet, though they try.

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It's neat that they can manage it at all - she kind of wants to talk to some of the crows they've been communicating with, hear what that's been like for them; she might see if she can get any to visit sometime when she's less busy.

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Sun could bring her baby and see if the baby's crow will come?

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Seems worth a try. She'd like to meet a baby newcomer anyway.

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Sure! Her baby says a few words but can't walk very well yet so there won't be any concern about a loose baby wandering up to a crafter.

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Aw, babies are so cute at that age, too. She has more spare crafting-material now, she can bring some out and set up a playpen and some toys maybe?

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That sounds great!

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The next day, in the evening, the crow from before makes his way back to the roof of the reds' building, this time with two larger crows following.

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Some reds are having a picnic up there, and one is turning their compost bin, and there are some four year olds making out.

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Hello, one of the larger crows sends to the one working with the compost.

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Compost red looks up. "...hello."

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The crow has an important message from the crafter threehawks, who should she tell it to?

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Oh, nobody here is an important message person, probably they want the government office with the blues.

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Threehawks said that it was very important to only tell it to someone with red hair, and not blue or green at all.

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"...well, we have red hair, if that's the important thing..."

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The crows don't understand those words, but threehawks said to give the message to any red-haired newperson if there was a problem.

The message is that crafters have walking machines and other machines, and threehawks knows that this is bad and wants to know if she can do anything to make it better.

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...ah.

"I think the walking machines are not bad if they just walk."

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They think he said it's not bad for machines to walk, is that right?

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"Right. It would be bad for machines to do other things, but walking is not bad."

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Crafter machines do other things, yes.

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"It's okay if they do things Amentan machines can do already."

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They don't know what newpeople machines can do. But threehawks thought something bad was going to happen.

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"If machines that can do our jobs are around that would be bad."

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They didn't understand enough of those words.

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"There are things reds do. Things the other colors need us to do. If machines could do those things that would be bad."

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The crows don't know all the things crafter machines can do, there's a lot of them. But it's probably bad, yes. Threehawks wants to know if she can make it better. These crows do, too.

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"...I don't know. That would be very complicated.

We can use the internet, the Amentan one."

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They recognize that one word but don't understand it.

They think they should tell threehawks that they found the red newpeople but they're having trouble talking to them and see if she can help. Does that sound okay?

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...yes. And that she cannot visit them but she can talk to them.

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Okay, they'll do that.

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They appreciate it.

Next time Sun comes by lone sassafras's meeting place she brings her husband, Ento, and the baby, Shian, and the crow, Shadow.

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The baby is cuuuuute. Lone sassafras is still staying in her walker by default, but she's much more willing to get out of it around the newcomers now, and she does so to make a big raised padded enclosure for her with plenty of raised bits for her to lean on to move herself around and baby-sized benches.

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Sun releases Shian into the playpen! Shian is initially shy of all this new stuff but eventually she makes her way to a bench and climbs up onto it and says "Look!" and claps her hands.

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Lone sassafras of course doesn't understand the word but she's familiar enough with babies for it not to matter very much; she's already watching. She claps back.

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Clap clap clap clap! Climb down. Clap! "Shadow, Shadow," she coos, holding out her arm.

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Here's Shadow! She's very careful with her claws as she lands on Shian's arm and presents her head for petting.

Aww, they like you, lone sassafras tells Shian.

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"Shadow Shadow," says Shian, petting so so carefully because Shadow doesn't like it if she smacks. She kisses Shadow's beak.

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Shadow trills happily and nuzzles her back.

She'll be good with hawks when she's a bit older, proably, lone sassafras comments as she crafts up an open-lattice ball with a smaller rattle-ball inside to offer the pair.

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What does one do with hawks?

Shian contemplates this ball, then puts it on a bench and rolls it off onto the ground and then does it again.

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Shadow hops after it and gives it a shake.

Hawks hunt, and they make good lookouts - that's how lone sassafras knows when Sun and her people are on their way, the hawks spot them and signal it and then the crows notice that and come and tell her. They can be useful against predatory animals, too - they aren't nearly as good at working together as dogs are but they can still mob something.

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Hm, it doesn't seem like Amentans particularly need hawks but maybe Shian will want one when she's older anyway.

Shian holds out her hands for the ball; she wants to roll it back to Shadow.

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Shadow hops over to give it to her and then hops away to wait for the ball.

Hawks are also pretty fun, yeah, hunting is valuable enough for crafters that of course they use them for that but she could see keeping one just to have.

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Shian rolls the ball to Shadow! "It's been a real help having Shadow around, especially since I'm away for work a lot," says Sun, petting Shian's sea-green hair. "Of course they can't do most of the work but they can give Ento long enough to cook lunch or take a shower, entertaining her."

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Yay, fetch! Shadow also likes tossing the ball into the air for Shian to catch, even if she can't get much distance with it.

Crows are great with babies that way, definitely. They're good with older kids, too - you can't trust them to have very good judgement, or not to keep secrets once the kids are big enough to ask them to, but they have pretty good instincts for danger and they'll go for help if there's a problem.

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Shian is terrible at catching but thinks it's hilarious when the ball bonks her on the head. Ento takes video of her playing with Shadow.

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Shadow thinks it's much more fun to shake the ball than bonk Shian on the head with it, but it's not like they're going to not enjoy themselves either way. Lone sassafras is content to watch until they come to a lull, in any case. (One of traveler's dogs - he's moved his household closer to the meeting spot, a little ways off from the flattest area that the Amentans like for their tents - comes over to sniff at Ento and solicit petting, in the meantime.)

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Ento lets the dog sniff him and very tentatively pets it.

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The dog wags his tail and looks expectantly at him.

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"...what does it want?"

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Oh, they probably want to play - here - She makes a ball and tosses it over.

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Ento will throw the ball for the dog.

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The dog is pretty happy about this!

Traveler comes out to join the group after another few minutes. Aw, cute baby!

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"Thank you!" says Sun.

Eventually Shian gets cranky and Ento picks her up and starts walking her to sleep on his shoulder.

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Awww.

Sassafras sits with Shadow to ask her questions about the city; meanwhile traveler asks Sun about the pocket everything he's after - has she been able to find anything out about getting one that uses crafter writing?

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There is now a crafter input method! It's not very smooth yet, they can submit requests to the translation project.

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Great. He's going to want two, one for himself and one for the diplomat, does she know how long that'll take?

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They have spares, since it would be really bad to be without pocket everythings far from civilization. Sun can unwrap a couple for him.

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Excellent.

He's been thinking he'd like to talk to some of the aliens over their internet, just kind of random ones maybe, for his book; is there a way to do that that she can show him?

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Sure, if he wants random aliens there's Chat Shuffle - it'll only get ones on this planet, the lag is big for ones on Amenta. If he wants ones on Amenta he can use Async, a message board where you can post questions or remarks and people discuss what you said underneath.

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Chat Shuffle sounds like it might be what he wants. - he wants to be able to find the same person again if he has followup questions, though.

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Then he can ask anyone he wants to keep in touch with on Chat Shuffle for their email address or their Breakout ID or their Everybody name.

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He'll need a little help figuring those out, too, but eventually it comes together.

 

That evening, a crow drops a rolled-up tube of unassuming grey crafting material through the upper net on the reds' roof.

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It rolls along the inside layer of the net for a bit and comes to a stop near the northwest upper corner.

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...well that's not how this was supposed to go. The crow looks for a red to get the attention of.

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There's one pacing with a baby on his shoulder; the baby is very fussy and the dad is very tired. There's an adolescent one doing homework over there. There's an old lady taking apart and repairing something with loud power tools.

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He hops over closer to the teenager. Hey newperson!

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She looks up. "Hey bird."

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He brought over a message from the crafters but it got stuck, can she get it?

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"Uh." She looks. "I guess I could maybe climb up there? I'm not sure it's a good idea..."

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He doesn't understand those words.

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"What's in the message?"

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It's from the crafters. They didn't tell him what it is.

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"I don't..." She looks around. The dad and grandma haven't even noticed she's talking to the crow. She puts her homework down and goes to try to climb up the netting a ways to reach the message.

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The crow comes along - he can't reach the message from here, so there's probably not anything he can do to help, but it's still interesting.

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She manages to climb far enough to stretch up and poke it, and then it falls down the rest of the gap between nets till it lands on the top of the wall, and then she can reach in and pinch it and pull it through.

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Once unrolled, the sheet has a message on it in blocky, inexpertly-written tapap: The crafters lone sassafras and traveler would like to talk to them; here's their contact information on the Amentan internet. The material this message is made of will decompose in a few days so they'll need to write it down somewhere else if they want to keep it.

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Well, it can't really hurt anything to have it written down. She saves it and then tucks the message under some mulch in the garden.

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The next day, traveler gives Chat Shuffle a try.

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Please wait...

Assembling chatters...

Chat is about to begin! Remember, inactive chatters will get dropped from the shuffle. If you want to keep up with somebody offsite, we recommend using a temporary Breakout alias, not your main ID! Report abuse by tapping the name of a bad actor and selecting MOD ATTENTION.

This shuffle will last till there's only one person left in it! You can leave any time with the RESHUFFLE button.

gingercake is here
5050501 is here
traveler is here
yamo4 is here
soundandleaf is here
orangespring90712 is here


yamo4 said: orangespring you have 2 minutes to prove you're a person before I call a mod
orangespring90712 said: hahaha really? wow! that reminds me of something... [link]
orangespring90712 said: is anybody else permaspringing reaaaaal bad......
soundandleaf said: are you going to give them the whole 2 minutes
yamo4 said: nope!
orangespring90712 has been kicked
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What.

Well. Maybe - give it a minute and see how this works?

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soundandleaf said: so I guess location is kind of silly here but hahaha age/caste? I'm 8, purple
gingercake said: 16, purple
yamo4 said: 5 and you guys are both lying nobody on here is actually over 6. yellow
5050501 said: I'm 7 I'm just SO bored, had to stay home from everything because I had a cold. orange
gingercake said: I thought they screened the passengers!!!!
5050501 said: don't get all hyper on me, some colds have long incubation periods or are asymptomatic, they weren't going to screen out EVERYTHING
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traveler said: 60-some local years, crafter, sorry about your cold

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yamo4 said: liaaaar
gingercake said: idk could be legit
5050501 said: thanks!
gingercake said: like they have machine translation for their language, right?
soundandleaf said: I thought they didn't have a language and were just telepaths??
gingercake said: no I think they have writing
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traveler said: We have writing, it's good to be able to communicate without having to be around each other. Being able to use an everything to translate it is new.

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yamo4 said: and you decided to come on CHATSHUFFLE
yamo4 said: pull the other one
5050501 said: why are YOU on chatshuffle, yamo
gingercake said: what's it like being a crafter
yamo4 said: moved here with my parents and don't have any local friends yet
soundandleaf said: hi space alien I'm an Amentan ask me anything
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traveler said: The best thing about being a crafter has to be the crafting, I think. It's much easier to make what we need, so we have lots of time to do whatever we want.
traveler said: Right now I'm writing a book to explain Amentans to the other crafters, I'm looking for stories about what normal Amentans' lives are like for it.

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soundandleaf said: I'd think memoirs would be better than chatshuffle for that
gingercake said: what kinds of things do you do with all your free time then?
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traveler said: I like to travel, so I spend most of my time on that. I've been all the way around the world twice and written books about most of it. I like to help people who aren't used to traveling with it, too.
traveler said: is memoirs a website?

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soundandleaf said: no, it's a genre, people write books about their lives
gingercake said: what kinds of stuff is there to see on this planet?
5050501 said: ping, going to make tea
yamo4 said: ping
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traveler said: Only people who think they're interesting write books about their lives. I want stories about people who just think they're normal.
traveler said: There's lots of great stuff to see here but I think the most fun a lot of the time is all the different plants and animals, especially the talking animals. You've probably already met crows, but there's other types too. Parrots and dolphins and elephants and apes are about as smart as crows, and prairie dogs don't seem as smart but are very funny, they probably talk more among themselves but the only thing they say to crafters is 'fuck off'.

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gingercake said: My building has some crows nesting on some of the balconies! The crows are funny but their babies are UGLY and it was a huge pain to teach them where to go to the bathroom.
soundandleaf said: A crow pooped on my friend's head when he was on his way to work and his boss almost didn't believe it had happened but who's going to stop to take a selfie before they duck into the nearest shower??
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traveler said: Crows don't usually poop on people unless they're rude to them.

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soundandleaf said: for all I know it was an accident, crows aren't that bright
gingercake said: I have seen one entering the door code for my building so that it could steal a stick off a potted plant that it wanted
soundandleaf said: a one year old could do that, they're smarter than fish, they're just not very bright
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traveler said: They're only as smart as a little kid but they don't need to be very smart to understand offensive behavior. Lots of dogs understand offensive behavior and they're definitely smarter than dogs.

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yamo4 said: well I don't think anyone arrested the crow so presumably from a legal standpoint it was not responsible for its actions
gingercake said: they're cute when they're not committing capital crimes!
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traveler said: That didn't translate. What did they not do to the crow?

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yamo4 said: they didn't catch it and take it in for an interview for pooping on somebody
yamo4 said: that's against the law and they're not totally SURE crows are theologically people but they are leaning that way to be safe
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traveler said: Telling crows not to do things works, at least a lot of the time, but it's probably not worth it to catch them to do it, yes.

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gingercake said: pretty sure pooping on someone on purpose is a capital crime!
5050501 said: ping
soundandleaf said: they should just interview crows that commit crimes like children, it's not that complicated. a baby who poops on someone is maybe going to worry their parents but not going to get executed
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(...that's hyperbolic, right, it has to be.)

traveler said: Treating them like children is about right, yes.

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5050501 said: except they don't have parents! or, they do, but their parents are ALSO CROWS
soundandleaf said: yeah they'll probably need some kind of modified procedure. I guess someone could adopt EVERY SINGLE CROW but the crow pop density is higher than the crafter one so I don't know if that's going to happen! maybe they can just catch them and tell them that was VERY VERY BAD and let them off with a warning the first time
gingercake said: how do you tell crows apart? I guess we could tag their legs? Would they mind that?
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traveler said: I don't think anyone has tried it. I'd expect some of them to put up with it but not all of them. It gets easier to tell them apart when you've been around them a lot, and they'll tell you their names if you ask, but that won't help Amentans much.
traveler said: They really don't cause problems very often, at least for us.

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5050501 said: you can talk to them more easily though
yamo4 said: they're learning Tapap pretty fast, maybe they'll be fluent or the next gen will
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traveler said: Maybe! And they grow up quickly, if the babies learn it you'll have fluent adults in just a couple of years. And the ones who don't know it are smart enough to get help from the ones who do.

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yamo4 said: my coworker is talking about how if you can get crows to learn more than one language they'd make decent translators since anyone can understand them
soundandleaf said: ooh
5050501 said: is there any reason to think crows could do that and crafters couldn't? traveler do you think you could learn a language?
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traveler said: I think I'd have a very hard time with it, I mostly can't tell the sounds apart.

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gingercake said: I read an article that said Tapap has very low sound variation.
soundandleaf said: this is because all the other languages use baby sounds and it's WEIRD, I can't watch foreign porn unless it's dubbed, it's creepy
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traveler said: The translation works well enough for me, anyway. It'll be interesting to see if baby crafters pick the language up at all.

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yamo4 said: probably if there's ever an orphan one somebody would try adopting them!
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traveler said: I'd worry that they'd grow up not knowing what to do with their territory instincts, if you did that.

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yamo4 said: yeah I wouldn't try it personally but I'm sure someone would go for it if they didn't have an uncle or whatever
gingercake said: the territory instinct could be cultural!
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traveler said: Any crafter can adopt an orphan one, it doesn't have to be a family member. And they'd be in real trouble if you tried that and it wasn't. Claiming a territory is hard enough when we know exactly what we need to do for it.

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soundandleaf said: how do you decide who gets to adopt a baby if it's just up for grabs no family members?
soundandleaf said: we have a list thing
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traveler said: If they have family the family gets first refusal, of course. Or if the orphan is old enough to choose for themselves they'll do that. Different communities do it different ways, aside from that. Just having whoever found them sort it out is pretty common.

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gingercake said: what do gay crafters do if they want kids?
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traveler said: We use fleshcrafting for that; the parts aren't too hard to add. I bore all three of mine that way.

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yamo4 said: wait, what? want!! unless it would fuck up seasoning. wanna tell my boyfriend PUT A BABY IN ME and mean it
gingercake said: oh wow!
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traveler said: The hormones are a little weird, but not too bad for crafters. I don't know what it'd do to Amentans.
traveler said: You'd probably want someone who was pretty good at fleshcrafting the first couple of times, but I have a friend who is who I'm already trying to talk into visiting, so maybe soon.
traveler said: It is a little safer for women than men, if something goes really wrong a doctor can take everything back off again instead of just stopping it as best they can.

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yamo4 said: I guess I will let some lesbians try it first then
yamo4 said: after that though
5050501 said: ping
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traveler said: If you give me your contact info I can let you know when they're ready to try it with a man.

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yamo4 said: yeah you know what, sure
yamo4 said: breakout alias yamo99
gingercake said: are all your aliases yamo and numbers
yamo4 said: what's it to you
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traveler said: Got it.
traveler said: So you know what I do, what does everybody else here do?

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soundandleaf said: construction
5050501 said: physician's assistant!
yamo4 said: colonization office clerk
gingercake said: farmer
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traveler said: What does a doctor's assistant do among Amentans?

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5050501 said: It's sort of between being a nurse and being a doctor. I spend a lot of time fetching equipment and supplies and doing charting, and sometimes when we're busy I can see patients by myself if they're not very complicated, I can check for contraindications and stuff for simple things and prescribe them whatever the usual is.
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traveler said: That sounds a lot like our doctors' apprentices. I bet your medical treatments are very different, though.

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5050501 said: Probably! none of them are magic! half the time what people want is permission to exceed the printed dose on something they already have and a statement about at what point it's serious and what kind of quarantine they should do if any
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traveler said: I'm not sure what you mean by dose. And I'm curious how you do quarantines - we just stay in our territories, and most of us don't leave our territories most days anyway. It seems like it'd be a lot less comfortable to do that with everyone living so close together, your territories must be so small if you have them at all.

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soundandleaf said: ping
yamo4 said: ping
5050501 said: dose means amount of medication. if you're taking a painkiller for headaches you use the amount it says on the bottle but if you have a really bad problem I can tell you it's safe to go up a little more and for how long.
gingercake said: ping
5050501 said: if someone's really sick they go into a quarantine hotel which has negative pressure rooms and lots of air filtration with UV in the ducts and everything but if they just have a cold like me they can just stay in a separate room in their house. my husband's sleeping on the floor of our daughter's room for a few days.
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traveler said: That's surprisingly similar to how we do quarantine, except if you really mean you're staying in one room that's not good for crafters. We have the space to have more than that without seeing anyone, though, usually. If someone's too sick to take care of themselves they'll stay with someone else who'll make them a temporary house with anti-disease features, but that usually at least has a porch.

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5050501 said: there's an ensuite bathroom so I don't have to go through the common areas, and my husband's leaving me meals outside the door I can take in and swap for used plates when they're not home. I don't think it would be wise to go out on a porch even if there were a separate one? there are people next door.
5050501 said: I'm not very sick, anyway, just sick enough I shouldn't be getting on a bus
gingercake said: thank you for your service
yamo4 said: that hasn't been funny in a year
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traveler said: If someone was taking care of two sick people at the same time they wouldn't put their houses very close together or near to their own, yeah.
traveler said: What's a bus? The translation just says it's some kind of vehicle.

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soundandleaf said: it's like a train but - wait that won't make sense either
soundandleaf said: it looks like this [link]
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traveler said: Oh, I see.

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gingercake said: yeah you can't go into those sneezing
yamo4 said: some people have allergies
5050501 said: they make masks that say "allergies" on them!

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traveler said: Masks?

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soundandleaf said: things that go over your mouth and nose so you keep your sneezes to yourself
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traveler said: Oh, that makes sense. We do that the other way around when we need to do it at all.

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5050501 said: That doesn't work as well because droplets can land on things if the sneezer isn't the one wearing the mask!
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traveler said: Well, yes, but that doesn't matter so much if we're just in our own houses where nobody else is going to go, and if we're staying with someone else they can heat-sterilize everything we've used before they reuse the material, it's not hard to do.

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gingercake said: magic is so luckyyy, I hope kids born here can get it
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traveler said: I hope so too! It sounds like it'd really help you out.

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yamo4 said: is it hard to learn to do?
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traveler said: The basics aren't; crafter children learn to use the telepathy around the time they learn to walk and start doing simple things with crafting-material a few years later. After that, it depends on what you want to do; people who get into the advanced kinds of crafting can spend their whole lives improving their skills, but every new adult knows how to do enough crafting to run a household, and most people can learn to do most other practical things with a few years of work at most.

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5050501 said: is it hard to learn to TEACH?
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traveler said: I wouldn't know where to start teaching someone who'd never crafted before, the same way I wouldn't know where to start teaching someone who'd never walked before, but teaching other crafters isn't hard. We have books that teach different kinds of crafting, and I think the crafter diplomat gave your researcher some; did they not share them?

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gingercake said: oh I never have time to read
5050501 said: we can't do any magic, but it'll matter when my next kid's grown up, if they have magic!
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traveler said: I expect someone will have figured out how to connect our networks to your internet by then, so they'll be able to get all of our books at least, even if there are too many young Amentans for them all to find teachers if they want them.

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yamo4 said: man what's this going to do to the economy
soundandleaf said: ask an economist, I want magic babies
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traveler said: I've noticed that crafters do a lot less trade than Amentans; we don't need it for almost anything.

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gingercake said: well you like to live off by yourselves in the middle of nowhere so
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traveler said: That's part of it; another part is that if we want most things we can just take some crafting-material and make them, and we can make crafting material out of anything that's around. That's not true of complicated things, but for those we only need crafting material and a template, and we can use the same template as many times as we want and copy it for all our neighbors to have too.

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soundandleaf said: can you use water to turn into stuff?
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traveler said: Technically yes, but it's very difficult. Any solid matter would be easier; big things that are put together simply are easiest. Dead trees and underbrush are the most popular option since they grow back.

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gingercake said: but like food scraps and packaging and stuff would work?
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traveler said: Sure, they've been bringing me that kind of thing to convert. It's a little harder, since different materials take slightly different techniques and I have to pay more attention to what I'm doing, and not everyone likes that, but I don't mind it and any crafter can do it.

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gingercake said: honestly sounds like not a bad chore. put some music on and do it gossiping with people or something
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traveler said: It's very meditative, and not at all rare for a crafter to run a surplus just because they like doing it.

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soundandleaf said: do you have to touch stuff to craft it?
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traveler said: To convert things into crafting-material, yes, but gloves only make it a little harder. Doing things with crafting-material is easier in a lot of ways and that's one of them, most of us don't have very much range but we don't have to be touching it.

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yamo4 said: welp
5050501 said: there goes all our hopes and dreams lol
gingercake said: ping, need a minty
5050501 said: super legit!
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traveler said: Hmm?

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soundandleaf said: it's an anti nausea thing
yamo4 said: the spicy kind works better
soundandleaf said: I think it's different for different people
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traveler said: I'm not sure I understand, but okay.

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5050501 said: it's definitely different for different people
5050501 said: hey what are baby crafters like, I don't think there's any pictures of them yet
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traveler said: They're a lot like baby Amentans from what I've seen so far, with a few differences - they might be more likely to start bald, and they usually start with lighter hair than they'll have as adults if they have any and blue eyes that also change after a while.

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gingercake said: back
gingercake said: aww baby aliens with changing eye colors! my hair changed, it was sort of plummy when I was a kid and when I was like three it went lavender
soundandleaf said: do you have grandkids? Do you see them much? Did you bring your babies traveling with you before they moved out?
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traveler said: I have grandkids; my eldest one is just at the age where they're making their first territory claim and I'll probably have a great-grandkid after not too long. I mostly didn't take my kids with me - the middle one liked to come on shorter trips but none of their other parents really liked the idea and traveling with kids is hard for them - but I had network connections for all of them and visited pretty often.

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yamo4 said: how many other parents?
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traveler said: One for each, which is a little unusual, most crafters settle down a bit more than I did.

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gingercake said: do crafters get married?
soundandleaf said: were the other three with each other too?
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traveler said: We pairbond but we don't formalize it and it's not always permanent, I don't know whether that counts.
traveler said: The other three never met as far as I know, they all lived in different places.

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yamo4 said: do you still visit your boyfriends or whatever they are to you?
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traveler said: One of them. The first one never really forgave me for leaving and I stopped getting along with the second one as well over time. River-flute is pretty great though.

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gingercake said: oh, what a pretty name! river-flute!
5050501 said: why'd you break up with the first one?
gingercake said: what are some more crafter names?
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traveler said: The story with the first one is kind of personal, sorry. It wasn't their fault at all, though.
traveler said: Crafters don't use names the way Amentans do, but we'll refer to each other by things we know about each other, or write under pen names about things we're known for. For specific other names - strong-tail or clever-tail or long-hand, for someone with a fleshcrafted prehensile tail; moon-clinker or glow-drops or talking-pebbles, for someone running a network machine that worked by dropping glowing pebbles of crafting-material through chutes onto each other; soft-touch or gentle-crafter or sweet-rest for a doctor who was particularly good with people; creature-friend or clever-dogs or least-hunter for someone who was really into training animals. Lots of people end up being called less evocative things either temporarily or permanently - the crafter diplomat calls me indigo because I do most of my crafting in that color, and I call them the diplomat because I don't know anything more interesting about them yet, and that's normal for new acquaintances.

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soundandleaf said: that sounds a lot like job names except other people give them to you
gingercake said: is the diplomat lone sassafras?
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traveler said: That's what the researcher calls them, yes.

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yamo4 said: Lonesassafras Diplomat
5050501 said: this is not a Prism Network cartoon
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traveler said: If we did names the Amentan way they wouldn't call themselves that anyway, I don't think. They were a vehicle specialist before you came.

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yamo4 said: Lonesassafras Vroom, inexplicably serving in a diplomatic capacity
soundandleaf said: I knew a Vroom once actually
soundandleaf said: she picked it when she was two and never changed her mind
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