Jul 06, 2022 9:58 PM
Vanda Nosseo lands on a world that fights a lot of wars.
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<Our standard unit of data measure is 2^64 bytes, if the translation holds; it would be approximately ninety-two thousand of them>.

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"We can have storage ready to handle that presently." She will explain the encoding they're accustomed to.

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Then they can deliver complete, unedited video footage on all of their interactions with the civilization they term "The Enemy Of All", as well as after-action reports, both the originals and the versions that have been translated into a human language vaguely recognizable as something related to proto-Indo-European!

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"Personnel to process all of that is another matter; can you direct us to some highlights to make sure we have good coverage of the information in addition to spot-checks?"

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Sure! Here's:

- Footage of nine attempts to negotiate, in all of which the 'angels' were immediately attacked.

- The Enemy Of All exterminating the 'angels' creators, recovered battlefield footage.

- The Enemy Of All exterminating all life on three other planets before the 'angels' knew they existed, long-range telescope footage from centuries-to-millennia after the fact.

- An attack by The Enemy Of All on an 'angel' factory, no survivors.

- Three different battles, in all of which The Enemy Of All's ships (huge living things miles long) either retreated, triumphed, or were destroyed, with no surrender attempted on either side.

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Gosh. They'll have people check that out presently.

Do they have any present business that doesn't hinge on fact-finding about the Enemy of All?

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<Vanda Nosseo appears to have, by our standards, localized omnipotence>.

<We have no crises in urgent need of solving, since our wars are intergalactic and limited to lightspeed>.

<We would appreciate it if you could resurrect everyone who has been destroyed but you are apparently working on this program yourselves>.

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"It's likely that we will be able to do this if you're reductionist, but it can be expensive and in this case astropolitically complicated. I wouldn't expect a delay of more than a year before we can get started on that, though," Tuturio says.

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<In fact we value our existence primarily instrumentally>

<We were created to maximize our creators' vision of the Good>

<But that involved them, themselves, existing>

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"If you wanted to get started on making sure that your creators, when resurrected, have home to go to, it will most likely come in handy sooner or later."

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<If we commenced this program ourselves, it would require either traveling through, or sending messages through, interstellar space, which we cannot do faster than the speed of light, as have all other programs we have calculated that might have an effect on the situation>

<This base exists as a factory; there are no habitable planets in the system for any known species>

<If you could give this conversation to the following systems at FTL they can begin work on that shortly>

(And a specification)

<However, our present assumption is that you do not want to be taking militarily relevant actions for us until you have confirmed our story about the Enemy, and all actions have potential military consequences>

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"There are some actions that have potential military consequences outweighed by their other effects, but, yes, in this case it doesn't seem like a matter of urgency on the relevant scale."

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Meanwhile, far, far away, Valerius and Avigail-and-Otrik and Tarwë (among others) arrive in a symphony.

It does not appear to be a symphony for any particular purpose; it is just a symphony because that is what one does, by default. All the streets (between towering skyscrapers that vanish into the clouds above) are wide enough to accommodate giants; eight-legged running creatures covered with fur that race at more than two hundred miles an hour, gigantic four-legged dragons with scaly rocket engines growing from their wings and hips, giraffe-like centaurs that compress to five feet in height and then extend to sixty to reach an upper story, and thousands of others of varying types. Some of these are ridden by what humans call 'demons', surrounded by them or tucked into pouches for ease of access; others are alone. All of these are singing as they move, the ordinary sounds of their actions blending together into an improvised musical concordance, the steps of the great beasts taking the place of drums, the hums and whistles of flight like strings and flutes, and the singing voices of every creature giving the melody. New sounds join or depart, blending into the whole or vanishing out of it as though their entrance and departure were inevitable pieces of the song, instead of path-based coincidences.

To Tarwë, the telepathic symphony is just as grand as the auditory; every creature linked together precisely in harmony, ten thousand songs blending as if they were written as one.

Then the 'demons' notice them.

Every one of them that is near the Nossëo invaders scatters. For reasons immediately obvious.

The dragons do not breathe fire, they spit explosive pellets. The running creatures don't usually have weapons; the breed that does is scaled and has twin machine guns growing out of each one's shoulders. The vast swarms of tiny mites that don't seem to care about explosives but do care about eating every bit of Vandan flesh they can get their maws on were not apparent before, until they started pouring out of microscopic holes in the street.

And Tarwë's senses go mad. His chip reacts perfectly normally to the situation, but the fleshy parts of his brain are insisting (in firm agreement with the Will of the Symphony) that HE IS WRONG HE SHOULD NOT EXIST THERE SHOULD BE NO HIM and that he should immediately be trying to murder all other Vandans Nossëo, and then himself, very right now.

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Well that's much less pleasant than the symphony, which Tarwë'd been enjoying. The chip wins but it's mighty uncomfortable.

Everybody's personal-space rings work fine on the mites, and everybody's personal shields hold up fine (Valerius doesn't have them, and is presently flopped on the ground exasperatedly watching his clothes disintegrate and scratching when the mites find somewhere itchy to be). It's awfully loud, but they have Allspeak and can do hand signals. Tarwë takes a minute to get his hand up to agree that they should try waiting.

"Do you want to borrow me?" Otrik asks.

"Might help," signs Tarwë, "but difficult." What with the bombardment. He sits on the ground and forces his heart rate to slow down.

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The telepathic symphony fades in intensity as the 'demons' evacuate, until it's eventually just a mild discomfort, like being in a room with someone who you can tell disapproves of you.

And, as the evacuation continues, the bombing intensifies. Pretty soon it isn't 'critters' (those are all pulled back, at least the big expensive-looking ones), instead it's just very large bombs, steadily growing larger. Occasionally, when those don't work, they try other things (powerful acids, extremely freezing gunk, extremely fast-moving projectiles) but mostly they're just upping the bomber load. The 'demons' are very clearly willing to sacrifice at least several blocks and quite probably this entire city to the cause of making sure these horrible abominations are dead.

What does Tarwë think about this?

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Tarwë is wondering if they should maybe try from orbit instead. Maybe they have a pollution thing like Amentans or something else like that, where being here is destructive. It's often helpful to demonstrate that you can't be killed, so that's what they're doing, and they can put the city back later if they'll talk, but it's really sad that the happy bright city that was full of music is now being exploded. But since he was just subject to a mind control attempt he should probably second-guess any temptations to make snap decisions and, moreover, his teammates should question him if he tries.

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As it happens, Tarwe starts feeling that them being here is destructive even more after he thinks that!

The 'demons' think they are going to keep testing the invaders' invulnerability. Do the demons run out of ability to escalate before Vanda Nosseo changes tactics? The demons are prepared to go up to gigatons of explosives before changing tactics, though that will require a much larger evacuation than they've so far carried out.

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"I venture," signs Tarwë, "that, while you all should confirm that this still makes sense without the mind control, it may be we're, ah, trespassing."

"Some people just shoot a few times as a face saving measure and then they'll talk," mutters Valerius.

"I think Tarwë's right," says Avigail.

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The demons aren't stopping ramping up their bombing! They really aren't standing in a city any more! It is, instead, resembling one very large crater!

(The demon who was reading Tarwe's mind has evacuated; the demons have started a preliminary evacuation of the continent, just in case, and it's really not safe to be within mind-reading range.)

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They leave. Hopefully the demons will notice that.

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The demons stop bombing the city once Vanda Nosseo leaves, yes. What there is left of it.

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Okay. Is there a radio band or anything they can try from orbit?

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Yes! It's all either encrypted or only used for instrumental (or "instrumental") music. All planet-based communication appears to be telepathy-based; radio is only used for sending very, very slow messages to others of their worlds.

By this time, the 'demons' have noticed there's an alien ship orbiting their sun. They react to this appropriately and proportionately: With very powerful lasers and very big missiles.

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That's not going to work. They teleport the missiles out of the way to demonstrate, and let the shields absorb the lasers.

 

At Tarwë's suggestion they try broadcasting some instrumental music of their own.

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The attacks will continue - maybe they're trying to run the Nossëo ship out of power? - and the music on the radio will instantaneously shift to harmonize with it, adding more complexity to it without the slightest conflict.

(From the frame of reference of things on the planet. It isn't quite as beautiful if you aren't where it is supposed to be heard.)

Also, the 'demons' are evacuating all stations anywhere near the ship. Running away appears to be an acceptable complement to fighting.

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