The ships that appear are huge, probably built in space, made for aesthetic sensibilities not as alien as they could have been. On board they start checking whether the system is a template.
Well, it wasn't before, but it apparently is now.
After some internal discussion, a ship tries to contact the planet -
"This is the Sesati starship Sky's Eternity, of the Sesati exploratory fleet. Our intentions are peaceful. Your coastlines match those of a planet photographed by a civilization we've previously come into contact with, known in one of its local languages as 'Amenta', but we're aware of cases of planets that look very similar from space. We request confirmation that we have made contact with Amenta, or an introduction to the planet we've found instead. We request documentation on physical and ritual cleanliness standards in use on this planet in order to ensure that they are equal to or stricter than our own, and to comply with them ourselves in case visits or trade of physical goods turn out to be possible."
Everybody on the planet is now very excitedly yelling at them that this is indeed Amenta but they haven't met their civilization before, are they time travelers, they are so happy to meet them, here is the documentation they asked for.
There's a pause while they read some of the documentation to confirm that it sounds like Amenta's usual bullshit -
("Matches the download from Summary Bank."
"Does the replicator already have presets for their magical fucking soaps?")
- and while they talk strategy and then they respond.
"We're happy to meet you, too. We aren't time travelers but we do have the ability to step between branches of reality - from worlds where massacres happened, to worlds where they were prevented; from worlds where people lived long and happy lives, to ones where they were tortured into insanity. The Amenta we heard about before from the civilization we met was probably a near miss, to you. We only knew about it because an emigrant from Anitam was working as a diplomat for a different spacefaring civilization, Vanda Nossëo, which we had extensive contact with. Anyway, we're a little confused that you treat animal feces as theologically clean but it doesn't sound as though you'd be trying to trade us objects covered in it. We're relieved to say that there are no other ways in which our standards are stricter than yours that aren't fully redundant with procedures for avoiding cross-species disease transmission. All ways in which your standards are stricter than ours seem possible to fully accommodate by doing a full Amentan-standard decontamination of any objects we send you that might at some point have come into contact with pollutants and been decontaminated only according to our standards where they're laxer.
"If you're much like the other Amenta, you'll want the secret of faster-than-light travel."
Everybody on Amenta who is talking to them agrees that they want this secret.
"We left our planet in more of a hurry than we would have chosen, to slip between realities in search of the power to stand against Vanda Nossëo. It’s unlikely that Amenta has such power yet either. We will need to look farther afield, and that will be dangerous. We have families with young children with us. Eventually, we will find a new planet to claim; it's possible that in the interim it would be useful if we could leave our civilians on one of your moons, or on a tropical island. We have concerns about the way your society is structured, assuming it matches the other Amenta; it would delight us to ask you to do right by Ereith first -
- But we have all seen what happens, when powerful aliens sweep in with every demand they can think of. They get bitter grudging acquiescence at best, and if they dare to sleep soundly it's only because they're fools. We have many things to offer you. We can end hunger; we can end aging. We have songs so surpassingly beautiful they heal the sick. We defy death itself and can retrieve anyone we like from its grasp. We have no need to be grudging and no desire to make enemies. So as a gift, and a gesture of good faith before negotiations truly begin, the warp equations that will free you from your planet - "
That still probably leaves them neatly contained to the system for a while, while they actually build a warp drive, and over long distances or in familiar areas the Sesatis can outpace them. But, well, the point is not to actually empower them, the point is to seem less obnoxious than Vanda Nossëo.
They are extremely fucking grateful and radio the praises of the benevolent aliens. Tapa offers to vacate a moon dome and turn it over to them, Cene offers them a tropical island. What is it they wanted them to do with Ereith?
Oh, they don’t need an existing dome if there’s space for a new one! They can construct one, it's no trouble at all. They let Cene know they'll get back to them about the island when they’ve done more research on whether to expect disease transmission to occur between them.
They don’t honestly really get what happened there? It sounds like Ereith helped them fight their common enemy, but then the other nations turned on them because... Ereith fighting might get its own people killed? And they were so concerned about that that... they killed some more of them? Do they even have that right, that’s bizarre. The aliens are honestly very confused. Probably Ereith is not this confused, maybe the other Amentans should ask them what would make things right.
Incidentally, would the Amentans like to confirm that all-new bodies animated by copies of the final mind-states of (formerly) deceased people are clean by their standards?
Tapa offers them space to construct a dome near their existing ones!
Amenta's international community benefits by having a firm line not to be crossed about involving civilian castes in combat roles. Ereith's thing is different in a way that threatens that firm line. No one wanted to see the Oahk Empire conquer anyone, except for the Imperials, but it has historically been their position that this doesn't justify fully arbitrary escalation (for example, blowing up the entire mainland continent would probably also have prevented the empire from conquering Ereith, if they'd been able to do that and the empire had invaded anyway). The international response to boundary-crossing in sensitive areas like war crimes, population, bioweapons, etc., does generally involve ganging up on the offender to make transgressing unappealing and unlikely to work. They are happy to hear how other places solve this problem, it would be kind of weird if their were the objectively best way.
That sounds... clean, yeah, assuming the new body is, like, alive?
("Can we tell them they're idiots?"
"We can tell them anything Zatar okays but we probably want to be careful which fights we pick."
"But how can they be that horrible? Why?"
"Found a Summary Bank article about it. It's wild.")
"This document was produced by a planet most of whose societies lacked a specific military caste at the time it was written, and which otherwise had technology likely similar to our best guess at the technology available during the time the events of the war between Ereith and the Oahk Empire occurred. The people involved seem to be among the most similar species to Amentans, both physically and psychologically." Here, have the Fourth Geneva Convention, with all its unexplained references to "children under fifteen" and "objects of religious worship". It does a lot of calling out specific categories of protected person or object -
The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect.
As far as military considerations allow, each Party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken to search for the killed and wounded, to assist the shipwrecked and other persons exposed to grave danger, and to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment.
Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary. It shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases.
The obligation of a High Contracting Party to allow the free passage of the consignments indicated in the preceding paragraph is subject to the condition that this Party is satisfied that there are no serious reasons for fearing:
(a) that the consignments may be diverted from their destination,
(b) that the control may not be effective, or
(c) that a definite advantage may accrue to the military efforts or economy of the enemy through the substitution of the above-mentioned consignments for goods which would otherwise be provided or produced by the enemy or through the release of such material, services or facilities as would otherwise be required for the production of such goods.
It's extensive. And it's clearly only the tip of the iceberg; it references other similar agreements.
"Sesat has not sought the protection of specific categories of person but has agreements with some of its neighbors regarding perfidy and oathbreaking. It angers us to see people forbidden to defend themselves.
As for resurrected people, their bodies are certainly alive. We're pleased to know that all Sesatis are or can be clean to Amentan standards."
Many of these things don't make sense to them ("religious worship"? how long are these years? does the civilization these are from even have population control?) but they do appreciate the example to learn from! The prevailing minority opinion on what else to do with Ereith is "declare that they are in fact All Grey, and monitor their population movements accordingly", but it's not a particularly live issue since no one has in fact invaded Ereith since the Empire and it hasn't come up.
Well, that's about as much of a fight as they really want to pick over Ereith. They can clarify that the species in question has severely painful and deadly childbirth and doesn't need a specific year length so only a few of their civilizations have ever ended up pressed for space.
They put up their own moon dome. It seems to just kind of appear, and very quickly once they actually get started on it.
WOW how did they do that.
("We could just tell them. But it's threatening and we literally can't share - probably better if it's not obvious there are things like that, didn't go over great when people wouldn't share with us - "
"It's not literally impossible for them to invent worldleapers and go looking for Revelation or Space and summon. But then they're even worse off than we are."
"But they could and we're not stopping them. Not facilitating, either, I guess - are we? Does it please my lord for us to ferry them to Revelation?"
He turns to face the two of them. "Absolutely not. But we'll tell them. If they come up with something to make it worth our while."
"Could send us their women."
"Could let us kill and resurrect all their reds.")
"That information would be useless without substantial additional prerequisites. But we are willing to sell it, or more immediately useful information about ending senescence, or a new moon dome of your own. We would like to see additional progress toward a framework for laws of war that will interact gracefully with the vast number of alien cultures that don't have a specific military caste; it's possible that if we poll all our people, some will be interested in commissioning works of art; if this Amenta has magic of some kind, that might be of interest to us; some of us want the chance to ask questions of Vanda Nossëo's Anitami diplomat; and in general we are open to hearing about trades that interest the people of Amenta. We look forward to a future of mutually beneficial trade, at least while we find it useful to stay in this system."
And meanwhile, they're incidentally entirely capable of spying on what any or all of Amenta's governments are saying about them. And reading some local news and social media to get a sense of the popular reaction. So what are people saying down there?
Their Amenta has no magic. Do some Amentas have magic. Artists they have, and they'd like to see more templates for escalation-prevention that doesn't rely on having a grey caste. The thing they most want is of course more planets of their own; they're working on warp engines and will do their own survey if necessary but if it happened to be convenient to point them the right way that would be so super excellent.
If they are hoping to be sent women for prurient purposes they will be pleased to know that Amentans who kink on specifically aliens are at gender parity, very common, and willing to talk about this on the public internet. There's a lot of discussion about warp - they like it except for a few people who are nervous about polluting other planets or who think Amentans should be going deliberately extinct to spare future generations various discomforts of life - and about the implications of the alien documents with which they've been provided. Are these hand-translated? By another Amentan from another Amenta or what? There is so much context they're missing.
Well, they may not have actually surveyed this universe in the way the Amentans expect but they can check it for, a. other nearby aliens, b. grey goo expanding at warp speed in all directions, c. the nearest planets with similar gravity and year length to Amenta, and d. what exactly is orbiting Amenta's nearest few stars anyway. They’ll send the information on the nearby solar systems and the best candidate planets if they can get information about whether there’s a local version of this diplomat, they have a picture and a name and a country of origin, and what he's up to if he exists. Or for the laws of war thing. Or if there’s a local version of this abstract sculptor from the other Amenta who'd like to do something for this prompt submitted by one of the aliens.
They can send... treaties on unconventional weaponry and hospitals in occupied territory from some crystalline amphibians very concerned with making sure that no one turns the water a bad color? A treaty from some arboreal bird people banning the use of child soldiers? The other Geneva Conventions? Sesat doesn’t really have anything useful here, and Vanda Nossëo really doesn’t.
That... diplomat... appears to... have red hair? So perhaps there has been a mixup and he's not an Amentan.
"The government of Vanda Nossëo - we mentioned we were seeking the power to stand against them - considers ritual cleanliness a fundamentally illegitimate thing to strive for, and physical cleanliness barely any better. They neither have a caste system nor respect any other society's, and are ideologically committed to accepting all immigrants who might want to live under their rule as well as a few who don't, regardless of what their societies of origin have to say about it. We expect the version we met had probably been killed and resurrected and is therefore probably clean according to your standards and ours but we don't know if they bothered to make sure of that before they made contact by landing him and his party in our capital city. Without space suits. Because they were sure that if any diseases could jump from them to us, or the other way around, they could certainly cure them. They did not to the best of our knowledge care whether we could. He's Amentan. We want to talk to him. Frankly, we want him sent to us alive in an airtight container, but we don't have anything remotely resembling an extradition treaty with Anitam and have very little interest in making demands and you might not have a local version of him anyway."
Anitam can poll their social workers for anybody who thinks he looks familiar and if they really want him shipped to them they can probably finagle it.
They'd appreciate it.
(Is the internet horrified? Some of them are very curious if the internet is horrified on their behalf.)
The internet is concerned about lots of things, among them the ludicrous insult of sending a red as a "diplomat", but at least they do not seem remotely concerned for Nelen's welfare. He is located in fairly short order. Do they have specs for how they'd like him packaged beyond "alive and in an airtight container"?
...Also ideally in a condition to stay alive for a while? And capable of talking? They don't really need anything from the container beyond that he should be delivered alive and they shouldn't have to gamble about local diseases. They'll figure out a nice humane setup on their end.
They will send him in an old about-to-be-donated-to-a-museum-but-still-fine shuttle that can be slaved to an escort and drop it off at their dome. They trust the Sesati will be responsible about making sure he doesn't touch anything important.
The Sesatis aren't going to share space with him, he's an alien and they don't know if this Amenta has the same diseases as the other Amenta and only have preliminary information about whether they can catch anything the other Amentans get or vice versa. And this one hasn't been resurrected. What would have to possess them to let him touch things, they're not Vanda fucking Nossëo.
But the fishbowl they set up for him has a private bathroom and a soft bed and a pot of fake flowers. There's a push-button-to-talk setup and a big transparent wall that looks out on a little room for visitors. There's a curtain, on Nelen's side of the window, if he wants to close it. And there's a Sesati who won the argument about who would get to talk to Nelen first.
Nelen is extremely terrified, not falling for the curtain trap, and prostrating himself on the floor and shaking violently as soon as somebody walks in on the other side of the glass.