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File 168780754591.png - (51.83KB , 800x600 , fop-title.png )
1066631 No. 1066631 ID: e139aa

Flockload of Problems

Another quest by Cirr, oops.
NSFW warnings as always, 18+, etc. etc.

With apologies to Lagotrope, Slinko, Typo and Roaway.
471 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1076292 ID: aebe35

constructs cant reproduce they got no peener and vaginer
No. 1076300 ID: f3171e

You have assumed that My.a is doing anything correctly.
No. 1076302 ID: 2a82d3

Until the moment it'd be funniest, fail to consider the implications of what she just threw at you.

OG .zi.ki is a lost friend of Va.nu's, is he? Just when his feelings have started to move on, too. No reason for her to get jealous, at least.

You could break down in tears for the third time this trip, OR channel that energy into preparing the BEST DAMN PICNIC for all the NEW FRIENDS you've made so far.

Not manic enough for you? Make more friends! Send an invite to someone from the neoteuno, like the King or that priestess you got to couple. Fix their broke-a** culture, if their girl isn't going to bother. Broker peace between them and the lepi, why don't you?

All of that is hard, but, really, you should make the most out of the 7 days you've been given before you're screwed. And that's still not considering how screwed up this planet is going to be, when everything is said and done.
No. 1076308 ID: 8f9bc4

My.a is um, desperate too. They're giving concessions all over the place, and claiming it was all part of the plan because they're afraid of admitting to not having perfect control of the situation.

So, maybe that helps? You don't actually know why My.a is here, you only have its word that it pushed a button and created all the beasties. The whole boasting about a contest to the death might just be a cover for whatever My.a is intending to do. Not that My.a won't get everyone killed in that contest just incidentally. But... it's not as... poised to effortlessly destroy you as it wants you to think. So that makes you feel a little better, right?
No. 1076327 ID: fa3034

Lunch break, let's go
No. 1076329 ID: 2aa5f0

>you know I suddenly don't feel very hungry
No, you eat now. We are NOT going to have you pass out again doing basic task because you decided not to take care of yourself while you had the chance. GO. EAT. I guess just ask Lightgreen if she won't mind having some company, she seems to already know Va.ne.tu so it shouldn't be too much of an ask.

>"I don't think I like that starbird very much, actually."
Well she is the one that kicked off the Awakening in an attempt to get revenge on your boss... so fair.

As for what to do. Go grab some food with Lightgreen, bring Va.ne.tu since they seemed to just have had a bomb shell dropped on them and probably shouldn't be alone until they can figure themselves out, and I guess bring Vy.zi.k mostly to keep them out of trouble and partially because they seem like a kid trapped in an adult's body and I kind of worry about the idea of them being by themselves.

Also I'm pretty sure M.ya just kind of panicked with this truce thing since while yeah become friends with people who are meant to be your enemy might make fighting them more painful... that sword cuts both ways and I'm not sure they realize that yet. So yeah, enjoy the truce, use it to build up with only the worry of your neighbors coming to knock your teeth in, and we'll figure it out from there.
No. 1076419 ID: e139aa
File 169912066401.png - (509.08KB , 800x600 , fop-133.png )

> my.a seems desperate
Yeah, this is an interesting wrinkle. Not something I can immediately use, for sure, but they're definitely not the all-powerful controller they want me to think they are.
I wonder if trapping a bunch of very powerful aliens within a scenario that dictates they be on their worst behaviour might have had some unexpected consequences?

> friendship cuts both ways
...it does. Doesn't it.

Doesn't it, My.a. Haha... wouldn't that be something? Vi.al would be amused, for sure, if I ended up convincing every one of My.a's minions to turn on them.

> will you have the strength to pull the trigger to save your friends
I will revisit this question when I am less hungry, tired, and generally flustered.

...I mean, and realising this feels horrible, it might be easier if it was an alien. At least I wouldn't hear their final transmissions on top of their death screams.

But, I mean, if I have to fight a Knight of Lo.ka, let's face it. I'm not winning that fight regardless of convictions. A construct versus a partition, one of the True Shapeless, whose control over substrate is order of magnitudes more powerful and more refined than my own? With accelerated reflexes and cognitive capacity I can't even consider?
If I choose violence, I won't even be able to get my weapon ready before I realise my head is sailing in an arc independently to my body.

The Knights of Lo.ka are terrifying in single combat, okay.

> eat now
> consume
> lunch break
> go have lunch
Okay yes food time.

> somewhere private
> take these two goons
"Lightgreen, I think these two should come with us for lunch."
"Oh, the starfoxes. Yes, Vanehtu is... a friend? Someone I have met. The hermit near the village. I do not know this other starfox but if you vouch for them, starbird, I trust you know them well enough."
"Know anywhere private?"

She looks around sheepishly. "Well, yes, that's... this is why I tend to eat outside of the village. To, uh. Contemplate. Alone, usually."

Va.ne.tu looks at Vy.zi.ki, and sees the restraints.

"Before we go anywhere, Vi.si.mi, could you drop those restraints?"
"oh. yes please. that, please. thanks, vivid copy!"
Va.ne.tu glares at them. "You're staying here with me. We have to talk."

I drop the restraints and send the substrate back to the relay station.

"my.a did say have fun. i don't like being around people, that's not my idea of fun. i'll be leaving now."
"I have one of my flocklets bringing over some fresh fish for me and Vy.zi.ki," Va.ne.tu says to me. "You know, if Vy.zi.ki decides to rather have something to eat instead of wander off alone on low bioenergy."
"i don't have low bioenergy."
"Oh. You're really quiet. I thought you were trying to conserve energy."
They look a little annoyed, and then, after a pause, says "yes. i don't like talking a lot."
Va.ne.tu sighs deeply, and waves them off dismissively. "Alright. Whatever. Leave, then. We'll have lunch without you."

They pause, and look around, and mumble "okay i might be a little low."
Va.ne.tu turns to them and grins warmly. "Alright! Welcome her aboard. Lead the way, Lightgreen."
"Alright, off to the flower patch."
"her?" Vy.zi.ki looks confused.
"...Oh." Va.ne.tu looks embarrassed. "Sorry, I just... sort of assumed. What's your gender?"
"what's a gender?"
I hear Va.ne.tu groan. "I'll explain later."
No. 1076420 ID: e139aa
File 169912069044.png - (85.42KB , 800x600 , fop-134.png )

"wait. flowers."

Vy.zi.ki freezes up.

"flowers. pollen! pollen!!" Their squeaky cry makes me flinch.

I am actually more and more impressed they lasted as long as they did before snapping when I had them trapped.

In a sudden flurry of movement, they slap their hand to the top of their stomach and slide it down. I at first think I see their hand disappear into their fur, but I realise their hand's going in pretty deep for that to just be fluff. I guess it's a stomach pouch, then. How marsupial.

They pull out a strip of substrate and flick it, as it reconfigures into what must be a predefined pattern. Some sort of snout-fitted respirator, I think. And then they slide it onto their snout as it quietly adheres to their skin and fur, tightly making a seal.

I do wonder how they're going to eat through that thing.

"okay. there. not going to die to invisible death spores now."
"Hey, can I take a look at that?" Va.ne.tu holds his hand out towards Vy.zi.ki's snout.
"...okay but give it back."
Vy.zi.ki takes the respirator off with a bit of wiggling, and Va.ne.tu stares at it intently.

"The form factor's been adjusted, but this is Ji.at tech alright. Designed for seekers, probably. Weird. I didn't know My.a had Ji.at schematics or access codes. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised, My.a has a lot of things, but... why did you get given something preconfigured like this? My.a could just give you substrate."
"i, uh... i, uh, don't know h-how to form substrate," they say, clearly uncomfortable.
"Huh." He gives them back the respirator.

"They're fastgrown," I say. "Overly specialised, apparently. Or just not rounded out enough."
"you don't have to say it like it's an insult," growls Vy.zi.ki.
"Low pain tolerance, poor wound healing, poor stamina, pollen allergy. Fragile goods." I thank Vi.al's choice to give me a very inexpressive beak so Vy.zi.ki can't see me grinning internally.
Vy.zi.ki just makes a slightly louder growl at me, and it's like listening to a baby animal do its best threat display.
Va.ne.tu, however, slows to a stop, and looks horrified.

"...I'm so sorry," he says, hands wringing. "That's so horrible."
"You didn't even get a childhood... How long have you been alive outside of a tank?"
"about [3 years] or so. ugh, what is so special about this vatling thing. seems like a bunch of wasted time, spent ineffective and vulnerable. i can't say i feel like i missed out on having even more vulnerability."
"...Never mind," says Va.ne.tu, clearly more perturbed by this. "Let's keep going."
No. 1076421 ID: e139aa
File 169912072476.png - (96.59KB , 800x600 , fop-135.png )

As we reach the promised flowers, I race over giddily as my feeding probe extends.

"This is the--" says Lightgreen as I sprint past her and shove it into the first oversized flower I see that it can accommodate.
Delicious nectar. Oh, so good, so good to my almost completely empty stomach, my body feels like an aching void and all I can do is try to fill it with plant sugars and whatever else...

"...this is the bed of flowers of okay I'm also very hungry," says Lightgreen, giving up and lightly drinking from one of the flowers in a much more restrained and controlled way. I hear my feeding tube start to make loud bubbling noises as the poor flower I'm drinking from is drained dry. Onto the next.

Vy.zi.ki watches us both in fascination, disgust and slight terror. Especially me.

Probably should not have rubbed my feeding probe on their face earlier.

"Fish's on the way," says Va.ne.tu. "My flocklets are eventually reliable. The one I have on delivery duty wanted to spook some random lepi on the way, so, uh, on the way."
"what's a flocklet?"
"...wowwww," says Va.ne.tu, whining, and I think I see part of his spirit leave his body. "You don't know much, do you. Alright. Hey, Vissy, listen in on this, it's story time."
"is it a story about flocklets?"
"No. But I think we all need some context for the personal torment I find myself in now."
"i mean, i don't know why that involves me--"
"Shshshshshsh. Listen. Sit down if you want."
"i'd rather be able to run."
No. 1076422 ID: e139aa
File 169912077515.png - (408.19KB , 800x600 , fop-136.png )

Va.ne.tu tells his story, a glittering cloud of substrate before him forming representations and patterns of light. They are abstract, but smoothly rendered, even as the motes of substrate drift.

A long time ago, before his decanting, before his inception as a design, there were two cruel Lords, who fought bitterly.
But each had a secret that could let them destroy the other.
Yet they fought over petty matters of mildly slighted honour and minute territories.

Va.ne.tu pauses, realises his story is far too vague and could be about almost any pair of two Shapeless Lords, and starts over.

Once upon a time there was a Lord who was a grand sculptor and a master builder.
It made beautiful things, statues that would stand the test of time, great sweeping structures, grand megastructures in the void.
And one day, fearing it might never reach perfection, it decided it needed another perspective on its own creations.
However, as it peeled off a partition of itself to grant it such perspective, it changed its mind, and split that partition into two more.

One of these partitions would become a great architect, dedicated to producing works for the master builder to refine and fill with great art.
The other would act as a muse, a source of endless ideas and inspirations, and in time would grow to be an entertainer and performer to bring joy to the Lord and its few subjects.

Va.ne.tu stops again, sighs, and says it doesn't feel like his story to tell, and says he'll skip ahead.

One day, My.a made a construct, and her name was Vy.zi.ki, but My.a made a mistake.
My.a did not include an existential directive to bind the construct to the will of a Lord.
Vy.zi.ki was never decanted. Vy.zi.ki was quietly destroyed and recycled.

Va.ne.tu's earliest memories are of a distraught, inconsolable My.a, and a friend he never got to meet drifting in a tank. Too young to appreciate the concept of death, Va.ne.tu spent much of his young life wondering when the sleeping friend would be let out of the tank, and, over time, over his life, he imagined how this lost counterpart might be. Who they might be, before they were denied a life for the crime of having been made wrong. He wondered how they might be friends. He wondered if they'd maybe be more than that.
Or, well, Va.ne.tu starts to mention this, looks at Vy.zi.ki, blushes, and cuts himself off, returning to how he mused about he never even knew what sort of purpose she was ever designed for.

In time, his idle fantasies faded away, as it was clear that, no, Vy.zi.ki had not miraculously survived, had not gone into hiding, and especially was not going to come to his aid as he lay dying on a forsaken beach, unfulfilled existential directive melting him at a cellular level.

And seeing a new Vy.zi.ki, alive, moments ago, well. A scarred-over mental wound, freshly torn open. A lifetime of wondering what could be grimly answered by a question he hadn't even dared to ponder. Would My.a simply try again? And if so, for My.a's sake, or for Va.ne.tu's?

Because the idea of Vy.zi.ki being remade by My.a would be ghoulish enough, but the idea of it being a gift from My.a to him, a brand new sapient being forged and contorted into an expected shape without a single consideration for their own individual nature...

Va.ne.tu trails off, and mumbles that he's clenching his fists so hard they're starting to hurt, so story time is over now.
No. 1076423 ID: e139aa
File 169912082724.png - (71.06KB , 800x600 , fop-137.png )

Vy.zi.ki looks increasingly agitated.

"my.a didn't tell me any of this."
"Yeah My.a likes to not tell people a lot of things, apparently," says a frustrated Va.ne.tu. "Let me make this very clear for you, though. You aren't that Vy.zi.ki. You can't possibly be that one. But also, that Vy.zi.ki never really got a chance to live, so, for all I know, maybe you are acting exactly like she would have."
"and you're obsessed with who you thought that vy.zi.ki might have been?"
"...well I mean, just, look, I've, I've been on my own a lot in my life, I've gone through some stuff, I know it sounds kind of weird to just say it but... ugh."

Va.ne.tu sits on the grass. "I don't know how to feel about this. ...How do you feel about this?"

Vy.zi.ki stares blankly. "i don't know."
"Yeah, that makes sense."
"i don't know what i'm supposed to feel. i don't know a lot of things."
"Well, I can help you out. It's... kind of something I've wanted to do, anyway."
"for the old vy.zi.ki."
"Well, there's only one Vy.zi.ki around now anyway. I never expected there to be one, but I always knew all my predictions of who she'd be would be wrong."

"Well..." He grins, tearing up. "Well I guess I wasn't wrong that you'd be so adorable, though. Yiyiyi," he chuckles, in the lowest energy laugh of his I've heard him give.
"kikiki, shut up," says Vy.zi.ki, pulling their tail up around them in awkward embarrassment. "...i'm sorry."
"What for?"
"i would like to be that vy.zi.ki, i think."
"Well, you can't, really. You're something new."
"and blank and meaningless," says Vy.zi.ki, eyes watering. "my.a never said i was a replacement. my.a just said i was their first construct. i don't even think that was meant to be a lie now. and it turns out i'm a mess. a wreck. a failure. here too late, here too soon."

"W-well, you know wh-what they say," says Va.ne.tu, starting to tremble. "B-better l-late than n-never!!"
No. 1076424 ID: e139aa
File 169912085913.png - (154.89KB , 800x600 , fop-138.png )

And then he bursts into tears, sobs wracking his body.
Vy.zi.ki watches him awkwardly, tears streaming down their face, unsure what to do with themself, hand half stretched out to Va.ne.tu.

...I realise I've been trying to suck nectar from an empty flower for the past [10 minutes]. I think all those conflux streams Va.ne.tu watches must have bled into his capacity for storytelling, I was hooked. I see Lightgreen is also watching these two like it's a live performance of a show. My flocklet hovers just in a blind spot, and feels weirdly more upset about what I'm watching than I do. Maybe I'm just emotionally spent, and my flocklet isn't? Emotional chemicals can be strange.

"(I just want them to give each other a hug so much,)" says Lightgreen, leaning in towards me with her voice a low whisper. ...wow, we have been talking in the lepi tongue this entire time, haven't we. You know, autotranslators can make that sort of thing confusing.
"(You got invested in this very quickly,)" I say, trying to find an untapped flower.
"(Starbird, I know you have a heart. I don't understand all of what is being discussed, but, well, I understand pain. Can you help them?)"

Lightgreen sure is quick to care about aliens and alien matters. ...look who's talking, Vi.si.

Well. I guess I could try to butt in with my own perspective on the situation, whatever that is, or just let them be, or maybe me and Lightgreen should give them some more privacy. Their lunch still hasn't shown up but at this point I think I've drained every flower in the immediate vicinity, so presumably so has Lightgreen. We could just say goodbye and leave them to it. Or just... stay here, I guess. Aside from a visit to the village leaders to get a situation update, I don't have many other plans for today.
No. 1076425 ID: 99f29a

There isn't much an outsider can do when people don't yet know how they feel about a private grief they share. Give them a bit of time to decide. For now, just stay here.
No. 1076426 ID: ba9785

> did not include an existential directive

So that wasn't a special one-off for a very dangerous construct.

So much unnecessary pain...
No. 1076428 ID: 99ca7b

Quietly resolve to kick My.a in whichever bits are most vulnerable, for causing these two all this pain and being generally an irresponsible parent.
No. 1076430 ID: 2a82d3

At minimum, encourage them to hug. It sounds like nothing short of ascension to Lord-hood will fix them. Stick around only if they, seriously, start to consider that. It's also tempting to let them independantly recreate the Flockdrone project, if now wouldn't be the time for that for many, many reasons.

You may also promise to consult with your medic later, to remedy how frail Vy.zi is. She'd be suspicious of any treatment as that could be an opportunity to sneak in a vulnerability on her, but she's all vulnerabilities as it is.
No. 1076437 ID: 2aa5f0

you should probably give them a moment to let out all their emotions and then go in for the hug. Hell I'm sure Light green will probably join you with giving them a hug.
No. 1076444 ID: 0a437e

oh my heart
well getting them to hug should be the easy part, have flocklet pull Va.ne.tu's hand over to Vi.zu.ki's and it's over for both of them
actually dealing with the emotions and situation is another, best I can think of for now is after lunch and repairing the transmitter let these two reach out to My.a
No. 1076450 ID: 47c854

...Wow so this is why My.a gave them a week without duties. ... Guess she does have a heart even if it is hiding. Guessing it's the only redeeming quality you've seen of her madness? Either way your flocklet is enough emotional help. Quiet moral support may not help though it will definitely not do damage. Heh. Perhaps Doctor Vissy has a way to redeem My.a a little. For these two rather than herself. (ohholyshootMy.aisapartitionofMu.atsoVa.ne.tutakingordersfromhercountsasMu.at's - Mu.at is the villain here. He gave everybody deep psychological wounds. Seems like absolute power hurts everyone absolutely lol - wait that's not funny at all. Sheesh is Vi.al the only lord with scruples?)
No. 1076460 ID: 273c18

>it's a pouch
Oh. That's a lot more sanitary.

Mu.at really was a fucker wasn't he. I suppose this means My.a is the muse? But who was the other partition? Or maybe... considering the structure of the story, maybe Mu.at was the "first" partition that got split into two which puts him ahead of My.at in the hierarchy, and Wu.at is the progenitor of the two? I wish we knew who Wu.at is/was.

Go over and give Va.ne.tu a hug, and gesture for Vy.zi.ki to join you.

Once things are a bit calmer, you should make it a bit clearer to Vy.zi.ki that existential directives are immoral, and Vy's predecessor was killed by... someone who objected to My.a's attempt at giving her more freedom. We don't know exactly who did it do we. Maybe you should ask who Wu.at is, if you don't know already.
No. 1076461 ID: 0a437e

We're going to have to ask Vi.al so many questions about Mu.at, mr."deserved be forgotten", because sadly, their actions are clearly still here and we NEED context
No. 1076464 ID: f3171e

Let the flocklet provide silent emotional support for now, and continue eating. This is a private matter, but the flocklet should provide a similar role as an emotional support animal does to organics.
No. 1076490 ID: 8f9bc4

Nu.ya.si is wrong, by the way. Sir Lu.a, from what we can see is irrational not unreasonable. As long as you can navigate the (very twisted) logical rules governing his behavior, he should be perfectly reasonable to deal with.

Though I suppose you could say the same of My.a.

He's like a mini-My!

No. 1076495 ID: fa3034

Do they grill their food? How about you whip up a makeshift grill for the fish? Unspoken support for these two emotionally (and more) broken friends? At least hug Va.ne.tu. you're closer to them.
No. 1076498 ID: 09f667

I would say to give yourself some credit, that you could figure out a way to beat Sir Lu.a in single combat, but I would also be lying. Sir Lu.a would be optimized for combat; any serious combat encounter with them would likely be extremely bad for you. But as you mentioned, friendship cuts both ways. Sir Lu.a may be an enemy, but to see you in any positive light will introduce hesitation. For Sir Lu.a, you should build a rapport with the species they have under their charge, and that would make it quite difficult for them to fight you directly. Alternatively, take advantage of their inclinations towards theatrics, and challenge them on a battlefield of wit or art.

For right now, these two will need to figure things out, but you don't want to abandon them in the event that something may happen. I would suggest you consult with Lightgreen on what the best course of action would be, should they have any council to give.
No. 1076522 ID: 2db2c1

I suggest having everyone share a traumatic story now. Mark this flower patch as the field of mental scars. Vi.si.mi, you start. Recount the worst thing you've ever seen
No. 1076627 ID: e139aa
File 169930544746.png - (69.76KB , 800x600 , fop-139.png )

> share a traumatic story
> make this a place of mental scars
Lightgreen took me here because this is her private eating place. I don't think she'd appreciate this.

> my.a does have a heart
My.a having a couple of things they care about doesn't exactly make up for some of the things they've done. Although I suppose the only havoc I've seen My.a wreak personally, not filtered through accounts or hearsay, has tended towards incidental harm, rather than direct and intentional. However, that's still indicative of a complete disregard for consequences, poor impulse control, and the like. Just a lot of avoidable tragedies that My.a is always very very quick to flee from.

Like, oh, I don't know, the planetary-scale turmoil Lightgreen talked about. That has a death toll attached to it.

My.a has absolutely caused the deaths of others' Va.ne.tus and Vy.zi.kis. Do they even realise this? Maybe I should ask them that next time I speak to them. You know, if I have an avenue of escape, first.

> we need to ask about mu.at
> and wu.at
Wu.at is a name I actually vaguely recognise. It's shown up in the ecological catalogue as the Lord responsible for cataloguing a lot of fauna, and also the source of almost all information on seekers, with most of the entries since being kept up to date by Ji.at. I assume Wu.at is no longer around.

Mu.at is definitely not around anymore, and Vi.al really didn't like it the last time I brought them up.
...maybe I should just ask Va.ne.tu, honestly.

Not yet, though.

> flocklet as emotional support
> pull hand to hand
I tell my flocklet to just hover into view, close enough that if it feels it wants to reach out and nuzzle either of them, it can.

It gently drifts towards Va.ne.tu, and gently pulls Va.ne.tu's hand towards Vy.zi.ki's.

They touch and grasp onto each other.
No. 1076628 ID: e139aa
File 169930547806.png - (97.80KB , 800x600 , fop-140.png )

It doesn't take long for both of them to break down viscerally and hug each other tightly, barely comprehensible grief overwhelming the two of them.
I wipe at my face, realising I'm not as emotionally spent as I thought. Wow I'm tired.

I weigh up whether I go over and hug them too, but, well, no, it doesn't feel right. I make sure my flocklet remains nearby, and Va.ne.tu swishes his tail to brush up against it. His tail doesn't quite have the flexibility to hug it, but, well, it doesn't look like he's trying to bat it away.

After some more gut wrenching sobbing into each others' increasingly damp fur, the two calm down a little.

"You're very soft and fluffy and warm," says Va.ne.tu. "I never expected you to be this soft and fluffy. ...Sorry, I'm doing it again. You're a new person, you're not--"
"i want to be vy.zi.ki."
"You are."
"i want to be the vy.zi.ki you talked about. the vy.zi.ki i am is nothing. no one. only my.a cares about me. your vy.zi.ki had someone else who cared. someone else who didn't care just because they saw them as a tool."
"No, listen, you can't think like that. Don't try to be someone else, and especially don't try to be someone else for someone else's sake. I want to pretend, I do, I really do, it hurts so much, but I can't pretend, and you shouldn't pretend either."
"i have nothing. i have nothing, va.ne.tu."
"We're strangers. We are meeting for the first time. We need to recognise this."
"i don't know," says Vy.zi.ki, trembling. "i didn't know the name va.ne.tu, but, i don't know why else you feel so familiar and safe to me... like all my other jar memories i just don't know if it was anything real or a big dumb jumbled mess, but there's this weird teal fox-shaped smudge in some of it."
"I guess we both had weird dreams that didn't quite match up, then, huh? That... that makes me feel a little less alone in this."
"so, please don't... please don't keep pushing me away just because i'm not an exact match. please."
"That's not-- that's not what I meant. I'm sorry, I just... you have a right to be your own person--"

Vy.zi.ki breaks out of the hug, fists raised and clenching.

"stop it! stop it!! do you know how much that hurts to hear when i have so little to claim?! what do i even have?! i have the dream of a broken lord, a list of medical issues and a few little toys. do you know what my.a was training me to be? a killer. a faceless, invisible, quiet killer. a deniable solution to future problems! that's what i have!! and that's-- that's less than what i want, okay? i want to be good at what i do. we all do! we're all made to do a thing! i wasn't made well enough to do the thing i'm supposed to do, and i don't-- i don't think i like the idea of killing, honestly, but, you know what? it's what i was made to do."

Va.ne.tu looks worried. "My.a wouldn't create a construct just to be an assassin. That doesn't make sense. My.a hires--"
He looks to me, and with an ear flick immediately changes his tone. "My.a wouldn't, uh, have assassins, you know. That's not their style. And My.a cares a lot about style." Wearily, he adds "Frequently to the detriment of the end goal."
"well, they do or i wouldn't be here."
"No, they don't. You must have had some additional purpose in mind."

Vy.zi.ki furrows their brow as they scratch their head. "infiltration, information gathering, general covert operations, but, you know, a lot of these roles all involve the potential for violence. but..." They slow to a pause as their eyes widen, and they start tearing up. "oh..."
"What's wrong?"
"ohhh... that wasn't the first module i was given, was it..."

Va.ne.tu offers his arms out again for a hug, and Vy.zi.ki hesitantly comes back into his embrace, as they start sobbing again.
"Don't feel you need to tell me, Vyzi. I don't need to know. Only if you want to tell me."

Va.ne.tu starts humming a tune to them quietly that I... recognise. It's not the one Fo.ka.sa sang to me. But I recognise it. I don't know why I recognise it. Note to self, try looking that up later.

"i do. it was just... a general creativity pack. singing, painting, dances. i... remember being taught how to use my colour-coat to make all sorts of patterns, and coming up with my own, and... it was all just..." They choke back yet more sobbing. "that would have been nice, i think, but then it all changed."
"Yiyiyiyi, they really did make us in their images, huh! Or plan to, anyway."
"why did it all change?"
"Probably the same reason you got given a fake childhood and kept in a vat for longer, I guess."
"my.a told me if they didn't, they'd have lost me, and they weren't going to let that happen. guess i know why my.a was so determined not to let that happen, now."
"Well... see? You have more to your own person than you think."
No. 1076629 ID: e139aa
File 169930552905.png - (109.30KB , 800x600 , fop-141.png )

"why is this so important to you? this being your own person thing?"
"Well, let's just say I've had a long and bumpy road. Defining yourself as the servant of a Lord is a path to ruin. You need to realise that the only way you'll ever be safe and happy is if you walk your own path. Or, at least, try to, the best you can."

Va.ne.tu gives me a sideways glance as he says that, but turns back to Vy.zi.ki.
This is not the time or place to get into this argument so I will just let it slide.

"Also, I'm... a little glad to hear My.a had any plans for you. I, uh, thought... I thought they made you as a gift for me, for a moment."
Va.ne.tu drops the hug and backs away, looking anxious and blushing. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry let me explain! My.a's known I had hang-ups over what happened for a long time and even hinted at doing that exact same thing a few times. Or maybe they didn't." He wrings his hands together. "I don't. Think they did. Actually. I think I might have just... part of me wanted this to happen, but, you know, in a fantasy the ramifications and the consequences don't matter, it's just idle wishes and I really shouldn't have mentioned any of this now that I think about it."
"you've lost me."
"Don't worry about it. Don't. Don't worry about it."
"you seem worried about it."
"I... no, no you don't need to hear any more on this topic. Forget it, forget I brought it up."
Vy.zi.ki looks at Va.ne.tu suspiciously, but shrugs. "okay. sure."

And then they awkwardly shift around, checking their stomach pouch for... something, I guess. "so. what now."
"I'm going to bop my flocklet a little for taking this long on an urgent delivery, but, for now, we continue waiting."

A little fox-head-shaped blur streaks into our local area, a bag clutched in its teeth. "Yiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi! Boss! That lepi came through!"
Vy.zi.ki stares at it, looks back to Va.ne.tu, and then back to Vy.zi.ki. "what is going on?"
"This is one of my flocklets. I'll explain later. Hi, me!! What took you so long?!"
"That lepi cook I startled offered to help cook up these fish! Apparently sometimes lepi cook fish! Wild! They cook it so it gets all soft and flakey so they can actually eat it, and their kids love it!!"
"Oh that sounds-- wait."

Va.ne.tu looks at Vy.zi.ki, and back to the bag. "What was it cooked with?"
"Uhh... fire?"
"No, I mean, did it have any pollen added to it?"
"I have no idea! Yiyiyi!"
Va.ne.tu rubs his head and whines. "Great. Well, uh, I don't have any schematics for the analysers we'd need to check for that sort of thing, so, uh, hey, Vy.zi.ki, would you like to head to the nearby river with me? It's maybe about a [ten minute] walk."
"i don't know. hm. yes. yes, please. from the mention of fish, is your plan to go catch some fresh?"
"Yes. Also if we're away from the flowers maybe you won't feel obligated to wear that respirator."
"that'd be nice."

Va.ne.tu looks at me and Lightgreen. "If you two want to tag along, I won't say no, but, y'know, you two already ate. If you wanna leave, feel free."

Lightgreen looks at me. "Actually, starbird, there's a thing I need to take care of some time today. We can do it afterwards, actually."
"What's that?"
"I need to check on Lightfoot. I haven't seen her since I came back to the village."

I stare blankly.

"Lightfoot is my bonded meadowander."
"Oh." Placid Guardian. "Right, you said she was injured, I think?"
"Only a little, but, it's been a little while. I felt bad leaving her behind."
I nod, and turn to Va.ne.tu. "I think, with your invitation, we'll come see you fish."
No. 1076630 ID: e139aa
File 169930558776.png - (102.06KB , 800x600 , fop-142.png )

As we walk, Va.ne.tu and Vy.zi.ki keep talking. At some point, Vy.zi.ki slowly slides their respirator off, experimentally sniffs the air, and with a firm squeeze the respirator collapses as they slide it back into their pouch.

"so i now know what a flocklet is, i think. you have one, vi.si.mi has one. how do i get one?"
"Ah, that's quite an intricate and complicated process. We should spend one of these days off together so I can teach you how to make one."
"that sounds like it'd be fun."

I see Vy.zi.ki get a little closer to Va.ne.tu, who starts leaning in towards them, before suddenly changing his mind and moving a little further away.
Vy.zi.ki's ears fall a little.

"and, uh, i had a question that sort of got thrown away in the mess of everything else. what is a gender?"
"Oh wow I am really not a good choice to answer that."

"I don't know," I say. "You're probably the most gender-aligned individual I've ever known."
"...what does 'gender-aligned' mean, Vissy? Like, what are you trying to say."
"I find the idea of construct gender faintly absurd, in truth," I say, before realising I might have just deeply offended Va.ne.tu. "Uh, in an abstract sense. I respect the choices and identities of constructs in the matter, though. I just mean you're a fierce enough proponent of it for it to be deep part of your identity?"

"I'm trying to figure out if that's an insult or not," says Va.ne.tu, looking a little agitated.
"I wasn't trying to insult you." Ugh, this is a thorny enough issue among the base organics, this sort of nonsense is why I stay out of it altogether!!
"Well, no, no, it's fine. See, Vyzi, a very common thing among sapient base organics is the existence of a set of genders, typically somewhere around two to, uh... I think there's an upper bound. Anyway, the most common ones subscribed to are male and female. Constructs in our sort of morphological template tend to be created and resemble a few common archetypes related to masculine or feminine morphologies, although it's not quite that clear cut, and constructs of other morphological templates might have some elements of either, both or neither of these morphologies, eh, no, that's not a good way of describing it, I'm zoomed out too far again, let's zoom in."

Va.ne.tu takes a deep breath. "I don't remember exactly when I gravitated towards male, but, well, it's been a pillar of my identity since. The weird thing is, I don't know if identifying male made me feel more male, or if I always 'felt male' and that's what led me to identify as such. And when I've spoken to other constructs in the past I hear a reoccuring pattern like that. And then, even, some constructs change over time and don't feel like such a concept applies anymore and reevaluate their chosen gender, and then you get joyless funhaters like Vissy who just keep saying the entire concept is irrelevant because we don't have reproductive organs."
"Hey! I didn't... I didn't directly say those exact words. There's lots of alien concepts no one else is willing to latch onto! It just seems arbitrary! You never hear about constructs wanting to get deep in touch with their fauna-template side or--"
"That's... you haven't? You haven't?? Do you know how much I think about what a fox might do in this situation? I mean, obviously it's a lot of stretch and interpretation, but, you know, if we're all mostly modelled on existing or once-existing animals, why not tap into whatever latent instincts and traits that gives you?"
"...we're biomechanical wonders forged of a mixture of computational substance no other Transcendental species has come close to producing and materials that would have cost their base organic antecedents enough time and resources to bring survival into question. Whenever someone compares me to a bird on any level more than cosmetic, I feel offended."

...in my heart, I know I don't feel this superior to base organics, but, well, ugh, this topic always feels like it twists me into a supremacist to justify my position. Maybe I just am. Maybe I should do something about that.

Va.ne.tu smirks at me. "So you have no interest in flying at all, right?"
"Look that's-- that's very different, okay? Look, the Shapeless tend towards the avian, of course I'd value flight! I-- I am acutely aware I'm never flying looking like this and I am not getting rid of the advantages this form gives me just so I can be a big overgrown bird with no thumbs!! That's the sort of luxury Lords have, not me!"
"Can you change your form?"
"No, I can't self-modify, but I think I'm permitted, I just don't know how."
"The only substrate in my body is neurological, and I can change my mind without assistance. There's a few changes I'd love to make if I had the chance, though."
"Oh? Such as?"
Va.ne.tu blushes harder. "Moving on, though, it is sort of an unresolved mystery why so many constructs feel this pull at all. Lots of theories have been proposed, based on things like the incorporation of existing neurological templates in part from our fauna-templates, the remnant of a primordial reproductive drive, but also a theory that's currently more widely accepted is just interacting with sapients that have gender. Culture crossover is practically unavoidable if you can both understand one another, after all."

Lightgreen looks like she's about to say something, but mumbles "sure" and keeps walking.

"okay, but what is a gender," says Vy.zi.ki. "like, which do i pick. what are my options."
"Oh there's, uh, male, female, a spectrum between, in a way Vissy's staunch refusal to participate is itself a kind of gender, but have to say, I'm not, uh, super current. I mean, the original Vy.zi.ki always struck me as a very feminine design, and you have the same general appearance, so if you wanted to go for the more common associations, I suppose you'd be looking for female most likely?"
"okay but what does that mean."
"Iiiiii couldn't tell you. Not without it being super coloured by my own biases."
"okay but what are those biases."
"I'm attracted to females? Not exclusively, but usually more so than males. There's a bunch of associations of nurturing for a lot of biological and alien cultural reasons, I guess, uhh, sometimes seen as slightly more mysterious? That might literally just be me projecting my own ideas? A lot of cultures I watch conflux streams on also tend to place females as more creative. Although that's in direct contrast to some other cultures that consider males more creative due to histories of mate attraction strategies, but if I start getting too into the details I'll be talking all day."
"creative..." Vy.zi.ki's tail wags a little. "okay. what's attraction."
"Yeah," I say. "Explain why you and any other constructs feel any sort of sexual attraction or tension whatsoever despite lacking any means to act on it. You know. Simple question, Va.ne.tu, I'm sure you can answer a question literally no one has been able to definitively answer since it started getting asked."
"Well my theory is it's based on some ancient remnant either from fauna-template or from something deeply ancient and primordial that predates the Shapeless. You know, it's not agreed where the first constructs came from or who made them, is it? Maybe that's related."
"I find it happens more often for constructs that are deeply immersed in alien cultures. I personally suspect bio-envy."
"Oh, here we go," groans Va.ne.tu.
"What? It's a documented phenomenon." One I think Va.ne.tu is suffering from severely. "You spend enough time around base organics, you notice things they have you don't. You take for granted what you have they don't. I think this is the only reason constructs want to break the self-replication taboo."
"'Bio-envy' is a nice neat little way of dismissing a host of legitimate problems and issues constructs have with their lot in life. But I think it's a horrible term that treats a desire for freedom and happiness as a mental and physiological disorder. Why do you hate the idea of freedom so much, Vi.si.mi?"
"Because alien ideas of freedom don't align with the fundamental nature of our existence. You can't use alien notions as they are. We exist on different levels to them."

"female," says Vy.zi.ki. "for now, female."
"Female?" Va.ne.tu nods. "Understood."
I still think construct gender is nonsense, but I note their-- her stated one, anyway.

"okay, now what."
"...now what?"
"what do i do now that i picked it. do i register it somewhere? when do i 'feel female'."
"Well, uh, you just... you just are it."
"that sounds vague and unfulfilling."
"Yeah it is at first. Don't worry. It's kind of a process."
No. 1076631 ID: e139aa
File 169930563298.png - (127.44KB , 800x600 , fop-143.png )

We reach the river, and my flocklet chimes to me that this is where it got stuck on a net--

Oh. Yeah, okay, that makes a bit more sense.

"Va.ne.tu, why does your fishing net have so much net not in the river?"
"I'm being thorough."
"Va.ne.tu I do not think fish are going to leap that high."
"You'd be surprised. Aren't you the ecology construct? Surely you know how high fish can leap?"
"I do. Not usually that high."
"Well, it's set up like this now."
No. 1076632 ID: e139aa
File 169930566118.png - (57.09KB , 800x600 , fop-144.png )

"Do you just leave this thing in the river?"
"I had one of my flocklets set it up earlier."
"you have more than one?"
"Yes, but I've got tricks! Most constructs don't have more than one. Most constructs don't have any, actually."
"There's plenty with lower grade automata that might come across as a flocklet, but the key distinction is a flocklet is to some extent a direct extension of your own body. I just give mine a little extra boost so they can work independently of me. Vissy's is a bit more, uh, pure of an expression of the concept. Or was."
"....Was? What do you mean?"
"Well, your control over it seems absolute, when you're controlling it, but have you ever noticed it seems to have something of a will of its own? It seems to be acting on things you want to do but feel, for whatever reason, you can't. I was just thinking about how it was watching us and came to us first before you did."
"Oh, no, that was absolutely intentional. It felt less intrusive."
"Well, there's also how it acted while you were out like a light. I'd expect a flocklet nothing more than a direct interface to at best be staying nearby and doing nothing, but it was actively patrolling around you. Like it was trying to protect you. I don't know how long you've had this flocklet, but I think it might be diverging."
"That can't be right. It's completely tied to my substrate. It doesn't have any identity beyond being a part of myself. It might be a more honest part of myself, which could explain the discrepancy you've been seeing, and if I was able to keep part of myself awake when the rest of me was unconscious, I absolutely would expect to be on guard with that part."
"I think I would keep an eye on it. You might be a few novel scenarios away from it waking up."
"That's absurd, there's no way something I made could be that sophisticated."
"You know, if you made it from your substrate and physically disconnected it from yourself, isn't that very, very close to what the Lords do to make partitions?"
"The substrate masses involved are orders of magnitude off."

I look at my flocklet, and it looks back at me and looks away, and for a split second I feel a complex mix of emotions. Fear. Dread. Surprise. Elation. And then the overwhelming feeling that I am probably just imagining things. My flocklet is, at best, an expression of my subconscious. I'm not dealing with a new entity here, I'm dealing with the Vi.si.mi I either can't or won't tap into directly. A window my subconscious stares out of.

Mostly if my flocklet did diverge and wake up as a new subjectivity, that would be a problem because that might possibly technically violate the self-replication taboo. Depends on how it would be seen. A rogue automaton? A faulty construct appendage? Or a true construct? I don't know who would decide such a thing. Vi.al? If Vi.al expected there to be a risk of such a conundrum they would not have allowed me to do this, I think.

However I do suddenly feel weirdly vulnerable, and so my flocklet drifts over to me so I can scoop it up in my arms and carry it for a bit, just on the off chance that if it is starting to drift away it at least knows I care about it. ...this is like trying to reassure an arm that's gone to sleep if that's not the case, though, but, well, it makes me feel better and my flocklet quietly chirps a little melody of contentment.
No. 1076633 ID: e139aa
File 169930570678.png - (47.96KB , 800x600 , fop-145.png )

"lepi, sorry, i forgot your name," says Vy.zi.ki, watching Va.ne.tu fidget with the net remotely, "you are female, right?"
Lightgreen looks a little confused. "Yes, why?"
"what is it like? what is it like to be female, i don't understand this."
"I, uh, don't have any experience being anything other than female." Lightgreen's antennae wiggle around a little. "I mean, I haven't had a lot of male attention, and my tasks and role lead to me being separate from the others a lot of the time, and I guess you probably, if I'm understanding correctly, don't really need to know more about the, uh," and her antennae cross over, she folds her arms and her mid limbs clasp together, "More, uh, physical matters."
Lightgreen puts a hand over her face. Oh, lepi can blush too? "I am really not a good choice to explain this, I try a lot of the time to avoid considering these sorts of things. I get enough hints that I should think about helping ensure the lepi survive in, uh, more direct and physical ways, and I know that wouldn't be happening if I wasn't female. But I chose a life that makes that more difficult, and I try to explain this, and there's just... there's a disconnect, they never understand."
"why are you closing up so much?"
"you look like you're expecting me to attack you. i won't attack you. i promise."
"It's just not a topic I was expecting to talk about, it's..."

"Okay, let me interrupt and explain what you're trying to ask about before you make my friend so uncomfortable she tries to hide in her own wings," I say.
I hear a quiet "thank you" from Lightgreen as I step in between both of them.

"So, do you know anything about how organisms reproduce?"
"several microorganisms reproduce by mitosis for the most part. this proliferation leads to increased microbial presence in nutrient-dense regions such as organisms that have ceased all life function. this is what leads to decay and can cause issues when trying to conceal evidence of--"
"Okay okay no no that is not what I meant. I mean, it's interesting that's apparently a fact in whatever module you got that in, but, uh."
"covert operations is a broad field."
"Anyway do you know how organisms bigger than your hand tend to reproduce?" Yes, I know there's billions smaller, too, but, whatever.
"That's a start! Eggs. Do you know how eggs are made?"
"out of a provisioner?"
"I guess that'd explain why you know what eggs are. No, eggs are made in the bodies of female organisms. That's actually pretty much what I'd consider my most useful definition of male and female, really. The only one that sort of makes any sense for my purposes. Male organisms produce male gametes, typically sperm, and female organisms produce female gametes, typically eggs. There's too much variation across species across worlds across stars for any other definition to work. It's extremely, extremely reductive, but, well, I have to manage fauna populations, I need to be able to calculate breeding pool stability fast. Having said this, behaviour, especially with sapients, is a complicated thing. So this is a shorthand, which, like all shorthand, sacrifices detail and nuance for speed of consideration. Just keep that in mind," I say, horrifying gaffes among alien cultures flashing before my eyes. "Keep in mind I am speaking with the perspective of someone who sees a nice, picturesque scene with a few herd animals in, and then starts trying to calculate number of generations before inbreeding is a problem." And the diversity of the flora, and any apparent trophic imbalances, and suitability for introduction of engineered organisms that might help maintain the ecosystem better... it's been a while since I've done my actual job, hasn't it.
"gametes? breeding pool?? inbreeding??"
"Right yes I'm getting into the complexities before I've even explained the fundamentals. So. Sexual reproduction is where two gametes, dedicated reproductive cells, a sperm and an egg, meet, and fuse, and begin developing into a new organism. Strategies regarding this vary between species, you have concepts like internal and external fertilisation. Of the many factors steering the evolution of organic species, one of them is simply the implicit requirement to produce more individuals of the species. It's required because nothing lives forever. Any species that does not optimise for reproduction in some way dies out, and that's it. Without external interference, the species is gone forever. This is why we have the catalogues. Not just for organisms, but for any sort of thing that might disappear from the universe forever. Anyway I'm getting distracted."

Vy.zi.ki stares blankly. "...okay, so, females make eggs. i like eggs. eggs are tasty."
"Well, the structure of an egg you're familiar with isn't just the gamete, it's an entire structure designed to support a growing organism."
"eggs are immature organisms?"
"Well, depends if it's fertilised or not. Usually, usually, the eggs used for food aren't fertile."
"okay, so, if i am understanding this correctly, if i pick male, and i want to feel male, i need to figure out how to make sperm, and if i pick female, and i want to feel female i need to figure out how to make eggs. well, i'm still not sure what a 'sperm' is either, catalogue's just giving me cetaceans, but--"
"Okay so neither of those. Constructs are prohibited from reproducing, trying to figure out how to make themselves able to reproduce, or otherwise trying to step around these sorts of limitations. You know that, right?"
"of course. i never said they had to be fertile whatevers. also i think eggs on demand would be great. actually i am remembering a few things now, i had asked my.a why my chest had these weird bumps on them, and my.a pointed me at a bunch of recordings on the feminine form of the third standard template, and i guess i have context for that now. so they're egg glands in organisms, i guess?"
No. 1076634 ID: e139aa
File 169930574204.png - (81.88KB , 800x600 , fop-146.png )

This was your fault, Vi.si.mi. This was your fault for deciding to try and be an educator. "No, so, there's a reoccuring organism structure that often but not always features protrusions like these, and they're used for feeding young."
"...wow. glad i'm not an organism."
"They produce some kind of nutrient fluid, typically."
"oh. i thought you meant they just ate the protrusions."
"...some species, yes, but not a lot of them." I'm never going back to Viidare 6.
"where are eggs made then?"
"Usually internal organs. Then some species also have interior sacs to hold a developing organism, and other species just encapsulate the organism into an egg and let it deal with the surrounding environment. Well, it's not an either-or choice, but those are the two most frequently occuring patterns for this mode of reproduction."
"...i have an interior sac," says Vy.zi.ki, rubbing her pouch. "huh. wasn't expecting to have that in common."

She looks down at her abdomen thoughtfully. "huh. that felt weird."
"i felt a bit of a rush realising that. don't know why. like something fit together or made sense. i feel... more me. like... this body is more than a faulty machine i'm stuck with. feels like all it's ever done for me is cause me pain, but, now, it's like, like..." She tears up a little bit. "like it's okay? it's okay that i'm like this. that my body is... i don't know. i can't find the words. i feel a step closer to complete. to me. to the 'own person'."
"Oh. I have no idea what that's about."
"me neither. i'll ask vanny about it later. no offense, vissy, but you're making this entire concept sound kinda gross and joyless."
"Welcome to my world. Oh, also, if you decide to look into reproductive physiology, I'd advise looking into external fertilisation strategies before you look into internal. I don't think you're ready to go from this crash course to learning about placental reproduction and all its many facets and problems without possibly getting some sort of mental scarring."
Okay, that's possibly a little bit condescending, but, y'know, it's not my fault some organics reproduce in a way that makes disembowelment look clean.
"whatever. i could list out the ways constructs decompose depending on envirommental conditions in vivid detail. if you think i can't handle learning where eggs come from you can get fucked-- sorry. habit. i'll be nicer. truce and all. you can go, uh, step on a rock that's smooth. anyway i think i have whatever vanny has in his brain that makes him like all this, though. or, well, i think i understand it better now."

Vy.zi.ki pats over her chest and stomach a little, and breathes in deeply. "ok. ok. vanny said it's a process. i don't need to rush it. i have so much to process already."
"Did you know we didn't even have gendered referentials until a few decades ago? This concept flooded through the confluxes like a supernova."
"i'm gonna double check that. you're extremely biased."

I have to admit. For all my distaste of the concept, I still feel compelled to acknowledge it. Maybe the arguments about it having a basis deep within the construct psyche have some merit. I'd love to get the perspective of a construct far more removed from it, for sure. But even that Zi.en construct bought into this, so how more removed from standard templates do I need to go? Oh well. Idle musings.
No. 1076635 ID: e139aa
File 169930577759.png - (59.98KB , 800x600 , fop-147.png )

"Yiyiyiyiyiyiyi there! There!!" I hear Va.ne.tu excitedly yell and see him leap up in the air. "Haha!! Three of them!!"
"Just three?"
"Each!! Six total!"

Vy.zi.ki's ears perk up and she sprints over. "lemme see! lemme see!! kikikiki!!"

Well I'm glad they're both happier I guess.

I look over to Lightgreen, who stares after Vy.zi.ki thoughtfully.
"...where do new starbeings come from?"
"I think I'm technically not allowed to explain that to non-Shapeless."
"I am used to feeling like your kind is a little strange or erratic, but, hm. I don't know. Something about all of this makes me feel sad for your kind."

I don't... have much of a response for that. My flocklet makes an annoyed chirp before I tell it to quiet down.
But it's not wrong. The idea of an organic sapient looking at us, biomechanical marvels, with condescending pity, well. It's irritating, at least.

I look over to Va.ne.tu who is flinging a fish up and catching it in his jaws, as Vy.zi.ki gives a staccato barking laugh.
She tries to do the same, and to both of their surprise does it first try, and she laughs hard enough the fish falls out of her mouth. Which just makes her laugh harder.

This makes me feel better to watch, at least.

The intrusive, unwanted thought flickers across my mind that this is a scene I'm going to remember in the future, holding a weapon, pointing it at one of them, and having to make a grim evaluation whether or not to shoot. Thanks, My.a. Thanks for planting that seed of doubt.

Well. Looks like the afternoon's getting a little dark. Probably should think of whether I want to go talk to the lepi leaders again or go check on Lightfoot with Lightgreen.
No. 1076641 ID: 99f29a

Judging by prior chats with the leaders, Lightfoot is a better use of time.
No. 1076644 ID: 8f9bc4

We all have our limitations. You're just different from her. She has to worry about laying eggs and producing new generations, while you have the planet to save and no biological need to reproduce. Does she feel sad for your receiving station, just because it doesn't behave like she does? Does she feel sad for your lord's beacon, just because it was broken? It doesn't care if it's broken. It just is.

Wait no she was terribly sad for the beacon because it was broken. She doesn't feel sad for you because you're broken, does she? That would make sense except you're not broken. You're not broken you're an immaculate perfect creation of Lord Vi.al Itself. Vy.zi.ki is broken and yes that is worthy of feeling sad and it's all My.a's fault because he didn't know how to make a construct correctly. And yes you do seem erratic in a sense, the same way as Va.ne.tu and Vy.zi.ki but you're just under a lot of stress right now. You're not broken. You're not.
No. 1076646 ID: 8c14b6

Go check on your moth before speaking to her mothers.
No. 1076649 ID: 273c18

>I can change my mind without assistance
Was that a joke or can he modify his own brain? That'd be dangerous...

>If Vi.al expected there to be a risk of such a conundrum they would not have allowed me to do this, I think.
Correction: if Vi.al thought it would be wrong to do, they would not have allowed you to do it. Speaking of Vi.al, did you not notice how much they stressed that you are your own person? I wonder if you were originally Vi.al's flocklet, and this is a recurring phenomenon with Vi.al construct designs...
Or maybe you just made it more sophisticated than you thought you did.

>we didn't even have gendered referentials until a few decades ago
Uh, what? And you've been in contact with gendered biologicals for HOW long?

>having to make a grim evaluation whether or not to shoot
Invest in nonlethal weapons. Or know exactly where to shoot that will incapacitate but not kill. Forced violence need not be lethal!

>what do?
Go with Lightgreen.
No. 1076659 ID: 43e4bf

If the original Vy.si.mi was never decanted, then doesn't that mean they never existed to be a person? This Vy.si.mi might as well be the original, given that the original was never a conscious individual at any point. Concerns of "not being an exact match" don't really make sense given that, nor any feeling that they have less right to the name. She can't be a copy of an individual that never existed.
No. 1076664 ID: 64faaa

Eh, kinda?

Va.ne.tu has an imaginary version of "the original Vy.zi.ki" in his head.
This happens to plenty of people who have a crush without getting to interact deeply with the subject of the crush.
Unlike that relatively normal version of things, Vy.zi.ki doesn't already have much identity of her own.
Thus, Va.ne.tu does not want her to feel like she needs to match the "perfect idea of Vy.zi.ki" that he has in his head. Either she would try to match it & fail, & feel bad, or she would succeed in matching it which would require having no freedom in who she is.
No. 1076666 ID: 2aa5f0

>Did you know we didn't even have gendered referentials until a few decades ago?
Tinfoil hat conspiracy theory, the only reason it's started popping up is because a shapeless lord has a fetish and started releasing chemicals in the water to make all the constructs gendered and horny.

>What do now?
Go with LightGreen to see Lightfoot. She's been hanging out with you and your weird alien friends all day least you could do is go hang out with her while she goes hang out with her weird native friends.
No. 1076670 ID: c1a0f7

You realize you completely ignored the social and psychological aspects of gender in sapient species and instead explained it as a purely ecological and physical concept when she was pretty clearly trying to figure out what gender meant for *her* as a person, right? That was like if you asked someone for population decline statistics for a species and they instead regaled you for twenty minutes about how good the creatures taste when prepared as a meal.

You should probably take note of the fact that when it comes to psycholigy and sapient sociology you are extremely out of your depth to yhe point that you don't even consider it in most of your thoughts. This isn't your fault, you're an ecology construct performing a task you are particularly unsuited for, here.

You know who *is* incredibly suited for a task like this, though? Li.ni.si. If they get back in touch before the truce is over you should maybe have them give more useful advice and explanations to vy.zi.ki about gender and how to grapple with self-identity as a construct and as a sapient in general.

I get the feeling you've spent a long time using your limited skillset to solve problems you shouldn't be having to solve. I think maybe the stress of doing that so often has a risk of calcifying your outlook into one that you assume applies to every situation. Be sure not to let that happen.
No. 1076671 ID: f3171e

Check on Lightfoot, maybe you can help.
No. 1076674 ID: 884f69

>weapon, pointing it at one of them, and having to make a grim evaluation whether or not to shoot.
Heh. Well a diplomatic victory is an option here. Form alliance, point it to My.a's base. Still got a better one though. Force her to make a defining choice. Have her allies choose you over herself. What will she do if Va.ne.tu stops doing her will? Will she let Va.ne.tu die? Just to keep her plan going? Or will she give it up for his sake? Perhaps let Vissy show just how bad Mu.at was and how wrongly she has acted? Gotta say it would be quite a reversal if Vi.si.mi has to sway Vi.al to spare her and give her a second chance. FIGHT GRIMDARK WITH NOBLEBRIGHTNESS!
No. 1076675 ID: 0a437e

Flockdrones may have orders of magnitude less mass than a Partition, but assuming that a mass of substrate has at least as much computational power as an equivalent mass of brain, than any flocklet of a useable size has enough power to be.
though to be fair, unless for some unknown reason you are unique, than all constructs with a flocklet could be said to break the taboo,
weren't the lords once extentions of Shapeless Monarch?
Speaking of constructs why were thay built with animal inspirations in the first place??
...could you "boost" your flocklet?
No. 1076689 ID: 2a82d3

Best way to not be a supremacist? Stay the heck away from this game. As that's not an option, just listen to the concerns of those under your charge, be open to alternate ways of thinking or being, and do the best you can do to help from there.

The conversation went as well as it could be, considering your political differences. You do need to do some introspection to figure out if you're agender because you want to be, or because you're expected to be. That's why you're coming off like the Shapeless had trouble recognizing sentient organics as people. It would be no surprise if that actually was the case, until recently. At least, don't be too judgmental of "internal reproduction strategies". It may not be for you, but some folks just want put the effort into a hands-on approach, ya know?

So Vy.zi.ki is going to be working on finding herself. She is a rather base understanding of gender, but body positivity is always a central aspect of that. You also need to watch out for bioweapons from now on, but that's just another one for the problem heap. The one you could build a flock out of.

Don't overthink about the flocklet. It's less comforting a hand, and more putting on a hand puppet to use as a teddy bear. It's alright to do once in a while. As far as coping mechanisms go, it's fairly benign.

Definitely look into that song of hers, when you get the chance. That implies either:
A) The song is from a common library all Shapeless share to generate constructs. Possibly a backdoor to hack.
B) My.a was involved in your creation in some. A collaboration? Improbable, but not impossible. It'd explain so much: this game, your wild thought processes, ...

Put in earthly terms, this means My.a is either a washed-up children's entertainer, or she's your grossly negligent biological mother. Don't know which would be sadder (and funnier). She's starting to come off less like a devil and more a sad clown. (It should go without saying how devastating a clown can be.)

As much as you should make it up to your girlfriend for making her the third wheel on your date, she at least deserves an apology, your best move is to discuss with the elders again. After one of them seeing you build the relay, they should be sufficiently impressed enough to listen to what you have to say. Though, Lightgreen's ostracization from town is also a matter of concern.
No. 1076718 ID: 8f9bc4

Incidentally even if your flocklet was a new entity, it wouldn't necessarily violate the no reproduction edict. The danger of reproduction is that you're producing whatever you yourself are. I don't think you have to worry, unless your flocklet gains the ability to create flocklets like itself. Pretty easy to see how that could quickly get out of control.
No. 1076783 ID: fa3034

Forever the straight shooter, Vissy. Your friends are weird, but at least they're your friends. Value them. Offer a handshake to Vy.zi.ki, a shoulder pat to Va.ne.tu and tell them you're going to help Lightgreen with an errand. Maybe meet up with them later?
No. 1076790 ID: f2320a

Problem with never dying it suplants the need for individual reproduction and sharing a template close enough to eachother where helping someone else reproducing is your code propagating closest thing thats left is just education and passing on ideas.

And topic on supremacy not everyone is the same so it exists in diffrent types of being better at problem its to competative like most species that are of similar intelect/sapience and niche exterminate or interbreed for anything longer then a mere hundreds of years or a few thousand.
Its a bit interesting the constructs have no issue killing and eating a thinking biological organism so long its mind is smaller.
also having bigger minds then this rapidly scales up boredom and iteration issues on solutions its easy to fall into a reward system loop optimization bit of a problem and feature of neuralnets but it would be a interesting experiment to run for shape optimization instead of copy pasting biological features onto a biped frame guideline to adapt
No. 1076877 ID: 8f9bc4

It's not forbidden to simply tell her that Lord Vi.al made you, without going into detail, is it? It's not reproduction, but it is where new starbeings came from.
No. 1077023 ID: e139aa
File 169972826627.png - (275.66KB , 800x600 , fop-148.png )

> tell her Vi.al made you
I'm still not sure she knows who Lord Vi.al is, but when it comes up I can tell her.

> great gender explanation, dummy
I have such disdain for the notion. We should be above such things. I feel above such things. But whatever.

> you're not broken
I am indeed not broken. Nothing is wrong. Everything is fine.

> why were constructs built with animal inspirations at all
I've asked, and I usually get different answers from different people. My pet theory is it's all experimental. Ever since the failure of the first standard template there's been a lot more efforts to experiment with construct designs. The framework of the third standard template is popular. Of course, you get divergences, like whatever Zi.en's constructs are, and then there's...

...You know what, I don't want to think about Or.ro's extractors too long, they're supposed to all be dead anyway. Who could have possibly imagined any bad outcomes of trying to both make a superior version of constructs and make them capable of reproduction? Like every other experiment involving self-replication has ever gone right.
But Or.ro's artifact collection means no one else wants to actually take them to task over it. There's theories that the extractor designs were inspired by things in its vast collection. I'd believe it.

Anyway. No one is sure the extractors are all dead. The extractors were (or are) Or.ro's "procurement" forces. Packs of hyperintelligent constructs, screaming burstvoice messages at each other that would just sound like static to us, near-instant communication. Faster, stronger, more durable, lethal, evaluating constructs the same way we evaluate base organics. Two forms, one matching the third standard template for "diplomatic" interactions (primarily so they can use weapons and equipment intended for other constructs), the other a machine of carnage and destruction.
Remorseless. Sociopathic. Determined. A strength and genius unhampered by morality-- okay you get the point. Apparently they live for two things. Stealing things from others, and the thrill of the kill.

But I saw a static image of some, once, and I have to admit I did feel a little bit like they'd been talked up a lot because they just looked like reptile-pattern pointier constructs. ...then I saw a static image of the aftermath of whatever situation they were spotted in, and there were bits and pieces of construct strewn around the room and places where plasteel walls had been clawed open. Oh, and one of them grinning into whatever the source of the image was. Possibly some poor construct's head, for all I know, based on how murky and corrupted the metadata was. I mean, I did get it from the undermesh, so it might have all been completely faked, but it's also the only place you'd be able to find such images without vigorous censorship.

The cosmos is full of terrors, but the extractors freak me out even more (on a conceptual level, if not appearance) because it's like a dark mirror. "Why don't the Lords make us better? Why do they build us with such flaws?" Because when they don't, they get out of hand, and diverge and diverge and diverge until their values dissociate entirely. I don't know about you but I think the fact I have such a hard time causing harm is probably a good thing.
No. 1077024 ID: e139aa
File 169972828895.png - (42.45KB , 800x600 , fop-149.png )

> boost your flocklet
I mean, I guess that'd be possible, but I don't think it'd be wise. Some sort of hunch.

> Lightfoot
Yeah I don't want to waste my time with the lepi leaders if I can help it. I will need to get more situation details from them, but maybe if I wait until later they'll be more willing to give me straight, direct, to-the-point answers so they can get me to go away.

"Let's go check on your Plac-- on your meadowander, Lightgreen."
"Yes, I agree. I think these two will be fine."

"Bye, Va.ne.tu, Vy.zi.ki," I say, shouting over in symphonic.
They wave to me, as Va.ne.tu shouts back. "Have fun! Use these days well! And when they're up, remember, at least pretend like we're enemies!! Yiyiyiyiyi!!"

They feel so suited for each other. Feels like they were intended to be made for each other, initially.
Odd, but I guess not unprecedented.
I don't know how I feel about that, to be honest. It's not like anyone's forcing them to like each other. I certainly don't feel like any of my relationships felt preordained by Vi.al. Aside from I guess Fo.ka.sa being appointed my mentor, but, that's not the same thing, really?

...remembering when Va.ne.tu called me attractive and feeling the tiniest flicker of jealousy-- jealousy?? Really? Get a hold of yourself, Vi.si.mi.

My flocklet chirps sadly, and I rub its head. My.a forcing us all to be enemies still stings.
"Me too, friend, me too," I hum to it, one last statement in symphonic before switching to the lepi tongue. "Lead the way, if you would?"
"Of course!"
No. 1077025 ID: e139aa
File 169972832588.png - (65.88KB , 800x600 , fop-150.png )

Lightgreen leads me away from the river back towards the village, but, skirting around it, we pass the drooping wreck of my relay station (soon, I promise, I'll fix it soon) and arrive at a bunch of Placid-- meadowanders idly chewing away. They all look at us in a way that gives me pause.

They don't look at me like a wild animal would. They all look at me, slowly, purposefully, and then look elsewhere. I immediately feel like something is off.

And then Lightgreen walks up and talks to them. Addressing the crowd.

"Have any of you seen Lightfoot?" And then she pauses, and says "Soft foot?"

...hang on a second. Hang on a second. Haaaang on.

She didn't say that in the lepi language. It's... it's monovoice. Monovoice is a cruder, simpler form of Shapeless polyphonic melody-language, designed primarily for the use of constructs that are for whatever reason impaired from being able to communicate in polyphonic. Instead of having overlapping harmonies and rapid tone changes, everything is done in a slower, one-at-a-time delivery. Lightgreen knows a Shapeless language??

"Tree," says one of the meadowanders. "Far. Only. For thought."
Another meadowander makes a buzzing sound close to a monovoice acceptance chime.

Okay, before I freak out, it was made clear in the catalogue that Placid Watchers were made to have elevated levels of awareness and be quite smart for grazers. They were designed by Shapeless to serve roles for a Shapeless, it makes perfect sense they'd be able to understand rudimentary monovoice questions and give answers.

Lightgreen bows to them (???) and turns back to me. "She'll be hanging around the lone tree nearby."

I follow her, frantically checking the catalogue entry on Placid Watchers over and over and its reassurances that they are not sapient intelligences. Demonstrated to avoid any sort of drift for several generations without active interference.

I also realise I've translated Lightfoot's name wrong. Softfoot, then. Well, that'll help me avoid mixing their names up a bit better.
No. 1077026 ID: e139aa
File 169972836074.png - (131.14KB , 800x600 , fop-151.png )

We reach the lone tree mentioned, and, sure enough, a meadowander is lying on their own at the base of it. A lot smaller and stubbier than the others, and with some sort of crude diamond painted onto it. Something Lightgreen might have done, I tell myself, trying not to notice the same colours on the end of one of its tendril thingies.

Lightgreen runs up to it and starts stroking its mossy mane. "Soft foot!" Again in monovoice.
"Dear friend light green," it responds, in a delivery sluggish even for monovoice. "Leg good again."

Softfoot stirs around, and then looks at me, and her eyes widen.

"Star bird."

Oh no. Ohhh no, that's not a reaction something non-sapient should have. The monovoice for construct is "great servant", not "star bird". No, calm down, maybe it's just some sort of generational decay of instinctual phrases--

"Light green, glass bird, from star. Dear friend, waiting for long. Happy. Happy."
Softfoot stands up and rubs her face against Lightgreen's.

And it looks at me, and it... kneels. It is an awkward pose for a creature to take, but, no, it is... it is kneeling at me.

"...Give knowledge to me," I say, fumbling for the monovoice phrasing of "give me a status update".
"Care for big insect people. Be family. Help. Big insect people help. Common responsible."

Ugh I hate monovoice. "Lightgreen, what is she saying?"
"Well, you asked her what she's doing, and she told you she's helping us."
"When your people domesticated meadowanders, were they always this chatty, or... how did you learn this language?"
"Oh, I was taught it by my parents. The meadowanders apparently just turned up one day after the Awakening, I don't know the details, they were always there but kept to themselves in herds. But then one day after the Awakening, a small herd of them came towards the lepi and just... sort of ended up in our lives."

"Help big insect people."
I nod, but then Softfoot stomps on the ground with a not particularly soft-looking hoof.
"Star bird. Help. Help big insect people."
"Yeah yeah I know, everyone's telling me to."
"No yes yes. What star bird do to help? Old family talk. Star bird go. Bad thing smash land. Shame star bird. Shame. No help. No help big insect people, no help land walk observation animal, I, family. No help! No help. Help how. Help how, help where, help when?!"


Monarch's feathers the thing is understanding me when I speak in lepi language also. Also that is far too abstract a string of thoughts to have to not be sapient.

Great! Great!! That's a divergence from the catalogue in such a significant way I can't trust the catalogue for anything I see on this world! Also great! I have another sapient species to look after now! GREAT! GREAT!!

"...Starbird, why are you shaking?"
No. 1077027 ID: 6894eb

"Not know need help. Help now." Oh man you gotta get more of these. Get the Lepi fighting like the mongol hordes.
No. 1077029 ID: 32a515

Softfoot is expressing resentment towards you based on your connections to the Shapeless, as it feels abandoned. It must be quite old. Regardless, it's not possible to entirely lay the blame on My.a when it's clear that Vi.al was unable or unwilling to properly upkeep this preserve.

Explain that you are not equipped for anything of this nature but you are TRYING to help EVERYONE here instead of just the Lepi or anyone in particular, but you are VERY UNDERSTAFFED and need help yourself.
No. 1077030 ID: a7a180

We should get Softfoot some horseshoes.
No. 1077031 ID: 2a82d3

This IS great, actually. Whatever Shapeless remnants left on the planet have expanded their intelligence in response to their new conditions. If you can communicate, you can coordinate. If you can coordinate, you can organize. Since they're practically everywhere and no one else seems to have caught on to their intelligence yet, there's so much you can. Build a proper Gaia network by setting up comms in or by Golden Bough. Every lepi should learn this language, like Lightgreen has.

You need to deal with the threats to lepi first, but it should go without saying you'll start to improving their quality of life soon. You're not Ji.pa.ke, but you will do what you can to build their town according to their needs.
No. 1077041 ID: 8e36dc

This planet is surely challenging your preconceptions of the universe, huh.

What does it mean about shapeless society that planets like this can be this messed up right under the nose of the person in charge of them?

How can Vi.al possibly explain this?
No. 1077048 ID: f3171e

While the catalogue may have deviations, it can still provide useful information. While they have a crude sapience, they still show signs of their intended programmed behaviors and biological templates.

Simply tell it that the situation was not known. You are here now to help.
No. 1077051 ID: 0d4c43

Does My.a know about all these sapients? There's got to be more. More friends! More allies. Really need to conduct a survey ASAP.
No. 1077053 ID: 2aa5f0

well you could tell it the truth on why no body did anything until now, it's M.ya's fault.

>...Starbird, why are you shaking?
Because I'm starting to realize how much paperwork I'm going to have to correct after all this.
No. 1077055 ID: 273c18

>divergent evolution
Now, see, the way to prevent this is to make constructs for a purpose that can't be optimized to an extreme that would cause harm. The extractors turned into vicious killers and thieves because they were made for that purpose-- to TAKE. Those who were better at taking reproduced more and thus the divergence. If you ensure that the core purpose of a construct is a peaceful one, you won't have this problem. Though, I do wonder how it got that bad. Shouldn't they have been taking orders from saner construct types?

>just turned up one day after the Awakening
AH. Important detail. They weren't there before the Awakening. That's clear evidence that the Lepi (and the other races) were not from this planet. They MUST have been transported here, otherwise they would have already been familiar with the Placid Guardians and other constructs native to the garden world.

Tell her the meadowanders were a species created by Vi.al, that weren't meant to be sapient. They were just meant to be smart animals, capable of very basic understanding of language. Now they're clearly people. People you have to protect. It's more responsibility, more stress. ...huh, this is a second point of data related to Vi.al designs becoming more sapient than intended. You should check on any other near-sapient construct types that live on this world.

>help now
Ok, let's get this show on the road. Go talk to the elders right now, find out where you can apply your skills. Oh, when you get back to town be sure to re-construct your comms building.
No. 1077059 ID: eb0a9c

I think Softfoot confused you with Vi.al and they're blaming you.

"Not Star Bird. Clay Bird. Star Bird is parent. I can do magic. But I not Lord."
No. 1077060 ID: 5a7f3a

(Look closer. They (or, at least, Placid Watchers) were on the planet before the Awakening.
They just kept to themselves, and [didn't approach]/[actively avoided] other species.)


> Introduce yourself to the sapient you just became aware of.

> Check the veracity of the catalogue by asking Lightgreen questions about the Lepi.

well, no, first thing's first
> explain why Lord Vi.al hadn't sent help until now, but help is now, help is here, help is whatever you can provide.
No. 1077061 ID: 7695ec

...well, you can answer the questions at least
help when, a bit less than [60 hours]
help where, one would think the transmitter
Help how, probably, hopefully, diplomacy. as well as with some more constructs and, very hopefully, your lord
No. 1077065 ID: 273c18

>(Look closer. They (or, at least, Placid Watchers) were on the planet before the Awakening.
They just kept to themselves, and [didn't approach]/[actively avoided] other species.)
Well that implies memory alteration then.

I guess we could ask the Meadowanders if they have any recollection of history before the Awakening? That might give us more details.
No. 1077070 ID: 8f9bc4

"Meadowanders are created by my Lord, they're supposed to detect disturbances like your Awakening. That's why they sing to speak like I do, but very simply. They're supposed to be simple animals. Almost animals. Softfoot here is a person though. It's nice that they are, but what would have the power to grant them sapience?"

To Softfoot: Bad thing stop your warning. Shame star bird hear not. Shame star bird come late. Help: here. Help: now. Help: how? Star bird try.
No. 1077102 ID: 2fcef7

get an intense intrusive thought to ride them like a cowboy
No. 1077110 ID: 8f9bc4

> ride placid watcher like a mechanical bull
No. 1077181 ID: fa3034

Oh you know, just having your world shaken for the 50th time this trip
No. 1077286 ID: e139aa
File 170000091951.png - (101.75KB , 800x600 , fop-152.png )

> does My.a know
No idea!

> conduct a survey
I have a task for Su.ki.fu as soon as she shows up, I think.

> ride them like a cowboy
I think this is a fast track to annoying both Lightgreen and Softfoot.

> how could Vi.al have allowed this
I don't know, I don't understand. This planet must have been abandoned for [decades], but Lord Vi.al seemed to think My.a was responsible for all the recent issues. Something isn't adding up. Vi.al is notorious for keeping secrets, and only the last time I talked to them did they reveal something they were deliberately keeping from me. It's not the first time Vi.al's hidden the whole truth from me, but, well, obfuscating a mission briefing? From their most trusted agent?? I don't like this. I really don't like this. Either Vi.al is lying to me about something fundamental, or My.a is more powerful than either of us realise, and I don't like either of those options.

> check catalogue by asking Lightgreen about the lepi
I check the catalogue and wait why are the lepi not in my local cache. What? No, wait, it-- they were but the entry was deleted? Remotely? Yeah. Deleted. Note from Maintainer Vi.a, "deleted from Vi.al catalogue instances under request from Lord Ku.su due to numerous inaccuracies, pending rewrite." Okay but why though. Clearly the Lo.ka constructs got to keep their entry. Ugh.

> get the lepi more of these things
I was wondering how their apparent nomadic lifestyle worked and this does explain a few things. Maybe they could do with some discussions on how to leverage this clear tactical advantage. I'm not even a military tactician or strategist and I can immediately tell how mounted combat would give the lepi a sorely needed advantage. I wonder why it hasn't been tried already? A cultural barrier? Simply no one ever thinking to try it? Maybe the meadowanders aren't suited to charging? I'll have to ask the leaders.

> explain your intent
If she can understand me speaking in lepi squeaks and chitters, I'm not going to use monovoice if I can help it.
"About the lack of help. We simply did not know. I am very sorry. I am here to help now. Help the lepi. Help everyone. But I also need help to do this. Help is coming soon. Within [a few days]."
"No knowledge?"
"No knowledge." I bow in apology. "We had many problems we needed to solve. We could not check everything." This is not necessarily untrue. "Me being here is a sign that we want to help again."

Softfoot looks at me in what I can only interpret as a skeptical manner, head tilted, before closing her eyes and nodding slowly.

"Star bird fix land. Star bird fix shame."
"Yes. That is the plan."
"Good knowledge."

> explain why you're shaking
"Oh, right, Lightgreen, I'm only shaking because these things were--" Were what, Vi.si.mi? Never supposed to think? Lightgreen hasn't learned how much of her world is artificial yet. Let's not do that yet. She's had enough to go through today. "--not supposed to be here in the way that they are. Sorry. It's starbird stuff. Don't worry about it. I'll be fine."
"...Don't be scared of the meadowanders, starbird! They're very gentle, and very smart. They only bring harm to those who harm them first. And they will warn you first. You even know their song-words! They will never attack without warning."
"Possible attack first, no warning, if bad danger. Star bird not bad danger."
"Well, I guess that's true."

"What's bad danger?"
"...star bird not know bad danger? Star bird know danger yes??"
"Oh. Okay, so it's not a specific thing?"
Lightgreen sees my confusion. "Oh, no, it's just... I think it's the song-words for what we'd call 'threat'."
"Oh." I'm not surprised a meadowander wouldn't see me as a threat. Natural organisms are a mixed bag, but no artificial organisms, especially Vi.al-made, are going to see me as a threat. Something about a mixture of subconscious signals inherent to my design, and also just [years] of training and experience to handle animals and get them to trust me.
"You can show Softfoot you're not a threat. Softfoot, can the starbird pet you?"

Softfoot looks at me for a few quiet moments, and then nods her head.

I reach out and pet Softfoot, who does seem a little wary at first, before relaxing as I stroke her.
The symbiotic white moss is dense and wiry, and the longer white fur strands are soft. It's an interesting blend of textures. Quite nice. Very soothing.

"Star bird soft," says Softfoot, looking back at my wing-hands.

...okay, I have to pull myself together before I do nothing but pet Softfoot for the rest of the evening. As immensely tempting as it is.
No. 1077287 ID: e139aa
File 170000095439.png - (101.43KB , 800x600 , fop-153.png )

> introduce yourself to the sapient
Oh. Oh right.

"I forgot to introduce myself properly. My name is Vi.si.mi. I am an ecology construct created for the Shapeless Lord Vi.al, long shall it reign." Ahhhh, that's better. Like scratching a hard-to-reach itch every time.
"Name Soft foot," says the meadowander. "Land walk observation animal. Old family talk, animal made by Lord Vi.al. Greeting to star bird cousin."
"Well it's a little bit more involved than that, but I suppose you're not wrong that your ancestors were made by Lord Vi.al."

The catalogue indicates that the expected lifespan of a Placid Watcher can be-- what. No, that's not right. That has to be a mistake, there is no possible way these things were made to last [200 years], they're just flesh and blood, how do they get a longer lifespan than most constructs?? I mean, life expectancy given living in a world turned feral must be much, much smaller, but, wow, what is the purpose of a non-sapient animal living that long?? Great, now I'm feeling bio-envy.

"...This is an odd question, but, uh, how old are you, Softfoot?"
Softfoot looks at me in confusion, before looking irritated and upset. "Not child! Not child. Adult. Adult. Soft foot adult. Small adult."
"Sorry, no, that's not what I meant, I meant how old are you in [years]?"
I get a confused noise that sounds like a distorted error chime.

"The meadowanders don't track their age in [years]," says Lightgreen. "They use, uh, life stages, mostly."
"Okay, do you know how old she is?"
"Maybe just a little bit younger than I am?"
"...how old are you?"
"Oh. Uh. [25 years old]. Still, I remember playing with Softfoot when I was still larval and she was tiny. We've been friends for almost our whole lives."
"Fascinating. Do all lepi have meadowanders they bond with?"
"Well, starbird, yes and no. Some are more in tune with the meadowanders than others. I have always felt more at home around anything other than my own kind, so, it came naturally to me, and Softfoot herself, well, as you can see, she's here far from the herd to contemplate by herself. We were fated to run into each other at some point, I believe."

"...no go danger places without me again," says Softfoot, nudging up against Lightgreen. "No again."
"Please," says Lightgreen, deflating. "I got enough of that from my brother, don't you start as well."
"Many many danger. No go without others."
"I have Vee now! I'm not wandering around outside the village on my own again."

I look around awkwardly. "So I do at some point need to go back to the leaders of your village and get some more information about the local situation from them."
Lightgreen looks between me and Softfoot. "...Starbird, will you mind if I stay here a little while longer? I think I owe Softfoot some more of my time."
"Not at all." I'm just glad to learn she has any friends at all. I was starting to worry I might be the only thing in her life, and I can't balance my duties and being someone's only friend. ...yeah, okay, it's probably for the best Vy.zi.ki is a factor after all, I guess.

"...also, starbird, I, uh... I should... I have some other people I need to talk to tonight," she says, antennae twirling around themselves anxiously as her wings flutter.
"Oh. Well, so do I, I think, so, that should also be fine. You have your own life, I do know this."
"The offer to sleep in my tent is still open."
"I will consider it." I guess wrecking my relay station gives me an excuse to redesign it with sleeping quarters, the substrate from the transport pod should have arrived by now. "If I am held up, I will make myself another tent."
"Oh, right," says Lightgreen, eyes momentarily full of wonder as she presumably recalls watching me shape substrate for the first time. "Right. Well! If you need anything from me, just ask around, the village knows where I live."

"Have fun, you two!" I walk off, waving jovially, as Lightgreen waves farewell and Softfoot waves her tendril things at me.
No. 1077288 ID: e139aa
File 170000098341.png - (404.23KB , 800x600 , fop-154.png )


On my way to the leaders' tent, I visit my trashed relay station. It is doing its absolute best to maintain the position I gave it, but it's starting to resemble a decomposing corpse with how the emergency struts and pillars are sticking out of smashed up gooey substrate mass.

I try my best to shape things less dramatically than earlier. The fading of daylight just makes the glowing light show even more obvious, so I walk around trying to fix things bit by bit. After a few minutes fruitlessly watching the structure stand and collapse into itself over and over, I sigh with the full capacity of my lungs and stand back, collapsing the entire thing back into a dense substrate block. The block is about three times the volume it was when I brought it over here, so that's a lot of additional substrate to work with now. Wow. I guess the transport pod had reserves.

So I think for a little bit, considering the template I had before, and, well, I can't extend downwards with all the dirt in the way, so I guess I'll have to extend it laterally. The structure is already on the border of the village, so I have a clear outwards direction I can take it... yes, okay, a linking corridor, I think, to put some distance between the relay station and my new quarters. Double the thickness of that room, blocking signals will be impossible but I can at least numb them and isolate the relay equipment... okay, okay, I have something. The doors will just have to be walls. Alright.

I bring the relay station up, a dome as before with a tube leading off to another dome next to it. I can't help but feel this is all going to be a temporary setup anyway, until I get access to better engineers or construction tools. Whatever. It just needs to be operational.

I get way more unexpected visitors staring transfixed into the lights of the structure forming. Is this the entire village? I hear lots of excited chatter and explanations from lepi to lepi about what's going on, few of them remotely accurate. I'm here to save them, I'm here to watch them, I'm here to claim ownership over the lepi, I'm here to take advantage of the hospitality I've been given, there's too many voices and too many opinions to address all of them. The more hostile lepi are just shouting at me, telling me I'm not welcome here, while other lepi try to drag them away. Lepi parents hold back and chase after their grubs excitedly running towards and around the structure.

As I finish the structure, I realise a short elderly lepi holding a staff taller than I am is next to me. Ochre Willow, the elder of the village.

"Please tell me you are not going to keep doing this every night, starbird," she says, once again uncannily unimpressed by an alien lightshow that should surely be something beyond her wildest imagination. "These starlights in the darkness are going to drive us all mad. We're sensitive to light, you know."
"I don't intend to have to rebuild my home every night, no. I've had a very busy day."
"I suppose it is not every day when someone needs to build a home twice, is it. I hope your fortune improves before it drags us all down with it."

Really not regretting the choice to see Softfoot first.
No. 1077289 ID: e139aa
File 170000102797.png - (163.01KB , 800x600 , fop-155.png )

"I did want to see you, actually. Well, all of you. The Three, you said? I want to learn about what problems currently face the lepi, so I can start working on fixing them."
"I suppose I am one of the Three. I can tell you as clearly as the other two what our problems are. I will be brief. I presume you are looking for more than vague ills that plague our dying village."
"Dying? Plague?? Ills??"
"...ah, my mistake, starbird. No, we can count ourselves lucky that, for the most part, we have our health." She laughs, a little croaky. "I certainly could be doing worse. But no, I speak metaphorically. I have seen much happen to our Golden Bough, and to the lepi. I fear there may simply be no more lepi. I am surprised that Lightgreen did not join the ranks of the lepi taken by the many horrors around us. One by one, every bold, daring face with dreams of standing against the darkness is soon consumed by it."
"Are there not new lepi being born?"

Ochre Willow pauses, and looks at me with a look of confusion.

"Starbird, it takes [years] for a newborn to grow, and it takes [minutes] for a lepi to be snatched away by claws and jaws in the dark. I frame it this way so a creature of higher intellect such as yourself can understand that this state of affairs is, to put it lightly, untenable." I'm impressed the autotranslator is picking up all of her strange word choices. I didn't even know the lepi tongue had a word so directly analogous to 'untenable'.
"I mean, if--"
Ochre Willow stamps her staff into the grass. "And if your suggestion to mitigate this is to tell the people of my village, my people, my kin, that they simply need to breed more, like brainless dewslumps, then I am going to point you towards the noetuno, and ask you how they're faring right now. Tell me, starbird, are the noetuno happy?"
"I don't know much about the noetuno," I lie, thinking about how Five Strands seemed so furious over the contorted caste system she'd helped to reinforce.
"That's a pity, because, for what I hear from our warriors and scouts, they seem miserable. Bickering constantly, fighting each other as much as anything else. But I suppose the number of noetuno is higher than the number of lepi, isn't it? And that's what you would prefer to change?"
"Well, no. I suppose that's not a good course of action. I suppose in my typical line of work, which is ecological cultivation, I would try to make sure all other basic necessities are being met to encourage a population to increase itself. Food supplies, safety, good environmental conditions..."

Ochre Willow narrows her already quite narrowed eyes. "You would do well, if you wish to help us, to consider us less as livestock to manage and more as people to aid."
"Oh! No! Sorry! Sorry, no, that's, I'm just, it's a problem with translation, I will try harder!"
Ochre Willow's piercing eyes burn into my soul a little harder. Memories of the days Fo.ka.sa was very unimpressed with me come flooding uninvited.
"For the sake of the Light and the lepi, I hope you will not prove so meek and willing to acquiesce when speaking to your enemies."
"What do you want from me?! I'm just trying to do the best I can with the skills I have!! I'm not perfect, I know, but I want to help, I want to help!!"

Oh. Oh fuck I shouldn't have said that one out loud.

The elder lepi looks at me at first dismissively, shaking her head, but sighs. "We were promised so much in bygone times by the starbeings. Tell me, child." Okay, that stung. "Forgive my assumption, of course, starbeing, but you strike me as... inexperienced."
"I'm very experienced in things that are not this."
"So, if you do not mind me asking, you are telling me that your Lord, this... 'vye all', that you mention, sent someone urgently, but not necessarily the best person for the job?"
"I'm Lord Vi.al's most trusted agent." Tell the truth, Vi.si.mi. Just tell the truth. "Not most skilled, or most relevant. Most trusted. Lord Vi.al knows I will not give up on this task. For a task as open-ended and ill-defined as this, I was Lord Vi.al's first choice."
"It seems so, so very fitting that you would be the sort of help Lightgreen found. Heh. You share her tenacity, if nothing else."

After some time, during which she looks over me like she's assessing me for some sort of structural analysis, she continues. "There are some matters that we could use assistance with. I do believe you wish to help us. I am just not sure you can. If you can assist us with these difficulties, then I would be very happy to be proven wrong. But let us go inside. It's getting colder out."
"By all means." This is progress. This is at least progress.
No. 1077290 ID: e139aa
File 170000105856.png - (198.02KB , 800x600 , fop-156.png )

Inside the tent, I see this is the same tent I was in earlier today. Absent two other figures.

"Where are the other two?"
"We only hold an audience for part of the day. Deepred and Offwhite have other responsibilities to attend to. I am, as the elder, the only one with the luxury to spend my whole day fretting about things. Of course, all three of us must be together to make grand decisions that affect the whole village, but, well, old habits become unshakeable traditions. Such as the tradition of the elder as leader."
"Oh. Three leaders is a new thing?"
"A compromise between two villages with their own ways of doing things. Golden Root had the elder, Blossoming Bough had two leaders, one of might, one of craft. I prefer things this way. It would be even more exhausting to bear all of the burden."

Ochre Willow trudges over to the far end of the tent, and unfurls what looks like a map scrawled onto a roughly-woven silken surface. She lays it down onto the table she was sitting behind earlier, and places small wooden marker blocks around it. I've seen more detailed maps, for sure.

"This is not one of our best maps, but it's one of our most current. Deepred would give some rambling nonsense about this and that, and it's his obsession with scouting that are why we've even been making maps like this, but I'll just give you the basics. Ask whatever questions you need, and let me know whichever you want to look into."
"What creatures are these?" I point what I assume is north of the rhamata.
"No clue. They've been spotted in the skies, and they keep to themselves, and fly away whenever anyone tries to get close to them. Now, hold your questions for now."

Ochre Willow points to some sort of grove.
"Many of our medicines are reliant on a particular fungus we call globestalk. One of the best places we know to find it is distressingly close to seapi territory, but far enough that our gatherers travel with warrior escorts to get back safely. Lately, some of the lepi have been disappearing, and the ones who returned have all spoken of a lepi living on their own telling them to leave, at spearpoint, with seapi skulls on pikes. Some of our warriors returned wounded and pale. Globestalk is very important and we haven't found anywhere else it grows in enough quantity. If someone were to investigate whatever's going on and maybe put a stop to it so we can have globestalk again before our dried reserves run out in [a couple of days], it'd be nice. You'd be on your own, though. Much as we keep asking, the warriors don't want to go anywhere near that place."

She then points to a fork of the river I was at earlier.
"Our scouts have also found that a raiding party of noetuno started approaching our village, but stopped and appear to be building something. Nothing that the noetuno would be building that close to the village could mean anything good. One of the first things they were working on that we can see from here is some sort of lookout tower, so the window of time to get a closer look before being more easily spotted is probably also [a couple of days]. The warriors we have at our disposal are much more willing to look into this themselves, although assistance wouldn't hurt."

She pauses, and then takes a block off of the map. "On second thoughts, this matter isn't particularly urgent. Glittering Sepal was a village of lepi that were more prone to violence and conflict than either Golden Root or Blossoming Bough were, and we did not miss them when the Awakening destroyed their entire village. But, apparently, the former shaman of Glittering Sepal is both alive, and appears to be working with the noetuno and the seapi, somehow. I think the other two matters are more urgent, and, also, to be completely honest with you, I do not feel like sending you against the seapi is wise. You appear to be the diplomatic sort. Lepi and sometimes noetuno are more receptive to that. Seapi aren't."

Well then.

I guess I have to decide if I want to focus, for the upcoming [days] until I get some reinforcements and supplies, whether to tackle the weird lepi causing a globestalk shortage or the noetuno raiders building something near a river fork.

...or I guess I could try and ask more about the enemy lepi shaman, but I get the impression that might be a poor choice to take things.
No. 1077291 ID: 99f29a

The weird lepi causing a globestalk shortage is something you might actually be equipped to handle. Go for it.
No. 1077293 ID: a7a180

Secure the globestalk supplies, and maybe a lepi ally. There may be something wrong with the globestalk she's trying to warn people of.
No. 1077295 ID: 7695ec

well, with two time limits, one that needs you and one that would only like assistance, you'd have to choose the first

to do personally, you have a flocklet and some substrate to shape, this should let you assist the warriors in the second task
No. 1077298 ID: de5cb4

Negotiating with the weird lepi and investigating improvement to the cultivation of globestalk seems a better fit for Vi.si.mi's skill set.
How much danger would the flocklet be in spying on the noetuno from a distance? It would be nice if we could multitask, but the little one might not be able to handle a quick escape if spotted.
No. 1077300 ID: f3171e

Agreed. If they've taken down multiple seapi solo, they sound like someone we want on our side as well.
No. 1077301 ID: 8f9bc4

A bonus to mission globestalk shortage is the seapi skulls on pikes. Seapi appear to be some sort of autonomous drones from an unknown source, so figuring out how to disable them, or examining their corpses might help defend against them. Remember from your transmission seizure that the noetuno know the seapi and consider them one of the "horrors" that they overcame, so the noetuno might be more amenable to negotiate with someone who figured out how to deal with the seapi problem.

Uh, assure Ochre that you would never think it as simple as just breeding more. Your goal is to enable them to thrive so that [minutes] become [years] and they can keep up with their population losses. And you don't consider them to be livestock. You don't even consider their livestock to be livestock!
No. 1077305 ID: 273c18

Oh, you can use the catalog again? Look up all of the "similar" species that are present on the planet.

>lepi entry was deleted
I can't think of any reason for that other than because Vi.al just now confirmed they're still alive and told Ku.su so of course they're going to rewrite the entry, and their survival is not perfectly guaranteed at the moment is it?

>must have been decades
The meadowanders live 200 years though, which implies a slow rate of reproduction. Either they've been edging towards sapience for thousands of years without Vi.al noticing due to inattention or outright neglect, or Vi.al noticed and let it happen. Well, there's a third option, which is that they were always sapient, and Vi.al lied about it. I think it's most likely that Vi.al just let them become sapient on their own though. After all, why not? They're clearly behaving themselves.
Oh I guess My.a could have just... altered their minds to make them sapient after the Awakening. Considering My.a was able to make a shield against the infohazard that works better than Vi.al's shield, My.a is probably very good at manipulating minds. Plus, My.a is amoral enough to do it... though again, I'm not sure it's a bad thing for the meadowanders. It's more like pulling a prank on Vi.al. You didn't ask an older meadowander about the Awakening so we can't confirm that yet.

>jealous about lifespan
Oh? What's yours? Do note that creatures with a long lifespan tend to have low energy lifestyles.

>We were promised so much in bygone times by the starbeings.
Huh? Was he talking about Ku.su? Ask about their history with the starbeings.

>unknown flying creatures
Could they be a Vi.al construct? Or My.a's eyes in the sky? Or natives of the unknown world that My.a stole everyone from, like the Seapi were? Ah, investigating them would be a fine job for our scout once they arrive!

Hold on, a rogue lepi shaman is working with the Seapi? That means the Seapi CAN be reasoned with, and the fact that the Seapi aren't working with the Noetuno means this shaman is somehow making deals with two sides of a conflict, something that is notably difficult. Either they have access to a particularly valuable resource that can't be taken by force or... they're an intermediary for trade? In any case, if it's possible to get in contact with them it might open up a diplomatic option for both the Seapi and the Noetuno. Finding out what the Seapi does with captives is pretty important I think, but that would also be something our scout can do.

Ask for more details about the rogue shaman, but I agree we should go for the medicine first. The lepi there knows how to kill Seapi so that's useful information to retrieve as well. Suggest to the elder that their warriors talk to the Meadowanders to see if any of them are willing to help scout/fight the Noetuno at the structure. Consider using some spare Substrate to make some stronger weapons or armor for the warriors and meadowanders.
No. 1077308 ID: 9e6f2b

Quick question, are you able to fire off a few lasers now or would doing so cause you to pass out again? I have a feeling of regardless of what mission you pick a fight is probably going to brake out and knowing your limits BEFORE a fight brakes out might help us plan for or around said limits.
No. 1077328 ID: 253138

You're gonna need to do something about your relay station glowing. Besides attracting outside attention and announcing itself as a prime target, the light is gonna disrupt the lepi's sleep.

Before you turn in for the night, try and figure out how to disable your structure's external lighting. Vi.al has to have put a toggle in somewhere to turn it off for situations that require being more visually discreet. If a way to do this isn't readily apparent, contact Nu.ya.si since they would be most likely to know about commanding substrate systems.

If you can't find a way to stop the relay station from glowing, a second option would be to cover it with the same material used for the lepi's tents, with extra thickness if needed to keep the light from bleeding through. Dress it up as a actual tent and it'd also somewhat camouflage it in addition to blocking the unwanted light. Tell Ochre Willow this is your backup plan idea if you can't get your structure to stop being lit up and ask if the lepi have any spare tent material to enact this plan any time soon.
No. 1077331 ID: ab1b6a

You are an ecology expert. You might be the most qualified person on the planet to fetch, and TRANSPLANT medically important fungus to a less hostile harvesting grounds.
No. 1077333 ID: 2a82d3

Look into the glowshroom first, but probe the GB elder further about the rogue lepi first. You won't seriously consider an investigation, if only because you won't overestimate your capabilities at this point, but her profile of the other lepi suggests they could've been from the same village. Make your trip quick, and you'll have time to look into the noetuno outpost, which is likely to be Four Strands making her move.

You might not be able to land a joke with her about your lightshow attracting their best and brightest, but attracting local Talents should be part of your long term plans. Try to make that clear to her. Finding them among the other (lower) races also connects to your other goal: to unite them under your banner, or at least prove yourself a better custodian than their assigned Transcendental. Perhaps you could found some sort of Planetary Council, at some point down the line. That's on top of your Green mandate to tame the meadowlanders and other (ascendant) animals built by your lord.
Yes, it did recently occur to me that this is an Alpha Centauri quest.
No. 1077349 ID: 0d9b4b

Glowshroom supply is most viable and likely to result in good Grace's.
Ask the elder what is valuable to loners in a nomadic lifestyle. Take defensive equipment obviously.
Remember to cover structure lighting. See if you can use the address vy.zi.ki helpfully provided to suggest m.ya develope an introduction within the next two days that will secure help for her and not scorn.
No. 1077419 ID: 9cf8d5

...Have to voice an objection here. He said they have several days of medical supplies. Should they be unready for an assault that could wipe the supplies. While loss of medical supplies is a threat over a long period, wipeout via military loss is a bigger and more immediate issue.
No. 1077441 ID: f3171e

Counterpoint: if we can manage to recruit the seipi-slaying lepi we will have a hero unit for the fight that will probably happen when we try to talk to the sexdogs.
No. 1077489 ID: e139aa
File 170026468993.png - (97.88KB , 800x600 , fop-157.png )

"I'll look into the globestalk situation. I can see if it's possible to transfer some of it to a safer location."
Ochre Willow raises an eyebrow. "Our best foragers and herbalists came to the conclusion such an effort would be futile, but, well, another perspective on the matter wouldn't be a wasted effort. We do use a lot of it. It helps aid fevers, inflammations, swellings, aches... I often find myself asking our healers for remedies and find so many of them need some part of the fungus. The stalk, the globe, the fluids inside the globe, all of it. It's one of the few starbeing promises that seem to have actually been fulfilled."
"...Excuse me?"
"Oh, yes. The globestalk has the signs of being a gift from your kind. Few other medicinal plants are so versatile. It's almost like," and she pauses, looking at me as she leans closer towards me, "it was made for us. Like we were known very, very well. Very, very well, by the starbeings."
"Well, you know, we--"
"You know, some of the longest lasting songs of our origins suggest we came from the stars ourselves, under the watchful eyes of 'the moth of moons'. Who 'shone like the stars and the grass'. I can't help but think that's such a strange way to describe something glowing. Grass doesn't glow. But, well. I have to say, your home does seem to glow the colour of the grass, doesn't it?"
"I-- I guess it does?"

She leans back, eyes closed contemplatively for a moment.

"...oh, just musing. Forgive an old woman her ramblings," she says, and I feel tension melting out of my body like a deflating balloon. "So you will investigate the strange happenings near our precious globestalk patch, at the very least. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your efforts. When do you think you will set out?"
"Ideally tomorrow."

She looks surprised. "So soon?" She gives a croaky laugh. "The eagerness is appreciated, I will say, but do you think that might be rushing things a little?"
"You mentioned low supplies. I want to resolve this as soon as possible before they deplete." And I have other clocks ticking. That truce isn't going to last forever.
"I suppose. You have the bold spirit I would hope to see in our would-be saviour, that is certain. But, as we have seen with our shaman, spirit alone is never enough."
"Lightgreen seems quite capable to me. Why do you all think of her so poorly? Why is she an outsider to the village?"

Another mild laugh, but one that feels a little sadder. "She is an outsider by choice, starbird. Many have tried to reach out to her, but the more they try, the further she pulls herself away. The mutual resentment has grown over time. I do not think she is lost to us, no, but I worry something might easily pull her away."
"Pull her away in what sense? Physically?"

She looks at me, and sinks onto a stool. "Yes, but, well." A deep sigh. "Her heart lies beyond the lepi. We all know it. We don't know what she wants. She doesn't know what she wants. So, please. If you're the one to spirit her away to the world she so clearly desires, can you at least help us first before you do?"
"Oh, nothing."

I wonder why she's so invested in Lightgreen specifically. Actually, let me ask that. "Why are you so interested in what Lightgreen does?"

I get back a look of confusion, followed by irritation. "Oh, she didn't deign to inform you her grandmother is the elder of the village?" She groans. "I swear on the Light that girl is going to kill me some day. Yes. Lightgreen is my granddaughter. She and her brother are the only surviving family I have left. I don't need to worry about him as much, he's not the one running off into the wilderness every other [month]."

I will now disengage before the floodgates open further. "Well, I know now, and, also, I need to make preparations for my mission tomorrow."
"Good luck. I would ask you not to endanger her again, but she's likely going to follow you wherever you go. She followed that fox one around for a [month] before he asked her to stop following him back home. I never understood why he sounded so downtrodden saying that, but he mentioned something about orders from above. When we have more time, I would love to ask how things are run in the heavens, but I shan't keep you much longer."

I really should have asked Va.ne.tu about the lepi more than I did. Whoops. I'm starting to feel like I was a complete afterthought to him-- why do I care. Why do I care.
Anyway, I wave and leave, as she gives me a brief nod.

"I do have one request, which I'm sure, given how you seem to care about her yourself, must feel redundant."
"Don't get her hurt."
"I will do my best!"

She rubs her head. "I suppose that is all I can ask for. Good night, starbird."
No. 1077490 ID: e139aa
File 170026474585.png - (375.73KB , 800x600 , fop-158.png )

I leave and head back to my relay station, not that far from the more central leader tent. The village isn't particularly large, I realise. A few dozen tents, some larger than the rest. There's, what, by rough estimate, maybe fifty, sixty lepi left here? That's a worryingly low number for long term population health. I wish I knew how many lepi were taken as captives. A dozen? Double the count in the village? It's a weird situation to hope there's a lot of lepi being held prisoner or enslaved, but the alternative is worse from a long-term viability perspective. I just hope Lord Vi.al doesn't tell Lord Ku.su that their creations are doing fine after all, because they really, really aren't.

It's a little early to call the night finished, but, honestly, I'm worried the longer I stay awake, the likelier it is some new problem will leap out at me and take even more of my time. My.a called a truce, so hopefully they honour that. I'm going to go to bed while things are calm.

I'll set up a little response message if Lightgreen comes around to investigate explaining I won't be around until... hm. Sunrise should work. Unless it's an emergency. I'll clarify if it's an emergency to knock three times and that'll let her in. I think I have a clear enough mental image of Lightgreen for the relay station to accurately identify her. Ugh, this is fuzzier than I'd like, I should get biometrics set up next time she's in here. I can't tell which of the pale fibres around here are hers or Vy.zi.ki's. And her green fluff would just blend in with the floor.

I fumble around the station for some sort of light dimming controls, and finally find them after searching both physically and through command sequences. There. External glow can dim down to only the tiny flickers of light caused by particularly intense localised computation. So if someone smacks the outside a bunch, basically.

...one last thing to do before that. Talking with Ochre Willow reminded me of something.
Screen up. Text-only message.

Origin: Vi.al.Vi.si.mi
Destination: Lo.ka.Fo.ka.sa

Dear Forecaster,

By now, Lord Vi.al has confirmed that I am here safely, with all of the basic equipment set up. I know you must have worried, or maybe you didn't? I'm sure Lord Vi.al would have mentioned if you were worried. They did mention you, after all. I'm sure you knew better than they would how I'd fare on my own. You always were able to second guess me so often. I did pick up on that! My own prediction skills tell me you would still like to hear from me anyway. I bet I got a little close to the truth, right?

Love you as always. Talk soon, once I figure out what our relative timeframes are. And if you have a moment spare. I know you're quite busy. So am I now.

There. Send. She always does like to hear from me.
No. 1077491 ID: e139aa
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Alright. The last two times I decided to dream and figure things out, I had unwelcome visitors come to visit me.

So this time I'm just not going to give them the opportunity. I'm tired of such nonsense already. I feel my hands lose definition and my arms revert to more wing-like structures as my body seeks simpler shapes to assume to reduce computational complexity. I've met aliens that find this idea horrifying, but with a thought they'd be back if I needed them. Feathers are nicer to rest on, anyway.

I close my eyes, and the weight of everything I've been through starts to subside as I drift away, far sooner than I'd expect. I guess I've been carrying around a lot of stress these past couple of days. Well. In a sleep this deep, I suppose my mind may still process, but I won't perceive or experience. Maybe we do actually dream like many sapient organisms would in such a state, but none of us remember. Who can say? How can you remember a thing you never experienced?

Enough. Enough busy thoughts. No more tonight.
No. 1077492 ID: e139aa
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Good night, world.

No. 1077493 ID: 99f29a

Your little ball head causes computational complexity? Damn the Shapeless need better firmware.
No. 1077494 ID: 273c18

Hmm, what happened to not needing to sleep every night? Must be all the stress.
No. 1077496 ID: a7a180

And the bodily trauma.
No. 1077497 ID: 2a82d3

Good night, sweet prince. May this world will recognize you as such, one way or another.
No. 1077524 ID: 2aa5f0

I like to imagine that they fell asleep in the relay part of their base instead of the bedroom they set up and didn't realize it because of how tired they were. Would be funny that the first thing they experience when they wake up is just all the noise the relay gives off... That or the relay acts weird again and let's all the lepi see what Vi.si.mi is dreaming about. either by beaming it into their dreams or just having some screens around the base that they could watch if they were interested enough.
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