And so we return with Yd’rel Yod (anthropologist) as emissary to the colony. Yod seems willing to fly back in our ship, which must to him look like a biplane. Marak and Marcus have been rooting around in the Uatsu sofa cushions for loose tech to bring home, and have some. Rocky had detected something large impacting in the oceans around the time the Refugee Ring went silent, so there may be more survivors down there. We’ll need the Tikket’s help to check it out.
The Uatsu are quite long-lived. Their nanite/replicator tech means they effectively don’t age, they have chosen as a society a life-span of about 600 years. They are deliberate in their speech and actions, and talk things out before making a decision.
The Council asks us to fly back slowly. It seems that we needed supplies from Oceana to build the drop ship and suits. When Oceana asked what was up, Adams and Marak lied to them. This has not made Governor Hadrian at all happy. He’s coming to TN to meet with Yod, but the flight even at a fast Pegasus burn will take time. (Freedom used up a lot of its fuel – its taking time to make/gather more antimatter.) Their doctor and I talk about the various diseases of TN – none should be a challenge to their biology. Nor should the vampire crystals, which turn out to be some of Rocky’s terraformer tech.
Meanwhile, Virgil and I have borrowed mini holographic file readers – his is on their history, mine is about their art and music. We talk with Yod about their homeworld and how it relates to what we see on TN. Yod is concerned by the active role that Rocky took in developing the Tikket and the Fisher Kings, but unlike the Hoth they don’t seem to feel any responsibility for their children. Yod has many questions about us – the Uatsu may have encountered the Hoth or something like them – he thinks their use of intelligent life to spawn was not ethical. We talk about our relationship to the Hoth and our efforts to uplift the Fisher Kings. Yod seems to disagree and feel that we should leave the Fisher Kings to figure things out themselves, no matter how long that takes. I vehemently disagree about information and techniques that can save lives. AUD1 Yod treats like a person – the base AI (which seems volitional) it treats like an intelligent servant. Later, I hear that both Marak and Vicinius sent messages home to bring Rocky under our wings so he isn’t just shut down or reprogrammed. By the time we’re at Gaspia station, the Senate has recognized Rocky as a unique species, negotiated mining rights, and protective rules.
Yod settles in at House Vitarum while we wait for Hadrian. I’m barely back home when both Brooke and she-who-hates-me arrive. I expected this. Dressing down for injecting “two of our most valuable citizens” with alien tech. They aren’t wrong about the risk and that it was ethically questionable. It was, however, the only option for mission success. And, it shouldn’t matter who was injected – ethics are not relative. She-who-hates-me disagrees – yet another dig at my getting a slot on the trip that her friend did not.
Yod talks with the Tikket, the Fisher Kings, and the Golden Ants that visit Aurora and Bayside. The Uatsu knew multiple empathic races, but not ones that use psi the way that the Tikket and Ants do. Marak invites him over for dinner; Yod asks about our families and children. Meanwhile, Vicinius offered Rocky a membership in his House.
Adams settles in to negotiations. Even from the press vids, it’s clear that President Seri and Governor Hadrian are not getting along. This is the first time they’ve met face to face since we left Aute. Eventually Adams asks me for some psychological advice. Neither of them are my current patients, so it would be unethical to look at their records (and I don’t, thank you.) But I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Seri and I have seen her medical records at times. This feels like a family dispute. From the pre-launch press, we can see that Hadrian rose thru the ranks on his own and has no acknowledged father. It seems from his remarks that he and Seri are related – not half-siblings, maybe first cousins? There’s some old family dispute and it is coming out in resentment that neither Seri nor Adams told Oceana about the Uatsu expedition. (Marak, it seems, he expected to lie – he’s a merchant.)
Mid-way thru the conversation, Adams looks suddenly concerned, frightened? Ruby, his AI/familiar, has gone dark. All of Ruby goes down, not just the part he had digging into Seri and Hadrian’s past. This is not good. Adams tries to cut me out – I think he’s trying to be protective. That’s not going to work – he’s my friend. I’m not going to leave him hanging. Keeping a patient’s secrets is part of the oath. But he ducks out to handle it on his own. The best I can do is extract a promise that he’ll check in with me, face to face, within 24 hours. I move his biomonitor result to the top of my side screen –heartbeat fast, breathing fast. I check for Marcus – he’s apparently out drinking with Seri. So I send a message to Marak to check in with me in either a day or if my monitor goes silent.
Whatever is up, it is serious. So I sober Marcus up – whether he likes it or not. He, Seri, and Adams go into a room to talk. Whatever it is, Adams stays on edge for a while, then starts to calm. Then the biomonitor turns off. I look at Marcus’ feed – steady. If something was wrong, he’d have reacted. Not sure what’s up with Adams – maybe he doesn’t want to risk the feed being used to hack? When he comes out, I try to ask him flat out if he is still himself. He’s evasive, annoyingly so. I guess that’s an answer. Whatever it is, the storm seems to pass from the negotiations. Not my business and I’m in no position to complain about other peoples’ secrets.
End of Season Two epilog:
Negotiations are good. The Uatsu want to come to TN – they’d be most comfortable in the jungle – somewhere without Tikket, Ants, or Fisher Kings. There’s lots of room for that. They know we are covetous of their tech and they are concerned about its effects on us. They’re willing to teach, but not to just hand things over. That’s not what we want. Marak and I had both set as ground-rules with the Fisher Kings that we shared equipment and knowledge in fair trade for the help the Kings have given us, for their help in creating new data groves, and their help with new medicinal plants and knowledge about TN. Marcus is concerned about the dangerous neighborhood we live in – the tech would help us defend. Apparently it will also make us more visible to people with the same advanced tech. The Uatsu have sensors in the belt and the Oort Cloud that need repairs – with that they’ll know more about what’s around us. It’s weird to be on the other end of the patronizing conversation, but Seri has been concerned about so many changes that the Colonists have faced just in the past few years – maybe slowing down a bit is a good idea.
After a bunch of meetings, I head home. Cailean and I head into the yard with the kids, Eilena is nearly ready for actual school. We sit under the stars around a fire. I point out one tiny dot among the stars and begin. “Once upon a time, there was a crowded world on the edge of transformation….”