By the time Kayla arrived, dinner was nearly ready and wonderful smells were floating into the house from the outdoor kitchen that Niobe’s family used at the hottest times of the year. Amanpreet was sitting at the terminal checking on the order for the bioforming supplies for Talis, so she twisted around in her seat to look at her.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“Without a hitch,” Kayla said. “I have new ID and the Dreamsong is now officially mine.” She flopped down on one of the sofas. “And no one attacked me, which is nice. But what happens now? I hope the wait soon will be over.”
“Well, now we wait for the bioforming supplies then head off to Talis to deliver them and pick up the scientists,” Amanpreet said. “And the bioforming supplies should be ready tomorrow.”
“Excellent,” Oni said. “We’ll be at Corona in plenty of time then.”
“You know the date?” Linda asked as she re-entered the house and waved them towards the dining table. She was carrying a large pot and Niobe was behind her with others. â€œThis one’s fish stew and Niobe’s is similar but made with tofu.â€
“Yes,” he said. “Several of the highland cultures have had radio for some time and we’ve been listening to them. Our linguists have decoded enough of their languages to understand their calendar and some of their technological terms. That’s how we know they are planning to send their first astronauts up.”
Niobe’s eyes lit up. â€œI want to talk to your linguists! I’ve always wanted to work on an unknown language. It must be challenging,â€
â€œSure!â€ One of the other members of Oni’s group â€“ a young woman with dark olive skin and short black hair â€“ said. â€œIt’s always nice to have input from a colleague.â€ She extended her hand to Niobe across the table. â€œI’m Sierra by the way, the team’s chief linguist, and yes it’s very challenging â€“ especially since we don’t have enough comparatives – but yes, it’s extremely rewarding. Speaking of unknown languages, I want to grab the lexicon the linguists are building for the Talis species while we’re there.â€ She rolled her eyes skywards. â€œI wish we had a helpful telepathic computer to help us at Corona.â€
â€œIt would be useful,â€ Nerrin said. â€œBut we don’t even know if it’s fully safe yet, even if Am does seem unharmed. Though given the warning they had to give us and what we’ve now learned about Corona it seems reasonable.â€
â€œThat’s true,â€ Sierra said.
â€œWhat did you learn today?â€ Kayla asked.
â€œOh!â€ Niobe said. â€œWe haven’t told you that bit yet. The alien species that attacked Talis was also responsible for the destruction of Corona’s former Class Four species, as we feared. Am is thinking they target species that have or are close to having to hyperspace travel capability.â€
â€œReally?â€ Kayla said. â€œWhy would they… do you think that maybe their home is in hyperspace like the Fish’s home?â€
Amanpreet blinked at that then shook her head. â€œNo, rather the opposite. From what we know they can’t actually tolerate hyperspace at all.â€
Kayla gave a whistle. â€œThey must be immortal then. How would you hold an interstellar society together at sublight speeds otherwise?â€
â€œExtremely long lived at the very least,â€ Amanpreet agreed. â€œBut to hold a society together unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years they’d need to be, even without the hyperspace thing.â€ She chewed on her lip. â€œTwo hundred thousand years… even if they have a generation period of one thousand years that’s two hundred generations. Look how much humans have changed in two hundred generations.â€
Kayla nodded thoughtfully. â€œA lot of social inertia as well. I hope we never have to fight them.â€
â€œMe too,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œBut the Council needs to plan as if we will.â€
â€œI’m sure they will,â€ Linda said. â€œThat’s their job after all.â€ She turned to Oni. â€œSo tell me more about Corona and your work.â€
â€œAh yes,â€ he said. â€œCorona is interesting because it has two closely related sophont species and the highland species is one of the technologically developed we study.â€
â€œThey are geographically discrete?â€ she asked.
â€œYes, the highland species cannot tolerate the atmosphere at low levels. They developed powered flight very early on from what we can tell because of this. I’m writing a paper on them currently. I can send you a copy if you wish.â€
â€œI’d like that,â€ she said. â€œSo will you stay tonight before you go to Talis and Corona?â€
â€œSure!â€ Niobe said before Amanpreet could answer. â€œWe have to wait for the stuff for the Ishtari anyway.â€
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