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The Surface is a Strange and Wonderful Place

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USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Captain's Log
Stardate 4215.8

The Enterprise has been rerouted to investigate the report of intelligent life on planet Irlen V. For the last seven months, a small team of geologists have been investigating the unusual structure and composition of the planet's crust. Despite an initial lack of evidence for sapient life forms, in the course of their investigations they found numerous underground structures seemingly too complex to have been created by natural phenomena. Two weeks ago, one member of the team encountered what may be an intelligent life form, and evidence is mounting that this one individual is a member of a civilization which is both organized and mechanized.

The initial contact was brief, and no communication was achieved. The Enterprise has been asked to bring its not inconsiderable experience in first contact to the planet. We are ordered to make contact and if possible initiate friendly relations with the Irlen natives.

I will beam down along with Mr. Spock, Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura, and Crewmen Porter and Ling.

*

"When I took this job, they promised me it would be boring," She-Who-Waits(For-Something-Pointless-And-Dull) said.

She-Who-Was-Third(But-Now-Is-Fifth) made a gesture of vague annoyance. She-Who-Waits ignored it.

"I specifically asked for boring. Tie your araknesh in knots, mind-numbingly dull. Those were my exact words to She-Who-Listens."

She-Who-Was-Third said, "There are literally hundreds of people who would give their fifth araknesh to be where you are right now."

She-Who-Waits stared at the surface dwellers. They were on the floor, yet still moving in unnaturally fast, jerky motions. It was horrific.

"Well any of them can come trade places with me any time they like."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communication's Officer's Log
Stardate 4228.3

We're being watched, possibly guarded, by two of the Irlen natives. They have made no threats or aggressive movements, but they are clearly aware of our presence. The only time they have reacted to us has been to block our path when we've tried to move deeper into the complex of--

Calling them caves feels like calling the Sunset Theater on Mars a metal box. Technically true, but far from expressing the grandeur and craftsmanship of the structure. The room we are in right now is carved into the rock, and filled with symbols and objects the purpose of which we cannot yet determine. The biology of the Irlen natives is so wildly different from our own that we cannot extrapolate from our own experiences.

While the natives are aware of us and engaged with us, all attempts to communicate with them have been fruitless. They do not appear to react to sound at all, and Dr. McCoy's scans suggest that they lack anything analogous to ears. We cannot be certain, of course, but the evidence suggests that they communicate entirely by sight. My guess is that the five tentacles that extend downward from their dorsal side (per Dr. McCoy, we are tentatively referring to the side of them that faces down as their dorsal side) function as specialized communication organs.

Not using sound to communicate is certainly not unprecedented. The Horta, for example, communicate via complex chemical signals most closely analogous to scents, while Gi-shan communication is primarily telepathic, but augmented with sign language under certain circumstances. In the case of the Irlen natives, communication is carried out, I believe, by these specialized communication organs. They are tentacle-like in appearance, about three centimeters in diameter at the base and tapering to approximately 5 millimeters at the tip. Four are the same length, between thirty and forty centimeters long (there's some variation between the two specimens that I have in front of me), and a fifth at the center of the other four is approximately five centimeters longer than the other four.

I think that their language is based on the motion of these five organs. Dr. McCoy isn't convinced, but hasn't found any evidence to disprove my hypothesis.

*

"I fought in a war," She-Who-Waits said.

She-Who-Was-Third's araknesh moved in wordless annoyance.

"It was a long, bloody war," She-Who-Waits added.

"I know. I was there too." She-Who-Lit-A-Fire(In-The-Palace) had commanded that the surface dwellers not be allowed into the city, but that they also not be harmed in any way unless they became aggressive. So far, they were just wandering around on the floor (neither of them could get used to that) making rigid, jerky movements. An orifice in their face opened and closed frequently. Sometimes they put food into it. Other times it appeared to have no purpose.

"I was recognized by the queen for my acts of bravery," She-Who-Waits continued. "I saved the lives of ten of my sisters."

"You got a double bracelet for it. I know. Everyone knows."

"They asked me what I wanted for my next assignment."

She-Who-Was-Third flopped her arankesh in defeat. "Take me now to the sacred caves and free me from my mortal suffering."

"I said I wanted something boring. They promised me boring."

"And yet, here you are."

"And yet, here I am. Distinctly not bored."

"They haven't tried to eat us yet," She-Who-Was-Third said. "At least there's that."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Science Officer's Log
Stardate 4228.6

I have completed reviewing the initial geological and biological data collected by the team assigned to the planet Irlen. Geologically, the most striking feature of this planet is the composition of the crust, which is unusually amenable to the formation of large, complex cave systems. These cave systems have been carved out over millions of years by a multitude of underground rivers which flow, we believe, into as yet undiscovered seas.

Given this, and the extremely high surface temperatures, it is unsurprising that life developed below ground.

The caves are lit by a phosphorescent microorganisms that are unlike anything we have seen before and have yet to be classified. It is so common that we have in our short time here found several species that each emit different wavelengths of light. These organisms, it is hypothesized, gets its energy from the sun, indirectly. While sparse on animal life, the surface of this world has abundant plant life. The survey team has postulated that fungal organisms feed at the roots of these plants, and these in turn feed the phosphorescent microorganisms which light the caves.

This is only an initial hypothesis. Additional logical analysis and experimentation remains to be done.

While not primarily concerned with the biology of Irlen, the geological survey team recorded a great many life forms during their expeditions into the caves. I am fascinated by the preponderance of life that seems to spend its time hanging in a manner that we might term "upside down". Many of the uninhabited caves found by the survey team had pools of water. Both predatory aquatic life and disease were found in these pools, and this may be the reason why animals which spend the majority or perhaps all of their time clinging to the ceiling have become the dominant life on this planet.

To facilitate this, life on this planet has developed a structure somewhat akin to a suction cup. Once placed, the creature can allow their weight to hang without expending additional energy unless they wish to move.

This is a truly fascinating planet.

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communications Officer's Log
Stardate 4229.4

I want to build a robot.

It now seems clear that the Irlen natives (at least the two before us--there has not been a changing of the guard since we arrived on this planet, and while I have no reason to doubt that these two individuals are representative of their species, I also have no proof that they are) do not perceive sound waves in any meaningful way. I want to make a machine that mimics the tentacles of these creatures in the hopes that we can begin a dialog.

There are any number of potential risks to this approach. A machine mimicking them may be taboo, or we may not be able to duplicate the amazing fluidity of their movements and end up saying something unspeakably rude. However, I do believe this is the fastest way for us to open a line of communication. And, perhaps selfishly, I am driven to move quickly by the knowledge that the Captain is getting restless. We have been working on this problem for almost two weeks with no headway. Enterprise is a first contact and exploratory vessel. The flagship of the fleet is too valuable to be taken out of the field for weeks on end if no progress is being made. Once Starfleet decides our time is better spent elsewhere, I will be forced to give one of the most fascinating problems of my professional career to another ship and another communications officer. I am not ready to do that.

Fortunately, Mr. Spock and Doctor McCoy are as eager as I am to explore this world, and have joined me in petitioning the Captain for more time.

Unfortunately, Captain Kirk has already begun making preparations to for K'hrynya to relieve us. They are a dedicated science vessel, and perhaps they would be a better fit for what may well be a long, drawn out process of learning to communicate with these aliens. But K'hrynya's communication officer is T'Reya, also known as she who managed to break the Romulan C-185 cypher two days before I did. I am not letting her have this one too.

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Chief Engineer's Log
Stardate 4335.7

[Amended to engineering file E189/34/a, technical specifications for Irlen native communication robot]

This robot is one of the stranger things I've ever been asked to create during my time on the Enterprise.

It's rather cute, though, if I do say so myself.

*

"That is the most horrifying thing I have ever seen in my life," said She-Who-Waits, staring at the abomination that the aliens had created.

She-Who-Was-Third wiggled her fifth araknesh in agreement.

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communication Officer's Log
Stardate 4337.9

The good news is the robot worked and we were able to begin communicating with the Irlen natives.

The bad news is that we accidentally created something monsterous.

Mr. Spock and I fed reams of video footage of the two Irlen natives that have been watching over us into the Enterprise computer. The universal translator is better at audio and text, but with some coaxing, we managed to get it to translate the signs. As expected, the language is complex, and we have no hope of reproducing it using typical biped hands.

Mr. Scott came to our aid, creating a reproduction of the Irlen tentacles that could be controlled by the computer, which would translate our speech.

Well, it worked, after a fashion, but it turns out that floor is a synonym for death in the Irlen language, and that things that move around on the floor could be compared to zombies in Terran mythology. It was bad enough having us moving around down there, but the robot we created was to them something akin to a mechanized zombie better suited to a horror house than a diplomatic mission.

It was an inauspicious start.

Fortunately, the Irlen natives were willing to overlook our poor choices, and communicated with our robot long enough for us to work out a better strategy.

Their equivalent of writing is based on shifting wavelengths of light. We were brought an Irlen written document. It consists of five diodes that emit electromagnetic radiation, only a small amount of which falls into the spectrum of human vision. The Irlen natives can evidently see everything from X-rays to radio waves. We have replicated this setup, and now we are communicating via similar lights which translate our words into their version of text.

I have so many questions about this way of storing information, but I'm afraid I'm going to be reading the answers in a journal article written by T'Reya after all. Mr. Spock has informed me that Starfleet is only giving us two more weeks on Irlen. After that, K'hrynya is coming to relieve us. It is the blessing and the curse of serving on the flagship of the fleet that we are always moving from one problem to another, never able to really dig in on any one planet.

*

She-Who-Brought-The-Child(That-No-One-Wanted) appeared as She-Who-Was-Third was explaining nanak to the aliens with the patience of a guardian talking to a small child.

"Can we go home now?" She-Who-Waits asked.

"She-Who-Lit-A-Fire wants to know more before she makes a decision."

"They made a monster," She-Who-Waits said. "And they're horrific to look at."

"We know," said She-Who-Brought-The-Child. "But it wasn't real, and they took it apart. She-Who-Lit-A-Fire needs more information before she's willing to bring them into the city. You're to remain with them until she is convinced."

She-Who-Brought-The-Child left.

"But they promised me boring," She-Who-Waits said, mostly to herself.

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communication Officer's Log
Stardate 4339.2

The problem with entirely visual languages is that untranslatable words become very hard to render. I might not be able to translate the Andorian word Viksalamir, but I can say it, and if I need to insert it into a report written in Standard, I can transliterate it. Not so with visual languages.

There are any number of approaches to this problem. The Walsh-Gonzalez textual rendering is probably the most widely used, but I'm finding it doesn't work very well in this case. I have, with some resignation, reached out to T'Reya for assistance. Between the two of us, we have come up with a transliteration scheme.

The Irlen language is based on such complex and subtle movements of their five speech organs that what we have is a pale shadow of reality, and is by no means meant to be an official record of their language. A proper linguistic record and analysis will, of course, be filed with Starfleet and Memory Alpha in due course. In the mean time, our jerry-rigged system will allow me to record untranslatable words in my logs without resorting to attaching video or EM spectrum analysis of diode emissions to the files.

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Science Officer's Log
Stardate 4345.7

We have learned that the Irlen natives with whom we have been conversing refer to themselves as They-Who-Won-That-War(That-No-One-Cared-About). Complaints about verbosity notwithstanding, it is the policy of Starfleet to refer to native species by their chosen name. We have been informed by She-Who-Waits and She-Who-Was-Third that the latter part of the name is omitted except in introductions and formal circumstances, so they will henceforth be referred to as They-Who-Won-That-War in this and all logs.

Upon expressing curiosity as to why we have been dealing with the same two individuals for several weeks, I was told of nanak. [ftn reads: see file C203/81/j Standard Transliteration of They-Who-Won-That-War Visual Language for Informal Use] Nanak is something like sleep, but enough consciousness is retained throughout that to translate it as sleep would be incorrect. During nanak, a member of this species enters a rest state during which they do not move at all, but are still aware of their surroundings. One of They-Who-Won-That-War enters nanak approximately once every five of our months. Nanak lasts for approximately sixteen hours.

As they live entirely underground in caves that are continually lit by phosphorescent organisms, we would be foolish to expect them to have a day/night cycle similar to ours. It appears that the reason that we have been dealing with the same two individuals all along is that they have simply been the two guards on duty. Their duty cycle lasts several of our weeks.

I am curious as to why a first contact situation has been left in the hands of what seem to be the equivalent of two low-level military officers. During my conversation with She-Who-Was-Third, I learned that they believe us to be surface dwellers. They-Who-Won-That-War do not go to the surface of their planet except very rarely on exploratory missions, but their mythology has always insisted that sentient surface dwellers exist. Our appearance seems to them to be simply a confirmation of what they long suspected.

I tried to explain that we are from somewhere beyond the surface of their planet, but either they did not understand this, or they consider this information immaterial. It seems that everything outside of the caves is the surface. I still find their lack of excitement curious. At first, I assumed that they had logical minds not given to excitement, but I have seen them grow agitated from certain things, for example the misadventure the robot. In any case, expecting an alien species to react as ones own kind would is always the height of folly. We must continue to accept them on their own terms.

*

"I still would rather be bored," She-Who-Waits said. A small tikta scuttled across the ceiling. She-Who-Waits reached out one of her limbs and ate it. There were mouths at the ends of each of her limbs. She had never considered that aspect of her physiology particularly fortunate, but the aliens only had one mouth apiece. How odd.

"I wish you would stop complaining," She-Who-Was-Third said.

"I wish I hadn't pulled this shift."

"If you think about it, this is all very wonderful." She-Who-Was-Third dropped two limbs from their holds for emphasis. "They came from the surface and they want to be our friends. They don't want to conquer us or eat us or--or--"

"Or use our fwibeth for hats?"

"Or--what?"

"Don't you go to the theater? Surface dwellers slaughter people to use their fwibith for hats." She-Who-Waits caught another tikta and chewed it slowly. "It's a social commentary."

"I must have missed that one."

"It's good."

"Okay. But look. Now we have real live surface dwellers--"

"They say they come from some place above the surface."

She-Who-Was-Third ignored the interruption. "--and they don't want to use our fwibeth for hats. That's amazing."

"Sure."

"So."

"So She-Who-Lit-A-Fire want us to see their spaceship. I'm just saying that's not boring. That's not boring at all."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Chief Engineer's Log
Stardate 4347.8

[Amended to engineering file E189/42/v, technical specifications for They-Who-Won-That-War antigravity sled]

They want to visit the ship. The Captain says he's inclined to let them. The only problem is, they're upside down. Oh, if Mr. Spock were here I'm sure he'd tell me that I'm being rigid in my thinking, and that orientation is subjective, and that they probably think we're upside down, but Mr. Spock is not here, and from where I'm standing, they're upside down.

Doctor McCoy can explain the biology, but the long and short of it is that they don't walk as we do, but hang, for their entire lives. They've got six limbs, and sorting out what counts as an arm and what counts as a leg is beyond my ken, but the fact is they use those limbs to grip and to walk and they spend pretty much their entire lives upside down.

The Enterprise isn't outfitted for a species such as theirs, and the Captain has charged me with coming up with a way for them to move comfortably around the ship. If they use their powerful suction cups on my ceilings, they might damage vital systems. So I've come up with what I think is a good solution: an anti-gravity sled that can be raised or lowered and moved back or forward by a system of simple controls.

*

"They want to do what?"

"Beam us to their spaceship."

"Beam as in take us apart molecule by molecule and shoot our remains through the atmosphere and reassemble them."

"Essentially yes, although I think it's more like atom by atom."

"This is not--"

She-Who-Was-Third smacked two of her limbs together in anger. "Say it again and I will end you right here and right now."

She-Who-Waits paused, then said, "What happened to the spaceship that was supposed to take us to the bigger spaceship?"

"Too small for our sleds."

"You mean the sleds that we have to ride around on because everything is upside down up there?"

She-Who-Was-Third rubbed two araknesh together in resignation of what was coming. "Yes."

"The sleds that aren't actually attached to anything and just hang in space?"

"Yes?"

"So instead we're going to be...beamed into space?"

"Yes."

"Just you and me? With no one to help us if they suddenly decide that they want to use our fwibbeth for hats after all?"

She-Who-Was-Third wiggled her fifth araknesh in resignation. "It is not ideal, but it is the will of She-Who-Lit-A-Fire."

"We are going to die."

"They don't seem dangerous."

"We are going to die in this crazy beaming scheme."

"They say it's very safe."

"They're taking us apart atom by atom."

"And reassembling us."

"It doesn't matter. Even if this crazy thing works perfectly, which I am not convinced of, what will be recreated is a facsimile, not us. We'll be dead."

"She-Who-Lit-A-Fire raised similar issues when she heard about it. She's been talking to some of our philosophers. She's convinced that it's not death but merely temporarily taking on a different form."

"How nice for her."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Captain's Log
Stardate 4348.1

We have welcomed aboard She-Who-Waits and She-Who-Is-Third.

Out of an abundance of caution, their visit is being kept brief, and their tour has been limited to recreation, non-sensitive science labs, and a brief look at the bridge.

They seem friendly and intelligent and I am hopeful that our initial contact with them will lead to a long-lasting friendship between our peoples.

*

"This place is amazing," said She-Who-Was-Third, taking in the recreation deck.

"This place smells," said She-Who-Waits, predictably.

"They say this ship has visited hundreds of planets. Hundreds of surface worlds. Can you imagine?"

"This sled thing doesn't handle very well. Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to kill us. Maybe they want us to 'accidentally' run into a wall, lose suction, and fall to our deaths. Maybe they really do want our fwibeth for hats."

"You're hopeless."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Chief Medical Officer's Log
Stardate 4348.3

She-Who-Was-Third kindly volunteered for my examination. Even with my limited understanding of their signs and body language, it was clear that she was uneasy, so I kept the examination entirely non-invasive. I didn't permit myself so much as a blood sample. However, simple tricorder and biobed scans coupled with good old fashioned visual examination revealed a great deal.

As already known, they're bi-laterally symmetrical with six limbs, three on each side. At the end of each limb is a suction cup like structure which also contains a mouth. They have, in short, six mouthes. I'm not certain how many they can use at once since I've yet to see them eat, but my guess is that they simply use the one that's most convenient at the time.

I've heard it said at they are upside down, but of course they aren't. They just put their legs on top and their brains on the bottom. I say brains instead of head because there's no head to speak of. There are six limbs protruding upwards from a central mass which contains all of the vital organs, with the brain nestled deep in the middle. It's a sensible configuration, no putting the gray matter in a relatively fragile little sphere sticking out where it can be easily lopped off or smashed in. On the other hand, the central mass of their body is relatively unprotected. Their skeleton is mostly comprised of a material similar to cartilage.

I am curious about their reproduction. There's no indication of secondary sexual characteristics, but my initial exams seem to indicate a species that requires multiple sexes. If I had to, I would classify the subject I examined as female, though I am of course keeping an open mind on that score. The translator is calling them 'she' but that's no guarantee of anything. There's no indication that they would be able to reproduce either asexually, or with the aid of another of her same sex. There needs to be a male analog in the picture somewhere, but when I asked about this, I was met with confusion. I have asked Spock and Lieutenant Uhura to dig deeper into this.

*

"Ew!" She-Who-Was-Third wiggled all of her arankesh in disgust.

She-Who-Waits said, "What happened to 'they're amazing' and 'they want to be our friends' and 'did you see their science labs?'"

"I knew they were strange, but I had no idea. You're sure? You're sure they're...male."

"Not all of them. Some are people."

"But the people...interact with males? Daily?"

"Yes."

She-Who-Was-Third wiggled her arankesh again.

She-Who-Waits was oddly unconcerned. "They're not proper males. They're basically people."

She-Who-Was-Third was speechless for a long moment. Finally she asked, "How do they reproduce?"

"You do not want to know."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communications Officer's Log
Stardate 4348.7

I had tentatively classified the following pronoun classes:

Person, used to refer to other members of the They-Who-Won-That-War species
Animate, used to refer to other animals
Inanimate

It seems we missed one. There's also a pronoun which I think could be called Semi-Person, or perhaps Non-Person, which is used exclusively to refer to the male members of the They-Who-Won-That-War species. It seems that there's a large sexual dimorphism in this case. According to She-Who-Waits and She-Who-Was-Third, the males are not people as they reckon people. They are, according to her, sub-sentient creatures who live in caves much further below the surface.

When a female becomes uncomfortably engorged with eggs, she deposits them in a shoot that leads down to these caves. There, the males fertilize the eggs. When they hatch, most of them are eaten by predators, or by the males themselves. The females who survive instinctually move up toward the city. Those who arrive are cared for and educated. The males presumably remain in the pool below to live out their lives in darkness.

This pronoun is only ever used in the plural, presumably because they do not have contact with the males as individuals, nor differentiate them from one another.

Neither She-Who-Waits nor She-Who-Was-Third seemed eager to speak of this, and I have many unanswered questions. Whether the males are actually sub-sentient or not is certainly a matter for debate. I admit none of this sits well with me, but I am trying to reserve judgement. We have seen cases where one sex is clearly more intelligent than the other even to the point of being sub-sentient. We have seen many more cases where that is not the case, but the belief persists and is used to subjugate and oppress. It is my hope that additional research can shed light on this.

*

"Did you meet the rock?" She-Who-Waits asked.

"What rock? How do you meet a rock?"

"I can't explain it, but today I met a giant sapient rock. He was very...big."

"He?"

She-Who-Waits moved her rear limbs in discomfort. "Apparently he's male too."

"There are too many males on this ship."

"Agreed," said She-Who-Waits. "At least the rock reproduces in a nice normal way. Externally fertilized eggs. None of this inserting things into other things and growing babies inside of yourself."

"Can we not talk about that? I'm still not okay with it."

They were looking out through one of the windows at the stars. The surface extended further than their most imaginative philosophers had ever thought possible.

"How does it communicate with the rest of them?" She-Who-Was-Third asked. "The rock, I mean."

"Its--His species communicates via scent."

"That at least makes more sense than using vibrations to speak."

"Apparently the scents are too nuanced for the rest of them to pick up, so they built a machine that recognizes the chemical composition of the various secretions and turns them into vibrations that the rest of them can decipher."

She-Who-Was-Third considered this. "That seems like a lot of work to talk to a giant rock."

"I'm sure he's a very interesting giant rock."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Communications Officer's Log
Stardate 4355.7

She-Who-Waits has given me a name sign. It roughly translates as She-Who-Is-From-Above(Which-Is-Bigger-And-Stranger-Than-We-Thought).

*

"I thought you hated all of this."

She-Who-Waits was still.

"You wanted boring. You fought a war. You had earned boring. You wanted nothing to do with any of it," continued She-Who-Is-Third.

She-Who-Waits was still for a moment longer, then said, "Against my will I have gained an appreciation for some aspects of this experience."

"Some? You spent all day yesterday letting the doctor run tests on you. Voluntarily."

"Yes."

"And you won't leave the brown and red one alone."

"She-Who-Is-From-Above," corrected She-Who-Waits.

"You gave her a name sign?"

"I did."

Now it was who She-Who-Was-Third was still for a long moment. "Yes," she said at last. "I suppose that makes sense."

*

USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
Captain's Log
Stardate 4358.6

The K'hrynya has arrived to relieve us. I am extremely proud of the work my crew has done over the last four weeks. Especially noteworthy is the hard work of Lieutenant Uhura in developing communications strategies and managing to open a productive dialog with They-Who-Won-That-War. I have learned that the name sign bestowed on Lieutenant Uhura marks her as a person in They-Who-Won-That-War society, which opens the way for the rest of us to be recognized as people. (Even, I'm told, the males, after they get over their revulsion at the very idea of us.)

I am confident that we have laid a solid foundation for a friendship between our two peoples. The commander of K'hrynya echoed this sentiment, and his communications officer, Lieutenant T'Reya, even complemented Uhura's work. I gather there's a rather intense professional rivalry there. Lieutenant T'Reya got the same pinched look that Spock gets when he's forced to complement Doctor McCoy when she admitted that Uhura had "demonstrated extraordinary lateral and creative thinking".

This has been an immensely satisfying mission all around, and I am pleased to report that Enterprise will be leaving orbit with one additional passenger who will be dropped off on Starbase 12 to spend several months gathering information for her people.

*

"You're doing what?" demanded She-Who-Is-Third.

"I'm going with them."

"But--but why?"

"She-Who-Lit-A-Fire wants to know more about them. She said they came to us, and we should go to them."

She-Who-Is-Third waved her araknesh in amazement. "Why you?"

"I want to see the surface." She-Who-Waits stared out at the stars. "All of it."

"Well," She-Who-Is-Third said after a moment, "it's not going to be boring."

"No, agreed She-Who-Waits. "It's not going to be boring at all."