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The constellations of Tii

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Tii knew that in some universes, there were other laws of physics. Zie understood that in most of them, the inhabitants cannot carry most of their worldly possessions in a series of bags stuffed into a backpack. Well, some inhabitants could, but that's because they didn't own much. In Tii's universe, no one should be in that position.

When one of the other Giants invented the backpack, Tii thought long and hard about how it would work. Gravity still existed on Ur. Indeed, as far as Tii was aware, it was a fundamental force and cannot be dispensed with, unless one happened to enjoy life as a collection of disconnected particles. Technically, such a situation would probably not result in life at all.

Eventually, having settled a few field equations and the peculiar, but satisfying, Three Bounce Boing Rule, Tii reported back to the other Giants on the circumstances under which the backpack defied the laws of gravity. Zie had thought long and hard, and was satisfied with the logic and rigour of zir explanation. It was beautiful, in zir eyes, full of elegant mathematics and robust conceptual models. Tii was proud of zir work, proud of the explanations zie had made.

The other giants stared at Tii without comprehension. Zie tried again, this time with diagrams. Judging by the faces of the other giants, it appeared that diagrams did not help matters. Finally, Lem took Tii aside and tried to explain.

"You see," said Lem, "we just don't think about that. We think of things, they work, end of story."

"But if you don't know how it works, then how can you appreciate the end product?" asked Tii. Zie had always wanted to know about the way that things were shaped and made. It was satisfying to look at something and see the way the world curved itself around it.

"We just can," said Lem, firmly. "Don't argue." He punched Tii on the shoulder. "Lighten up, kid. Crack a few jokes. Enjoy yourself."

It was useless for Tii to protest that zie had enjoyed zirself in zir investigations and experiments. Zie had taken pleasure in following the logic from one step to the next, making and justifying assumptions, clarifying laws and solving general equations. These things were a delight to zir soul.

The other Giants neither understood nor cared. Leaving Tii and zir diagrams and theories, they went off and thought of things without caring about the underneath of them.

Tii pondered what Lem had said. Did zie take things too seriously? Were these things just not important?

The next day, Tii joined the Giants at their favourite spot, sitting together on a hillside in the twilight as they rested from the labours of the day.

"Four told pi to stop being irrational," zie blurted, "but pi responded, only if you stop being such a square."

The other Giants stopped what they were doing and stared at zir. Finally, Zille broke the silence.

"Was that supposed to be a joke?" she asked.

"It was a joke," protested Tii. "Four is two squared, you see, the first rational squared number if you don't count one, which is kind of a special case."

"I didn't ask for an explanation of it," said Zille. "Please don't burden us with one."

"Lem told me to!" said Tii. "He said that I should lighten up and crack some jokes." Zie was confused. Zie thought this was what Lem had meant, and couldn't understand why this was going so wrong.

"This wasn't quite what I had in mind," said Lem.

Tii turned away from the group and walked down the hillside. Evening was closing in. Tii looked towards the west, where the sky was still light blue and streaked with pink along the underside of the clouds. Cirrus clouds, Tii knew, formed like strands of water vapour across the sky. Tii knew they formed in the highest and coldest parts of the sky, being made of a string of frozen water. From earth, they looked like thin streaks or tufts that would be soft to the touch. They often formed when the weather was going to change, usually getting wetter, or sometimes stormy. Knowing these things usually made Tii enjoy the clouds more, but tonight it made zir lonely to think that zie was the only giant who knew, or was interested, what was under the appearance of things.

Light footsteps sounded behind zir. Tii didn't look around. Zie knew it was probably one of the other giants come to give zir some more terrible advice, or to encourage zir to not be so odd. It was funny that they always said zie should be less odd, not that zie should be more even.

"I have something I would like your help with."

Tii turned, surprised by Friendly's words. "You have something you need my help with?" zie repeated, sure that zie must have heard incorrectly.

"Yes. You see, I have imagined stars." He pointed at the sky. Now that it was darker, there were lights to be seen in the sky, twinkling faintly but getting stronger as the night deepened.

"They are beautiful," said Tii.

"I think so too," said Friendly. "But they are missing something."

"Oh?" asked Tii.

"When we look up at them, we need ways to remember them. We need names and groupings. We need order. You are the best giant I know for ordering things."

Tii looked at Friendly, unsure if he was making fun of zir or not. Friendly looked back at zir, not saying anything more, just waiting for zie to say something in response.

"You want me to organise your stars for you?" asked Tii. Zie needed to make sure that zie hadn't misheard.

"Yes," said Friendly. "Name them, individually or in groups. Don't worry about making up stories about them; other people will do that as they watch them."

"That's good," said Tii. "I am not good at stories."

"Well, not some kinds of stories," said Friendly. "But you are good at finding patterns, and good at putting names to those patterns and making them mean something in this world. That's a good thing to do. We all know that's where your strengths lie, and we all love you for them, even if it may not seem that way."

Tii thought long and hard about Friendly's words. Looking up at the stars again, zie saw that more had emerged. They were brighter now too, as the sky darkened, and Tii wanted to look at them more closely. Zie wanted to find out how they worked, what they were made of, if they moved and how. Zie knew that they would be more beautiful still, once zie understood that.

Zie thought of the other giants, and what they would say. They were not interested in the composition of the stars. Probably, they were only interested in the twinkle. Tii thought about it: did it matter if the other giants never knew what stars were made from? No, zie decided, it didn't matter how they thought of the world or related to it. They were different. Tii was different. They were neither odd nor even, or perhaps both odd and even. It wasn't Tii's problem. Naming the stars would be.

"Okay," said Tii. "I'd like to name your stars for you."

"Name them for all of us," said Friendly.