§ 2021-04-05 02:25:14


[02:27] The kavkema didn't need to be told twice to keep moving. It was so natural to them that it was hard to tell whether or not her request had even been parsed, or if they simply resumed doing what they did best – something described as nomadic culture at best, as perpetually fleeing at worst.

Now she had a better grasp of what they were fleeing from.

Had any of the others seen this creature, or was Samanta the first?

The Nayabaru of the settlement had certainly given a tame impression – not very talkative, oddly rigid, but giving the humans the space they needed. The Karesejat, by comparison, was a force of nature. It was easy to see that she must have been created – it seemed wholly unlikely evolution would make such a thing. At the very least, if there was a whole species of Karesejats out there, by the logic of competitive evolution, they would by now be effortlessly ruling the planet.

And still, there had to be a weakness to that thing. Standard Earth spiders could be disabled with a bit of crushing damage – but that was owed to their small size, not to their architecture. Perhaps whatever respiratory system had been installed in the arachnoid – for it surely needed one – could be turned against it?

§ 2021-04-17 23:39:40


[23:39] The safest way to get rid of troublesome biologica was, of course, to use physical means — high-energy ionizing radiations, temperatures well above the denaturation point of proteins, or very energic oxidizing agents. A part of Samanta briefly mused to itself about how hard could it possibly be, with advanced human science and a handful of high-tech supplies, to synthetize a respectable amount of nitrocellulose and blow up a good chunk of forest with the damned spider in it. It was as good a way as any to avoid falling into temptation.

The trouble of course was that, unlike the bacteria she could pitilessly exterminate with a droplet of alcohol, her new foe was able to think and plan at least as well as a human being, and very possibly more so. And the greater trouble was that the Karesejat's invisibility, Evenatra's shapeshifting, and other such abilities, implied a whole new kind of physics being at play, beyond her ability to even describe, let alone understand. As far as she knew, even being chucked into the heart of a star could give the Karesejat nothing but a stylish tan.

Perhaps the kavkema had an advantage in numbers. But the idea of taking charge of her hosts' kind if gloomy society and leading wave after wave of kavkema to their death to overwhelm the Weapon's defenses struck Samanta as both unlikely to work and somewhat unethical.

The kavkema's strategy had been avoidance for so long; there might have been a good reason for that. She studied her companions' demeanour as well as she could: how confident were they that fleeing was the best response?


[00:18] The one named Akuned had not given any impression of wanting to flee, but without a grasp of their language, it was hard to gauge what drove her. For all Samanta knew, she was insane – but it was just as likely that she was a displaced leader of some kind of resistance cell that was still driven to action even without a team to aid her.

In any case, given the tiny sample of kavkem attitudes she's witnessed so far, it was hard to know how much was local culture. If the time Evenatra had spoken to her had proven anything, it was that some people were fighting back, to various degrees of success and organisation, whereas the group she had been travelling with had sternly opted to avoid confrontation.

How much of that was because of the human visitors? How much was innate? It had felt innate – Samanta could still remember how quickly the kavkema had fled when the Nayabaru had come to the lander.

On the other hand, that had been Nayabaru, not the... thing she had come across, that had spoken to her with a chilling confidence of a language foreign to its planet.

Athechelt, the gash from the Karesejat's attack by now crusted over, was clearly uninterested in going in the creature's direction. He was following some other goal; judging by how he had acted, an urge to protect, reined in by his own terror at the sheer size of the task – and the sheer size of the target, for that matter.

Serademar seemed the least tense of the two, as though he had accepted the world's grim status quo as something that was outside of his ability to influence, and refused to be stressed by it.

Of course, at the end of the day, she was trying to read the body language of an alien species based on her knowledge of bird and mammal behaviour; splicing the two together could not always yield compatible results. Differently worded, without a trustworthy translator, she was just guessing.


[01:36] Athechelt... she almost said, before realizing the pointlessness of it. Nobody could tell her now where, exactly, they were directed, as she'd just turned away the only being who could. She half-hoped — she would probably dream for many coming nights — that she would follow them to some underground fortress where she'd meet the captains of an indomitable resistance force, who of course would somehow speak all the languages of the universe. Thinking of what would it take to give the kavkema a realistic hope of improving their lot made Samanta shrink under the immensity of that project.

She slightly quickened her pace, placing herself next to Athechelt, close enough that the feathers of his tail occasionally brushed against her suit. In a thin whisper, meant more for herself than for him, she said: "Are we really going anywhere, now? Will we ever reach a safe place?"


[01:48] It attracted Serademar's attention – no surprise, given all kavkem conversation seemed to be whispers – but all he could offer in return was to glance at her curiously.

What they likely both wouldn't give to have a universal translator, something to bridge the gap between not only verbal language, but idioms, body language and cultural nuances. But there was no way to obtain such a thing, except in the form of powerful, questionable creatures, of which she trusted only one: Evenatra.

Meanwhile, Evenatra was off on some mission she likely never should have gone on. What had she said? 'I will join after Asraaban and I are done.' And how likely was that? How likely was it that she would both succeed in her mission and then find Samanta in this wilderness?

With the monstrosity that Samanta had encountered on the loose, the chance of even the former seemed likely to be shrinking as time went on. But Samanta had made her choice and there was no catching up to either Evenatra or the thing that hunted her now.


[02:52] Their best chance, she surmised, was that Evenatra's powers included some way to detect at a distance people lost somewhere in the forest. Or perhaps she had agreed with Athechelt specific landmarks where she could reunite with them. That would have been the most reasonable plan, absent any mean of long-range detection; too bad Athechelt couldn't tell her, or where such places could be. Thus, maybe they would be on the run for a couple more days, maybe for a whole year, maybe more, or maybe not. Perhaps she could start making a tally of the days, visible to her companions, so that they could think of a way to tell her how many more they expected to need.

Actually, she could go further than that. Samanta may not have had Saira's talent and experience with languages, but kavkema speech didn't seem fundamentally different from human ones. She'd been trained with Lincos, the Arecibo message, and other such proposals to communicate with alien life. Maybe... maybe with some luck and cleverness she could get better results. That's it. I'm going to learn kavkemish. Start with numbers and work my way up from there.

As soon as they stopped walking, anywhere.