1100-042 – 1100-174 - Djinni, New Menorb Island
Referee's Note: this was a question-and-answer session between the players and the referee, allowing the players to ask questions about the nature of the living island they had contacted, and summarizing 19 weeks of intense work building rapport and sharing thoughts with this new form of life. Once again, I am indebted to Chris Pepper, who diligently took notes as I answered player questions, and clarified my answers.
Meet the We
It took the team about 19 weeks to establish linguistic communication with the entity, which knows itself as "We". Because the VES's communication with We is entirely mind to mind, there is no way to communicate with We at a distance, via a remote mic / speaker / transceiver.
We have four life stages—
- An initial budded form grows in a cave on another floating islands;
- An adolescent form looks like a shark or orca, which circles the islands and hunts in packs. They call this stage ‘child’;
- Eventually children grow into independent large cetaceans, looking like sperm whales, which was the first life form the away team contacted. These are what knocked Leah out with a telepathic overload.
- Once they grow large enough, they look more like islands and remain on the surface. At this stage most energy focuses on ecosystem maintenance rather than locomotion. Nineteen or 20 exist in this stage at any one time. They all consider themselves ‘We’; while the earlier stages are part of We's family, they are considered part of 'We'. Once in this floating "island mode" stage, We's cognition changes in several ways. (Pinkie is able to map which islands are sentient and which are just rock, with high confidence.)
The lifespan of We in their island form are very long; the one the away team has made contact with is tens of thousands of years old. Their fear of death is different than other sophonts' fear of death because parts of them survive ‘death’ as part of the larger We organism, and they persist somewhat within overall racial consciousness.
We don't have a specific sense of gender, but think of themselves in the first-person plural. The orca stage creates buds to launch the next generation using sexual reproduction.
The orca stage will eat just about anything, including each other and us (given the opportunity), but We won’t let them do that now.
Most orcas belong to an island’s ecosystem, but some leave, somewhat like ronin.There is some level of choice in which an orca becomes an island, but it’s very rare, and not understood. Froge speculates that particularly strong telepathic ability is a prerequisite for maturation into the island stage. Once they have attained membership in We, the sentient islands never attack each other; this cooperation seems like another requirement for self-selection and evolution into a member of We. (That being said, there are stories of the whale stage tangling with islands.)
The VES debates whether We is sentient within the criteria laid down by IISS, but conclude it is transcends these categories, and is different from all other civilizations and forms of evolution the Imperium has yet encountered.
For instance, We is a tool user, but manipulates tools psionically rather than physically. While We cannot create tools, but have access to the entire planetary ecosystem as their toolbox. One example of this— insects are the only mobile creatures on Djinni that leave the water, which perforce limits the We’s development of both technology and astronomy.
The Ancients and the We
We possess racial memories of the Ancients. (The VES do not believe any other creatures have such memories, aside form the Ancients themselves.) In fact, the We remember the Ancients uplifting them from their orca-like form into their current form of sentient islands.
The We feel a sense of as-yet-unknown purpose; the We expect the Ancients to return someday and perform their next uplift. The We want much more about the Ancients, our experience with them, and what their departure and lack of communication means to their expectation of an Ancient return and further uplift. At week 18, the We start pressing for information on cosmology, tools, our Ancient experience, and direct observation / participation in outer space.
Leah is surprised the Ancients didn’t contact the We, and the We didn’t detect their brief visit with us.
The VES and the We
The We have memories of other visitors to Djinni. They recall the visit of another lifeform prior to the Imperial survey (which died of plague); those earlier visitors also died of plague. But the plague seems to have mutated into something harmless since the Imperium's initial survey. (Members of the VES speculate that the first survey, pre-Empire, might have been relatively recent.)
Martaan provides We an image of the cold of space. They are fascinated, and want much more, including direct experience of outer space.
The We particularly like communicating with Elwen and his visual cosmological language. The We are very curious about cosmology and mechanical tools.
Leah speculates that only a full island or whale is intelligent enough to understand direct observation of space, but they’re too large for us to easily bring off the surface. We’s range is relatively short, and we’re not sure a sperm whale sized ‘adult’ would be able to survive removal from the island ecosystem.
Count Quinlan comes down and determines the islands are very alien and also more psionically powerful than any know intelligences in several ways.
Madeline finally gets to visit the surface and communicate with We, along with Saeagang, who proves to be an excellent diver, and who perform a lot of mapping and photography of the underside of the We. The two communicate very happily with the We.
Soto also does well, mostly discussing the We’s experience as an ecosystem or ‘little world’.
The We have the most difficulty communicating with Pinkie, whose childhood in space is so foreign to them.
With We’s permission, Fitz loves tangling with orca. The We are fascinated by Fitz, but he’s a bit too much of an individual for their comfort.
The planet resembles Earth before the Pleistocene era. Plants, trees, and insects are simple with limited variety, and almost everything is underwater.
The We are aware of 9-tentacled cephalopods doing interesting things near volcanic vents. They stay away to avoid interfering with another Ancient project.
The We are a bit afraid of the cephalopods, who seem to be immune to their psionic influence.
Leah speculates the Ancients gave the cephalopods a form of psionic immunity to prevent the cephalopods from being co-opted and absorbed by the We.
Martaan scouts these other aliens; the VES agrees to focus on the We first, and then reach out to the cephalopods afterwards.
By Week 19
At week 19, the VES returns to orbit for a conference with Madeline, the Count, and the Lady Admiral. Martaan is looking forward to reunion with Lady Doctor Cassandra ap-Tain. At the time, Pinkie reports the We are slowly converging on the inital We contactee, and the basecamp location.