Gedt scans the horizon while drinking jaja juice. There’s something about unsol that Gedt enjoys. Maybe it’s the promise of a new bryt and all that could happen; after all, every bryt is a chance to learn something new.
Gedt didn’t always feel this way. But lately, the brytly tasks at Gedt’s assignment have been energizing. Gedt’s learning new things, truly new things – a new language with words and syntax that Gedt could never have imagined and things that were previously unimaginable bits of fiction, things even the scientists would have previously scoffed at as being possible.
Gedt continues to scan the horizon, the jaja juice cools quickly, despite the unsol heat. The shrubs and trees surrounding the walls of Colony Min have been refreshed by the mist that settled in the valley over dimm. The vegetation is green, plump, and vibrant in the fuzzy yellow light of unsol. Gedt is sure the plants will be scorched and dry by dimm. This solsyk’s Thitle has been even dryer than usual. The harvest doesn’t look promising.
Gedt’s grown accustomed to the ever buzzing life of the colony, even enjoys it most bryts, but if the hive wasn’t on the outskirts of Colony Min, with a view of the lands beyond its walled area, colony life might weigh heavy on Gedt.
Being a scholar, Gedt spends most bryts engrossed in ancient texts, scrolls, and other writings. The buzz of colony life helps keep Gedt from getting lost in a solitary world. The past few menybryts have kept Gedt busy, but the bustle of the Colony still excites Gedt; confirming that Gedt is meant to live in a Colony and not in the Harvestlands.
Yet, Gedt wonders about the others in the hive. Their hive stopped receiving farming assignments long ago, but Gedt is pretty sure some of them would like to return to the Harvestlands.
Even when one lives in a colony, life frequently revolves around the bounty and cycles of the Harvestlands. A few hives in Colony Min have gardens in their courtyards, but they don’t grow enough to feed their hive, let alone a colony. The Harvestlands keep every Pleenian fed, and it looks like the coming solsyk’s going to be a lean one.
Most of Gedt’s hive are Medics or Teachers assigned to colony jobs. It’s been quite some tok since one of Gedt’s hive has been assigned to the Harvestlands or an Outpost. Yet it’s still quite obvious that some of them aren’t happy living in a colony, especially this one. It’s proximity to the crash site unnerves many.
Gedt knows that a few of the hive members have thought about requesting reassignment to a nearby Outpost. After all, most Outposts in the Harvestlands need Medics and Teachers too.
But Gedt knows that they don’t make the requests because despite their dislike of colony life, they enjoy the prestige and amenities that life in a colony affords them more than they dislike the a colony’s noise and congestion. There are no libraries, theaters, or restaurants in Harvestland Outposts. Contact with other Pleenians is very limited; Outposts can’t even be called mini-colonies, they’re more like hives with minimal amenities attached.
Most Outposts are comprised of the Medical, the Teacher’s Library, an infowave receiver, and a storage facility that’s part of the Mercantile. A few of the larger Outposts have a Life Science Technician as well, to assist farmers with their crops; but most Life Science Technicians live in Colonies and visit the outlying Harvestlands for a few menybryts each solsyk.
The life of a Medic assigned to an Outpost can be lonely and challenging. The resources available to them are often crude and limited. There’s a ward set up for dyophasing, but if there’s any other medical emergency, Outpost Medics rely on remedies passed from Prime to Dual for solsykunsolsyks, and basic common knowledge. It’s a lot of minor scrapes, and illnesses. If a Pleenian needs serious medical care, they’re usually sent to the nearest colony for treatment.
There is a Teacher, with a Library, in every Outpost as well. But most farmers never utilize their knowledge, leaving the Teachers alone in their library for bryts on end. If a Pleenian is assigned any field that requires education, they are usually sent to Akadem in the nearest colony.
Farmers often have more social interaction with other Pleenians than do the Teachers and Medics living in Outposts. Farmers regularly work with one another during the growing season. Every harvest they gather to share the workload, and they turn the harvest into a rolling celebration – going from farm to farm, sleeping out under the orchard trees, eating roast thenick, if any of the Outposts hunters have returned home with one, and dancing into the dimm.
Because of the work required to run a farm, many hives double, or triple up, on the farms. Between the extended hive members, harvest festivities, and an occasional trip to the Outpost, the infowave is the only contact Harvestlanders have with one another, and the nearest colony. It can be lonely. It’s not for every Pleenian.
Gedt hasn’t had the chance to be lonely for menybyts. Gedt’s no longer spending long lonely pars in the Akadem’s library, now Gedt spends his bryts with numerous scientists, from all different fields of study, a few other linguists, Medics, and the aliens. As a linguist, in the colony nearest the crash site, Gedt was one of the first Pleenians called to the site by the Rejand of Colony Min, Rejand Twast.
After a few bryts working with the aliens, Gedt and the aliens had been able to learn a few words of each other’s language and begin communicating with one another. There was a lot of pointing, gesturing, and pantomiming in the beginning, but it was worth it. Gedt was able to help create a basic linguistic database for both the Pleenians and the aliens.
Now, after other linguists have joined the team, Gedt remains the head of the communications team; Gedt is now the Chief Translator, a new assignment on Pleena. With the new assignment, Gedt was able to take a leave of absence from Akadem to continue working with the aliens after the close of the Akadem’s current season.
This idea excites Gedt. An entire solsyk to study an alien language! Gedt’s the first Pleenian linguist to study a truly new language – and if Gedt understands the aliens correctly, they speak more than one language! The thought is dizzying. Imagine, Gedt’s name will be remembered for many solsykunsolsyks as the one to write and translate the language of these aliens.
Other members of Gedt’s hive aren’t as excited about Gedt’s work with the aliens. Gedt thought they would be proud of the new assignment, being the first ever Chief Translator. But Gedt was mistaken. Most of them wish Gedt would ask for reassignment, reassignment to a “safer” position.
Gedt’s own Prime, Ghida, has scolded Gedt for so frequently socializing with the aliens. Many in the hive fear some sort of contamination from the aliens and have intentionally been avoiding Gedt. Normally, this would bother Gedt, but work at the compound takes up most of the bryt, so Gedt has been spending less tok at the hive lately.
Gedt isn’t concerned about contamination. The Pleenian Medics have tested, retested, and are constantly enforcing practices to protect both species from possible contamination. Honestly, Gedt thinks the Pleenians are more of a danger to the aliens than the aliens are to the Pleenians. The aliens seem so fragile to Gedt, maybe it’s their size, they’re so much smaller.
As a precaution against contamination, all Pleenians who have contact with the aliens, outside of the sterile labs that have been set up on the outskirts of the compound, are required to wear a protektsoot. That includes Gedt.
Thankfully, the protektsoot technology makes Pleenians appear to be covered with a fuzzy, hazy film, so they don’t look much different from when they aren’t wearing them. Gedt believes this helps alleviate some aliens’ fears about the Pleenians and helps the aliens learn to recognize the Pleenians they see regularly.
Gedt knows the aliens are scared of them, can understand why too – Pleenians are about twice the size of the largest of the aliens. Who wouldn’t be afraid of an alien twice their size?
Unlike Pleenians, the aliens come in different sizes! Gedt’s even been told that they grow – that the little ones will get bigger. This fascinates Gedt. Many of the animals on Pleena grow, and the plants do too, but Gedt never really thought about Pleenians changing size over tok.
To help the aliens adapt, special carpenters and builders were brought in to make the compound livable for them. The Pleenian builders didn’t know how to handle so many different sized aliens, so the compound looks like a strange mismatch of relics and broken bits of discarded furniture. No two items are the same size. Chairs don’t fit with tables. A number of door handles were lowered, but not all of them. Some bedding pallets have stairs, others are simply at ground level.
A number of Pleenians believe that building all these items and adapting the buildings for the aliens was a waste of resources. Many Pleenians wonder why they should welcome these aliens. Many think that since they weren’t invited to Pleena, Pleenians shouldn’t help them. Why should Pleenians try to fix things for the newcomers? Shouldn’t the newcomers learn to adapt to the planet they landed on, or build their own things? Some Pleenians even think the best solution is to use sonic-wasters and simply make the aliens evaporate.
Gedt doesn’t agree with the idea of extermination. Gedt might feel differently if the aliens had invaded, instead of crashing on Pleena. Yet, Gedt understands how one could be afraid of something one doesn’t understand.
The idea of life on other planets isn’t new to Gedt. As a Teacher at the most highly regarded Akadem on Pleena, Gedt often meets pupils who are researching theories regarding life on other planets. And, being a linguist, Gedt often studies and researches the Ancient Leaves of The Founders; Gedt’s even made the pilgrimage to The Founders First Site. But to come face to face with actual aliens is something altogether different. It changes everything Pleenians thought about the universe; and that can be scary to many Pleenians, even those who follow The Founders.
These new aliens crashed here; they didn’t pick Pleena. They were escaping something terrible, an illness or a disaster – thier homeworld became uninhabitable, or couldn’t sustain their population – Gedt has yet to be able to figure out what, exactly. Both parties are having difficulty with those words. Gedt has been able to learn that they were searching for a new home, an uninhabited one, at least that’s what Gedt thinks they were trying to say, when something went wrong and they crashed.
Their vessel was meant to be their home for “generations”, a word Gedt is having a hard difficulty understanding, but it seems to be a very long tok, when they were knocked off course and an engine died. They were to close to Pleena and without one of the engines, they were unable to resist the gravitational pull of the planet and crashed.
Gedt believes it was an accident. Why would beings made up of so much hydro choose a planet with so little of it? And why would they sabotage their only way off the planet? The crash damaged their vessel beyond repair and their technology is like nothing on Pleena. Even if the aliens could repair it, Pleena doesn’t have the resources to rebuild their engine.
But many other Pleenians don’t believe it was an accident, that very question of “why” is what makes so many afraid of the aliens. There’s a theory floating around the colony that the aliens didn’t crash, but that they chose to land on Pleena, that they faked the crash to make the Pleenians think they were helpless. That, of course, brings up many other questions. Why would they choose to land here? What are they planning? Are they related to The Founders?
Being a linguist, Gedt’s assignment at Akadem required Gedt to spend a lot of tok studying The Ancient Leaves of The Founders. According to Pleenian doctrine, The Founders were aliens who crash landed on Pleena thousands of solyskunsolusks ago, when Pleena claimed the second sol and the climate became dry and arid.
The Ancient Leaves of the Founders contain details of their first bryts on Pleena, laws and edicts they created as it became obvious they were not going to leave Pleena, and personal information about each of the Founders. Eventually, as tok went by, and the solsyks turned into solsykunsolsyks, the Founders came to be revered and worshiped as gods.
Descendants of those original 11 Founders make up the 9 different races of Pleenians that now populate the planet. Each race has a different dialect, but otherwise all Pleenians use the same language and are mostly the same, same physical build, senses, skin color, and means of reproduction. It’s just their speech patterns and dialects that differentiate them.
The opportunity to study an entirely different language excites Gedt. Gedt has spent solsyks creating imaginary languages and analyzing the changes of Pleen over the solsykunsolsyks. But there really is only one language spoken on Pleena. After solsyks studying the same dialects, this is a new challenge.
Now, there’s a whole new language! New words. New concepts. New syntax. New sounds. Everything about it is different! And Gedt’s told that some aliens are bilingual, meaning they already know multiple languages! Fascinating! How is that possible? It’s odd, but Gedt’s curious as to how the languages will blend over tok.
How many Pleenian words will the aliens add to thier language? Will the Pleenians add any words to their own language? There are sounds in Pleenian that the aliens can’t make, and vice versa. How will that change the two languages? Will the aliens eventually lose their language altogether? There will always be distinct cultural differences, the aliens and Pleenians are just to distinctly different, but how will their languages blend? And what about words that don’t exist in both languages?
The aliens Gedt first worked with were mostly scientists, or at least that’s what Gedt thinks they were, Gedt still isn’t certain. So many words are still being learned, on both sides. It’s been difficult for Gedt to determine the aliens’ assignments, especially since the aliens have learned that Gedt is the Chief Translator, and they seem to like Gedt.
The aliens will start talking as soon as Gedt arrives, hoping to be the one to teach Gedt a new word, or learn a new one from Gedt. They speak and gesture so fast. Oddly, Gedt has learned, there are few gestures that are truly universal, like slowly, and repeatedly, lowering your upper appendages to get someone to slow down.
Recently Gedt was given permission to walk through the compound and mingle with the aliens. Rejand Twast thought it would help Gedt learn the aliens’ language’s syntax if Gedt heard it spoken in an informal setting. Twast was right. The bytly walks have helped Gedt learn non-science things and observe the aliens’ social interactions and hear their language spoken naturally.
Abryt, Gedt is looking forward to work. Finishing the jaja juice, Gedt puts the cup in the autocleaner and gets ready to leave. Abryt Gedt gets to work with “children”. Pleenians don’t have a word for children; the aliens had to explain its meaning to the Pleenians.
Gedt’s excited about working with the children. Mostly because, even though Gedt has met many of them, it’s difficult to comprehend what the word actually means. Gedt understands children are the smaller aliens, but that leaves so many questions; starting with, how is a child any different from an “adult” – another word the Pleenians had to have defined for them.
Walking through the compound, Gedt has noticed that the smaller aliens are often called “child”, “children” or “young”; and that the “adults” and the “older” aliens tend and care for them. It’s taken a few menybryts, but Gedt is starting to be able to tell the difference between the young and the old, the children and the adults, at least Gedt thinks they can tell the difference.
If Gedt is correct, Gedt’s also noticed that often the old aliens are taken care of too. There seems to be a middle group that takes care of the other two groups; they are older than the young children, but somehow not like some of the old aliens. It’s all so confusing to Gedt and the other Pleenians.
Pleenians distinguish the young from the old, but calling a young Pleenian a child doesn’t make much sense somehow. Gedt’s understanding of things related to Life Force Science isn’t as good as it should be and the translations aren’t always accurate – in both directions.
Gedt had just as much difficulty explaining how Pleenians reproduce to the aliens, as the aliens had explaining how they reproduce to the Pleenians.
Dyophasing seems so basic to Gedt, they were surprised by the aliens’ confusion when they tried explaining it. The aliens Gedt spoke with understood the concept of cell division on a molecular level, at least Gedt though they did, yet they still struggled with the idea of dyophasing, no matter how, or how many toks, Gedt explained it.
When a Pleenian is 25, maybe 30 solsyks, they dyophase into prime and dual. Eventually every dual becomes a prime. It’s uncommon, but occasionally a prime will dyophase twice. None in Gedt’s hive has ever dyophased twice, but Gedt’s hive does tend to dyophase later than most Pleenians. Because of this, Gedt’s multi-primes live longer than many multi-primes.
Duals are fully formed Pleenians, with no memory from their prime. They are assigned an unique name, go through a series tests at the Medic Hive, and are given their assignments based on their aptitude. They are then sent to the hive of their Prime, or if thier assignment requires it, to a new hive or post. During the dual’s testing the prime recuperates and receives special treatments reserved just for newly dyophased primes.
When Gedt explained dyophasing to the aliens, the aliens used the word “clone”. They also had many questions about DNA, and mutations. The Medics and scientists tried answering all their questions, but it was very confusing to all parties.
Then the aliens explained how they reproduce and that they need two “genders”. The whole process seems inelegant and clumsy to Gedt and the Pleenian Medics and scientists. Gedt had great difficulty understanding the word gender, no matter how the aliens tried explaining it. Gedt doesn’t quite understand how one could be anything other than what one is. It was all very confusing.
But after spending a few bryts with the aliens, Gedt is starting to see that there are quite a few differences between the aliens, even if gender still eludes Gedt. For starters, they are different sizes and colors. The size seems to relate to the young and old, children and adult related vocabulary that the aliens have tried expressing.
But Gedt can’t yet figure out if the different colored skins mean something. The aliens don’t seem to notice it, all the colors jumble together when they congregate. But the “family” units seem to be mostly all one color. Family is another word Pleenians don’t have. Hive seems to be the closest thing to which Gedt can compare it.
These social and biological differences are what make the language differences so fascinating to Gedt; there are words in both languages that don’t serve a purpose in the other language; and those words are often tied to ideas or things that don’t exist in the other culture.
The aliens seem to eat similarly to the Pleenians, with mouths, teeth, and one stomach. But they keep asking for “meat”. If Gedt is understanding them correctly they eat flesh, but only flesh of quadrupeds or winged creatures, and creatures that live in hydro. They tried describing the creatures that live in hydro, they even showed pictures to Gedt on their infowave. But having never seen an expanse of hydro, Gedt isn’t sure if they’re teasing or being truthful. Imagine! Creatures that live in hydro!
The aliens have set aside a corner of the compound for thier animals. They managed to keep a farm on their vessel to feed all of them while traveling from their homeworld. This astounds Gedt – a Harvestland farm and a colony on the same ship!
But now that they’re on Pleena and the farming wing of the vessel is inaccessible due to the crash- it’s upright like the tallest building in Colony Min, a beacon for all to see – the aliens have been trying to harvest their crops from Pleena’s scorched and dry soil and to keep their animals alive in a pen within the fences of the compound.
The winged creatures they call “chickens” seem to be doing well enough, scratching and eating the crawlers. Chickens look like miniature thenicks, the winged monstrosities that hide in the caves near the Center. Thenick eggs are a delicacy, reserved for newly dyophased primes as part of their recovery. But the aliens seem to snatch up the chicken eggs daily and they use them in much of their food.
Many of the other aliens’ animals, however, don’t seem to be adapting to the dry climate of Pleena, neither do the aliens. They’re just made up of so much hydro! There isn’t much vegetation around the compound, many of the Life Force Scientists believe that’s part of the problem.
This inability to adapt to the climate is difficult for the Pleenians to understand; even those at Akadem who theorize about life on other planets, always theorize that other inhabited planets are like Pleena. Which is similar to what the aliens have been explaining to Gedt, they were looking for a planet like their home world, Earth, one with more hyro, when they crashed on Pleena.
Gedt’s tried to help them, but they’re made up of so much hydro! The Hydrologists have helped them set up hydro collector pods. The pods are functioning and there’s enough hydro for the aliens, but not them and all the animals in the compound.
Many of the Life Force Scientists have petitioned to get more pods to help the aliens keep their creatures alive. They’ve never seen anything like these alien animals and they would prefer to study them as living specimens, not as lab specimens on a table, so they’re helping as best they can to keep the creatures alive.
But abryt Gedt is thinking about the children, not the animals. Abryt Gedt is going to visit with the children!
Gedt’s been briefed by Twij, Head of Alien Information, a new assignment that has Gedt wondering – was it given to a fresh dual or did the assignment always exist behind government secrets? Twij seems very knowledgeable for a Pleenian in a new assignment, but then again, Gedt’s assignment is new too.
During the briefing, Twij told Gedt the aliens prefer to be called “Earthlings” or “Humans”. Gedt decides to use Earthlings, since they call their planet Earth, it’ll be easier to remember, and as the Head Linquist, Gedt’s got a lot of new vocabulary words to remember. Also, there’s something about the word Earthling, it sounds small, and since the aliens, correction, the Earthlings, are smaller than Pleenians, it seems fitting.
Twij also explains that Gedt will be visiting the children in their Akadem. In order to maintain, and begin, their life on this new planet, the Earthlings have attempted to maintain their usual routines. On Earth, Twij explains, children go to Akadem for the duration of their child-lifetok and often into adult-lifetok. Twij also explained that unlike Pleenians, Earthlings choose their assignments, and Akadem is often how they do that.
Bryt is going to be memorable, to say the least. Gedt’s going to have just as many questions for the children as the children will have for Gedt. Will Gedt be able to communicate with them? So many questions swirl through Gedt’s brain. What does it feel like to grow? How do they pick their assignment? Why are all children given the assignment of Akadem? What is it like to have a family? What is the purpose of playing? The sandstorm of questions almost makes Gedt dizzy.
The Earthlings’ Akadem begins early in the bryt, at the first light of unsol. The Earthlings’ Akadem only operates in the unsol. Gedt has to be ready earlier than usual. But it’s an acceptable change to Gedt’s routine. Gedt’s going to meet with the children!
Over the first few menybryts it became apparent that the Earthlings’ bryt on Earth was shorter than the bryts on Pleena. Most of them still haven’t adjusted. Add the double sun to beings used to a single sun system, and there have been many adjustments to both the Earthlings’ schedule and the schedules of those Pleenians who work with them.
Gedt arrives at the low building. It never occurred to Gedt that the building would be so small. While Gedt is trying to figure out how best to solve the problem of a Pleenian fitting into an Earthlings’ building, one of the taller, older, Earthlings steps out of the little door in the front of the building.
“Bright Unsol! DidIgetthatright?” The Earthling holds the door open and a number of smaller Earthlings practically tumble out of the door and run towards Gedt. They stop just spans from Gedt and look up at Gedt in his protektsoot.
Gedt can’t yet read Earthling’s expressions. Is that fear? Awe? Happiness? Confusion? Or even possibly, an emotion Pleenians don’t have?
“Bright Unsol,” Gedt replies, nodding, another oddly universal sign. But Gedt didn’t quite make out the rest, something about being correct?
“Myyouare tall. Ihaventseenany Pleenians up close.” The larger Earthling says.
Tall, Pleenian, above, near. The Earthling thinks I’m tall when near to them. Gedt nods again.
This is harder than talking with the scientists, or even observing at the market. There isn’t anything to point to out here, no pictures, no items to name and talk about. And they’re speaking so fast. The scientists make a point of slowing their speech, as does Gedt, when they converse. But not the children, or the Teacher.
All those trips to the market and Gedt still hasn’t learned very much. Gedt’s become accustomed to the cadence and general sound of the alien language, but has yet to be able to decipher syntax or follow their speech at the speed at which they converse with one another. Gedt realizes it’s probably the same for them when they listen to Pleenians talk to one another. But these little Earthlings, they’re so quick, so fast, so loud.
Pointing to Gedt’s chest, Gedt slowly says, “My name is Gedt.”
“Bright Unsol Gedt!” the children yell in unison. The noise shocks Gedt, their skin reflexively turns yellow.
The children shrink away from Gedt. Gedt tries to curve thier mouth into what the Earthling scientists call a ‘smile’. Like many of the Earthling’s language sounds, it’s difficult, and feels odd to Gedt. Do Pleenians have the muscles needed to smile? Gedt has seen the Earthlings smile when they are pleased or happy, and the scientist tell Gedt that it’s a sign of happiness on the Earthlings’ faces, so Gedt tries it.
USing gestures and a limited vocabulary, Gedt tries explaining that Pleenians turn yellow when startled or scared, it’s a reflexive camouflaging response. It’s believed to be a genetic holdover from their own ancient homeworld, but that the color, yellow, has evolved as a way to blend in with the sand of Pleena.
The children clap their upper appendages together and make an oddly pleasant sound. Gedt’s skin slowly returns to its natural dull grey color.
The children begin pointing to different parts of their coverings and saying words. At first Gedt thinks they are naming parts of their coverings, but soon Gedt discovers they’re expressing colors. So many colors!
Once Gedt understands, Gedt repeats their words and then tells them the Pleenian word for the same color. But there are a few Gedt can’t identify; Gedt makes a mental not to ask the life force scientists if there’s anyway to test and compare the two races’ vision. Do they see the same colors? Something about this meeting tells Gedt the answer is no.
Just as dusol begins, the Teacher shoos the children back inside the short building. It’s tok for the children to return to their family living units, their homes, their hives. Gedt’s visit is over; and Gedt’s ready for a break. The children and Earthling Teacher talk so fast. That meeting was more difficult than any Gedt has had with the scientists.
Gedt returns to the library that’s been set up for Gedt and the other linguists in the labs at the Pleenian end of the compound to record the visit with the children.
Abryt Gedt recorded colors, who knows what Gedt will learn forebryt? Thank the Founders the Earthlings crashed near Colony Min!