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Post last updated: Jun 24, 2016 5:01 PM
twilight of the idols, baby
Demon Cam in the Space Silmarillion
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The grownups are all very busy, but the children are all bored. 

 

Bored or having nightmares. But Tasárinon was not on a ship and did not see the people dying and has only heard it thirdhand and can't exactly have nightmares about the look in his mother's eyes - well, he probably could, but he hasn't - so he's bored, and he is drawing on the floor. It is an absurdly intricate drawing. He has been embellishing it for three days. 

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And when he completes a circle of the right size -

- there appears a man with wings and a tail.

He takes in the scene, glances around, says, "Didn't anybody ever tell you not to draw on the floor?"

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He leaps backwards a few feet. He looks perhaps seven or eight. It's a very pretty and intricate drawing for a seven or eight year old, if inadequate as a summoning circle. 

 

"...no?"

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"Oh. Well. Don't draw on the floor. Luckily it's not a disaster this time! But it could've been really bad. You want anything as long as I'm here?"

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"What kind of thing? Who are you? Why shouldn't people draw on the floor? Lots of people draw on the floor." His lip is perhaps trembling just slightly. "And I want ships and - and I guess something to kill the Enemy with, and I want my dad not to be dead, and I want the King not to be dead."

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That is an unusual wishlist for a child. And lots of people do not draw on the floor. And what language even is this.

"...Sorry, back up, where am I?"

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"...Araman? It's one of Valinor's moons."

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"I cannot fix dead but I can maybe do ships. Who should I talk to about doing ships?"

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"The King? Or one of his sons? Probably? I can call them - my mom can call them - Amil! There's a Maia here and he says he might help with the ships and not to draw on the floor!"

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"What's a Maia?"

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"Uh, everything that's not an Incarnate like us and not powerful enough to be a Vala? Is that not what you are? Incarnates can't appear out of nowhere and also can't make ships except the slow way and we don't have time for that if we're going to fight the Enemy."

 

A woman walks in. Mid-twenties, exceptionally pretty, pointed ears. She's in uniform and looks exhausted. She bows to Cam. "Hello. Can I help you?"

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"Hi. I believe I have been summoned here from an alternate universe or something."

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"Uh. Well. Welcome to Valinor." She says it a little bitterly. "Good luck ever leaving. What makes you think that, and how'd you get into our room?"

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"Well, I can normally be summoned, but normally I am summoned to one of two planets or one moon, none of which are named these things. Also it is normally common knowledge that you should not draw on the floor, because you might summon something, as," he gestures at himself, "has happened. Also this language seems etymologically unrelated to any others I know anything about!"

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"We're speaking Quenya," she says. "This is Araman, which is one of Valinor's moons. Valinor used to be magically kept in a habitable orbit around a binary star system for the amusement of the Powers but they got into a fight and now we're orbiting a black hole. As far as I know there's one other inhabited planet in the space our ships can explore, and the Powers have probably now taken their war there. So we're going to stop them. And it's twenty-five years' travel from here without ships that can leap light and we have ships that can do that but we do not have enough of them. Is that most of what you'd need to know? We can feed one more mouth, probably, but we don't have the means to get you home."

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"...you don't have to worry about feeding me," Cam says, making a pitless cherry and popping it into his mouth, "or for that matter anybody else if you want my help with that, and while I suspect you could send me home I don't know if you want to, because sometimes people do draw on the floor to purposefully summon demons and we're very useful."

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She watches. She blinks. "I should get Prince Nelyafinwe."

 

"That's why I called you," says her son. "Can I've a cherry?"

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"Sure." Cam gives him a cherry.

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He delightedly eats the cherry. The woman goes to a screen in the wall and says rather levelly that she has an urgent message and possibly a solution to at least three of the pressing supply problems and could Prince Nelyafinwe come here as soon as convenient please. Then she sits there.

 

"You said you were a demon? What's that?"

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"Demons are one of the three kinds of daeva. Demons make things, angels change things, fairies move things. Daeva are also indestructible and summonable."

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"That's - useful. And you were summoned? Somehow?"

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"Yeah. This is not a good summoning circle and this could have been an unqualified disaster and no one should try summoning any more daeva by replicating this floor-drawing or doing more untrained floor-drawings, but kiddo over there completed what turns out to have been a valid summoning circle and here I am."

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She glances at it. "That's pretty, Tása."

 

"Thanks," he says. He's eating his cherry very very slowly, still wide-eyed. 

"I take it the reason not to do it again is that were a demon less sociably inclined they could create things like a sun or a black hole?"

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"Right in one."

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"And people do it on purpose? Or are demons very well-reputed?"

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"Demons are actually very poorly reputed, in comparison to angels and fairies. But a well-done circle can prohibit antisocial behavior, this just isn't such a circle."

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"...can I please have another cherry?" Tása says. "If it's not too much trouble?"

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"It's no trouble at all." Cam makes him a whole bowlful and the bowl.

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His eyes widen. His mother turns to watch him expectantly.

"I can give everyone a cherry," he says triumphantly. "Thank you! Thank you so much! Mom I have so many I have to share - everyone's hungry -" And he takes the bowl and races out the door. 

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"Do you want me to just go conjure up a feast somewhere or what."

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"If it's not too much trouble we'll probably want that," she says. "No one's starving, we're just on half-rations because it's not obvious when we'll next be somewhere that can grow food - losing the Suns was a catastrophe on a scale we hadn't really prepared for... I expect the King'll want ships first and then food can be sorted while we're in transit, and weaponry once we land...we should give you something, but if you can make things it is not obvious what kinds of gifts we can give you..."

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"One of the perennial demon-summoning problems. I happen to be an unusually altruistically inclined demon but the standard currency is ideas - media recommendations, usually."

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"Oh, good, so we can just give you complete recordings of everything Macalaure's ever done - do we even need to give it to you - and that's just compensation even for a fleet of light-leaping ships, I think." She shakes her head. 

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"You do not need to actually give it to me, just knowing what to grab is enough," Cam says.

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"Prince Canafinwe Macalaure. Ah, start with the third symphony, I suppose, if you're starting somewhere. He's astonishing."

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"Thanks." Cam conjures up his computer and makes a note of this and then clips it to a belt loop, tail aswish.

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She watches him with fascination. And then - "oh, good, he's here."

 

And someone else walks in. Even taller, even prettier, with elaborately braided bright red hair that's barely the worse for the wear from the helmet he's pulling off. She bows again and he shakes his head at her. "There's neither time nor space," he says, "and it's I who should be honored anyway. How are you holding up? Maitimo," he offers Cam, taking in the wings and tail. "And what's going on?"

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"Cam, pleased to meet you," Cam says. "I am a summonable demon and I have been accidentally summoned into an alternate universe suffering from what sound like extremely demon-meliorable supply problems!"

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"He can create things. Any things."

He raises an eyebrow. "Well. In that case I am very very pleased to meet you and we definitely have demon-meliorable supply problems. What level of specification do you need to create things?"

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"I can copy things I can identify sufficiently well; I have to know more about what I'm doing if I'm making inexact copies; for a book I usually want title and author, say, but I can sometimes make do with substitute information; I don't expect to have any trouble with 'Canafinwë Macalaurë's third symphony'."

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"You have dreadful taste," says Maitimo to the woman, "I shall insist until the heat death of the universe that the seventh is the best one to start with. Wait, I suppose we might not need to worry about the heat death of universe anymore. In that case I'll insist even longer. There are ten so far," he adds to Cam. "I can ask him to compose another for you, if you win us this war."

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"Gosh. Uh, my standards of knowing what's going on for war-winning are substantially higher than same for giving a kid a bowl of cherries."

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"Good," he says earnestly, "I'd be alarmed if they weren't. Can you access our data systems?"

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"I would be astonished if there were preexisting compatibility between my information tech and yours."

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"'Maitimo's personal computer, and a copy of his mind-signature,' isn't enough specificity? Or do you avoid that on principle, I really shouldn't try to goad you into it..."

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"I mean, I could make your computer but I would not know how to operate it unless it's very intuitive. Mind-signature?"

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"You don't have one, I just thought you were blocking us. Perhaps in your universe there's no hardware for it. How do you communicate mind-to-mind, or do you not?"

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"...We don't. That is not a thing."

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"Ah. It is a thing for us. I suppose if you're indestructible it wouldn't be necessary. Care to come back to my ship? There are people I can put to the data compatibility question who'll sort it very quickly and I can explain everything in the meantime."

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"Sounds like a plan."

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"There are two ways to get to Endore from here," he says while they walk. "One is to just fly it in standard ships. That'll take - I don't know if our years are the same length - a Year for us is the length of time required for the Suns to cycle seventeen hundred twenty eight times - we use the distance light travels in a year as a unit of measurement for this kind of thing -"

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"Light-years are a measurement I'm familiar with but the years are different years." He pulls up a clock on his computer. "Smallest increment's a second, sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour, twenty-four hours an Earth day, three hundred sixty five Earth days a year. Really precise comparisons may need to await data compatibility."

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"Probably. Anyway, Endore's more than two light Years from here and by then we're terrified for the civilian population of the planet, it won't take the Enemy that long to crush them based on what was most recently communicated of their capabilities. And we don't have the supplies for it. So now we have a few light-leap ships and those can do it in a week, but we're short on them. And control of them has become politically contested. If there are enough for everyone I think that'd solve more than half our current problems - food's not a problem either if we'll be on Endore in a week."

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"Okay. So, my world does not have faster than light travel - except of information via demonic conjuration - and I won't be able to help you with this if the ships run on magic, antimatter, or some other category of thing that I have as a hard power limit. But if they're just made of stuff I can make stuff in ship shapes."

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"They're not magic. I don't think there's such a thing as magic, I doubt even the Powers run on magic. I can get you blueprints. I don't understand how they work myself - if I had, none of this would have happened..."

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"Blueprints or an actual ship to copy work fine. I don't have to understand them. I'm technically magic but I can't make magic things."

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"I wonder what you can do with things that only work in Valinor because the Powers set it up that way, like music having 'magical' effects. I very much wonder if you can copy a Silmaril, actually, come to think of it - I can't get you blueprints of those but I can pull up a picture -"

He glances at a screen behind him and up pops a picture of what looks like a very large faceted gemstone.

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"What's it do?"

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"A lot of things but we could put it in orbit and relight the world, most notably, it can output arbitrary amounts of light. It can heal - they can in fact be weaponized, if you want to wait on it until I have explained the war..."

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"Yeah, if they're not urgent on an amount-of-time-it-takes-to-explain-the-war scale."

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"I do not think it should take too long to explain the war. A while ago the Quendi - our people - awakened on Endore. Awakened, we weren't born - we're a created race, not an evolved one. The Valar say that Eru created us and I've never heard another explanation. I've also never met Eru or heard anyone who wasn't a Vala credibly claim to have met him.

The Valar are very powerful, I do not know exactly how powerful, and they had at one point put Endore together as a site for Eru to put his creations. By the time we came along they'd gotten bored of it - or frustrated - it turned out disastrously, you know how design by committee goes - and built Valinor instead. One of them stayed behind on Endore. We call him Moringotho."

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Cam takes notes. They're not in the local alphabet because his computer doesn't know it yet; he transliterates.

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"The Valar have one notable limitation; they cannot create thinking conscious beings. Moringotho wanted to find a way around this. So when the Quendi appeared he kidnapped us and conducted various biological experiments, and used some to bring to term children engineered to his own specifications, and in this manner bred his own race, orcs. Also lots of other horrifying monsters but to my knowledge orcs are the only one of those to be created from people rather than from animals. He also enslaved lots of Quendi for manual labor until he had enough orcs for that, and after that he just tortured prisoners for fun.

He also hated the Sun and kept the planet shrouded in volcanic ash, which might also have prevented the other Valar from perceiving him; that's unclear to me. 

Eventually they found out. And they fought him. The war shattered four of the planet's seven continents, and left large swathes of the others uninhabitable. They won, and took him prisoner. When the fighting ended, the Valar offered the Quendi a place to live in Valinor, and many of us took them up on it. Several generations were born in Valinor; I was. And then they offered him parole.

Everyone was skeptical, obviously, but the alternative was holding him prisoner for the lifetime of the universe, so - only moderately skeptical. We'd also grown up in paradise and were a bit naive. And for ninety Years it seemed to be going well, but he was secretly working on a number of ways to undermine us, and they came to fruition when he put out the Suns, assassinated the King, stole the Silmarils, and fled for Endore. Where one assumes he's starting the same thing again, and Eru put other creations besides the Quendi on Endore - Dwarves, Men, Ents, there's probably some I'm missing. So we decided to leave and go stop him."

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"'No minds' is a limit I have too. I can make animal bodies but they're never smarter than, like, bugs."

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"...I don't think you're the same kind of thing as the Valar but I suppose it is technically not impossible. Except they usually don't take physical forms at all."

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"I am definitely a demon," he says, "there are lots of us and we all have physical forms."

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"I mean, more, perhaps the Valar are demons and all of their non-making-things abilities are advanced technology? But that wouldn't explain the ability to abandon physical forms at will - though if you're not backed up anywhere - are you backed up anywhere? Are the backups indestructible?"

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"I am not backed up, I'm just indestructible as-is."

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"Convenient. Most likely the Valar aren't demons, then, which is too bad because we'd have a new avenue on figuring out how to kill one. I am guessing you'll next want to verify everything I said about the murdering and experimenting and torturing and putting out the Suns? I'm not clear on which of those things you'd find objectionable."

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"They all sound pretty bad, but yes, I'd like to verify."

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"I can swear to it but if you don't have telepathy and you don't have backups at a guess you don't have Oaths. You'll have to wait on data compatibility."

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"I can incidentally do data conversion, if you want to name me files, although for that to really get anywhere I'll have to program my computer to handle your language and that'll take a little while. What I can't do is make it talk directly to your hardware."

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"Can you get the major news sites' coverage from Elenya the 129th of 1495? That'd do it for the putting out the Suns and assassinating the King, and the transcripts of the parole hearing of Melkor in 1400 should do it for the rest."

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"You'll have to name me the major news sites," he says, starting to input Quenya glyphs into a fontmaker on his computer.

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"You can't go, like, ranking of Valinor news sites by pageviews in 1494? Ah, maybe - " and he names several. 

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"I could make the entire internet of Valinor and go sifting through it; if I want anything specific I have to know what it is." Notes notes back to fontmaking.

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"It is a good thing that we are used to paradise and don't have any state secrets," he says, frowning, "that seems extremely exploitable."

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"Yeah, I am a terrible infosec hazard, it's a thing."

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"It's convenient at the moment. I think this war is about as justified as any war has ever been and I'd like you to be able to verify that as quickly as possible."

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"Won't be long now, you don't have that many letters."

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"We don't. Everything's spelled exactly as it sounds, too. We took good care of the language."

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"Oh, I could live with irregular spelling, fluency comes with the summons."

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"Can you do me a big favor and not mention that to the King? He'll spend the next three weeks picking your brain on every language you know and I need him for some things."

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"...isn't he going to want to know how I came by Quenya?"

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He shrugs helplessly. "You'll probably have to cop to at least one additional language, maybe two, but he'll pick up those in a few days. If you speak thirty or something our brightest mind will be out of commission for the next Year."

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"...it's more than that."

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"So please save that for if we need to peacefully remove my father from power, don't mention it outright."

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"I really don't know how I'm supposed to explain speaking Quenya then!"

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"On your world, everyone speaks - pick one. When you get summoned you get that language. Since you got summoned here you got Quenya. If you get summoned by a Vala you'd get Valarin. He'll demand to know how he can become a demon but I won't have to rule for a decade while he's becoming fluent in more than thirty languages he'll never need and then writing books about their linguistic evolution."

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"This will involve blatant lies about how mortals in my world work, let alone the linguistic habits of daeva."

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"On your head be it, then. Don't say you weren't warned."

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"I'm just not sure I'll be very convincing if I tell him yep, everybody in my world speaks English all the time, pay no attention to the etymology behind the curtain - might be easier to pass off Chinese -"

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"Everyone who's summoned you, right? And I'll trust you on what would be convincing - it's just - the King's murder was very much orchestrated to make a point to my father, and the Enemy very much succeeded in making that point, and my father's very easily distracted by intellectually intriguing things anyway, but this is going to be a lot of politics as well as a lot of engineering and language-learning, figuring out how best to protect Endore."

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"I'll steer around it best I can," Cam sighs.

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"Thank you. I won't be annoyed if you don't. I can't actually think of much you'd do short of hurting my people that would annoy me, these ships will change everything and a faster arrival will save hundreds of thousands of lives."

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"Y'know, I never get to do the saving hundreds of thousands of lives thing anymore and it's been grating on me."

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"Winning the war would save - I don't know the current population of Endore but plausibly billions. We can't claim all that benefit just from arriving a little faster, though.

 

We're about ten minutes out from our destination, what else should I cover? Political structure, enemy capabilities, timeline of the recent mess..."

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Cam informs his computer of another Quenya glyph. "Anything you haven't mentioned I should stuff onto this chip?"

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"The Valar are really furiously angry with us with reasonably good reasons and we're exiled from here, that doesn't change the strategic picture much but I suppose is worth mentioning. They've also suggested they'll delay reembodiments for a few Ages, which means we're more hesitant to risk our lives than we ordinarily would be."

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"What is a reembodiment?"

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"We're not indestructible. So the Vala of the Dead, Mandos, keeps a backup of everyone's mind in the Halls and if we die he can build us a new body and reinstall our minds and we can return. It's the same hardware that gives us telepathy and Oaths, which is why I inferred you didn't have the latter from the absence of the first two."

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"...huh. Do you have copies of your own backups?"

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"No, just Mandos. Special Vala privileges - could you make them."

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"Can't do minds. ...Although I don't actually know how that applies to pure data-based minds, if they're that."

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"I think they are? The Valar gloss their own abilities as magic - well, as divine power - but lately we've gotten skeptical. I'd be reluctant to hand you a copy of my mind anyway, that's very very abuseable."

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"Oh yeah. Anyway, if I try to make a person, I get the body, and it'll be alive, and breathe, and stuff, but it will be disturbingly stupid."

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"...and if you then instantiated the mind from backup..."

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"No idea! We don't do backups, even the mortals."

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"...so they just get annihilated if they die? That's kind of awful."

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"Oh, no, they go to Limbo. It's not exactly nice there but they're indestructible as daeva, just no snazzy magic powers besides that and a really boring world."

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"That's interesting. As far as we know if we're destroyed and all our backups are destroyed we stop existing. But we also did not know daeva existed."

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"...uh, also, people who summon daeva get to be daeva when they die instead, and I have no idea how that would interact with backups."

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"Uh.

That would be worth testing if we could get a volunteer but I am not sure I'd feel comfortable asking anyone to volunteer." He gestures ahead. "That's our technical support ship - by which I mean it's where my father and my technically-inclined brothers have been working - and I bet they'll have compatibility working in what-would-have-been-a-day-when-this-system-had-Suns."

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"Cool. You never did say if I should stuff anything else onto the chip I'm going to conjure up, now that my computer can handle Quenya?"

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"What else would you want? I can name history books, political history books - there's not much about the Enemy's capabilities, the Valar like to have their powers be vague 'we are gods' type things - a family tree might come in handy..."

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"...eh, maybe it should wait until I can tell you in local terms how much data storage I can fit on one of these things, I just try to be in the habit of not making anything unnecessary because I don't have getting-rid-of-stuff powers." He makes a chip and tucks it into the computer.

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And he tells his family over osanwe what's going on and please stay focused on the war effort demons have lots of interesting implications but most of them can wait a week. 

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The interestingly implicated demon follows where he is led, reading his reading material.

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And this ship is of the same design, with more monitors, all of which are full of diagrams and tables of numbers, and a number of men who are very obviously all related. Maitimo bows. "Father. Cam, who can make things. Arbitrary things, but not people or antimatter or things that don't obey the laws of physics."

"Hello," he says. "Where are you from and where'd you learn Quenya?"

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"Got it when I was summoned," Cam says. "It's very pretty. I live on a planetoid with a personal gravity well generated by a black hole, commuting distance from the major demonic population center on an enormous stupid plane of solid gold."

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"I assume there's some context that would make that make more sense."

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"There is an infinite naturally-empty-vacuum expanse full of people who all have the same powers as me, we're called demons, it got really tacky really fast. We are summonable. So are two other kinds of magic winged people, angels and fairies, who respectively change and move stuff where demons make it."

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"And you were summoned here? How?"

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"Kid was drawing on the floor. That is very unsafe to do without knowing what one is doing, by the way, please do not have people drawing on the floor, you're lucky you got me."

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"Unsafe how?"

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"Well, normally one summons daeva, especially demons, with bindings so we can't do whatever we happen to want to do. My circle had none, so I can do whatever I happen to want to do. I happen to want nice things. Many demons - especially of the subset who bother answering summons, it's voluntary - would not."

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"I don't suppose strategically leaking this so the Enemy tries it is a good idea -"

"Endore ends up in a black hole," Maitimo says, "or worse, the demon thinks the Enemy's charming."

"Yes, yes, I know. Which means we have to be cautious of unstrategic leaking. Who knows?"

"Me," Maitimo says, "Tasárinon and Alyanne, who I've told not to tell anyone though Tasárinon shared his cherries, and Cam. I'm sure of them. I didn't look carefully at the circle and couldn't reproduce it. Should I have it erased? Cam, is that safe?"

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"Erasing it is safe, that exact collection of lines will not work twice but redrawing it would."

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Maitimo's expression flickers. "Alright, I told them to erase it. If there's video to their rooms that could have caught it, erase that too. Are you stuck here, Cam? I imagined erasing it might send you home."

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"Oh, no - the summoner can send me home on purpose, and if he dies, that does it too, those are the ways."

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"If he dies without a backup?" asks Feanor. "And how does he do it on purpose, if he's a child of twenty might he do it carelessly?"

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"Summoners at home have no backups so no clue. He'd have to focus for a minute on wanting me gone, difficult but not impossible to do by accident. He's twenty? How slow do you people grow?"

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"A sun like Endore's -" he calls it up on the monitor - "yellow, medium-sized - will have a lifespan of a billion years, does that establish for you roughly the length of a year? We take fifty of those to grow up."

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Cam does some arithmetic on his computer. "Factor of about ten compared to my years. Wow that is a painfully long childhood. I'm only a hundred and seventy-two in Earth years."

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This wins him a fierce grin. "I found it unpleasantly long, yes. I think Valinor slows it. He'll age faster in the Outer Lands. We stop aging at a hundred."

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"Humans do not stop aging until they die of it, but daeva and Limboites - dead humans in the afterlife - look like young adults, which is to say early twenties."

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"Fascinating. Now for the arbitrary amounts of matter - can you do a hundred ships like this one? I have blueprints here. Fuel and supplies for them? A city once we land? Weapons - does your world fight wars habitually enough to have weapons? We don't, and are at a bit of a loss."

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"Yes to all of the above on a conceptual level, I will want more war-related information before I help you win it."

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"I'm surprised Maitimo didn't tell you-"

"They don't have Oaths," Maitimo says, "so I did but he'll need to read things he retrieved himself to verify it and not everyone reads as quickly as you."

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"I read pretty quick but I've barely started," Cam nods.

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"In that case perhaps I should let you orient yourself," he says, "while we plan how we'll do the ships if we aren't short anything we need - and stop wasting half our time figuring out how to save on fuel - I can take a look at making your data systems compatible with ours, that should at least be interesting."

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"Sure, what do you need to do that?"

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"Documentation, if you have it. Are your computers binary state machines, at least - if they're not binary they can be made that way, if they're not state machines I'm not even sure we mean the same thing by 'computers' -" he flutters through some screens and names some more things. 

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"They are binary!" Cam confirms. "Name a format and I can get you specs for the kind I'm using, though my computer doesn't have enough Quenya to translate into it so that'll have to be done manually."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, don't translate, I'll figure it out, what language are they written in?"

Permalink Eye

"Lemme check - uh, Lagalann."

Permalink Eye

"Great! Then that, plus if we can speak in Lagalann for a few minutes I'll have enough to go off."

Permalink Eye

"Format?" Cam prompts. "What d'you want me to say in Lagalann?"

Permalink Eye

"Paper, since you're not wasting resources on it? Best kind of file security, at least when one isn't dealing with demons. I'd like the sentences 'This person speaks Lagalann, an unusual child speaks no Quenya, that man hesitantly speaks Lagalann, he speaks Lagalann, speak Lagalann, I once spoke Lagalann, I have occasionally spoken Lagalann, I speak Lagalann over there, I speak Lagalann when I'm over there..."

Permalink Eye

Cam hands him a book and starts repeating the sentences in Lagalann.

Permalink Eye

"''I read'? 'I understand'? 'I see'? And the alphabet?"

Permalink Eye

Cam hands him an alphabet and repeats the sentences.

Permalink Eye

"Would these be right? 'I see a child speaking Lagalann? I understand that the child is speaking Lagalann, when I don't understand Lagalann?' Who designed this alphabet?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, those are right. I don't know who designed it, some demon I guess."

Permalink Eye

"Is it your native tongue? 'I see where Lagalann is spoken? I no see where Lagalann is spoken?""

Permalink Eye

"It's one of the more common demon languages. I don't see where Lagalann is spoken."

Permalink Eye

"I don't see where the child is? I don't understand what the demon understands? There are others? What are those?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes and yes. I don't have a complete list on hand, there's billions and billions of demons inventing languages willy-nilly," says Cam, "and I don't know of anyone who's put together a comprehensive list of what they all are."

Permalink Eye

He sets down the paper. "How do I get to where you're from? No one's put together a list? Are there lists of all the demons? Could you go 'language notes by this demon' for every demon on this list?"

Permalink Eye

"Only demons can be where I am from. I'm sure there are lists but I don't know where to find a comprehensive one, especially if you want conlangs or whatever. There is definitely not a complete census, and I think 'language notes' is not specific enough, I'd have to do 'complete works' and filter from there manually."

Permalink Eye

"How do I become a demon, then? 'dictionary'? 'file'? 'computer'? 'hardware'?"

His sons are quietly giggling.

Permalink Eye

"I cannot give you reliable information on how to become a demon, because the only procedure besides 'be a demon to begin with' is 'summon something, die, happen to become a demon instead of an angel or a fairy' and I don't know how it interacts with your universe of origin, species, backups, or anything else that may be operative. Dictionary file computer hardware."

Permalink Eye

"Then I'll have to find another way to get to where demons live," he says, "I'm sure there is one. This is a book about computers spoken in Lagalann?"

Permalink Eye

"Written in Lagalann," corrects Cam.

Permalink Eye

"This is a book about computers written in Lagalann. This is a book about computers written in Quenya. This is a book about computers spoken for a child who cannot read. I have enough Lagalann vocabulary to start on the book about computers?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, you could try, it does have plenty of diagrams, but I don't think we've covered most of the words in it."

Permalink Eye

"'interrupt'?"

Permalink Eye

"Interrupt."

Permalink Eye

"I can interrupt you while you read of Moringotho, I read of computers in Lagalann, question vocabulary."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, sure, I can give you words while we're reading."

Permalink Eye

"If you would speak in Lagalann I would learn 'faster'. And I'll do that."

Permalink Eye

"Sure but if I speak in Lagalann I'll have to retrace half what I say to fill you in. Word you're looking for is 'faster'."

Permalink Eye

"I learn faster than demons, you don't have to retrace half what you say to fill I in."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough. 'Fill me in'."

Permalink Eye

"I'll read and you can fill me in when I don't understand vocabulary. And read about Moringotho. 'the war'?"

Permalink Eye

"The war."

Permalink Eye

And he turns to the book. He interrupts frequently at first, then less so. 

Permalink Eye

Cam goes through his reading material.

Permalink Eye

After a while he has more requests for documentation. 

Permalink Eye

Which he provides.

Permalink Eye

"Do you need anything else to make up your mind about the war?"

Permalink Eye

"It'd be nice to have more reason to believe that this is all from a free press and so on but I'm definitely willing to at least make you ships and food and a city and suspect over the course of doing all that I will have more opportunities to learn things on a less explicitly you-tell-me-stuff level."

Permalink Eye

"'Thank you'? And you could look up enough to confirm that Oaths work and then request one, though I'm content waiting."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you," Cam translates. "It's implausible that you'd have been able to curate enough stuff for me to conjure up with a consistent picture of oaths but that implausibility relies on your information technology not being too much more ridiculously advanced than mine, and yours can do mind backups, which mine can't."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough. I expect we'll be attacked immediately on landing; can I expect you'll help if we are?"

Permalink Eye

"What kind of help do you have in mind?"

Permalink Eye

"This ships aren't meant for fights. If they come under fire they will fall apart and the people in them will die."

Permalink Eye

"Well, do you have designs for more defensible ones or do you just want me to try to surround an entire fleet of ships in keratin or what?"

Permalink Eye

"There has never been a war in Elven history. I can sit here and design a more defensible one if it's worth the time lost on the other side, or we can switch ships to something better once we've leapt light. I assume this is a solved problem in places that have wars."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I can put you all in something armored up, what are you going to be shot at with?"

Permalink Eye

"Orcs definitely don't have light-leaping, definitely do have rocketry, I'm not sure what weapons lie in that range because again we didn't go through the ordinary technological path here."

Permalink Eye

"Anything radioactive? Can you quantify approximate explosive yield? What are they going to be using to detect you in the first place?"

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps we should send some autopiloted ships in first and see."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, sure, I can get you drones."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. Do you require sleep? Shelter I assume you can do."

Permalink Eye

"I can sleep but I can also just drink lots of coffee forever!"

Permalink Eye

He looks wildly envious. "Sometime you'll have to tell me more about how one becomes a demon."

Permalink Eye

"Some asshole shot me, that's how."

Permalink Eye

"I cannot describe how much I'd prefer it to Mandos. And Mandos isn't going to make me a new body."

Permalink Eye

"If the body is the only missing piece I can cover you on that."

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

"Can you try that. My father's dead - if you could reembody him before the Valar bother..."

Permalink Eye

"I can try; however, mindless bodies are pretty unpleasant to be around if you're not used to them and I don't know how you're planning to load a mind into it..."

Permalink Eye

"You'd need to copy it from Mandos. Can you do that with just a name?"

Permalink Eye

"Assuming no version control problems, should do, but how are you going to actually get it into the body?"

Permalink Eye

 

 

"...don't know. I always assumed it happened automatically once the chip that does osanwe and the backups and everything is in place."

Permalink Eye

"I can try this but I cannot guarantee that result, not knowing how your cyborg implants work. My 'no minds' hard limit has not been tested on software storage but may apply to it too. Also, Mandos will still have his copy."

Permalink Eye

"Mandos doesn't torture them or anything, it's wanting my father alive more than not wanting him dead...also I think Mandos would find the situation objectionable and wouldn't run his copy, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Like I said I'm willing to try it. What kind of substrate are the backups on, do you want me to just conjure both things in this room...?"

Permalink Eye

"Can you conjure our chip first, with his mind on it? They look like - let me look up some books for you, actually -"

Permalink Eye

"You have a way to check to see if it's a mind and not mysteriously-a-nonmind?"

Permalink Eye

"Not until you put it in, no - not if the difference doesn't show up in the code anywhere -"

Permalink Eye

"So what's the advantage of conjuring it that way first?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I suppose if you can just do it in the body that'd be even better..."

Permalink Eye

"Should be able to. Lemme have some more details about how these things work so I don't have to do it twice because there's something I didn't know and copy conjuration couldn't patch."

Permalink Eye

He pulls up a visual. "It's here. We call them thought-catchers. If it's not destroyed one can actually just reconstruct the body around it but if it's destroyed you need Mandos - and you need a Vala anyway, we can't create even unthinking bodies."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. So, your father's thought-catcher as last extant undestroyed and his body around it at - when, does it matter?"

Permalink Eye

"Not the moment of death, hopefully. Any time in the three hundred Years before that should look the same."

Permalink Eye

"Cool, can do. Clothes?"

Permalink Eye

"That could be what he was wearing when he died, when last not damaged."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Right here right now?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes." His face is set. 

Permalink Eye

 

And now there is a basement dweller Elf cyborg on the floor. It is not smart enough to blink, and doesn't.

"...Sorry," Cam sighs.

Permalink Eye

 

He stands there a bit fixedly. One of the men stands up and hugs him. "I had a thought on file format compatibility," he says firmly, and then expands on it, and after a minute Feanor volunteers an objection. Maitimo picks up the unmoving Elf cyborg. "Thanks for trying," he mutters to Cam. 

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome." Dammit he couldn't just luck into a world where everyone was CONVENIENTLY RESURRECTABLE no that would have been too nice.

Permalink Eye

"Bit crowded in here, want to go across the hall to my office and read or search from there with my credentials? There are a lot of people I need to inform of this."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

He hands the body to some very confused-looking people first. They leave without asking any questions, or at least any audible ones. 


"Sorry," Maitimo says, when they're in the room across the hall, glaring his screen to life.

Permalink Eye

"I knew it probably wasn't going to work. There's no principled reason for 'no minds' and therefore no reason to expect it wouldn't apply to software minds."

Permalink Eye

"It doesn't make any sense at all. As a limitation."

Permalink Eye

"I know! I mean, I'm mostly glad we have it - Hell works as a society because everyone in it is indestructible, if we could just make squishy humans some people would and things would get potentially very fucked up very fast - but sense, no, none of that."

Permalink Eye

He raises an eyebrow. "Demons would mistreat incarnates if they could, you think?"

Permalink Eye

"Most demons, no! Some demons yes. Demons vary and there are lots and lots and lots of us."

Permalink Eye

"Quendi vary! But that, I think, none of us." He briefly looks troubled. "Well, if it's preventing great evils then it's not worth whatever benefits it'd have for us and it's not a good idea to find a way around it."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, I wouldn't have to go tell everybody," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

He raises an eyebrow. "I suppose not. Then we'll try thinking of ways around it - if you get the data and we press the metaphorical start button..."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe, yeah. Uh, do mind your infosec on that, I can translate you a handbook on how to security-by-obscurity And Other Ways To Keep Demons Out Of Your Data."

Permalink Eye

"Noted. Very much. We don't bother with audio recording, since usually we do everything with telepathy, so there's no records of any experiments here that aren't put to writing."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah that's gonna make it harder. I'll translate you the handbook anyhow." He pulls it up on his computer. "We can convert but not automatically decrypt, that's a big one."

Permalink Eye

"We don't have encryption except as a sort of theoretical math field. Valinor."

Permalink Eye

"...maybe I should actually program some Quenya into my computer so it can autotranslate if there's going to be so many things to want to do that with. Uh, can you name me a good varied text corpus with, like..." Arithmetic. "Maybe a quadrillion words for my software to chew on?"

Permalink Eye

He raises an eyebrow. "Can you pull up the palace library catalogue? Founded in 1251, it has my father's name at the top..."

Permalink Eye

"And that'll be about the right amount?" Cam tries to make it fit onto one chip.

Permalink Eye

"I honestly am not sure. I know how much we spend on the library but not how many words are in all the books. Father could tell you, not because he memorizes trivia but because he'd guess words-per-book and books-per-Year and get an astonishingly close estimate, but mine'll be way off."

Permalink Eye

"Fermi calculations: they're great." Chip! Success! He tucks it into his computer and fires up some computation and starts translating stuff so it has known plaintext.

Permalink Eye

"Should I leave you to it and go notify various people of your existence in order of how offended they'll be I haven't done so already? I can stay if you need other media suggestions or anything."

Permalink Eye

"I think I have enough to go on for a while," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"Lovely. Later. Thank you very much for everything."

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome."

And he translates things and reads and he sips coffee.

Permalink Eye

And Maitimo's back a few hours later, having told people relevant bits and pieces of the things they're going to need to know - Cam's probably going to be annoyed to realize how disputed the Kingship is, but nothing they've asked of Cam is actually particularly political - avoids people he doesn't think he can talk to right now, can't find Findekano, returns nibbling on stale lembas. "I forgot to ask, do you know enough to be happy trying to replicate a Silmaril before we leave orbit here?"

Permalink Eye

"Erm, hang on a sec -" Searching library corpus for 'Silmaril'...

Permalink Eye

"There will not be anything in there about how to weaponize them, or even the fact that they're weaponizable, Father invented them and he's the only one who'd know how to do it."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Well, that doesn't help," Cam says. "I haven't even made you ships yet, though, when do you want those?"

Permalink Eye

"If I hadn't said they were weaponizable you'd have no way to tell," he says, "all the articles are just about what an astonishing work of art they are and about how they could be used to restore light to the world. We have a lot cleared for the ships whenever you're ready."

Permalink Eye

"Yes," says Cam, "and I appreciate that so much that I'm not going to rigorously check your ship designs for weaponizability. Now's fine."

Permalink Eye

So they walk outside. One of Maitimo's brothers joins them with a handheld screen full of blueprints. Araman has just-tolerable atmosphere and is cold and windy and ugly. 

Permalink Eye

Well, Cam doesn't want to breathe this crap, and the Elves shouldn't have to either. Air, nice air. He can do that while he looks over the blueprints.

Permalink Eye

They are not obviously weaponizable. They have lots of things he hasn't seen before. 

Permalink Eye

Well, this will not impede his ability to make as many of them as they want.

Permalink Eye

They want a hundred. They fill up the empty space in front of them. Maitimo and his brother watch delightedly. "Thank you," Maitimo says fervently when Cam's done. "I'll get people moving, we can leave in two days."

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome!"

Permalink Eye

"And now you can give anyone else light-leap ships, too, am I right? Or would that not be much good since they wouldn't know how to fly them?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, I'm sure they could figure it out."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, good." And then suddenly the smile vanishes from his face. There are a couple people walking across the grounds towards them. Two guards in the uniform Cam's already seen, and one man in distinctly different colors. Maitimo's brother sighs. 

Permalink Eye

 

"Hm?"

Permalink Eye

"We should go in," Maitimo says. "The air out here isn't very good for us."

Permalink Eye

"Bullshit," says Cam.

Permalink Eye

Findekano this is not the time. 

Forgive me for not taking your word for it, but last time I just wholeheartedly trusted you thirty thousand people ended up dead. 

Do you want a Silmaril in orbit around Valinor when we leave or not because this is how you get not and I can explain later why. 

How hard is 'I don't take your word as law anymore' to understand?

To Cam it just looks like they are glaring at each other. And then the newcomers arrive. "Cam," Maitimo says wearily, "this is my cousin Findekano. Findekano, Cam made the ships."

"I gathered that."

"I tried to find you with the full explanation but you weren't around so I gave it to Turukano."

"Same kind of full explanation you presumably gave Cam?"

"Cam can read the internet," he says, "I couldn't keep anything from him if I wanted to."

"It's a big internet."

"I started with everything about the war, seemed like a reasonable first priority. Findekano, the ships are yours. I'm not trying to-"

"What was the second priority?"

"Resurrection."

"Does that work?"

"No."

"Third priority?"

"We had not actually spent all that much time together."

Findekano glances between them. "Really."

"Jealous?" says Maitimo's brother bitingly.

And at that the two guards with Findekano actually have to stop him from lunging forward, and Maitimo turns with cold fury on his brother - "that was an insult to me and our guest."

"Didn't mean it as one."

"I'd take it as a personal favor if you'd constrain yourself to true insults about my cousin's character, there are certainly enough of them."

"That was out of line," Maitimo's brother says peaceably, "sorry."

"Let go of me," Findekano says, and the guards do.

Permalink Eye

 

"If you'd like to produce supplementary reading recommendations I'll take them under advisement," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"Alqualonde," he says furiously. "Do a search."

Permalink Eye

Cam makes a note of that. "Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"I'd like you to leave," Maitimo says, "we're departing in two days and there's a lot to do, but I am not going to insist."

"Because it'd look bad?"

"Mostly. Care to at least make yourself helpful? Fuel's not a problem, food's not a problem, if we can satisfy Cam that the war is necessary weapons aren't a problem either."

"The war is absolutely necessary," Findekano says to Cam. "For what that's worth."

Permalink Eye

"Well, unless I conclude this spat was staged that will be very reassuring," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

Maitimo laughs, a little bitterly. "When are your people planning to depart?" he says.

Findekano shrugs. "Couple weeks, perhaps. We are in less of a hurry."

"Lovely. I will see you then."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

And they go back inside. Maitimo's brother parts ways with them. Maitimo is distractedly giving instructions over osanwe.

Permalink Eye

Cam does a search on Alqualondë.

Permalink Eye

Two weeks ago there was a massacre at Alqualonde. The articles are ugly. The pictures are worse. Thirty thousand dead. 

Permalink Eye

 

Christ.

Permalink Eye

"I assume you have some questions," Maitimo says.

Permalink Eye

"Yes. My first question is whether it's okay for me to go perform medical experiments on mindless Elf bodies so I know whether I can, say, put people into harmless reversible comas with the drugs that work on humans."

Permalink Eye

"That's a really good idea. You can do that with humans? You'd be able to tell if there's damage from mindless bodies?"

Permalink Eye

"I have a full course of medical demon training under my belt, nothing says I have to make stuff outside of people, and working on basement dwellers will impair my ability to discern many things about the effects of the drugs but they will give me enough information to get informed consent from volunteers."

Permalink Eye

"Then yes, you have permission to do that."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Where's good?"

Permalink Eye

"You could walk away from camp in any direction, Araman's not inhabited and you can fix the air. I can send you an earpiece so you can reach us if you think of more questions."

Permalink Eye

"Walk," snorts Cam, and he shakes out his wings to full span.

Permalink Eye

A smile. "You can also fly in any direction, Araman remains uninhabited."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I'll be thataway," point, "warn whoever you send that basement dwellers are creepy and that's why polite demons keep them in their basements if they're going to have any."

And he takes off and wheels around in the air and goes thataway for a bit.

Permalink Eye

Araman remains windy, unpleasant, and uninhabited. 

Permalink Eye

So Cam finds a flat bit of windy-unpleasant-uninhabited and lands and makes enough of a building that his basement dwellers will not be windburnt and he doesn't have to constantly make new air and then he makes basement dwellers. (He cosmetically alters all their faces so they won't look like anybody in particular because he is a polite demon.) And then he sets about performing sinister medical experiments.

Permalink Eye

Standard coma drugs don't do anything. Upped doses work somewhat normally. 

Permalink Eye

Hm. Cam tries some other things he might want suddenly - basement dwellers do respond very rudimentarily to pain, do painkillers work...?

Permalink Eye

Nope. Something physiologically weird here. 

Permalink Eye

 

Cam is gonna go ahead and vivisect one. It'll be just like med school.

Permalink Eye

This will not show any particular physiological weirdness. 

Permalink Eye

Huh.

Cam runs through some more drugs. They mostly don't work or work really badly. It is in all unpromising.

Permalink Eye

After a while Maitimo contacts him. "Hey, how goes it? I thought to ask some of our own medical people, they were all not optimistic at the prospect and can explain why if you like, but you might have some advantages background-wise on them. We're leaving in twelve hours. There are others leaving later if you aren't back by then."

Permalink Eye

"I've basically come to the conclusion that drugs, at least human-efficacious drugs, do not work on Elves - I can put a basement dweller in a coma but it takes a big dose and reversing it was weird too. I'll come back now."

He torches the place and flies back to the shipyard.

Permalink Eye

Maitimo meets him. "I'm sorry to hear that. Our medical people are happy to work with you on something better, though they think our bodies can't run without our brains for any real length of time and expect the coma thing won't work. Though if your interest is in nonlethally stopping a fight, you don't need the option of a protracted coma."

Permalink Eye

"That was my interest, yes."

Permalink Eye

"So you might not run into the problems that'd arise with trying to keep us unconscious for days. I can make sure you're jumping on the same ship as the medical people, at least. D'you know enough to make orc mindless bodies, test what works on them?"

Permalink Eye

"Probably, didn't try it yet."

Permalink Eye

"I was sort of imagining you'd want to have a confrontation in which you demand to know why we didn't tell you we were mass murderers, are you just not particularly interested in that?"

Permalink Eye

"Why, do you have an explanation prepped, I'm happy to listen to one."

Permalink Eye

"For how it happened or why I didn't tell you, I have both."

Permalink Eye

"Go on then."

Permalink Eye

"I mentioned that the leap-ships are the only way out and we didn't have enough. We didn't have any. Leaving Valinor is - well, forcefully frowned upon, to put it mildly, and has never been done. And when we announced our intent to do so, the Valar told us we were being foolish little children who should go back home. We thought about doing it the long way in the slower-than-light ships. We were projecting fifteen, twenty percent casualties just getting out of this system, it's - well defended, by the Valar, and those ships aren't meant for leaving it. And then those of us who made it would arrive in two and a half Years and by then I think most of Endore's population of probably-billions will be dead. Our years are ten times as long as yours, you said? Twenty five of yours, that's how long the trip is.

We went to Alqualonde. We asked for the ships. No. We asked for help building them. No. We asked for a lesson on lightspeed travel. Nope. They'd locked down their archives. 

My father decided to steal them.

There are no weapons in Valinor and there'd never been any violence and we thought we could just take the things and go but it turns out you can do as much damage with high-powered construction equipment with the safeties ripped off as with any weapon designed for the purpose, and they tried to stop us, and we fought back, and then the Maia of Alqualonde noticed what was going on and swatted fully loaded ships out of the air - killing everyone on board - and we made it out with horrifying losses and were sentenced in absentia to thirty thousand counts of murder. That is how it happened."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. There've been worse-motivated altercations. Everybody's backed up?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Everyone we killed should be back within a few weeks, I think. Our people won't be, because convicted of murder."

Permalink Eye

Dammit why couldn't everyone be conveniently resurrectable. "And you didn't bring this up because?"

Permalink Eye

"The Valar's sentence. My family is exiled from Valinor, as is everyone who follows us instead of turning back to repent. We will meet our deaths in Endore, and we will wait for reembodiment until long after everyone we wronged has forgiven us. Every project we begin will turn to evil ends; we will be houseless and nameless forever. Vala sentences - carry weight, they can actually bring about the things they prophecy. I have no idea if you fall under it, but you are likelier to if you choose to take up our cause knowing what we've done in the service of it."

Permalink Eye

"I see."

Permalink Eye

"And also obviously I wanted the ships because there are potentially billions of lives at stake. But you knowing might make things worse, and I'd have avoided it for that reason alone."

Permalink Eye

"Or, you know, I eventually go back to Hell, and all my projects will turn to evil ends, and I get summoned for high-energy physics work on Earth and I fuck it up and Earth is sucked into a black hole and fourteen billion people die and don't have any backups and most of them go to Limbo which have I mentioned it's unpleasant there and I can't take any extra precautions because nobody told me."

Permalink Eye

"I did tell you about the Doom. I just didn't tell you anything that'd make it likelier for it to apply to you."

Permalink Eye

"My complaint is that you did not tell me it might apply to me at all."

Permalink Eye

"I apologize. I should have done that and I'm very lucky it didn't turn out to be a costlier mistake. It did not even occur to me I could be endangering the people of your world."

Permalink Eye

"I take summonses all the time. Only occasions I get to do anything meaningful."

Permalink Eye

"If you leave now I'm reasonably confident the doom won't attach to you. "on all those who follow them', it said, not 'all those who aid them'."

Permalink Eye

"How much does exact wording matter?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, going ahead of us, or us announcing we follow you, won't save us. But it does matter that it's 'follow' not 'aid' or 'defend' or something."

Permalink Eye

"So if I make it clear that I am an independent agent, do not answer to your government, etcetera...?"

Permalink Eye

"You could ask the Valar yourself. I'm not sure if that'd be enough. It would probably help."

Permalink Eye

"Not to put too fine a point on it they sound like assholes."

Permalink Eye

"The kids are Doomed. They didn't fight."

Permalink Eye

"This angle crossed my mind. You can't ship the kids back planetside -?"

Permalink Eye

"We can. To grow up in Valinor, this not being the only issue the Valar are dangerously wrong about - it'd be nice to find a habitable system for them, or build one if that's something you can do, and some people did choose to go back but I wouldn't order anyone into the Valar's hands. Worst case anyway is that they die and then they're back in Valinor after all."

Permalink Eye

"It'd take me a while to build a whole solar system but I could do it given enough empty space. Less work to terraform an existing rock of the right size. ...Always wanted to terraform a planet. I have, like, plans, for planet-terraforming, worked out in my copious spare time."

Permalink Eye

"Lovely. Uh. You could go find some suitable system with one of the light-leap ships, terraform a planet, open it to evacuees from Endore? I have been thinking about the fact you could probably destroy the Enemy if the need's desperate enough by feeding the planet into a black hole. If we had some way to get everyone who doesn't have backups off its surface first."

Permalink Eye

"I would love to terraform and administer a refugee planet. How do I fly a light-leaper."

Permalink Eye

"So as you might have guessed we didn't get a chance to ask advice from the people who do it on the regular. We're going off the manual. Says 'Alqualonde Astrological, 1495' on the cover..."

Permalink Eye

Is this manual already in Cam's library...?

Permalink Eye

It is not! 

Permalink Eye

So he makes another chip - "I'm going to have to consolidate these and chuck the piecemeals eventually and it is annoying" - and goes and has a look.

Permalink Eye

It has, in fact, pretty clear instructions about how to fly the things. It also has warnings that you shouldn't do it alone, but more for precautionary reasons, there hasn't been a safety incident in a hundred Years. 

Permalink Eye

Well, what do safety incidents look like, is it like "explosion" or like "lost in intergalactic space".

Permalink Eye

Mostly 'lost in intergalactic space'. Which would really be unfortunate. 

Permalink Eye

For Cam it would in fact be much worse than an explosion. What does having somebody along help with?

Permalink Eye

They are twice as likely not to miss the large number of flashing warnings that would precede a safety incident. 

Permalink Eye

...'kay, Cam thinks he can skip that.

"Okay, do you happen to know where there are rocks of about the right gravity around or am I doing survey?"

Permalink Eye

"We haven't left this system, like I said it's not safe without those things and not really encouraged at all. You're doing survey. Sorry."

Permalink Eye

"I thought you might have had telescopes," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yes, definitely, but you don't want anything close enough to Valinor the Valar'd be tempted to poke it."

Permalink Eye

"How close is that close?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, you have a light-leaper ship. It doesn't differentiate between thirty light-Years and three hundred. I'd err on the latter side."

Permalink Eye

Cam flips through the manual to see how likely he is to get lost.

Permalink Eye

He's not especially likely to get lost. 

Permalink Eye

"All right, halfway across the galaxy with me it is."

Permalink Eye

"If you determine you can safely use this at home it's going to be lovely for your home world."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that will be lovely."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry I didn't think to explain the ways the Doom could impact you sooner."

Permalink Eye

"Well, the important thing is that you did it before someone tried to get me on board with a high-energy physics project."

Permalink Eye

 

"I will thank FIndekano."

Permalink Eye

"From a safe distance, maybe."

Permalink Eye

He looks vaguely anguished. 

Permalink Eye

"Sorry."

Permalink Eye

And suddenly his face is perfectly normal. "No, that was fairly incisive. It's just that we were once very good friends and he ordered his people in because I was obviously about to die and he didn't realize we had started it and - it is not really the most important thing to regret about Alqualonde but I nonetheless regret it tremendously."

Permalink Eye

Very good friends, huh. ...Not touching it. Nod.

Permalink Eye

Oh, for the love of - if people find out now - 

"Are you planning to head out separately from us, then, and if so is there any way to have defensible ships for landing on Endore?"

Permalink Eye

"...good question. Suppose it'll count as following if we take separate routes or something, if I stop in some random midpoint and then meet you there to make armored-up landers?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know. I do think that if you ask the Valar before you go back whether you're Doomed, they'd answer usefully and truthfully? They're good for that much."

Permalink Eye

"And you don't think they'll do something actively antihelpful and/or assholish just because they become aware I exist or something?"

Permalink Eye

"I very much dislike and mistrust the Valar but - no. No one's worse off for having met them unless you can't restrain yourself from being very rude to them and even then they'll just exile you from this system."

Permalink Eye

"It seems like very slowly enforced exile, too."

Permalink Eye

"They're over a billion of our Years old. They'll get around to exiling us in a century if we haven't gone, and they'll get around to stopping the Enemy probably before the millenium is out."

Permalink Eye

"Grand. - It is probably well worth testing whether summoning works as normal for here. It may not, because it seems a little implausible that I'd be the first accidental summoning, but the field managed to remain secret on my world for a long time so it's not impossible. If it works I'm qualified to teach college-level summoning!"

Permalink Eye

"It also could not work in Valinor proper because the Valar prevent it. Could be commonplace in Endore for all I know. How do we test that?"

Permalink Eye

"I make most of a circle, somebody who is comfortable with maybe turning into a daeva when they die finishes it, we see if we get a daeva, you let me do all the talking, summoner dismisses the daeva, I teach a class."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Should I get a volunteer for that now? We are leaving in eleven hours."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Not enough time for me to teach the class but plenty of time to see if it works at all."

Permalink Eye

He blinks. "My father wants to. Is that okay?"

Permalink Eye

"Why wouldn't it be? I mean, can he be trusted not to get his Doom all over the Earth? I like the Earth."

Permalink Eye

"I think Earth is completely safe unless the daeva agrees to follow us, in which case it's probably still safe."

Permalink Eye

"I meant on his own behalf. I didn't feel this summon any differently from a normal one, so if he took to grabbing random summons instead of waiting to be called up in particular..."

Permalink Eye

"My father if he became a demon would definitely take summons." He shakes his head. "It's going to be hard to keep it from him while teaching classes on it, but we can do someone else as first volunteer."

Permalink Eye

"I mean it sounds like he'd have a ton of fun being a daeva, but I really like the Earth. Maybe the Valar can limit the Doom to their own damn universe or something if I ask nicely."

Permalink Eye

"Trust me, we do not want to kill billions of people we are trying to do the exact opposite of that. We also might not become daeva when we die, since we don't really die."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, no idea how that interacts. Seems best to test with somebody else. Summoner kid's mom maybe, so they'd wind up in the same multiverse if it does work? They might be different kinds of daeva but there's overlaps between the realms every few years and they can correspond."

Permalink Eye

He blinks again. "She's on her way. Though they'd be leaving his father behind. He died at Alqualonde."

Permalink Eye

"...It was just a suggestion, if she'd rather not do it, but she already knows the key infosec hazard and has some reason to maybe want to be a daeva."

Permalink Eye

"No, I think it's a very good idea. Just. If we ever do figure out how to bring him back." He shakes his head. "People who become daeva as children, do they grow up?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, they do."

Permalink Eye

"That's good. Oh, if you're not travelling with us then exchanging medical notes about ways to put us to sleep at need will have to wait, or can everyone just send you letters by putting in the header 'letter to Cam'?"

Permalink Eye

"Everyone can in fact send me letters by entitling them 'letter to Cam', ideally numbered. Doesn't work in reverse unless you have another demon with you. ...If you don't have informational FTL then how are your backups going to work?"

Permalink Eye

"The backups are FTL but we don't know how they work. The Valar say they're magic."

Permalink Eye

"If they are then that could separately from my no-minds limitation explain why resurrection didn't happen."

Permalink Eye

"I think the Valar are lying about having magic because they want to control us," he says, "just like they give explanations about souls for lots of other things when there's no real reason to think we have souls. But I suppose it'd be interesting to check, if there were a way."

Permalink Eye

"I didn't think I had a soul until I simultaneously left a corpse and woke up in Hell."

Permalink Eye

"Fair. But we don't think we do that. When we die we can be restored from backup. You've never met any of us in Hell, right?"

Permalink Eye

"Nope. But none of you were summoners. The real tell is that I've never heard of there being any of you in Limbo, but if you were just sixty octillion miles away from all the human Limboites you wouldn't have noticed each other."

Permalink Eye

The woman Cam met earlier comes in. "Is everything all right? I heard there was a fight -"


"An argument," Maitimo says, "which brought to the fore my inexcusable failure to think about whether the Doom could affect Cam after he returns home and which was therefore all for the good. He wants to test whether summoning works normally here."

Permalink Eye

"You don't have to actually do anything," Cam says, "apart from draw a mark where I tell you and concentrate on getting rid of the daeva if you get one when I tell you; in fact, you shouldn't say anything else at all because if you accidentally say something agreeable you wind up locked into whatever the daeva can construe as a task/payment pair and then you might be in trouble. I suggested you because in my world, summoners become daeva after they die, and if that applies to Elves too then your son would have you accessible eventually."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "I am happy to help. Draw line, shut up, concentrate on sending the daeva away if we get one."

Permalink Eye

"...you don't want to know more about becoming a daeva or anything...?"

Permalink Eye

A slightly confused look. "I mean, I am curious, but I serve my King, I trust the prince Nelyafinwe's judgement, I gather your time is very valuable..."

Permalink Eye

"...okay. Uh, if you do become a daeva, please don't take any random summonses in case the Doom's contagious to other worlds; I'll leave instructions on how to nonrandomly summon you here."

And he makes an intricately calligraphed deliberately completely illegible circle on the floor and hands her a marker. "Just fill in there."

Permalink Eye

She does. 

Permalink Eye

 

 


"Well, this is definitely taking a suspiciously long amount of time if it's going to work at all, there's billions of angels and one of them oughta take the bait in the first second of a circle's validity."

Permalink Eye

 

"What does that probably mean?"

Permalink Eye

"That probably means that summoning does not work under the standard rules here and it means the kid should be considered a vital strategic asset because if anything happens to him and I go poof that may be it, no calling me back, no replacing me."

Permalink Eye

She looks uncertainly at Maitimo. "Perhaps we should send him back to Valinor," he says, "his physical safety will not be in doubt there."

She looks steadily ahead. "If you think so. I am - not sure, growing up in Valinor, knowing why, listening to what they say about his father, he won't sometimes wish for a moment that - he wouldn't disobey you on purpose but he's only a child -"

"You know him better than I," Maitimo says. "If he's likely to dismiss the summoning in Valinor then we don't send him to Valinor. First settlers of the refugee planet, maybe. Are we sure dismissing even works the way Cam assumes?"

Permalink Eye

"No, we are not, and we can't reasonably check. I don't seem to be dismissed by something stupid and random like eating cherries, but it's possible that all the rules are out the window and I am stuck here forever, which, well, that's not so bad, the only associated inconvenience is that it will take a while for anybody to bother collecting my correspondence to my parents. But if some of the rules are operative - if I was summoned normally but you can never replicate the feat - kid needs to stay alive and not have a sustained minute of wanting me gone."

Permalink Eye

"And we don't have a safe way to put him in a coma," Maitimo says.

His mother flinches. 

Maitimo puts a hand on her shoulder. "I know. The population of Endore -"

"I was not going to argue, if you had a way to do it."

"I think taking him with you to the refugee planet is probably the way to go. Perhaps taking all the children, in case it's not known which one did it, although then we're using all our children as shields for the one - I don't suppose you can make something absurdly secure and hard to find to put him in?"

Permalink Eye

"What's the standard for 'hard to find'? I can make a nice cozy space station that doesn't need a sun to be warm and lit and put it in the middle of Nowhere, Intergalactic Space, if a planet is too conspicuous, but I don't know what kind of detection tech I'm screening against."

Permalink Eye

"There is no reason to think the Enemy could find a space station somewhere in intergalactic space," Maitimo says after a minute's hesitation. "But we don't know much about detection tech."

Permalink Eye

"Kind of leaves the inhabitants in the lurch if something does happen to me, too."

Permalink Eye

"That's obviously worth it, though," she says. "It'd only be the two of us, or if we thought it'd be good for Tasá to have companions ten? Twenty?"

Permalink Eye

"I am sort of disturbed by how unhesitating you are to consider your small child a strategic asset. My point is I can also make a planet, which would be easier to park on long-term and heat with nice long-term geothermal setups even if it shouldn't have a star and extract generic resources from to meet any needs I don't anticipate for initial planet-festooning, do we expect the Enemy to be able to find a planet?"

Permalink Eye

"Not much point in crying about it, is there? I am sure that Prince Nelyafinwe would add 'being comforting' to his schedule but he has more important things, things that make my son more safe by ending this war sooner, and my King would be very incompetent indeed if he decided to be swayed by a child's mother being very sad. A planet would be nice, though."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I will have to revise a bunch of designs to do the geothermal thing but I have enough engineering to do that. Making a star too would mean I'd have to do all sorts of orbital mechanics and I can't make stuff in motion, it'd be dicey. Is this is in fact a substantial security advantage over finding an existing empty planet with a star."

Permalink Eye

"The Enemy would have had time to do lots of surveying if he pleased, and it's much faster to return somewhere you've been than to survey, and you could put a planet out in intergalactic space which I doubt he has any kind of detection on even if he has some in general," Maitimo says, "so potentially so?"

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Making a planet will take me a few weeks. I should also, before I go anywhere that you are also going that may constitute 'following', ask the Valar if they can please quarantine the effects of their fucking Doom to their own universe or at least tell me how to avoid getting any on me, with less swearing. This will slow me down in getting you drones and defensible landers for approaching Endorë."

Permalink Eye

Maitimo nods. "I doubt it'll come up but you can make any promises on our behalf that'll help protect your world, up to and including that we'll turn ourselves in once the war's won, but not that we'll turn ourselves in while the Enemy's still out there. We will wait the few weeks. I know you know time matters."

Permalink Eye

Cam nods. "Should I go talk to the Valar alone - both 'would this furnish me a meaningful politeness advantage if I brought the right person' and 'are you able to go where they are'?"

Permalink Eye

"I am not able to go where they are, I am exiled. The right person will furnish a politeness advantage only if you're unable to pretend for ten minutes that you think they're the wholly worthy rulers of Arda and that the Doom was super reasonable and as a fellow super reasonable person you're deferring to their wisdom. If you can't pretend that, have someone talk for you. If you can, it'd be much less complicated for you to go alone."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I don't know how good they are at telling when someone is thinking you suck at the top of his metaphorical lungs but I can avoid actually saying it."

Permalink Eye

Maitimo smiles. Just for a second. "You aren't responsive at all to our telepathy and they are terrible at facial expressions and body language due to being so fundamentally alien to us."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good then I should be fine!"

Permalink Eye

"Have a lovely time. We'll be approaching Endore in four weeks, should you happen to find yourself there at that time."

Permalink Eye

"Four as you count them would be enough if I found a Suspiciously Marslike Rock. Making the rock from scratch and doing fun with geothermals is going to take me longer. So, uh, stay out of rocket range of the place and expect me to rendezvous in..." arithmetic! "six weeks? Should I take anyone along to the planet's christening party or fetch them later?"

Permalink Eye

"Let's have the valuable strategic asset even farther away than 'out of rocket range'. If you can take them along that'd be ideal. Can you also make a lot of food and supplies, if we're delaying six weeks? There's a cargo bay on all of the ships, it's empty."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah sure." Cam looks over the blueprints to identify where in the ships the cargo bays are. "What do you want?"

Permalink Eye

"Lots and lots of lembas - " he pulls some out - "looks like this, very calorie-dense and nutritionally complete - but I am told that I am soulless. If you have tastier options I am sure people will appreciate them."

Permalink Eye

"Am I worrying about allergies, should I be assuming you eat the same things people I'm accustomed to do, what nonfood should I be planning to fit in the bays..."

Permalink Eye

"Never heard of allergies, what are those? We don't have much in the way of supplies which isn't a problem if you do end up meeting up on the other end, we can eat animals and fish and fruits and grains and generally eat a mix of those."

Permalink Eye

"Some humans have bad autoimmune reactions to some food or environmental stimuli, peanuts are the classic. ...I am glad it just occurred to me to ask: how do you normally package these things, if I give you a lot of canned salmon are you going to have a problem lacking can openers."

Permalink Eye

They blink at each other. "Ohhhh," says Maitimo after a moment, "that shouldn't be a concern on Araman but it will be in the Outer Lands. We don't package things. Things do not deteriorate over time in Valinor. The Valar like it that way. You can leave salmon around on your counter for a Year and it'll still taste perfectly fine. Please do whatever packaging you normally do and include, ah, can openers and equivalents."

Permalink Eye

"...that is an interesting local property," Cam says. "I don't normally package things at all, I just make what I'm gonna eat, but I know how humans do it. Okay, lemme come up with some reasonable array of comestibles..." He fiddles with text on his computer. Hopefully Fëanáro is not about to walk by because he's doing this in English.

Permalink Eye

Fëanáro does not walk by. Maitimo mentions that data compatibility has been figured out and they have a patch they think Cam can run titled 'patch for Cam' that'll allow him to interact with the local internet. 

Permalink Eye

"Cool. About to be obsolete as I fly off into intergalactic space but cool. D'you want a freezer, best way to preserve a lot of things is freezing but if you have a local freezer design because ice cream or something it'll be easier for you to power them without running down a ton of batteries over time?"

Permalink Eye

"We do have freezers," he says, "including ones made for ships if I recall - I'll look it up -" and a moment later there's a design.

Permalink Eye

"All right," says Cam, "you want me to translate this list so you can confirm you know what all the stuff is...?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure. Thank you. I don't know whether planet-making is the sort of thing you can multitask on but if so the medical people are talking to me right now with all sorts of suggestions on the coma problem - my fault, I told them it was top priority..."

Permalink Eye

"There will be a very long boring stretch," Cam says, "where I'm just making a jillion tons of planet; the design and terraforming stages are less multitasky." He translates foods. He's keeping it simple - flour, not pasta or bread or tortillas - but he has included nice things like herbs and spices and chocolate.

Permalink Eye

"Great. Then if you want them on your ship too they can talk at you during the boring stretch and be trusted to shut up during the rest. I have heard of all of these things, as you likely guessed from the fact our language has words for them. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Nonfood things besides can openers?"

Permalink Eye

"Nothing comes to mind. I can have a list for when you get back from talking with the Valar."

Permalink Eye

"Sure." So Cam does not completely fill all the cargo bays, just most of them, with a reasonable lembas/whatever ratio. "Food: done. Any good reason not to take a model of ship I already know how to drive down to Valinor, do you have really fast intrasystem transit or anything like that?"

Permalink Eye

"It'd be a day's transit in what we have."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, my model might actually be faster then unless this is a really distantly orbiting moon. So... back in an amount of time, leave me anybody who's meant to come along to see the planet get made for whatever reason, I'll meet up with you at Endorë when that's sorted?"

Permalink Eye

"Thank you," he says. "Good skill on the talk with the Valar and the planet-terraforming."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks."

Cam makes himself a cute li'l space shuttle. "Any last-minute anything?"

Permalink Eye

"Communications with Valinor are reasonably fast, we can keep in touch while you're travelling if you run across anything else on the internet you have questions about or so forth. Once you conclude oaths exist I can swear to be as forthright as possible with you and then you can ask anything you're avoiding asking for functional-working-relationship reasons."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good." He hops into his shuttle. He makes a clean model of his computer with nothing much on it and runs 'patch for Cam'.

Permalink Eye

And now he can access their local networks and once he gets to Valinor their internet. 

Permalink Eye

Yay.

Hello Valinor. Where on you do Valar live.

Permalink Eye

The Valar live on the peak of the Holy Mountain Taniquetil, which he can easily pull up pictures of: scenic, geologically implausible, center of the main continent. There's a sprawling and stunningly pictureque city around the base of the mountains. 

Permalink Eye

Anywhere good to land around here?

Permalink Eye

Plenty of places, in the city; no obvious ones higher up the mountain, unless he wants to land directly in the middle of the thrones of the Valar in the seat of their power which he probably does not want to do.

Permalink Eye

...well, he thinks about it, but no. He lands in someplace that looks suitably disused in the city and hops out and if nobody wants to know what the fuck he flies for the mountain on wingpower.

Permalink Eye

There are people who want to know what the fuck! They take a while to assemble, though, and watch him fly off a little astonishedly. 

Permalink Eye

They can ask him what the fuck when he's back. Hello implausible mountain.

Permalink Eye

It's a beautiful implausible mountain! 

Permalink Eye

How lovely! Cam lands on it and looks for anything like a visitor's center or failing that an obvious path in that people are supposed to take.

Permalink Eye

There's no visitor's center; there's a path, wide and decorated with lots of precious stones and shiny metals and other things that are not remotely impressive to a demon. There are other people walking the path; they stare at him.

Permalink Eye

Cam waves. "Is this where one goes to talk to the Valar?"

Permalink Eye

"...yes. One typically dresses up to go see the Valar." Cam is not wearing a shirt. The comment is perhaps a little pointed. 

Permalink Eye

"...sure why not." Cam looks for something reasonably tasteful that, if not traditionally masculine, is at least being worn by a dude, and when he finds something copies it in a different color scheme with room for his wings. "Thanks for the tip."

Permalink Eye

This is astonishing and now a lot more people are staring. "You're welcome," the tip-giver stammers. 

Permalink Eye

"Anything else I should know?"

Permalink Eye

"...where are you from? What are you petitioning for?"

Permalink Eye

"I am from a lovely place called Hell and I am going to ask that the Doom be quarantined so that it cannot escape into Hell and other worlds of my acquaintance if the people to whom the Doom apply interact too much with people from there."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. The Doom on the Kinslayers. I do not know how open the Valar are to petitions on the topic, they have been petitioned by lots of grieved relatives of Kinslayers."

Permalink Eye

"I am hoping they would rather fourteen billion innocent people from my home planet who are slated for a thoroughly mediocre afterlife if they die not be casualties of inadequately constrained contact."

Permalink Eye

"Well, those people aren't Kinslayers, are they? I am sure they won't be Doomed."

Permalink Eye

"But they wouldn't know about the Doom, and they've never heard of the Valar, so they wouldn't necessarily know to keep their distance from the Doomed people."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. It is wise to petition the Valar for aid in managing that situation."

Permalink Eye

"That's what I thought." Walk walk. At least Elves have a better design sense to apply to the Way Too Many Gems school of architecture.

Permalink Eye

They do! It's pretty tasteful totally excessive gems. And after a while the path winds around to the place he saw from the air where the mountain opens up to rise on both sides of the ring where the thrones of the Valar are. The thrones are currently empty. 

Permalink Eye

 

"I'm in a little bit of a hurry," Cam remarks to his interlocutor.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, go ahead and step into the Máhanaxar and kneel and call on them and they'll be there."

Permalink Eye

Kneeling. Delightful. Fuckers. In Cam goes. Plop. Annoyed tail-lashing. "Excuse me, Valar?" he says.

Permalink Eye

And the air pressure goes up, abruptly, and there's a feeling like static electricity on his skin. 

Permalink Eye

...geez, they're theatrical. "I have a petition to bring before you on behalf of five distant worlds."

Permalink Eye

"Welcome, stranger. We will hear your petition."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. I am a resident of a world - an entire spatially infinite dimension, not a planet - called Hell. It is connected to worlds called Heaven, Fairyland, and Limbo, and also a mortal realm more similar to this one. People in Hell, Heaven, and Fairyland, called 'daeva', can be summoned to the mortal realm. Recently a child here managed to accidentally summon me. It is also possible for mortals to become daeva. I am deeply concerned that any interaction between the powers of daeva and the Doom could be disastrous for, particularly, the fourteen billion mortals of my home, who have never heard of you, will not know to be cautious, and, having no backups, mostly go to Limbo when they die. Limbo isn't a very nice place. I would like to ask that the scope of the Doom be quarantined and apply to no events outside this dimension."

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

 

"We assent to this, on the condition that no residents natively of this dimension travel to yours. We will make such travel impossible. We have also made the summoning of beings from your world to this one impossible."

Permalink Eye

...this is a deeply inadequate response and Cam has no idea if pushing his luck will somehow make them even more aggressively inadequate. "I am new to the world and do not know how your impossibilities work. I would not like to have to fear for the possibility that the Doom will escape if some person should do so in a fashion you do not anticipate. While of course controlling immigration and emigration is your prerogative I would rest easier on behalf of those billions of Limbo-destined souls if their safety from Doom were unconditional regardless of how the natives of this world behave. I have no way to warn them, not even if I go home."

Permalink Eye

"They certainly will not be subject to the Doom; it lies only on the House of Feanor and those who follow them. If a Doomed person reaches your dimension they will not cease being Doomed. Though our powers should not carry out their working in your dimensions, the distorted minds and passions of those so Doomed will remain. And their Doomed choices cannot be sealed off from affecting others. We can ensure that no one leaves this dimension for yours. That ensures the safety of yours. It is the only way to ensure the safety of yours."

Permalink Eye

"I am concerned that someone from here may reach my world and someone else may do something that constitutes 'following' them," Cam explains.

Permalink Eye

 

"The Doom shall be restricted to the Noldor and passed down by blood rather than allegiance."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. - I am not familiar with how your proclamations work, is that pan-universal?"

Permalink Eye

"It is. Everywhere our powers stretch at all and the Doom is therefore relevant, this is now true."

Permalink Eye

Okay cool that is merely as inadequate as they were trying to be in the first place. "Thank you very much."

Permalink Eye

"Go with our blessing, stranger."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you."

And Cam gets up and goes out along the Too Many Gems Path.

Permalink Eye

And passes a few happy agreeable petitioners or observers, and returns to find an interested crowd around his spaceship. 

Permalink Eye

"Hullo," he says when he lands by his ship.

Permalink Eye

"Hello, stranger. Are you from another world that should be known to us? Eru spoke of no others."

Permalink Eye

"I am from another world! People from it are summonable and can be called up to do their summoners favors, but you shouldn't expect any more of me, the Valar decided to forbid further summonings when I spoke to them." And it was probably a fluke even before that but fucking Valar.

Permalink Eye

"I'm sure they acted wisely," the speaker says seriously. 

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, I'm not sticking around, I seem unnecessary on Valinor, so if you have questions about me ask 'em quick."

Permalink Eye

"Can you share some of the art and poetry of your world before you go?"

Permalink Eye

"It's not in your language, any of it," Cam points out.

Permalink Eye

"We may take a long time to come to appreciate it. Music might be easier to appreciate than poetry, if you think we'll struggle to learn your language?"

Permalink Eye

"My world has hundreds and hundreds of languages," Cam says. "But maybe you'll figure it out. Hang on a sec." He investigates his data conversion patch to see what kinds of formats he will want to render things in. "Is this a good place to put a large number of data storage items?"

Permalink Eye

"...sure. We can take them to the library from here."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, good, because my people are very avid collectors and producers of all sorts of art and music and writing and I see no reason you shouldn't have all of it."

And local-format data storage objects start appearing.

"I have incorporated what I've got so far on Quenya-to-other-languages translation in there, that should help. My personal recommendation is that you watch a good performance of Atriama. It's my favorite."

Permalink Eye

They are delighted. Cam is sincerely thanked by dozens of people, many of whom are actually crying. They promise to watch Atriama and also everything else and to compose lots of reviews if they'd be appreciated and there's any way to get them to the composers and performers.

Permalink Eye

"...you know what, there actually is. Just make sure you compile your reviews under the title 'submission to the Hell Curators' Association' - in Lagalann that's -" he translates it, writes it down for them, "with lots of metadata about where it's from. They routinely conjure up all submissions to their association and incorporate them."

Permalink Eye

They will be flooded with reviews from Valinor, then! Cam has their undying gratitude. 

Permalink Eye

Good.

We'll see what the Valar think about this media explosion, shall we. Atriama is one thing and the complete history of Earth et al may wind up being another.

And here is the entire library of the Hell Curators' Association! Enjoy!

And he flies back to Araman.

Permalink Eye

They haven't left; if Cam'll be meeting them in six weeks it makes more sense to hang out here than there. They've done some drills to depart on a moment's notice if the Valar notice they're not done getting exiled yet or anything. The medical teams are hard at work. 

Permalink Eye

How does Cam issue a 'to whom it may concern' around here?

Permalink Eye

There's a mechanism for announcements in the network. Maitimo sends an explanation - "'urgent' would be 'we're leaving this rock in ten minutes', 'attention' would be new orders that need to be acted on soon, 'of interest' would be new orders that there's more time for or important announcements, no flag is for everything else."

Permalink Eye

And in Maitimo's opinion would the 'Noldorin doom is now by bloodline not association' thing be the last or second to last?

Permalink Eye

"That's 'of interest'. Ugh. I am glad it helps your world, but ugh."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I didn't want to push it too far, but at least I'm now categorically in the clear no matter whether I walk behind you single file or anything." He compiles a summary of the events of his meeting with the Valar - and the fact that he dropped the entire library of Hell on some random Valians - and flags it accordingly.

Permalink Eye

And it has a few hundred thousand reads in the first few minutes. "I think you were probably right," he says, "trying to talk them down to 'only the actual participants in the massacre' might have gotten them annoyed with you and gotten nothing. Want an introduction to our medical team?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure thing."

Permalink Eye

So he meets him and takes him in to meet the medical team, who promise they've been thinking about nothing but the problem since the Prince Nelyafinwe made them aware of it and should they just dive in?

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, go for it, but mind I have medical background applying to a different species entirely."

Permalink Eye

The most important difference, which becomes apparent after barely a minute of speaking, is that Elves can consciously perfectly regulate most aspects of their body - heart rate, blood pressure within some constraints, pupil dilation - and to some extent need to do this to survive. There are no records of Elves living in a coma for more than a few days; the body just gives out all at once. Putting Elves in comas does not seem feasible, temporarily knocking them unconscious - which was their understanding of Prince Nelyafinwe's orders - is much more tractable. 

The Valar healed most things in Valinor so Cam's medical knowledge will be ahead of theirs in some important respects. 

Permalink Eye

Okay. The drugs thing seems like a risky possible dead end from his preliminary tests, though Cam is happy to test things on basement dwellers if they have promising avenues. Before reasonably safe coma drugs were invented the standard technique to the extent there was one was to compress important arteries with something, then cut the something by saline interpolation after unconsciousness is achieved, which leaves the target with some something in their neck but these days there's this cool material that gets used for stitches that can dissolve in a (human) body... Also he tried painkillers on his basement dwellers and that didn't work that's kind of bad if they're about to be away from their usual healing mechanisms.

Permalink Eye

They are kind of alarmed at the 'compress important arteries' thing but orders were to figure something out perhaps that can be tested. Painkillers probably won't work but Elves can also tell their pain nerves to tone it down to a cool 'something's very wrong' at need. Worth experimenting on, but not as urgent as the coma problem. 

Permalink Eye

Both the coma problem and the painkiller problem are things Cam was investigating under the "what medical kinda stuff might he need to do in an emergency" so if Elves are their own painkillers then yes that is the priority ordering. Well. Here are human coma drugs and how they work on humans and what happened when he tried them on Elf basement dwellers.

Permalink Eye

That's the priority ordering the Prince gave so it's good it's also Cam's. They have some speculations about why he'd have gotten those results but nothing concrete enough that he could make another drug out of them. 

Permalink Eye

Yeah, pharmacological development is not a subspecialty he took up, but he is interested in their theories.

Permalink Eye

And Maitimo comes by a few hours later to ask if they've gotten anywhere and if it'll be helpful for anyone to spend the six weeks building and terraforming a secret planet with Cam. 

Permalink Eye

"We have not gotten much of anywhere and I am not sure whether we ought to expect to," Cam reports.

Permalink Eye

He bites his lip. "Okay. Could you please give people a warning, in that case?"

Permalink Eye

"...a warning that...?"

Permalink Eye

"If you find yourself in a situation where if you had the means to nonlethally stop us all, and you do not have the means to nonlethally stop us all - I have no doubt you could lethally stop us all and it's possible people, knowing that, will be happy to pretend you have safe coma drugs..."

Permalink Eye

"I can probably still nonlethally stop you all it'll just involve something inconvenient like 'now you are all in a bubble of keratin still attached to my hand and I am annoyed'," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, good. I'll tell them it makes sense to also have some other priorities, then. That's a thing you can do?"

Permalink Eye

"I am indestructible. I didn't start with wings and a tail, but they too are indestructible as long as I decide they're part of my body. Using bits of fingernail and their indestructibility in this way is my Black Hole Plan and will work for less dire situations."

Permalink Eye

"I am glad to hear it. I thought you might feel more comfortable helping us when you had a reliable means short of murder of stopping us from doing things you dislike."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I appreciate that. It doesn't have to be as convenient as mass drugging people to serve the purpose, sorry if that wasn't clear."

Permalink Eye

"I am apparently insufficiently creative about your abilities. I need to amend that. I'm badly needed here or I'd want to go out to the secret planet, I feel like there are probably other things I'm missing that I wouldn't if I got more accustomed to thinking in the terms your capabilities permit. Before you left for Valinor we spoke of ensuring you felt like you could ask questions of us and get true answers without damaging your working relationship here. I still have a great deal of interest in that being true."

Permalink Eye

"Well, if you have an idea of what I'd need to copy to get the Valar's FTL information transfer..."

Permalink Eye

He frowns. "Let me run it by Father."

Permalink Eye

"It'd be very handy! Ansibles!"

Permalink Eye

"How do you have that word, we cannot possibly have the same science fiction... I suppose it'd just need to be a corresponding word... obviously it'd be convenient, it's just not something we'd even know how to approach. But if anyone can do it my father'd be able to."

Permalink Eye

"No, we presumably have totally different science fiction but a corresponding word will do. Summoner doesn't have to know it, either, I get comparable fluency but not their exact vocabulary. Speaking of my science fiction do you also want the entire library of Hell? I won't even have to redact it to keep dangerous summoning-related information gatekept."

Permalink Eye

"I would love the entire library of Hell. I may not have time for much fun reading before the war's over but still."

Permalink Eye

"There's technical stuff in it too, it's not all aerial ballets... should I worry that the Enemy will hack into it if you bring a copy to Endorë though?"

Permalink Eye

"

...might be safer not to chance it. Until we know at least some things about his capabilities."

Permalink Eye

"Sorry. Here, have a copy of the best performance of my favorite aerial ballet." He hands it over. "Should be completely strategically innocuous."

Permalink Eye

"And much appreciated." He shakes his head wistfully. "Father says he can probably invent FTL communication but he can't do it in a week even with a demon to create anything he can specify. Have a safe trip and good skill, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"Can always install the ansibles later. Where're my passengers?"

Permalink Eye

"If it's also not likely to get anywhere on medicine in six weeks then you're taking thirty families with young children around Tasárinon's age and that's it."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. ...Should have mentioned this before but are there going to be awkward governance problems with me running a planet where everybody answers to a different monarchy, I haven't run into any obvious friction points yet but if we did."

Permalink Eye

"I will tell them to obey you within reason. We're an easy people to govern, in general. If you and we somehow end up very badly at odds then you'll be able to stop that knowledge from reaching them anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Anything that might seem like a 'within reason' to one of us and not the other you can guess at this time?"

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Asking for oaths is for extreme circumstances - lives in danger, generally. Oaths to the effect "I did not lie in this conversation" are permitted in less extreme circumstances but in general don't do anything that resembles ordering an oath from someone, don't demand one in public, don't ask them of children at all, that sort of thing. Don't ask them for sexual favors. Don't ask them to have children. Don't ask them to withhold information from us."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, that all sounds fine although I am glad you mentioned the oaths part."

Permalink Eye

"If you ask Tasárinon for an oath not to dismiss you without your permission I am not sure if it'd work. It'd be a violation of our fundamental rights law, might be worth it anyway if it'd work. The general principle is that oaths not to do something just bar you from doing it - it's impossible - so they're fairly safe and can in fact be used safely to tackle bad habits and so forth. Oaths to do something are very dangerous. I am not sure if 'don't dismiss Cam' counts as 'do not have this thought' - the oath would block him from having it - or 'if you have this thought, stop it' which is risky. If he were an adult I would already have asked it of him but he's not."

Permalink Eye

"...that's really creepy however unlikely it would be to propagate beyond its intended effects."

Permalink Eye

"Yep. We have all these laws around Oaths because they are very dangerous."

Permalink Eye

"How do they even work?"

Permalink Eye

"'Magic'," he says, a bit skeptically. "They work through the same hardware we have for osanwe and for backups. Swear not to do something, Oath stops you from doing it. Swear to do it, the Oath - starts scrambling your thoughts about not following through. Really dangerous. Useful, if you're careful. Bit like demons, I guess. Swearing to things you've already done or haven't done is completely safe, and that's what most people use them for."

Permalink Eye

"...why do you work this way."

Permalink Eye

"The Valar say that this is how Eru designed us. The commitment-mechanism part is really nice but I wish it were impossible to coerce an oath."

Permalink Eye

"But if it's the cyborg implants - are you somehow born with cyborg implants? You don't have to install them?"

Permalink Eye

"...yes? Everyone in the Outer Lands has them too, and did when we were illiterate tree-dwellers..."

Permalink Eye

"How the fuck are you born with cyborg implants."

Permalink Eye

"It...did not occur to me as particularly strange? The fact that people can reproduce is pretty odd in itself, I suppose. Do demons reproduce?"

Permalink Eye

"Daeva and limboites can't. Humans can, more or less the same mechanism as animals, and do not wind up born with anything - inorganic or networked or anything. When during gestation do the cyborg implants appear - am I even correct in assuming that the gametes-blastocyst-embryo-fetus developmental stages hold -"

Permalink Eye

"Yep, and it assembles at the top of the spinal cord when the spinal cord develops, and one time in a million it doesn't and then there's a stillbirth."

Permalink Eye

"Well that's real fuckin' bizarre," says Cam. "But probably not something we need to figure out right this second. I'll see you in a few weeks, s'pose."

Permalink Eye

"Good skill."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks."

And Cam packs up his thirty families into a ship and picks a nice anonymous patch of intergalactic space and makes for it.

Permalink Eye

Five days. It'd be five days more or less wherever he'd pointed the ship. The ships don't seem to actually go faster than light, they just get up to nearly lightspeed, firmly lock down their control panels and warn Cam to let the autopilot handle it, arrive at their destination, and slow down from lightspeed. 

Permalink Eye

Long as it works.

The ship should be nice and comfy for everybody - he'll take requests on what's for dinner, if anybody has any - while he works out simulations for the geothermal warmth that won't run down in the near future or explode or anything. And then he gets to make a planet! Yay!

Permalink Eye

They have lots of requests for dinner. There's lots of food missed from when Valinor had a star system, apparently. And they're excited that he can make a planet! They have media recommendations for while he works!

Permalink Eye

Ooh, media recommendations! He can totally make a planet and watch/read/listen to things at the same time.

Permalink Eye

Then he can form his own opinion about the Prince's symphonies, and if he cares to he can watch Valinor's fairly boring movies in which the stakes are never higher than royal patronage or a romance. The visuals are stunning, though!

Permalink Eye

Enh. Art films. He likes the music better. ...Man what is Valinor gonna think of the Hell Library. What do his thirty families think of the Hell Library? He can start them on handpicked kids' cartoons or something, be gentle.

Permalink Eye

They do seem to kind of encourage antisocial behavior, say the parents a bit worriedly, but then there's all that research that media doesn't much influence behavior - it's too bad they don't have enough kids to run a controlled experiment but the King surely thought of it and is doing it with the main host...

Permalink Eye

...he can scale it back to more socially responsible kids' shows?

Permalink Eye

Sure! Tasárinon's mother tells the story of how he got the cherries and ran off to give everyone a cherry, and everyone is very proud of Tasárinon and assures him that his father would be proud of him also. 

Permalink Eye

Yup, good for Tasárinon!

Hey, what should he name this planet?

Permalink Eye

The Elves will stage a thirty-six hour debate over this, if he wants a Quenya name. 

Permalink Eye

...or he could just call it Atriama!

Permalink Eye

This is a sufficiently pretty word he won't get any complaints! 

Permalink Eye

Oh good. (Who wants to see Atriama? It is not the most socially responsible form of media ever but it's got lovely aerial ballet.)

Permalink Eye

The adults aren't worried about seeing socially irresponsible content; they are in fact all Kinslayers, or did Cam miss that. Maybe after they've put the children to bed. 

Permalink Eye

...what a charming vocabulary word that is. Sure, after-hours screening of Atriama with a machine translation into Quenya for subtitles. His machine translation is pretty okay at this point.

Permalink Eye

They are happy to stop using it, that's definitely reasonable orders, but what's the issue?

Permalink Eye

Oh, no, they can say what they like, this doesn't come anywhere near a genuinely important reason to limit freedom of speech, it's just. Well, Cam happens to think killing people does not become specially problematic if they are your own species versus if they are not.

Permalink Eye

There are no people in the system who aren't their species. There might not be any in the galaxy, depending what Eru's put on Endore. Except Cam. Everyone agrees that killing Cam would be far eviller than killing people who are backed up. 

Permalink Eye

Well, Cam's indestructible. But he used to be a human. And he doesn't know what Eru may have put on Endorë either but if it's people they're probably, like... people.

Permalink Eye

Point taken. 

Permalink Eye

Oh good.

Eventually there is enough rock to put atmosphere on! And land! Next to some lovely sustainable lava flows that can keep it from being too miserably chilly sans sun if they want to go outdoors, he doesn't want them to have to spend 100% of their time in arcologies, but he's gonna start with an arcology because that's easy to climate control and if he puts decorative plants near a lava flow they may catch fire and anyway are the Elves okay with this plan?

Permalink Eye

They are. Is it going to be super pretty? That's an important priority. 

Permalink Eye

They can consult on the design if they like! Here is the Martian arcology he's basing it on but if they want it laid out differently or with a higher fountains-and-gardens-to-other-stuff ratio that can be arranged.

Permalink Eye

They are overflowing with suggestions. Mostly good suggestions; a lot of them have backgrounds in design or landscaping. More fountains and gardens would be great. 

Permalink Eye

Then when they have agreed on a layout: arcology! This one the Elves may feel free to name after a day and a half debating.

Cam stocks it up with plenty of everything. He leaves them the ship in case they want to bail if he doesn't come back in a timely manner. Anybody want anything before he goes to the Endorë rendezvous?

Permalink Eye

"...Silmaril?"

Permalink Eye

"Haven't tried making one of those yet. What for?"

Permalink Eye

"They're bright enough it'd be like having the Suns back, and beautiful, and the greatest work of the King - it'd be reassuring to have it watching over us - and they are said to have healing properties though that wasn't relevant in Valinor and they slow decay though that also wasn't relevant in Valinor. And they're so pretty."

Permalink Eye

"...it might be a bad idea to have something sun-bright around. The idea being that the place is hard to find."

Permalink Eye

"We could keep it inside. They don't have to be sun-bright."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, all right. Are they all the same?"

Permalink Eye

They all look the same. If there are subtle differences between the three no one knows what they are. 

Permalink Eye

Okay. Silmaril! Silmaril?

Permalink Eye

And there's an extraordinarily pretty glowing gemstone in his hands. The Elves cheer. 

"Huh," someone says after a moment, "it's not responsive to attention and conversation the way a Silmaril is."

Permalink Eye

"They're normally responsive to attention and conversation? What do they do?"

Permalink Eye

"Just - change the mood of the lighting, or bring out someone's features specifically, or change the light they're giving off to fit the music that's playing...they're beautiful in isolation but in occupied places they respond to the places."

Permalink Eye

"...maybe Silmarils count as minds. Animals smarter than about snails do, it wouldn't have to be a fullfledged person to count."

Permalink Eye

"That would make a lot of sense, actually. Silmarils are definitely smarter than snails. Huh. Well, they'll love their pretty gemstone even if it's not an intelligent pretty gemstone, and the healing and everything else should come through fine - the indestructibility? Is it indestructible like a regular Silmaril?"

Permalink Eye

"It depends on how that works, I guess? If it is dependent on the mental properties then no, if it's inherently magical then no, otherwise should be."

Permalink Eye

No one really want to suggest testing that. It's so pretty!

Permalink Eye

At least it serves that purpose!

And if that'll be all, off Cam goes.

Permalink Eye

If he's going to Endore, he'll meet the rest of the fleet there. 

Permalink Eye

Hello rest of the fleet! Of interest: basement dweller Silmarils only. How're you doing over here.

Permalink Eye

"Huh," Feanáro says, "I suppose I could have predicted that. They probably don't have the useful properties in that case. Mindless Silmarils probably don't count for Oath-related purposes but let's still not go handing them out, I am not sure if they'd still be weaponizable but they might be. Can we get ships that can land up safely on Endore? And you were originally going to spend this time talking to people to decide whether to do weapons; have you had the chance to do that?"

Permalink Eye

 

"Oath-related purposes?"

Permalink Eye

"The Enemy has the Silmarils, we've sworn to be undeterrable in various ways from getting them back. Before you arrived they were the only hope of achieving an Eldarin civilization outside Valinor. Anyway, pseudo-Silmarils in the hands of my subjects are certainly fine."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I wish you'd told me that, I could have decided to experiment with making them in some other way and could have gotten different results and then where would we be."

Permalink Eye

"With a real Silmaril in the hands of my subjects which would still be fine. They're not going to start serving the Enemy. You'd be better able to aid us in the war if I had mentioned it and I should have."

Permalink Eye

"Having more of the things you're sworn undeterrable in retrieving around sounds like a bad idea. Anyway I've gotten lots of reading and talking to people in and you seem okay but I don't know anything about opposition, I'd like to do drones before landers."

Permalink Eye

"I agree, because we also don't know what we're facing. Go ahead."

Permalink Eye

So Cam makes a nice fleet of drones - he doesn't surround the whole planet with them, that would be giving a bit much away - and they descend upon Endorë.

Permalink Eye

It's pleasant. Temperate, visible cities, visible areas where there's been recent fighting. In the north there's a sprawling heavily industrialized area that's easily the most populated part of the planet. 

Permalink Eye

Drones spread out and get lots of video. Cam will share with the Elves.

Permalink Eye

There's fighting going on on the coast of one continent. It looks like both sides are dug in and have been for a while. 

 

There's an area several hundred miles across that his drones all vaguely meander away from due to flight course tracking issues. 

Permalink Eye

"...that's weird. Second opinion on whether I should manifest one inside that area?"

Permalink Eye

"Assuming they're doing something to make them go away, I'm gonna guess they won't be friendly to one that appears there. But I guess no one's likely to get hurt."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, the question is whether you might want these people to like you later or something."

Permalink Eye

The King snorts. Maitimo winces. "I am thinking we very much want everyone to like us, we might end up trying to talk them into evacuating."

Permalink Eye

"I could drop them a letter if you think they'll be able to read Quenya?"

Permalink Eye

"Languages diverged over three thousand of Endore's years ago," the King says, "I am nearly certain they won't. Being indestructible I suppose you can always try to do the 'we come in peace' approach with minimal consequences. Can you summon the kingdom's documents from its approximate location and nothing else? I could pick up their language and drop them a letter in that."

Permalink Eye

"I can... probably do that if it is in fact a coherent political unit in there. It'll be their complete works or from like a time period, I can't be selective on this little information."

Permalink Eye

"That's fine, we're just trying to learn the language."

Permalink Eye

"And they haven't got the infosec handbook," sighs Cam, but he goes for it.

Permalink Eye

It is a coherent political unit, called Doriath. Fëanáro takes about thirty seconds to declare that the language does have common roots with Quenya and he'll have it figured out and a letter composed for return in a day or so, assuming he's not lucky enough to have anything here that's written in both languages, Maitimo has the command. 

Maitimo's watching a few of the other drone video feeds. 

Permalink Eye

Cam returns his attention to the drones. Spy little drones spy.

Permalink Eye

Population: a billion, maybe two billion. Most of that concentrated in the north. There's active fighting along three fronts: the one near the shore they noticed to start with, an area inland and a thousand miles north of that, and in the scorched center of another continent. When the drones get too low ground-based defenses will start shooting at them. 

Permalink Eye

Oh? What with?

Permalink Eye

Rockets, missiles. Some of which seem to have some targeting, but not much of it, Earth by 2159 was dramatically more sophisticated. 

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I've got them beat hands down on weapons tech, that's probably good."

Permalink Eye

"That seems definitely good," Maitimo says. "You good enough to stop one of those active fights in a way that doesn't entail taking a side in it?"

Permalink Eye

"If I were there, maybe, I could just wreck all the weapons. It's a lot harder to target through a drone especially for purposes other than indiscriminate destruction."

Permalink Eye

"So step two: head in? If you're confident you can keep the ships safe on entry?"

Permalink Eye

"I can get you shields that should hold up against even a fairly concentrated barrage of this stuff but it'll be a bumpy ride," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"We came here for this fight. And not expecting to have the capabilities to win it - we thought we'd just have to find someone friendly, land on them, offer to be reinforcements."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I just mean, warn the pilots. I can at least splice in the control mechanisms they're used to on the landers."

Permalink Eye

"Done."

Permalink Eye

"Okay then."

The landers just need to move people, everything else can wait or be replicated on the ground. They're pretty uncomplicated: shields, seats with seatbelts, more shields, engines, place for the pilots to go. He runs the design by the Elves and asks if they want them appeared docked to the existing ships?

Permalink Eye

The Elves are giving the orders to move everyone onboard. "Yes, that's perfect. Are these safe enough to take civilians down with or should we leave them in orbit?"

Permalink Eye

"I do not expect people on these ships to die in descent but do you really want your civilians down there? I can take them to my planet."

Permalink Eye

"If I can't separate children from their parents - and I can't, cultural thing - and I send everyone with underage children to your planet I lose half my forces. If we can build them something safe on Endore that's better. If things go badly we're going to need to pull... looks like nearly a billion people off the planet, an additional three hundred thousand doesn't complicate that nightmare much. But you've fought wars, or at least heard of them, and you know more about your capabilities. If you think I should send half these people off I can do that."

Permalink Eye

"Heard of," Cam says. "I think what I wanna do here is an undersea bunker, I can displace water much more easily than soil and being under stuff is good for all kindsa defensive purposes, does that work for you?"

Permalink Eye

"Perfectly."

Permalink Eye

"All right then."

And Cam gets to designing an undersea bunker. Elves are welcome to contribute input.

Permalink Eye

They have lots, at least about the aesthetics. Maitimo's eyes are closed as he coordinates people to load onto landing ships.

Permalink Eye

Cam can aestheticize the heck out of this bunker. It will be so pretty. But not lit with basement Silmarils.

When it's designed, he puts surveyor robots underwater to find a good defensible bit of seafloor, and then puts in the foundation, nice and slow - doesn't want to create a tidal wave - then the bunker, section by bulkheaded section.

And now when everybody's ready they can go land - well, sea - these landers should float just fine, and then transfer into submarines and move in!

Permalink Eye

The Elves are pretty fiercely delighted by this turn of events. A beautiful safe undersea bunker. Everyone's ready. 

They encounter only a handful of rockets on the way down. 

Permalink Eye

"You want me to disintegrate those or not give me away so obviously?"

Permalink Eye

"If they're not going to hurt us let's let them hit us."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

The shielding holds. The ships wobble and it's loud, though.

Permalink Eye

The Elves are reasonably calm about this. They land on the water. Submarines?

Permalink Eye

Submarines! Here you go!

Permalink Eye

And there is a remarkably orderly settling of their underground city. Cam will mostly not recognize the people heading through the halls, though he'll notice there are three variants on the uniforms. And at one point Findekano will cross paths with them. 

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Cam nods politely but doesn't exactly have a conversation topic. Let's see what else will this place need. Hydroponics, it probably wants hydroponics, they can't really farm under the ocean and Cam's going to be on his planet - is anybody else coming to his planet, by the way, not all the civilians but any?

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There are a couple thousand people who will come to the planet. 

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Okay cool. He will hang out for a while making sure that everything this bunker needs is provided, first - it's probably not a security problem for them to have the complete works of Valinor even if the Hell Library would be pushing it? If they don't already have the whole thing, maybe they do - sea-to-air vehicles - instructions on how to drive those -

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And weapons, or does that have to wait for Cam to talk to the other side of the fighting? Fëanáro has the local language down and is ready to drop notes on everyone. 

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Maybe Fëanáro can teach Cam's computer enough of the local language that Cam can machine-translate stuff and get an idea that way without having to go say hi and possibly be shot at? He doesn't really like being shot at.

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Fëanáro will give this a shot. "Do they have an internet? Does anything come up when you go 'contents of the planet's internet?"

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"Let's find out!" Well?

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No internet. 

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"Nope."

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"Newspapers for coastal city, the one with soldiers dug in for a few hundred miles, from the last year?"

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Cam tries that.

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That one works. Fëanáro looks up from trying to teach Cam's computer the language spoken in Doriath. "Same language?"

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"Looks similar - you tell me."

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"Yep," he says with satisfaction a second later. And then, scrolling through, "okay. The fighting started about eight months ago. The northern kingdom is - all orcs, and they attacked unprovoked and at the same time enough powerful weapons detonated on the south continent that it was sunless for most of the summer - they're pressed for food, you can at least do something about that while deciding on weaponry - orcs haven't offered terms. Some cities surrendered, everyone was taken prisoner and taken back to Angband..."

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"Yeah, I'll stop and feed people on my way out."

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"You're not doomed anymore, why're you leaving?"

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"...to administer the refugee planet?" Cam says. "I mean, I guess they could do without me visiting more than occasionally if I stock them up enough especially if we manage ansibles..."

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"I can work on that or I can work on how I can best help a mid-industrial kingdom of sixty million that's fighting with machine guns, and you make the second one easier but I take it haven't got much idea of where to start on the first."

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"...how about I make you a bunch of bulletproof armor and then I go pay the starving place a visit. Refugee planet won't panic at my absence for weeks."

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"Thank you. I'll keep teaching your computer the local language."

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"Thanks."

Cam makes them a bunch of Elf-sized bulletproof armor and then he goes up and makes himself a little shuttle and goes where there are starving people.

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Shoreline kingdom. It has skyscrapers by the water. It's exceptionally pretty and carefully designed and large segments are rubble. Newspapers suggest that the capital is Brithombar, fifty miles inland on the river. 

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So Cam lands near that but not close enough to seem particularly threatening and then gets out and flies the rest of the way sans shuttle.

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People are staring. People are kind of panicking, actually. 

Please declare yourself.

Please explain who you are.

We are happy to have guests but please explain who you are. 

Cam does not have telepathy and won't hear them. 

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Yup he's got no idea. He lands near some staring people, puts his hands up.

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Well, that calms them down slightly. "Hello?" someone tries aloud when osanwe clearly isn't going to do it. 

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Cam calls up the most up to date version of the machine translation and plugs that in. "Hello!" his computer replies presently. "I mean you no harm."

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"Have the Valar sent help?"

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"No, help arrived in spite of them. I hear you're starving?" Cam makes an apple. "Want help with that?"

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They stare.

"Do you want to talk to the president?"

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"Sounds good."

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"We're rationing gas, and it's a long walk. You could also just fly into the city, though you'll scare people less if you answer when they call out to you..."

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"I don't speak your language, I'm doing machine translation."

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"I meant when we call out to you with osanwe. Can you not hear it?"

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"No, I do not have that particular model of cyborg implant."

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"Are you not a Maia, then?"

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"Nope. I'm a demon."

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"Can you carry people? Someone could fly with you and explain that you can't hear all the guards begging you to stop and explain yourself."

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"I cannot carry people in the air by wing, although I could go get my shuttle. Or just motorocycle in with somebody along."

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"I have a car, the problem is gas rationing. Though if you can help with food maybe it's important enough to be worth it. Want to get in the car?"

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"...I can do gas too," Cam says. "Where do you keep your gas tank in here?"

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She gestures at the gas tank. "You can just make things."

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"Yes I can! I'm very handy." Cam makes sure he knows where the gas tank is so he doesn't accidentally put gas anywhere else and he fills her up.

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"The President is definitely going to want to speak to you." She gets behind the wheel of the car. "It's about twenty minutes drive from here."

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"All right, seems like a reasonable tradeoff for knowing where I'm going and not scaring anybody." Cam folds up his wings real small and tucks his tail in and gets in the car.

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"What's the translator? You are from Valinor?"

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"The translator is a computer program. I was on Valinor before I came here but I'm not from there, I am from another dimension."

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"Ah, okay. Usually shiny gadgets says 'Valinor' but it makes sense they're not the only ones. You said you're here despite the Valar. Does that mean help isn't coming?"

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"They might do something eventually, I guess. But I'm here and some other people who also want to help are here."

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"Oh, trust me, we weren't counting on them. Or - we were counting on them in the sense that we're fucked without help, we weren't counting on them in the sense of expecting them to show. Who else is here?"

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"Some Elves from Valinor decided they felt very urgently that you needed help even if it wasn't Valar. I made them a bunker and then came over here."

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"Good for them. Olwe's people?"

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"I have not met anybody by that name. Fëanáro's in charge?"

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"Doesn't ring a bell. Twenty-five lightyears, you know, and they're the side with the tech. Olwe's people live in Alqualonde, they're the ones with the lightspeed ships. You didn't take twenty-five years to get here so I am guessing he's helping at least on the supply end. Close friend of the President's."

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"Oh, no, I just made them duplicate lightspeed ships."

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"Have you considered just making the entire Enemy-held part of the continent - not be there? Or be on fire?"

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"I'm still finding my bearings. I can only create stuff, not delete it, though."

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"I am pretty sure that wouldn't prevent basically that solution. But okay. We're not turning our noses up at food and gas. And I'm not qualified to speak for anyone." They pull up in front of an exceptionally pretty building. "President is. So you should go in all winged and making food, I don't know how one generally gets a meeting but that'll definitely do it."

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"Cool. You want anything?"

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"Chocolate. Do you know chocolate? If it's not any trouble."

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"I know chocolate!" Here is a truffle assortment. "Enjoy." And in he goes.

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People stare. 

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"Hello! I'm here to talk to the President but I assume he's busy and I was not announced. In the meantime who wants chocolate?" He makes a bit of ultra dark, pops it into his mouth.

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Lots of people would like chocolate. After about thirty seconds someone comes out and everyone stands for her. "Meril," she says to Cam. "Chief of Staff. I have all the questions that I assume you've been fielding since you arrived, but so will the President so I'll save you the time. Can I answer any of yours?"

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"Pleased to meet you. How good's my translator?"

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"Impressive. You could try saying something complicated if you really want to test it. And I do speak Quenya, at least as it was spoken a century ago."

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"Oh good," says Cam with his actual voice. "It takes me so long to learn languages the long way. And do you want any chocolate or anything?"

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"If you can do truffles I have a couple nieces and nephews who will start worshipping you in place of the Valar on the spot - not that that'd take much of a push for anyone here."

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"I do not require worship but here you go." Bag of truffles.

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"Good because everyone with any aptitude lives on the high-tech planet. This is the folks who said 'swell, but no thanks.' We were making it out alright for a while."

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"I believe you. It's a nice city," he assures her.

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"The bits that aren't rubble. You're not going to hurt our feelings. Walking down the streets and counting the gold stars on the doors, that hurts my feelings. President's extricated, let's go meet him."

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"Gold stars?" Cam asks, following her.

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"That house lost someone. Silver means they have someone serving. Two gold, three silver, that's a typical house - we had big families, before the war..."

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Why couldn't everyone be conveniently fucking resurrectable why why why

"I'm sorry."

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"We were not expecting any better of the Valar."

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"They do not seem," says Cam, "to be very good at their jobs."

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"Depends how you construe their jobs, I guess, but I thought keeping him far away from things that he could murder was at least part of it." They enter an office. It is richly appointed and has a distracting view of the sea. "Mr. President, Cam. He has a translator device -"

"My Quenya's not that rusty," says the man. He's the first Elf Cam's encountered who looks older than a mid-twenties human. 

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"Hi there. My name is Cam. I am a magical being from another dimension. I can make stuff."

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"Welcome to the Falas. What kind of stuff?"

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"Not antimatter."

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"Giant wall between us and the orcs with little guns at the top to shoot anything that flies over it?"

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"Yes, although I am a newcomer to the situation and a little leery of supplying weapons. I'm going to investigate more closely, of course, and I have no qualms whatever about solving your food shortage."

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"How do we most easily accomplish that?"

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"...which, weapons supplies or fixing your food shortage?"

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"Fixing the food storage. Is it easiest for you to dump things at distribution sites, to designate your own distribution site - it'd be nice if it were somewhere we have roads -"

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"I need to know where to put stuff to a high level of precision or I may put it intersected with something, which is annoying if it's a wall and a serious problem if it's a person. So if you want stuff in multiple places I pretty much have to go there, though I brought a little shuttle and can get anywhere on the planet in hours tops."

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"We have good supply lines, I can have a field cleared for you outside town if that's most convenient. 

 

We will be much in your debt. You'll forgive me for wondering what that entails exactly."

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"Oh, I don't need anything. When I need stuff I just make it," Cam says. "Don't worry about it."

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"My experience of Powers hasn't been that their demands are much constrained by that, but all right. Meril, will you pick a location for distribution of food."

She nods.

 

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"I hear you're on gasoline rations too, I can do gas - anything else like that?"

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"We're on everything rations. We don't have the resources to hold out, here. But gas we use to fuel bombers, scrap metal we're reclaiming from peoples' kitchens for tanks - at that point your time would be better spent deciding whether you want to help us with the war."

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"I probably want to help you win the war and am willing to err in that direction somewhat, although now that you mention it I also made a planet and you could go live on my planet if you like."

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He laughs heartily. "Heard that offer before, as you may have been told."

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"Yes, well. I suck less than the Valar and this planet has a bad case of the Enemy."

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"You will forgive us for hesitating to take your word for it, but we'll keep it in mind. You have the means to get sixty million to your planet? Are our backups still going to be in Valinor?"

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"I cannot extract your backups from Valinor and one hard limit on my magic apart from antimatter is that I can't do minds so I can't even dupe them. But I could make a ton of ships."

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He nods. "We will bear that in mind. My answer is the same as it was to the Valar, which is that I'd rather face monsters I won't be damned for slaying."

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"Okay, well, offer is open if you want to evacuate anybody. Meanwhile I can at least feed you."

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"Got a location," she says. "Fifteen minutes' walk from here, though I guess you can fly. We may have to change it up if the Enemy starts targeting it."

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"I can't fly with passengers, so you'll have to tell me where it is."

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"Sorry, forgot briefly that I can't send you anything." She turns the monitor towards him. 

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He has a look at it. "Anything else you want to ask me before I go? Will people there know what I should fill it up with in particular?"

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"I could give you a list of everything that's rationed? And - yeah, I'm desperately curious if our dead have started to come back in Valinor and whether they've gotten anywhere on convincing the Valar to do something, if you happen to know."

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"- lemme see if I can -" Is there some conveniently accessible list of the resurrected that he can conjure up.

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There is. It's by year. 

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"Got a list. I don't know how to get ahold of what they've been saying to the Valar but I have a list of resurrected by year."

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"That's amazing," he says, "Meril, can you get that copied and published -"

"Yes, definitely. Unless Cam can also do that with a flick of the finger."

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"Well, I can't hijack your distribution network, but sure, what format do you want it in, name it."

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"....paper? Posterboard?"

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Cam hands her a stack of paper.

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"Thank you." She looks at the President. "No one who died in the war. It'll probably take years. Unless heresy's on the no-no list these days, in which case damned if I know."

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"I tried resurrecting somebody in case software-stored minds were an exception and it didn't work, I'm sorry."

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They both flinch. "No offense," the President says, "but good."

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"...if you say so."

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"The Enemy can do it to people he takes prisoner. He can rip a copy of their heads - the process is fatal, but who really cares - and run it on a computer, a thousand times the speed, ten thousand times the speed, erase memories, insert ones, or just make you live them, torture you for longer than the lifespan of the world in less time than the war has been ongoing. Or make copies and try different things, if there's a way to what he wants from you."

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"Well fuck."

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"You seem likable but I don't think there's anyone in the universe I'd trust with a copy of my head."

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"I can respect that."

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"It's been a pleasure. Thank you for the food."

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"You're welcome."

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He nods and sits back down. Meril opens the door. "And the list of names," she says. 

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"You're welcome," Cam says. "Anything else you want from me on the information security hazard front?"

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"I don't suppose the Enemy has a memoir titled 'why the Valar trusted me and how I am planning to win the war'."

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"Seems unlikely. Let's see." ...Nope. "Nope."

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She laughs. "If you come back I'm sure we'll have thought of things. The orc tactics don't demand much theft of books. They throw themselves at us and die by the hundreds of thousands and keep doing it anyway."

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Great. The orcs are Russian. "I'm going to find out what I can and maybe it'll all be over soon."

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"Wouldn't that be lovely."

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"Feel free to assume I'm full of crap," Cam says.

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"Full of optimism. Comes to the same, though. Please don't try to figure out what's going on in the war by flying over to Angband, if that's not a lethally bad idea it's because it will turn out to be an even worse one."

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"Noted. If I need to know what Angband looks like I will make a scale model or something."

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"I was thinking more you might want to talk with the Enemy and get both sides. Which is an admirable impulse, but the Enemy is a Vala."

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"...the implications of this for me in particular are not obvious."

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"Right. Us they can swat like flies, and they have powerful magic that they tend not to like explaining."

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"Yeah, I don't think that applies to me but I am not guaranteed to be able to leave, just guaranteed not to be destructively uploaded, so I will not waltz into Angband."

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"Thank you. Feel free to stop by if you have more questions. Or I can keep a drawer in the desk clear and you can appear them, and then try summoning an answer?"

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"I can't aim for a drawer from anywhere that isn't, like, in the room with the drawer, unless I want to set up something fancy with satellites and transponders and stuff, and then I'd be worried the Enemy'd come up with some way to spoof it. I can receive correspondence unproblematically, though, just title it 'letter to Cam' with numbers, you don't even have to keep it around after that."

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"I will keep that in mind. Did you want someone to walk you to the place for the food?"

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"Yeah, fifteen minutes isn't that long and I might get lost or scare somebody if I fly it."

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"I'll go! The President told the whole city that you're here, not a Vala, and not serving the Enemy, though, so I don't think you'll scare anyone."

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"Okay, lead the way. ...How do you actually know I'm not serving the Enemy, I mean, I'm not, but how do you know."

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"You can create arbitrary things and I am not as far as I can tell a line of data in Angband being tortured for all eternity."

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"Fair enough."

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"Perhaps the President's announcement should have said 'who we may as well assume doesn't work for the Enemy' but people find that less reassuring."

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"Yeah, seems like it'd be much worse for morale."

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"The bit about the Enemy's not widely known, by the way. People don't need to know that, not while there's nothing that can be done.

 

 

Do you have a straightforward suicide trigger that destroys the chips."

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"... I would be very wary of trying to do brain surgery on any of you because all my medical training has to do with a different species which seems metabolically dissimilar. But if 'exploded' is destroyed enough I could maybe design something."

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"You can pull up my chip and see if exploded does it. They're magic, it's hard to say."

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"I don't know how good his data recovery mechanisms are," Cam explains, "or what the chip data structures are like, so I can't just see if I can get anything off an exploded chip."

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"Okay. Maybe ask Melian?"

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"Melian being?"

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"Queen of Doriath, thataways but you won't be able to find them. She's a Maia."

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"Is that the place I couldn't send drones to survey?"