No rest for the Wicked

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OOC Date: August 17, 2011
IC Date: April 6, 2128

Illyanna takes a break while working on preparing communications with the Tripods.


Chrysalis' Surface, Lakeshore, Base Camp, Research Tent



She's proved that once she's set on a challenging task, Illyanna is scary focused, often foregoing food and sleep. And the current task set out before her at least interests her enough to be just as focused: Perched in front of a workstation in the research tent (and of course she made sure she gets to set up a fully-functional computer station within the camp), she is busy manipulating between the two main screens - one has a series of image windows that contain several pictures of the alien carvings, while the other appears to be several pictures being compiled from cutouts from the other screen.

Scary focused means she might not notice when Xavier ducks into the tent, not from the tunnel that connects it to the living box but from the darkening shadows that collect outside. Night has to happen on this planet at some point, and the nights here are terribly long - though seemingly not so fraught with danger as the days have been. Anyway, he's here now. For once he's only lightly armed, with only a pistol on his thigh. Both hands are needed for the little vials he's carrying: little glass tubes and vials filled with gifts for the science team, because nothing says love like keeping the Marine busy catching bugs. There is a quiet clatter as he puts them down on the nearest free space, and then a beat of silence as he looks around, attention quickly settling on those horribly familiar images on-screen yonder.

Illyanna only turns a backwards glance at the noise of the clatter; she's really too engrossed in her work to even attempt small-talk other than a simple "Hey", so she turns back to the screens and continues the image manipulation. In fact, she's only using her right hand and a 'mouse' to do it; her left hand is flying over a touch-screen datapad in a brilliant display of multitasking.

Great, so she won't mind when he comes to lurk over her shoulder to watch this analysis with exceedingly dubious interest. Xavier is responsible for all those little symbols, after all; he's the one to blame for any lack of clarity, or failure to point the camera in the right direction. "…what are you doing?" Don't you hate it when people do this?

She doesn't look up, nor does she snap at him, so maybe she doesn't hate it. Nope, Illyanna's just staring at the screens as images slide back and forth between the various windows. "Compiling pictures that hopefully the robot spiders can read and understand." She replies distractedly. "And it's easier to manipulate what we already have than to recreate it from scratch." Another few moments of data and image transfers later, Illyanna stops abruptly and turns her head to peer at Xavier. "Actually, I meant to ask. You saw the spider in person, right? Did it exhibit any awareness of your presence?"

Once he's there Xavier is exceptionally still, and so many for all of that he's easy to ignore… except for the size and the looming and the watching, because he does. Whether the flow of information means anything to him is impossible to discern though because he doesn't comment. There's not a peep of sound from him until she actually looks back and asks him a question, which leads him to shake his head. "No, but I did not want it to see me. I was thinking of capturing it when the squiddies came out of their holes."

"Hmmm" Illyanna purses her lips thoughtfully, before shrugging both shoulders. "That's alright. It's drawing, so it must be able to see. I'm just wondering if the spider actually understands a picture if it didn't draw it." She turns back to the screens and resumes moving images around rapidly. "So did it seem like the Tripods crawled out of their holes because the spider detected you? Or did they seem to be responding directly to your presence?"

Xavier shakes his head, though only once. "They did not see me," he reiterates. "I thought it would turn poor if they became aware that I was there. Is why I did not drop my grenades on them as a parting gift when I left." He glances down at her, then looks back at the flickering pictures extrapolated from the stone. "They may have come because they were called. It got through three or four carvings before they came, but they came as a group and then huddled together to talk about what they saw." The report is given slowly, with a clear delineation between his speculation and what he actually saw. "Why?"

She turns her head again, since you know, it's not polite to talk without looking at the other person. "We figured out how to read them, but we don't know if they can read us. So I'm trying to get more information to better our chances, y'know?" Beat. "Wait, they huddled together to talk about what they saw? How did they 'talk', exactly?"

Dark eyes get darker still, clouding over into something broody. The Marine does not look terribly pleased about this idea of attempting to communicate with them, but he doesn't express that otherwise. Instead, he nods at the second question. Once. "Chittering. Sharp squeaking. Like rats, like bugs, like…" Whatever they really sounded like seems to escape him, but that is a detail that the video missed.

Illyanna is smart enough to understand that 'look'. "Trust me, I know how you guys feel, my brother's a marine too. But nuking everything from orbit isn't always the best solution." Turning back to the screens, this time she focuses on the datapad that she's been typing at. "Anyway, it's not how the Tripods talk that we're interested in; it's the robot spiders. How do they communicate between themselves and the Tripods? And how do they receive signals from the Sailfins? There must be some sort of carrier wave, or even simple short-range radio signals. Hmmm…."

"When the chupacabra comes to eat your kids, ask me again if we should nuke from orbit." Clearly Xavier is deeply in the camp that would like nothing better than to obliterate those things, though he passed up the opportunity to harm any of them when he had the chance. Be that as it may… "Long-range signal," he counters. "Miles. The sailfins do not go near the caves. Maybe it is the same wave between sailfin and spider, spider and squid?"

Illyanna abruptly gets to her feet, and marches over to another nearby terminal. "Eleven, I need a signal scan within a 20 km radius. Filter for ambient radio waves and background noise, and look for patterns of possible artificial origins. Isolate frequencies and identify signal origins."
"Roger roger, my Queen." The chipmunk voice acknowledges.
Turning back to Xavier, Illyanna crosses her arms and looks positively thoughtful. "Push comes to shove, we need a backup plan in case communications fail… and there must be a way to feed directly into their processors."

The opportunist wolf smells an opening and… "I should have caught the spider," he acknowledges, looking just a little bit disappointed in this total failure. Of course, that was hardly a mission parameter, but wouldn't having a metal spider on hand make this process so much easier? "But so, I would agree; they must send some kind of signal. It may not be a signal we can intercept though; bio-organics are complicated." Why yes, Xavier knows one or two big words. His shoulders roll in a little shrug.

"That's true, but… we managed to interface with the Braincrabs' processors, and they're bio-organically-based." Illyanna points out. "If we can intercept a signal strand between their processors, all we need is to implant a virus and it'll completely mess up the spiders." See? She's not all about peaceful coexistence. Lifting a hand, she rubs at her eyes tiredly. "Man. You didn't bring coffee, did you?"

Okay, that clearly exceeds Xavier's technical know-how; once he got past the 'didn't catch a spider, oh well' bit… well, that's about the extent of his skills. The last part, however, he grasps with both hands. So to speak. "I did not. But if you come with me, I will get you some anyway." He tilts his head at the screens. "How long have you been sitting here?"

Illyanna glances back at the nearest screen. "Thirteen hours." She announces. "This is /nothing/. You should see how long I sat in front of a screen trying to decipher the Braincrabs' database." With that, she pushes away from the desk and stretches. "Let's go get some coffee!" She pauses while waiting for the marine to follow. "By the way, don't you find it odd this planet's gravitational pull isn't stronger given its size?"

Xavier does follow, though not without a quiet laugh. "Thirteen hours. You are very dedicated to this. You must like these long days." Oh yes, he'll follow, keeping up easily but making no attempt to get ahead of, or even beside, the little technician. "Is it strange? I did not get to Mars or Io, or even to the moon." Thus, his experience with alien gravity is somewhat lacking.

"Oh yeah." Illyanna nods sagely, waiting for the marine to catch up before continuing on. "Moon, small. One-sixth the gravity of Earth. You know, Newton's Law. Force equals Gravitational Constant times mass of object one times mass of object two divided by square of the distance, where constant is 6.6726 x 10-11 N-m2/kg2." She drones out. "In other words, big planet, bigger pull. Which leads me to wonder this ball of rock doesn't have a solid core, like Earth's iron core. It actually worries me a bit, because without a strong iron core, the magnetic field here might be too weak to fend of solar winds… from TWO suns."

Oh, come on, that's not fair. He got lost when she started talking about processors and interceptions; when she starts waxing on about gravity and mass, all Xavier can do is nod and pretend that he's got a clue what she's talking about. So he walks, hands folded behind him, nodding where appropriate until the very end of that, which seems to merit some kind of response other than grunting. "The planet has been here for a very long time without mishap, yes?"

"The planet, yes!" Illyanna spreads her hands. "But it could just mean the local flora and fauna adapted to a higher dosage of solar radiation. We may not be as resistant to…." She trails off after catching that lost look from the marine. "Eh. Am I boring you? Sorry. The science guys have been so preoccupied with the things that move and grow on this rock, I'm not sure anyone's been paying attention to the rest of it."

Is he bored? Not so much that he can't flash a quick grin. "No." He lies. Through his teeth. The real explanation is a little bit slower in coming, offered with a little shrug, dismissive of that being problematic, even a little bit. "It's beyond my pay grade," he points out. "And what I know about rocks is… less than what I know about things that grow on rocks. Sorry." Even his apology bears traces of amusement. He does finally speed up a little, but only to lift the tent-flap for her.

Illyanna ducks through the flap to head for the residential wing. Well, that's what happens when you talk to an egghead. "Well, here's something for you to ponder: so far we've encountered four alien species, and know about at least two others. That's a total of six; five of them have been engaged in some sort of widespread war. It's a pretty violent universe out here, huh?"
One advantage to having a predomenantly Navy crew is that there is always coffee. Always. It might even be in the handbook somewhere: there must always be hot, fresh coffee available. Xavier drops the flap behind him and wanders off in the direction of the machine and cups. Once the conversation moves away from hard science and into something that he might possibly stand a chance of comprehending - violence! yay! - he offers over another shrug. "Why would it not be that way? Things are always in conflict. Even the ocean and the mountain make war together. It is not what we hoped for, but we should be used to it"

"I could ask the same thing - why would it be?" The Ukrainian programmer lapses into a slightly more philosophical mode for a moment. "It's a pretty big place out here, and there's a whole lot of space." She waxes as her hands are now shoved into the pockets of her cargo pants, while she follows lazily and waits for coffee. "I mean, with all that space, you'd think they can avoid each other if they really want to. They'll have to be actively looking for each other to get into these big wars."

Which means Xavier gets to pour, huh? He checks to make sure the cups are clean, or at least empty, before doing so. "Do you take anything?" Milk? Sugar? Straight black? "Some look for others. The Devourers were hunters, in need of food. The Two and these Giants were allies before they became enemies. And who is to say that, in all of space, that resources are not scarce?" He passes over one of the cups, doctored or otherwise. "Wars come for two reasons: resources and ideology. Even animals are territorial because of resources. Food, water. Men fight because they want different things. The Devourers sought resources. The Giants and the Two had ideological differences."

"That's what I mean - with so much space, you'd think there's way more resources than anyone could ever need." Illyanna points out as she leans against the nearest table. "Oh, black, thanks. Only way to keep me awake on these marathon projects." Beat. "And ideology? Same thing." She lifts both hands and points in opposite directions. "Don't like the way I think? Go in the opposite direction for a couple thousand light years. We don't have to ever see each other again, you know?"

This is cause for another show of that toothy grin of his; he flashes it now and raises his cup at her. "If I am bigger than you, stronger than you, and meaner than you, it is easier for me to take what you have than it is for me to leave behind all that I had."

"See," She lifts a hand and taps herself on the temple, before wagging that finger at Xavier with mock accusation. "That's the sort of thinking that makes things so miserable for everyone. Sounds like violence and bullying aren't unique to the human race!"

"They aren't. It is sad, I think, that we did not come to the stars and find utopia, but it is not a surprise." Xavier bears up well under the accusation, merely tilting his head as though to indicate that yes, she's right. "Let us worry about one thing at a time, though. These spiders, their squids. It is enough, I think."

"Yup. First we figure out how to talk to them, then we figure out how to kill them." Illyanna bobs her head and deadpans sarcastically. "Gosh, I really hope we don't have to get to that latter part of the plan." And with that, she finally scoops up her cup and takes a sip of the much needed caffeine. Many more hours await.


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