*Spider Pictionary

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OOC Date: August 18, 2011
IC Date: April 08, 2128

Navy Seaman Shevchenko has isolated the signal that the sailfins transmit data back to the metal spiders. Commander Eisley and several other members of the landing party gather to attempt to communicate with them.


Corona Solaris 2 - Base Camp, Research Tent


The interior of one of the big white tents.


The time has come to test the theory that the spiders can be communicated with, and perhaps even reasoned with. Three people are gathered around Illyanna as she gets down to work - Eisley, as commanding officer, Dr. Graves for any medical knowledge that may be useful in interfacing with the sailfin head and organs, and Windsor, just in case everything goes bad and people need to jump in a shuttle and get the hell off the planet.

Windsor walks around the command shuttle checking various external parts to make sure every thing is 'ship shape' incase a quick exit is in order. He gives a quick nod to himself as he is satisfied with what he sees. Making his way to the front of the craft he then leans on it and folds his arms and glances over in the direction of Illyanna and watches as the programing expert takes center stage.

Moment of truth, or moment of fail? Only time will tell. Yes, the XO is on hand for this little adventure in communications theory, though for the moment she stands back, hands clasped at the small of her back, watching with cool, collected interest as the Ukranian supergenius gets around to doing whatever she's going to be doing. Eisley might almost look bored, save for that fixation and the attention with which she watches each and every little movement.

"There are so many ways for this to go horribly wrong. I mean, even communications between different cultures on Earth was difficult with people who didn't speak the same language. And that's with everyone from the same species." Harry Graves, picture of optimism. "Again, hasn't anyone watched Star Trek? I know it's old, but so's Shakespeare."

Funny coincidence, but Illyanna has tuned her systems to scan for artificial transmission frequencies about eight hours ago, and evidently it has paid off - she's isolated one frequency that seems to be bio-organic in origin, and for this little exercise, that's the frequency she's going to focus on.

Setting up a simple terminal on a table/chair in the center of the camp, Illyanna surrounds herself with two monitor screens as well as good ol' reliable Eleven on the table. "So this here is the batch of image files we'll be sending." She explains to those gathered around. "I have encoded the images in a series of signal blips which I can then transmit along the Sailfin frequency Eleven isolated." She pauses and turns a backwards glance at the aptly named Doctor Graves. "I don't know this Star Trek, but show some faith, Doc! God works in mysterious ways." She deadpans before glancing back up at Eisley. "Should we yodel, ma'am?"

That cool blue stare turns sidelong on Dr. Graves, and for a few beats all Eisley bothers with is looking at the doctor. Really, he's upstaging her pragmatism, and if that means she has to turn into a ball of sunshine to compensate than the crew is doomed. "In Star Trek, all the aliens at least looked human, not distantly related to ocean-going crustaceans and cephalopods." Illyanna gets a single nod, following that. "Let's not yodel and say we did. A simple greeting ought to be a good start." One ping, Vasili.

Windsorsnorts as he listens and waves a hand in a dismissive manner "Ow likely is this to work?, I mean come on, jus cos they show signs of communicating via frequency like some earth animals did does not mean ya can yammer away ta them, personally I think ya all bats." he states in a thick yorkshire accent before laughing and slaping his knee "Ha Ha, bats!".

"Not all the time. Sometimes they were balls of light that talked in big booming voices," says Harry as if that was a totally serious comment. "Anyway, I just think we should transmit one image and make it simple. Something with the least chance of being misconstrued. And then take it from there. At least, we know that the creatures' and the spiders' visual perception is similiar to ours. Otherwise we wouldn't see the images as images." He lets out a low whistle. "Listen to me. I might just invent the field of exobiology."

A narrow-eyed peer is spared towards Windsor, whom Illyanna doesn't quite recognize. "Uh. If your dog paints a picture of your frolicking in the woods, you just might try talking to him." More deadpan. Nodding to both Eisley and Doc's comments, Illyanna turns back to her screens, fingers start flying over the touch screens. The image that pops up is an image of three groups, each group consisting of a Tripod, a robot spider and a human. "How about this?" She asks of her superior officers, but adds to Harry. "Don't worry, I don't talk in big booming voices. But I do sometimes appear as balls of light."

Eisley considers the images displayed for a beat before shaking her head. "Too complicated. Too easy to misinterpret." That might be an audible nod to Harry, but it might simply be a command decision. "Start with the.. spider," she decides after a tick of narrow-eyed consideration. "If it is the spiders that maintain the higher intelligence of that species, then it is the spiders that we ought to be attempting to communicate with."

Windsor raises an eyebrow and smirks slightly at how serious everyone appears to be. He composes himself to give off an air of professionalism and attempts to appear to be interested in the experiment at hand, but his glances at the shuttle betray the fact he would rather be flying about someplace.

"If it is a machine of pure intelligence, then we're talking hard logic, here." Harry chews on the nailbed of his thumb as he considers the images. "Does…maybe images are the wrong way. Can you communicate with something base, something universal? Math, or something? Images will always have cultural connotations. And if the spiders' way of looking at the universe is similar to the tripods', then we're dealing with cultural bias issues again. Math doesn't have a culture bias."

"Their written language is based on images." Illyanna notes to the Doc. "If we want to talk to them, we should try using something they already understand." Frowning slightly, she glances around the camp - where is Chief Stanwick? She's the communications expert! "Anyway, if we send math, who knows what they'll think. They may think 1+1=2 means we want to marry them." That's her argument, but her glance back at Eisley pretty much says the utlimate decision lies with the XO.

Eisley shakes her head slightly. "You don't know that," she adds onto Illyanna's observation. "As far as we knew, math was universal, but as you are so fond of reminding me, we're playing a whole new game." She almost smiles, but it is thin and lacks in both humor and warmth. It's tense, but then, so is she. "They do communicate in pictures. Without knowing how the signal breaks down and reforms on the other end, between sailfin and spider's laser, we cannot know if it stays in pictures or breaks into some other code. So we'll go with what we have, and… see." She nods then, just once, at Illyanna.

Windsor scratches his chin "The Egyptians used images, Each hieroglyph represented a common object in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs could represent the sound of the object or they could represent an idea associated with the object." He looks to the people gathered "Could it be owt like that?" He states absently.

"These beasties don't speak. It's all them purdy pictures." Harry says the words, but minus the drawl, so it comes out extra-dry. "See, what we have to figure out is what we want to tell these metal creepers, then figure out the simplest way to communicate that to them. We come in peace is just about it, isn't it? Except we sort of…don't."

Illyanna takes Eisley's single nod as the go-ahead. "Eleven, extract single image of object 'S-Spider' from image index 4500389. Recode and prepare for transmission on previously isolated bio-organic frequency." A batch of codes pops up briefly on a window, while the imaging program starts to perform the extraction on the other screen. Lifting a finger dramatically over the datapad, she announces for the small gathering of people to hear. "So if you see a mass of these guys erupting from the ground after I sent this picture? RUN." And with that, she hits the 'SEND' button. "Eleven, initiate broad spectrum scan of all frequencies."

After the signal is transmitted consisting of an image of a single spider robot, there's a very uncomfortable period of waiting to see what happens next. Hopefully, it isn't a horde of tentacle creatures flooding across the plain. Moments pass without incident. It takes some time, but eventually an image appears on one of the screens that Illyanna has set up.

A carving of a human fills the screen.

Really, if the XO gets any more tense she's liable to snap like an overtaut violin string. She might even stop breathing while she waits for something to happen, for good or for ill… and when a return image appears, her inhale is audible. "Well." Only that, and nothing more. One word sentences might be the limit of this whole session with the metal spiders under the mountain. "Can you resend the image of our base camp? Preferably one with us doing something peaceful, like raising the tents?"

"Ground Control to Major Tom," murmurs Harry as the image finally appears. "I wonder if..—" And then a beep comes over his radio. "Crud. What?" He barks into the radio. Then he shoots a look at Eisley and amends, "Uh, I mean, yes, this…this is Dr. Graves. What seems to be the problem how can I help do you want fries with that?" Then he listens. "Shit. Marine cut his hand open. Just uh…well, tell me how it goes." And then he's out the door, labcoat-tails fluttering.

Illyanna does it again - while waiting for a reply, she starts whistling, of all things, the ancient theme of Jeopardy. The appearance of a carving of a human on screen stops the infernal whistling, as the redheaded programmer just stares at it for a silent moment. "Ooookay. That… went… well…." She stops, and turns to Eisley, who's the only one left after the doctor flees. "Yeah, uh." Turning back to the screens, her fingers fly across the touch-screens now, instead of relying on her Eleven to do image manipulation. The picture starts to form with a panoramic view of the camp, with figures moving objects, raising tents, and even a sultry blonde taking a bath in the lake. "Like this?"

The blonde gets a slightly narrow-eyed look from the Commander, but the rest of the pictogram appears to be in order and so she gives this one a singular nod of blessing as well. "Let's see what they think of that."

"Recode current image and prepare for transmission, same frequency." Illyanna nods to Eisley's command, and once again hits the 'SEND' button dramatically. This time though, she slumps forward the shoots the XO a sidelong glance. "I hope they're going to overlook that incident where some of our guys shot that Sailfin." Cuz yes, Illyanna, your brother was the one holding the gun.

Eisley's gaze remains rather firmly fixed on the screen while she waits for a reply of some kind. On the surface she is very still, straight-backed, shoulders set, the model soldier not quite at attention. That calm bleeds into her voice, into a confident indication of possibility. "Depending on their reaction and your skill with manipulating their images, we might be able to use that to our advantage." Yes, she has a plan.

Illyanna quirks a curious brow. "It'd be nice if we can." She's cautiously optimistic. "I'd hate for them to have a first impression of us as a violent, bloodthirsty, irrational and savage species who shoots first and asks questions later." Beat. "I guess we'll have to do a lot of lying."

A return image comes back a short time later. This one showing a system of caverns populated by spider robots and the tripod creatures.

"…it's not lying," Eisley provides, "it's merely a selective interpretation of events." She has little to do other than stand and wait, but at least she doesn't fidget. The next response actually gets a look of surprise from her; a brow arches and it lends her a decidedly pensive quality that is seldom quite visible. "Shevchenko," she says slowly, "can you substitute images on the fly? Could you extrapolate from their database and insert a Devourer?"

All that drollness aside, when that second image returns, even Illyanna sits up as her excitement rises. Cuz really, she's having a conversation with some aliens! "Whoa. This is pretty cool." She can't quite help the wonder in her voice while her gaze is glued to the screens - until Eisley mentions the Devourers. "I… could. What do you want to send them? A Devourer chasing humans?" And while she asks, Illyanna is already speaking to her datapad. "Eleven, retrieve image files from Xenobio database, cycle through image list on screen one."

"Yes." Eisley nods one more time. "You might be able to use the first image Santiago collected, with the tripods driving off and killing the wildlife, as a template." Or maybe she can work some more incredible technical magic. Either will probably satisfy the Commander, whose gaze flicks briefly to the other screen to watch the next set of images flicker past.

"Gotcha." And with that, Illyanna furrows her brows and refocuses her attention on the screens. "Pause image cycle at index 22051233." That window stops abruptly, showing a full-body profile shot of the Devourer carcass retrieved from the Braincrab Scout ship. "Extract image, overlay on image index 4500121." Again, the image comes together, with the Devourer replacing the Tripod, and the local animal with a human. "There. I hope they get the message." A-okay? If she gets the go-ahead, Illyanna hits the 'SEND' again.

A few more moments pass, a bit longer than the wait for the second image but shorter than the first and initial image. A detailed image of the Giants engaged in a massacre of tripod aliens is the reply.

"It appears that they did get the message." Obviously. So far none of this is new information, though; it's all things the humans already knew about the tripods. Eisley studies this response for a few beats, though it isn't nearly as long as it took for the spiders to form their own reply. "Let's try a sequence of images," she suggests now. "The shuttles landing. The camp being built. More tents being added. More people. Build us a whole little tent-city on this side of the lake."

"Shouldn't we try expressing our peaceful intentions?" Illyanna has to ask, after staring at the incoming image for a few seconds. Still, she's already splicing and creating the images as Eisley asks: the shuttles landing near the lake, people coming out, the camping being erected. More people. Tent city. "Can you believe we were actually considering about exterminating them like pests?" She murmurs to herself while she works. "That would be /so/ wrong."

"Yes," Eisley agrees. "I am not entirely sure how we go about conveying that, though. I don't know if they'd understand us sitting around a campfire singing kumbayah with our new alien neighbors." She watches this stringing together of images for a few moments, during which she fails completely to address the potential extermination of the things. "Maybe put a human and a tripod in the same image far apart, then put them next to one another, then move them away again?" Here, evidently, her plan breaks down a little.

"How about with one image of a human and a Tripod meeting, followed by one of a meeting of both groups, then one of two settlements nearby?" Illyanna wonders, deftly multitasking while she continues compiling the other images. And lo and behold, they are done. "You want me to send that batch first?"

Eisley shakes her head but again, only once. "I don't think I want to encourage meeting and intermingling. If they are in fact suffering psychologically from their… condition …it might not go well for us." Dr. Graves isn't here anymore, so someone needs to provide a note of paranoia. It's been sorely lacking up to this point. "Send the first part; we'll worry about the peaceful coexistence bit after we see how they react to the idea of more of us."

The batch of prepared images are sent without further comment from Illyanna: these are images of human shuttles landing on the planet, humans building the camp, more tents and buildings added, then more people, and fimally a fair-sized settlement on their current side of the lake; it's only /after/ it's sent that she speaks up once more. "What about the same image with the two settlements kept apart, with some distance between them?"

The longest pause between replies follows, and it might begin to seem like no answer will come at all. Finally, a reply does come. As single image of the Giants standing just beyond the tent city, the caves on the other side.

"That would work, I think." The XO gives Illyanna's latest idea a bit of a nod, if for no other reason than to give her something to work on while they wait for the next transmission. And it is quite a wait, it would seem. And as before there is a pause from Eisley after they reply, but this is only a few seconds. And here is when she finally cracks a smile. "Call up the picture of your brother shooting the sailfin. Turn the sailfin into a giant."

And Illyanna proceeds to work on the "peaceful coexistence" pictures, and she's almost done when the image of the Giants shows up. *Blink*Blink*. Eisley's instructions would explain how the image is read, and Illyanna again works her magic by bringing various images up in different windows and splicing them together. The end result? A rather heroic display by her crazy brother, blasting a Giant rather than a poor Sailfin. With another press of the SEND button, the image is gone. "This should be interesting."

The last reply is a steady series of images. One shows the human population establishing their colony, always on the opposite side of the lake. The second shows the spider robots and the tripods dwelling within the caverns. The third pulls back, showing the human colony on one side of the lake and empty plains eventually leading to caverns and the tripod colony on the other side. The last image shows humans in the caverns, the first few of which are being hacked to pieces by tripods while the spiders sit idle nearby.

"Give them that second image back," says Eisley. "And the sequence you've been working on." Which is roughly the same idea, but the humanized version sent back with the spider version. "And then I think that we can be satisfied with this first contact scenario; package it up and transmit it to the Genesis for the Captain to review."

Illyanna nods, efficiently extracting the second image on the 'inbox', and slotting it into the sequence of a single human and a single Tripod on either side of the lake, followed by one showing the two settlements set apart. "Image sent." She notes once it's gone, before picking up her datapad. "Eleven, encrypt communication log and images, transmit to Natasha."

A single, simple symbol is sent back in reply. Illyanna would recognize it as their number for zero. Static follows.

Eisley lets out another breath and so sounds almost relieved. The zero must be taken to mean the end of communications, because she doesn't request anything further to be sent. Instead… "Thank you, Shevchenko. That was an impressive feat." Hacking a bio-organic signal between alien monsters and robots? Hell yeah.

"Don't mention it, ma'am." Illyanna stretches, now that 'First Contact' is finished and done. She didn't even realize how tense she's been! "I'm pretty happy how this turned out." Because she's pretty firm in the 'make love, not war' camp. "So, assuming we've made nice with our neighbours, what's our next step?" Beat. "I have to admit, I'm itching to see if the spiders are open to some… tech exchange."

"Now we resume our exploration of the planet, and continue to try and determine whether it is suitable for habitation, even with potentially homicidal aliens living across the lake." That sounds very much like a tomorrow problem, honestly. Eisley shakes her head, not dismissing the idea, but also not immediately embracing it. "If you think you can come up with a way to inquire about such an exchange, I would be willing to consider it."

Illyanna bobs her head thoughtfully. "Right. I'll make sure I won't be digging around their database." Because she's also itching to do that. Instead, she turns to her datapad again. "Eleven, save bio-organic frequency as Frequency 007. Maintain open frequency for future incoming messages." With that, she rises to her feet and stretches some more. "Mind if I go get some sleep, ma'am? I've been up nineteen hours…"

"Of course." The Commander offers up one more singular nod to punctuate the end of this conversation. "Baring any further complications, I want you off duty until the next planetary day." Mandatory leave time! Woohoo! She smiles for real this time, though the expression is probably pretty easy to miss. "And be sure to complement your brother on his shooting. I expect the same level of expert marksmanship if the Giants ever -do- show up for real."

Her eyes widen slightly in surprise. Almost as much the mandatory leave part as the fact that the XO actually smiles for real. "Yes ma'am!" Again, she goes for the over-the-top salute. "Well, maybe after I take a bath. I think I'm starting to smell." She lapses into murmuring again as she heads off. In fact, she lifts an arm and sniffs under it as she walks!


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