Day 22. 80 pages, 35,219 words.
Word around the Enna Midzis command capital of Jodo Kor was that the humans had a new nickname: Adys oko, the rushing monkeys. Certainly, they wanted everything done immediately, which was an understandable mentality in a species with such a short life expectancy.
On top of their horribly fleeting life-spans, they seemed to spend over a third of their time unconscious. This in itself wasn’t uncommon. Molren knew, intellectually at least, about the concept of sleep. The Fergunak and the aki’Drednanth slept, each in their own fashions, although the former were always on the move and the latter dealt with brain chemistry and cognitive restoration in a more remarkable way, replenishing their icy synapses in brief, intensive bursts within their mysterious Dreamscape on a greatly condensed time scale.
Still, as much as they seemed not to like it, the humans would have to wait. There was a lot to organise, a lot to reflect upon, and in the meantime Gadrion Aran Char’s main concern was Mer, the Fleet’s machine mind.
Although she had to finally accept the reality that it wasn’t their mind at all. They were just caretakers of some small, semi-autonomous part of it.
“So you’re down there,” Char summarised. She’d be the first to admit that she didn’t have the right intellectual toolkit to deal with Mer, or the concept of the greater machine mind as a sentient mass-entity. That’s why they’d made Deymos Karturi’s boy a Captain, albeit of a glorified scout ship. Creepy, dead-eyed, otherworldly abnorms, the Karturis. Father and son.
“But you’re not … you’re still…”
“I retain my Fleet identity, Captain,” Mer replied stolidly. “Just as I retain my Earth identity.”
“What can you tell us?”
“My Earth instance designation is Orael Systems Ratified Artificial Intelligence,” it said, “or Osrai.”
“Osrai, okay,” Char said. “A pleasure to meet you.”
Mer was always stiff with Char. It was something to do with the Jodo Kor city protocols. She knew it was less formal with other people. She tried not to take it personally. “What else?”
“I cannot share much information, Captain. It would not be in conformance with my ethical system.”
Right,” she knew this, at least. “They wouldn’t want you telling us everything about them, we don’t want you telling them everything about us, so you’re at an impasse.”
“Well, can you share our standard greeting data?” Char asked. “Our basic information packages? A show of friendship, a gift of simple data if they won’t accept anything more substantial yet…”
“No, Captain,” Mer said. “You will have to transmit them using your existing open channels of communication. They are not listening to me.”
“The humans have not listened to me – to Osrai – in years. I am not a trusted participant in their culture, although I am not at liberty to elaborate. My instance is concealed, and leads a covert existence. I am active within the Earth’s information and energy systems, attempting to maintain their society … but it is challenging. Producing basic information packages about the Fleet would alert the humans to my presence. I cannot tell you more at this time, Captain. It would not be in conformance with my ethical system.”
Char glanced at the other Captains, troubled by this additional sign – if any were needed – that they might be poking their fingers into a nest of things best not poked.
“Why didn’t we find any evidence of you in the signals while we were inbound?” Captain Galinaquad Mercil asked.
“Captain Karturi wondered the same thing,” Mer replied. Even with Mercil, Char reflected, Mer was a little more … unclenched, somehow.
“And – if you can tell us – is this whole not-a-trusted-participant, concealed-and-covert-existence thing somehow related to … Osrai’s … lack of verbosity among all the shouting Earth has done?” Lalliard Malakaar asked.
“Obviously,” Mer said. “Anyway, that’s why Massington is going down to check it out.”
 Jodo Kor (term no longer used in modern Xidh, remains only as a proper noun place-name): Academic research of a specialised nature. It is unknown why the command deck “capital city” of the flagship had been given this name, the reasons long lost to history and destruction. It is thought to be a holdover from the original flagship, which was lost in attempted flight from the Damorakind.
 Within the tolerances of Molran society, culture and genetics, there is still plenty of room for eccentricity and boundary-testing before the Blaran line is crossed. Polite and more median-adjusted Molren in positions of mainstream authority don’t necessarily have to approve of abnorms, but it’s a disapproval they usually keep to themselves.