THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 70

THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 70

Then she got hold of herself. She and Lliant could die in the next few blinks, that was true. But it was also true that without aid, they were soon to perish anyway, as indeed were all their kind, scrambling even now back on Valeron to send off a few of their number to dubious safety. Nothing was more certain than the fact that the Ekhat would return to extract vengeance for their lost ships.

The three were staring at her, two of them Jao, the other, one of the unnamed aliens. She noticed, off to the side, the newcomers had rounded up a few Anj and were guarding the little serviles, rather than exterminating them. How very strange.

Even stranger was that the aliens evidently intended to keep one of the Ekhat alive, even though they’d severed all of its limbs. For what possible purpose? she wondered.

But, whatever the aliens’ intent, they had not fired upon her or Lliant. So at least they were not purely murderous. With a great effort, she put aside her useless fear and then jetted toward the alien who seemed to be in charge, the one with the yellow thatch of fur on its small head. Lliant followed, she noted with approval. If they were to have any chance of surviving, she would have to find a way to appeal to this alien creature.

****

“Heads up, Major!” Burgeson called.

Tully turned to find the captured pair sailing through the debris field toward him.

“They do not seem to be armed,” Kaln said as she trailed after them, good ear pinned, weapon ready. Nam krinnu ava Terra came too, his gun trained upon the aliens. “And, Major Tully, one of them managed to say so — in Jao.”

In Jao? Tully studied the creatures. Did the Ekhat perhaps keep some of these — whatever they were — around as linguists or translators?

“Stop,” he said in Jao, as the one in front neared. It complied, employing its suit jets for station-keeping. “How are you called?”

“I am Jihan,” it said. He could see a strange fleshy serrated corona rippling across its head through the suit’s helmet. Its skin was a dusky silver, its eyes gleaming black slits. If the two of them had stood face to face on the ground, it would have been head and shoulders taller. “You — rule Jao,” it said, sweeping an arm toward Kaln and Nam, who both promptly looked affronted. “Jao — our — old enemy.”

For a translator, Tully thought, the words certainly weren’t coming very fluently.

Then it straightened, raising its head, seeming to tap into an inner store of words. “The Lleix have proposal,” it said slowly, in heavily accented Jao, “one to set your people free to come into own.”

“It must belong to the Ekhat,” Burgeson said in English. “It’s just as freaking nuts as they all are!”

“You already fierce warriors,” Jihan continued carefully in Jao, obviously producing each syllable with a great deal of effort to get the sounds right. “No one could dispute. The Lleix believe you great people. You have to reach for the freedom Ekhat masters never allowed.”

Mallu joined them, his ears wavering. “What is this?”

“I have no idea,” Tully said. “Do you recognize the species?”

“No,” Mallu said. “But the Melody may have many client races we have never encountered.”

“Jao-slaves!” The alien, Jihan, gestured at the Krant-Captain, then turned to Tully. “You rule now! You!”

Kaln’s good ear twitched. “It believes we are your slaves,” she said, and even with his poor ability to read postures, Tully was sure he detected a sudden intent-to-commit-mischief in her lines. The Senior-Tech jetted between him and the two captives. “You are correct,” she said and pointed at herself, Mallu, and Nam, “we are but lowly Jao slaves.” She swept her arm back toward Tully. “That, however, is Tully, master of many great ships and eater of Ekhat!”

“Now, hold on –” Tully began. Since first accepting Jao into his jinau unit, he knew full well that what passed for Jao humor was about as far removed from dry wit as you could ask for. And once they got amused by something, they almost always took it too far.

The alien stiffened all the way up to its corona. “This very one — eat — the great devils?”

“Yes — while still alive!” Kaln said, positively gleeful. She pointed to immobile body of the one surviving Ekhat. “Eat it still alive!”

Tully winced. Even if this creature were only an Ekhat servile, there wasn’t any point in deceiving it. He raised his voice. “Kaln, this is not the time for –”

“We needing — help,” Jihan said, its fleshy crown rippling. “All Lleix — needing help — now!”

Its companion hung back, regarding them with an inscrutable black gaze. Maybe they weren’t Ekhat serviles at all, but captives. How was he supposed to figure this out? “You are Lleix?” he said, struggling to pronounce the name. The closest he could come was “Laysh.”

“Yes, yes!” the alien cried.

Tully rolled his eyes. He was good at fighting, but he sure as hell wasn’t trained for this. “Are there more Lleix on this ship?” he asked. If so, he thought, poor buggers, they were most likely all dead.

“No, on planet!” Jihan said, waving an arm. “Valeron! On surface!”

“But– ” he began.

“Lord Tully rules twenty planets!” Kaln broke in. “He brews soup from lakes and straightens rivers with his bare hands!”

Tully turned to the Krant-Captain for assistance, but Mallu was looking distinctly amused. Jao humor. Right.

“Kaln, go back to the assault craft!” he said desperately. If he understood the alien correctly, at least one of the worlds in this system was inhabited by these Lleix which made this some sort of First Contact situation. That meant Kaln was screwing the proverbial pooch.

The tech gazed at him, eyes flickering with merry green fire. “Pool Buntyam,” she said. “Tully is like Pool Buntyam!”

“Great,” Tully said under his breath. Whose bright idea had it been to tell the Krants tall tales?

Well. His.

“And then there is Bab the green ox –” Kaln continued.

“Shut — up!” Tully said and glared Kaln into blessed silence. He closed his eyes for a second, trying to think. “This is way above my pay grade,” he said. “We need to contact Caitlin and Wrot.”

“Cat-lin and Rot?” Jihan said. “These rule — as well?”

“Yes, yes, Caitlin!” Kaln said, still clearly on a roll and enjoying herself far too much to let it go. “Queen of the Universe, ruler of all and possessor of many many fine green ox! Wrot is of course her faithfullest slave. She lives on a comet and uses stars to cook comestibles!”

“Queen?” Jihan said. Its corona fluttered.

“A queen,” Kaln burbled on, “is a female ruler who –”

Tully reached over and punched Kaln’s radio off. Then they all stared at one another, human, Jao, and Lleix. How in holy hell had Kaln even heard of “lords” and “queens?” He’d suggested that Caewithe Miller tell the Krants a few simple tall tales, not relate a goddamned entire fairy tale book!

He should have known better. With a name like “Caewithe,” the lieutenant had to come from a family with one of those Celtic fetishes. Probably got fed ancient mythology with her mother’s milk, and cut her teeth on legends as she was growing up. Could read runes by moonlight and recite the Iliad from beginning to end.

This, he thought grimly, was going to take some explaining.

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20 Responses to THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 70

  1. ij70 says:

    Very funny. This snippet is a joke, right?

  2. Tabasco says:

    Yes, one where there is a quite literal punchline.

    Poor Tully. Of all the times to have Jao jokers pop up on him…

  3. telra says:

    I love Jao jokes. They are the best.

  4. robert says:

    Oh, Eric. This is like in Torch of Freedom where you kept up a running gag about historical figures being misinterpreted. Poor Jihan. I hope the Lleix have a sense of humor but so far we have not seen any evidence of it.

  5. Miguel Vargas says:

    Now the Lleix are going to desperately need a guild called the Terralore probably best headed by one such as Jihan….poor Jihan. If she though the Ekhat were insane…I think we win that title hands down because our insanity is “perfectly logical” only after a fashion and a lot of time spent studying us….poor Lleix!

  6. Miguel Vargas says:

    Never entered my mind how such clan/guild/house might behave. They might just become the most coveted house to belong to. With the Lleix learning things like communism and democracy and socialism amongst others it might inspire the “untouchables” without houses to belong to be nudged by this cool Terralore house to join them because this study of Terra might take quite a while and will most def need quite a lot of bodies without using standard cultural practices because Terralore simply wont function that way, it just can’t…..traditions be cursed!

  7. Grant says:

    Ok… I know the Krant are supposed to be backwater yokels, and I wasn’t too surprised they wouldn’t recognize a Lleix on sight considering the unlikelyhood of your average Jao spending any time studying visual records of a species they thought was 1000 years extinct… but they’ve never *heard* of Lleix? Jihan has THREE TIMES now identified herself, in Jao, as Lleix, and none of the Jao present have reacted with even the slightest recognition. I thought the Lleix were supposed to be a fairly big deal in Jao history considering they are held as being responsible for beginning the process of freeing the entire free Jao race from the Ekhat. And none of the Jao present have even heard of them before???

    Unless the Krant are *so* backwards they don’t even have any significantly developped education system for their young… not even the ones who become ship captains of one of the precious few ships the entire kochan possesses, I’m leaning strongly towards this being yet another instance of self-consistency in the plot being sacrificed so some desired interaction could take place. In this case Kaln goofing off… which there’s no way happens if she even suspects who the Liexx are.

  8. robert says:

    @7 I think all the Jao except the Bond have never been told about the Lleix (or any of the other exterminated races) and what happened during their (Jao’s) enslavement by the Ekhat. The subject is very likely just not taught or discussed by other than the Bond. Sorta like Austria’s role in WW II being taught to Austrian young. Oh, we were an occupied country. Uh, huh. It is a subject of shame and that is not considered a GOOD THING to feel if you are a Jao. As we have seen.

    Instead of a Terralore how about the Lleix becoming another race of the Terra Taif? I really would prefer that. And there are not very many of them.

  9. DougL says:

    I agree that most Jao may well be ignorant of the Lleix, although that makes not telling Dannet anything about her mission rather silly. What’s she going to do if/when Wrot tells her “These are the Lleix?” if she’s never heard of the Lleix.

    Dannet saying “Why should I care, ignore the primitives, let us run away before more Ekhat show up” seems altogether too plausible if she’s never heard of Lleix before. Denying her the information that it MAY be Lleix when you’re not sure isn’t all that bad, it avoids pre-biasing her decisions. But if she’s never heard of the Lleix then her unbiased decisions are GUARANTEED to be uninformed also. Bad.

    The bulk of the Jao may be ignorant of the Lleix, but if so I don’t think much of the Bond’s decision to send them out in ignorance. (Of course this is the same bond that deliberately sent one of their own planetary governors insane, I’m not likely to think much of them regardless.)

    In any case, this whole thing feels badly out of place to me. We haven’t had any prior indications of a sense of humor that overides all normal good sense from the Jao, and Tully gave multiple direct orders, clear unambigous orders, and then had to cut off a subordinate’s radio, in a combat zone, because he was being ignored. He told Kaln to stop, he told her to return to the assault craft, nothing. No support from her immediate superior either. Kaln kept up the joke even AFTER it was clear her superior’s superior felt that this was above his pay grade and indicated a desire to contact his own bosses.

    Her sense of the timeflow may tell her this isn’t combat. But appearently it can’t tell her that this is still important.

    But gosh, you’re a bottom level tech, and the major has just indicated that this is way above his pay grade and that he wants to refer it back to HQ for consideration by his superiors. Naturally you keep the joke up on an open channel after two clear orders to stop. Jokes told to another Jao from her group on a different channel might well be reasonable, but over an open channel with both Tully and the aliens on it? After multiple orders to stop.

    You’re seriously telling me that a sense of humor that this sort of crap is SURVIVABLE in Jao society? Excecuting her for mutiny would be only mildly overboard at this point by human standards. She’s deliberately screwing with communications discipline, and screwing with Major Tully’s attempt to talk to someone from outside their TO, and has ignored at least two direct orders to stop, all in a combat zone.

    I’m not at all sure a human court would rule against Tully if he shot her dead for mutiny (he wouldn’t command again in a human organization, but I’m very unsure that there’d be any conviction for murder), and Jao appear to be far far less tollerant of horsing arround when it matters.

  10. DougL says:

    I agree that most Jao may well be ignorant of the Lleix, although that makes not telling Dannet anything about her mission rather silly. What’s she going to do if/when Wrot tells her “These are the Lleix?” if she’s never heard of the Lleix.

    Dannet saying “Why should I care, ignore the primitives, let us run away before more Ekhat show up” seems altogether too plausible if she’s never heard of Lleix before. Denying her the information that it MAY be Lleix when you’re not sure isn’t all that bad, it avoids pre-biasing her decisions. But if she’s never heard of the Lleix then her unbiased decisions are GUARANTEED to be uninformed also. Bad.

    The bulk of the Jao may be ignorant of the Lleix, but if so I don’t think much of the Bond’s decision to send them out in ignorance. (Of course this is the same bond that deliberately sent one of their own planetary governors insane, I’m not likely to think much of them regardless.)

    In any case, this whole thing feels badly out of place to me. We haven’t had any prior indications of a sense of humor that overides all normal good sense from the Jao, and Tully gave multiple direct orders, clear unambigous orders, and then had to cut off a subordinate’s radio, in a combat zone, because he was being ignored. He told Kaln to stop, he told her to return to the assault craft, nothing. No support from her immediate superior either. Kaln kept up the joke even AFTER it was clear her superior’s superior felt that this was above his pay grade and indicated a desire to contact his own bosses.

    Her sense of the timeflow may tell her this isn’t combat. But appearently it can’t tell her that this is still important.

    But gosh, you’re a bottom level tech, and the major has just indicated that this is way above his pay grade and that he wants to refer it back to HQ for consideration by his superiors. Naturally you keep the joke up on an open channel after two clear orders to stop. Jokes told to another Jao from her group on a different channel might well be reasonable, but over an open channel with both Tully and the aliens on it? After multiple orders to stop.

    You’re seriously telling me that a sense of humor that this sort of crap is SURVIVABLE in Jao society? Excecuting her for mutiny would be only mildly overboard at this point by human standards. She’s deliberately screwing with communications discipline, and screwing with Major Tully’s attempt to talk to someone from outside their TO, and has ignored at least two direct orders to stop, all in a combat zone.

    I’m not at all sure a human court would rule against Tully if he shot her dead for mutiny (he wouldn’t command again in a human organization, but I’m very unsure that there’d be any conviction for murder), and Jao appear to be far far less tollerant of horsing arround when it matters.

  11. Grant says:

    I’m sorry, this “the Jao outside the Bond are ignorant of the Liexx” angle doesn’t fly. Even Caitlin knew about the Liexx, and knew about them long before the incident in the nebula or the Bond’s suspicion the Liexx might have survived and been involved in it. That’s how she guessed this trip was about the Liexx in the first place. They were being discussed by Jao on earth all the way back in the first book. One of the exchanges between Aille and Yaut when they’re discussing how coming up against the human military tech had exposed weaknesses in their own was to wonder what the old records of the battles against the Liexx would have shown. It was one of the first thoughts that jumped into his mind. And Wrot had no difficulty immediately grasping the reference.

    And then there’s Snippet 7 from this book:

    =============================================================================
    “Ronz hesitated as the waves rolled in and in. The wind gusted, carrying the acrid scent of seaweed and rotting fish. “I think the signs point to the Lleix.”

    Wrot’s mind whirled. Everyone down to the youngest Jao crecheling knew that name. It was the stuff of legend. The Lleix had been a powerful force in the history of the Jao. “Them? Are you sure?””
    ===============================================================================

    EVERYONE down to the youngest Jao crechling. That’s how extensive knowledge of the LLiex role in Jao history is among the Jao. And yet here we are, a Liexx has identified themselves as such, in Jao, in front of multiple Jao… THREE TIMES… and not a blink so far. Just so we can get a comic relief scene? Come on. Someone there had better have a “DUH!” moment and wake up in a second here or we’re going to have to write off the Krant as the most hopelessly ignorant numbskulls in all the Jao empire if they can’t even educate their prominent members like their ship captains on something considered that fundamentally basic to Jao identity.

    No Jao are supposed to be ignorant of the Leixx. They’re the Jao saviors of legend. The people that tried to free to Jao from the Ekhat and were exterminated BY the Jao before their attempt bore fruit. They’re like the great racial regret of the entire species for cripes sake.

  12. saul says:

    – loosing face. A good reason to keep the L’s secret would be the risk of failure. The bond hardly wants to say ohh look, we found them, whoops, we let them get exterminated again. They want either a success, or a secret. Thus, no one is told until the outcome is known.

    – The L’s might be hard to recognize in spacesuits. Especially the patched together things they now wear. Especially if the history portrayed them planetside rather than in space. How many American’s suck at history, even the elementary stuff? With no frame of reference, the Krant might just assume its one of many primitive races, and not even consider the possibility of an ancient legend coming to life.

    – The fact that the L’s and Tully both said their name is not a major issue. Have you ever heard a someone with really bad accent try to repeat an unknown word? The L word for their race might not even be exactly the same as the Jao word.

  13. Grant says:

    The Bond is not an organization that seems terribly concerned with the concept of “losing face”. Maintaining their neutrality and thus their credibility to mediate between all Jao factions… yes. “Face”? No. And there would be no face to lose anyway. They thought they recognized something suspicious in the sensor data, they sent a ship to investigate. Whatever happens after that the Bond has no particular risk. If the mission goes badly the mission goes badly. It’s not their people on the mission. They kept their suspicions secret because they didn’t want to provoke some kind of over-reaction among all the other Jao when they didn’t even know if the Liexx were actually there or not.

    I have no doubt the Liexx would be hard to recognize visually to most Jao whether they were in spacesuits or not. No Jao has seen one in a thousand years unless they have access to visual records. Knowing about them and studying them to sufficient degree to know them by sight are two very different things.

    However, the Jao word for the Liexx is pretty obviously the Liexx word for themselves and that only happens if you take the word from the Liexx in the first place so their pronunciations should be the same. Now yes it’s been a long time and the sounds have probably shifted a bit but they should still be recognizable. Something as central as an entire species name for themselves in the only language the entire population speaks isn’t going to be *that* prone to drifting pronunciations on the Liexx side. And the Jao aren’t exactly innovators who are going to go messing with their language a lot, they’ll learn to say it the same way it’s always been said because that’s how they do everything.. so it’s not going to be drifting too quick there either. But if the next snippet suddenly has one of the Jao going “Wait… that sounds almost kinda like… nah… could it be?” or something similar then I’ll consider this explained satisfactorily.

    If however all the Krant present just plain somehow had no idea what a “Liexx” was that’s just ridiculous considering all prior information we had on the significance of the Liexx in Jao history and society.

  14. WCG says:

    Note that the Bond was very careful to keep quiet what they expected to find in this system (i.e. the Lleix). Furthermore, none of these Jao have a clue that the Lleix weren’t completely exterminated long ago. It’s just ancient history to them. The idea that these are the same people as the ancient Lleix wouldn’t necessarily leap to mind.

    And since Tully pronounces it as “Laysh,” it’s clear that there are some accent problems here, too. Well, what would you expect? Jihan has never spoken to a Jao before. This is, after all, a first encounter between aliens who have huge misconceptions at first.

    So I find it plausible enough that these soldiers wouldn’t immediately connect strange aliens called the “Laysh” with the species they thought were exterminated ages ago. It’s not all that unlikely. I mean, the Jao aren’t supposed to have much of an imagination, and they’ve been told all their lives that the Lleix are dead. Why would they assume that’s not true?

    However, I would expect the truth to hit all of them like a bombshell. As Grant points out, it’s the stuff of legend – legend come alive again.

  15. Grant says:

    It just said that the closest Tully personally could get to the pronuncuiation was “Laysh” because he was struggling with duplicating the sound. Not that the *Liexx* were unable to pronounce their own name properly. And the Jao aren’t just hearing Tully mangling it, they’re hearing Jihan say it properly. It’s all happening on what is obviously an open channel.

    And yes, there was no reason for them to suspect they’d actually encounter Liexx, but after somene whacks you over the head with “Hey, we’re Liexx” three freaking times someone there either needs to have a little eureka moment and fairly soon or we need some explanation for why none of the Krant are displaying the slightest recognition of who the Liexx are. The next snippet either better contain *something* like Mallu saying “woah, wait a minute… did they just say **LIEXX?????” or a plausible explanation beyond inexcusible ignorance for why Jihan identifying herself isn’t producing an extremely pronounced reaction from the Krant.

    Also, on top of all that I second Doug’s objection to Kaln’s behavior. She may be an abnormal hillbilly of a Jao, and I wouldn’t put a joke like this past her in more appropriate circumstances, but this was just ridiculous.

  16. saul says:

    Different languages have different sounds. She does not speak Jao well at all, and it might be Extremely hard for Jao to pronounce/hear the correct word for Liexx. It might also be very hard for a L to pronounce the J word for Liexx. Thus, whatever she says, it won’t sound the same to Jao.

    You also assume the word used for Leixx in the archives is the same word that the Liexx use for themselves. Guess what, the Japanese don’t call themselves Japanese.

    Another option, For all we know, the Jao language modifies the name of an extinct species (ie past tense). Thats the word the Jao use, while Jihan is using the word for existing species, a word no Jao would have heard in a thousand years, unless a scholar.

  17. saul says:

    Finally, the last time Jao saw a L was under EK control. What do you want to bet the EK’s tend to purge the archives of any records of extinct species. It would be very easy to Justify the Jao only having some word of mouth records etc. After all, didn’t it take hundreds of years to break free after the last point of contact.

  18. saul says:

    finally….ps :)

    Don’t forget the Jao were taught language by a species who’s entire existence revolves around music (or the beat of the universe or something).

    The L’s consider music evil. What do you want to bet its really hard for them to communicate.

    Especially for people, like Jihan, who only learned it as an adult, from extremely limited sources and without any interaction and very limited sources. Try understanding English spoken by a Japanese person who has never left Japan….and thats with years of training in highschool and lots of exposure via movies etc.

    Having said all of that, computers should be able to smooth out those problems….once its properly programmed.

  19. Grant says:

    Saul… when she’s saying “Liexx” she isn’t speaking Jao. She’s speaking Liexx. The Jao rather obviously got the name for their species from them or it wouldn’t be the same in both languages. Which it is (unless somenoe really screwed up writing this) since you don’t translate proper names when you’re writing something like this. If the word Jihan is saying is “Liexx” in the text and the word the Jao are saying is “Liexx” in the text then they’re both saying the same word, or else this section is really poorly written. So it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t speak Jao well. It’s like saying a Japanese person who doesn’t speak English will probably have trouble saying “sushi” without any regard for where the word came from in the first place.

    If the name for “Liexx” wasn’t pronounceable by the Jao then they wouldn’t have borrowed it and adopted it into their own vocabulary, they would have created their own name to call them and that would be (or damn well *should* be) indicated.

  20. saul says:

    Why is it obvious where the Jao got their word for the L’s from. Do you speak Jao? How would we know? All we know is how its referred to in English. When speaking English, you use the same word to refer to the same thing, regardless of what word other people use.

    Do you really think that the EK’s or their client races use a target species ‘real’ name as the word in EK or gifted to the Jao language?

    We say horse, but Russians and Japanese don’t. Thats three different words for the same thing.
    An English translation of a book with a conversation between a Russian and Japanese person will use the word Horse, even if neither person actually uses the word English word horse. This passage is an English translation of a Jao conversation, so it uses the English word Leixx.

    Even if the person uses a real name, ie Beijing, it would use the English term, not the correct Chinese word, the Japanese word, or the Russian word. Even if the later three were similar, they are not the same, and would easily be mistaken if you don’t expect them to say it.

    Hearing a sentence in a strong accent, you might be able to figure out words you expect, ie unarmed, but unexpected words can be unintelligible. Nouns even more so, as sentence structure may give less clues as to the word. ie I like asteroids.

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