tilly with the others part 21

They don't have a spoken conversation, not as such, not like some of the animals on this planet do. What we would call sound is involved, but other parts of the spectrum too, and other energies.

If one of them were to attempt to identify itself in sound, it would say its name is something like Qxz, although "name" itself is problematic. These beings simply number themselves from a central registry. They understand that we would think it draconian and cold. They see it as a celebration of individuality — each of them lives in the complete certainty no-one has ever been called what they are called. They find our naming conventions... limiting.

The other one directly involved in the incident — for safety reasons, they prefer to work in the field in pairs — would say its name is Xzq. That's why they partnered up. They are close in age, and so close in numbers.

They don't organise themselves the way we do. The whole concept of "take me to your leader" would be very difficult for them to grasp. They don't have an expression for "importance". The closest approximation would be more like our concept of "appropriate."

Unfortunately for Qxz and Xzq, what they have just done is very inappropriate, and the rest of the away team is working with them through a review of the incident.

"Using materialisation in front of the subject, direct communication with the subject, attempting direct communication with the subject via direct communication with non-subjects..." Zqx recited some more rules, mostly to do with visual appearance. "That's an awful lot of rules broken."

"The subject was in distress," Qxz communicated. "Our presence comforts her."

"Per the visit recording, it didn't comfort her this time. The action was not appropriate. Furthermore," Zqx continued, "the action was not appropriate last time you used that appearance, back when the subject was still maturing."

Qxz and Xzq scanned for evidence of sympathy from their team-mates, who had consensually elected to remain silent and let Zqx do all the communicating. Xzq briefly believed that Bqz, the eldest member of the away team, felt sorry for Xzq, but then it realised the tint was wrong and really Bqz was feeling a bit sorry for itself. It was hard to smell, but Xzq suspected it was because Bqz didn't want to endure the review. Xzq didn't blame Bqz.

"We have previously discussed, and we all agree," Zqx indicated the rest of the team, "that either you two start following the rules, or else we will search the registry for appropriate replacements. This project is nearing its end. We do not wish for it to be appropriate to start all over again on this planet."

Bqz flashed briefly.

"Ah yes, thank you for reminding me," added Zqx. "Also, many of us are anxious to return home and communicate directly with our relations. Much as we wish this project to come to an appropriate conclusion, of course."

"I understand," Xzq communicated.

Qxz smelled a little hostile, but after a brief pause it communicated it understood as well.

"Is there anything else to discuss?" communicated Zqx.

There was not. The group dispersed. Qxz and Xzq ensured they were in a private area, where their communications could not be perceived by the others.

"It was inappropriate to understand so quickly," communicated Qxz.

"But I do understand," replied Xzq. "We are not them. We should not spend so much time acting like them."

"The portal was in the wrong place," stated Qxz.

"The portal was in the wrong place," agreed Xzq. "It should have been detected at installation that the altitude did not match the location. Poor communication all around."

"How can we communicate the replacement portal?"

Xzq indicated indifference. "As the group has communicated to us," it replied. "We follow the rules."