Offline writing isn't working, so I may as well just do it on here. You'd think being unemployed would make it easier, but no, it does not.
It turned out I would have to wait a while to get inside. We humans were to be housed in a custom built building, designed to human specifications. Although the difference in anatomy of our two species isn't huge, our social activities were, and therefore our housing needed to be designed with that in mind.
And no doubt a custom built building allowed for custom built spy equipment.
Once we had all exited the shuttle, a whole host of robots trundled or flew over and started tending to it. From close up, you could see just how alien it was. Being atmospheric, it was basically a giant wing, but that was where the similarities to a human ship ended. It looked organic, like it had been grown instead of being built. Instead of the sleek metal lines we were used to, it had a more dimpled look, and looked rock like. Once we were out and the airlock had closed, there were no visible holes in the surface. They just closed up as if they were never there. When a robot came up with what looked like a refuelling hose, the ship seemed to suck it in, rather then the robot attach it.
I had time to take all that in as my fellow passengers made their way towards our host, which was where our drone had floated towards. Once we got there, the Iconian drew out a slate and touched a button on it. A new voice emerged from the drone, which was now floating above the Iconian's left shoulder.
"Please follow this drone to your accommodation. Each of you has been assigned a room. More information will be forthcoming. Your belongings will follow shortly."
With that short pronouncement, the Iconian turned and glided away towards the library. With a reluctant glance at him gliding away, we followed the drone. Paulo had made his way next to me, and we chatted excitedly about the library which we were leaving behind, heading to our accommodation which had been hidden behind the now stationary shuttle.
"I told you it would be grown Ian," he crowed, in relation to the glittering purple library. "There's no way they could have built it. You saw the shuttle! Obviously grown," he concluded triumphantly, continuing our argument from the journey. Given the proliferation of Precursor Libraries on Iconian worlds, it was a common theory that the Iconian's had a way of building them. Our debate had raged over whether they were built, as the Iconian's were known to use robots for most common tasks; or grown, given the organic nature of their ships. It looked like I'd picked the wrong side.
"I think you're right Paulo. Still, how do they get the knowledge from one library to another? Something that complex can't just remember everything as a racial memory!" I was sticking to my central argument about why it had to be built. We continued like that, going over our points like we had on the voyage until Carla interrupted us.
"You're both right," she said. "Or at least, your two positions aren't mutually exclusive. Genetic engineering at a level we don't understand?" she suggested. I shared a look with Paulo, and we happily took the chance to try out our arguments on a new person as we followed the drone.
After settling into our accommodation, our lessons were to start the next day. Each of us had our own drone, but unlike the one we had become familiar with on the flight ours were ground-based. They balanced on a single ball, and seemed a lot slower in their thinking then the original Iconian drone.
If we thought we were going to get in the library on the first day, we were mistaken. The Iconian was waiting for us in the central section of our housing, which after breakfast had morphed into a semi-circular lecture hall. Once again it was holding a data slate, and waited until we were all sitting before pressing a button on the slate. The hovering drone, once again above his left shoulder, spoke for him.
"Please take the headphone from your personal assistant, and we can begin".
Our 'personal assistants' turned out to be the drones that we had in our rooms. They had followed us out of our rooms, getting in the way and underfoot all morning. When we had sat down, they had powered there way over to their assigned person. Sometimes over the feet of people who weren't quick enough to get out of the way. Now, a small drawer had opened in each, and inside was what looked like a pebble. Paulo and I exchanged glances.
"Is that the headphone?" he whispered to me. I looked down at the Iconian, who appeared to be still waiting patiently.
"It must be," I replied, "but I don't see how it's going to stay in the ear."
A quick glance around showed that everyone else was still at a loss as to what to do. At that point I remembered how integrated the Iconian's had made themselves with technology, and took a closer look at the pebble. Sure enough, after picking it up it looked more like a cone. Hoping I was right, and trying not to look too foolish (especially in front of Carla, who I noticed was looking my way), I inserted the cone point first into my ear.
At first nothing happened. Then I could feel it expanding to fill my ear canal. It didn't hurt, but it was very weird. Once it was fitting snugly, a voice spoke and said "Communicator Active" in a neutral tone. Paulo was looking at me to see what had happened. After a momentary loss of hearing from that ear, everything seemed to be back to normal.
"It doesn't seem to have done anything" I shrugged. I pressed against my ear to try to take it out, but the voice came back on.
"Please leave the communicator in the ear until lesson conclusion."
Judging by Paulo's blank look, he hadn't heard anything, which meant that the thing in my ear had spoken directly to me.
"Paulo, I think their translation algorithms need some work. This is the 'headphone'," I told him, pointing at his own pebble/cone.
Around the class, everyone else was starting to fit the little cones into their ears. I noticed that Carla already had done so, probably after watching me. In short order, they were all in. And the Iconian began to speak. At least, we started to hear him speak, as suddenly a new voice came on and it appeared to be coming from his direction.
"Welcome to Weber V, children of men. We have asked you here in peace, to enable talk between our two mighty races. We are the most ancient race in the known galaxy, and holders of the legacy of the mighty Arnor. Humans are new, brash, and resourceful. Like the Arnor before us, we intend to raise the younger races to their rightful positions in the galaxy, without committing the same mistakes."
Paulo leaned across to whisper to me, "Is he referring to the Yor?" My answer was interrupted by the voice from the front.
"Yes master Paulo," he said, looking directly at my friend, "I am referring to the Yor. Here on Weber V we will teach you this history of the Galaxy, as we know it, so you can return to your people and spread knowledge. The Yor were changed, and have one purpose in their single-minded intelligence. The wiping out of all organic life. With human help, this can be prevented. But that is not the start of the path, that is the goal. The start of the path is learning about our culture. Ask questions if you must."
And with that, our lessons began.