As soon as the huge silvery sphere became visible in the sky, descending calmly and quickly as though it were rolling down through the air, there was panic all over the landmound's surface. All of her children abandoned their plows and pluckers, and ran in organized lines for shelter. Even Cripplemind - who'd simply been staring up at the silvery sphere in fascination, unable to realize the threat it represented - was seized by two of his stronger 1/2-relations, his mother and brother, and forcibly dragged inside.
Oldgrandmother stayed outside, just in case there was something she could do, somehow. She was long past the age of reproduction, and all this landmound was filled with her children, far more than 1-fold relation in sum; the protective instinct in her was strong. Even so, she already knew that in all probability she and all her kin-group would die when the silvery sphere landed. Her brain-fronds were already waving more frantically to dissipate the heat of her cognition, as she brought her full intelligence online to the highest point of energy-expenditure she could manage without immediately damaging herself.
So Oldgrandmother looked at the descending sphere, and thought, thought for her kin-group's life, as intensely as she had ever thought before.
In the Scrolls That Are Copied there were drawings of flying machines powered by the lift of heated air, which her children lacked the numbers to construct; very few landmounds were large enough to support that height of population. This silvery sphere was nothing like the drawings showed. Vastly larger, much faster, able to travel vertically and without caring for the wind. Its exterior, she could see ever more closely as the silvery sphere approached, shone as if the whole thing were an unthinkably expensive mass of ultra-high-quality metal.
Her grasp of physics offered no immediate theory of how the silvery sphere could operate in principle. Either unknown insights of great ingenuity had constructed it using known principles, or, more likely, its operation exploited previously unknown physical laws. It was obviously the product of a much higher technological and military productive capacity, and so it would kill her and all her children. There might be a conversation first, if the sphere's inhabitants were confident enough in their final superiority; and perhaps Oldgrandmother could find some incredible lie that would be believable, yet imply her kin-group should be left alive. She did not have much hope of it, but she would stay to the end and try; there were no better options.
The huge silvery sphere came to a halt, a field's length away from her, and halted in midair; then a strangely shaped structure floated out. It looked, at first sight, like a metallic shell that had been constructed around some unknown animal; one with two legs and two arms sprouting from a central torso, and some strange fifth appendage above it.
With an even greater shock than before, the thought came to Oldgrandmother's frantically working brain that the silvery sphere's maker might be a creature rather than a person - the aliens one of her distant ancestors had theorized. In the Scrolls That Are Copied, there were described experiments that could be reproduced to establish that the stars of the night sky gave off light spectrally similar to the light of the Sun; given this, it seemed likely that the stars were also suns, and could perhaps contain other planets, bearing their own life; which would then be shaped by natural selection to different forms, reflecting other environments or chances of genetic drift. The inferred distances between stars allowed no known means of traversing them; but the unknown answers to the many open questions about the nature of reality might allow it to be done by unknown means.
If that was the case, then not only Oldgrandmother and her children, but all the other people on the planet, would soon be destroyed and their resources taken. There was a comfort in thinking that at least her kin-group would not have lost the contest of relative fitness to others of her own species; in the end, all would obtain fitness 0, and her own score would be perfectly average.
The metallic shell, by hypothesis an alien's armor, floated towards her.
On the stubby fifth appendage above the center-of-mass, an image formed, like a moving version of a hyperrealistic drawing of a person. That small image showed a depiction of a stranger, in a posture that denoted Initiation of Non-Hostile Negotiation With A Potential Trade Partner.
The aliens would naturally communicate whatever statements they expected to benefit themselves the most, true or false, but even so lies could be informative. Pretending to trade might allow the aliens to discern whether her kin-group's landmound had any delicate resources to be taken by more careful subterfuge before extermination followed; they might not already know of the existence of such treasures as the Scrolls That Are Copied. As for why they might expect Oldgrandmother to act like she believed the subterfuge, they would of course be expecting her to try some strategem to save her kin-group from later extermination.
All of those obvious strategic thoughts flashed through her mind in moments, even as she arranged her own foretendrils to signal Possible Receptivity to Non-Hostile Trade.
"We come in peace," rang an obviously artificial voice, the sound originating from the same fifth appendage whose surface displayed that small artificial image of a person.
Why was the creature telling two distinct obvious lies through redundant words and posture, where one lie would serve? Were the alien's thought processes fundamentally different from those of a person in some way? This implied all manner of possible difficulties in thinking about the subject, but also any number of unguessable opportunities - though the logic of natural selection, and whatever competitions took place among the alien's own kind, suggested that there would be no easy opportunities to exploit, and her kin-group would still be slaughtered in the end. Unless, perhaps, the dual lie indicated some class of cognitive error that Oldgrandmother could exploit? Had the forces of natural selection been more gentle on this alien species, were they stupider than her own kind?
Part of Oldgrandmother's increasingly heated brain began to review the section of the Scrolls describing what her line of ancestry had deduced about the mechanics of natural selection. A shallow intuition suggested that a being with more powerful technology ought to be smarter. However, more complex theories might allow that those more relaxed selection pressures leading to the alien's hypothetical stupidity, could also correspond to whatever kinder planetary conditions had allowed its kin group to grow large enough, and survive long enough, to do more science than her own ancestral lineage and build correspondingly more advanced technology.
If so, the dominance of her world - perhaps of all the worlds around all the stars - would belong to whatever kin-group of her race most quickly learned to exploit this alien kin-group, seize their technology and productive capacity, and exterminate all competition on this world, followed by seizing and destroying the aliens' worlds.
"How many of your kin-group's silvery spheres are on this planet?" said Oldgrandmother as her first statement to the alien, adopting a posture of Request For Information To Facilitate Trade. If it was only this one silvery sphere, she could play cautiously and take her time. If there were many simultaneous visitors, she must be hasty and take risks, in order to gain an early position in the scramble that would come.
"Many," said the unnatural voice of the fifth appendage. "And we can guess the meaning of your selection of that question, based on our many previous experiences with first contacts. Our silvery spheres are all in continuous communication with each other. We have used our advanced technology to take equally advanced precautions against theft. You will not be able to kill us and take our resources. We are not as stupid as you were thinking."
That statement seemed believable. Oldgrandmother went on thinking at her brain's maximum capacity, in case some additional possibility for survival or conquest would present itself after further consideration.
"We are not here to hurt you, though," said the silver suit. "Even if you cannot yet believe that could be true, it is true still. Our planets are very wealthy compared to your planet. We have no use for your landmounds, or any other resources your planet has. We intend to do many things to help you. It costs us almost nothing to help you, measured as a fraction of what we have."
"How would helping us benefit you?" Oldgrandmother said. She was feeling genuine puzzlement, in the compartment of her mental models that was considering the possibility that the alien was speaking truth. Most of her thoughts, of course, were devoted to analyzing what the alien might hope to gain through this exact lie, both in the possibility where the alien expected her to believe it, and where the alien expected her not to believe it.
"We are humans, not people," the alien said, one of the noises strange and meaningless, perhaps denoting some untranslatable concept. "We do not want the same things a person would want. We evolved with different desires from you. We are helping you not because that will gain us some other benefit, but because it is something we desire for its own sake, as you might desire food or drink."
The compartment of Oldgrandmother's mind tracking the possibility that this might be true, had to think for a while before responding. "I do not know the circumstances of your evolution, but any realistic scenarios under which an alien creature might evolve, would still lead that creature to desire to eliminate competitors with zero shared-genetic-variance," she said, adopting a posture rarely used with non-kin; the posture of Requesting Clarification Through Disagreement, used in learning from one with more knowledge. "As a limiting case, obviously a genetic allele which indiscriminately increases the fitness of all other population members in its species, at the expense of its own bearer's fitness, will go extinct."
"There was an anomaly in our evolution," said the synthetic voice. "We desire to benefit even those who have zero shared-genetic-variance with us. That anomaly is how our species has risen to the point of sending these silvery spheres throughout the night sky. The silvery sphere you see was not produced by any single kin group. Vast numbers of our species are able to cooperate with each other despite not being kin by direct heredity - more than two to the sixty-fourth power of us, now. We have encountered no other species with this trait. That is why we alone have traveled the stars to this place, why your kind has encountered no others before this, despite the stars being full of intelligent life. Compared to any of the two-to-the-twenty-fourth other species we have previously encountered, we were able to coordinate much larger projects among ourselves, because we alone desire to benefit our non-kin. If you were scheming to find the secret of our power, that is the key."
The compartment of Oldgrandmother's mind considering the possible truth of the alien's words grew greatly in demanded processing power, even growing some in subjective probability as well. It was not obviously an impossibility, what the alien claimed. Of course, they would not want to invent a completely impossible lie, if they needed victims to believe they meant to help. Would the alien soon explain that she could be more easily helped if she revealed the location of any potential valuables or treasures in her landmound? Oldgrandmother doubted it; a concluding deception that simple seemed out of place with the complexity of the setup. The most obvious lie to tell would be that you were completely harmless and would repay all received benefits 256-fold after a long time delay, if you were an alien making up unlikely motivations to have; but that would not have been subtle at all, since it would have been the most obvious lie.
"How could such an anomalous trait evolve?" said Oldgrandmother, adopting a posture of Receptive Attention To Further Information, as the part of her tentatively taking the alien's statements as truthful was allowed to continue controlling her communication.
"We are still not sure what happened differently with us," replied the alien's synthetic voice. "We were not expecting to find ourselves as unique among the stars as we were." A different emotion now pervaded the moving small image on the fifth appendage, showing that fake person in a posture of mourning, as if it was learning of the death of a 1/8-related kin. "We did not even realize, until we found ourselves alone, how much of our large-scale cooperation had been enabled by the tiny acts of honor we showed to strangers every day; all the times we didn't steal everything that wasn't firmly attached, even when visiting a strange town we would not visit again; the fact that others would intervene to stop such a theft, even if that intervention did not benefit themselves or their kin directly. To us it all seems natural. We did not understand, until we reached the stars, how anomalous such acts of non-kin altruism are from an evolutionary perspective. We do understand some features of how our anomalous trait remained stable, once it was already present in the species, since that part was still available to observe and analyze later. For example, a human acting harmfully towards non-kin will have that behavior reported to other humans, and suffer penalties from them, ultimately experiencing less reproductive success."
"Would this not create an exploitable gain from spreading false reports of other-harming behavior in your competitors?" said Oldgrandmother. "Given that, why would claims about others' behavior be believable in the first place? Does your species involuntarily report its actual beliefs as signals, with listeners copying those signals directly into their own minds?" That sounded incredibly exploitable, but seemed extremely unlikely to be an evolutionarily stable condition; therefore, she did not immediately tell the alien that it could benefit most from turning all its resources over to herself.
"We altruistically desire to spread true reports of others' behavior, and to report to each other whether others have been honest, creating a group-maintained reputational system with group-enforced penalties for breaking the system rules or failing to enforce them," the alien said. "Thus, the whole complex of traits is evolutionarily stable."
Oldgrandmother adopted a posture of How Could That Possibly Be True, as her brain-fronds waved frantically to cool down her overheating thought-centers, and not all of that reaction was feigned. Was the point of such a hard-to-believe lie that a more believable lie would be too obvious? "How could such a complex trait's pieces first begin to enhance the relative fitness of their bearers, if not all the trait's parts were already present?"
The alien's false image of a person adopted a posture of I Don't Know, But I Will Venture A Speculation. It said, "It is possible that the ancestors of humans may have been unusually stupid and unstrategic, relative to other aliens we have encountered, during the key stage of our evolution when communication was invented. The ancestors of humans may have gone around saying what was on their minds, instead of strategically calculating their every word as you are doing now. Later we became smarter, and made ourselves smarter, and protected our unique trait deliberately in the course of that. But in the beginning, we may have been much less calculating in what we said to both kin and non-kin. We simply lacked the brainpower to think as much as you do before speaking. So we could not perfectly mimic signs of friendship, without actually having friendship. That is one possibility for what allowed the anomalous trait to evolve. Another theory is that it was an anomaly of runaway sexual selection, which can allow almost any trait to fixate, but would not fix exactly the same trait twice if rerunning a larger evolutionary history. Other circumstances, better-understood by us and less mysterious, also seem to correlate with variation in cooperativity among the intelligent species we have encountered; but these circumstances will be less surprising to you, since our investigation before descending indicates that your own people are also favored by those circumstances. You are almost human in some ways - in the shape of your minds, clarifying. Your bodies are very unlike ours biologically."
Oldgrandmother continued in her posture of Interest In The Information Being Conveyed. She had yet to infer a reasonable hypothesis for why the alien was saying all these complicated lies to her, and she suspected that a strategem had been misaimed somehow across the gap in cognitive natures between their respective species. But if the lies' intended effect on her had failed, there was no advantage in betraying the fact now.
"For example," the alien continued in its synthetic voice, "your environment is mostly unusable for food and shelter, and features distinct landmounds which are the only livable habitats. Those who occupy the landmound are kin, and so by the evolutionary logic of kin selection, you are able to maintain some degree of cooperation with each other. When your population grows large enough to be unsustainable by your landmound, you must cooperate even more tightly in order to journey to and invade another landmound, after which your population splits. Your kin-groups know common battle, and enforce and observe regulations for required levels of contribution to the battle."
Oldgrandmother adopted a posture of I Previously Know This Information. Did the alien somehow not realize that she was herself a member of the species in question?
The alien adopted a posture of Intention Not To Repeat Error. "Sorry," the alien said, using a new unfamiliar sound-pattern. "I only intended that as prelude to the point that conditions on your planet are unusually conducive to cooperation in larger groups. The vast majority of other intelligent species we have encountered are not nearly as cooperative as yours. Most can cooperate only with 1/2-related or 1/4-related kin, under limited rather than general circumstances."
Then their landmounds would be ripe indeed for the taking, if they did not have the army-instinct, and the observation-reporting structures of soldiers being watched by non-close-kin, which prevented soldiers from following their obvious individual incentives to hold back and let others take the risks of combat. Even if she could not overcome these aliens' power, perhaps her kin-group could overcome other aliens? Oldgrandmother adopted a posture of Introducing A New Conversational Topic. "You could prove your desire to benefit me by gifting me with my own silvery sphere," Oldgrandmother suggested.
"We will not," the alien's synthetic voice said, posture denoting Refusal Of A Trade Request Due To Seeing A Trap. "We have encountered many other intelligent races before yours. We know from experience why you made that request, and what you would do with that power if you had it. Our desire to benefit others extends to all other races, not just your own race. We will not help you prosper at others' expense. Sorry."
The aliens had needed to learn that fact from experience, rather than simply deducing the outcome as obvious? She supposed that probable-lie was consistent with the alien's earlier probable-lie about how their species had started out stupider than most intelligent races while evolving anomalous motivations. "How do you intend to help us, then?" said Oldgrandmother.
"We will gift you with smaller spheres that defend your landmound from attack, and give them to other kin-groups as well, bringing peace to your world and allowing you to focus your efforts on non-military endeavors. We will gift you with spheres that can treat injuries and illness. We will create new landmounds on your planet, so that large kin-groups can expand to new territories without needing to conquer and exterminate an existing land-mound. In time, we will facilitate your expansion to other planets as well."
"And you want no trade-goods from us in return?" said Oldgrandmother. The cumulating heat in her brain was painful, and if this conversation continued much longer, her brain might begin to permanently degrade in ability. It would be well if the alien's unguessable trap was sprung before then.
"You lack any trade-good whose value to us is worth withholding any significant part of the aid we can give you, in order to motivate you to give that trade-good to us," the alien's voice said. "We would value seeing your Scrolls That Are Copied, but as we understand it, that is not your race's way unless we offered a very large trade - more value than we can bring ourselves to otherwise withhold from you."
Oldgrandmother had to suppress an instinctive feeling of shock at the suggestion. The Scrolls That Are Copied represented all the stored knowledge of her line of ancestry, as an advantage to be held over strangers. The urge to protect them was very strong. Still, her superstinctive parts understood that the aliens had demonstrated knowledge greatly exceeding that of the Scrolls That Are Copied - they likely already held an advantage so great that making it worse hardly mattered. "I would trade a glimpse of our Scrolls That Are Copied for a silvery sphere of my own," Oldgrandmother said, despite the words causing significant pain to the part of her that was extrapolating the alien's words as truth. The rest of her knew that was the response needed for this strange game to continue, and that game's continuation was all that was keeping her kin-group alive.
"We do not value your Scrolls That Are Copied that highly," said the alien, adopting a posture of Trade Refusal Without Further Negotiation Being Desired. "Understand that it is only our anomalous desire to benefit you, which prevents us from viewing your Scrolls That Are Copied via means you could not detect or prevent."
Oldgrandmother had been forced into ramping down some of her brain, a condition that would ordinarily have led to immediate termination or delay of conversation with non-kin, but that was not possible here. She now felt even more lost for a reasonable theory of what was going on - what further response was required for her kin-group to stay alive longer. On her previous theory, the alien should have lied and promised a silvery sphere, to be delivered later, in exchange for an immediate glimpse at her Scrolls That Are Copied. "What are the limits of your anomalous desire to help us?" said Oldgrandmother. "How much will you do if I ask?" It was what she would have said if she'd believed the aliens' words.
"We will do what is within our power, and will not harm other kin-groups or other alien races," the alien said. "To describe even a very small part of what we can do, would be a very long conversation, and you are visibly approaching fatigue. But you too will be allowed to visit the stars some day - though not unescorted, as we must also guard others from being harmed by you. We will share our knowledge with you, and set spheres to watch over how you use it. It may be a productive analogy for you to imagine that, rather than us treating you as non-kin towards whom we have strange motivations, we instead feel towards you - towards all of you - as if you were our 1/32-cousins. Given our current level of wealth, that urge to benefit you will lead us into acts that seem to you very large."
A possible analogy occurred to Oldgrandmother, in the part of her that was imagining the words to be true. "Then is it also a productive model to imagine as if all of you think like Cripplemind?"
The alien was slower to reply than on any previous occasion. "Cripplemind?" said the alien, after that pause. The false person's image showed a confused melange of several different postures requesting and demanding information.
Though there was no strategic reason to show that information in her posture, Oldgrandmother couldn't help but feel a flash of the frustration that she always felt when thinking about Cripplemind, this time from trying to figure out how to explain Cripplemind to the alien while not at maximal intelligence. Cripplemind was otherwise intelligent - very quick to comprehend his glimpses of the Scrolls That Are Copied, one of his several uses to her kin-group that had prevented him from being killed as a precaution. But Cripplemind simply could not seem to comprehend on an emotional level that benefiting his kin was more important than, for example, benefiting passing armies on their way to find a weak landmound to conquer. Oldgrandmother had decreed that Cripplemind must be treated as an outside-male brought in for genetic diversity, and prevented by force from communicating with any strangers; it was the only way to ensure their own survival, lest Cripplemind give away their security measures, or make them appear weak and ripe for conquest. Cripplemind simply could not seem to believe, on some level, that nobody else shared his attitude, and wanted to ask every passing army to see if any of their number were like him. He had explicitly said that much in words, despite its madness, and despite the point that strangers would obviously lie to him if they thought they could gain advantage by it. She would have ordered Cripplemind executed, despite the several advantages to her kin-group of his overeagerness to benefit others, if he was not her 1/4-related grandson.
The Scrolls That Are Copied did not contain any accounts of similar illnesses - there was a limit to how much information could be copied every time a landmound split, after all; to add one page was to drop another. Still, her memory of her previous maximum-intelligence thoughts on the subject said that the overall situation suggested a confluence of many genes, each with individually fitness-enhancing effects that maintained those alleles in the population, but which had proved detrimental in combination. Oldgrandmother was not sure how to describe that all to the alien, who might not be smart enough as an individual to understand the more complex genetics of heritability. Just because two-to-the-sixty-fourth aliens could build a silvery sphere by working together, might not imply that every singleton of their species could understand genetics.
Finally Oldgrandmother selected a statement that seemed to summarize Cripplemind's complex derangement in a way that should be understandable even to a confused alien, her words truthful for lack of certainty as to which deceptions would be successful or useful. "One of our kin-group suffers from a mental disorder of unknown but probably genetic-combinatory cause," she said, "which causes him to regard all other persons, including those from completely outside our kin-group, as if they were 1/2-related to him, or perhaps 1/4-related but had engaged in many previous interactions-of-mutual-gain with him."
"Take me to him," said the alien. The person shown by the false-image had a posture that was confusingly blank, not indicating whether that demand had been a trade-request with benefits on offer, or a command backed up by threats. After a moment's consideration, Oldgrandmother decided not to request clarification on that.
The alien could not, of course, be brought to Cripplemind. Those now hiding inside the landmound's fortressed interior had not read as much as herself of the Scrolls That Are Copied. Only her daughter, the Grandmother Waiting, would read out the full material in the course of copying it, and only after her daughter successfully conquered another landmound with an army contingent made up of those most related to herself. Explaining the probable nature of the alien to Grandmother-Waiting would have caused much confusion and required many long explanations. Indeed, Grandmother-Waiting would probably have concluded that Oldgrandmother had been successfully outwitted or perhaps even suborned by strangers, if the conclusion of all her arguments was to bring a stranger inside their inner fastness. It would have been a natural time for a coup rearranging their kin-group to more benefit Grandmother-Waiting's relatedness-structure rather than Oldgrandmother's.
So instead, Oldgrandmother ordered Cripplemind brought outside the landmound, which the alien seemed to accept despite that not being the exact form of its original request.
The alien spoke to Cripplemind for a long time. Oldgrandmother was somehow unable to hear any of the words clearly, despite standing not far from both of them.
So Oldgrandmother took some time to rest, and think more slowly, and let her brain cool down. She hoped she had not done herself permanent harm; the instincts against permanent self-harm were weaker when engaging in social contests with the kin-group's survival at stake.
In time she heard the alien speak again in a way that she could hear. "I am sorry for the delay," the alien said. "There are many tests and questions our people have devised, to measure this possibility, and I was verifying some of those with Cripplemind. It has sometimes occurred to someone to try to trick us about this, though none ever came close to understanding what responses we were looking for." The postures shown in the alien's images were confused to the point of not being readable at all.
"You have succeeded in bewildering me," said Oldgrandmother. She had nothing left to say at this level of intelligence, and dared not exert her brain so much again until it had a chance to heal its more temporary injuries. "What is happening?"
"Cripplemind has decided to come with us."
Take the male with them? They could not possibly intend to adopt Cripplemind into their kin-group and mate with it for an infusion of new genetic material, could they? Not unless all of the theories of genetics inside her Scrolls That Are Copied were completely wrong... which they could be. "Are you offering groom-price for him? Cripplemind has had many glimpses at our Scrolls That Are Copied, so his minimum groom-price must be at least eight silvery spheres."
"Sorry. We already intended to do for you all that we could safely do. Even if we cannot do anything more in trade, we will not accept that as a reason not to take Cripplemind with us. By our own way of looking at things, Cripplemind belongs to himself, and is not a trade-good of your kin-group."
Cripplemind spoke then. "Part of me wishes I could stay, mother's mother," he said, for some unknown reason addressing her as if she was an ordinary 1/4-relation instead of the Oldgrandmother. "I value my mutually-beneficial interactions with all of you. But I have always had an irreducible sense that something deep inside my brain is allied to a foreign landmound. That I should be somewhere with more benefiting-of-kin, even of non-kin who cannot reciprocate. Someplace with more - kindness." The last word was clearly Cripplemind trying to emulate something the alien's artificial voice had said, but what the strange sound meant, she had no idea.
He was still her 1/4-related descendant, and instincts tore at her to help him if it did not hurt her own interests more than 1/4 that much. "Cripplemind," she said, "the most probable hypothesis I currently possess for what is really happening, is that they are going to take you away and use you as an experimental subject for a process of scientific investigation." She was looking at the alien as she spoke, ready to stop speaking if it threatened against her interference in its plan, but it made no such sign. "You are a new item of data relevant to a subject they claim to be curious about. The second most likely possibility is that they will try to breed you in case they can derive a useful form of labor from our species, with your form of mental disorder causing your children to demand no recompense for their work."
"They will not hurt me," Cripplemind said. His posture showed confidence in his own statements and patience with her own lack of understanding. "They say they are my 1/2-related kin."
Her brain was fatigued, as stupid perhaps as the aliens had claimed to be long ago, and the words that came out from her reflected years of prior frustration. "Cripplemind. Look at that thing. Look at the shape of its armor. You could not fit even a newborn person inside there. Is there no part of you that finally understands this is a stranger?"
"I realize that our genetic variations would have zero overlap," Cripplemind said, "since the two of us do not share any heredity at all, even in the final limit of our ancestries. But why would that prevent us from being 1/2-related?"
And the human in the suit spoke, though he could hardly speak. The viewing counter at the bottom of his faceplate had long since run out of digits and switched to scientific notation, and then simply to a percentage of all the human beings that there were, watching this moment live. All across the galaxy, he knew, there must be dancing in the streets, beneath so many different suns. And blasts of light and celebration in cities that had been sleeping, with people woken by the sound transmitted as overrides into their homes, and rushing out to hear what had happened, what had happened.
"You'll never understand, matriarch," the human said hoarsely, "but he's right, and you're wrong. We've been searching for any trace of our family. All across the sky we've been searching for so, so long. Never giving up, never losing hope that one day we would find them. We're your family, little brother, and we're here to take you home."