(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)
Laxmi and Anna soon picked up on the shipboard routine. They rose in the mornings with the sun, ate meals with the crew, and otherwise tried their best to stay out of the way. The previously spear-wielding fishing crew, now that no strange alien boat presented itself, put away their spears and melded in with the sailing deck crew, so apparently all were interchangeable. Anna had trouble recognizing individual avians from one another, but Laxmi soon had many of them identified by distinguishing characteristics.
“That one there, with the circlet of feathers on his head? He’s clearly the leader, the captain. I’m calling him Alpha. Then those two, that one beside Alpha, and the other currently up on the foredeck, directing some work up there: those seem to be his primary deputies, or lieutenants, or deck bosses, I suppose. The one beside Alpha, with the grey streak in his feathers across his head, he’s Beta. And the one on the foredeck, who has a scar across one eye, he’s Gamma. Then there’s the cook, who seems to also command a lot of respect from the others. He’s probably next in line for importance among the crew, so I’ve designated him as Delta. For now, of course. There are only so many letters in the Greek alphabet, so eventually I’ll have to come up with a better system for naming them.”
“You don’t think eventually we can just ask them what their names are?”
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So, humans can eat avian food, mostly, and sometimes it’s pretty good (fried fish! so apparently this ocean has fish), and sometimes… well, read on to see what Anna thinks of the breakfast they’re served.
It appears their captors — or rescuers? — are the Kepler avian equivalent of deep sea fishermen. Or fisherbirds. Neither Anna nor Laxmi are entirely sure of the appropriate term here. They use tools and build ships, and they have language and culture and structured society, so they would appear to meet the definition of an intelligent species, though they seem pretty far from space-faring technology. Are the avians the builders of the ring station? If so, what happened in the 1200 years since broadcasting the signal received on Earth?
They may be fishermen, but they also carry spears, so perhaps all is not as peaceful and serene upon the oceans of Kepler 62f as might at first appear. Are factions among the avians at war with each other? Or is there something else they fear? Are they the apex predator of their world?
More importantly, from Anna’s point of view, can the avians help them find Jaci? And will they? Laxmi may be in her element, studying alien biology, but Anna feels no closer to finding a way off this planet than before, and perhaps even farther from it.
Stay tuned. The next scene is already written, so expect publication within the week. Meanwhile, please enjoy (and comment upon!) Denizens of the Deep.