I gave my foolhardy plan a try. I had a Nymph carry off one of the Ratkin Hunters and take her to Pan’s pictograms puzzle. The Nymph had been bred for the purpose, incorporating spider genetics that would allow it to bind the Ratkin and prevent her escape. I had hoped that I wouldn’t need to use it, but none of the Ratkin races had shown any interest in the pictograms by the time the new brood was hatched.
We can’t simply print Nymphs as we can non-biological forms. We can, however, create modified DNA to be introduced into a queen. Another group of Nymphs was designed to do this. The Splicer Nymphs have been around since the beginning, and have needed very little modifications themselves. Without them, Pan and I would have been unable to produce any of the other broods we’ve needed.
The attempts to modify the Ratkin have not been so simple. Using Nymphs to inseminate them with modified sperm had been largely unsuccessful. The Nymphs we used were often killed in the process. It may have jump-started the process of evolving the common lab rats into the Ratkin, but their development is taking far too long for my liking.
If we arrive on Alpha Prime while the Ratkin races still have no concept of interplanetary travel or terraforming, the entire endeavor could be futile. I believe now that the Ratkin Hunters are our best chance at for a civilized species, which I why I chose one of them hoping they’d have the intelligence and resourcefulness to interpret and translate the symbols and words.
Despite their lack of aggression towards Nymphs in recent years, the Ratkin still seem to take it personally when you take one of their own. There are no Ratkin living that could remember when Nymphs were regularly used to collect Ratkin to study the progress of our insemination program. They’re not even the same creatures anymore.
They don’t keep records or tell stories since they still haven’t bothered to develop a language. So there should be no reason to fear or hate the Nymphs, or for them to interpret the selection of one of their tribe as anything but a good thing. Particularly since they seem to have a reverence for the Nymphs as an integral part of their religious practices.
Apparently, this is not the case. A group of hunters followed the Nymph and it’s captive. It took them some time since they can’t fly, and had to cross Grazer and Arboreal territory to reach it, but they still caught up sooner than I’d hoped. I sent lesser Nymphs, and even one or two of the Quest Nymph brood to try and slow them down.
I wasn’t trying to kill them, though all but 3 of them did during the climb up to the pictogram puzzle while Nymphs continued to try and dissuade them. At this point, I realized something that had not occurred to me before. The puzzle was placed on a shelf in the old lab, in a location that would have been easy for lab rats to reach, but the Hunters haven’t been rats for several generations, and they had a very difficult time of it.
The entire time the captured Ratkin just lay there bound and screaming in the high pitched squeal that wasn’t too dissimilar from the squeaking of her rat ancestors. I’m at quite a loss to understand why the rescue party seemed so willing to lay down their lives for this one female Ratkin. Was it because of her screaming? Or was it simply because I was making it so difficult for them that made them behave as if she were somehow important?
By the time the surviving members of the party had reached the shelf, they were entirely focused on freeing her from her bonds and killing the Nymph. The Nymph, in turn, was determined, per our commands, to keep her there until she had solved the puzzle. Not that she seemed to be paying any attention to the pictograms. Unfortunately two more Ratkin were killed in the struggle, and the Nymph was destroyed using a pencil that had been left on the shelf and gone unnoticed. It may even have been Jaime’s once.
I let the heroic Ratkin and the rescued female return to their village unmolested. At this point, I had decided that the plan had failed, and was losing hope that we’d ever succeed. However, it seems that my actions may have borne fruit after all. There have been several expeditions since. Many of which were led by a Ratkin Hunter carrying a pencil. I presume it’s the same Ratkin who survived the rescue mission.
I also saw a female accompanying him. She is armed with the sword and shield that they reclaimed together. I assume from her markings that it’s the same female that he rescued. They’ve revisited the pictograms many times, and they’re not the only ones. I’ve seen Arboreals climb up there and examine the puzzle. Even some squat stocky Ratkin that could only be Tunnellers have been spotted there once. I’m surprised they came out of hiding.
It could prove very interesting if all three of these races begin to develop language at once. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. So far not one of them has deciphered the puzzle. I’m hoping that it’s just a matter of time.
(Illustration by Settaro)