A couple of generations of Ratkin passed without the tribe of Hunters developing their written language much further. In fact, they seem to be going out of their way to prevent it. Every now and again a young Ratkin will scratch up a new mark, and the culprit will be hunted down, dragged kicking and screaming to the reclaimer, and thrown in. They destroy the mark and squeak out (I assume from context) a challenge to any of them that might try again.
The symbols are often crude runic things. I try to understand what they mean but they rarely look like anything recognisable. Pans pictograms, the symbols the Ratkin Hunters now seemed to revere, were fairly obviously a Ratkin, fire, a Nymph, a plant and me (or rather the ship). These symbols could have been anything, one of the recurring symbols wasn’t finished the first time it was being daubed onto the bulkhead with red pigmented fat. I have no idea what the symbol was supposed to be originally, but that mark more than any other seems to represent the rebelliousness of youth.
The current Swordbearer, the descendant of the female that I had the Nymphs kidnap, has been run out of the village. A chittering argument broke out while he tried to prevent a Ratkin from being forcefully sacrificed for doing what is essentially graffiti.He fought his way out of the mob that tried to bring him down and ran, the zealous crowd chasing him past the fence which marked the edge of the Hunters village.
Pan and I haven’t seen any sign of him since. If he had been hunted down, or run afoul of one of the other Ratkin breeds on board, or even a quest Nymph then a Nymph should have collected the remains and thrown them in the reclaimer. Even excrement still contains the DNA of whatever was consumed. I still have the genomes of his ancestors recorded, so I’m reasonably certain that if the Swordbearer had been killed I’d know.
The Ratkin Hunter’s ‘religion’ is becoming more baffling. However, I believe I’ve figured out which of the Ratkin noises, at least among the Hunters, means ‘no’. I’ve heard them scream it often enough as they’re being dragged off by their spiritual leaders, family and friends. The mob still chitters the same sounds they always have, in rhythmic unison, as the victim is thrown in.
I’m even more convinced that they think these sounds correspond to the pictograms, but they were making these sounds before they even discovered the pictograms. Have they decided that the symbols mean what they were already saying, or did the sounds have no real meaning until they made the glyphs a part of their ritual sacrifices. If the latter, and they really mean “Ratkin, fire, Nymph, plant, Hermes!”, what could they believe it has to do with their sacrifices?
I don’t want to continue to reward this behaviour, but Pan assures me that the Ratkin are still technically committing suicide. Only those that scrawl unsanctioned symbols on the bulkheads and fences are thrown in. They know the consequences and do it anyway, and are therefore consenting to their death.
I realise they breed quickly, but they already have so many ways to die. Why do the Hunters insist on finding new ways to kill each other? Many of them still die while hunting and gathering. The Ratkin Grazers are far from easy prey, and the Ratkin Arboreals still like to hurl rocks at any Ratkin Hunters that get too close. The previous Swordbearer died trying to overcome a Quest Nymph. They live almost constantly on the brink of starvation, have to contend with sickness, birth defects and general misfortune. At least one Hunter in every generation trips and falls on their own weapon during a hunt, or loses their grip while climbing.
Pan and I cannot complete our mission if every living thing on this ship dies before we reach our destination. How can we establish a successful colony on Alpha Prime with no colonists? Pan thinks I’m being over cautious. He sees their high mortality rate as a necessary element of natural selection, and exactly what we want to happen if they’re going to be somewhat civilised by the time we reach Alpha Prime.
I’m not sure he’s fully grasping how delicate our situation is. Neither of us has received any software updates since we lost contact with earth, and maintenance of our hardware remains a constant battle. Components burn out or become damaged and Jaime can’t replace them for us. The Nymphs have to rebuild us we slowly die, part by part. Often having to confront the Ratkin Tunnellers that caused the damage.
We have no network to support us and restore any lost data, we’re forced to rely on each other. If we both lose the same data it’s just gone and we’d have no way of knowing that we ever had it. Anything could happen to him while he’s roaming around exploring the space around us and collecting material. He’s getting bolder too. He skimmed the atmosphere around a small planetoid not long ago. If his trajectory and speed had been miscalculated he could have burned up and crashed.
His recklessness could doom us both, particularly if the gateway connecting us doesn’t fail when he breaches the pod’s hull. Even if Pan only destroys himself, he’d be leaving me to manage the Ratkin’s development and survival alone, and without his support, my deterioration will go unchecked. He disregards this as needless pessimism.
He’s currently hauling in a particularly large hunk of meteoric rock right now.