The path at the edge of the hills changed from pavement to stone to dirt as Eonis headed upwards into the towering mountains. She hadn't been this way for a long time; long since she and her companions had run down the path like wild sheep refusing to be caught and tamed. The village down in the valley had been only a dozen huts then and the people wary of strangers. Now a city sat there, spread half way up the hills, and they did not know their neighbors enough to know if strangers came through or not.
No one walked with her this day, though sometimes there were hikers who came this high, looking for an escape from the city. She moved at a steady pace, savoring the air and feeling the sun on her face -- much like she had felt it that first day. So much time among the humans in their crowded buildings had made her forget that there was more to this world. Though, granted, she did find the humans fascinating, even in their odd, self-destructive ways.
She walked through the day, through the night; moved faster than humans could, and reached, finally, a hidden place where the ship sat. The sight of towering silver needle almost unsettled her, it had been so long, but she kept her step steady.
A brother met her at the entrance, the embrace welcome. They said little, even though it had been, by local terms, centuries since she'd last spoken on one of her kind. This was right, though; she had done such studies on worlds before and knew what to do. Time to go to the computer room and create her report. That, of course, took hours as well. She should have been exhausted at the end, but instead she found herself wandering up to the cafeteria and looking for something to eat that would remind her of home. She might have to introduce human food to her people. The variety and tastes were astounding.
She spoke with the others, calling back the language of home and feeling, slowly, as though she was in the place where she belonged again. They seemed glad to see her.
Eonis slept for a few hours in a room assigned to her. It felt odd at first, but by the time she awoke to call from the Captain, she felt much better. At home.
Captain Enlig gave her a polite nod when she entered the room where the council waited.
"We've gone over the report," he said with a nod to the two to his right and the two to his left. "It is -- chaotic."
She winced at first and then gave a little laugh. "Yes, I would suppose it is, Councilors. My apologies for that. A later report may sort matters out better, but in all honesty, they are a chaotic people."
"So we guessed," Enlig said, a frown. "They have no culture?"
"They have no single culture," Eonis said and laughed. "They have so many that they cannot name them all. The same with languages. They also fight over everything that is culturally related."
"This seems, then, a good world for us to interceded, to save them --"
Eyes blinked; not quite human eyes, but close enough. She bowed her head, drew her thoughts together, and looked up again.
"They would fight over anything forced upon them, even for their own good. They are independent. And despite all their problems, they have not yet totally destroyed themselves."
"So you think they are safe to leave alone?" Manada asked, leaning forward with a look of astonishment. She'd never seen that reaction before.
"I think they are mostly --" She had almost said mostly harmless, but this group didn't have the cultural reference to know that was a joke. She smiled anyway. "I think they are mostly capable of handling their own fate. There are only two scenarios in which I would suggest we step in. The first is if they are truly on the edge of self-destruction. Some humans are so power hungry that they are apt to take out everything with them if they can't win. The second situation is if they do find a way to leave their world and join us before they settle the majority of their own problems."
"This is unusual."
"They are a unique group. I think my later reports will validate my suggestion. At least we will not race into this without some thought."
The others agreed. She left the chambers and went back to her room and slept again. By the time she awoke, they had left the world. Eonis felt a strange sense of loss, thinking about all the colors, the art . . . the food.
So it wasn't a real surprise when she volunteered to go back a century later.
At least they hadn't destroyed each other yet.