The Haven world lay below, shrouded in frigid clouds. For æons now the Ark and the simulacra it housed had maintained an anchored orbit over Skamal in the sub-polar latitude, always watching. Always analysing the changes wrought since the Ark made planet-fall.
No living creature scrutinised the data recorded here at the forgotten edges of the ruined galaxy, though this would change when sentient life returned to the Shadow system, after the Ark released its incubator capsules. For now, the sun and many moons of Haven rose and set in their circling arcs, reflected in the glinting of pearl-burnished plasteel and gleaming lenses of optics that extrapolated the readouts against ancient records begun millennia before. No heed was paid to the iridescent beauty of auroras dancing at the poles across the cloud canopy; or the fiery glittering of cosmic debris as it burned out in the outer atmosphere; or the pleasing symmetry of impact craters formed on the placid earth; or even the azure ravishing of concentric wave patterns, undulating their way across the vast oceans towards the continental shelves, that marked the inevitable fractured death of astral material that had survived gravitational plucking from the oblivious heavens.
The Arks main information indices had no concept of aesthetics. Their function dealt with atoms, molecules and minutiae. Calibrations, postulations and scans. For the simulacra however, the analysis of data did include a measure of artistic appreciation, banked as they were with the knowledge gleanings of civilisations that had long perished, even before the Ark began its voyage to the edges of the explored cosmos. Their interpretive functions, combined with increasing mobility around the vessel, had already established basic social conventions that would eventually assist the incubated life forms in ultimately populating the planet. Not yet. Not for another thousand years, or more. But that was irrelevant, because a thousand years was no time at all in the schemata that the simulacra served.
This planet cycle however was slightly different. There were only twelve meteorological simulacra aboard the Ark. Four were concerned with the whole of Haven, especially its tundra and polar regions. The other four paired teams specialised in readings from the Ark's subsidiary satellites that circled the temperate and equatorial latitudes. Since the Ark had entered the Shadow system, as well as monitoring the planetary weather patterns that were their primary concern, the simulacra had undertaken overall supervision of data collection on all life-forms on Haven. Both subjects were fascinating of course, even if the terra-forming manifest was already well-documented, because the simulacra also observed the adaptive evolution of all native species. This was not an inherently manipulative process, as the simpler plant and animal populations needed little or no interference whatsoever. For the higher vertebrates some tweaking was inevitable, but, for the most part the simulacra were judicious, even conservative, in their genetic marker shapings, especially amongst the mammalian consonants. The singular exception to the simulacra's remit as regards the genetic aspects and classification protocols had arisen somewhat unexpectedly, and to quirky amusement, amongst the equivalent of the reptilian and avian evolutionary paths. This had resulted in a highly intelligent species that the lead simulacra had rather cavalierly dubbed Pyrvyrns or, more exactly, dragon flammae.
The Pyrvyrns had quickly formed co-operative proto-communities, based around life pairings and their progeny and, although slow to develop tools, had made spectacular progress with linguistics and the mastery of flight. So great was the Pyrvyrns' social and sentient advancement, the simulacra had, over the last ten cycles, debated the efficacy of first contact, since the creatures evolutionary tangent would not conflict greatly with the projected model for Homo Sapientissimus, when introduced into the eco-systems on the larger land masses of Haven. Indeed, the Pyrvyrns tended to migratory behaviour, and favoured breeding colonies in the eastern archipelagos that suited their preferred volcanic island habitats, and would be barely viable for humanoids .
The simulacrum designated as Veritas was especially persuasive in advocating a physical intervention during their debates addressing this situation, not least because of the need to ensure safe integration of the incubated species under their care when they dispersed on the world below. Before, any samples needing to be taken from the planetary interior, surface or atmosphere had been undertaken by sensor drones and relayed digitally or intact to the Ark, or one of the satellites. However, the simulacra had capacity to perform exploratory passes on Haven themselves, which now happened more frequently.
We are agreed then. Our specifications must be upgraded earlier than anticipated, so our forms equate to eventual biological parameters of the Allfolk. Veritas' transmission lacked interrogatory inflection, but then there was no sound carrier. Nevertheless the statement invited comment from the counterpart simulacra.
This would appear the best course. The dragon flammae have no conception of artificial intelligence, so we must appear in as natural a state as their own, in order to interact effectively. Sagax had made the most detailed study of the Pyrvyrn's embryonic social hierarchies.
This unit concurs.
This unit also. Although. The simulacrum designated as Erudictio excelled in the cut and thrust of debate, and could occasionally deliberate unnecessarily by means such as this elongated pause. They are curious and clever creatures. Will they not question our sudden appearance in their territories.
All the more reason not to appear too different to other higher life forms they have encountered. Our transport will intrigue them, but our own form must have affinity with theirs. Sagax was adamant that bio-incarnation was necessary.
How soon can the flesh be grown. Conperio was eager to embark on this new phase. The other three expressed anticipation silently.
It will take two more cycles. We will need time to adapt to the exterior cladding. Veritas closed the data interface with a swift pass of its plasteel palm, as discussion was at an end for the time being.
Veritas vincit. Erudictio observed to Sagax as they returned to work. Sagax did not need to concur, since this was obvious.