My ancestors first noticed that the Doom Star was brighter than the Sun five generations before the first alien seed appeared in the sky. It was my mother who first saw the seed. Well the Mother Tree saw the seed first but my Mother was the firs Crawler to see it. She was awoken by the Tree because the SkyEye had seen the seed and the Tree couldn't understand what she was seeing. My mother had awoken the whole Crawler Council and they had analyzed all of the images that the SkyEye could accumulate. Once they understood what the seed was, and once they understood that it would not land here on the Ice [The Ice is an Oort cloud object roughly 87 km in diameter], but was headed deeper into the system, closer to the Sun, the Crawler Council instructed the SkyEye to keep a watch on the seed and went back to sleep.
The SkyEye watched and the Mother Tree awoke the Council many gross [gross = 144] times before I was born. But the seeds became common place and the Crawler Council instructed the SkyEye not to wake them unless one was passing close to the Ice. At first they defined close as within a quadragross [144^4 =~ 430 million] of Ice diameters [~37 billion km]. But the seeds became more common still. Many passed within the quadragross and continued on by without seeming to notice the Ice. And so the Council sharpened the definition of close to a trigross [144^3 =~ 3 million] of Ice diameters [~260 million km]. Longer periods of time passed. The seeds became more common still. Many still passed within the trigross and continued on by without any action. And so the Council sharpened the definition of close again, down to a bigross [144^2 =~ 21 thousand] of Ice diameters [~1.8 million km].
That was around the time I was born. When I was a young member of the Council, I remember discussing the idea that we might reduce the definition again, perhaps to a dozen gross. But we were nervous. The seeds were still a new phenomenon. New phenomena in the Unchanging Dark were profoundly disturbing. We preferred to keep an eye on these strange new seeds streaking across our sky.
Then, when I was a middling, I was awoken by the Mother Tree. The Tree was agitated. There was a seed coming and it wasn't just passing within a bigross or a dozen gross or even a gross. It was passing within a dozen ice diameters. I woke the Council. We were all agitated. This was unprecedented. This seed could easily strike some of the Mother Tree's outer branches. We were debating pulling in the Mother's outer branches when a yearling, whom we called Icefoot, announced that he could see an ion jet emerging from the seed. "The seed is maneuvering." he yelled, "I am pretty certain it is meaning to make Ice Fall."
The Council chamber echoed with the cries of fear and panic of the Council. "This is our Ice" was the repeated cry I heard over and over. Most of the Council was too upset to do anything useful. Quite a few went off to mate without authorization. I supose they felt like the rules that governed our stable society didn't matter anymore, if a seed could land here without proper pre-arrangment. But another yearling, called Leafnose, working with the image enhancments that Icefoot had prepared, was able to determine that the ion jet was slowing the seed's approach. This was a very good thing. If it was going to strike at its initial velocity, it would vaporize half of the surface of the Ice. Not only was it going to strike at a reasonable speed but it was going to take a lot longer than we had feared. It wouldn't be here for 81 eat cycles.
Still the Council wasted most of those eat cycles debating what to do. What preparations could we make? No calculation would tell us exactly where on the Ice the Seed would fall. The Ice spun too quickly and there was too much uncertainty as to when the Seed might turn off its jet and coast the rest of the way to the Ice. We could prepare to trap it on one side of the Ice only to find that it landed on the completely oposite side.
With only 51 eat cycles left to go, a group of Yearlings, led by TwigHand, proposed we build a cage that could be quickly maneuvered to whereever the Seed landed and used to trap the Seed and prevent it from growing. Council debated this idea until there were only 42 eat cycles left to go and then finally agreed to refer the idea to a subcommittee. The subcommittee reported back with just 31 eat cycles left to go, recommending that the cage be built. The Council debated the recomendation until there were just 13 eat cycles left to go and finally approved the building of the cage. At this point TwigHand announced that the cage had been built while the subcommittee had been meeting and the Council had been debating. This infuriated the Council until it was pointed out that the cage had taken 28 eat cycles to build and if the Council's approval had been waited for, we would still have been building the cage when the seed landed.
Once the furor had died down there were still 11 eat cycles left to go and much of the Council wanted to go to sleep and only be woken when the seed was perhaps 2 eat cycles away. But the Mother Tree refused, saying that we had to stay up and come up with additional plans for what we shoud do once we had the seed imprisoned. Some wanted to kill the seed. Others felt that was a sin against the All-Mother. Some of these proposed tossing the seed into the Unchanging Dark, still locked in its cage. But others pointed out that this would be worse than killing it. Most of the Yearlings wanted to keep the seed and study it, record it's genome and extract from it useful genes. Three of the Elders were locked in a debate about whether its chemistry would be compatible with ours. Will it have DNA? Will its Ribosomes translate the same codons into the same amino acids? They debated the implications if there was a commonality. Panspermia vs. Restricted Degrees of Freedom. One of the Elders even dared to ask whether commonality of chemistry between the aliens and ourselves might be considered evidence of a Creator.
Nothing had been achieved when the SkyEye announced that the Seed was only 1 eat cycle away and it had turned off its ion jet. It was coasting in. The Yearlings calculated the longitude of Land Fall to be within sight of the Council chamber. Perhaps 7 standard hops to the East. We all took our milk pods to the Council chamber portals to peer out through the tangle of the Tree to the East and wait. The SkyEye anounced that the Seed had restarted its ion jet. IceFoot called out that it was slowing again and that this would cause it to fall closer to the Council Chamber. Leafnose calculated that the landing elipse still included the Council chamber. Many of the Elders wanted to leave and hide in an underground storage chamber. But then Icehand said that the seed was probably aiming for the light of the Council Chamber windows. For once Council made a quick decision and the glow patches in the Council chamber were made to go to sleep.
Almost immediately the Seed's ion jet turned off again and Leafnose announced that it would land less than 2 standard hops to the East. TwigHand's team moved the cage to a nearby position up on a large curving tree branch. A long breath later, the Seed flashed down from the sky and impacted the ice. The impact vapourized some valuable ice and the seed cut deep, burrying itself instantly in the ice almost half a standard hop down. Twighand's team locked the cage over the entrance to the hole as best they could. We all held our breath and then ... nothing happened.
Nothing seemed to continue to happen for two eat cycles and then IceFoot entered the cage and climbed down into the hole. He reported back that the Seed was swelling and had been swelling for some time. As he stood on the Seed, it's outer shell cracked and a long white tendril unfurled beside him. He panicked and climbed out of the hole. Looking down from the inside of the cage, he could see the tendril growing toward him, darkening as it grew. He exited the cage and locked the door behind him and retuned to the Council chamber. He was shivering with fear for several eat cycles after that.
The Council Mother, mother of all our Yearlings, communed with the Mother Tree and then spoke, "It is not over. We have not contained this seed."
The Seed's roots were spreading laterally. They were making contact with the Mother Tree's roots. The two were poisoning each other, fighting a slow underground battle for the volume of the Ice. TwigHand led a team of yearlings to dig down through the Ice and chop at the new seed's roots. They found them and were successful at severing several of them. They said they were easy to tell from the Mother Tree's roots in that they were a dark grey while the Mother tree had black trunks, branches and roots. Then they looked up and saw that above them, emerging from the sides of the shaft they had dug, were many dark grey tendrils that were quickly growing toward the surface. They abandoned the roots and began hacking at these tendrils. But the profusion was growing faster than they could cut through it. The fear rose in them as they realized that if they continued to fight the tendrils they might get caught in the hole unable to escape past the twisting and interconnected tendrils.
They too returned to the Council Chamber shaking with fear. They were granted sedated milk pods and allowed to sleep for a couple of eat cycles in order to regain their composure.
Meanwhile the tendrils continued to grow. The Mother Tree deployed small Outside Crawlers to try to eat the tendrils but the alien seed deployed its own and the battle that ensued used a great deal of energy and many small consciouses died in the fight. In the end, the alien seed won in that it's tendrils grew into a new Tree. A chamber formed in the trunk not unlike our own Council Chamber. By this point the Yearlings had recovered. LeafNose took the lead and assembled a team to break the portals on the New Tree's chamber. They used ice hammers against the portals and at first had very little effect. They reported, in a panick that they could see "things-like-Council-Crawlers" budding off the inside walls of the alien chamber. They said that these Crawlers were like us but also very different.
By this point the New Tree was branching out and its first leaves were appearing, focussed back on the alien Sun capturing energy. LeafNose's team came back inside the Council chamber in order to make changes to the ice hammers that they thought would allow them to have greater effect. The Mother Tree confirmed that she had won the root-battle. The New Tree had a underground defensive surface around a vollume of the ice that would be difficult to break but it was also, no longer making headway underground. The Tree Mother had contained it.
As LeafNose's team was reentering the Outsiding Shells with their modified ice hammers, a crawler-like being emerged from the New Tree. She was holding a pod in one of her tentacles. It looked like a milk a pod, if you used your imagination. At least that is what I thought. I looked at this person. She was standing among the dead from the ongoing battle. She was standing still. Just holding this pod toward us. TreeLeaf yelled, "I am going to cut her down with my ice hammer. She will be dead in one swing."
"No you will not!" I yelled back. "All of you, back to your Council Chairs. Put those hammers away! I have had enough of this. The death ends now." I was surprised. No one said anything. All the enthusiasm drained away. Every Council Crawler quietly walked to the center of the chamber and huddled together. They were more afraid of me, a middling, than they were of the New Tree outside. Even the Elders and the Council Mother. I guess I really yelled or something. I took a milk pod and got in a Outsiding Shell and went out to meet the New Tree's Tentacled Crawler. I approached her slowly and she backed away a little but mostly just stood firm. The tentacle that held out the pod towards me wobbled a little. I held out my milk pod, passed out to my gloved hand through the sampling lock of the Outsideing Shell. Tentatively she reached a tentacle toward my milk pod. I reached one of my other hands toward her pod. Gently we took the pods from each other. She sank to the ground like she was a air bladder that had blown a gaskette. I understood it as a gesture of peace. I dropped to all eight of my hands in imitation. She backed away back to her tree and I did the same toward mine.
That was the day that the Ice became Two Tree Ice.