Academy Pt4

Part four sees a flashback for Liliana, and introduces one of the key background characters of the setting with a bit more exposition.
 
Or wankery, whatever you want to call it. Thoughts/comments appreciated!
 
BECAUSE IT’S THERE
The metallic ring echoed sharply in the cold air as she struck the piton repeatedly, driving it into the rock with light her climbing hammer. From several metres away, a melodic voice commented “You know, you damage the mountain doing that, and it’s far riskier than gravitic pitons.”
Liliana smiled as she clipped the carabiner in place on the piton. Tilting her head up, she replied to the green alien above her. “And you could scrape yourself in any number of delicate paces, but look at you, bare legs and arms?” Her eyes sparkled as she smirked at  her mentor, knowing either of them would heal back to complete health from a several kilometre drop within as little as half an hour, a little discomfort aside.
“True, but I’d only hurt myself, the impact point would regrow, and I wouldn’t scar. These pitons will stay in the mountain a long time, a permanent mark of for your own retromania” they responded. The only member of their species known to earthkind, Pinnacle was ageless and enigmatic. They’d been known to earthkind since the dawn of the stellar renaissance centuries ago, neither looking or acting any different than they had at that time. In conversations like these Liliana found herself projecting false chiding into the aliens intergalac words, seeking greater meaning in the soft tones. As always she chided herself for trying to read more into it than they meant, an old habit of self sabotage from her teenage years she found herself revisiting of late.
She pulled a face at them, carefully scaling upward, “well, it’s the point of compromise I’m happy with. You’ve tutored me on that topic enough I thought you would understand. I’ll take compensatory responsibility for it, I’ve already left a marker in orbit and on the g-web”. She had arrived here three months earlier in her small craft, The Sprite. It had been a slow trip by Bakshi drive, one of her mentors few requirements to the patronage, but it had mentally prepared her for the latest of their prolonged lessons.
“Good, I am glad to see you acting on the P.O.C. principle and acting responsibly. It is a concept true to the heart of many in the core worlds, yet still often unspoken.” As the alien spoke, one of the lower of its four arms braced itself between the rock face and rope held in an upper arm, while the remaining two arms retrieved a small metallic device with a similar carabiner ring. It held the device with the ring facing outwards against the rock and after several seconds a small beep proclaimed the gravitic piton in place, secure and immovable within the planet’s’ gravity well. The free arms continued to move, fastening a thin carabiner made of a substance clear as glass, and manipulating rope.
Working deftly with their hands, Pinnacle faced her the entire time. The triangular, bright  blue iris of its right eye contrasted the dull red glow of the larger ocular implant of its left, the dull conical head pierced at front and back by the cylindrical device. Pinnacle wore very light clothing, a pair of brown cargo shorts over it’s waist and the upper thighs of its two legs, and a simple yellow tunic. Liliana had purchased that tunic for her alien mentor during their last lesson, from a web tailor in the rim worlds.
They continued in silence for fifteen minutes as she considered, the hammering of pick and beep of gravitic pitton their only individual sounds alongside their rhythmic shuffles and the clinks of carabiners. The mountain air was light, but filtered to a minor background noise in Liliana’s ARO. “How does the P.O.C. principle- sorry, how do you feel it interacts when others are involved in our choices?” It was not the first time she had corrected herself, knowing Pinnacles preference for the framing of questions.
They smiled with dark green lips, looking upward. “An excellent question. How does it? Do I feel responsible for your use of pitons? What of your choice of clothing, or manner of speaking? Your personality? Your desires? If I wish I may do any of these things within most of the core world societies, as indeed most of those societies are built upon the principle of self and other realisation. That is not the question you want to ask though, is it? I can read you far too easily still, you want to know if I should feel responsible.”
As always she felt like nothing more than a tiny soul inside a spaceship, lost behind only a glass porthole gazing upon the vastness of space. Space gazed back, of course. She pushed the feeling to the back of her mind and focused on the words, the question, and the implied sense behind it all. This was her eighth lesson. They had spoken about many principles and mental theories. The nature of the universe. Religion. Self determination. Commercialism, capitalism, and economics. Politics (at great length!). She could see all of it relating back to the point of compromise in some way. Again the continued up the mountain.
After twenty minutes of silence she finally replied, “If I determine it does, it should. Without external intervention, only I am truly responsible for anything I feel or do.”
Pinnacle nodded appearing to consider her words, and paused before placing their next gravitic piton. “And if a mind was trapped in a void, with no external input whatsoever, would it then be content?”
She frowned at his response, having thought she had finally come upon some deeper truth or meaning as she often felt close to. “No, any mind in such a state would collapse into insanity.”
“Very judgemental student, I have known many insane individuals and most would state they felt insanity to be merely a different state of self.” Pinnacle raised their eyebrow over their biological eye and continued, “Consider, why would that mind be ill at ease, and why do you feel insanity is the likely outcome?”
When Pinnacle said consider, they meant consider. For several hours they continued their ascent, stopping for a meal as the last of the worlds suns fell toward the horizon. They each secured sleeping cocoons to the side of the mountain, and secured their equipment to tethers around their ankles within the cocoons. She was growing accustomed to the strange bitter spice in the self heating meals her mentor had provided, wondering what plant, animal, or other nature process of the planet inspired their chemical makeup. It still amused her how literally Pinnacle took the phrase “taking in the local flavour.”
Heads only several feet away in the openings of their opposed cocoons, she swallowed the last of the meal and returned to the question. “The mind would seek the other, and attempt to find external input. Mind is not evolved for true solitude, not in that manner.”
Pinnacle smiled calmly, blinking occasionally as they let the silence stretch out. Liliana stowed her eating utensil, the entire package of food having been edible, and took a sip from her cocoons water tube.
“Why are you here?” The alien’s voice had a touch more pressure behind it, she was certain she was not imagining it this time.
Taking a slow breath and turning back face to face with them, she considered a multitude of answers both meaningful and nonsensical, unsure what would be appropriate to the question let alone what the alien hoped, if anything, to hear. Their emotions had never been clear to her, every act and every conversation seemed methodical and pragmatic.
“Why are you here?” she replied, with little emphasis on any particular word. She was genuinely curious.
“To climb the mountain.”
Again she paused, the timeless alien never seemed bothered by these quiet moments of thought, from the onset of her training they had said thought was the entire aim of her training.
“Why climb the mountain?” she asked, looking deep into the inhuman eye, seeking micro reactions in their facial expression and body language, ARO monitoring where her own senses could now.
“Because it’s there.” 
Her ARO flagged the words, and recalled a scene from a classical fiction, again involving a mountain. When asked by an alien companion why they were climbing the mountain, a passionate human had responded “because it’s there”. The ARO offered dozens of links to further information on both the fiction and the subjective philosophical matter, quickly spider webbing to hundreds of thousands of articles, discussions, and studies that continued to criss cross each other across nearly the last thousand years of human history. Surely, it could not be an accident.
Pinnacle spoke, “When I first came to your world, your minds had developed enough to begin expanding outside your own planet. First you built chemical rockets, fusion drives, Bakshi reaction was discovered, and eventually wormholes technology was created. The entire time, your minds both questioned everything they did, and justified the same things in and of themselves.”
“Knowing the history of your people”, the alien continued, “do you ever believe they have truly acted completely responsibly?”
“No, not once” Liliana had never felt more certain of any judgement of her own species.
“Now, do you feel that any other mind in the universe has?”
She drew silent, thoughts on the other species of the galaxy spinning through her head. Ruthless Vzkor. Parasitic Engoldum. The Matrons and their disturbing combination of hedonism and genocide. The other earthkind, and their colonies. The Machine Intelligences.
“I’m not sure I know enough about them to judge…” she began to reply until her mind swung back to several things in her ARO, and the manner in which Pinnacle had spoken.
“Pinnacle. Were you on Earth before the Fenn invasion?” She referred to the period where humanity was conquered by the Fenn shortly after expanding into the galaxy, a dark history of pain that had almost resulted in humanity’s extinction, saved only by the wormhole technology of Athena Ródos and her contemporaries. The ARO answered her question as she spoke it, flatly noting that Pinnacle was on record only some fifty years after the beginning of the stellar renaissance, and that they had first been encountered meditating on a low technology, Glorgon rural colony world.
The alien regarded her passively.
“ARO, state with audio the approximate deaths during the Fenn occupation” she dared.
A copy of her own voice came from the air between them “Five trillion, three hundred and sixteen billion, with approximately ten percent potential deviation at best.”
Still the alien was silent.
“Could you have prevented it? Warned us? Stopped them?” Their technology was still aeons ahead of mankind, only the Machine Intelligences and small power groups within the core worlds appeared to possess knowledge of similar levels. She had seen Pinnacle’s ship, the Fair Sport delicately pull apart a sun and reassemble it to an earlier sequence during one of their earliest lessons on entropy.
“Goodnight, Liliana”. The alien began to withdraw into their cocoon, the two arms they had been resting on pulling back underneath, while their upper two grasped the sides of the opening.
Her right hand shot out, grabbing the alien by the wrist. It felt cold and hard as stone, unlike any other time she had touched them. “Could you?” she managed, a mix of fury, terror, and disgust boiling inside her.
“Goodnight”. The arm turned oddly slippery under her grasp, and the alien withdrew wholly into their cocoon, which sealed shut behind them.
For moments she stared at the opening, aghast at the implications. Her mind spun, gathering momentum, and eventually she too withdrew into her cocoon, curled up into the foetal position around herself. She plumbed the galactic web immersing herself in details of the invasion, the occupation, and the liberation. She spent days in subjective reality devouring the information her ARO piled upon her. After nearly eighty hours of subjective conscious, and three hours of reality, she stretched slowly out and opened her cocoon.
Pinnacle was there, an uncharacteristic depthless sadness across their face as it rest upon four folded arms underneath a hood made of the cocoon.
She reached out her hand slowly, shaking, and they responded with the warm grasp of their own. Together they held open the opening of both cocoons as she crossed over into theirs, a brief flash of intense cold as she left hers barely noticeable compared to the deep warm feeling in her mind as she entered theirs.
It was the last time they were intimate, the lesson was over. Within three days they had reached the top of the mountain, and with few words spoken she had called down The Sprite, to awake mid return flight home to the chrome skinned figures pacing.