We Handish tend to be a pretty creative, crafty bunch overall. Norns and grendels don't take up every moment of our day, and there's only so many times you can read the old Shee documents before you start going crazy staring at the text. When you've mapped the genome, debated the moon, hung the Christmas lights - what is there left to do?
Well, you build things. Ovens. Hot air balloons. Passageways, treehouses, bridges. Anything you want or your creatures could possibly need. Some Handish have spread recipes for new medicines. Others have come up with instructions for how to get the old water pumps working again, or encourage the sunflowers to make seeds. I've heard a few have even learned how to build on the clouds.
Me? I prefer making norns and grendels. Or, that is to say, new varieties of them, new variations on the species. We have the Shee programs for cracking open genetics; we have their egg-making machines. Once you understand how it all works, it's - well, relatively easy. I'm not a terribly crafty Hand myself, can barely figure out how to make more cheese, hit my own fingers with a hammer, but genetics work out better for me.
You want to correct the genes of a creature that is always in pain? Done. Make them less susceptible to cold? Just tweak this. Have friendlier grendels? Change up their instincts and watch them play alongside your norns.
Making smarter creatures? Well, that's harder. You can tweak the brain as much as you like, but some changes that seem like they should help make things worse, and it's a delicate organ: screw it up too much and your eggs won't hatch, which is always a little heart-breaking.
And sometimes it just seems like there's a ceiling. That the Shee programs can only change so much, or that they made their creations so that they can't get too smart, no matter how someone tries to tweak their brain structure. It's so frustrating to work all day on brain lobes only to find that the new norns that hatch out don't seem to use them properly, or that there's something off with the dendrites or layering or...
So sometimes I stick to the chemicals, just so that everything has a decent chance of working out properly and I don't end up too disappointed.
I've talked with the other Handish about it. Some of them think that there is a limit, somehow. That there's simply something about how norns and gendels, or even Albia itself, works such that they can only learn how to do so much. "There's just no way they could learn chains of multiple actions." "You can't make it so that they can learn the difference between the different kinds of herbs, and you have to work to get them to learn a carrot from a piece of cheese." "I hate to say it, but I think norns will always be stupid. Maybe not refuse-to-eat stupid. But there's only so smart they can get." "You can only put so much into their genome, right? There's just not enough genetic space for them to get more intelligent, not to the degree we'd like."
Maybe it's true.
But, you know, some of us believe differently. We could just be imagining the sparks of recognition in our norns' eyes when we fly over them and reach down to scritch them on the head. We could just be wishing when we see them help each other out. We could just be having fancies when we watch two norns play ball with each other.
But I believe differently.
So when this entry's done, and my norns seen to, I think I'll open up the Shee computers and programs and machines and work on my dream some more.