Klarf and Drami

The persistence of mystery is at once the great joy and great frustration of science. When we solve one puzzle, we find ourselves confronted with dozens more. Perhaps this will be the case when we crack the conundrum of the Klarf and Drami of Menos 2.

The Klarf resemble Terran mammals, averaging roughly 45 cm in height. They are covered in short tan fur and look something like children’s stuffed bears. They are very neat in appearance, and they spend considerable time grooming themselves.

Using the standard McCort-Bukanski Sentience Inventory (MBSI), we can estimate the intellectual capacity of the Klarf as roughly on a par with the swamp worms of Axior 6, but without the empathetic qualities exhibited by the swamp worms.

The Klarf have developed no civilization of their own — we shouldn’t have expected that, of course, given their score on the MBSI — and therefore would not be of particular interest to us. It’s the role of the Klarf among the Drami that we find puzzling and pregnant with significance.

The Drami and the Fram are the two dominant sentient species on Menos 2. They share the largest land mass in the planet’s northern hemisphere. The two species enforce no geographical boundaries and mingle routinely. Indeed, interspecies liaisons are not unknown, but do not produce offspring, given the differences in DNA.

Among the Fram, the Klarf have no role. There is little interaction, and Dr. Fleming has offered the conjecture that there is considerable mutual suspicion between the Fram and Klarf, as suggested by such indicators as body language.

Among the Drami, on the other hand, the Klarf have found homes. Quite literally, the great majority of Drami family groups host at least one Klarf at home. In some cases, two or three Klarf reside with a Drami family group, each Klarf assigned to a different room within the residence.

The Klarf remain for the most part inside what might be called their quarters — box-like structures with a single window facing outward to the Drami living area.

The nature of the bond between the Drami and the Klarf undoubtedly relates to the vocalizations made by the Klarf at specific, predictable times each planetary day (18.4 SGH).

In the intervals between these periods of vocalization, the Klarf occupy themselves quietly within their quarters, and the Drami go about their business. But when the vocalizations begin, the Drami turn toward the Klarf and seem to focus with genuine interest on the vocalizations.
What, then, is the nature of these apparently significant vocalizations? Therein lies the puzzle.

We have been able to establish with great confidence that the vocalizations carry emotional content. They track very closely in tone, cadence, and volume what we know to be confrontational, angry talk among the Drami themselves — talk often replete with interruptions and the like.

Moreover, we know that when the Drami attend to these vocalizations from the Klarf, the Drami often become visibly agitated and at times shake their mid-level radial appendages and seem to talk directly to the Klarf, using the vocabulary of strong assent.

All of this would make perfect sense, of course, if the Klarf and the Drami actually were communicating. But the vocalizations made by the Klarf have no information content that we have been able to decode. It’s noise, we think, not signal. It’s as if the Klarf were speaking in faux-Drami, similar to the gibberish one sometimes hears from stand-up comedians replicating the sounds, but not any actual words of a foreign language.

If we are right about the lack of meaningful content in the vocalizations of the Klarf, we are left with this: The Klarf obviously derive real and valuable benefits from the vocalizations. They are provided homes. But what benefit do the Drami derive from them? Is it simply an emotional release of some kind? Or are we missing some actual content-laden communication that’s staring us in the face? We simply don’t know.