Threedak lovingly dug into the moist swamp soil. Here her eggs would be warm, damp and safe. They wouldn't suffer from the predation of desert mites or risk having their shells cracked from the dry baking heat of the day. Instead, the thick, loamy dirt would keep them the perfect temperature as her young matured enough to break free from their shells and escape into the nearby swamp where they would subsist on bugs and minnows until they grew old enough for their genetic memories to activate. Then, her daughters would return to her and together they could go about the important work of reforming the scattered and miserable Dhajtel people.
With the hole deep enough to accommodate the heavy clutch she planned on laying, she moved her body over the pit and went about the business of becoming a mother. The humans called this the miracle of birth, but as Threedak poured through their memories they seemed to be focused more on trauma, screams and pain. Even after the children were born, they were helpless and dependent on their mothers for years. She grunted in slight discomfort as another egg slid into the nest. Really, the Dhajtel way was much better. Amass enough protein to lay the eggs. Focus on the memories and emotions to imprint on the eggs, and then simply deposit them someplace safe and sheltered from the environment. After the whelps were born, they would mature on their own or die to starvation, disease or predators. Either or.
She hoped that a large number of her young would survive. Once they gained their memories, they would become a useful part in her quest to restructure Dhajtel society. Maybe later when there were more enlightened beings around they would be able to set up nurseries and creches to care for their young and prevent the atrocious generational losses. Until then, all she could do was lay her eggs and hope that they were lucky.
Threedak focused on the memories earned by eating the last of the humans. Images of science and experimentation flickered through her mind as she imprinted them on each egg. Even if the Dhajtel lacked in many ways compared to humanity, their genetic memories would let them advance at a prodigious rate. Each of her young would be born with the equivalent of several doctorates and decades worth of research. They might not have the life experience to go with that training, but the wealth of theoretical knowledge and skills would help them survive long enough to gain that experience.
She pulled herself away from the nest and began burying it using her graspers. Once the channel was safely under earth, she chuffed in contentment before finding a squat swamp tree. With a little bit of work she worried a straight branch from it. Then, she began walking, keeping her eyes trained either for threats or her goal. After an hour or two she stopped, poking the firm ground in front of her with the stick before trilling happily to herself.
She dug deep into the wet clay, each stroke of her clawed graspers excavating more of the sticky substance from the swamp. One of the hardest parts of creating civilization from scratch was picking a starting point. On her trudge out of the desert, Threedak had considered two starts. The first was searching the nearby mountains for materials with which to make tools. According to her new memories, those mountains were the culprit behind the dichotomy of the desert and the low lying wetlands she dwelt in now, scraping the condensation from the sky and preventing the rain clouds from reaching her former tribe. The other was to find clay and bake it in the daytime heat of the desert until it became terracotta.
Given her simple tools, the most she would be able to make with the terracotta was crude bricks and basic pottery, but Threedak was sick of being unable to store what she found. Right now, she was restricted to whatever she could carry by hand, a fact that prevented her from raiding the crashed shuttle of its plentiful but jagged shards of metal. If she was to go to the mountains to search for needed minerals such as lime or flint, having a pot or container to haul it back in was essential.
Memorizing the nearby landmarks of twisted trees and rolling bog, she filled her arms with the wet clay and marched toward the edge of the swamp. The journey took her almost an hour, but it was blissfully uninterrupted by predators or the swamp tribe. At the edge of the desert, Threedak began fashioning pots and trays from the malleable clay, using the stick to hollow out the pots and smooth the trays. She didn't have any way of assuring the purity of the clay or controlling the heat when the sun baked it so she suspected that the end product would be rough at best.
Whether her dream was made of a hundred, a thousand, or a thousand thousand small steps, she would pursue it because she must. Once she had the terracotta pottery, it would make her next task slightly easier. That next task would make her third simpler. It might not be today, tomorrow, or even in her daughters' lifetimes, but through accumulation and sheer force of will she would civilize this barren wasteland.
The first javelin struck the soil next to her, wobbling harmlessly. She had known that the swamp tribe would not suffer her dwelling near them in peace, but she hadn’t expected them to act this quickly. Calmly, Threedak spit the needle pistol out into her hand and turned to face the three Dhajtel of the swamp tribe that were moving toward her. All of them were armed with crude stone weapons, really little more than sharpened rocks afixed to tree branches with hardened sinew.
They hissed at her, their neck pouches bulging in ritual challenge. Almost reverently, Threedak wiped the saliva from the needle pistol and disabled the safety with one of her graspers' foreclaws. The three tribeswomen stalked closer, fanning out to surround Threedak. She puffed out her own neck pouches, letting out a ragged croak of dominance that startled the approaching tribeswomen. They stopped their advance in confusion and began hurriedly whispering to each other.
Calmly she pointed the pistol at the first of her enemies and depressed the firing stud. It jerked in her grip like a dying hartden, magnetic microcoils accelerating a sliver of metal and slamming it into the neck of one of the approaching Dhajtel. With a startled croak her victim clawed at her throat with her graspers before collapsing to the ground. One of the injured tribeswoman’s two companions dropped to all six legs and hurried over toward her while the other charged Threedak.
She shifted her aim, letting Ashley's memories guide her. The human's long hours at the firing range paid off as Threedak fired her second round, spinning her opponent around and sending one of her graspers flying into the air, disconnected from her body in a fountain of gore.
The injured Dhajtel croak gasped in pain, collapsing to the ground. Threedak fired a final round into her, ripping a deep and bloody hole into her upper back. The final tribeswoman stood up onto her hindmost pair of legs in surrender, waving her graspers frantically. A day ago, Threedak would have accepted her surrender, but now she just saw her as another potential failure point. She was alone and trust could get her killed. Any thoughts of mercy needed to be tempered by the risk inherent in the swamp tribe knowing she was in the area.
Threedak touched the firing stud once again, ripping out the surrendering Dhajtel's throat with a sliver of steel. It was unfortunate that such actions were necessary, but she would be put to better use as protein for Threedak's daughters. The towering Dhajtel fell into the muddy slop, unmoving. Without any further fanfare, Threedak approached the three corpses and began eating.
Their memories were vague and blurry, merely a collection of images without any real thought or drive backing them. Threedak winced slightly. That was her only a day ago. Living her life in a fog and barely sapient, without the knowledge and capacity to truly contextualize what was going on around her. Only now, looking back, could she see that her former self was closer to an animal, ruled by instinct and hunger, than a properly intelligent being.
She finished consuming the last of her enemies flesh. Their thoughts were barely worth adding to her own. She learned the location of the swamp tribe's village as well as their numbers, approximately twenty five Dhajtel now that three of them had died. She chuffed to herself in disappointment. The largest tribe she was aware of and it would barely rate a human hamlet. Her people had an almost impossible distance to travel.
Once again Threedak dug a nest, letting the rhythmic strokes of her graspers help ease her digestion as she prepared to lay another clutch of eggs. The process repeated itself without interruption. This time she imprinted the memories of the human warriors in her first clutch of eggs and the human engineers in the second. Unfortunately there was a limit to what she could directly pass on to her young, their minds were fragile when they first awakened and overloading their synapses would simply break them. Still, her new civilization would need all types.
Finally, after the three Dhajtel were stripped bare and both of the new clutches of eggs were laid and buried, Threedak returned to her work. Over the course of three days she excavated clay and set it out to bake into bricks in the hot desert sun. She didn't yet have mortar, not having ventured into the mountain to look for lime, but she stacked the crude bricks in wet mud to make a square one room building. Finally she placed boughs from the nearby trees over the top of the structure. It wasn't much, her construction barely kept the swamp's frequent rains out, and the walls rattled in high winds, but Threedak was sure that it was the first purposefully made structure on the surface of the planet. That had to count for something.
She curled up in her new house, tail touching the nose of her muzzle. The last couple of days had been near constant work without rest. Soon she would need to venture forth into the mountains to look for the minerals her new society would need, but until then she could take a moment to relax and reflect.
In a very non-Dhajtel moment, Threedak decided that the city she was founding would need a name. To Dhajtel, names were meaningless beyond a designation for an individual. They simply didn't have enough exposure to the world to need the use of proper nouns for anything else. There was only one planet, desert and swamp that her tribe was exposed to so all of them became 'the' desert, planet and swamp. Tribes were almost as simple. The world consisted of your tribe and other tribes. Sometimes other tribes would be notated by a nearby landmark like the swamp tribe, but more often than not the distinction wasn't necessary. It was a very simple way of looking at things that fit for the simple people that the Dhajtel currently were.
She pondered, searching for a name that would summarize her gratitude and debt to humanity for providing their memories to her as well as her feelings toward the Dhajtel as a whole. Something to encapsulate the entirety of the titanic struggle ahead of her as well as the ultimate failure of her unwitting benefactors.
The membranes covering her eyes nictated as she stared at the loose brick of her walls for a long time. Eventually, she closed her eyes, satisfied with her choice. For as much as her people gained, humanity had lost infinitely more. When she met her daughters for the first time, she would stroke their soft scales with her graspers and tell them the story behind the humans that died so that they might have culture. She would weave the tale of their final doomed battles against the invaders and how despite everything they fought to the last. She would tell them the name of their new home, Lament.