We'll see creation come undone
These bones that bound us will be gone
We'll stir our spirits 'til we're one
Then soft as shadows we'll become
Mindlink (Formally "The Sea of Voices"; Neptunian [thought+dream+voice]**sea) is the name of a Neptunian technology for direct thought communication, as well as the communications and social structures enabled by that technology. Possession of a mindlink is considered to be almost synonymous with membership in Neptunian culture, and the technology has been adapted to work seamlessly across a wide variety of substrates (biological and otherwise) and neurotypes.
Standard mindlink operations function on a sub-verbal level; it enables the transmission of concepts and emotions rather than words and images. There’s no technical reason the latter can’t be done too, but there’s little point, as standard infosphere connections cover that sort of communication; the mindlink is intended to be a more intimate sort of sharing. A mindlink user can read others without messages being specfically sent, but only ‘front of mind’ thoughts are available; someone’s current preoccupations, their emotional state, and so on. Neptunians generally have this level of awareness of most other mindlink-enabled individuals within about 10 meters, and a good emotional feel of everyone reaching out to nearly 100 meters. The more individuals are around, the more this allows a sort of gestalt synchronization, which keeps crowds from being particularly overwhelming. For particularly close relationships, however, the link can be extended further, with cross-Halcyon connections commonly maintained in long-distance relationship.
The network effects of the mindlink actually extend much further. Since the emotional link is inherently partially transitive, the 100-meter link, combined with the sparse long jumps, essentially unifies the emotional undercurrent of everyone on a given planet, with the effect even stronger for smaller locales and social groups. This also forms the basis of what passes for government on Neptunian worlds. Local, regional, and planetwide measures are presented via mass media (conventional or mindlink) and the 'gut feeling' of the populace serves to decide if and how they will be adopted.
Because the mindlink constantly enmeshes Neptunains in each others' emotional states, many of them never really learn to the particulars of physical non-verbal communication. In fact, when off-world themselves, outside their natural mindlinked environment, many Neptunians can come off as somewhat socially awkward in a way that maps somewhat to some worlds' concepts of the autistic spectrum. Thinking in terms of body language and theory of mind is easy to overlook when one has access to the actual state of others’ minds over the mindlink. Compounding this is their general openness and sensitivity; a Neptunian can see anything and everything as interesting or important, and when things don’t fit the milieu they’re acclimated to, they can become overwhelmed.
This apparent cluelessness belies the deeply empathetic nature of Neptunain psychology; when a missed cue or faux pas is pointed out, the offworld Neptunian will often fall all over emself to apologize and correct the error. This happens often enough that some eventually develop an almost-absurd habit of pre-emptive “I’m sorry!” responses to any awkward situations. Regardless, however, with enough exposure and effort, Neptunians can learn the usual rules of offworld social interaction, it just doesn’t come as naturally as it might to some others.
This issue is particularly notable in Neptunian toyfolk, whose mind templates are based on the native standard, with a mindlink built into their internals. However, as toys, they are often bought or built to be taken home to some other locale. Like any other Neptunian, they can learn, and are still able to usually fulfill their main aims of cuddliness and usefulness even when they act strange sometimes. A new owner or playmate is advised to simply be patient and comforting, and, if necessary, firmly explain the right approach, to help the toy learn. A private space mimicking a standard Neptunian environment (lots of glow and color and soft things) is often helpful, as is the presence of other Neptunian toys.