Elrana, the hive city, Orak
Rakanor stood with a closely guarded expression of bemusement on the balcony of his subterranean apartment. Clawed hands rested on a smooth guard rail as he leaned out over the bustling hive city of Elrana, arguably the capitol of all Orak. Most lived in apartments, with only a few in special professions granted larger residence, it was the only fair way to live in his opinion. However, thoughts of ideology had to wait as he considered the implications of the task he had been set. He, Rakanor alpha Praetorian and leader of Queen Elra’s royal guard, was to be sent into space to seek out other species and form what alliances could be founded. Through his connections he knew that somewhere the Tok was already possibly communicating with aliens, but he himself was no wordsmith. Indeed he had only been granted the unique experience of being thrown up into the stars three times in his life, his first time being sent to the training world of Toruaa fandfgh to develop his skills as an elite soldier of the Orakian people. He enjoyed the freedom of escaping his homeworld, but he did not relish the thought of being unable to fight, up there he was helpless. All his training counted for nothing locked in a metallic box which kept one alive.
His head shook decisively, and he knew that he had until the ‘morning’ before he would set off. He hoped that the Tok would gather some intel before then that he could use in his pursuit of alien peoples… possibly even an indication of who he should speak with first in his monumental task. The insectoid turned away from the balcony and entered his apartment, closing the strange almost rocky door behind him and plunging the room into near complete darkness.
(First contact, collab between Meeky and me)
Lkzor breathed an audible sigh of relief as the larger ship drifted away from the starship Etude and the Hymn. The Lok was not equipped to deal with the large alien invaders, but the more passive and more importantly weaker T’tirri ships it could bully. He waved both hands forward and brought them together explosively, clapping in excitement as his crewmates looked up at him expectantly.
* * * * *
On board the larger Etude, A’Rana felt that something was off. Something about the scene was... off. The negotiations had gone so swimmingly, but she could not shake herself of the unease she felt.
Sister, she sang, sister Im’i, do you feel that?
I do not, the corvette’s pilot said to her. We should be going, sister.
You may do so, A’Rana decided. Return with news to the Council as soon as possible. I’d like to gather some data concerning this region of space.
As you say, sister, Im’i conceded. With that, the Hymn activated FTL drives and was, after a few minutes of energy buildup, gone.
* * * * *
Lkzor watched expectantly as his good fortune extended further, the smaller but still formidable T’Tiri craft was leaving the scene, and more importantly only one unprepared ship for him to confront.
“What are you waiting around for? Prepare weapons noticeably, double heat signatures, come out of stealth brothers. Let’s go bully a ship eh?” He jumped up onto his command console like a human leader of old, waving forward his incredibly nerdy troops as they engaged every system on the floating wreck which was the SCN Tok. Weapons systems seemed to pour out energy from every seam in a general tactic of misdirection, as the above averagely sized Corvette shuddered into life and quickly closed the space between the two crafts. Its body was far from symmetrical, in an alien way emphasising the power that it could contain with mismatched and protruding shards of metal dotting the hull. It was far wider than it was long, and power pulsed from the two concealed thrusters in the rear of the craft. It beared down on the T’Tiri craft with its intentions seemingly clear-cut, however at the last moment it ground to a halt in space, and communications literally forced their way across the gap.
“Alien craft-” The Tok relayed using somewhat sophisticated communicators mostly hashed up from the original mining craft it had started life as. “You have broken Sciriniti Collective law with your communications with the interlopers. You have one chance to comply and relinquish all relayed information before we will be forced to take direct action and eliminate both your craft and that which has taken intel out of our sector.” Lkzor grinned in an insectoid way as he finished his little speech, helping himself to an Orakian drink as offered by his navigation officer who rolled his eyes.
* * * * *
Shortly after the Hymn departed, the Etude picked up a massive energy buildup. A’Rana focused on the source, but before she could even conduct a proper scan, the energy signatures were rising even further, and she was having trouble discerning the exact dimensions of the vessel they were facing, though the sonic sensors did indicate it was a smaller, but more powerful, ship...
Then, a transmission was sent. The odd voice spoke in something slightly, barely similar to the universal sector language, but the voice ended in strange clicking sounds frequently, as if buttons were being mashed in a humanoid’s mouth. It was difficult to understand, but the intent was clear:
Give us information or be attacked.
The message came as a bit of a shocker to A’Rana. She did not expect a threat of force so quickly, though it was not unheard of, though she also did not know of the Sciriniti or their culture. At once, she was both excited and disappointed; this vessel, by all means, seemed to have every means of at least heavily damaging her vessel before she could retreat, if not destroying it.
However, that DID mean the ship would be just as likely to attack if she DID comply. She did not plan to take aggressive actions, but she knew it would be best to try and gather as much information as she told. So, she proceeded to try and do just that.
Cross-reference the message; try to find a means of translating it properly, she commanded her crew. I will begin negotiations with these beings. Allow them visual feed of my quarters.
Energy in the Etude shifted. Several brief, quiet songs began, and the communications crew began its work. A’Rana began transmitting a live message to the other vessel, complete with visual feed of the pulsing, crystalline, blue T’Tiri.
“Please,” the T’Tiri captain began in a sing-song voice, speaking the sector language, “do not attack. We harbor no ill-intentions toward your species, though I am only able to communicate a few details of the discussion with the other vessel to you. I am Captain A’Rana, and I am surprised I have never heard of your illustrious Collective. What are you?”
* * * * *
The Tok became eerily silent as the captain looked down at his feet for a few moments.
“Crap.” He cursed. He flicked the communications switch and spoke into the mic, which looked oddly like an earth microphone attached with some form of tape to a stand. “Alright, we see that you’re some sort of blue stone crystal thing. You wouldn’t have heard of the Collective because the truth is we watch over you always, unseen and unthanked. However, as I have already stated, you have endangered both yourselves and our great nation by communicating with those aliens, and we must know how dangerous the material you have relayed is.”
“So,” the answer came quickly, as if it had begun mid-transmission, “you are a nation? How exciting! Do you have laws? Are we allowed any voice in the electoral process? What sort of information would be dangerous that we should not pass on?” The crystal practically thrummed with delight.
“Look, I can’t tell you what’s dangerous and what isn’t telepathically, you’re going to have to send us what you sent to them before we can discern if the damage is minor enough to warrant not destroying you. If we were required to terminate you it would make little sense for us to tell you about our people, would it not?” Lkzor was realising quickly that these creatures were not going to be easily bullied, not for bravery but for naivety.
“But,” the T’Tiri began, sounding confused, “if we don’t know about you or your culture, how could what we know be dangerous to you...? What should we be trying to tell you, specifically? Many things were discussed; oh, yes.”
“So, before you spoke with the aliens they knew of your existence then? They knew that easily exploitable life existed in this sector of space? You don’t understand what we do, these creatures will return and they will be many. We must know if you have disclosed enough for them to be able to strike at us, for as you should have guessed, we too reside in this sector.” Lkzor facepalmed, although his worries were realistic, he just wanted to know a little more about both species without having to disclose more about his own, this was after all to his knowledge second contact with any alien species.
* * * * *
Back on the Etude, A’Rana thought of what to say for a long moment. She was silent in the transmission for a time, as she was trying to think of the most useless, factual information she could provide to start with, something that would not betray her coding (and thus be unable to be done) and yet not betray her new friends...
...and she knew just what to send.
“Oh,” she said after a moment, “we did send them these files. They were very interested in them.” And with that, she started sending files to the other ship... picture files.
* * * * *
“What in hell is this?” Lkzor asked of his officer, who showed the pictures on the small holo-screen that was still barely operational on the Tok. “Are those...?”
He switched to the comms. “So you sent the aliens this, were you trying to establish an alliance with them? What were you thinking? That ship was geared for war and little else.” Lkzor tried to sound accusatory in the hope that the false threat to his people might ensue some measure of guilt from the creature.
“We suggested that we be friends,” the T’Tiri replied in a sing-song voice, “just as we suggest to you. It is better to have a peaceable meeting than a violent one, is it not?”
“I do not doubt that, but what is our friendship worth to you? Will you present to us more of the documents that you shared with the interlopers? Do this and I may have authorization to relinquish information on my own people.” Lkzor stared at his impassive communications officer, who shrugged.
“Well, we also let them have a map,” the T’Tiri decided to admit. “They seemed so new to this place, we wanted to help them know of the important places, the places to avoid, and also of the meeting at Polis, yes.”
Lkzor literally banged his head against the control panel at a mention of maps. However, he perked up at the mention of a ‘meeting’ at Polis. “You gave them a map!” He almost shouted. “Damnit.”
“Oh, do not worry,” the T’Tiri said in what was, perhaps, not as soothing a tone as it was meant to be. “We only explored half of this sector, and so we only gave them that much information; and for the most part, the only species nearby this region included some strange, primitive masses of worm-like entities -- according to our databases --, and what was, several hundred years ago, a very primitive insectoid species. They would not have information on your Collective, I am certain.”
Lkzor visibly blanched. “O...k. How about this? We’ll share with you our charts of the sector we have mapped in exchange the maps you gave to the interlopers. At least you can trust us to have a vested interest in protecting the knowledge. Do this, and give us more information on this ‘Polis’ meeting, and I believe we can do away with hostilities for now.” Lkzor looked at his officers who now looked noticeably less bored. Their heads tilted as they considered what the T’Tiri had unknowingly revealed.
* * * * *
A’Rana considered the reaction these Collective representatives offered her. Something, she felt, something she had done had truly disturbed them. What, precisely, was uncertain, but her intimate understanding of sound told her that they were... unsettled. A little afraid, perhaps?
A’Rana decided it was time to be kinder. She had caused them undue disturbance, no matter that they were threatening her crew.
* * * * *
“Very well,” the T’Tiri said, and immediately another file was open for viewing. “This is a sector map, including all of our knowledge of... the sector, sans what our friends were able to transmit to us. We’ve also included a gift: A design for advanced mining facilities, which we hope may interest you. And, finally, we have delivered the coordinates of the sector meeting for all sentient races: The Polis conference, in which all who wish to come may represent their species in a bid for peace.”
The documents flooded into the Tok’s systems, and the weapons powered down at Lkzor’s command. He looked at the information appreciatively for a few moments, before nodding and allowing the information he had promised to be relayed back to the Etude. It included a fairly detailed mapping of the Orakian half of the sector and also some details of the far edges past their homeworld.
“We thank you kindly for the gift, although we cannot offer much in the way of knowledge in return at this current time. However, as you can see we, the Orakian, originate from the planet Orak. I am captain Lkzor of the SCN Tok, it was a pleasure to meet you A’Rana. I hope that with further permissions I may re-open communications with the blessings of my queen so that you may have some of the answers you seek.” With that Lkzor turned off his mic, and ordered preparations for a speedy return to the command center. The Tok remained in communications range with the Etude for a few more moments however, in case they wanted to get in a last word.
And they had one, just one more thing to say. A strange, laugh-like sound escaped the T’Tiri vessel through the communications. “My great-great-great... No, I cannot say precisely which ancestor, but one of my ancestors was the one that visited your world. It is good to see that your people have advanced so far in so short a time. We look forward to seeing your species progress further in the coming era.”
Lkzor gave a slight sigh, as if what he had expected had transpired, and then waved his officers to give them the go-ahead. With an audible and equally tired sigh, within the craft itself, the Tok blurred and set off on its journey home.
* * * * *
With a sigh of her own, though a much more relaxed one, A’Rana began doing something very similar: Charting a course for home. It had been a... strangely fun exercise in interspecies communications, she decided, and was well worth the risk. They call themselves the Collective? she pondered to herself. I wonder what their culture is like...
With that, the Etude charged up its FTL drives. Several minutes later, it was following its sister vessel, the Hymn, through hyperspace.