[1 BBT] Legates of Honour

Kagrim,
Kagrim Oversector,
Nagrim Mandate,
Tarassian Union

  Jaz’Moff Tok J’Donag took in the view from his retreat tower on the northern hemisphere of Kagrim. It was a marvelous sight as dawn broke behind the mountains over Korratos valley. Unlike most Tarassians who evolved on the hot savannahs of Tarassaka, J’Donag preferred colder temperatures. Even so, he much adored the fresh air grace to the conifer trees between the spiked mountains of Kagrim. It was a luxury few in the Union could afford, though his retreat was not as extravagant as some of the other Jaz’Moffs.
 Despite the Union’s best efforts, the higher positions came with luxuries which indulged the egos of those who climbed the administrative strata. Yet J’Donag remained largely the same. Connecting still with the day-to-day aspects of life such as fresh air. He had mastered the teachings of harmony of the Jen’Tarsai, the fundamental ideology of the Union.


Korratos valley on Kagrim.

 He took one last breath, enjoying the view one more time before entering his office again. As the overseer of the Nagrim Oversector, he was chief of billions of lives and their security. What he didn’t expect was for the Tarrasos’ recent border directive to reach him first.
 Tarrasos Gor D’Kut had changed the Union’s isolationist stance recently. Forces would start to carefully skimmer the edges of their dominion’s borders. Slowly probing the identity of potential neighbours with utmost tactfulness. The Union’s way had been forged by wars and the Tarassians themselves barely survived their first contact with the technologically superior Ryccians under Viceroy Scipio, Duke of Velpus. Though the Incursion War had ended over 1,600 years ago, the carnal fear remained within the bones of the Union.
 Even its northern border hadn’t gone unscathed. An unknown empire lay there with which the Tarassians engaged sparsely in skirmishes with over the past centuries. Never knowing the face of their enemy. To protect the Union was the foremost doctrine. A law as immutable as gravity itself. Hence why even Tarassos D’Kut’s slightest change in border policy was seen as revolutionary by many. Now, the time had paid off.
 His office hologram beeped. He opened it and Strategos Murgaud had’Saldem appeared in front of him. She was an old friend. The red haired Feesi was younger than him, but was in charge of the Strategat of the Nagrim Oversector. However, Archon J’Bassim, the White Archon, appeared too to his surprise. Few achieved his rank while fur turned grey with age. A testament to his cunning. His presence alone, signified the gravity of the Strategos’ call.

Female StrategosArchon Vak J'Bassim

Strategos Murgaud had’Saldem & Strategos Vak J’Bassim.

 - “Citizen Archon, Citizen Strategos. I fear this isn’t a social call.” J’Donag remarked.
 - “No it isn’t, Citizen Jaz’Moff.” The Archon replied dryly.
 Immediately J’Donag received an additional encrypted transmission. He opened it directly and it revealed a star chart with patterns. It took a moment before he realised what was going on.
 - “Our forces have identified a potential incoming fleet. Roughly 150 ships in strength. They’re coming from the Yakhari Commonwealth, though their configurations are unlike anything we’ve faced before. Their path puts them on a collision with Olnim in two days.” Strategos had’Saldem added.
 It was concerning. It was unlikely the Yakhari would have been conquered without the occasional traders mentioning it. J’Donag couldn’t help but wonder.
 - “What does the T’Latos Order think? Do we have any speculations from them?” He finally dared to ask.
 The T’Latos Order was the intelligence branch of the Union. Ruthless data gathering was their speciality. It was deemed necessary to secure the orderly way of the Jen’Tarsai. The mere mention of their name brought memories of J’Donag’s first teeth he had to bring in for the Order.
 Archon J’Bassim was reluctant to answer. Typically only the Tarassos had access to such information and it was understood it wasn’t to be shared. However, Tarassos D’Kut again had changed his stance on information containment and shared information more so than previous Tarassosi with their Archon. J’Bassim was afraid this was a test of loyalty of sort. One could never be certain who worked for the T’Latos Order willingly or unwillingly. Though despite his fears, he entrusted himself in the Tarassos.
 - “The T’Latos Order has been able to identify a likely star nation. Rumours have been spreading of a rising power in the spaceborne territories south of the Yakhari. Humans under the name Stoinian.”
 Both the Strategos & the Jaz’Moff felt a shiver in their spine. Human… It was a term the invaders of the Incursion War called themselves. Yet they called themselves under a different name now. Not Ryccian.
 - “Before you ask the question, the ship configuration are unlike the Ryccians from the Incursion War. It’s very unlikely they are descendants of our ancestors enemies. However, we shouldn’t exclude the possibility of the same ferocity.” The Archon continued.
 - “Yet they move unflinching in a straight arrow. The same resolve with which they invaded Tarassia. I’ll notify Cu’Navarchos J’Korab to amass his V’Stolat at Olnim. We must prepare ourselves should their intentions prove hostile.” Strategos had’Saldem contemplated.
 - “Agreed, we should be cautious.” J’Donag voice his support for his trusted friend’s plan.
 - “I concur, but the Tarassos wants us to initiate peaceful protocols. Which brings us to you, Citizen Jaz’Moff.” The Archon finally revealed his true intentions.
 J’Donag was confused. He didn’t quite know what the Archon would ask of him.
 - “The Tarassos wants you to send an official to meet these Stoinians. An official Legate in his name to try and initiate a diplomatic relation. As the governor of the Kagrim Oversector, you can mobilise your best official to meet them in due time. I’m sure, the Kagrim Oversector has enough Citizens of quality to surpass the Tarassos’ expectation.”
 J’Donag knew what he was saying. He hadn’t reached his level if he had been a fool. The Archon had delegated an important task to him. Meaning he saw him as responsible enough, but on the other side… He was putting J’Donag as the responsible should things go south. After all, Union society viewed disfavourably upon those who put others in charge of tasks too great a challenge for them. However, the Archon knew he was too high up to be touched by those norms. J’Donag would bear the brunt of the responsibility. Archon J’Bassim was known to disagree with some of the Tarassos’ stances. His recent language also merely stated what the Tarassos wanted, not what he wanted. Perhaps he was sabotaging the Tarassos policy in his own way. However, he had covered his deceits carefully and J’Donag had no proof of his theory. The Archon had pivoted him into doing his bidding.
 - “I will succeed, Citizen Archon. The Union will receive these Stoinians per the Tarassos’ instructions.” J’Donag answered the call. Though in truth he had no choice.
 - “Excellent. Walk the Jen’Tarsai.” The Archon said before ending the transmission.
 - “On the Jen’Tarsai I remain.” Replied both the Jaz’Moff & the Archon to their superior.
 With tha formal sayings, the Archon disappeared. Had’Saldem gave him a worried look. She had understood the position her friend was put in.
 - “Best of luck, J’Donag. I’ll make sure Cu’Navarchos J’Korab will follow your Legate’s instructions. Choose wisely.” She said before given him a nod.
 J’Donag reciprocated the nod and finally had’Saldem closed the transmission herself. He was left with a burden and his shoulder already felt weaker. This was coming from the Tarassos himself. Though luckily, he knew a rising star within the administrative stratum of the Union. Bor J’Vakir. If memory served right, he was merely four hours away from Olnim. He hesitated no longer to contact the young Tarassian.


9 LY north of the Yakhari Commonwealth Border
HMS Kawacha
2nd Fleet Section, Fleet Division Alpha, 163rd Fleet
Three days later

 The Meridian system was an elusive system in the cross-section of the Tiyanki Territories. The Stoinian Star Kingdom, by the order of the King, took control of the system once they had found it. By luck or fate, the Joint Exploratory Fleet had discovered the system. Unlike the Tiyanki nations, the Joint Exploratory Fleet used warp field drives and didn’t need hyperspace routes to travel. Not even the most advanced Arkanian hyperdrives were able to scour for the Meridian system. Thus for thousands of years, if not millenia, the Meridian system remained clouded in mystery.
 It took a lot of favours from the Treecuu to allow the Stoinians to solely control the system. The King had machinations for the system and assured the Treecuu President that the annexation of the system was a unique deed. Something they wouldn’t pursue from then on without Treecuu input.
 With the capture of the Meridian system, the reputation of the Stoinians grew throughout the Tiyanki Territories. Some welcomed them, but most remained wary of them. Especially while 156 ships travelled through their realms. It was a most terrifying sight, but the Stoinians assured them they merely wanted to pass through to scout out a potentially dangerous star nation. A star nation they had deduced from data from the Ryccian Empire & the Drakari Celestial Imperium. It was agreed upon that the star nation was militaristic of sorts, yet firmly isolationist if neither the Ryccians or Drakari fully comprehended them.
 The 163rd Fleet under Admiral Kalervo Hämäläinen was sent to secure the Meridian system, but a detachment of the 2,548 strong fleet would be used to investigate this potential star nation between the Drakari, Ryccians & Tiyanki. For the Joint Exploratory Fleet was already spread thin with the many nations of the Tiyanki Territories. One of the Legates was put in charge to build up the diplomatic mission of Meridian was sent to delve into the matter with enough naval power to gain the respect of any militaristic star nation without the intent of invasion. Or if things escalated as they often did in Stoinian first contacts, to secure a safe return.


HMS Kawacha arriving in the Olnim system.

 Legate Keira Carnell stood aside Rear Admiral Louis Alphonse Alarie in the Kawacha’s Command Room. The man’s excessive smoking of cigars irritated her throughout the journey. Although truvacco wasn’t harmful, she had never grown accustomed to the smell. Regardless, she had to pull through. No one ever, except the King Himself, told an Admiral how to behave in his own command room.

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Legate Keira Carnell in the Kawacha’s Command Room

 As the Kawacha entered an unknown system for the dozenth time, Keira once more keenly looked at the system’s map. Although the Atlas-class battleship was sturdy & modern, the interfaces hadn’t yet been updated to host holograms. The incremental implementation of the Treecuu tech hadn’t yet reached her fleet and would take a while now that they were deployed on the frontier.
 As if suddenly struck by lightning, she noticed a change in the Admiral Alarie’s puff. She took a glance and speculated they had struck gold. Finally! However, a second later, yellow dots appeared.
 - “Admiral, sensors report over 1,000 ships orbiting the planet.” An aide told him.
 Without hesitation, he turned towards the officer, pointing his cigar at him.
 - “Get the fleet on yellow alert. Order calculations to get us out of here. Don’t engage active scans, we don’t want to appear hostile.” Rear Admiral Alarie barked around the room.
 - “Admiral, we can’t engage in diplomatic relations with gun ports open.” She tried to explain.
 - “Maybe so, but unless our first contact statistics have changed, I’m not taking any chances with a numerically superior force. You may be in charge of the diplomatic mission, but I’m in charge of the fleet and its security.” Rear Admiral Alarie retorted.
 Keira grew nervous. She wouldn’t let a skittish Rear Admiral jeopardise her mission. Though she understood his concerns, there had to be a way.
 - “All right, Rear Admiral. Proceed as you wish, but at least let me send out a message. Let us observe how they react and then you may take over the reigns.”
 Rear Admiral Alarie pondered for a moment, but with and Admiral’s decisiveness, he finally made the decision.
 - “Fine… Get to it.”
 Keira position herself to face the camera. She straightened her uniform one last time before turning to the communications officer inside the room.
 - “Engage all known databases in our universal translator matrices. Three, two, one. Record.”
 Suddenly she felt the weight of the entire Star Kingdom on her shoulders. She was the first face a star nation would see of her realm. She knew this was part of her new job, but facing it for the first time was quite an overwhelming experience.
 - “This is Legate Keira Carnell of the Stoinian Star Kingdom representing the 163rd Fleet. By the order of His Majesty, King Andrei Casarion, High King of the Stoinians, Lord Sovereign of the Stoinian Spirit, Warden of Heavens, Gerent of the Lion Throne, Custodian of Star Roar, Sword of Terra & Protector of Mankind, we come to form diplomatic relations with your star nation. We too have roamed the stars and faced horrors of the Dark Void. However, today we stand here in peace. We’ll remain here until you can communicate with us. Rest assured we won’t encroach closer to your planet. I repeat we come in peace. Legate Carnell out.”
 Barely a dozen seconds later, the communications officer looked startled. There was already an incoming transmission. It seems their previous contact with the Ryccians had proven to be a boon the Stoinian could now cultivate millennia later.
 - “Put it through, Lieutenant.” She ordered.
 On her viewscreen appeared a large porcupine. Clothed in elegant garments with utmost attention to detail. It even glared on her viewscreen. Out of all the species she could have imagined, a dressed porcupine was not one of them.

Mammalian_massive_17
Legate Bor J’Vakir

 - “Greetings, Legate Karnil. I’m Legate Bor J’Vakir of the Tarassian Union. As you can see, we’ve been expecting you. Please proceed with your fleet according to the following vectors. From there we’ll allow an escort of 30 shuttles to enter land on Olnim so that we may receive you adequately. Let us walk the Jen’Tarsai in person.”
 She found the xeno to be rather cryptic. Though she was certain she’d understand it more when in person. Rear Admiral Alarie looked over at her. Keira gave him a simple nod. They would proceed as suggested.

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 Legate Keira Carnell sat strapped in her seat in one of the Pelicans. The Tarassians had allowed 30 shuttles to come and the Stoinians chose to come in full force. 20 Pelican-class and 10 Condor-class shuttles soared through the yellow moon’s skies. They had enough marines on board to impress the Tarassians, a full Battalion was boarded. Major Naldo Correa was in charge of the marines and sat next to the Legate.
 - “Legate, do you want us to perform some ceremonial stunts?” Major Correa asked with a subtle grin on his face.
 For a few heartbeats Keira pondered. She gave the Major a second glance and gave him a smile.
 - “All right, have some fun. Have you trained with your marines the new exhibition drills?”
 - “All of them, Ma’am. Did you have one in mind?”
 - “Legate’s Twirl.” She answered with a smile.
 Major Correa’s face lit up with a smile from ear to ear. He turned his head towards his man as he pressed on his helmet’s comm.
 - “All right you pretty boys, listen up. The Legate here wants us to give the Tarassians a show they’ll remember. Legate’s Twirl, boys. Time to show off our new parade protocols. Each shuttle forms up landing and you boys form up at each of the Legate’s side. Show these Tarassians what the Marine Force is made of. Semper fo.”
 - “Urah!” shouted the marines in the Pelican. All united after the Marine Force’s motto ‘Semper fortissimus’ or colloquially ‘semper fo’.
 Keira was all excited to see the marines perform again. Stoinian soldiers were trained to perform exhibition drills and the recent expansion into the Meridian system had been cause enough for the Marine Force to issue new drills to the Royal Marine Force in case of first contacts. It had partially been inspired by the Treecuu protocol to cut a new port through a docked ship’s hull which was pioneered in their first encounter with the Zeltrex. Similarly, the Stoinians had decided to give a similar show, though less obtrusive. For nothing quite captivated the discipline of Stoinian soldiers as marching colons performing stunts with their rifles.

 Once they were in range of the designated landing coordinates, three Pelicans broke formation and landed first. Keira’s Pelican was in the lead and the troops disembarked behind the Pelicans away from the Tarassians to see them. The marines formed a straight line in front of her and presented their their arms in front of them. Once in position, the first three Pelicans flew away, revealing the determined row of marines. She saw the Tarassian Legate amidst an Honour Guard of his own, but what Stoinians had in store was something she was sure of they wouldn’t expect in a thousand years. She gave Major Correa a final nod as she stood just in his peripheral view.

 Not even a second later, the Major stomped his right foot on the ground so loud it made a sharp noise that could be heard over dozens of meters.
 - “Marines! March!”
 As the baritone voice echoed across the landing pad, the marines stepped formed. Without warning, they began to toss their rifles in the air and twirled it around their body. Their masked faces obscuring their humanity. Only their discipline and prowess remained now. Slowly they formed two lines in front of the Legate. When they took their final positions, the rest of the shuttles landed as if on perfect timing.
 As hundred more marines debarked from their shuttles in their parade march, none stumbled. All marines were perfectly in unison. Not one cog in the machine was rusted or faltering.
 Keira slowly noticed the elements of the moon. In the sky she saw the planet and another moon. Both seemed barren in the blue sky. But what really stole her attention from the prancing marines was the landscape. Curvaceous mountains with edges sharper than sickles cut threw clouds. In their valley lay fields of golden grass and red leafed trees with enormous protruding roots which gave the surface a jagged look. It was unlike anything even the wide varieties of inhabited world colonised by her people had stumbled upon. A reminder of the wonders still left unexplored.

 As if on cue, wind blew in her face again. The marines stomped & twirled their rifles one last time in unison, leaving the echo to spread across the golden fields. They formed a tunnel for the Legate to pass through by holding their rifles up in front of them It was a sight to be remember and heard across the entire Union. The Stoinians had arrived.
 Keira elegantly put her left toes in front of her and marched with the grace of an Arkanian. As she strolled towards the Tarassian cladded in lavish garments, the marines each lowered their rifles as she passed them. One by one rifles clicked the ground as every other step Keira made. None waned to maintain their rifles in the sky. It was a show of utter mastery of mind and body.
 - “Legate Bor J’Vakir. I bring you the kind greetings of King Andrei III and the Stoinian people. May this be the beginning of a new fruitful relationship between our peoples.”
 She handed out her palm, aiming to put quite some force into the handshake. The Stoinians sign of recognising the other party as an equal. Hopefully, the Tarassians understood the gesture and wouldn’t make it too uncomfortable.

 Legate J’Vakir was indeed impressed by the prowess of the Stoinian soldiers. Their precision was meticulous to say the least. The authority with which Legate Carnell spoke was now unquestionable as she strolled elegantly between the marines. Her uniform as straight as the horizon. Perfection was what the Stoinians had given the Tarassians for their first impression. They had succeeded in the eyes of Legate J’Vakir. Displaying martial prowess without succumbing to pompousness as the Ryccians had in the Incursion War.
 He understood the message from the Stoinian Legate. It was a gesture of friendship of sort of humans, but he decided to surprise her with a Tarassian handshake. He grabbed her front arm just before her elbow, startling her for a moment. As he gripped tightly she too reciprocated the pressure. The Tarassian guards were no doubt surprised by the sudden friendly gesture, for it implied a camaraderie. One which the Stoinians to many still had to prove.


A common Tarassian soldier in the Citizen’s Defence Force of the Union.

 - “Welcome on Olnim, Legate Karnil. You have impressed the Citizens of the Union, rest assured. The Tarassos might even like to see such a performance in person once he hears of it.” He greeted her as he slowly released her hand.
 - “Thank you, Legate J’Vakir. I’m glad the effort has appealed to your martial spirit. But who is this Tarassos you speak of?” Legate Carnell asked him.
 - “Tarassos Gor D’Kut is the leader of our nation. The highest citizen and defender. You have arrived timely for his new policies may have allowed your fleet to travel unscathed through our territory. Please do follow me.”
 As he showed the Legate the way after letting her dismiss her marines and select a guard, the towering J’Taron Honour Guard came into the picture. These were the elite guards and signified the Tarassos’ authority. Their different markings should make it clear to the Stoinians that he too spoke with authority without having to put on a show. As they passed through the base towards the meeting room, the two Legates discussed some initial cultural insights between the two star nations as small talk. It seemed the two of them had a lot in common.


J’Taron Honour Guardsman.

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 The room Legate Carnell was brought to had both the architecture and smell of antiquity. Despite having evolved on different planets, the two species similar tastes. The reverence of antiquity was present through traditional patterns in windows and the presence of antique spears.
 - “I must say Legate J’Vakir, it seems our two species share the same taste in architecture.” Legate Carnell remarked.
 - “As we crossed through the stars, we’ve found that many species seem to share these tastes. Please have a seat Legate Karnil.” Legate J’Vakir replied.

 Once seated, the Tarassian Legate sat across the table. No doubt signalling that this was his turf. The guards took a leisurely stance at the entry of the room.
 - “So Legate Karnil… From your little parade, am I safe to assume your star nation is one of military might? Please tell us a bit more of your tale.” the Tarassian Legate enquired.
 - “Well… It all started roughly 1,600 years ago. We colonised our homeworld Casaria, but were suddenly attacked by Mardaki barbarians. A brutish species with no remorse. We were facing a war of extinction then. It forged us into hardened warriors. Ever since we’ve carved our way into the stars against those who threatened our way of life. Once we were farmers, now we’re defenders of stars.” Legate Carnell explained rather proudly. “At least that’s the essence of it. I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you the tales of the many wars once I can confirm my permanent stay here.”
 - “I’ll be looking forward to it. No doubt your people have earned much glory akin to our own. Once our homeworlds, Tarassaka, Onkor & Feesa were plundered by the Rykians. Under the first Tarassos Sakir J’Dir we retook out freedom. Those were the glorious days the spear outwitted the rifle.” Legate J’Vakir proclaimed.
 - “Did you say, Ryccians?” Legate Carnell asked confused.
 - “Yes… Rykians. Under the leadership of Viceroy Skipio Kassius Ferrius Virtutius Blurose Charlen. Otherwise known as the Duke of Velpus.” Legate J’Vakir said with a fury in his eyes.
 - “My God…” Legate Carnell whispered.
 She had stated her disbelief a bit louder than she wished as she was met with the inquisitive gaze of the porcupine creature in front of her. His uniformed glimmering in the sunshine and cloth waving as the wind blew inside the room. Slowly he leaned closer to the table.
 - “Do you know these Rykians, Legate Karnil?”
 Legate J’Vakir’s question cut through the air. Legate Carnell felt her heart rate increase. How could she explain the past of the Ryccians who now cowered in the eyes of hardline Stoinians behind a progressive ideology. Once they had set out to dominate xeno species and apparently it had spread well into the Union’s borders.
 - “Well… We do have recent contacts with them and are pursuing diplomatic relations with them. However, I can confirm they have changed their ways. Now the races they’d conquered live as equals. Their current Chancellor is a Velpan and their Foreign Affairs Minister a Kaminoan. They have changed…” she swallowed the hard truth before saying it “Now they rather feel more as brethren between their species than with us. Non-Ryccian Terrans.”
 She studied the Tarassian Legate’s reaction. She wasn’t quite sure how to read it, but her gut gave her a good feeling about it. She was speaking the truth after all and nothing could be held against her. Unless the Tarassian would see it as choosing a side. She quietly prayed to God for that to not be the case.
 - “Very well, Legate Karnil… I shall trust your word for your nation has travelled the stars more daringly than us. We Citizens of the Union follow the Jen’Tarsai. The Path of Honour. I shall bind myself to your words for we are of the same kindred. Those molded by the forges of war. You’re tale of you history has shown me that. Our people have long suffered the nightmares of a Rykian return. Yet you hold the power to slay those nightmares once and for all. Will you work together with me, Legate Karnil?” Legate J’Vakir spoke as he approached her while opening his arm.
 - “My own people have suffered many nightmares. We know the feeling you have, Legate J’Vakir. If we can help you squash it, we will. There is no reason our ways of honour cannot be prohibited to help those who have vowed similar oaths to our own. I give you my word… We will find a way to amend the wounds the Ryccians have made.” she said while embracing a firm armshake with the Tarassian for a second time.

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 Legate Carnell was surprised be the many similarities the two cultures shared with each other. A dedication to professionalism that would put even the most aristocratic Ryccians to shame. However, the efficiency of the bureaucratic process of the Tarassian Union was a surprise. Though she speculated she received preferential treatment. After all, the Tarassians were awaiting the fleet with which she arrived.
 As she docked in the hangar with her escorting shuttles, she glanced over her marines one last time. They wore their ceremonial dresses instead of their armour. They were polished and refined. The finesse of the Stoinian military.
 The capital of the Union was something else. It was a huge station, a thousand kilometers long and several hundreds wide. The Union’s militaristic nation and various species had brought the question of where to establish its capital. Under Tarassos Pok J’Dollak, the capital station would begin construction as the impartial seat of power of the Union. It had taken them decades and Tarassos J’Dollak would unfortunately not live the day of its completion, but Pol’Asterostas or the City of the Union Star, would be consolidated as the centre of the Union. The seat of the Tarassos and the might Union warmachine.

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Pol’Asterostas, the capital station of the Tarassian Union.

 When they finally landed, the marines proceeded to perform the Legate’s Twirl again. They had an impression to make after all. As the marines performed their cadence, Legate Carnell finally saw the vastness of the Union delegation. Onkori, Feesi, Turshieni, … Thousands of each species united in military uniforms from all branches. However, there were those who looked rather sinisterly at the Terrans. Tight eyes which Carnell presumed to be disdain. Not unnatural given they would be likely be misidentified as Ryccians. A fact she’ll have to make crystal clear to the Tarassos. The only individual that truly mattered on Pol’Asterostas.
 After making her way through the station she finally stood in front of the Tarassos’ office. All weapons had to be seized and they underwent several security checks. One had to admire the Union’s dedication which bordered paranoia. Eventually they made it and selected two marines to join her.
 - “Are you ready, Legate Karnil?” Legate J’Vakir asked her.
 - “We are.” she answered laconicly.
 As the doors opened, a flash blurred their eyes due to illuminating white light coming from giant windows. After a few seconds, a tall silhouette revealed itself. At first nothing more than a shadow. A blurred smudge that would evolve into a spiked figure just like Legate J’Vakir. Tarassos Gor D’Kut emerged from the light like a golden statue at dawn. His uniform was draped in intricate gilded patterns bearing clothing elements akin to aiguillettes and epaulettes. Legate J’Vakir and the Unions soldiers took a stern posture and lowered their heads to respect their leader.
 - “Glory to the Union.” Legate J’Vakir spoke.
 - “Glory to its Citizens.” the Tarassos replied in a deep voice.
 Slowly the Tarassos made his way towards Legate Carnell. As he approached from the wide steps, it became clear he was tall for his species. Nearly as tall as a Turshian. A rarity for his species from what Legate Carnell had seen so far. Yet, when he began to gesture and speak, it became clear to her he was a charismatic leader.
 - “So… You must be Legate Karnil?”
 - “Indeed.” she replied briefly.
 The Tarassos nodded at the guards. A sign to close off the doors.
 - “Please be seated. We have much to discuss. To see if your tongue is as keen as your swords.”
 Elegantly, the Tarassos brought the two Legates to join at his desk. Behind him was splendid view of the inner station filled with fauna and flora from across all the Union. Dozens of shuttles buzzing through the sky and a permanent memory of what the Tarassos was meant to protect.
 - “Legate Karnil, I’ve been informed your people one who keep their swords in their hand. The presence of your large fleet alone was a testament to that.” the Tarassos commented.
 - “The Dark Void remains full of terrors. We have good reason to remain cautious. Especially those who match our own strength.” Legate Carnell sneered at which the Tarassos smiled. He had challenged the sharpness of her tongue after all.
 - “Rest assured, Legate. The Union wishes not to quarrel. Merely to defend itself.” the Tarassos said as he waved towards the glass behind him. “We are doing our part to protect that which we hold dear. Our families, our children, their future.”
 - “So do we, Citizen Tarassos.” Legate Carnell replied, acknowledging his status this time.
 - “Indeed, though perhaps we should turn to the matter of the Rykians. Legate Karnil believes they are nothing alike what our records describe.” Legate J’Vakir steered the conversation at hand. A daring move in front of the Tarassos who was engaging in subtle politics with the Stoinian Legate.
 - “Indeed whatever spine they had in your wars with them, they have lost them. Even a mere Admiral of ours brings terror to their populace.”
 The statement was technically true, although overly exaggerated. High Admiral Chekov has gained much renown for his attitudes and way of doing things. The man was called Ol’ Blood 'n Guts for a reason.
 - “Peculiar indeed.” the Tarassos paused for a moment. “Though why would the Rykians change so suddenly?”
 - “The species they conquered eventually proved to eager for freedom and an Empress reformed the Empire to its current form. Now a Velpan serves as the head of government. Viewing species merely on their appearance is viewed as distasteful now and all are seen as equal… Unless you heavily disagree with their ideology of equality.” Legate Carnell explained. “If anything, their society has become rather toothless and only some military elements still have spines.”
 - “So nonetheless a potential threat.” Tarassos D’Kut concluded.
 - “Not entirely…” Legate Carnell quickly added.
 Both the Tarassos and Legate J’Vakir looked interested at her.
 - “Please elaborate.” Legate J’Vakir asked. He was in on her plan and played along just fine. She had to suppress a smile.
 - “What I’ve seen here is proof your society has overcome the troubles the Ryccians once faced. Instead of conquest, you came to an agreement to cooperate. Thousands of each species live here amongst equals for a united goal. If that isn’t a trait the Ryccians wouldn’t appreciate, than they are hypocrites.” Legate Carnell said.
 - “Perhaps, but there’s no guarantee for us. Or is there?” the Tarassos asked her sternly.
 - “I believe there is. We now know what the Ryccians have done to your people. Which gives us a certain leverage in this situation. However, we wouldn’t want to expose our fellow Terran brethren to the other star nations out there as that isn’t out foreign policy. Instead, on behalf of the Stoinian Star Kingdom and His Majesty, High King Andrei Casarion, I’d like to propose we utilise this new leverage to form formal relations between your nations. If anything the Ryccian political class has no choice but to repent. We Stoinians can stand and mediate fruitful talks between you.”
 - “An interesting proposal. Yet one in which you stand to gain a lot more than we do.” the Tarassos retorted. Despite the Union’s isolation, he had a remarkable understanding of astropolitics. It became clear to Legate Carnell that politics still ruled over the Union despite the military facade.
 - “Yet if you remain here isolated you’ll remain behind while the rest of this Sector carries on and forges alliances while you ponder what might be out there besides the Ryccians.” Legate Carnell stated the facts.
 - “A strategy which has succeeded so far.” the Tarassos replied.
 - “Perhaps… But one stands to gain much more through a Stoinian partnership than isolation. I can assure you, we’re one of the few star nations out there with spines. Those tested by the Dark Void and understand to order of the universe and its fundamental laws. Only the strongest survive. I come here to you with this offer as a champion to another.” Legate Carnell explained.
 - “Citizen Tarassos. The cosmos has granted us a potential friend today. Why should we treat them differently than any other contact in our history?” Legate J’Vakir asked.
 - “Because they are still Terran.” the Tarassos replied dryly.
 He pondered for a few heartbeats until coming to a conclusion.
 - “Nonetheless, I serve to protect our people. If we can ensure a lasting peace with the Rykians, than so we should pursue the opportunity. Our foundation is to protect our people, not to enact vengeance. We shall try your strategy, Legate Karnil.” Tarassos D’Kut finally stated.
 In truth,Legate Carnell knew that if things backfired, the Union could still probably stand its ground against the Ryccians or blame the failure of talks on either the Stoinians or Ryccians. It was a gamble for sure, but one she was trained to turn into her favour and that of the Stoinian Star Kingdom. Not a challenge too great for a soldier of the pen.
 - “I’m glad to hear that, Citizen Tarassos. I assure you we will bring this peace to your people.” Legate Carnell affirmed him.
 - “Very well… Now if you wouldn’t mind… Would you care to explain to me how your High King is? Why would a society adopt to follow a hereditary ruler? Those unworthy followed only by blood.” the Tarassos shifted the conversation.
 - “Because they are made worthy. If it wasn’t for that, the republicans would have become more popular. Not one single Stoinian monarch served as a tyrant.” Legate Carnell defended her liege.
 - “Odd… How so? The Union has deducted that merit is the driving force of the most flourishing societies.” the Tarassos retorted.
 - “Well it’s a long history. One filled with glory, blood and defiance to the Dark Void. It all began during the War at Home…”

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 As if a sudden lightning bolt had stricken the Emperor, that was how the Ryccians reacted to the proposal of the Stoinians to mediate negotiations for a Non-Aggression Pact with the Tarassian Union. Seemingly coming from the dust of history. Long a forgotten foe, the Ryccians however were keen to amend their past transgressions. A fact the Stoinians were all too keen to exploit for their own gains. Be it the respect of the Ryccians or an affirmation of their order. Whatever the true cause of the decision to mediate, the matter at hand was a step into the direction to ensure a lasting peace.
 However, setting up such talks was a diplomatic achievement in of its own. The Ryccians saw any Union ship in their territory as a sign of hostility while the Union insisted it was a show of authority from which to engage in diplomacy. The Stoinians understood both sides of the debate. On the one hand they too defended their home stars with unsurmountable bravery, but also engaged in the politics of swords. It was decided on a solution. A solution the Ryccians dubbed quite Stoinian in nature. In-between the fifty Union ships and Ryccian homefleet.
 A consensus was reached to allow 50 Union ships. Of course under the close supervision of a Stoinian Squadron. It would be tense, but eventually, Legate Carnell would be able to secure the peace. That much she had assured the Diplomatic Corps. Neither hysteria nor fear engulfed the capital system of the Ryccian Empire when the flotilla arrived. To the diplomats it would be an unusual day.
 - “Legate Carnell of the Stoinian Star Kingdom, requesting permission to land planetside with twenty Union shuttles. Flotilla will remain in orbit according to predetermined vectors. Do we have permission Daonlathas?” she replied over the comms.
 Once she received it, she prepared her entourage of dozen marines as well as the honor guard of the Tarassos and Legate J’Vakir. Whatever this day would bring, she would be at the forefront of it. Just as when she initiated first contact with the Union only two weeks ago. Now though… She was better armed with valuable insights of the Union and Empire to broker a lasting peace.

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Daonlathas, The Core
Ryccian Empire

The mood was tense. Tales of old spoke of the Tarassian people as a militaristic one, and the injustices the Old Empire committed against them. No one in the government was sure just how resentful these foreigners would be.

Chancellor Irizi’ar’alani was less worried than most. A member of the famously calm and collected Chiss species, she had done research on these Tarassians to know more about who they were, or at least how the Empire perceived them. Only this visit, however, could prove if these records were accurate.

The Emperor and high-ranking ministers of the Imperial Cabinet were also present, as so were some high-ranking military officers. These people, despite being so close, were unknown to them. Who would they listen to? How would they greet them? Was this even a proper entourage that would not anger the Tarassians?

Given the fear that historical animosity may enrage the Tarassian delegation, they were not to be greeted at the Imperial Palace, but at the Chancellery. The metalloid tower stood tall, a symbol of executive power. Likewise, the honor guard was not composed of the Royal Guards, but the Imperial Guards, the troops responsible for the security of high-ranking officials and iconic for their terrifying black armor.

The Tarassos and the Union’s delegation stepped out of their shuttles, and the Chancellor was there, waiting to greet this mysterious leader.

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Through peril and quarrel,
 Through war and peace,
 We bearers of laurels,
 Shall never cease!

As our quills are our spears,
 We shall know no fears.
 Through fire and flame we were born,
 Now a new oath must be sworn!

Towards a new Path of Glory,
 Tarassian once more,
 The essence of our story,
 Shall endure forevermore!

— Tarassos Sakir J’Dir at the Proclamation of the Union.

 The Proclamation of the Union by the legendary Tarassos Sakir J’Dir echoed through the minds of the Union’s delegation. Especially in the thoughts of Tarassos Gor D’Kut. Through lifelong work & hardship he had become the First Citizen of the Union he so loved. His ascension was not without peril and quite a few Archons still were displeased with his policy to prudently scout out the borders. With the same love as J’Dir, he hoped to change to change the course of the Union once more. What better way than to seek consolidation with their ancestral enemy. Cosmic fate would determine his fortune and whether a new Path of Glory commenced today.
 Legate Carnell and her Royal Marines left their shuttle first. There were no special military cadences this time, but the Stoinians still exhumed the flair they had persistently ahowed the Ryccians ever since the Rascal Incident.
 - “You Excellency. I’m Legate Keira Carnell in service of His Majesty High King Andrei of the Stoinians. I’ll be mediating our quest here to find a lasting solution. God has given us this chance, let us not squander it for despite the Tarassos’ hard stance, know that he’s the only force now keeping the Union’s militant forces who would like nothing better than to see the Ryccian Empire’s destruction. Now here he comes.” Legate Carnell presented herself and explained the finer nuances of the Union.
 With serenity the J’Taron Honour Guard marched from their shuttles bearing the standards of the Union. Their heavy armour didn’t clatter against the metal of the landing pad. Perhaps a subtle sign of their technological advancement.
 Between the colourfull drapes of vibrant orange & mahogany, finally appeared the tall Tarassos. Wearing the same robes as Legate J’Vakir to his right but more vibrant bearing the emblem of the Union. Solemnly without hate he approached the Ryccian Chancellor as the holo-camera’s recorded this historic moment as the Tarassos towered over her.
 - “Brought by calamity, past vanity. No longer my old foe, peace may we sow.” the Tarassos greeted the Chancellor with a short poem “Your world-city is a pristine jewel, yet one made through unnecessary means. I now understand your pride, yet many of my people have cried.”
 Coldly the Tarassos gazed into the eyes of the Chiss as if holding a mirror to her. Yet as the two exchanged iced glares, Legate Carnell interjected.
 - “Your Excellency, Madam Irizi’ar’alani, I present to you First Citizen of the Union, Citizen Tarassos Gor D’Kut and Citizen Legate Bor J’Vakir.”
 Both Tarassos & Legate gave firm handshake yet without any other hostile intent. Calmly they looked now past subtle ancient grudges.
 - “Please lead the way Citizen Chancellor, we have much to discuss.” the Tarassos finally said.

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“This ‘Tarassos’ has a clear, egalitarian frame of mind. There is no hint of superiority, whether out of professionalism owed to his station or out of aristocratic arrogance. He would, in essence, certainly treat a highly minister the same as a lowly secretary, with the same deference and standing. Such a society is indeed rare in history. He also wishes for a peaceful outcome while maintaining his country’s pride. He can be reasoned with more than others in his entourage”

Ar’alani was sizing up her counterpart. From the way people talk to the way they behave, one can tell much from a first impression. The fears of so many in her cabinet proved unfounded: the Tarassians are not here with an insatiable bloodthirst for revenge. Their resentment could be quenched by other means. Reconciliation was the Tarassos’ agenda indeed, as the Legate stated.

Ar’alani herself felt no guilt, nor did many in her cabinet and the wider political class. Rather, they felt a sense of obligation to repay a debt, a responsibility to give the Tarassians redress for the actions of their predecesors. This was an affair she had no relation to from a millennia ago. All the choreographed ceremonies to express the Empire’s repentance and desire for forgiveness…even the Tarassos must know they are fake. They are not genuine. They are rituals calibrated to stave off a beast with a grudge, to show the Union that the Empire acknowledges its blame in their calamity. As the state responsible for that slaughter, the Empire is eager to show its repentance. The people that compose it, however, cannot truly feel what they have no reason to feel. They feel a sense of duty to right the wrongs of history, they feel sympathy for the Tarassians, they empathize and feel outrage over the actions of the past, they are even eager to apologize and give the souls of those who died eons ago peace…but they do not feel guilty.

Perhaps that is the real problem here. Would the Tarassians accept an apology with no guilt behind it, a plea for forgiveness as hollow as the void of outer space, clearly motivated by a desire to not start a war and that felt more like a burden they inherited rather than something they actually intended? What will they actually want if they see through the obvious, soulless façade?

The Chancellor knew a mere apology would not be enough. The hunger for revenge can be satisfied in more ways than one. A war is not needed. To see this to a peaceful end, they would need to offer something the Tarassos could sell back home. These righteous warriors must want more than empty words. The entire Imperial Cabinet could bow a million times, but a million times nothing is still nothing. Something meaningful must be done.

“It is a privilege to meet you, First Citizen D’Kut. You honor us with your presence here in our capital. Please, follow me to my office”

The delegations both entered the Chancellery’s reception hall. The Chancellery was an enormous skyscraper that housed the legions of bureaucrats and other personnel that kept the office of the Chancellorship running. The Chancellery had floors for various departments: legal advice, planification, legal drafting, public relations, administration, sapient resources, and so on. Anything that dealt with the intricate network that the Chancellor was at the top of was here. As befitting its importance, the first floor was a grand hall indeed. Usually, it would be a busy, turbulent flow of employees making their way somewhere. Secretaries attending guests, visitors waiting for some meeting, bureaucrats arriving to work, security personnel standing guard…but, today, it was empty. Instead of the disorganized chaos of a hectic workday, an orderly dance was to be performed today. A choreographed procession of diplomats and other personnel walked around the reception area. Everyone felt the eerie quiet of this vast room. It was if the building itself had been abandoned. But it wasn’t.

The Chancellor entered a large elevator capable of hosting dozens of people. The Tarassos and his entourage were permitted to enter first, followed by the Stoinian delegation. The Ryccians went in last. An operator pressed a button on a labyrinthine collection of destinations. Some floors were restricted to certain personnel only. It was then only natural that the Chancellor herself had to provide a secret code contained in a small chip to the security system, as well as a fingerprint and a voice recognition test. The quarters of the Chancellor were off-limits. Only those qualified could enter.

The elevator then proceeded to begin its ascent, making its way upward. It had a window to the outside, and the assembled crowd could see the metallic jungle from afar. As they kept moving to the top, the scenery of the Executive District was in full view. Massive towers meant to be the headquarters of the Empire’s ministries and other executive organs could be seen. The usual Daonlathas traffic was there, flying cars flowing live a floating river making its way to the delta of its destination. It was an awesome sight to behold. Everything was covered in pillars of steel and concrete. It was if nature did not exist here.

However, in their scope, distant but viewable, was a place that stood out from this artificial reality. It was ancient and vast, a verdant island in a sea of modernity. It was a reminder of the past. It stood out starkly from everything else, as if it wasn’t meant to belong here.

But it did. That was the Imperial Palace.

“First Citizen, perhaps you have already seen this scene from your ship, but I invite you once more to observe it”, said the Chancellor, “this is the Executive District. An army of bureaucrats and other state personnel buzz in and out of these towers every single day like worker bees keeping a hive alive, radiating the power of our state to all its territories. Our ministries and other buildings of executive importance are located here”

Ar’alani let it sink in. What would D’Kut say? What would he be curious about? How does he think?

Time to see

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 Legate Carnell observed the subtle interactions between the two leaders as they entered the elevator towards the Chancellery. She was amazed to see the Executive District on Daonlathas. High Legate Sinclair hadn’t lied about the planet’s architectural appeal. Yet she remembered the renowned pompousness of Ryccian bureaucrats which she had discussed previously with the Union’s delegates. Their extravagant nature disgruntled many in the Union, but their politicking was indeed similar in a way when Legate J’Vakir explained it to her. Though the nuances were certainly a lot different because of the Jen’Tarsai.
 The Tarassos remained enigmatic however. Dauntless in the face of political saturation. One could see the respect he had earned from the Archons who were once his peers. Even though they might openly disagree. He carried himself with a fortitude Carnell remarked many Union citizens described the first Tarassos. A warrior-intellectual. A leader at the front.
 - “Your Excellency, an army’s worth is measured in its leaders’ laurels of merit. Not mere size as your Viceroy Viceroy Skipio Bluerose Charlein once believed.” the Tarassos bluntly spoke in a calm tone, but with keen words that shattered any perception that he wasn’t the hierarch of the Union.
 Legate Carnell was surprised by the Tarassos remarks, but Legate J’Vakir reassured her with a subtle nod. It was up to the Ryccian Chancellor to face the Tarassos and earn his respect.

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