Drakari Celestial Imperium,
Star Fortress Watchful Guardian
Three months had passed since the Treecuu had visited Stoinia. The Joint Stoinian-Treecuu Exploratory Fleets had just been organized and they already had a mission for the Second Fleet Division (around 150 joint ships) from the First Joint Exploratory Fleet. The CO of the FJEF was Admiral Garibaldi, the same Admiral that discovered and initiated contact with the Treecuu, sadly couldn’t proceed with the mission to the Drakari himself. Executing this mission fell to Vice Admiral Ratko Vujić, one of the appointed Vice Admirals to Admiral Garibaldi. Because of the nature of the Joint Exploratory Fleets, the composition of ships as well as command was strived to be equally proportionate between the Treecuu and Stoinians.
However this mission was best left in the hands of Terrans, or so Vujić thought. The purpose for this mission was to determine if the Terrans within the Drakari Celestial Imperium were treated well and ensured rights. For if not, possible retaliations would come and this mission would serve as an intel mission. Vujić himself would travel with his flagship HMS Perun, a Bellator-class battleship, and visit the capital of the Drakari and begin diplomatic talks with the ambassadorial entourage from both the Stoinians and Treecuu. Meanwhile the rest of the ships would go and visit hundreds of planets where most of the Terran population was located within the Imperium. An exploratory mission this size had never been done before, especially for the Treecuu who had been isolationist for most of their history in space.
On board the bridge of the Perun was Vujić and the assigned diplomats. Legate Umberto Berrocal had grown a taste of diplomacy after his initial visit with the Ryccians and had received the affirm to become a Legate. His Treecuu counterpart was Emissary Teemas, a female Treecuu mammalian, who had previously worked with the Drakari and had been sent to have further diplomatic talks alongside the Stoinians. Soon the Fleet Division came out of warp and sat at about 200.000 km away from the station. Vujić began to open the comm channels to the station. The monstrous station sure was a sight to behold.
Star Fortress Watchful Guardian.
- “Star Fortress Watchful Guardian, this is Vice Admiral Ratko Vujić of the First Joint Exploratory Fleet. We request permission for our ships to head out to their individual objectives as per agreed beforehand. We ourselves will set course for Pax Dracon your capital to begin diplomatic talks.”
It sure was tedious, but necessary. The Stoinians at least had warned they would show up and luckily High Admiral Chekov was nowhere near here.
A brief, yet piercing silence would hang over the comms frequencies for a handful of seconds until a transmission was sent from the vast outpost. Whether the crew and the fleet surrounding the station were confident enough that they had nothing to fear or were merely trying to make the newcomers feel welcome was yet to be made clear, even as a rough yet oddly feminine voice soon came through.
- “Vice Admiral Vujić, this fortress commander Aurelia Praetexus. We read you and your fleet. Per the orders of the Emperor and the Lord of Admirals, your request shall be granted alongside naval escort upon reaching their respective destinations. Providing coordinates to the capital and the Terra Nova Enclave now. Please stand by.”
Aurelia stepped back from her console slightly and nodded to the communications officers to prepare the data stream from transmission. While she still held a great deal of mistrust towards the Treecuu government ever since Yim Incident, the one known as Teemas had conducted herself with honor and dignity during her time as the Emperor’s guest. These strange Humans, though, were an unknown, even with the Lord of Admiral’s report describing them as a wary though honorable folk.
If they are anything like the humans within our space, she mused, I’m sure we will get along well enough. It would no doubt help that the Emperor had an almost magnetic, youthful sense of charisma to him.
- “Commander, data package prepared. Ready for tightbeam transmission at your order,” one of the comm officers piped up.
- “Star Fortress Watchful Guardian, we have received the data packages, Awaiting your ships for escort.”
The following minutes the Joint Fleet ships coordinated with the Drakari vessels and one by one groups of them set out towards the Terran Enclave. The Perun would do several days to get to Pax Dracon, but in the mean time Vujić followed the initial reports from the ships that arrived to their destinations. The initial reports were positive, but they would have to wait a bit more before a final decision was made.
Finally they had arrived to Pax Dracon, the capital of Pax Dracon. However Vujić wasn’t quite as impressed from orbit. Having traversed nearly the whole sector for this visit, he expected something special. Perhaps planetside he would see more exotic views, but he didn’t got his hopes up. Vujić and the entourage would take a Pelican to land at the ground-based spaceport.
Damn these people could use a bit more sense of architecture he thought. The nature as well didn’t look as striking. Hell if all planets in the Drakari Imperium were like this, than the Star Kingdom really should push for tourism. They won’t believe places such as Charia exist.
The Pelican landed smoothly, unlike what some Treecuu might have wanted. An extended burn to char the landing pad wasn’t deemed respectable by the Stoinians, so instead they implemented the Stoinian show of force. As the Pelican landed, the two escorting Star Furies did their twirling manoeuvre, breaking off and heading back to the Perun. The air hissed as the door lowered and Stoinian Marines formed a line on both sides presenting their swords in an elegant fashion. Treecuu soldiers were also present to guard their Emissary.
Legate Umberto Berrocal.
Vice Admiral Vujić, Legate Berrocal and Emissary Teemas began to march towards the Drakari delegation with the young Emperor. Nonetheless a show of force was needed and playing each anthem would take too long. As they approached the Emperor the Stoinian Marines lowered their swords and when Vice Admiral Vujić stopped with a noticeable kick to the ground the Marines cheered on.
- “Hail to the Stoinian Star Kingdom! Hail to the Treecuu Star Empire! Uraaaaaaa!”
Then they sheathed their swords and stood ever so present.
- “Greetings your Majesty. I am Vice Admiral Ratko Vujić and I am in charge of supervising this mission and the diplomatic talks. I present you Legate Umberto Berrocal of the Stoinian Star Kingdom and Emissary Teemas of the Treecuu Star Empire.”
Teemas stood confidently with two of her guards besides her while Berrocal took the initiative. He unsheathed his sword and some of the Drakari guards flinched, but it quickly became clear he wasn’t going to attack. He put the blade on his left hand and presented the sword to the Emperor.
- “Your Majesty, I present you a gift from His Highness King Andrei III. A Stoinian honorary duel sword. A true testament to Stoinian craftsmanship. Perhaps one day you may spar with our King.”
Berrocal waited for the Emperor’s response and then the Treecuu Emissary would present herself.
The towering, crimson-scaled creature approached the entourage with an easy smile and a soft flutter of black and silver robes before gently accepting the sword from Ratko. Even if it was a bit on the small side by the standards of his species, Julianus couldn’t help but admire the craftsmanship and effort put into it.
- “It is a wonderful gift, Vice Admiral. A peaceful man, I may be, but I would be honored to share the hospitality of your king and join him in an honorable duel.”
One of the young Drakari’s attendants stepped forward, bowing deeply even as the Emperor placed the blade in their hands. No matter where one went in the galaxy, it seemed, ritualistic adherence to protocol was almost as universally constant as mathematics.
- “On behalf my people, and all the races of the Imperium, I, Julianus VII of the House of Io, bid you and the Stoinian people welcome to our capital. I hope that the first meeting between our nations did not sour your opinion of us prematurely.”
Julianus smiled as he extended a hand towards Ratko, offering his forearm to the man and holding his claws as far away from clothing and skin as possible.
Afterwards, he would turn his gaze towards Teemas and felt his smile soften.
- “Ah, Emissary… it is good to see you again. We have much to catch up on, I reckon.”
This slimy lizard was monstrous for sure. Now he understood Chekov’s descriptions. The old man had his uses after all, but there was no need to jump to hasty conclusions. If they were friendly, they should return the favour. No need to instigate a potential rival a whole sector apart.
That’s what Vujić thought. He then gave his hand to the Drakari Emperor and tried to give him a firm handshake if that even was possible against a Drakari. He couldn’t help himself when he saw the claws.
Perhaps a new contender for the Mardakii claws. Damn it. We’re here to be friendly.
The two Stoinian officials then stood as the Treecuu Emissary spoke with the Emperor.
Teemas was genuinely happy to meet the Emperor again, a man she had come to admire more and more.
- “Emperor, it is a great pleasure indeed! I hope we can find the time to… share a bottle of water and some more stories” joked Teemas.
- “I’ll make sure to fetch you a glass from the palace garden’s spring as soon as we arrive. I see you have become acquainted with the Vice Admiral well enough.”
The Drakari’s smile became all the more youthful and exuberant as he motioned for his guests to follow him, his guards lightly tapping their energy pole-arms against the deck plating before stepping off to the side.
The Stoinians remained stern as the Drakari Emperor smiled. Their species have yet to show their worth. He shouldn’t assume anything just yet. Perhaps the working with the Treecuu was interpreted as a close collaboration, but they clearly didn’t see the whole picture. Vujić still was sceptical about this whole operation with the Treecuu. The Treecuu had yet to show their worth according to Vujić.
- “Your Majesty, our ships are in the process of evaluating the Terrans in your empire, but please can you tell us how they got here and the history of their treatment?”
The Emperor took a moment to smooth out his robe as he straightened his posture. It seems that his youthful enthusiasm managed to break through, even in times when protocol was of utmost importance.
- “I’ll tell you as much as I can as to how your species ended up in our space. Roughly three-thousand Standard Years ago, during a survey of an uninhabited system by the Corps of Exploration, a spatial anomaly opened, and through it came a fleet of ten massive sleeper ships.”
- “What the anomaly was remains unknown, but our historians and physicists have hypothesized that it was most likely either a wormhole, or rift into Warp Space that the fleet had unintentionally fallen into during its journey. If it was the latter, their lack of shielding would certainly explain the severe damage to their navigational records. After picking up biosignatures in suspended animation, the survey ship quickly sent a message calling for a relief effort to rouse and evacuate the crew and passengers.” Julianus shrugged slightly as he recounted the tale, seeing no reason to lie to the Stoinians.
- “While some historians have criticized the admittedly hasty call to action through dubious benefits of hindsight bias, most have agreed that the survey crew was acting in accordance to the Great Stewardship. For all they knew, the people aboard those ships were the last remnants of an entire species, and thus had a moral and spiritual obligation to render aid as necessary. Thankfully, the fears of a potential extinction proved to be unfounded in the centuries that followed. Humans have shown themselves to be quite an ingenious and adaptable people.”
The Emperor would promptly raise a hand to preemptively placate any questions.
- “As for the history of their treatment in Imperial Space, rest assured that they have been treated with the kindness, protection, and gentle hospitality all within our borders are afforded. Like all the Protectorate Races, they are allowed a significant degree of autonomy, hosting their own courts, trade, and legislatures in addition to representation on the Imperial Senate. As with all citizens, humans and the other protectorates are entitled to full legal protections, economic and educational opportunity including the Citizen’s Stipend, and careers in the Navy and the Legions. To provide anything less than that would be stain on the honor my people and our beliefs.”
This Emperor is quite easy going like the Stoinian King. Although Chekov mentioned them having exceedingly long lifespans, the King seems quite youthful. It seems at first glance the Terrans in the Imperium were granted equal citizenship. Although his use of Protectorate Race wasn’t quite enjoyable to hear. If at all Terrans should be equal, if not above them. These Protectorate Races should be more investigated.
The Admiral gave Legate Berrocal a nod at his younger brother in arms as he asked further.
- “Your Majesty, you mentioned the Great Stewardship. What exactly is that? And what exactly do you mean by Protectorate Races? Are these species equal to yours in every capacity?”
The Stoinians still were sceptical, it would only be a few hours before the first initial reports would come in. King Andrei had instructed them to be friendly as there was no need for enemies half the sector away. He had also mentioned something of dominating xenos through other means than just military. Something made clear to the new Legate by the King, but Vujić still was a battle hardened Admiral from the Velutarian War where he served as a Captain. And all he cared for was safety for his family and Stoinia.
- “The Great Stewardship can best be described as both a set of ethical guidelines and a quasi-religious moral imperative held firm since our first forays into the void. While there have been many ways to interpret and apply it, the general gist of the Great Stewardship can be summarized as such: sentient life is a sacred gift upon the galaxy, and as such must be guarded as best as possible to ensure that it can bloom and flourish. With some interpreting it as calling for severe punishment for those who cruelly exploit younger civilizations.”
The Emperor motioned for his guests to follow him as he spoke, his robe shimmering slightly in the hangar’s rather luxurious lighting.
- “As for your question regarding the Protectorate Races, in most human tongues it can translated as an ‘umbrella term’ for a number of younger space-faring species that, due to having a relatively smaller military and colonial presence, we offer steadfast military protection, guaranteed autonomy, lucrative trade, exploration data, and representation on the Imperial Senate. In essence, it serves as a network of trade routes, multilateral peacekeeping initiatives, as well as mutual defense and aid. The most prominent and widespread of the Protectorate Races are the Sosa Republics, Yapatha High Kingdom, Carsicoid Hives, and of course the Terra Nova Enclave.”
- “To answer a fairly common question, if the species in question asks us to withdraw or desires to stand on their own, we will honor their request, with no strings attached. To behave so… duplicitously…” the young Drakari grimaced as if the very notion of it made him sick to his stomach, his posture all but screaming of untested idealism, “towards those we considered as brothers amongst the stars would be a source of grave national and personal dishonor.”
This Great Stewardship isn’t quite unlike the Stoinian way of natural order… Of course no Stoinian would ever claim that all life is sacred. The Mardakii had proven that if anything. Perhaps this Emperor should learn more about Stoinian history before making such claims. However the Emperor had perhaps made a mistake. He is honest, but he had just revealed an exploitable element. If Stoinians wanted to stir up troubles in the Imperium, they could implant elements to the Terra Nova Enclave. Likely they would be resistant, but perhaps other species would be more susceptible to such plans. An exploit perhaps of use for ONI when the time comes.
Vujić couldn’t help but analyse this potential to destabilize the Imperium. Whether or not this plan was fruitful would be reviewed after this mission. Nonetheless, perhaps a first stepping stone, but he would focus on the more friendly alternatives from now. Berrocal continued the conversation as Vujić took more mental notes.
- “I see your Majesty. That must be quite an achievement to keep all those species together. Let alone the entire dynamics between all these races, to us it seems an achievement in itself. I assume this took centuries to realise?”
- “One could argue that the initials generations of some species were understandably cautious… in regards to alien life. But, as the brief years go by, the shared dream of adventure and knowledge, prosperity and comfort, historically tends to win out over short-lived xenophobia.”
The Emperor smiled as he led his guests through the comfortable, yet lavishly decorated spaceport toward his personal vehicle, moving at a slow pace to keep alongside the smaller sentients, his tail lightly swishing and his talons clicking against the floor with a faint, happy rhythm.
- “One thing that certainly helps with interspecies bonding is one thing that transcends cultures: a love of sharing a warm meal and cool drinks. Speaking of which, I do hope you would be willing to share one with me after the initial talks. I would be remiss if I did not give guests of the state the finest cuisine after a long voyage across the stars.”
The Stoinians were still very sceptical about the xenophile approach, but those frustrations might come out during the talks. They glazed over the many ornate decorations in the space station as they followed the Drakari Emperor.
Perhaps they might be more open to commerce than the Ryccians. An endeavour worth exploring. Berrocal thought to himself, but continued the conversation.
- “Even we Stoinians have to agree on the last part. I at least am quite curious about your cuisine. Though I don’t expect to eat hunted game, unless you also value sapient life over non-sapient? Or would that go against your Great Stewardship?”
Berrocal was testing to see a reaction from the Drakari if their Great Stewardship can be ridiculed in the slightest. Soon enough he would have his answer.
- “The Great Stewardship is a call to shield and protect sentient races due to their relative rarity among the stars, not a ban on the hunting of game. Some in the Imperium, notably small nonprofits amongst Human and Yapatha, have expanded it to include animal life on a case by case basis, primarily for species that are discovered to be endangered during planetary surveys. That said, I can understand any source of confusion on the matter. Especially in regards to spaceborne organisms. I remember watching a species of gas-feeding cosmozoans passing by one of the outer planets of the home system as a hatchling. They were lovely to watch as they dove and danced amongst the outer clouds.”
If he was insulted or offended, the young Emperor and his retinue did not show it. If anything, Julianus seemed more than happy to assuage any concerns of his Stoinian guests. Along the hallways, a number of glittering statues and bas-relief carvings of several species looked down upon the group, alternating between welcoming smiles and gazing towards the heavens.
- “That is good to hear. It is quite a relief to meet another species that doesn’t hunt other sapients, but can appreciate the art within the act.”
Berrocal looked at the carvings. There was something sinister about it. The Admiral felt the same way, the change in moods of the statues was odd. Berrocal decided to investigate it.
“Your Majesty, I can’t help but notice. These carving are quite similar to some of our own, but I am afraid I do not possess the knowledge to fully understand the changes in moods. Perhaps you can enlighten us?”
Berrocal believed art styles said a lot about people. He saw it first hand when he visited the Ryccians to address the King’s state visit. Even though he was in the outer fringes, their decadent core culture was omnipresent it seemed. He was curious into gaining an insight of the Drakari.
- “These are carvings of philosophers, artists, diplomats, military heroes, and iconic religious leaders from several cultures. I personally think that the sculptors who made these centuries prior went a little overboard in making them come across as euphoric, welcoming, and transcendent, but I will give credit where it is due.”
He chuckled sheepishly.
“Personally, I prefer landscapes and handwoven tapestries such as those that adorn the throne room. There is a subtle beauty to the time and care put in to each interlocking thread. Art is a wondrous way to bear one’s heart and soul to the world, after all.”
Berrocal was stunned by the Emperor’s openness about art. Certainly more similarities could be drawn with the Stoinians’ own monarch. Berrocal figured they could make the Drakari working partners eventually. Though he would need to be careful about not revealing too much potential controversial facts. The Stoinians had learned from their mistakes with the Ryccians, though the Drakari seemed to have more in common with them on a cultural level.
- “I’m afraid the feeling is mutual. We Stoinians in fact like to brag about our artisanship from our many ethnicities. Perhaps an interesting aspect for future commerce.”
Vujić didn’t quite know what to think of it. Berrocal was going a bit fast for his taste, but then again he was the newly appointed Legate. The King had spoken personally with him on his part of the mission. Right now he could only hope Berrocal knows what he is doing.
- “Indeed! Perhaps we could prepare a joint art festival as well as educational exchanges, but one thing at a time of course. I can practically feel my chamberlain preparing to chide me for getting ahead of myself all the way from the palace,” Julianus couldn’t help but let loose a hearty chuckle as he rounded a corner to the hangar where his transport awaited.
- “Your Imperial Majesty,” an insectoid creature happily chirped as they bowed deeply to the crimson-scaled behemoth, “the shuttle is prepped and ready for planetfall at your command.”
- “You have my thanks, Krrzek. You honor your Hive through your diligent work.” Julianus smiled warmly at the creature as he bowed in turn.
- “You flatter us, Emperor. We are but a humble pilot and navigator.”
- “One who deserves all praise, friend.”
- “Let’s not call those shots at this stage your Majesty.”
The Stoinians both shown visible disgust as the insectoid appeared. They had seen the Treecuu Teetac, but they hadn’t yet accustomed to insectoid lifeforms. They couldn’t help but feeling their stomachs turn around at the sights of these bugs. Berrocal couldn’t help but think.
This Emperor is perhaps too enthusiastic. None the less something that can be used if he is indeed part of the talks. I’ll have to smoothen out this one. The King had instructed him on using subtle means to manipulate the xenos.
The Emperor’s armored guardians turned their gaze briefly towards the two Stoinian, steely and impassive as ever before looking forward once more, subtly sending a message through their helm commlink to the palace.
The insectoid pilot, Krrzek, soon entered the shuttle, their body language suggesting they were more than a little flustered at the Emperor’s compliments.
- “Shall we, gentlemen?”
He smiled warmly as he motioned into the shuttle, gently offering a hand to Teemas to help her aboard. Chivalry, it seemed, was a universal constant, doubly so for the young Drakari Emperor.
The Stoinians seemed a bit reluctant, but followed after Teemas. They regained their focus, but had trouble focussing from all the clicks the insectoids made. They made forced smiles while entering the shuttle, but maintained their calm. As far as they new, they might as well enjoy the ride they were about to have. Although that insectoid clatter still persisted.
- “Initiating take-off procedures, our Emperor.” Despite being the sole occupant of the cockpit, the curious alien continued to refer to itself in the plural form. Most unusual…
Julianus leaned back into his seat, casually wrapping his sinuous tail around the base as he smiled at his guests. His bodyguards silently sat down nearby, relaxing their grip on their weapons ever so slightly.
- “Now then, gentlemen, shall I offer some music during our flight? We’ve a wide variety of genres and tunes to fit the tastes of most people.” He chuckled playfully. “Except, of course, those who have a perverse love of,” he shuddered, “turbolift music…”
The Stoinians were thrown off balance. It as clear now, the Drakari Emperor was more easy going than his Stoinian counterpart. Vujić was clearly not quite comfortable with the situation, he expected silence as was expected by an efficient militarist. He masked his social discomfort as best he could, but Berrocal couldn’t help but notice it. Berrocal on the other hand saw this as an opportunity, a chance to soften up the Drakari’s enthusiasm and perhaps exploit it in deals yet to come.
Berrocal smiled at the Emperor’s joke.
- “I am afraid we aren’t that intrigued by your turbolift music. Perhaps we could enjoy something more sophisticated… Do you Drakari have opera? If so than it definitely is worth listening to, given that the only races who tried to make us go extinct didn’t have opera.”
- “Ah, opera… one of the best ways to adapt ancient stories and poems to a visual medium faithfully, in my opinion.” The young Drakari’s smile did not abate as he waved a clawed hand over the armrest of his chair, prompting a holographic interface to flicker into existence. Each tap and swipe caused the image to practically flow like a stream of blue light, unbothered by the movements of the shuttle as it eased out of its hangar.
- “I think you’ll like this one. It’s proven to be quite popular among those who appreciate a heroic ethos.” He tapped once more, the music slowly fading in, followed by a rich baritone singer. The language of the aria, undoubtedly the primary tongue of the Drakari, flowed with a tone both growling and beautiful, stern yet wistful. Even without the translation that popped up mere milliseconds into the recording, the Stoinians would recognize the theme: a legion’s commander, leading a heroic final stand in the name of his far-off home, confronting his doubts about the plan one last time before strengthening his resolve.
As the aria dragged on, the singer would let out a heart wrenching lament of the banners caught high in the sun and morning breeze, how he would never see the city of his fathers again, regretting that he would never again feel his mate’s tender embrace or hear the laughter of his children. In the end, though, he would do this last act of service in their name, confident that the gods would reunite them one day. One of the Emperor’s guards, despite their stoicism, cracked a smile so faint that had it not been for the single tear that streaked down the side of their snout it might not have been noticed.
The Stoinians were stupefied by the holographic technology. Vujić more so than Berrocal. It seemed that most star nations had this technology. Berrocal would try to ensure a better deal on this technology than the Stoino-Ryccian Trade Deals. However the thoughts of wonder quickly became something else.
Vujić’s ears didn’t quite like the Drakari’s singing method as he visibly shivered for a millisecond. Breaking his stern posture, his hand went towards his ears, but promptly stopped any further action as to not insult the Emperor or Drakari culture. The growling wasn’t like anything he had heard before. Truly, this might have been the devil’s own work if you asked Vujić. How could they butcher such a fine art?
Berrocal was mentally prepared however. He knew something like this could be expected and embraced it. Unlike Vujić he wasn’t completely dismissing it and studied the translation of the aria. He began to identify the same values they shared in the song. He was quite intrigued.
- “Quite interesting. I think I speak for most Stoinians when I say that we certainly appreciate the theme. Indeed quite a work of art you have here. In a way it is quite similar to our own anthem and many military songs. Though I am not quite sold on your methods of singing. Perhaps that will change over time.”