[1 BBT] The Joint Inspection

OOC Note:
Reposting of the original thread from the past forums.
Characters of the Drakari Celestial Imperium & Treecuu Star Empire have respectively been RP’ed by @taisenbot & @Qwert

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.
 - “Proceed.”
 - “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 Berrocal
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.”

 - “Every species and culture has its own tastes, I’ll admit, but that’s what makes the galaxy wonderful, after all. It will be interesting what may come from a number of cultural exchanges, if I do say so myself.”
 The Emperor smiled as he dismissed the hologram with a wave of his hand, his warm, gold-red eyes briefly flicked over to the Vice Admiral. Working against the human’s xenophobia would take time, and would no doubt require a more… experienced hand.
 Perhaps Cassian, or someone more military minded…
 - “As for themes, it’s difficult to say ‘no’ to tales of heroism, doomed love, or selfless sacrifice. From what I have seen, they may as well be universal constants.”
Make the galaxy wonderful?! How ignorant can these lizards get? Vujić thought to himself. He didn’t quite like the tone of the Emperor. Then again that is why Berrocal was the Legate and empowered to make decision without being blinded by xenophobia. Vujić was able to keep this to himself and keep his military posture. He would let Berrocal do the talking.
 - “It’s good to hear that not all parts of the sector are inhabited by barbaric species wishing your death. The universal constants that we saw before making contact with peaceful star nations are pillaging and extermination. Don’t get me wrong, I like the change of scenery. But I suspect your current values didn’t happen overnight within all your Protectorate Species.”
 Berrocal was gambling here, he wanted to learn more about the Drakari history to better understand them. How ever this way of phrasing might have been an insult to most Ryccies, he suspected it wouldn’t hit a nerve of the Drakari Emperor.
 - “That would depend on who you ask, truth be told. The Carsicoid, Krrzek’s species,” he motioned to the cheerful insectoid in the cockpit, “were quite quick to accept the idea of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. It appealed to their psychology of putting the good and needs of the whole before the fears and hatreds of the few.”
 - “The Sosa were a tad bit different in that regard due to a small number of clans believing they were stronger on their own. Most, however, followed the wisdom of a popular proverb emphasized by their chieftains and shamans: the lone vorn hound falls, but the pack endures together.”
 So they know what to expect from us. Though I doubt they will comprehend the Mardakii situation. Something best left untouched for now.
 - “Interesting, that proverb is quite similar to some of our own. Were there open rebellions from these rebellious Sosa clans later on?”
 Berrocal was interested if there ever happened an open rebellion against the Drakari.
 - “Not really. We treated it as an internal matter of their Clan Assembly, deciding instead to observe and watch the situation unfold. At least two of the smaller isolationist clans were folded into the more influential ones through trade, defense pacts, and marriages. Most of the remaining isolationist chieftains were eventually supplanted by less xenophobic warriors through a challenge that literally translates to ‘Duel of Honor’.”
 He leaned back, resting some of his weight on the armrests of his seat. “It comes as no surprise that such a challenge is not issued lightly–” He looked over towards a viewport, grinning at the familiar sight nestled atop the rolling foothills and mountainous terrain beyond. “Aaaah, at last… welcome, gentlemen, to the Silver City, capital of the Imperium.”
 Well, that’s not quite how the Progressive Xeno Party would be characterised. However they wouldn’t have the guts for it. Besides, this would border to civil war. Something that won’t happen in Stoinian society.
 Vujić looked down on the xenos. Surely Stoinians were better than petty squabbling amongst one another. Berrocal however saw this perhaps as a dangerous foreshadowing. He had noticed the steady progression of the Traditional Party for Colonial Empowerment and their leader, Grand Duke of Tozoria, Lord Thorne growing bolder by each day. A sudden fear struck Berrocal, but it quickly faded away as he saw the Drakari city.
 As the city came into sight, the Stoinians were surprised. It was magnificent. Their near medieval towers packed next to each other formed a beautiful construct. Their structures looked quite similar to what they might find on Paragon. The similarities were stunning, but… How?
 - “Well, your Majesty. I must say your city is quite elegant. I can only wonder where the similarities between our architecture comes from.”
 - “You’d have to ask those who are more knowledgeable of anthropological nuances than I, but I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for some of the odd similarities that happen between cultures now and then. And thank you. I hope that you will come to enjoy all that our hospitality has to offer during your visit to the capital.”
 The Emperor smiled as the Stoinians took in the sight of the city, the shuttle comfortably fitting into the air traffic as the flight went on. Amidst the towering skyscrapers and statuary, the occasional advertisements for various businesses, civic service opportunities, and even the odd holovid and theater performances zipped by.
 - “You’re just in time for the start of this parictular continent’s autumn festival, as well. Should we have the time later on, I’d be happy to show you around.”
 - Vujić replied to the Emperor’s invitation.
 - “I would have to decline. I am here to coordinate the fleet and manage the many reports. From what I have seen I don’t see a reason to fear their results. I am sure our Legate would be more than interested in attending your events.”
 Vujić waved his hands towards the Legate. Berrocal replied.
 - “Well… It would give me a better understanding of your culture. So sign me up.”
 - “Fair enough. Once we get settled in, I will see to it that you are undisturbed as you collate your data. I can imagine that you are feeling a little peckish after your voyage here.”
 The shuttle would gently lower to the ground not far from the palace, the ramp opening to reveal the towering statues on either side of the avenue leading up to the gate, each depicting a number of Drakari. Some were shown bearing arms and armor, others clad in rather simple looking robes and possessing a rather… scholarly air to them. At the ground level, though, stood a number of the Emperor’s guards from several species, ranging from Drakari, to Carsicoid, Humans, and a rather furry alien race that could only be described as ursine yet strangely simian in appearance, all clad in the same resplendent armor and energy pole arms as the guards that accompanied the Emperor to the spaceport.
 Emissary Teemas enjoyed the ride quite much. The scenery was beautiful, but it was also great fun watching the two humans react to the Emperor, the xenos and the alien culture. Their cultures were different in many ways, but ancient-style or flamboyant military seemed equally important to both the Drakari and the Stoinians. She would make a note of discussing introducing some Treecuu military guard units with old-style equipment, should members of these cultures visit Ecteen some day.
 As they approached it had struck them. How? How in God’s name was this possible? Did the Mardakii come from the Drakari Imperium? The bastards! They will pay for it. Vujić drew out his sword and instinctively, Berrocal leaned his back on Vujić’s. They were going in for their last stand if they need be. For they wouldn’t allow to share the same fate as the first Stoinian generation. Standing in mere seconds within a defensive posture in the middle of the walkway to the palace, Berrocal didn’t hesitate. Berrocal clicked on his comm and alerted the Perun.
 - ‘‘Legate Berrocal to Perun, we have Mardakii elements on the ground. I repeat we have Mardakii elements on the ground.’’
 - “Copy that Sir, dispatching Pelicans to your location now. Give them hell.”
 Vujić stared at the Drakari guards as they moved into position surrounding them as there was no need for such a provocation. Confused, but determined the guards did their duty and if need be they would kill the Stoinians. Berrocal then turned to the Emperor.
 - “Your Majesty, you better have a good explanation for why you have Mardakii in your ranks.”
 Then he saw the Carsicoid pilots again. No… it couldn’t be. Were they Qoxex? What madness is this Imperium? Berrocal then changed his gaze towards the pilots, looking intimidating at them.
 - “While we are on the subject… Your Carsicoid aren’t Qoxex by any chance?”
 It had slipped through the Stoinian radars that the Carsicoid had a striking resemblance to the Qoxex. Xenos from a more forgotten war. Since these xenos had been named differently, it had gone under their radar and rolled with it.
 Within seconds of the Vice Admiral drawing his sword, the knights closed rank with an almost mechanical precision. Energy shields blared to life upon their left forearms as their weapons were trained on the suddenly aggressive Humans, ready to defend their liege with their lives of need be.
 - “KNIGHTS, STAND DOWN,” Julianus bellowed with an as of yet unseen edge to his voice before he turned towards the Stoinian delegation.
 - “I don’t know what the customs of your nation are, but threatening my citizens with false accusations of their species will NOT be tolerated in my domain. Those are the Sosa I had mentioned in the shuttle, not ‘Mardakii’, whatever in the Burning Hells those are… and… begging your pardon, but what is a… ‘Qoxex’?”
 Krrzek, meanwhile, seemed completely unbothered by the attempt at intimidation. Whether due to being in their own little world or nerves of steel, the cheerful Carsicoid simply waved at Berrocal.
 One of the two guards accompanying the Emperor simply pressed the side of his helm.
 - “Planetary command, keep the Silver City legions on standby. The Emperor is working to defuse this… misunderstanding…”
 - “Gentlemen Stoinians” began Teemas calmly, “these beings serve the Emperor. Related to your Markadii or not, it is my firm conviction they will honour His Majesty’s promise of peaceful negotiations. He is a man of his word and would not lead you into a trap like this.”
 Vujić didn’t falter if anything he was ready to strike at any moment. But he knew he was outnumbered and wouldn’t stand a chance. He just needed to hold long enough until the Pelicans arrived. And they were still on their way, regardless if they were going to be stopped by the Drakari. So, the Emperor is showing his true face now. Perhaps Chekov was right.
 Berrocal turned to the Emperor.
 - “Your Majesty, the Mardakii attacked our first generation of colonists, killed, slaughtered, tortured and even ate our people. To this day we hunt them down for their crimes committed in those years. We cannot allow such beasts to live on and do their horrors upon other species. The Qoxex murdered our people without provocation and were perished in one of our crusades.”
 Berrocal pondered for a moment, the Cheunh and Chiss were nearly the same, but that didn’t necessarily mean this was a galactic trend. Perhaps this was possible.
 - “Can we get a file on the biology of your Sosa and Carsicoid? Just to be sure we are on the same page. As a show of good faith I will recall our ships and the Vice Admiral will lower his sword.”
 Berrocal switched his stance and looked at the Vice Admiral. He nodded at him and the Vice Admiral reluctantly lowered and sheathed his sword. The tension was still in the air, but Berrocal had no wish to further escalate the situation.
 The Emperor nodded, prompting his guards to return to a resting stance, though their shields remained active.
 - “We are in accord, then. I will provide the information you seek if it means putting an end to this madness and restoring harmony.”
 He motioned for one of his retainers to step forward, their fingers tapping away at their datapad before carefully offering it to Berrocal.
 On one page of the file, the basic overview of Sosa physiology was laid bare. Despite the initial visual similarities the Stoinians saw, a number of stark differences became clear: unlike the Mardakii, it seemed that the Sosa lacked claws and possessed a pair of redundant lungs and a denser musculoskeletal structure, including a much bonier brow. Even their teeth seemed more suited to an omnivorous diet, in spite of their tusk-like lower canines. On a somewhat more amusing note, it appeared that the Sosa males had an almost fastidious level of care for braiding and decorating their thick beards.
 The Carsicoid, on the other hand, were so utterly bizarre biologically that nothing aside from superficial features on their carapaces was even remotely similar to the Qoxex, from their cooperative hive psychology (to the point of speculation of a rudimentary telepathic bond from the report’s author), trinary vascular system, and strangely enough an ability to survive in vacuum conditions.
 Vujić remained somewhat sceptical. His guard was up and it wouldn’t soon fade away. Berrocal looked over the data with him and he came to same conclusion the Drakari had. These species weren’t the same at all. He let out a sigh of relief. Afterwards he recalled the Pelican and it docked back with the main ship.
 - “Your Majesty, please forgive us. It is a rare instance, but our instincts got the better of us. I hope you can forgive our behaviour.”
 Vujić didn’t quite like Berrocal’s response, but he was the diplomat after all. This was his jurisdiction.
 The Emperor nodded, his visibly relaxed stance prompting his guards to deactivate their shields and return to their earlier stance. His bodyguard pressed the side of his helmet, no doubt letting his CO know that the situation was under control.
 - “There is nothing to forgive, friend. Misunderstandings happen from time to time,” the Emperor said with a cautious smile, “Had we gone through a similar situation, I would not fault you for your caution or reaction. Hopefully, however, your fears and concerns have been thoroughly addressed.”
 Vujić still looking grudgingly at the Emperor. How come he calls us friends after just might have tried to murder them.
 - “Thank you for understanding your Majesty. It is refreshing to see other species understand our perspective… to some extent at least. And indeed you can rest assured this will not happen again. Now shall we continue?” Berrocal responded in an assuring manner.
 - “Indeed we shall, gentlemen. Preferably with fewer misunderstandings, should the gods be gracious today,”
 Julianus chuckled softly, taking a moment to smooth out his robes as he motioned for his guests, Human and Treecuu alike, to follow him once again towards the palace itself. The door slowly slid open, bathing the silver, steel, marble, and bas-relief of the entry hall in the star Ladon’s warm afternoon light. Before long, they would enter a cavernous chamber, flanked on either side by three upper galleries where a number of guests, no doubt courtiers, Senators, emissaries, and the occasional tourist of several races watched with great interest as their liege strode in with his guests.
 While the anti-grav throne at the far end of the chamber would have no doubt caught the eye, the Emperor’s pace seemed to slow marginally as he looked upon the vibrant, lovingly stitched ,and well-cared-for tapestries that adorned the galleries with a warm smile, even as he cast a self-conscious glance to the statues of his predecessors, scholars and warriors in their own right, that stood before each pillar between them; it seemed as if Julianus was hoping to prove himself worthy of bearing their mantle of leadership. Each of the tapestries seemed to depict an era in his species’ history and legends, ranging from the rise of disparate Iron Age tribes to periods of exploration and discovery. Many, interestingly enough, seemed to depict the unification of those disparate tribes and petty fiefdoms into a great kingdom by a towering figure, his face partly obscured by a golden halo as if in reverence and awe.
 As the Stoinians entered, they again were taken by surprise by the similar architecture they had seen in the spaceport. The palace had its uniqueness and character, but it still felt alien to them. Berrocal had found a link between them, something of about a unification he thought. He asked the Emperor.
 - “Your Majesty, I take it these statues are of your rulers and perhaps your ancestors?”
 The Vice Admiral didn’t share the Legate’s enthousiasm, but he was indeed curious on what the Emperor was about to say.
 - “Your deduction is correct, Legate Berrocal. These are my forebears, the Line Unbroken, champions, eccentrics, and peacemakers all.” Julianus smiled faintly as he looked away from the statues standing watch along the galleries to the Stoinian delegation.
 -“I hope to one day prove myself worthy bearing the title of Emperor, either in this life or when I go to join them in the next.”
 The crimson behemoth’s self-conscious ramblings were soon cut short by the clicking of a new set of talons along the floor, turning his gaze once to an approaching grey-scaled Drakari clad in an ornate red and gold robe. Oddly enough, this fellow seemed… almost visibly aged if the duller glow in his amber-colored eyes and lack of a vibrant sheen to his scales and horns was any indication.
 Teemas enjoyed being back in the great hall. It was a nice change of pace not being the main character this time, and she could let herself relax and enjoy herself.
 - “Well, Emperor, your name is forever at least written in Treecuu history, being the first xeno leader greeting us as equals for centuries.” she smiled.
 - “You have my thanks, Teemas. I hope that I can prove worthy of your respect further in the future.” The Sovereign Lord of the Drakari smiled warmly in turn, showing only the subtlest hint of needle-sharp teeth when his gaze drifted to the other Drakari.
 - “Ah, Cassian! I was hoping to cross paths with you during the tour. Gentlemen, Emissary, allow me the pleasure to introduce to you Cassian Domitian, Chamberlain of my House and my family’s most trusted confidante.”
 - “An honor, Sire,” the grey creature spoke with the slightest of rasps in his once-smooth tenor of a voice as he bowed, the Hall’s light glinting off the golden rim of his singular eyeglass. He stood to his full height, barely cresting above the Emperor’s shoulder, but just mere centimeters taller than the bodyguards flanking the group. It seems age didn’t slow him much…
 - “Emissary Teemas, I apologize for not having had the opportunity to greet you during your first visit to the homeworld. His Imperial Majesty had insisted I take a holiday a few standard days before your arrival because apparently I am a ‘workaholic’.” He smirked as he briefly looked at Julianus, who chuckled mirthfully in turn.
 - “Because you are one, old friend. You tried to smuggle a datapad full of paperwork to the retreat you chose.”
 - “Bureaucracy waits for nobody, Sire. Least of all folk like you and me.” The Chamberlain snorted softly before he faced the Stoinian delegation.
 - “Ah, so you are the new Humans who have arrived. You caused quite a stir upon the Avenue of Heroes not too long ago. I take it the misunderstanding has been resolved amicably?”
 The look on his face seemed to indicate he had more than an inkling of what had happened, but was more than willing to hear them out in spite of their earlier threat to his liege.
 - “We prefer to be called Terrans, Chamberlain.”
 Vujić made it clear that the Stoinians felt a distinction between them and the Drakari Terrans. He maintained his militaristic posture while exchanging looks with Cassian. A message needed to be sent that they had no regrets for what they did. They acted in their own accord and acted on it. Berrocal then switched to smoothen the situation.
 - “Indeed the misunderstanding has been debunked and there is no need to worry any longer. I am sure you can understand our situation when your people would have been eaten by species which looked remarkably similar to the beast that plagued our ancestors. We can give you the files to understand our perspective if you wish.”
 - “I appreciate that the would-be crisis has been averted, and that you are willing to take responsibility regarding the matter. That being said, I can understand how such issues can arise due to… less-than-pleasant experiences. I do not condone how you reacted, but… nor do I condemn. That being said, I would not mind reading through the files you have to offer. An act of good faith.”
 The aging Drakari looked between the two Stoinians for a moment, as if studying them before shrugging.
 - “Regardless, you are guests of the state, and honor and tradition dictate in equal measure that we spare no expense to ensure that you are granted the finest hospitality both in lodgings and in dining.”
 - “I am sure that can be arranged. Vice Admiral would you be so kind as to relay it to the Perun?”
 Vujić helped the Chamberlain with setting up a channel for safe transfer while they walked further. Although initially reluctant, Vujić understood the merit in helping the Chamberlain with understanding their perspective.
 - “Again I’m sorry for the inconvenience. We ask of nothing more Chamberlain and I for one am most interested in Drakari hospitality.”
 - “We aim to please. Though please refrain from nearly calling down forces from your ship over a misunderstanding in the future. His Imperial Majesty may be quick to forgive and even quicker to laugh, but neither the Warmaster, the Lord-Commander of the Legions, nor the Knight-Vigilant are likely to be as generous should a potential threat to the homeworld present itself.”
 Cassian stared pointedly at the Vice Admiral as he tapped away at his datapad, chuckling softly.
 - “That being said, I must commend your quick reaction time to what you believed was imminent danger, even when outnumbered easily a hundred to one. I reckon you’ve made a positive impression on a few of the Knights as a result.”
 - “We understand, though I think you misunderstand that we weren’t planning on a full scale invasion. As for the odds… They still would have been more favourable as of those of our ancestors.” Vujić wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t a laughing matter for him. After all a Mardakii Crusade happened not so long ago, although Vujić and Berrocal didn’t serve in it. The Crusade had sparked again a xenophobic tendency within the Stoinian Star Kingdom, but it was wavering down by now. It was now up to men like Berrocal to pave a new way of thinking within the Stoinian Star Kingdom.
 Vujić hesitated for a moment, he was charmed by the Chamberlain’s comment. He would try one of Berrocal’s tactics as to smoothen the relationship. That was their mission after all. “But… I am glad that your Guards still uphold strong values of honour to some degree.” Smiling a bit at the situation at how surreal it was in fact. Soon changed to his focused stance as they walked on.
 Whether it was due to the consummate charm of an elder statesman or the content brought on by a well-lived lifetime, Cassian did not make it known as he walked with the group.
 - “I will be sure to pass that along to the Knight-Vigilant. Should there be time in the itinerary, perhaps I might tempt you with a visit to the training quarter of the Knights?”
 Julianus looked on for a few moments, shaking his head with a warm smile as he led his guests to a door near the far left corner of the great hall, pausing only for a moment to look up at the statue nestled in the recess behind the throne, its face obscured through a combination of incense and its sheer size. The young Emperor bowed noticeably, his expression softening further to humble reverence. A daily ritual for when he was on-world, no doubt.
 - “I would rather first make sure that no further incidents happen across our whole mission Chamberlain. I only hope that I will not be too late. You should probably also warn your troops and Governors to prepare some proof and a report on our own ordeal. Perhaps after that I might take your invitation. Wouldn’t that be more plausible for the time being?”
 Vujić looked with a challenging look at the Chamberlain. Surely that would suit the current situation and prove that the Vice Admiral was serious when it came to such matter. Berrocal and Vujić remained stern and didn’t quite know what to think of the Emperor’s actions, but they would wait for the Emperor’s next actions.
 - “It certainly would, Vice Admiral. I am merely observing my duties as the Emperor’s Chamberlain, among which includes the housing and comfort of guests of the state. To do so otherwise would be a grave insult to my liege and my nation.”
 Cassian did not seem bothered by the stern, nigh-combative look in the eyes of the two Stoinians. This was not the first time he had dealt with militarists in his long life, it appeared.
 Julianus quickly cleared his throat as he continued leading his guests through the palace, passing by a number of bas-relief carvings and curious trinkets that showed signs of being lovingly cared-for. Some ranged from simple hand-carved wooden figurines (likely made by an eccentric relative or ancestor of the Emperor, no doubt) of some of the planet’s wildlife, to blades and chalices gilded and doubtlessly ceremonial in nature.
 - “It will likely take some time for the reports to be ready, to be fair. From what I understand, the Stoinian method of interstellar travel is… a tad bit slower compared to the use of Warp Space portals. That said, I am certain that the ones closest to the homeworld should be ready by the time we are settled in.”
 Vujić was looking quite stern at the Emperor. He didn’t quite like the sound of the Stoinians being slower than the Drakari. Berrocal was quick to react on it.
 - “I am sure we can send an initial warning to the rest of our ships. I trust the judgement of his Highness when it comes to timing, but I believe the Vice Admiral would more comfortable if we hastened the process a little bit.”
 - “Hmm… perhaps our engineers can collaborate to improve the overall speed of your warp-field drives? Retrofitting your ships with our superluminal engines would be… less than safe… given the energy requirements and the… risks associated with unshielded travel through Warp Space…”
 The Emperor shuddered heavily, as if the idea hit far closer to home than one would be comfortable with. Cassian’s smile faded as he looked at his liege, his gaze becoming one of deep, borderline-familial sympathy.
 Vujić remained stern, not giving an inch of a reaction. Berrocal knew what the Emperor was doing, but such jokes wouldn’t be well received by the Stoinians. He would have to up them without insulting them.
 - "Well his Highness is certainly looking forward for future cooperation. Let us hope that you indeed prove productive partners in the coming talks if you seem so eager to get your technicians’ hands on our technology. "
 This response calmed Vujić, it sat well with him. He could see now why Berrocal was selected for this mission.

 Despite his brief sorrow, Julianus found it in himself to crack a slight smile.
 - “Peaceful cooperation between members of the galactic community is a worthy goal, especially when it comes to pushing the limits of interstellar travel. Perhaps one day, we can ascertain how The Empires Who Came Before traversed the stars together?”
 Ah, there it was… the appreciation of history the young man had shown when he looked up at the tapestries in the throne room.
 As they continued down the hall, Julianus couldn’t help but smile as he approached the turbolift, gently tapping a clawed finger on its holo-interface.
 - “Gentlemen, Teemas, after you.” He groaned softly as a rather generic and quite frankly cheesy lift music track started playing. “Gods, not this song again…” It seems turbolift music was universally annoying, no matter the species.
 - “My humblest apologies, my Emperor,” Cassian rubbed the back of his neck, “Routine maintenance reset the music interface. This is merely a placeholder until the usual track is reuploaded.”
 - “We Stoinians prefer to focus on the future. For if we were to focus on our past we Stoinians would all be depressed.”
 Vujić answered as he didn’t share the same enthusiasm for cooperation. Clearly he was part of the Stoinians that were determined to set a dominating tone in the sector. Berrocal was the same, but his approach was different. Subversion was a new concept for the Stoinians, one that would take time to take effect. Neither of them would add to Vujić’s commentary, for it was a Stoinian consensus for it to be true.
 As Vujić heard the Emperor speak he rolled his eyes subtly, but both Stoinians kept their militaristic postures not moving an inch while in the elevator. They were trained to remain still during music or to march on it. A sort of military tradition, but they could apply it to any sort of music if they so desired. And that posture as a show of strength, was now most desired.
 As if he could read somehow read Vujić’s body language, Cassian would silently appraise them both. It seemed that little would easily slip past the elder statesman, but he would give these Humans the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Guests of the state must be afforded the greatest hospitality, he reminded himself, just as the lift reached its destination.
 - “Welcome back, your Imperial Majesty,” a metallic voice called out. “As per your request, suites have been arranged for your guests not far from your personal chambers.”
 Julianus smiled warmly as he turned towards a nearby device, prompting the materialization of a well-dressed Drakari male from the flowing holographic systems.
 - “Ah, thank you, Septimus. I can always depend on you and the rest of the palace staff to ensure all runs smoothly.” The young Emperor winced slightly, but smiled as he turned to face his guests.
 - “Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Septimus, primary synth administrator of the Palace.” The holographic Drakari politely inclined his head a few degrees.
 - “A pleasure!”
 As soon as they heard the metallic voice and saw the droid, they looked at each other. This nation too had droids it seemed… Still this didn’t change the fact that they looked oddly upon the droid. Berrocal even lifted up a frown at the sight. Be it such machinations were seen as soulless creatures and an affront to God, or that they were soon as a tool for laziness. The Stoinians weren’t to pleased with this sight and they weren’t too keen on disguising their disgust. Berrocal cleared his throat before speaking to the droid.
 - “Likewise.”
 The Legate than face the Emperor, dismissing the droid as if he were but a mere tool. Which is what the Stoinians saw his as, personification of an animal or object was highly frowned upon throughout the whole history of Stoinia.
 - “So it would appear your people use droids? How often do you use such machinations?”
 - “There is a vast distinction between Synths and the simple Virtual Intelligences you would find in your average office computer or tourist guide kiosk, gentlemen. Synths are sentient, thinking individuals. An artificial species for lack of a more tactful term, and valued citizens of the Imperium. If it is any consolation, your concerns were initially shared by my people.”
 Julianus frowned slightly as he looked at the disgusted expressions of the two Stoinians.
 - “When an initial attempt was made to shut down production of synthetic life, Imperial authorities and even the researchers studying such technology were stunned to see that they had developed true emotions and self-awareness. Fear, hope, joy, curiosity… even our religious leaders were willing to accept them when one approached to confess existential worries. Synthetic evolution, they called it. As such, laws were put in place to enshrine their status as our brethren.”
 - “Oh we very well are familiar with the distinction. We are rather skeptical when it comes to emotions of machinations. We find it hard to believe they would indeed be the same emotions. Perhaps our experts can review your conclusions one day. As of now there are laws in the Star Kingdom that prohibit the making of sentient synthetic lifeforms, but we will accept all of your citizens for now.”
 Berrocal made it clear that they weren’t fans of synthetics, but no more could be said to insult the Emperor’s people.
 The Great Nullification, or Tuu-Laarth in Treecuu Common was what the scientists had called what was seen as the inescapable surpassing by the synthetics, rendering biological creatures useless and child-like in comparison to their exponential growth in knowledge and processing speed. Even before the reorganisation into the Empire, the Senate had banned all logical machines that were more than mere computational devices, so there were no synthetic life in Treecuu space, maybe except for whatever contractions the subject species might have had on their worlds.
 The fact that the Drakari, that had existed for thousands of years as a FTL civilisation, hadn’t been “nullified” despite allowing synths was very interesting and Teemas would try to learn more about the history of the synths later. Discussing them like they weren’t there though, or like they were mere dismissible tools was only rude. Instead Teemas greeted the holographic Drakari as the diplomat she were.
 - “Ah, a new being I haven’t met. A pleasure, Septimus” smiled Teemas.
 - “The feeling is mutual, Emissary. Cassian and I made arrangements to provide you with quarters leading directly to the garden. There’s something about the autumnal colors that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Proverbially speaking of course.” The synth chuckled softly as he gave Teemas a rather theatrical bow.
 - “Still waffling on wanting a physical body, Septimus?” Julianus huffed out exasperated amusement.
 Septimus rubbed the back of his holographic neck with a sheepish grin. Evidently, this wasn’t the first time the subject had come up.
 - “Can you blame me, your Majesty? It’s not something to be decided lightly.”
 - “Forgive my ignorance, but is the transfer between living media not reversible? Would it be possible to test a ‘physical body’ and transfer back if you find that it is not for you?” asked Teemas, intrigued by the dilemma.
 - “It is quite reversible, Emissary. Rather, it is more along the lines of the shock of being… alone. Utterly and completely. Imagine being able to connect to countless other minds, organic and synthetic alike, nigh-instantaneously. Sharing thoughts, dreams, and ideas with others across a vast ocean in the same span of time our neurons fire from one end of the brain to the next. Now imagine that, even when you take the time to prepare yourself through long periods of meditation, you find that your thoughts travel no faster than your fingers dance across a computer interface or the range of your voice. That the community you spent so long in may as well have been pushed into another reality entirely. It’s not the transfer that frightens a synth. It’s the initial silence and loneliness.”
 Septimus sighed, or at least sighed as best a sentient hologram could.
 - “There’s a reason why many of us request the presence of a dear friend or a priest to anchor us in those first transfers.”
 The Stoinians were completely disgusted by this whole idea. It was an affront to what they had to endure during the Velutarian War. Vice Admiral Vujić was visibly disturbed by it, for he was forced to fire upon ships which were crewed by enslaved Terran cyborg. The horror he had to face when their corpses floated into space and still had to fire upon them as some were still active. Unspeakable. None of these xenos truly understood the pain he had endured like trillions of Stoinians. It was something not discussed in public for the wounds were still too deep, even to this day. Twenty years was too short a time to heal from such traumatic events. Berrocal noticed it, he knew what was going on with Vujić. Speaking about it openly certainly wasn’t going to help, so instead he tried to disrupt the conversation.
 - “I don’t intend to be the offend your Majesty, but we have official matters of state to discuss. I am sure we can have a cheerful conversation about synthetics and the science behind it AFTER we have our initial meeting.”
 Berrocal spoke with a strong tone an confidence. If this wasn’t pleasant for the rest of the company, then so be it, but he wouldn’t allow his friend to stand any longer in front of this abomination.
 - “Of course, Legate. Septimus, as you were.” The Emperor nodded to the synth, the slight rise of the bony ridge above his eye making it quite clear that he intended to discuss this further as time went on.
 - “At once, Most Beneficent Emperor.”
 With that, Septimus’ holographic visage winked out, retreating to whatever duties he had left to attend to, even as his sovereign motioned for his guests to follow him further down the hall. The behemoth of a being clasped his hands behind his back as he strolled, his black and silver robes flowing with each heavy step like a shimmering, silken river before he came to a halt a handful of meters away from two sets of doors.
 - “Gentlemen, Teemas, your quarters await you. If you so desire, you may take the time to rest and settle in, take a moment to speak to your immediate superiors regarding any developments you may have, or request prior to supper later this evening. We have taken the liberty of selecting the suites with access to the main garden, if you wish to browse them. The Autumnal arrangements have always had a romantic charm to them, if I must say.”
 The Legate thanked the Emperor and went into his quarters together with Vice Admiral Vujić. They both relayed a message of precaution regarding the Sosa and Cariscoids, any further threatening of these species wouldn’t be allow as to not harm the diplomatic mission. Vujić still was a little shook up, but then a report from Commodore Tuuc was relayed to him. This part of the sector suddenly seemed very open to artificial life, one the Stoinians will take a note of.
 - “Can you believe these people Umberto? Just casually making synths in this corner of the sector for their efficiency. Don’t they understand what path they are taking?”
 - “Please Vujić, The Drakari Celestial Imperium has stood longer than even the Stoinian Ideal was conceived. I’m confident they have a reasonable explanation for how this came to be. For all we know they are successful with failsafes, that will be part of my mission as Legate, but for now we have to ensure a non aggression pact and diplomatic relations. Without them we have no foothold in this corner of the sector and any effort against the synths will be closer to futility.”
 Vujić still didn’t like it, but he wasn’t the Legate in this situation and he was to observe and advice on military affairs.
 - “All right. Let’s get this over with.”
 The Stoinians had spend half an hour in their quarters and were ready to leave for the meeting.
 The rest of the evening the diplomats from all three nations sat together. First up on the agenda were trade agreements. All parties agreed that open trade and commerce should be allowed and strengthened between them. Plans for trade routes and channels were laid out. To protect the technology of each nation, all parties agreed that for the next 5 T-years only native companies could introduce their own native products to the new markets. As well as all militaries would help protect the trade routes from piracy. The first day showed promise for further cooperation. Legate Berrocal was amazed at Emissary Teemas ease during the talks. He knew she herself was in a similar situation as he is now. He invited her for dinner with the Treecuu Emissary in one of the Drakari restaurants in the evening after the talks of the first day. There they both would admire the ancient architecture of the Drakari. Both diplomats enjoyed the Drakari hospitality. Meanwhile Vice Admiral Vujić looked over the first reports that came in from the Joint Fleet. He too was satisfied and decided to spend his days wandering the halls of the Palace and discussing with a few of the Royal Guards he previously threatened. Luckily they all could see it from a positive perspective and he would even be invited to one of the Knight Imperators’ morning rites. He decided he would visit them on his last day here.
 The following morning more positive reports came in. Terrans all throughout the Imperium were living lives up to Stoinian standards. The following talks were about migration and tourism. While the Treecuu were less interested in it, they agreed on stricter terms. The Drakari and Stoinians agreed that they wanted to prevent another incident where Stoinians mistake the Sosa and Cariscoids for ancient enemies. Therefore a gradual opening through a species by species systems would be allowed. First the Drakari, Yapatha, Sinthari and Drakari Terrans would be allowed and over time, the Sosa and Cariscoids would be allowed to visit the Stoinian Star Kingdom until their existence was sufficiently notified and they would face unjust persecution. The Drakari showed well versed understanding. From a species that praises the Great Stewardship, they understood the struggles of some of the “younger” races. Berrocal admired this stance, but couldn’t help but speculate on devious plans. The Drakari however, saw this as a long term investment. They recognized the Stoinians were in a transitory phase of accepting xenos and concluded that cooperation would fasten this process. On the evening of the second evening, the Emperor had invited the diplomats to a Drakari Opera. Vujić wasn’t convinced, but Berrocal and Teemas enjoyed the majestic performance. It disproved High Admiral Chekov’s early reports and showed that similar civilizations were out there.
 On the last day, terms of a Non Aggression Pact were introduced. For the Stoinians this was one of their primary goal and had already made the documents. The Drakari were stunned at first by the radical stance of the Stoinians. It was Stoinian foreign policy to ensure peace with fellow Terran Brethren. Berrocal explained that the Terrans in the Terra Nova Enclave lived prosperously and that the Star Kingdom seeks peace with all star nations who ensure the rights of Terrans. The Drakari were sceptical at first, for the Stoinians had proven their disdain for xenos. Berrocal, who now had learned a few tricks from Emissary Teemas, convinced the Drakari that while their ancestors did fight against xenos, the current Stoinian government does uphold the same standard as the Great Stewardship. Teemas herself was in a precarious situation for the Drakari had investigated the annexation of Yim-Lootuu III. However, her experience and previous interaction with the Drakari had proven sufficient that day. While the Treecuu had an active policy of repressing any FTL technology on primitives, not many knew about it. Some suspected it as rumours slowly spread from the Empire, but the Drakari had to reluctantly agree to a Non Aggression Pact with them as well. If only for the same reason to influence the Treecuu on the long run. Thus the three governments had made significant progress to gain influence, commerce and recognition. Many felt this would be a continuation of the trend that had been set. As a show of good faith, both parties gave away new information on star nations the others may not have discovered. The Stoinians gave the same data they had found on their way to Star Fortress Watchful Guardian with the same conclusions of a machine empire next to the Drakari. Meanwhile the Stoinians and Treecuu learned of various other star nation which shared many similarities with the Drakari and had already started to trade with them if not for centuries. Berrocal announced that he’d return back on Pax Dracon as the Legate of the Stoinian Star Kingdom in the new Embassy and looked forward to enjoy some tea with the young Drakari Emperor. Though Vujić was mesmerized that morning.

 Vujić was escorted by two Drakari Knights Imperator to a large hall were dozens if not hundreds of them. The elegant gray armour they wore was nothing like Vujić had ever seen. It seemed made of stone yet it was flexible enough to show the agility of the Knights Imperator. On one end of hall was what he perceived to be the senior officer of the guard. The experience was a chilling experience as the Knights Imperator shouted their mantra ever louder in the sinister room. The mantra was repeated over and over again. Getting ever louder with each repetition.
 - “What is your Duty?”
 - “To serve the Emperor’s Will.”
 - “What is the Emperor’s Will?”
 - “That we fight and die.”
 - “What is Death?”
 - “It is our Duty.”
 Perhaps the Drakari would have wished to intimidate the staunch and proud Stoinian. If so, it had done its job best it could. For all the including and joyful Drakari, the haunting chanting of these Knights showed Vujić a truth. It wasn’t just the Stoinians who would defend their ideals so zealously.