The young Admiral Graciano Marino Garibaldi had served for five years in command of the 7th Exploratory Fleet. Always looking up to the stars wondering what’s out there as a small child. Of course his wish had already became true when he served together with the Cheunh to hunt down the damned Mardakii. Of Course he was but a Captain then, but now it somehow felt different. He was in charge of a whole fleet this time, something he still couldn’t quite believe. What he didn’t know however is that his dream would come a reality again.
A small beep sound came from the Communications Console. Everyone on the bridge paused for a moment, all of them wondering what it might be. Lieutenant Shani Hoshi looked with astonishment at the console.
- “Well what is it Lieutenant? Do you plan to keep us all waiting for eternity?” the Admiral asked.
- “Sir, … It’s … I think it’s a message. It’s repeating itself, but … I can’t make any sense from it, I believe our computers aren’t familiar with the language. I can pin point it’s origin, Sir.”
The Admiral smiled. “Well Lieutenant, it looks like we have a first contact situation on our hands. Relay the message to the linguistics at Dragonfire. While you are at it, inform the Piercer, the Gondwana and the Clinton to meet us here. We do not know what we are dealing with here and I don’t like to repeat previous mistakes. Ah, before I forget the Cole Protocol. Send out entire English language alphabet and vocabulary to the buoy. Let’s see who has the better linguistics department.”
General Iulia Tudor was drinking her tea in her ready room on Dragonfire. Her doorbell rang. She let out a sigh, but responded in accordance: “Open.”
Colonel Igor Poroshenko came in.
- “Ma’am, you might want to look at this.” He put his datapad on her desk.
The General was surprised.
- “Well, well, well. This certainly does make my day, or tea at least. Send the message to linguistics, inform the King we have a first contact situation at the northern border. Put the soldiers on alert to support readiness. We don’t know how this might end up. Dismissed, Colonel.”
The Colonel nodded and left the room immediately after the proper salute. The General took a sip again from her tea, yet it wasn’t quite the same anymore.
King Andrei was wondering about his palace, he had a long and tiresome day. He was headed towards his bedroom and finally rest for the day. However, Strategos Douglas Hague just came out of the last corner. To the King’s surprise, the Strategos had come to personally meet him.
- “Tell me Mr. Hague, what is so important that you came personally from East Point to disturb my sleep.”
The Strategos smiled for a moment.
- Oh well do not worry Sir. I know that sleep is important, but I can’t let this be delayed. It looks like the Cole Protocol is in effect, Sir."
The King took the datapad from the Strategos. He read the message and looked back and forth between the datapad and the Strategos.
- “Well it sure looks like it. Let’s get this started then. Strategos, I believe you will remain here. Order the Manticore to prepare for departure. I will pack my things and join them shortly.”
- “Sir, I must protest. You cannot go, we only got out of the Velutarian War. Do not make the same mistake as your Father, may God forgive him.”
- “Douglas, my dear friend. I cannot let this happen, it will be over soon I promise. Besides, we have bigger guns now and much better technology.”
- “Sir, the Manticore may be big, but it isn’t the biggest. I will order the Eternity to come along with you.”
- “Ah Douglas, I will grant you that. It will be my ace in the hole if things should go sour.” The King smiled at the Strategos. “Now go get some sleep. Once I have informed my family I will depart at once.”
- “Very well Sir.” He saluted the King and went his way.
A week had passed and the King’s entourage had met in an unclaimed system 5 light years from the buoy’s origin. With assistance from Cheunh linguistics a lot of progress was made, but they couldn’t sure.
- “Lieutenant is the language matrix ready yet?” King Andrei asked.
- “Yes, Sir. Ready when you are.”
- “Very well then. Send this message: This is King Andrei Casarion of the Stoinian Star Kingdom. We are currently in system Gliese-7645, just 5 light years from the buoy which we first met. We would like to know who and what you are? We wish to get to know our new galactic neighbours. Be advised that we will enter the buoy system in 16 of our hours. Now if you were to fire upon our ships without provocation, we will return the gesture. However as a gesture of good faith, we will enter your system with closed gun ports and shields down. I advise you do not, I repeat do not misuse this gesture. End transmission.”
A brief pause hanged in the air. Everyone was tensed up for what was to come in 16 hours. Eventually King Andrei turned to the crew.
- “Well then, let’s hope this doesn’t end up like last time. Inform the Eternity that it will not go with us in the buoy system. May God help us all.”
Remote Fleet Ship (RFS) Oteel somewhere near the border
Captain Tuuc narrowed his eyes to get a glimpse of what was being displayed on his communications officer’s computer. The young communications officer had been joined by other members of the bridge staff and they seemed to be whispering.
- “Problems, ensign?” yelled Tuuc over the bridge, slightly annoyed.
The ensign blushed.
- “I am not sure captain. It might be the latest patch that is acting up, but it almost looks like the signal is Ryccian! The patch should only have added the main language of those Ryccian huymaans to the library, but now every signal is interpreted as that language…” She looked at her captain, not sure what to do next.
- “Does the computer provide a translation?”
- “Yes. It is a class 4 translation, only minor stylistic discrepancies.”
- “Let us hear it then!”
The ensign cleared her throat and read the message from the Stoinian king out loud.
- “The Ryccians failed to mention this… Or Command…” the captain noted, deep in thought. He then stood up from his chair.
- “Attention. Orders!”
The bridge crew turned towards the captain.
- “Comm, relay message to Command, confirm receipt, report our actions and request new orders. Helm, calculate most likely entry coordinates for the Setoy-nee-aan ship, plot course and take us there at maximum speed. Tactical, all shields at full, allow computer autonomous self-defence fire. Execute!”
It would take about two standard hours to get there. That would give Command plenty of time to think of a good answer, both a verbal one, but also in terms of “hardware”. His ship would remain silent and not send a response to the Stoinians until then.
The RFS Oteel made an elegant turn towards the southern border, then there was a flash of bright light and it disappeared.
The jump towards the system had been completed. The Stoinians had arrived inside someone’s backyard. The question was, whose? The small fleet of five ships maintained a diamond shape formation. Shields were down and gun ports closed as ordered. King Andrei stood on the Manticore’s bridge, a general uneasiness could be felt in the air. Admiral Garibaldi came beside him.
- “Sir, … With all due respect. But I think we should at least keep our shields up.”
- “I feel your concern Admiral, but I believe this sends a stronger message than just closed gun ports. Besides our shields can be activated quickly , if I am not mistaken.”
- “Yes Sir, but we have to think of the thousands of lives here. Especially yours, Sir.”
- “I agree, Admiral. But I gave whoever’s backyard this is my word that our shields would be down. If the King of our nation can’t keep up his word, then what kind of first impression would this be. We would lose all credibility we would have. Only our swords would speak, may God prevent this from happening. ETA if the Eternity has to jump in?”
- “One and a half hour, Sir. It will be some time, we would have to put up a good fight.”
- “Good, notify them to make their jump. Hopefully we won’t need its firepower, but let’s not repeat our mistakes. Lieutenant Hoshi.”
- “Yes Sir.” Hoshi quickly stood at attention.
- “Repeat this message on all open channels in both their and our language: This is King Andrei of the Stoinian Star Kingdom. We have arrived at your system. We mean you no harm. We just want to open a dialogue. Our shields will remain down for the time being, our gun ports will also be closed. I repeat, we mean you no harm. End transmission.”
Then a voice from one of the bridge crew said: “Sir, I am picking up something on sensors.”
Soon the Stoinians would learn what their new neighbours really are like.
The RFS Oteel, which could be described as a white shiny cigar with wings if you had humour, appeared seemingly out of nowhere in front of the Stoinian formation. It assumed a posture where it exposed its hull, a move which was supposed look nonchalant and fearless. Then it initiated high-energy scans of the Stoinian ships.
Upon completing the scans, it sent out a response to the king’s message in both Anglish and Treecuu Common.
- “Would this king be the head of state and/or head or government of the Stoinian Star Kingdom?” a neutral voice asked, without introducing itself.
- King Andrei smiled for a moment. It had finally happened. He then proceeded to answer the call in both their languages.
- “That is correct. The King serves as the Head of State, Military and Government. May I ask whose backyard we have just entered? If possible, I would like it to be face-to-face. We mean you no harm. We just want to open a dialogue.”
He then turned to Admiral Garibaldi.
- “Admiral, ETA of the Eternity?”
- “One hour, Sir.”
- “Good do not inform them of the situation, maintain a radio silence. We do not wish to give them a reason to shoot at us.”
The crew remained worried while waiting for an answer.
Captain Tuuc allowed himself to relax a bit. No shields, weapons inactive, and that king actually sounded friendly. He pushed a button on his captain’s chair and answered. But he had to stick to protocol.
- “This is the Treecuu Star Empire. We claim all the space on this side of the buoy system. I advise you to hold your position, continuing farther into our space will be seen as an act of aggression.”
- “A representative of our government is on his way here. In the meantime, let us meet on your ship.”
Captain Tuuc didn’t say when the government representative would arrive, neither did he introduce himself.
A sigh of relief could be heard all over the bridge. The King smiled, it had finally gone smooth this time.
- “This is King Andrei. We accept your terms we will hold our ships and won’t proceed further in your territory. We will send you the docking procedures and the necessary vectors for a shuttle to hangar bay 2 of the Manticore. We will await you there.”
- “I shall begin preparations, Sir.” Admiral Garibaldi said.
- “Good Admiral, make sure the Royal Band is there to play our national anthem. Send a message to the Eternity. Tell them to hold their current position. First contact is going smoothly.”
He then turned to the rest of the crew.
- “Well then people, move it. We have an impression to make. On the double!”
The crew responded in unison and quickly started preparations. Minutes later the Royal Guard stood ready and formed two lines on both sides from the red carpet designated for the Treecuu shuttle. The Royal Band was at the ready, waiting for the conductor’s sign to begin. The King and Admiral Garibaldi already stood on their end of the red carpet. Both holding their sheathed swords while waiting for the Treecuu to arrive. Behind them a young woman who holds a cushion with a large covered object on it. Just eight minutes after the Treecuu’s signal, the 1.6 km long dreadnought was fully prepped for a ceremonial welcome of the Treecuu.
Only a few months ago the Treecuu would have engaged and destroyed any ship entering its space, and then have the nation of origin apologise for the intrusion, and after that, maybe have a peaceful dialogue. The new foreign policy following the annexation of the Aryyt’t homeworld and the possible international outrage was a radical change. Now the Treecuu should try and make new friends.
Captain Tuuc wasn’t satisfied with his new role as a stand-in diplomat. But there was nothing in the new protocol which forbid him to don his tactical vest and leg holstered sidearm. A squad of eight soldiers equipped with the latest rifles accompanied him in the shuttle too. He was after all an officer of the Remote Fleet, the shield and sword of the Empire!
The shuttle approached hangar bay 2 at a seemingly reckless speed, only braking at the very last minute. It was important to show that this was Treecuu space, and that they did as they pleased. After having landed Tuuc was tempted to let the aliens wait for a while, but seeing the full military honours they had prepared he quickly changed his mind. He ordered the squad to exit the shuttle, form a line facing the king, and stand at attention. He then climbed out and stood in front of his soldiers, also facing the King. He waited.
A few moments had passed, but once the xeno Officer had made it clear that it would stand there, the Royal Band began to play the Stoinian National Anthem. The trumpets and basses blasted through the hangar bay. With all Royal Guardsmen putting their right hand on the left part of their chest.
- “I for one expected them to show a little more respect, Sir. Blasting this manner into our hangars, they should be thankful we didn’t shoot them.” Admiral Garibaldi grunted. Although he still was excited like a small child to finally meet a new species.
- “We gave them the vectors, Admiral. Besides, it’s probably a statement. We are in their territory with five of our ships after all. But I believe once we give them the gift, they will show their true nature.”
The anthem had finished and the noise could still be heard thanks the reverberation.
- “Hail to Mankind! Hail to the Stoinian Star Kingdom! Hail to the King! Ura!” Shouted the Guardsmen in unison as was their tradition.
As soon as the shouting had stopped, the Admiral moved forward.
- “Attention!” He shouted and the two lines of Royal Guardsmen moved in unison and stood in a prideful manner. Chest forward, chin high. The Stoinians hoped that all this would impress the xenos.
- “Present, swords!” Again in unison the Guardsmen unsheathed their swords and presented their swords in front of them.
The King and the Admiral walked slowly towards the xeno Officer, followed by Lieutenant Hoshi who held the gift. As soon as the King passed the Guardsmen, they dropped their sword to just a few inches above the ground. Once they arrived in front of the xeno Officer, the King presented himself.
- “I am King Andrei Casarion of the Stoinian Star Kingdom.” He pointed his hand towards the Admiral and Lieutenant Hoshi. “This is Admiral Graciano Marino Garibaldi and Lieutenant Shani Hoshi. They were the first who detected the signal of your buoy. I see that you could have easily translated our messages. I can only hope that our linguists did a fine job as well. Nonetheless, I present you a gift in the name of the Stoinian people.”
The Admiral quickly took the cover from the gift.
- “This is the skull of a Mardakii. A brutish nomadic xeno who once invaded our planet, but through perseverance we have overcome them. We now have special reservations in which we hunt them. Only the most skilful hunters may hunt these animals, once a year. Such a hunt is what we call a Great hunt. This skull was retrieved during this year’s Great Hunt. To receive such a skull is considered one of the greatest gifts amongst my people. Hopefully you and your kind can appreciate the gesture.” He said calmly, not sure how they would react to a smiling face.
Lieutenant Hoshi went further and presented the skull, which was four times the size of hers. She was proud to present it. Chest forward, a high chin and looking straight forward, but not quite at the xeno Officer. Waiting for it to take the gift.
- “Now I understand that this is the Treecuu Star Empire’s backyard, but we never got your name. If you would be so kind to present yourself, Officer. After all, it isn’t much of a dialogue if I don’t know who I am talking to.”
Tuuc had enjoyed the small ceremony, but wasn’t sure how to interpret the gift. Either it truly was such a great gift as the King said, or it was a fancy way of telling the Treecuu not to mess with the Stoinians. He bowed slightly and took the gift.
He curiously examined the skull. There were rumours of macabre gifts being exchanged by The Treecuu governors, such as the “clipped wings” from the Bicaan avians, but it could also be hearsay. Either way, his governor would likely be thrilled.
“Congratulations on having defeated such a brutish enemy, it must have been a fierce fight. And a glorious victory. I thank you on behalf of the Governor and the Treecuu people” Tuuc answered. He called for one of his soldiers and ordered her to take care of the gift with great care.
- “Your Highness, I am Captain Tuuc of the Oteel of the 1st Remote Fleet of the Treecuu Star Empire” Tuuc answered, bowing slightly in the direction of the King.
- “Even though Your way of seeking first contact is… unusual… I would like to extend a warm welcome.”
- “Thank you very much. And yes we are quite the confrontational people. We didn’t know if a mere message would give us any results. We prefer to face our enemies directly in combat, no scheming and backstabbing. Now we didn’t know how your kind would react, so we had to be prepared. I am sure you can understand our perspective. Though I am very glad it didn’t end that way.” The King said with a small smile.
He then dismissed the Royal Band, the Admiral and the whole Royal Guard, except for two Guardsmen.
- “Any new information about your official representative? In the meantime I would suggest we take a tour of our ship, the Manticore. Perhaps learn a bit more of your people and yourself. I’d like to hear the perspective of a fellow military man. Of course, if that would be allowed by your government.”
Tuuc dismissed his squad with a swift hand signal, then he had a look at a small device on his wrist.
-“The Candact Mandate Fleet Ship Thil will arrive here with Governor Seect in 49.8 standard minutes” he concluded.
- “A tour of Your Majesty’s ship would be a great honour” smiled Tuuc.
- “Very well, Captain. Please follow me.” The King said walking towards the elevator, whilest sending the preparations for the governor’s arrival through a small datapad. Soon they entered the elevator and headed for the bridge.
- “Well then, Captain. As you are a military man yourself, perhaps you can tell me a bit more of your Treecuu Star Empire? Maybe an overview of your military, since that would be your expertise. No need to say any details, we understand. It’s our protocol to keep our military outpost a secret at all cost, even from the civilian elements of our nation.” He looked at the Captain inquisitively.
As they walked Tuuc put his hands behind his back palm in palm, a slightly arrogant posture.
- “Our military is composed three independent fleet services and ground troops with inter-system mobility. As I already said, my ship belongs to the Remote Fleet which guards our borders, but it is also used to secure new systems. Then each mandate, which is the first tier administrative division of the Star Empire, has its own fleet for strategic defence. The second tier administrative division is the system, and all of them have fleets for local tactical defence.”
- “Would Your Highness indulge me with an overview of Your military?”
The elevator had arrived at the bridge and the King marched forward, with his two guards stepped a bit forward as well. A small sign towards the Treecuu Captain to follow the King.
The King held his sword with his left hand and turned towards the Captain.
- “Our military is run differently than yours. The Stoinian Military is entirely independent from our civilian government. The only thing that holds it together with the government is myself and the colonial department. This of course is to ensure complete operational freedom. The military holds rights to own entire planets and holds mandates for the first 15 years of a new colony’s development. Thus it mines resources for its war efforts and put colonial infrastructure and defences in place. Another fact, which may surprise you, is that our servicemen aren’t paid any loans. All the members on board this ship joined the military because it’s their calling and duty. We have mandatory conscription for all, but they mostly serve their service year on their local planets. The military is run self sufficiently, as you may have guessed.”
- “It is lead by myself and the Strategos. The Strategos holds the same powers as I do, but I can overrule him if I so desire. He also serves as my military aide de camp. We two are then accompanied by the highest ranking officers in the Royal War Council in matters of utmost military importance and the Royal High Command sets the our decisions in motion. Then our forces are divided into three main branches: the Royal Navy, which also consists of the Marine Corps, the Royal Army, our main planetary based fighting force, and the Special Forces, who execute specialised missions.”
He then waved his hand across the room.
- “This is the bridge of the HMS Manticore, my personal vessel. Have a look around and if you have any questions, feel free to ask them.”
The bridge was quite spacious and archaic by some other interstellar designs, but it was filled with servicemen looking at their monitors. Most of them wore a grey beret, except for one. The woman with the white beret stood and looked over bridge, not quite giving any attention to the newcomer.