It has been two weeks now since all the commotion had calmed down. Contact with new Stellar nation was made. One very smoothly which resulted in friendship, the other in a near outbreak of war. It had proven a very stressful week for the Stoinian Officials. Eventually through communications between the King and Governor Seect, a Treecuu visit was to be held on Stoinian itself. The Capitol would be the place where the officials would meet and discuss the matters of this new friendship. The neo-classical structure of the Capitol was preserved in the entirety of Sinaia. Only a few structures were higher than the Capitol, as the Space Port and a few others integral to travel infrastructure.
The Treecuu had already arrived in orbit. In mere minutes their shuttles would arrive near Congress. A long red carpet was put on the stairs which the visitors would have to climb. It was perhaps a small symbolism that they were the boss around here. Surely the Treecuu wouldn’t see it as an offence. If the roles were switched, they would have done the same. The Stoinians would certainly not see it as an offence.
Dozens of journalists and photographers stood in their designated areas, ready to take pictures of this historic event. Far away as to not blind the Treecuu officials, who have been informed of these practices. A xeno setting foot on Stoinia itself and it would live to tell the tale?! The King would either be appreciated or condemned for it. Some Republicans were already looking to take advantage of this and create political instability. The King has gone mad, they would yell. The King however knew this would happen and has faith in the Treecuu. After all, their communications were very fruitful.
The Treecuu shuttle landed with grace. Soon the Treecuu officials would disembark and then the Stoinian Royal Band would play the Stoinian Anthem and then the Treecuu Anthem.
The president of the Treecuu Star Empire was the highest ranking person in the government, at least according to the constitution, and most people still believed this to be the case. In reality, Cuul, or the entire political system really, was being outmanoeuvred by the Committee for the Expansion of the Empire, and the presidency had been reduced to a mere figurehead position. Such was its power that no one had dared to openly oppose it, and President Cuul played his nominal role well, clinging to what little sway he had left. And he was popular, especially among liberal metropolitans in the Ecteen and Utac Mandates. Him attending the imperial ball in Ryccia had been a huge boost in popularity. This also favoured the Committee.
Cuul had kept to himself for most of the voyage to the Stoinian capital. He had tried to avoid the bullying of the Committee members that of course had to come with him on the state visit, by engrossing himself in degrading paperwork. For the last hour he had had to listen to a boastful debate between the Chair of the Comittee, Tham, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivict. In essence they wanted the other to know who had the best approach to dealing the subject species. They both ended agreeing that the ‘governor’s landing’, which was a way of asserting dominance by burning the landing thrusters extra while landing on a subject world to casually cause some damage that the subjects had to deal with, was the way to go. Cuul couldn’t believe it when they even debated doing this on Stoinia itself. He was grateful that they decided against it. Indeed they valued good relations with the Stoinians and saw in them a partner, or even a peer.
Cuul was relieved when the captain of the flagship of the Remote Fleet, RFS Vaan Candacteec, announced that they had dropped out of warp near Casaria and that they could board the shuttles.
The doors of the glossy white Star Yacht opened elegantly. The first one to step out was President Cuul. He was an amphibian, a species who closely resembled humans except for a yellow skin with a rougher texture and a total lack of hair. He wore a midnight blue suit-like attire with a standing collar and a long black cloak. The second one to step out was the Chair of the Committee, Tham. He was also an amphibian, but he wore the strict green full dress uniform of the Remote Fleet. The third person to disembark was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivict. He was an insectoid, and on the lower end of what would be considered normal height for his already short species. He wore a suit similar to the president, but all black and no cloak. The rest of the entourage consisted of service personnel, carefully select journalists and members of the military life guards remained inside the shuttle during the welcoming ceremony. Governor Seect had been forced to stay at home. He had received far too much good publicity after the first contact with the Stoinians. Also, there had to be a high-ranking Committee member left to govern the nation.
Cuul had taken notice from captain Tuuc, and started walking towards the Stoinians to meet them halfway on the red carpet.
The anthems had stopped playing. The Stoinians as always sang it as loud as possible and then followed by the Stoinian Ura’s. Perhaps a subtle message to the Treecuu to not expect the Stoinians to be obedient to them. The Stoinian King proceeded to meet the Treecuu entourage. He was followed by the Chancellor, the Strategos and Princess Elena as well by four Royal Guardsmen. Princess Elena went first and held a large bread.
- “President Cuul, welcome in our capital. I greet you as friends and may this visit create an everlasting friendship between our two nations. Please, it is customary in our nation to offer bread with salt as a welcoming gift. From what I know it isn’t poisonous to any of your kinds. Please accept this gift.”
Princess Elena smiled at the xenos, although she felt a bit uncomfortable. Nonetheless it was her duty as Princess to do these things. With pleasure or not she had to get through this, history would surely remember this.
President Cuul enjoyed what he could see of the architecture when climbing the stairs. It was evident that the Stoinians cherished their history and had, like the amphibians, tried to preserve classical buildings. Somehow the Stoinian architecture was so similar, yet different. Perhaps it had to do with both species having the same kind of “set-up”? Two arms, hands with five fingers and so on. Most of the subject species were more… exotic.
Bread as a welcoming gift, however, was not a habit that he had heard of anywhere on the Treecuu homeworld or in its history. Nor on any of the subject worlds.
- “Thank you your highness. May this new friendship be forever!”
Cuul accepted the bread and had a closer look at it for a few minutes as to admire it as a polite gesture. He then looked at the princess.
- “It looks like a delicate produce. Despite our cultures similarities, we have never received such a gift. How would we best honour it? Do we sample it now, or save it for a later occasion?”
- “It is customary to eat right now. But let’s continue, we have arranged a balcony from where you can hold your speech towards the Stoinian People. I am sure they will be more than curious.”
He waited for the Treecuu to eat a small piece of bread. Afterwards the went through the Capitol. Enjoying the many paintings on the wall and the architecture. The building itself was a symbol of Stoinian stoicism of what they had endured. A symbol the Treecuu better had taken notice of.
Soon they arrived at the balcony, which had been used for centuries to hold speeches towards the people. Even the great General MacArthur had held his speech there. The King stepped forward and began a small speech.
- “People of Casaria! I, King Andrei III, welcome President Cuul and his entourage of the Treecuu Star Empire. We have had a fruitful first contact and let us hope that these talks will further strengthen our bonds. I hear you ask, but why? The Treecuu just like ourselves have suffered massive extinction campaigns just like we did with the Mardakii. If such an achievement isn’t worthy of respect, then we ourselves would lose all the respect we have. I will now let President Cuul hold his part of the speech.”
The King stepped back and waved his hands towards the balcony. The nearly 1 million Stoinians were waiting to hear this President Cuul’s speech. Would he indeed be worthy of such a high regard? They would know in a few moments from now.
President Cuul stepped forward and took a moment to take in the view. He then spoke up with a clear and voice.
- “Stoinians! On behalf of all Treecuu, I greet you. Not only did you prevail against the fiercest of enemies facing the greatest of threats: eradication. You emerged stronger, and it is evident even for an alien such as myself that you have thrived and built something great. Just like His Royal Highness said, the Treecuu know all too well what it means to come under occupation of those that wish nothing but your destruction. It is an honour to stand amidst you.
When I look upon this beautiful city it is evident that you have an unyielding faith in a bright future, true to your ancestors and their traditions. A testimony of hard work and committent to order and peace.”
Cuul’s voice changed to a warmer tone.
- “Now, who are these Treecuu really, you may wonder. We are a hard-working people from a nation to your north. We have a special relationship with nature and enjoy the great outdoors, especially in the company of family and friends. We have just, like you, started making contact with other civilisations. Our first steps have been tentative and we have been on our guard. We are glad to call the Stoinian Kingdom one of the very first official first contacts. It went well, much thanks to the personal dedication of His Royal Highness.
I am sure that we will get to know each other better. Thank you for a warm welcome!”
Cuul stepped back and nodded at the king.
The crowd was stunned. A xeno had spoken on the balcony where all the monarchs’ had given speeches. A few hours ago not a single soul on Stoinia would have the courage to even think about this. Yet the King had done so. This was bound to be controversial. The opposition parties would stir up the politics for the following weeks.
A few moments of silence settled after President Cuul’s speech. The crowd remained frozen, doubting the Treecuu’s words. The Treecuu spoke about a common ground, but this was not enough to gain the respects from the Stoinian people. The Treecuu will have to prove themselves, just like the Cheunh have.
- “President Cuul, we will now go to a conference room where we will begin talks about our shared border. I believe both parties would like to maintain their territory and interests. Please follow me.”
The King marched forth followed by the Treecuu entourage. They came in a large room with a large chandelier and a portrait of the first Royal Couple. The officials sat a big round table made of luxurious wood. The chairs themselves were made from Mardakii leather and were very comfortable for the humanoids. The Stoinians sat on one side of the table while the Treecuu sat on their side.
After everyone was settled the King tapped on the console and a large map was revealed on the table of the shared border detailing every significant star system.
- “As you well know we share a common border and it’s imperative that we maintain it. I believe both sides should mark their systems. The Treecuu already have done so and our Navy has already started putting buoys on the border systems. In mere weeks these buoys will be fully operational. I also suggest that for the time being no vessel may cross this border as of yet. I do not know about the criminal activities of the Treecuu, but the newly claimed space may be a breeding ground for Stoinian pirates. Until we have made trade routes which are ensured of protection no vessels shall cross the border. If one does, one may apprehend it, though the pilots should preferably be taken alive. Would this be agreeable for the Treecuu?”
- “There are no noteworthy criminal activities in the Star Empire” noted Tham, Chair of the Committee for the Expansion of the Empire with a hint of suppressed arrogance. “But we agree completely with your proposals.”
The insectoid Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivict, spoke up.
- “In addition, we suggest that if either nation were to conduct operations involving fleet movements of more than ten frigate-size ships or above within 10 light years of the border, the other nation should be notified in a timely manner.”
- “Very well, we will limit our patrols to 5 of our destroyers, which if I am correct is 5 of your frigates. If they encounter heavy pirate resistance, a bigger patrol will be sent. We will make sure that our Military outposts will relay such movements. Of course we will need a secure transmission line for this. I am sure that wouldn’t be much of a problem to put in place.”
The Strategos, Douglas Hague, said, the head of the military alongside the King. Then the Chancellor spoke up, he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass.
- “I agree with both the gentlemen. However I want to propose potential trade routes. Our current sector capitals of Arcadia and Hyperion would be most suitable. Since they have the necessary infrastructure. Our military outposts are well within range for trade routes patrols. I would suggest that each nation provides patrol support for their part of route. Of course if anything crazy would happen, perhaps a joint operation could be run to apprehend troublemakers. Would the Treecuu Star Empire find these terms agreeable? Of course on what exactly we will trade will be settled tomorrow morning, but a trade route wouldn’t be too difficult to propose.”
- “It seems to be a trait of the Stoinians: your terms are well balanced and realistic. We agree again. The Elvoon System about 50 ly across the border is already an important internal Treecuu trade hub, it is the obvious choice for the Treecuu end of the trade route” he answered and looked at Tham.
- “Indeed. Perhaps Your Highness would be willing to come to Elvoon and inaugurate it together with the President? We also be honoured to have you as our guest in the capital to return the hospitality, perhaps as part of this first invited visit to the Star Empire.”
Tham hoped that the king would find his reference to the first contact event funny, or at least not be offended.
- “I’ll be sure to leave the excessive amount of guns at home, Chairman.”
The King smiled as did the Strategos. Perhaps these xenos had more in common with them then initially thought. They seemed to have humour though.
- “As for your visit to Elvoon that would be feasible, though perhaps we shouldn’t rush such a visit. We should let both our peoples accommodate with the new facts we will forge the following days. I know that Stoinian media will be all over this visit, though I can’t speak for your part. We should wait for things to calm down more.”
- “As for embassies. Perhaps we should also have some on these hub worlds, Arcadia and Elvoon. As a means to solidify the trade route. I am confident we could start the building of the embassies. Though if I remember correctly. Governor Seect told me that on your capital of Ecteen you had an embassy of Ryccians, which are Terrans aswell. Governor Seect mentioned it wouldn’t be too hard a stretch to place the Stoinian embassy next to the Ryccian one, would this still be reasonable demand?”
The King asked inquisitively, but without any negative undertones. It had only been a week since the Little Rascal incident. Regardless, they wouldn’t back down from their Terran brethren. Sure some of the Stoinian Officials would call him mad, but life needs risks to build a thriving future.
- “Of course”, answered the President. “Let us know when you are ready to visit us.”
The president looked at his foreign minister, who nodded.
- “Diplomatic missions on Arcadia and Elvoon would be a good idea. We suggest they shall have a lesser rank than those on our capital worlds though. And the location of the embassy on Ecteen, we believe placing it next to the Ryccians would be beneficial from many perspectives. You would be most welcome to have one built there.” said the president.
- “Is there a particular location you would recommend for the Treecuu embassy?” asked the foreign minister.
- “I agree. The diplomatic mission on Elvoon and Arcadia should be just mere ceremonial. Perhaps a few meetings here and there, but the focus should be on officially opening the trade routes.”
The Chancellor interjected.
- “As for the location of an embassy, we could refurnish one of the old governmental buildings at King’s Square. It’s an important square where our first monarch personally had killed the Colossus, presumed to be the Mardakii leader due to its colossal size. Nowadays it serves as an important hub for Stoinian Culture celebrations. It would put you right at the cultural frontier. Though you may expect initial resistance from the populace.”
The King said in a calm tone.
- “On that note. It would be perhaps voluntary to orchestrate an event to gain our people’s trust. We should focus on certain pirate elements that we know of at our border. A joint operation of sorts, to speed up the trust between our peoples.”
The King clicked on the console and the proposed trade route showed up on the map.
- “With your permission we could pin the pirates towards the trade route and push them over to your end. Then we pursue them and find that their vessels have already been destroyed by yours. Since you have cloaking technology, I believe laying down an ambush for these pirates wouldn’t be too much of a problem. We would have to accumulate more data on this pirate gang behaviour, about a week if we are right. So in a week and a half we would push them over to your side. When the public hears about this, you will receive more respect than by any words you could possibly say. Would this be an acceptable proposal?”
The King looked at the President. Perhaps it was too much for the Treecuu to have criminals infringe on their borders. But surely they could see the benefit in it and the Stoinians would do their best to control the situation as much as possible.
The Treecuu accepted the proposition for the location of the embassy.
The plan to speed up the gaining the peoples’ trust in each other almost stunned the Treecuu delegation. It was truly a strategy befitting of the sinister Committee. The Chairman and Foreign Minister looked at each other and nodded. Except for achieving what the King planned, it would also achieve something equally important: people’s faith in the Treecuu way of dominating space to assert peace and stability would increase. And so would the power of the Committee. Truly a win-win scenario.
The President on the other hand thought it would unnecessarily cruel and a false way of building trust, but he had to play along.
- “A fine plan, indeed” he answered.
The Foreign Minister continued.
- “We shall be ready. Our Remote Fleets will be eager to clear out some pirate scum. I propose we post observers on ships in respective forces to learn more about the capabilities and methods for possible future increased cooperation between our forces.”
- “Very well then gentlemen. I believe we had quite productive day. Strategos Hague will work out the details of this operation with Chairman Tham. We will send for you once our diner is ready in roughly three hours. Feel free to visit the Capitol, though I suggest we dispatch guards with you if you wish to do so. One can never be too careful when our nation has only known xenos through war. That sentiment will remain until you gain the people’s respect. I hope this cooperation will last for centuries to come.”
The King dismissed the room and headed out. Strategos Hague however immediately went towards Tham.
- “Well Chairman Tham, I believe we should finalise the cooperation. I believe the best choice for observers on our side would be Admiral Graciano Marino Garibaldi. He would be more than eager if I am not mistaken. Perhaps the Treecuu would like to send Captain Tuuc as an observer to us?”
The Strategos smiled. It was perhaps a new policy being made by the Stoinians that the initial people who made first contact should further enhance the cooperation. It wouldn’t hurt anyone, they would more easily adapt to the said person.
Fortunately for the Committee it had been a Remote Fleet ship that had been involved in the first contact, otherwise Tham would have been reluctant accepting the suggestion. Captains of the Remote Fleet were screened and deemed very loyal.
- “He would be the right man for the task. He performed spotlessly.”
A Treecuu captain and a Stoinian Admiral. It would be a small propaganda win that in this regard, a Treecuu captain would be equal to an alien admiral.
- “Now to the rules of engagement. How you usually do this is unknown to me, but I believe it would be best to have survivors that we let the press film. Once we are done with them, we will want to hand them over to you for prosecution, according to your laws, whatever they might be on this matter.”
- “In our nation we have severe punishment for pirates like the ones we intend to apprehend. If they were given back to us, they would be held up for execution no doubt. Perhaps it might be a more fitting image if you were to do this yourselves, with Stoinian supervision. Of course if that would fit Treecuu law that is. It would certainly prove your claims that you want to bring order to the galaxy. I am sure our populace would agree with you. We have a saying for that: killing two birds with one stone. I am sure you can understand what I am getting at.”
Douglas Hague was, as one might suspect, a military man. But his appointment as Strategos after Anson MacArthur’s death has given him a lot of insight in the political mechanism in his nation. This was due to the lengthy conversations with his King. Perhaps this could come as a surprise to the Treecuu, but his guts told him that he wouldn’t. Nonetheless this action would prove the Treecuu a valuable ally, a lesson which the Stoinian populace would need to learn.
- “As for the procedures, we wouldn’t want our observers to be left without their job. Our military procedures can be noted by your observer. We will transmit the exact transfer point to you tomorrow morning. Now I believe you should head to your room and relax after this long day. I am sure you will have plenty to discuss with our King at the diner table.”
He pointed to a Royal Guardsman to escort Chairman Tham.
The Strategos may have come over as uncooperative to Tham, but the Stoinians had a clear military policy. Xenos only learned it through combat and they certainly wouldn’t spill it out to them. That much had to be made clear to them. They would either write it down themselves or face it. That was the new policy that had been made for any foreign nation. If the Treecuu believed they had gained the Stoinians complete trust, they were wrong. The King was already pushing things too far for the populace to digest. It had been a wonder the people in Sinaia were so receptive, surely the outer colony worlds would be much harder to convince.
The three Treecuu were escorted to their respective guest rooms. All three next to each other. Their rooms were in the old neo-classical style from Earth with chandeliers serving as light. Their beds were big. but nothing grandiose. As for the insectoid Ivict there may appear problems as the bathroom may prove difficult, because there were no changes for his biological set-up. They were each guarded by two guardsmen. One Stoinian and one Treecuu. They were free to move to each others room, but for now the Stoinian Guardsmen would insist on them staying in their rooms.
A few hours past by and all over Sinaia the people were starting to have their own diner. Perhaps the Treecuu had become hungry themselves, but soon they could hear a knock on their door. A Squad of Stoinian Congressional Guardsmen had come to escort them to their diner. They wore a different uniform than Royal Guards, a less royal look. As the Treecuu passed through the halls they saw the occasional painting which depicted Stoinian heroes from King Alexandru I to Strategos Anson MacArthur. As well as pictures of Stoinians massacring the ancient Mardakii. Some may have found it intimidating, but to the Stoinians it was a vivid memory.
The table was large and could hold up to 42 persons. The Stoinians had amassed their Ministers of Trade (Tudor Boc), Finance (William Arnolds), Industry (Werner von Zollern), Agriculture (Ecaterina Vladimirescu) and Foreign Relations (Pyotr Ivanovich Pushkov). The Minister of Foreign Relations was also accompanied by his military counterpart High Legate Josiah Morgan. They were all accompanied by a few of their deputies. Between the different Stoinians Ministers were places reserved for their Treecuu counterparts if they were present. Though the main Treecuu trio was concentrated around the King. The Queen however was absent as she had other duties to attend to in her place however was Crown Prince Carol next to his father. President Cuul sat on the opposite side of Crown Prince Carol. As soon as they had all taken their seats the King arose with a glass of wine and looked et President Cuul.
- “President Cuul. I present to you my son, Crown Prince Carol, heir to the Stoinian Throne.I hope you don’t mind to share a few thoughts with the future Stoinian monarch. Let us have this diner as the beginning of a friendship between our peoples.”
He then gave Cuul a glass of wine and explained to him that they should toast and while doing so look each other in the eye, as was Stoinian custom. The President joined the King and presented their toast and soon the whole table had joined. Afterwards they started to eat the bread which was already served on the table. The Ministers started to whisper to their deputies, but nothing too loud that everyone could hear. Soon the Crown Prince asked the President with a smile.
- “So President Cuul, how do the Treecuu people do these days? Perhaps you could share a few of your customs with us? I am sure you have picked quite a few of our customs by now. And we Stoinians are very fond of customs and traditions.”
The Crown Prince was like his father, curious about their new friends and was more open to it than most Stoinians. Had there been a member of Lord Thorne’s Party this question alone would have caused an upstir, but they weren’t here and they wouldn’t be if the Capital polls were right.
President Cuul noted with pleasure that the Committee members engaged in discussion with the Stoinians next to them and were too busy monitoring him. It improved his mood, even though he wouldn’t be able to speak as freely as he would have liked.
- “We Treecuu are what you Stoinians would call a practical people. Tradition and customs are under constant scrutiny so to make sure that they serve a rational purpose. If people no longer know the purpose of a specific ritual and have to guess why it’s there, we normally abolish it. This may sound a bit ‘heartless’, but showing respect for one’s origin and your values with specific symbols, craftsmanship or greetings for example, may be a very rational practise indeed.” Answered Cuul, and continued.
- “I noted the painted canvases on display on our way through the halls. I believe they serve an excellent example. Depicting important people and historical events through various imagery is a common practise in the Star Empire too, but we normally use more contemporary means, such as various forms of photonic recapturing or holographic projections. I take it that the paintings is a way to connect with your ancestors and honour them? And perhaps the extra time taken to produce these works honours what’s depicted?”
- “I see, Mr. President. Although it may seem like we ourselves are very traditional, we had to make such reforms ourselves when we first settled on this planet. The most notable of which are religious reforms of Islam. Lord Taavi Rouhani reformed the old Terran church into a more modern version: Stoinian Islam. Of course the Catholics also appointed their own new Pope, as contact with the Terran Pope was lost. Surely you get the picture, but the traditions we still hold aren’t likely to disappear soon. They still bind us with our old homeworld of Terra.”
The Crown Prince responded and the waitresses appeared with food. It was a small portion of Borsch. An ancient soup-like recipe from Terra. A favourite in Sinaia and ethnic European planets. Although typically made sour, this version was sweetened as it may already prove difficult to the Treecuu to digest it as it is. While the waitresses served the food, the King answered the President in his baritone voice which proved much lower than his son’s.
- “The paintings serve us as a reminder of what our ancestors had to endure. In a way yes to connect with them and honour the sacrifices they made. The time put into such a painting isn’t really put meaning into. Well maybe the artist himself may have, but it certainly wouldn’t be the point in it.”
- “As for these holographic projectors, we don’t use them as we don’t have them yet. You see, when I was but a child, the Velutarians declared war on us and killing my father. This extended into a 16 year long conflict, costing the lives of 8,7 trillion of our kin. May God forgive them”
The King and Crown Prince did an Orthodox cross.
- “That war halted any unnecessary technology, though we know for a fact they used something similar. Our research division are working on it, but their technology has proven to be cryptic. It took us twelve years to reverse engineer their shield systems. But now that the nation is rebuilt, we are looking into such technology.”
He then turned to his soup and explained the contents of it to the President as well as the cultural meaning of it.
- “They also used a different FTL propulsion system than us, we call it Slipspace. We’re also researching its capabilities. Come to think of it, I haven’t been informed of your propulsion systems. Would you care to inform me?”
The King proceeded to eat from his Borsch while dipping some of the bread that remained in it.