[2 BBT] The Treecuu Visit

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

 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.”
 Ivict nodded.
 - “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.

 The Treecuu were vegetarian by choice. In the days of the republic, eating other beings was seen as highly immoral. However, some hardliners, especially in the Committee and higher ranking members of the Security Police ate meat as a way of felling dominant. There were even rumours that they feasted on some of the more exotic subject species. Regardless, the members of the Treecuu delegation had been given an injection on nanorobots that would assist them in processing the alien food and neutralise contents that would be harmful to them. Being able to predict all eventualities and have a solution for every situation was a sign of strength. Having the guts to demand other to change came only second, and that was why everyone in the Treecuu delegation ate whatever was served.
 The Treecuu mammalians had been blessed with a highly sensitive gustatory perception. The soup, and especially the water in it, had an intriguing taste. Cuul narrowed his eyes while concentrating on identifying the different ingredients, nodding slowly.
 - “I don’t mind sharing the basic principles, as long as you return the favour” Cuul looked at the king.
 - “We let highly volatile particles collide and annihilate each other in an chamber. As they do, an enormous amount of energy is released which is shunt into something that could be called a capacitor. Manipulating the energy rate and the physical properties of the ‘capacitor’ allows forming and controlling a local gravimetric field that contracts space in the direction of travel, and expands it in the rear, thus continuously shorting the distance that needs to be travelled.”
 The President smiled.
 - “Or this is at least what they teach us in school.”
 The King felt nostalgic for the days when he studied engineering. Perhaps student exchange programs could be a possibility. It would also further enhance cultural ties in the long run. Regardless it seemed that the Treecuu could learn the Stoinians a trick or two.
 - “Ah I see, quite interesting technology. Perhaps we could also arrange for a student exchange between our nations to learn from one another and build a cultural barrier. Maybe even the youngest of my children could learn from these programs. It is quite an interesting thought. But of course we would have to revise the courses and find if they are indeed equivalent to one another.”
 The King smiled at the President while the waitresses removed the empty bowls.
 - “Would this idea intrigue the Treecuu?”
 - “Very much so, your Highness. I know many of our people would be eager to enrol in an exchange program. Perhaps our embassies and consulates could host this initiative?”
 The president nodded at the waitress as she removed his bowl.
 - “Thank you. It was a delightful meal.”
 Then he looked back at the king.
 - “In addition to facilitating education exchange, perhaps our diplomatic missions could arrange official tours of our respective nations for tourists?”
 - “I agree that we should also expand the tourism opportunities, but I would like to first focus them on the respective border sectors at first. See if there is indeed a market there and if the local populace would want it. Let’s just say that our more rural areas and expansion zones do still hold a very conservative view of xenos. Though I believe we should also open our capitals for tourism. Open the heart of our respective nations, I am sure both of our peoples could see this as a beginning of our growing thrust.”
 The King took a sip of water from his glass. The waitresses were also prepping the main course, but the Crown Prince eventually spoke to the President.
 - “Forgive me Mr. President, I may have a suggestion which may sound as a bit of a stretch. But would the Treecuu Empire be interested in a future joint military exploration program to scout out this sector in the galaxy? I am not asking for mixed crews, but perhaps a joint staff leading mixed fleets. It would also form a basis if we were in a war together and give us an operational advantage. I know we are in early stages of talks, but I am talking long term you see.”
 The King was surprised, his twenty year old son was making ambitious policies. Nonetheless if he would want any policy right now it would be in this cadre, he was still a student at East Point Academy. He was lucky to receive a short vacation to meet these Treecuu.
 The President wasn’t sure if he liked the idea. The Committee would for sure approve since it would help getting recognition abroad, and an ally in imposing ‘order’ would be a relief in a mostly hostile sector. But it could also further the entrenchment of the battered Treecuu liberalism and democracy. He decided to stick to the Committee narrative, a friendly neighbour should after all be better than just another enemy.
 - “I can see clear benefits” nodded Cuul, “and I think this is something we should pursue.”
 The Foreign Minister, who clearly had heard the Crown Prince’s suggestion, leaned forward.
 - “If we are talking long term, perhaps we should consider joint peace-enforcing and -keeping operations in systems that are far away from our own nations. Systems that border our respective empires should clearly be put under respective nation’s jurisdiction.”
 - “I agree, but I believe that perhaps one should still be able to decide whether or not a planet would be taken. From what you just said, Minister, it would look like we would have a joint mandate, which I believe would be quite inefficient. Of course if expansion is desired it should be discussed in a specialised committee. I would say such a committee would add to the inefficiency, but the Treecuu have proven to be reasonable neighbours thus far. I am sure a more detailed conversation about such matter should take place in the coming days.”
 Then the waitresses came with the main course. It was a pork steak with a cabbage salad with vinegar and oil accompanied by traditional Sinaian fries marinated a baked in an oven. If the Treecuuu still were hungry, they surely wouldn’t be for long. The King spoke.
 - “Gentlemen, to our Treecuu friends, I present you one of our most prized dishes throughout our Kingdom. A plain pork steak with salad and fries. Perhaps in your Empire it is customary to eat a lot of expensive ingredients for the higher ups, but in our Kingdom, we try to keep it simple. Hence the simple presentation, but do not be fooled. It is commonly said that this is the most Sinaian dish there is, for it doesn’t care to look fancy, but wants to give the best taste there is. Please, enjoy this fine meal.”
 The president smiled and nodded.
 - “The essence of Sinaian culture in a dish? Interesting.”
 He looked at what was served.
 - “I am pretty sure that this flat brownish piece is meat from a larger land-living creature? And these golden strips, I take they are rich in starch? Some kind of root?”
 The president hoped they weren’t served Mardakii flesh.
 The King smiled. These Treecuu were quite clever indeed, an early sign of a worthy ally.
 - “The meat is of a smaller animal specifically farmed for its meat. Although here in Sinaia they are often fed to become quite fat as it enhances the taste. They come from pigs, one of the animals we took from our original homeworld of Terra. They don’t form any threat. As for the fries, they are indeed from a root, also from Terra. These fries are quite popular in our Kingdom, perhaps we can have Stoinians come bring them on squares in food stands? If that is to your liking of course.”
 - “My home planet, Ecteen, which happens to be our capital too, is a progressive world, and I believe people there would be willing to sample and buy Stoinian produce. The frontier worlds on the other hand would likely be less eager because of different experiences with aliens” answered the president.
 He looked at his hosts to figure out how to eat the dish. He picked up the knife and started cutting the steak.
 - “Meat in the Treecuu diet is very rare. I haven’t had any fore many years. It shall be interesting.”
 The King took out his knife and cut a small portion from the meat, dipped it in his sauce and then ate. Soon after he took a fry and put it in a different sauce and then ate multiple of those.
 - “Oh it is quite appreciated such fine meat. You see our civilians depending on religion do fasten. This means that less meat and food is eaten for most religions, though there are many varieties. Of course some are forbidden to eat certain foods because of their religion. But of course we respect your choices. Although traditionally such food stans sell fries with meat dishes, we can adapt to the Treecuu market. I am sure that currently our Core worlds would indeed be more open for Treecuu goods, while our outer colonies would be more reluctant. But please tell us, what different experiences has your frontier had with the xenos?”
 - “Many of the recently annexed worlds had to be pacified due to their violent tendencies. Our citizens see these aliens, and unfortunately in many cases all aliens as unworthy of a place among the interstellar communities.” It was the the Foreign Minister who answered.
 - “I am sure you can relate?”
 - “It is quite different for us Stoinians as we are a rather homogenous nation. The only “xenos” we have are the Cheunh, but there are theories which state that they are in fact distant relatives to us Terrans. Research on all sides is conducted on this matter. As for the rest we have the occasional primitives which we tend to ignore. These few primitives likely survived the incursions from the many barbaric nomads which lived in these parts before we imposed order.”
 The King answered calmly, it was the daily reality in the Star Kingdom after all.
 - “Of course this is a timeless problem which will remain even after I myself will be long gone. We don’t tend to actively interact with xenos. Such matters are mostly handled by the Governors themselves, though in some instances the larger government had to step in. Simply exterminating the xenos isn’t the right way. We would become the very thing we swore to destroy. We would follow the footsteps of the Mardakii and God help us we won’t follow that path. But on the Frontier people tend to be more xenophobic as the idea of imminent xeno danger is a constant worry for them. Of course they will find it hard to digest the coming results of your visit, but in due time, they will come to accept you as a neighbour.”
 Then the Strategos interjected.
 - “Especially if they see you dealing with the pirates we intend you to catch.”
 The foreign minister nodded.
 - “All races have a right to exist. We agree…”
 He looked at his fellow Committee members, then back at the Strategos.
 - “What do you do when these primitives achieve interplanetary flight?”
 The King smiled as he finished the last pieces of his meal.
 - “You Treecuu are quite clever. Asking the real questions don’t you?”
 He looked at the Treecuu Foreign Minister for a few heartbeats.
 - In our border there are maybe one or two species who have shown the potential. However our current policy is to just ignore them. But once they show further or accelerated progress we might interject and establish ourselves as paternal partners. After all they inhabit our territory. It may be uncomfortable for them to realise that, but we will ensure a peaceful resolution. A dialogue with the local government or perhaps even multiple governments of the planet. But if they show signs of early rebellion then we will squash them like the vermin they are to us. Hopefully they will be so wise to make the right choice."
 He took another sip while the waitresses took the dishes and prepared for desert.
 - “I expect a same procedure for the Treecuu or would I be mistaken?”
 The Foreign Minister smiled in his insectoid way, not knowing if the humans would be able to see it.
 - “Indeed. Even though it does not happen often, we encounter civilisations about to achieve interplanetary flight as we expand our borders. If it happens, it is one of the prime directives of the Remote Fleets to quickly and forcefully persuade the civilisation to end their efforts. We cannot accept the possibility of rogue elements roaming our space and stir up disorder. But of course we do not use more force than necessary.”
 The King noticed the insectoid’s changing expression. He felt slightly disgusted by it, but surely something that would be overcome with time. For now he had to remain friendly.
 - “I see we speak the same language of order. We have found that hard to find with the nomadic tribes who inhabited our territories. We are also pleased to see this virtue doesn’t only extend to us Terrans. I am looking forward to formalise both our definitions of order and that between us. The only certainty we have is each other’s willingness to order. Something we should build on.”
 He took another sip as the waitresses made the last preparations for desert. He returned to the Foreign Minister.
 - “If these xenos are to be subjugated, what rights do they hold within the Treecuu Star Empire?”
 The Minister of Foreign Affairs looked at the King as he drank. He was thirsty too, but refrained from drinking, knowing that there was a great chance of disgusting the Terrans with his tube. It was a huge blow to his pride, but no Terran needed to know.
 - “The subject worlds have autonomy in most matters, under a light Treecuu hand. We intervene if, say there was a risk of a nuclear war, or a genocide. And we do not allow them to construct or use interplanetary communication systems or spacecraft.”
 - “How about you?”
 The waitresses brought the desert at last. It was a cheese doughnut with fruits a special milk cream, a speciality from Sinaia and one of the King’s favourite. He turned towards the whole table.
 “My Treecuu friends, this a Sinaia’s local speciality. The papanashi, a desert from my ethnicity and amongst my favourite dishes. Although it is sweet it can be quite a challenge to eat it all of it as it is quite a hefty desert. Please enjoy.”
 He then returned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
 - “From what I get, you take a more isolationist approach. We would argue that since they have achieved interplanetary flight they have shown an initial worth. We would then evaluate if they can be a worthy ally and start integrating if that were to be true. Though we believe it will be a long process at best. If they show aggressive tendencies then they will be dealt with swiftly. Though we would take a more immediate approach than yourselves.”
 - “We once had an ‘emerging planet’, as we call it, as an ally. They proved to be unsure of themselves and their place in the universe, and became untrustworthy in matters of security politics. After our war with the Loo-Yee, I think you may have heard of it, we had to pacify and assume control of our former allies’ home planet” explained the Foreign Minister.
 - “Now, you may wonder why we would be willing to accept you. What is different with you is your commitment to order and stability. You understand the struggle for survival. And you are strong, and we respect that.”
 The King ate from his desert while the Foreign Minister spoke. When he heard that the Treecuu had backstabbed an ally, the Stoinians weren’t too pleased. Some showed it more than others, but the King and the Crown Prince remained calm.
 - “Sure we understand the rules as well as you. But now that you have revealed backstabbing tendencies, what guarantee is there that eventually you won’t backstab us in the future? Besides, those rules compliment the strongest be it by backstabbing or other means. What guarantee do we have? Sure you are very cooperative and friendly, but looks can be deceiving. You may look at us now as a friendly bunch, most Ryccians tend to have a completely divergent opinion than yours. Well they were subjected to our imagery during the Mardakii and Velutarian Wars, just so to illustrate my point.”
 He took another sip from his drink.
 - “Now was there an agreement on paper with your allies? Is your signature worth anything? Is this the planet that Governor Seect mentioned having terrorist attacks? Do you want to impose order on us?”
 The King was looking if the Treecuu would cower away now if their new alliance truly meant something for them. By those rules, the Treecuu could want to dominate over the Stoinians, something unacceptable.
 The Foreign Minister answered in his usual calm manner.
 - “Our so-called allies negotiated a separate peace with the Loo-Yee. They faltered in their determination, leaving huge gaps in our defensive lines. Their treachery called for action. They did not stand by their word. But we do. Perhaps I could have explained this part better, before worrying you.”
 - “And no. That planet has been our peaceful subject for almost 200 years. You already impose order here, and you also respect us and our borders, as we respect you and yours.”
 The King finished his desert as the Foreign Minister spoke. He cleaned his mouth and then proceeded te respond to the Minister.
 - “Good Minister. You know your way with words after all. Then I am certainly looking forward to putting a Non Aggression Pact in place as soon as possible. From there we can build upon. That way we clearly state both our orders and respect them. Perhaps we could have a new saying here on Casaria: “The Star Kingdom has only two friends. The Treecuu Star Empire and the Dark Void.” But I will warn you, if by any chance you wish to dissolve such agreements with us, you face the wrath of the Stoinian Lion. The ones who faced it before you no longer live to tell the tales.”
 Alas the diner had come to an end, but who would wait the Treecuu response before finishing the night.
 The foreign minister showed no sign of reacting to the king’s warning.
 - “I appreciate us being straight and forthright here” he simply answered. Looking at the king for a moment he continued. “I have one concern I would like to discuss in the same spirit.”
 He raised his glass towards his face and let his drinking tube dip into the liquid. The level could be seen sinking. He then put the glass back on the table, while the tube disappeared slowly between his jaws.
 - “You Terrans seem to have spread far and wide in this sector… What guarantees do we have that you will not try unite all Terran-populated worlds and attempt to dominate this sector?”
 This display, which he had avoided so far, could now reinforce any xenophobic tendencies and maybe reveal hidden motifs in the king’s answer, hoped the foreign minister.
 The Treecuu were clever, even for the insectoids amongst them. That cleverness is a useful trait to have in an ally.
 - “I see you are quite knowledgeable about the sector. We ourselves have met the Ryccians and the Drakari who both have Terrans populations. I just returned from a state visit in the Ryccian Empire and I can assure you we can’t live together in the same house. We have grown very different over the centuries our values are completely different. The main principle upon which we left Terra is that we spread out Mankind in many different states. That core principle is still within us and after facing the Ryccians, we are certain now more than ever, that it is best to each live the way they want. However if any nations mistreats Terrans then you can expect us to take actions.”
 The King took his final sip and stood up.
 - “And if by any chance we wish to assert our dominance then we would need help from a reliable ally such as the Treecuu. Imposing on order on those who wish to bring it to the rest of the sector is quite a futile action if you ask us. Now I believe that will suffice for today. Thank you our new Treecuu Friends to share this diner with us. Our Guards will bring you back to your quarters.”
 The Treecuu and Stoinian Officials paid their respects and went to their rooms.
Next thing in the morning after a good night sleep the Treecuu were conveyed to the same meeting room they entered the day before. The King was already up and ready for talks sitting at the table.
 “Ah Mr. President. I hope you are in good shape as we will be doing a lot of discussing today. Perhaps we can even come to an agreement today. Did you have a good night sleep?”
 The President did never sleep well nowadays, and all the strange noises, smells and slightly different gravity did not help.
 - “Well, you know how it can be on an unfamiliar planet…” smiled the President, hoping the monarch would appreciate him being honest.
 - “But the quarters are very comfortable, your highness, so we are all in great shape, thank you. I look forward to today’s discussions.”
 The King smiled. He appreciated the President’s honesty and was really looking forward to the talks.
 - “I can understand. Sometimes even visiting a more physically demanding planet can be quite enduring. And to imagine my ancestor Iulian I made his entire career by visiting all these different worlds … But I am glad we can finally speak properly with our neighbours now and that there isn’t need for another Crusade.”
 The King felt a little discomfort when talking about the Crusades against a xeno.
 - “But I am glad you are able to enjoy your quarters. Please have a seat.”
 Then all the officials from both sides sat down at the round table. Then the Strategos spoke.
 - “As you all know both parties would like to secure their domain and authority. For that reason I suggest we finalise our agreement on the border patrols. We agreed upon a limit of 10 Treecuu Frigates and 5 Stoinian Destroyers for standard patrols. If heavy resistance is encountered by another party then the engaging party will notify the other party of increased military activity. On the Stoinian part we will ensure that our military bases of Deep Space 2 and 3 and Dragonfire will receive an end-to-end encrypted channel for both parties. Beware that we can’t share the locations of our military bases as per our protocols, so we will work through an entrenched communication line with multiple buoys with frequent patrols. If the Treecuu would be so kind to give us one of their secure systems for their military bases or locations for buoys than we can start plotting these communication lines.”
 The Treecuu official agreed and remained very productive during the meeting. The Stoinians could see that the Treecuu could be worthy allies with the same vision on the sector. It will take time before it would come to fruition, but the first stepping stone were made.
A Non Aggression Pact was signed by both parties in which both stated their intention to not attack one another and the promise of cooperation. The rights of each nation would be respected as border patrols would be limited to 10 Treecuu Frigates and 5 Stoinian Destroyers. A new and complex communication system was made through buoys as to alert one another of enemy forces or larger patrols. Clearly both sides wanted to protect their borders, while not infringing on the other’s. Plans were also made for a propaganda stunt where the Treecuu hand over Stoinian pirates to convince both parties that the other party is a worthy ally or to reaffirm their quest for order. These plans would become reality after the King would return from his visit to the Ryccian Empire and visit Ecteen, the Treecuu Capital.
 On the remainder of the Treecuu visit, the Treecuu delegation were shown the many fine elements of Sinaia and even brought to a concert of the Royal Sinaia Philharmonic Orchestra. A sight to behold for both the Treecuu and the Stoinians at the concert. Although the xenophobia rampant in the Star Kingdom, the Sinaians knew that a change in stance had to be made and no incidents were known. The outer colonies were furious that xeno filth had set foot on its capital and the opposition would play this card well to gain traction and critique the Kings policy. The Treecuu had enjoyed their stay and could see that cooperation with their new southern neighbour was most desireable.
 On the visit to the Treecuu Capital, the King would announce the Joint Exploration Fleet and simultaneously the propaganda stunt would unfold itself. This would offset any large criticism on the Stoinian half for rushing such a cooperation with a xeno race this early on. A show of deeds would speak louder than the words of any xeno. In this Joint Exploration Fleet the young Prince Aurelian would have his first command in the military. This Fleet will be lead by the now Admiral Garibaldi as head by its Chief of Staff as the Stoinians had the most experience on holding exploratory missions, though the Treecuu would have an equal say in it. At Ecteen the King held a speech broadcasted all over the two nations.
 - “My dear Treecuu friends. We have finished the talks on economic cooperation between our two nations and trade routes from Ecteen to Arcadia, Candact to Hyperion and Otane to Corillia. As well as the construction of new embassies on Elvoon and Arcadia. I am sure that with a partner like the Treecuu we will grow stronger and we can work together for a better future in this turbulent sector. For both our nations have known strife and together we will rise more powerful than before so we that we may never again know strife. It is for that reason that I am proud to announce here today that we have come to an agreement to explore this sector together and learn more from one another that way. I hear some of my brethren asking why so hasty? To them I tell you, what if there are other Mardakii out there or the Loo-Yee, the ancient enemy of the Treecuu? We want to eradicate them so our children can sleep at night in peace. Together we increase that chance and we will show the barbarians of this sector that there is a new Order coming to the sector. An era in which we, both Stoinians and Treecuu, tell the universe that we will no longer accept the reign of barbarity in our galaxy. An era in which both our nations will only grow stronger from and no longer live in fear! Times are changing, but I can assure both our people that it is for the better of both our kinds. To that dream I salute the Treecuu Star Empire and may we live forever in peace.”
 Few bothered with the difference between the capital planet - Ecteen, and the capital city - Irveem. Except for the Irveemers themselves of course. But most of the planet’s inhabitants could feel the winds of change blowing and their status slipping from them. There were fewer sessions in the Senate nowadays, and while many approved of it, there were fewer visits by the nonchalant Mandate Governors. There were even cautious rumours of the capital being moved to the Candact system, where the newly inaugurated seat of the Committee for the Expansion of the Empire was located.
 Irveem was located near the planet’s equator at the foothills of a mountain chain that had been withered down during the aeons. The recent and more bombastic leaderships had never managed to get clearance for their monumental buildings, and the city still was a bastion of the ideals of the old Treecuu Republic. The architecture was meant to be a respectful nod to the surrounding nature, providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere, not imposing. This had been an issue for the Committee, who sought to impress the Stoinians, especially militarily. For that reason, they had let the Marines rehearse a grand parade in the traditional manner that their new friends apparently still practised. But that was not all. They had prepared surprise after the parade.
 After having been welcomed to Irveem, the Stoinian delegation had been offered a tour of the city from the air. Food was offered in the Yuun-Eem, a hall-like cave behind a waterfall with a splendid view of the older parts of the city. The delegations were then taken to the balcony of the Presidential Palace, where the President and Chairman gave speeches, followed by the Stoinian King. The assembled crowd below, consisting only of the Treecuu amphibians and insectoids, cheered with passion when the King spoke of defeating the Loo-Yee. While many Ecteeners viewed the increased militarisation of the Star Empire and increasingly aggressive foreign politics spearheaded by the Committee, many were relieved the Treecuu had found a friendly power in the neighbourhood. For many it was also the first time seeing a live xeno, but the authorities had made sure to provide documentaries on their guests as to prepare the Treecuu.
 After the speeches came the parade. An entire brigade had practised marching on foot to music and made a splendid performance, passing the balcony company by company with proud and forceful steps, saluting the Stoinian King with precise shouting. The surprise, the Committee members hoped, would impress the Stoinians even more.
 As the last company had passed, a Lootuu class cruiser materialised only a kilometre away. Had it been there all the time, or did it warp there just now? If it had been there all the time, the cloaking technology must have been good. If it instead had warped there, it would mean that the Treecuu had great precision in navigation and means to prevent the sudden displacement of air from creating an explosion. This were questions that the Committee hoped the Stoinians would ask themselves. The cruiser made some imposing manoeuvres before firing a massive salvo of missiles that exploded into a colourful patterns. It then disappeared just as sudden as it came.
 The day ended with a dinner in the Presidential Palace and continued negotiations.

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