The advertisement ended with a stunning view of an ocean coast, bathed in sunlight and with white foam forming on the waves around jet black reefs. “So if you’re looking for a fresh start, to be part of a new colony’s founding or just an incredible view, don’t wait any longer! Black Teeth City is waiting for YOU!”
After a short pause, the broadcast showed a blazing blue star with the words ‘Blue Star News Network
’ in front of it in shining 3D letters. At the bottom of the screen, a white on red text stated: ‘Special edition: fleet departure for Earth scheduled for tomorrow’. The upbeat music continued in the background as a clean-shaven man in a suit with short blonde hair and a red-haired woman wearing an elegant dress appeared on screen.
“Good evening,” the woman intoned with a bright smile, “I’m Nadzieja Finkel.”
The man beside her nodded, smiling as well. “And I’m Mathias Stachurski. Welcome to this special news edition, here on Blue Star News Network. We’ve had a big announcement today, is that right?”
“That’s the understatement of the year, Mathias!” Nadzieja brought a strand of her hair back behind her ear. “The KDD has officially confirmed earlier today that Task Force Vigrid is scheduled to go through the Gate tomorrow, at thirteen hours. Let’s backtrack on this month of effervescence since the Gate reactivated. A lot happened, didn’t it?”
“Indeed Nadzieja, most of us never imagined that such an event would happen during our lifetime, but the KDD reacted as quickly as usual and announced the creation of a brand new Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs.” The screen split to show a picture of a blonde woman in a Navy black and gold uniform to the right of the two journalists. “The appointed Director is a thirty-nine-year-old colonel by the name of Valka Kirillovna and, this is a piece of exclusive information that we have received just minutes ago, we have the name of our ambassador to anybody who might be out there.”
A second picture appeared under that of the new Director, a man with orange and purple odd-eyes, short black hair, and a similarly black goatee save for a white strip on the left side. “Vona Toman.” Nadzieja joined her hands on the table before her. “Quite the handsome man, if I dare to say. Let’s hope that whoever is out there will be charmed by this brilliant history professor. He will be under a lot of pressure, that’s for certain.”
Mathias nodded. “That’s right. I expect his boss to be breathing down his neck regularly. After all, it’s her career and her life that are on the line!”-The next day-
Vona was trying his best to stay out of the way of the Navy personnel on the bridge of the New Sun, an Almaz-class cruiser and flagship of Task Force Vigrid. Everyone there always seemed to have something to do, while the Ambassador felt decidedly out of his element. But he would be damned if he spent any more time than he strictly had to in his cabin; he would be part of History now, instead of merely studying it. He nervously tapped his fingers on his cane’s pommel that he leaned on with his left hand. Even after all this time, he still had a slight limp.
It was funny, he thought, even as the ship’s commander was giving out orders for the fleet to make ready to move through the Gate he was still a little bummed that he couldn’t take Fuzz along. Of course, a military spaceship was no place for a shimmerbee, and Vona’s sister assured him that she would take care of her in his absence. But still…
Commander Masur’s stern voice sounded through the ship’s speakers in every section and in the rest of the fleet’s vessels. “To all ships, we have the green light. Move out.”
Seven crafts emerged into the Sol system. The cruiser made the smaller frigates, two Kobalt and four Onyx, look tiny by comparison. To the human eye, there was nothing but the cold void around, but the fleet was already busy making sense of the myriad of information it was receiving.
Masur stood at the center of the bridge, hands on the table that served as a holographic map projector. “What do we have, Gerson?”
An officer turned around on her swivel seat. “There are signs of activity, sir. A lot. I’m getting communications as well as energy signatures concentrated around Earth. It’s hard to tell exactly what they are from this distance, but it’s busy.”
“Earth is our heading. Ahead slow, start broadcasting the Old English message. Shields active, keep all weapons powered down.” Another officer echoed the commander’s order, communicating the exact coordinates to the engine sections with his station’s phone while another did the same with the shields controls and a third contacted the weapon batteries.
As the fleet assumed a defensive formation and burned towards humanity’s cradle, Vona could barely contain his trepidation.“To all entities, forces, and vessels in this system. We are representatives of the Kamenyan Defense Directorate, investigating the Sol system after the awakening of our Gateway. We are peaceful and wish to establish contact with the rest of humanity. Be advised, these ships are armed and we will use force in the eventuality of any aggressive action towards our detachment.”
“Hey, uh, George, I think you might want to see this.”
“What is it now?”
“Just come up here real quick. This seems kind of important.”
“Fine, Marcel, but this is the last time, do you hear me? Remember that time you said there was a space whale?”
George started climbing up the ladder to the ship’s tiny cockpit. The two men had been running a “package delivery service” in the fringes of the Kudrion system, and it had been rather successful, except for that one time where they nearly got stopped and searched at Baldr station. George pushed Marcel out of the way to get a better view. It was then that he saw the seven ships, one big one and six small ones. Uh oh.
“You’re right. This does seem kind of important. Think it’s some sort of police?”
“Nah, did you hear the transmission they sent out?”
“No, you idiot, I was downstairs. Summarize it for me.”
“Well,” Marcel excitedly said, “they said that they were representatives from a new nation whose gateway was only recently activated! Can you imagine that? If we notify the Ambassador we could be famous! Maybe we can even ask for some money?”
“Notify the authorities? Are you stupid? What do you think they’ll do when they find our cargo? Let me handle this.” George was already coming up with a scheme. Maybe they could profit from this after all.
George tried to send a message to the largest of the seven ships: “Hello, this is the KSS Stormfalcon. Uhh…” George paused for a moment. He had to make sure the lie was at least a little convincing. “We are diplomats from the Kingdom of Kudrion, on our way to the Meeting Place, the big station you see near Earth. However, maybe we could meet on your ship? It is a great honor to meet a nation new to the galactic scene.”
Meanwhile, on the Meeting Place, Emily, the actual Kudrioni Ambassador, had just finished her last important job for the day, and was now relaxing. She had sat back, put her feet on the table (damn, she was gonna need to clean the dirt from her boots later), and was now scrolling through some of the news while enjoying some coffee.
Then she heard the message. And she spat out her coffee.
“Damnit,” she grumbled, “more work.”
“Well what are the chances…” Commander Masur mumbled to himself. Next to him, Vona was practically jumping with joy.
“Hear that? Another colony! And there’s a whole bunch more by the sound of it.” He had a grin from ear to ear, like a kid with a new toy on Founding holidays, while most of the crew on the bridge exchanged smiles. Most Kamenyans hoped that other colonies had survived, but receiving confirmation was something else.
“It comes from a small ship, commander. About the size of a shuttle,” Lieutenant Gerson said.
“Open communications.” The commander did not seem to share his crew’s enthusiasm. “Stormfalcon, this is commander Masur aboard the ship New Sun. You have permission to board, you will receive a fighter escort to guide your ship.” Eyes still on the map, he had his eyes fixated on the small blue dot representing the unknown ship. “Zalewski, get me flight control.” Two seconds passed. “Have two birds take off with orders to scan the unknown vessel for weapons and energy signatures. If they’re clear, escort them to the cargo bay for landing. If not, they are to send a report to the bridge directly.”
“Commander, I don’t mean to overstep but… is this all really necessary?” Vona had enough awareness to speak softly, so as to not appear to be undermining Masur’s authority. “It almost sounds like we’re taking them captive.”
“I understand that you are on a diplomatic mission, Ambassador, but I will not expose my ship to unnecessary risks.” There was no arguing with the commander. “I’ll give you a squad of marines as escort from the cargo bay to your cabin.”
Minutes later, a pair of squat-looking crafts formed up to each side of the small ship. While their sensors scanned it, one of the pilots radioed its crew. “Stormfalcon, we are your escort to the New Sun. Please follow our lead.”
George rubbed his hands together. “See, Marcel? That’s how it’s done.”
Marcel had already started flying the ship towards the fleet when the two craft appeared. “Shit! They’ve sent out two fighters! What do we do? I’d rather not be imprisoned for smuggling on an unknown ship”
“Shut up for once and give me the radio.” George said as he roughly grabbed the speaker from Marcel’s hands. “Thank you, New Sun, we appreciate the escort.”
As the fighters scanned the two ships, they would see that the Stormfalcon only had a small turret on board, but it was currently powered off. The only energy signature that could be detected was the ship’s reactor.
Marcel steered towards the New Sun, following the two escort craft. “So, what do we do when we are inside? Do we pretend we’re gods or something?”
“You should stop watching those ancient movies, they’re not doing you any good. We’ll just pretend we’re diplomats, and try to get something from them.”
“So what does being a diplomat entail, exactly?”
“You know what? I don’t know. But we’ll figure it out.”
Vona Toman adjusted his suit and scrubbed the pin bearing the KDD’s symbol on his jacket’s left lapel, even though it was spotless already. The indicator light above the door to the cargo bay switched from red to yellow, then to green, indicating that the bay was pressurized and safe to enter. He took a deep breath and pulled the lever next to the door, which slid open.
The Kudrioni ship was there, held in place by the ship’s artificial gravity that was much higher than what would be normal for humans. Vona started walking towards it, his cane making a distinct metallic sound every time it struck the metal floor. Behind him came eight of the ship’s marines, each of them standing more than a foot taller than the Ambassador in their power armor, even though he was the Kamenyan average of 6’ 7”.
The boarding ramp of the Kudrioni ship opened with a hissing noise and a puff of steam, and two men, clad in an assortment of clothes and pelts, came out of the Stormfalcon. Marcel and George had realized that they didn’t have any official-looking uniforms, so they had quickly gathered a random mix of clothes to make them look a little more like diplomats, hoping that the Kamenyans would think that was just their culture.
George comically stumbled as he walked out of the ship, unused to the gravity that was much higher than their own homeworld, but was caught by Marcel. They walked all the way down the ramp, stopping in front of the Ambassador. Both of them were about as tall as the other man, owing to Kudrion’s own genetic modifications. “Hello,” George said, “We are George and Marcel. We are diplomats from the Kingdom of Kudrion. Once again it is an honor to meet you.”
“Greetings. My name is Vona Toman, Ambassador of the Kamenyan Defense Directorate.” Vona smiled amicably, trying his best to seem friendly despite the squad of heavily armored marines standing behind him. Strange clothes, he thought. But these men claimed to be representatives of a kingdom, of all things. Cultural differences are to be expected in these situations. “Please, follow me. My cabin is not exactly fit for diplomatic receptions, but it’s still better than a cargo bay.”
After a minute of walking, the would-be diplomats and their escort stepped into an elevator that started moving upwards after one of the soldiers pushed a button. “So, this… Meeting Place. Is it an embassy of some sort? We noticed a lot of activity around Earth’s orbit.”
George immediately started following Vona. Marcel, meanwhile, looked around nervously, wary of some sort of trap, before catching up with the two others. Neither of the two Kudrioni was really comfortable with the marines, but it was too late to turn back now. “Yes,” George said, “it is a great station, built by the many different nations that came through the Gateway. I’ve got no idea why, though. It was there when our nation arrived, at least that’s what everyone says.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just taken aback a little by your height. On the meeting place, many are shorter than we are, so it’s a little surprising to see people who are as tall. Also, why do I feel so heavy?” George rubbed his back after asking that last question, clearly in pain.
“Ah, apologies. Gravity on our homeworld is… quite a bit higher than what most humans would be used to. It is indirectly the reason why we Kamenyans are tall. My height is about average, you see.” It didn’t make much sense that higher gravity would make people taller, but the elevator stopping gave Vona an excuse to change the subject. He wasn’t eager to start disclosing too much information right off the bat. “Here we are.” The door to his cabin opened and he walked inside. The soldiers in dark power armor took up stations in the corridor and next to the elevator, and Vona gestured for the two smugglers-turned-diplomats towards a metal desk with two simple but comfortable seats, a swivel chair on the other side of it. The room was not very large without being cramped, just able to accommodate a bookshelf and a few other pieces of furniture. “Please, have a seat. Would you care for a drink? Tea, perhaps? Or, if you would prefer something stronger, I have a bottle of redfruit schnapps for occasions such as this.”
Both men sat down at the table. “I would like some of the schnapps, please,” George responded. “And my friend here does too,” he said, gesturing to Marcel who nodded eagerly. The two smugglers hadn’t had any alcohol for some time, given that it wasn’t safe to drink while operating a spaceship full of very valuable, illegal cargo.
Vona opened a small cabinet and grabbed a bottle containing a clear liquid with a slight reddish hue and three small glasses, pouring one for each of his guests and one for himself before sitting down. “To our meeting, then.” He took a sip, letting the fruity flavor and slight sweetness fade before speaking up again, examining George and Marcel with his orange and purple odd-eyes. “So then, I hope that our arrival did not interrupt some mission of yours. We will do our best to not delay you, we will get to the Meeting Place soon enough.”
George took a sip of the drink. In his opinion, it wasn’t quite on par with the alcohol served in taverns on his home planet, but it would do for the occasion. Only then did he notice Vona’s eyes. They were orange and purple. He found it quite strange, he had seen many eye colors aboard the station, but never something like this. “Ah, yes, we were indeed on a mission. We uhh.” George paused for a moment, trying to think of an acceptable lie. “We are on a mission to bring gifts to the Empire of Newhesh. They are currently on our ship. That’s why we brought a cargo shuttle, see.” Wait, did Vona say the ship was heading to the Meeting Place? That can’t be good… “Actually, if we may, we would like to offer these gifts to you instead.”
That gave Vona pause as he raised an eyebrow. He started to think that these diplomats behaved rather strangely, despite reminding himself that cultural differences may be significant. “To us? I am sorry, but… I believe that you should offer these gifts to whoever they were intended for. I have no wish to interfere with your duties, nor does the Directorate expect to receive gifts.” He leaned back into his chair. “Besides, I can’t think of something we could give in exchange. Since this is a military vessel, we do not have much in the way of trading goods with us.”
Judging from Vona’s reaction, that was apparently the wrong thing to say. Guess they weren’t getting rid of the evidence today. “Of course! I just thought it would be nice to give something to a newly arriving nation,” George said, putting on a bright smile. “ The Empire can wait a little bit more, after all. We would be glad to accompany you to the Meeting Place, though. We could even give you a tour!” George nervously took sips from his glass of schnapps, waiting for the ship to arrive at the station…
While the Kamenyan Ambassador and his two guests made small talk, the New Sun eventually closed the distance with the station, its escort remaining at a respectable range as a show of good will. Actually docking with the Meeting Place took a while, since the dimensions of the airlocks were quite different. Eventually, the cruiser deployed an emergency flexible tube to connect to the gigantic space station, through which Vona and the two smugglers, accompanied by two of the ship’s marines, walked all the way to the Meeting Place. Despite the doubts he had in the back of his mind concerning the so-called Kudrioni diplomats, he couldn’t help being ecstatic at the thought of setting foot in an interstellar embassy.
As Vona stepped into the airlock, the first thing he noticed was how… light he was. Of course, he remembered, the gravity is lower here. That glass of schnapps suddenly seemed like it wasn’t the best idea after all, but just as the Ambassador swallowed in an effort to keep his breakfast down, the airlock opened.
The two ‘diplomats’ followed Vona through the ship’s tube, a little concerned about the sturdiness of the whole thing. If there was somehow a leak, they’d all die. Both men were happy being back at the station, though. Maybe they could try going to a bar somewhere to drink their sorrows away. However, their smiles and optimism faded as soon as the airlock opened and they saw what was on the other side.
Emily Kaldaz, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Kudrion, as well as the highest Kudrioni authority on the Meeting Place, was not amused. Though her blank expression didn’t show it, she was absolutely livid. After the New Sun’s message had been broadcasted throughout the station, she had quickly made preparations for its arrival. Kudrion had no first-contact protocol and she had been forced to improvise, however. It had been when she was choosing guards to accompany her that she heard that there were already diplomats from her nation on the ship. That was preposterous, of course, as Emily knew that King Dishuz had sent only her to act as a diplomat, and she came to the conclusion that they must be impostors.
Surrounded by four soldiers of the Royal Guard, who were clad in their resplendent silvery-white power armor, and holding their rifles, Emily waited for the ship to arrive. As she looked at the opening airlock, arms crossed, the slightest hint of a frown appeared on her face. Her suspicions had been proven correct.
Vona stepped out of the airlock, giving the woman a polite nod. “Greetings. My name is Vona Toman, Ambassador on behalf of Kamenymir. You must be Emily Kaldaz.” He received this information over the phone in his cabin when the commander of the New Sun informed him that a delegation would meet him on the Meeting Place. Vona deliberately withheld this information from George and Marcel, looking to confirm or dispel his doubts for good.
“I am indeed Ambassador Kaldaz. Welcome to the Meeting Place, Ambassador Vona.” The first thing she noticed was that Vona was actually a good bit taller than her, something that she wasn’t used to when meeting with foreigners. The second thing, of course, were the two disheveled men accompanying him. These must be the ‘diplomats’ that she’d heard about. Still, it was better to be safe than sorry. “Who are these two men?”
The Kamenyan raised an eyebrow. “I thought you might know.” He gestured towards the two men. “George, and Marcel. I learned from them that they were on a diplomatic mission to the Empire of Newhesh.” Vona’s tone made it clear now that he had his doubts. Behind them, the two marines moved their thumbs over the safety lever of their rifles.
Well, that confirmed it. “It is with great displeasure that I inform you that this ‘Empire of Newhesh’ does not exist. I believe that you are in the presence of two wanted Kudrioni criminals, smugglers perhaps, Ambassador Vona. I would appreciate it if you would hand them over so that they may be tried according to our laws,” Emily said, her restrained anger apparent to those who paid close attention.
Behind Vona, both ‘diplomats’ became increasingly more panicked as they heard the actual ambassador speak. “She’s lying! We’re the real diplomats and she’s the fake!” Marcel shouted, speaking for the first time since he had come aboard the New Sun. He was then promptly rewarded for this act with a slap to the back of his head from Marcel.
Vona sighed. Well, this was embarrassing. “Sergeant, if you would be so kind.” The two marines each clasped a hand on the smugglers’ shoulders, the strength of their fingers’ grip quite painful as they effortlessly pushed George and Marcel in front of them. “My apologies, Ambassador. I hoped that our first meeting would be more, ah… Prestigious.”
The two smugglers, rubbing their shoulders from the pain, resigned themselves to their fate. There was no running now. George and Marcel walked forward, towards their countrymen, and were eventually intercepted by the Royal Guard, who gripped them equally as painfully as the marines had.
“Now that is dealt with, I suggest we meet some other time, under better circumstances. I would be interested in learning about your country,” the Kudrioni ambassador said, her tone not much friendlier than the one she had before.
“Likewise. I would be glad to meet again… at a time of your choosing.” Vona looked around, tapping his fingers on his cane’s pommel. “Until then, we will work to establish a proper embassy.” And I will work to visit every inch of this place, he thought. How was that for a first day on the job?
About an hour later, a short message was broadcasted on the Meeting place.“To the attention of all nations represented on this station, we are the Kamenyan Defense Directorate, sole governing body of Kamenymir. We are a peaceful people and look forward to working hand in hand with fellow children of Earth for our mutual benefit. If you wish to contact us, Ambassador Vona Toman is available for any diplomatic purposes.”
Collab with @jorvhik