The Devils of Our Better Natures

Discovery Class Starship
FI-ESV Better Margins
Galactic Orbit
24,970 Light Years from Sagittarius A*
April 2219

No matter how many times he watched it, no matter the angle or the speed he was watching it at, Benjamin Nesco felt the same horrible sinking feeling in his gut every time. It felt as if a great black abyss had yawned open beneath his feet, and it was only by the narrowest margins that he had thus far avoided falling into it. He should have been sleeping, it was 0245 in the morning and he’d had maybe five hours of good sleep in the last week. Instead, he took another sip of his coffee and hit play again.

Three hours and forty-seven minutes: the time it took for that impossibly large hand to reach up out of a strange radioactive glowing disc and drag the star back into it. The images gripped at his mind, as if threatening to drag him down into the darkness like the K-type star had been. The playthrough ended its accelerated run and sent a shiver up his spine.

He banished the cold feeling with another swig of coffee, turned the speed up by another factor of ten to 10000x and hit play again. Once again, a disk with a radius of five AUs opened up beneath the system’s ecliptic. The disk was centered on the star, with the mid point only 100,000 kilometers from the star’s south pole. Emissions from the disk were all over the place, with an alphabet soup of high energy particles as well as electromagnetic emissions along every spectrum. And then those impossibly large fingers rose up around the star, moving at relativistic speeds as they slide up around it and curled to meet above the sun’s north pole. When the fingers began sinking back into the energy disk, the star visibly pulsed and surged, sloughing off chunks of corona that went silently screaming into the system. Auroras millions of kilometers long danced around the descending claws as the electromagnetic fields within them were used to shove the star through space.

And then the star was sucked out of sight, and the storm of radiation dissipated in less than a minute. Ben pursed his lips and sucked in a breath through his teeth, his heart was racing again, this was a situation without precedent.

The comparison that jumped to his mind was the arrival of the Europeans in Central America, and what happened to the Aztecs as a result, but compared to the aliens he had beheld, that technological disparity had been positively tiny. He went for another swig of coffee and realized the cup was empty.

A phrase danced around the corners of his mind, taunting him to invoke it, and yet knowing that doing so would be the equivalent of casting a curse on Fabrique Intersolar. Words had power, and those words would invoke a series of actions that could not be easily undone. It would certainly be the end of Fabrique’s interstellar ambitions and could change the nature of space exploration for everyone.  And yet, he couldn’t ignore the possibility that this was an outside context problem. From where he was floating, it looked pretty far outside of context. Dismantling planets? That was something humanity had ambitions to do and had made moderate progress on in the case of Mercury, it was within Ben’s scope of understanding, it fit into his worldview. But just taking an entire star? It wasn’t something he could convince his brain to grok.

He went to start the video again and then stopped himself. This is pointless, he thought. He wasn’t going to gain some new insight that would allow him to divine meaning from the events they had witnessed by reviewing them for the two-hundredth time, and nothing new had happened in the former location of the Theta Tauri system for the past week. It was time to move on.

He unstrapped from the chair at his desk and gently pushed off of it, flipping over with the unnecessary acrobatics of zero gee to vault above his desk and reach the door to his personal quarters.

Making his way down the axial corridor to the bridge, Ben started to feel better than he had during the previous week, it was time to stop staring slack-jawed and get to work.

The door to the bridge hissed open and admitted him as he floated along, his XO made eye contact as he entered and the bridge crew roused themselves to something approximating attention.

“Captain,” Melissa Stevenson nodded to him, pushing out of the captain’s chair, “I’m surprised you’re awake.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” He explained, “No change?”

“No changes, we’re still all alone out here,” Melissa answered him.

“All right then, new plan,” Ben announced, “we’re going to quickly hit Epsilon Tauri and Gamma Tauri and assess the situation in both of those systems. And honestly, even if everything is fine there, I’m probably going to advise the respective ship captains to pull out of the Hyades with us until we can get a handle on what these aliens are doing.”  

Melissa nodded, “Gamma then Epsilon?”

“Gamma is technically closer,” Ben shrugged, pushing past the captain’s chair towards the front of the ship, “So sure, we can do Gamma first,” he grabbed the navigator’s seat to arrest his momentum and woke the navigator, who was asleep in her chair with headphones on, “Alex, power up the warp drive, we’re getting out of here.”

“Wha..” she mumbled and then snapped fully awake, “Sorry, what, where are we going?”

“Gamma Tauri,” Ben explained calmly, “and take us out at 50 AUs again.”

Alex Uplands nodded and stretched her arms out over the controls, inputting commands into the computer system to begin the complex process of flinging the ship multiple light years through space. Most of the process was automated, it all happened at microsecond intervals, impossible for a human to time correctly, but all the vectors, the locations involved, the relative velocities, all that data had to be fed into the warp calculator in order to generate the precisely shaped spacetime tunnel to deliver their ship to the exact point specified.

“Warp calculations completed,” Alex reported, “304 hours uptime, twelve days travel.”

“Sounds good to me,” Melissa replied.

Ben nodded and pushed back off Alex’s chair, landing neatly in his own chair further back on the bridge. “Hit it.”

Alex executed the warp order. Hundreds of downstream AI processes began going off in parallel as the warp began. The automated kick warnings sounded throughout the vessel, and the ship lighting flashed red for thirty seconds, giving the crew warning that they should strap in for the incoming kick. While this was occurring, Better Margins was rotating herself in space, pointing her bow at the distant star, and channeling massive quantities of power into the capacitor banks that would all discharge at once to power the warp field generators. Exotic matter was being precycled through the system and placed to generate the needed spacetime geometries, while on the bridge an automated countdown calmly ran down the seconds.

The timer ran out and the Better Margins vanished into a ripple of light.

 

Constellation Project Colony
UNDSV 15-18 Jericho Ridge
Hyperbolic Stellar Escape Trajectory
1.95 Light Years from Sol
April 2219

Regan McKinley sighed and stretched, sprawled out atop the Lincolnville water tower, Seth Fiegel beside her. Low grey clouds scudded overhead, providing a patchwork view across the drum and mostly hiding Mt. Washington from view. The colony was moving towards autumn on its internal calendar, the days growing shorter and cooler, rain coming more and more frequently. In a few more months, it’d start snowing.

“So she really did it?” Regan asked after a long silence, her eyes watching the clouds slip by in the autumn breeze.

“Yeah,” Seth answered bitterly, “Cornered my dad with the divorce lawyer when he got home from work and dumped the proceedings on him.”

“Shit Seth,” Regan replied sympathetically, “I’m sorry man.”

“Yeah, it’s a shitshow all around,” Seth said as he sat up on the warm curving metal and started lighting a cigarette. The breeze on top of the tower kept blowing out his lighter flame, forcing him to cup his hands close to his face to get the cherry lit, “She took Caleb with her and left, Dad’s probably having a meltdown right now, it’s just…” he sighed, unable to properly finish the sentence, overwhelmed by the various conflicting emotions.

Regan gently squeezed his shoulder and pat him on the back, “We’ll figure this out.”

“I am not moving in with Helen, it’s not worth it,” he said through clenched teeth, “I just don’t want to lose my brother over this.”

“You won’t,” Regan assured him, “Helen might be a stuck up narcissist, but she’s not a monster, I’m sure she’d let you visit him.”

“I wish I was that sure, she doesn’t hate me or anything, but I’m not her kid and she knows it. If she thinks I’m a bad influence on him…” He studied his hands, unwilling to let himself show emotion, even with Regan, he refused to break down into the crying mess he wanted to become.

“Just take her side in the divorce, but don’t move in with her,” Regan suggested, “try and stay on her good side, and if your dad kicks you out for it, you can just live in the bunker, then you’re still not like, literally under her thumb, but she’ll still like you.”

“I don’t know if I can do that though,” Seth said, “she holds everyone to these hypocritically high standards, and is super judgemental.”

Regan sighed and lit her own cigarette, replicating Seth’s action of cupping her hands to block the wind. “What a shitshow,” she said finally, “I wish there was something I could do.”

“Just like, give me a distraction,” he answered, staring up at the clouds while taking another drag of his smoke.

“I wish we’d get some more news about those aliens,” Regan answered, “There hasn’t been anything new on them since the fleet left.”

“Maybe they made contact, and they’re keeping it hush-hush because the aliens have been living among us for a while or something,” Seth chuckled.

“Oh, yeah, I’m an alien, I forgot to tell you,” Regan snarked, taking a drag of her smoke.

“But what do you think’s really gonna happen?” He asked her.

“Nothing,” she answered cynically, watching the dark grey clouds scuttling overhead.

“Oh come on Regan, this is like, the biggest discovery in human history, this’ll change everything, there’s no way around that,” Seth said.

“Are you sure?” The last biggest discovery in human history was FTL getting invented, that happened like, right before we were born, and that didn’t change anything here.”

“It did change stuff though, if it was never invented, Lily’s dad might not have run off,” Seth said as an example.

“Yeah but that’s just the exception that proves the rule. The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Regan shook her head and sighed out another cloud of smoke.

“From the desk of Regan McKinley,” Seth chuckled again, rolling his eyes. Regan sat up as a fat drop of water landed on her forehead, eyes going skyward.

“Rain’s coming,” she said, taking another drag of her smoke as she stood up. “We should head down before we get soaked.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Seth answered, clambering to his feet, “Only a few more months and it’ll be too cold to hang out up here.”

“Well, we have the bunker now, so it’s all good,” Regan answered, “Even if I prefer this view to the one out the hangar doors.”

“Really?” Seth asked as he climbed onto the ladder and started descending the side of the water tower. “I thought the view out there was way more impressive.”

“It’s all sterile space, emptiness, and giant machinery,” She replied, following him down the ladder as raindrops started falling around them, “I like nature, green spaces, and clouds and stuff. Space is just dead, cold and dead and sterile.”

“All of that stuff you listed is technically in space,” Seth retorted, “Everything is in space.”

“Yeah but most of space is empty and boring. I mean like, the view out there is impressive, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that, but watching the stars spin past is only interesting for so long.”

“If you say so…” Seth answered, not willing to actually concede the point but being unwilling to argue about it further. The pair quickly scaled the chainlink at the bottom of the ladder and took shelter from the rain beneath the metallic bulk of the water tower.

Regan curled up on one of the raised ferrocrete feet of the tower, continuing to nurse her now damp cigarette. Seth started pacing in the empty area beneath the tower, his head still buzzing with too much anxiety to sit still.

Regan sighed, practically able to see the nervousness bubbling off of him. She spent a few moments trying to work out something to distract him with again, and when her mind threw up an answer she then spent the next few minutes arguing with herself that it wasn’t something she wanted to talk about or admit to herself yet. Seth continued pacing, grinding his teeth together as he did so.

“You know,” Regan said finally, “I think I might be gay.”

Well, it did elicit the reaction of stopping Seth in his tracks. The two of them met eyes for a moment and Seth cocked his head slightly, then he started laughing.

“What?” Regan practically shouted, her face turning beat red.

“You’re just now realizing this?” he laughed, “Regan, I’ve known you were gay since that really awkward time we tried to have sex. You’re about the most blatantly gay person I’ve ever met. You might as well have a rainbow tattooed on your forehead.”

“Really?” Regan asked, hiding her still burning face in her knees.

“Yeah, like, duh. Did you actually just figure it out or are you still trying to distract me from the divorce?”

The answer to the question was yes on both counts, she always sort of knew it but was never willing to admit it, and she had definitely thrown it out to try and derail Seth’s anxiety train, but admitting that to him would just make him double down on the anxiety, so she punted on the question, “I think I have a crush on Lily,” she said, face red with embarrassment.  

Seth wandered over and sat next to her on the ferrocrete footing.

“So you gonna lay the moves on her then?” He asked with a chuckle that caused Regan to bury her face deeper into her knees.

“No, I’m going to do no such thing,” She said, “She’s one of my best friends and I don’t want to make things awkward between us.”

“Oh, but you’ll never know if she feels the same way or not if you don’t say anything,” Seth teased. He knew she was trying to distract him, but the distraction she’d thrown up was so deeply personal that it worked damnit.

“That’s fine,” Regan said from behind her knees, “Because the alternative is that it drives a huge wedge between our friendship.”

“Or,” Seth offered, “She secretly feels the same way and when you admit it to her you two will realize you’re deeply in love and run off to have sexytimes.”

Regan groaned, “I don’t think it’s physically possible to feel more embarrassed than I do right now.”

“You’re the one who brought it up Regan,” Seth teased, giving her a slightly shove.

“Yeah, Yeah,” she replied. “Do not say anything about this to Lily.”

“You sure? I could like, come at it sideways,” Seth offered, “tell her I suspect you have a crush on her and gauge her reaction so you can decide if you want to say something or not.”

“No, no way, don’t say anything,” Regan insisted.

“Fine, fine,” He answered with a sigh, “My lips are sealed.”

“Thanks,” Regan answered, leaning against him slightly. The conversation fell away and the two of them sat in silence while the rain continued to fall around them.

 

Marathon Class Starship
UNDF Leyte Gulf
Hyperbolic Stellar Warp Trajectory
13 AUs From Luyten’s Star
April 2219

The command electronic warfare cruiser thundered silently down the warp tunnel, her siblings in the Eighth Expeditionary Fleet raced alongside her, invisible in their own isolated warp tunnels.

“Five seconds,” Katie Hawthorne said as she counted down towards their exit from the warp tunnel, “Four,” Maeve O’Donnell drew in a breath, drumming her fingers on the command console, “three,” Sensor system specialists completed final checks, “two” Katie counted onward, “one.”

The kaleidoscoping warp tunnel vanished ahead of them and the Leyte Gulf fell back into space; a ripple propagated across the wallscreens around the room as the warp tunnel was replaced with starfield. The smart systems asserted their position and verified locations via galactic coordinate systems, triangulating off distant stars in milliseconds. Luyten’s Star was a baleful red eye directly ahead on the forward wallscreens, while the other ten vessels of the Eighth Expeditionary Fleet dropped out of warp all around them, bracketed in green and labeled with callouts by the smart systems. But those weren’t the only points of interest displayed on the screens; there were also additional callouts and red bracket boxes being generated every few seconds as the two dozen vessels of the Martian Socialist Republic’s Third Fleet was detected 2 AUs inward from their position. A yellow callout appeared as the massive alien vessel near the star was picked up, followed by a blue callout behind them as that damn news ship dropped out of warp a million kilometers astern.

Maeve’s eyes darted around the room, reading ship names and classes on the various callouts floating next to their colored brackets. The presence of the news ship was troubling. Someone must have leaked the information, that was a bad sign.

“Warp completed successfully by all ships,” Katie reported, “Systems measure us at 10 AUs from Luyten’s star. Absolute radial velocity 18 kilometers per second outward, transversal velocity negligible. Nearest Martian vessel is 2.4 AUs away.”

Maeve’s mind immediately began running in overdrive as she studied the tactical situation as quickly as possible: twenty-six Martian vessels in system, twenty-five of which were located in a tight bubble cluster along a direct vector between Sol and Luyten’s Star, 8 AUs from the red dwarf. The last Martian ship was 2 AUs out from the star and less than a million kilometers from an alien ship of truly gigantic proportions. Maeve was momentarily taken aback by the sheer scale of the vessel. It wasn’t quite as large as Earth, but it came close, and it was definitely larger than Mars.

Some quick mental math told Maeve they had 20 minutes until the light of their arrival reached the Martians, and this small window of opportunity was one she intended to take advantage of. She grabbed the headset sitting on her armrest and put it over her ears, keying up on the command channel she had with all the captains.

“Plot a new networked fleet warp vector,” she announced, “Take us 4.8 AUs closer to the stellar primary, that should bring us out at an equal distance to the Martians from our current one, but on their far side. Execute when all vessels are ready.”

She listened to a chorus of acknowledgments, and drummed her fingers on the console once more as the faint vibration of the warp coils spooling up reverberated through the decking. A tone chimed over the ship’s intercom, announcing the incoming kick. Maeve took a breath in anticipation for the punch to the gut feeling the kick induced. And then the tone changed to an error alarm, and the kick sequence self-aborted.

“What just happened?” Maeve asked into the microphone, then again to the room at large, “What the hell just happened?”

“Engineering reports green across the board, all systems are nominal,” the engineering systems specialist, Andrew Michael, reported, “The drive cycled and the warp field generators activated, but the kick failed.” At the same time the specialist was speaking, Maeve was hearing a similar story from all the captains in the fleet.

“Why?” Maeve asked him, keying up at the same time to repeat the question over the command channel.

“I have no idea,” he admitted. None of the captains under her knew either, know one seemed to know what had just happened to their drives.

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Maeve swore. Their window to act was closing rapidly, every second that went by, the light of their arrival crossed another three hundred thousand kilometers of empty space, and was that much closer to the Martians.

Precious moments ticked by as the engineering crews went line by line through the warp drive event viewer, peering through hundreds operations that took microseconds to complete for the conflux of factors that had foiled their warp attempt.

“I bet it’s that alien ship,” Captain Gunnir Coulson’s voice said to her through the headset. “Check your interferometers, that thing’s weighing in at half a solar mass.”

“Katie, what do the interferometers say about that alien ship’s mass?” Maeve asked off comms.

“That much of a mass shadow could be throwing off the warp calculations.” Captain Allison Strange said into Maeve’s ear from the bridge of the Stalingrad.

“Interferometers put the mass of the alien ship at zero point four eight solar masses,” Katie reported.

“Can we compensate for that?” Maeve asked Katie while keying up.

“Quick and dirty, I can get us as close as eight,” Henry Osborne said from the bridge of the Leyte Gulf. “Half a solar mass isn’t much in the grand scheme, but it’d take a while to adjust all the calculations and get in as close as they have that survey ship.”

“Okay, new plan,” Maeve said, keying up,  “we warp 15 AUs, perpendicular to the ecliptic, then come back down on the other side of the alien ship from the Martians. That’ll put us sixteen AUs from their fleet, and potentially buy us as much as two hours. Networked warp, execute as soon as all vessels report ready state.”

The collection of smooth, matte white UN vessels began pivoting in space, firing cold gas thrusters as they rotated their bows toward Ursa Minor, then, as one, they leapt down their warp tunnels, vanishing in a ripple of light.

It took a bit more than half a minute for the fleet ships to reach their perch 15 AUs above the ecliptic, and after a moment to cycle the drives and reorient themselves, dove back into the warp tunnel.

The ships of the UN Eighth Expeditionary Fleet slammed back into space on the far side of Luyten’s star, slipping into existence while the light of their original warp exit was still five minutes out from Martian sensors. Maeve kept count of those seconds carefully, it was a potentially dangerous game to play with warships in deep space.

She was frustrated. While they had potentially gained two hours, it still wasn’t enough time to fully reconfigure the warp computers, and at 8 AUs out from the alien ship, they still weren’t close enough to talk.

“I say we just transmit the Hello package to the aliens and bug out,”Gunnir’s voice said in her ear, “It’s not worth getting into a confrontation with the Martians over.”

“You and I both know we’re under orders to force contact past the Martians,” Maeve answered, “If we don’t make contact, Earth will be left at a disadvantage.”

“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” Allison’s voice said, “When this goes wrong they’re going to pin its failure on you, Commodore.”

“Don’t remind me, Allison,” Maeve told the other captain.

“Transmit the package, we potentially take the ball from the Martians court and put it in the aliens, it’s a start at least,” Gunnir said.

“Transmit the Hello package,” Maeve said with a sigh, “and begin our orbital capture burns, let’s wait and see who makes the next move.”

Δ

When the light of the UN Fleet’s arrival finally reached the Martians, they launched into activity with extreme haste, scattering ships every fifteen degrees along the circumference of an 8 AU circle centered on the Lament for Lost Worlds and landing the MNCV Newcomb’s Problem only 0.8 AUs from the the UN Fleet. The Fast Attack Frigate swept the Eighth expeditionary fleet with active sensors and lept back down a warp tunnel. It Immediately returned to the Light of Ages. Five minutes after that, the Martian Third Fleet recongregated and warped directly to the UN fleet, coming out of warp fifty thousand kilometers directly off their bows.

Tactical alarms began going off on the bridge of the Leyte Gulf as the Martian forces exited warp practically on top of them.

“Wideband from the Martian battleship,” Katie reported.

“Put it on,” Maeve said with a sigh.

“Attention UN Expeditionary Fleet,” a male voice began,  “Martian naval forces are presently conducting a highly sensitive first contact mission in this region, and we cannot allow you to interfere, please exit the area.”

Maeve snorted and rolled her eyes, “Get me a tight beam to that battleship, I want to speak to the man in charge over there.”

“Aye, transmitting tightbeam request,” Katie reported, “And they’ve accepted it.”

“Put it up on the big screen in here,” Maeve said, tucking a few stray hairs from in front of her eyes and crossing her arms. Adam Wallace’s face appeared larger than life on the forward tactical screen.

“Admiral Wallace I believe?” Maeve asked him, folding one of her legs atop the other.

“And who are you supposed to be?” He asked her gruffly.

“Commodore Maeve O’Donnell, the officially UN sanctioned pain in your ass,” she dared to crack a grin, “We’re here to talk to the aliens on behalf of Earth.”

“I can’t allow that,” He replied with a frown, “we’re in too delicate a phase of the contact diplomacy right now, introducing a third party could throw everything off.”

“You can’t actually prevent us from making contact,” Maeve retorted blithely, “we already sent our Hello package, so if you were hoping to keep the fact we have internal factions from them, the damage is already done.”

“That sort of thing is the exact reason I can’t let you interfere further,” the admiral growled, “We can and will prevent you from interfering with this contact, do not force my hand.”

“Admiral,” Maeve said with a smile, “I am literally under orders to force your hand. I’m assuming neither of us is willing to let this escalate into an international incident, so really it’d be better if you just let us talk to them.”

The connection cut out in a wash of static.

“Their fleet just went fields active, and they’ve started jamming us.” Katie informed her.

Maeve sighed and keyed up on her command channel. “Go fields up, power up active sensors and ECCM, you have activation clearance all all electronic warfare modules, they want to jam us, we’ll jam them too.”

The smart systems plugged into her command channel automatically worked to reroute around the jamming via encrypted tightbeam and frequency rotation, and even so, the chorus of acknowledgments that came back to her were distorted and filled with static. If this Admiral Wallace wanted to have an electronic warfare battle, then she’d show him what five Command Electronic Warfare cruisers could do. The EM bands around the two fleets became horribly clogged as the advanced jamming and counterjamming systems did battle with one another and the fleets vanished into a storm of white noise.

 

Newton Class Starship
MSCV Empiricist
Circular Orbit
250,000 Kilometers from Lament for Lost Worlds
April 2219

Ivy Czininski frowned, raising an eyebrow as she watched the events occurring in the outer system play out with a two hour light lag. Interpreting events occurring at FTL speeds by observing light was a difficult endeavor, the action moved more quickly than the light, causing numerous ghosts of ships to appear and vanish on the long range sensors. When the UN fleet first arrived, they brought with them the start of a glorious headache that Ivy was already nursing as she tried to understand the data. She sent Kestral to fetch coffee and Cale as the Martian fleet began cloning itself all over the system on her sensors.

Kestral returned without Cale around the time the edge of the white noise bubble created by the electronic warfare duel reached the ship and fuzzed out all their long range sensors into useless digital snow.

“I gave you a simple mission Schiaparelli,” Ivy whined, “I see neither Cale nor coffee with you.”

“Cale’s making it now,” ey answered, “he wanted a cup too so he told me to go ahead, what’s happening?”

“I’m not sure,” Ivy admitted, “They started jamming each other and all the sensors went to shit.”

“What a mess,” Kestral said, crossing eir arms and looking out the primary wallscreen, “Think we should pull back the rest of the contact team?”

Ivy sighed and shrugged, “I’ll defer that to Srivastava, the contact operation is hers.”

“We can still communicate with the Lifeseeker right?” Kestral asked, referring to the roughly squid shaped spacecraft that had pulled up alongside them.

“Yeah,” Ivy confirmed, “it’s right next to us and the jamming is all AUs out and not being directed this way, though I’m concerned about the political implications of this with our new friends.”

“We’re definitely not the first species they’ve encountered with differing political factions,” Kestral assured her, “They have all the words and concepts to discuss intraspecies conflict.”

“I know, I was in that meeting as well Kestral,” a note of annoyance crept into Ivy’s voice, “I just worry it will reflect poorly on us. Just because they know what something is, doesn’t mean they hold it in high regard.”

The door hissed open and Cale walked in holding two sealed coffee cups, he handed her one and perched on the back of her chair.

“I think they sort of just look down all all other races as more primitive, and have this patronizing attitude about everything,” Kestral suggested, “I mean, they’re still accusing us of lying about our FTL.”

“My hypothesis is still holding then?” Cale asked.

“I don’t know,” ey shrugged, “They say our physics is wrong, and since our physics is wrong, our warp drive can’t work as we’re describing it, thus the accusation of lying.”

“They’ve seen us warping all around the system though, they know it’s mechanically different from their FTL method,” Ivy added.

“I know, which is why it’s so confusing,” Kestral admitted.

“It’s not confusing if they weren’t programmed with the ability to grok our warp drive for some reason,” Cale responded.

Ivy took a sip of her coffee and nearly gagged at how sweet it was, however, her need for caffeine won out and she forced it down, “Gah, Cale you wanna put a bit more coffee in this sugar next time?”

Cale took a sip of his own coffee, frowned, and quickly grabbed Ivy’s cup and swapped for his own, “Whoops, that one’s yours.”

“I can’t believe you can stand it that sweet,” Ivy said, taking a sip of her own coffee, black and sighing in relief.

“It’s an acquired taste,” he shrugged, “And the nanobots like it.”

Ivy brought her eyes back to the main wallscreen, where a massive, many AU wide orb of static dominated the view, fading away into a semi-coherent view of the remainder of the system. She sighed and took another sip of her coffee while she watched the unfolding human folly, “I hope Jean’s doing alright with our friends.”

 

Loving Extension of Wisdom class Lifeseeker
i34_2015/76
Circular Orbit
250,000 Kilometers from Lament for Lost Worlds
April 2219

Jean sighed as she stared down the somewhat smaller creature on the far side of the alien glass. She was growing frustrated with Dreaming-Waking-Transcending, and trying not to let it show. She missed Studying-Hoping-Envisioning, and didn’t take it as a good sign that the hyperactive little creature appeared to have been sent away.

In her place was an intimidating black feathered ximale named Interpreting-Sorting-Correcting, who wore black clothing to go with xer black feathers.

“We have received a message from another Human Tribe Group, we know about your tribe groups, stop lying Sol-Martian-Jean-Paoloni,” Dreaming-Waking-Transcending’s translated voice said into her earpiece.

Jean felt a chill run down her back, it was the first time the creature had referred to her as a Martian instead of just as a human.

She changed channels on the server, keyed up on the microphone and subvocalized to Vedika, “They know we’re not unified.”

Vedika herself, along with Morgan Sabaea and a sleeping Margaret Armstrong, were ensconced in the small prefabricated structure they had erected inside the Meetingspace.

Vedika’s voice came back through her earpiece, “They were going to find that out eventually, just keep them calm, we’re not at war or anything, so the fact that we have various governments shouldn’t matter.”

Jean took a breath and flipped back to the channel that would translate her speech for the feathered creature before her, “Okay, yes, fine,” Jean admitted, “Our solar system is broken up into several political blocs, but we’ve been at peace for over a century now.”

“We know, this is also what the information provided by the United Nations human tribal group states. However, your tribal group and this United Nations tribal group are now engaging in some manner of electronic conflict with one another, which contradicts this statement.” Interpreting-Sorting-Correcting said angrily, xer feathers bristling, “Are you all just liars? What is the true nature of your species?”

“Our species is a big fan of competition without violence,” Jean tried to explain, “We may compete for dominance, do battle with electronics, or even robotic proxies, but we rarely extend that out to outright warfare and would prefer to be at peace with our fellow humans.”

“If this is a lie we will soon determine it Sol-Martian-Jean-Paoloni,” Dreaming-Waking-Transcending threatened, “And such a lie will affect the manner in which we treat your species when we evacuate you in advance of the Reshaper arrival in your system.”

Jean sighed, “It isn’t a lie,” she said. I hope, she thought to herself.

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