Book 1 of The HEL Jumper Year 2 of The HEL Jumper Year 3 of The HEL Jumper Year 4 of The HEL Jumper Year 5 of The HEL Jumper
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A/N: Thank you all for your patience.
“Well, that was certainly something,” Antoth remarked to himself as he looked over the sum of his people, who were obviously not ready to retire for the evening. Thanks to plentiful computational power aboard the ship, Io had not run into any snags synthesizing Cauthan language voice overs for The Princess Bride. Thantis had even gotten himself a cameo, his voice used for the role of the grandfather and narrator. Unfortunately for those interested in a quick dispersal, Io had forgotten to include any sort of disclaimer regarding the fictional nature of the tale, inducing a riot of discussion among the villagers. Ratha turned her nose up and wore a sour expression as even her hunters found themselves debating the best way to bring down an aggressive rodent of unusual size. The AI had a self-satisfied smile on her face as she approached the village leaders for feedback.
‘I’d say the movie was a hit. Did you like it?’ she wondered. Antoth spent some time gathering his thoughts, but Ratha shot from the hip as usual.
“This happily ever after business is nonsense. There were at least seven different opportunities where the pompous one could have permanently disposed of his rival. I suppose that idiocy is why he wound up where he did in the end though,” she said of the ignominious Prince Humperdinck. Antoth and Io shared a glance for the briefest of moments. The blonde haired woman smiled warmly.
‘I see the tale was quite captivating then.’
“It was. But there are other matters to attend to, as I may have mentioned earlier,” Antoth reminded her, looking up at the twin moons which shone brightly overhead. A leaden weight settled into his stomach as he contemplated a night sky without them. The Cauthan leader took a fortifying breath. “We are prepared to negotiate our departure from Mara. Please inform Natori at your earliest convenience. He has been mentioning more frequently that he feels the pressure of time.”
‘Oh I would not worry so much about that if I were you,’ Io told them with a wink, her green eyes reflecting a couple of the small fires scattered about the central plaza. ‘Certain circumstances have arisen that may lengthen our stay here, but that is no reason to delay talks. I have already notified the Admiral of your request. I assume you’d prefer for him to meet with you here?’
“I think that would be for the best,” Antoth agreed as Ratha remained alert but silent at his side. “There are notable items that Staroth and Nerazek wish to discuss. We must understand his vision on how we will be… acclimated to human society.”
Io nodded seriously and bowed to the two of them, doing her best to contain her excitement. ‘I understand. The-’
Antoth tilted his head questioningly as Io’s train of thought was derailed. “Spirit?”
She recovered quickly, however, and smiled at him. ‘There’s nothing to worry about. That was just Natori confirming that he would be happy to join you all first thing tomorrow morning, if it suits you.’
“The cub enjoys kicking me to the outhouse first thing in the morning,” Ratha grumbled. Io was happy to be deferential with someone else’s timetable.
‘Late morning it is! Should give everyone time to wake up and have breakfast at a minimum. I’ll just let the Admiral know that… hmm, that’s odd,’ Io said to herself, having suddenly lost connection to Natori’s personal device. While Ratha could have cared less, stalking over to her guildmates to oversee their conversation, the AI clarified for the sake of Antoth’s perpetually concerned visage. ‘It seems that the Admiral has entered an important and private meeting. I will be sure to confirm the time with him afterward.’
“That would be best, thank you,” the Cauthan replied before casting his gaze over his charges. “Looks like it’s going to be a long night. I hope not all of your… motion pictures are so captivating.”
Io chuckled as she crossed her arms under her bust, taking Antoth’s words as a compliment. ‘Oh just wait until they discover video games.’
“That is wonderful news, Admiral Kaczynski. When will the negotiations begin? I’ll need time to prepare my-”
“If I may be so rude, Emissary, I would ask you to kindly hold your proverbial horses,” the dark-skinned man requested of the horned alien, who had stood abruptly in his haste. Kaczynski gestured for Qul’Roth to take his seat once more, his expression passively polite. Even with the alien sitting on the floor, the two were approximately eye level.
“There are some among your species who would consider such jokes offensive, Admiral,” Qul’Roth noted. Kaczynski smiled.
“I think it’s clear that beyond the hooves you bear little resemblance to Earth’s equine species, but if you took offense I assure you none was intended.”
“Oh no, perish the thought,” Qul’Roth replied, more agitated at having been made to wait instead of any wordplay. “If anything, the hand wringing itself is more grating. We don’t look anything like horses.”
“It is an ancient tradition for humans to take offense on behalf of others and make problems where there are none,” Kaczynski explained humorously as he folded his hands together on the surface of the conference table. “But I do intend to risk your offense by stating in no uncertain terms that this negotiation will take place between myself, as a representative of humanity, and the Cauthan. The Ghaelen will not be a party to the proceedings. Though if there is anything you wish to mention now, I will be sure to take it into account.”
The more honest members of Alpha Division were happy to admit, in private, that one of the joys of intergalactic diplomacy was trying to watch a Ghaelen adapt to an unforeseen situation. Natori shared that particular view, and his voyage to retrieve the Lancer
had provided no shortage of opportunities. He did feel a twinge of guilt as Qul’Roth composed himself. It was the older, most self-assured advocates of the Order who were truly entertaining when ‘out of water’. “I request an explanation, Admiral Kaczynski. We are discussing the induction of another species into the galactic community.”
“With all due respect, Emissary, we will have to disagree on that point,” Natori said, using an index finger to adjust his glasses. “These proceedings are a direct continuation of the treaty of mutual assistance and protection that was signed weeks ago between my people and the Cauthan.”
“That may be so, Admiral, but I don’t see how that contradicts my assertion, unless you intend to permanently quarantine them somewhere,” Qul’Roth insisted. Natori’s nostrils flared as he took in a strong breath.
“We have already discussed the Udanis IV pacification on this trip, Emissary. What say you about the manner in which the Gorgons were… ‘inducted’ into the galactic community?”
“Admiral Kaczynski, I understand that the Udanis incident was both an unfortunate and formative deployment in your career. You have my condolences, but I fail to see what it has to do with the situation at hand,” Qul’Roth replied politely. Natori shook his head.
“That is kind of you, but unnecessary. I would not be the man I am today were it not for witnessing our war with the Gorgons firsthand. Are you aware that we are opening an embassy on their planet?”
Natori again found himself savoring the sight of flat-footed Ghaelen. Qul’Roth checked the data disc that hung from his neck, eyes narrowing in disappointment as he discovered the corresponding information. “Why was I not informed of-”
“This information is… was classified up until a week or so ago. It’s unfortunate that we missed the official announcement. There are a few individuals whom I would have very much wanted to observe in their ‘live reaction’, so to speak. But duty called, as it were! Your High Council is no doubt aware of this development already.”
The Admiral stroked his chin thoughtfully as Qul’Roth seemed troubled by the news. The alien rubbed his antlers for a moment before adjusting his position on the floor of the conference room. “How can this be? Those primitives- er, Gorgons were irredeemably violent! Our diplomatic attempts were met with silence or outright hostility!”
“As were many of ours, and after brutal subjugation I might add,” Kaczynski replied, not wanting to rib the alien unnecessarily. “However, that did not stop us. A pair of incredibly brave individuals from both of our species sowed the seeds of this diplomatic fruit over a decade ago. I don’t blame your species for cutting your losses early on, but too many young men and women died on that moon, Emissary.”
“Yes well,” Qul’Roth began with uncertainty. “While we are most grateful for humanity’s sacrifices in resolving that dreadful conflict, I fail to see its relevance to the Cauthan question.”
“Are you familiar with the White Man’s Burden, Emissary?” Kaczynski asked instead, leaning forward over the table as he did so. The Ghaelen remained mute as he processed the non-sequitur. After consulting his data disc and skimming over a handful of notes he shook his head.
“My education on your species and its particularities doesn’t seem to have touched on this concept, Admiral. I assume it is-”
“I have my reasons, I assure you,” Natori cut in, assuming a less overbearing posture as he leaned back in his chair, crossed one leg over the other, and made slow, circular motions with his hand to help gather his thoughts. “Human history is, sadly, often defined by race and racism. It is an unfortunate but natural tendency of our minds’ desire to sort and categorize. For instance, there was an entire body of anthropological science dedicated to proving out the hypothesis that humans who look like me or my mother are biologically inferior to fairer skinned peoples, or even a different species altogether. I actually have a few of those manuscripts and documents in my possession back on Earth. Fascinating stuff, now that it’s been put behind us.”
“I…” Qul’Roth began, but Natori waved him off before pouring each of them a glass of water.
“This was not intended to make you feel uncomfortable, Emissary. It goes both ways as well, to be fair. My father was not initially accepted by certain portions of my mother’s community, and not all of them came around even after many years. That being said, these individuals were similar to the classmates I had to divest of the notion that they were related to Egyptian Pharaohs on account of their dark skin. You cannot imagine the looks on their faces when I told them they were more likely related to Ghengis Khan than Tutankhaman! I was… not very popular with them after that. But let us talk instead of the White Man and his Burden, as they called it. It was a convenient line of argumentation, a jump from the observation that European society had exceeded and surpassed many others on the planet to equating that success with the race of that civilization’s inhabitants. Once convinced of their own superiority, it was a foregone conclusion that it was incumbent upon them to spread their gifts to the lesser, darker races of the planet.”
“How barbaric!” Qul’Roth exclaimed. “And you said this line of thinking is only a couple hundred years old?”
“Rudyard Kipling, 1899,” Natori dictated, clearly having memorized the factoid. “And while I agree that it is a barbaric way of thinking, would the Philippines have been a founding member of the HEL without its history as an American colony? I wonder.”
“But surely you don’t mean to excuse-”
“No more than your species excuses its own atrocities in the name of progress, Emissary Qul’Roth,” Natori said calmly, his eyes narrowing. “I told you I had a point in all of this messy history.”
Gears turned behind Qul’Roth’s black eyes as he understood Kaczynski’s equation of his own species to imperialistic Europeans and Americans. “Admiral, you are out of line.”
“Oh? And you intend to put me back in my place?” he laughed. “Tell me, Emissary. What was it about humanity that caused your species to negotiate with us as you did? Were we special in some way, or just the first species you found capable of effectively shooting back?”
“That was before I was born, Admiral,” Qul’Roth replied carefully, his tone cold. Natori smiled.
“Indeed. First and foremost, Emissary, I am a human. Second, I am a scientist. In that spirit, please understand that what I am doing is not out of hatred for you, your people, or your Order. I intend an experiment, a trial, if you will, for the noble savage,” the man explained in broad terms. “Because I disagree with how our alliance has treated species it deems unfit for modern society.”
“Then what is it, exactly, that you intend to do?” the Ghaelen demanded reasonably. Again, Natori met him with a grin.
“I am not sure yet, Emissary. But I can tell you what I intend not to do. I will not impose upon them tenants of your Order as a condition for safe passage to Earth. They will be expected to not endanger themselves, my crew, or this ship, but otherwise I intend to allow them to live as freely as they would like. They will be offered education, job training, and employment, but it will not be mandated. Given the size of their population and the aforementioned issues with their remaining on Mara, I’m sure this will not be too great of an imposition on you?”
“What is that saying among your people, Admiral? It’s the principle of the matter?” the alien suggested. “Your executive decision to exclude my people outright from this matter is inappropriate at best.”
Natori raised his water glass slowly to his lips, taking only enough to wet his throat. The glass made the lightest of noises upon its return to the table before the Admiral presented his perspective on the matter. “Emissary, if I were excluding your people and their interests from this matter then I would be making arrangements for the villagers to remain here along with a portion of my crew, in the interests of establishing a human science colony on this planet. I have already seen and experienced enough in our brief time here to suggest that, were it not for the restraints imposed upon both of our species by what I consider to be generally prudent first contact protocols, this course of action is the only
suitable one. Out of deference to our alliance, however, and consideration for the other Cauthan populations on the planet, I am willing to leave that decision up the HEL and your High Council. I will not, however, compromise the treatment of the village that gave aid and succor to our lone survivor, despite having barely anything beyond what they need to survive themselves. It is the duty of humanity to reward that kindness.”
The two men were interrupted by a knock on the metal door to the well ‘fortified’ meeting room. Thanks to the various surveillance countermeasures in place, Natori was required to stand and walk over to the door. Once there, he used the lock panel to verify the identity of their guest. “Thank you for taking time away from your charges to deliver this,” he said to Antia, accepting a bowl of greens and a coffee from her. “I will be sure to note that delivering me a coffee is above and beyond your job description.”
It was difficult to miss the fact that Kaczynski was meeting alone with Qul’Roth, verified by Anita simply leaning to the side and observing the contents of the meeting room. “Um… it’s no problem, sir. Is something-”
“All will be revealed when appropriate, Engineer Prakash. Don’t ask how the sausage is made, as they say, hmm?” he advised, sending her politely on her way before returning to his discussion with the Ghaelen emissary. “A little something for each of us?”
“I would have expected you to bribe me before explaining your plans for unilateral action on the Cauthan issue, Admiral,” Qul’Roth stated curiously, though that did not stop him from sampling the fare before him. Natori just turned a smile and leaned back in his seat.
“That’s because it’s not a bribe, Emissary. It is, however, late in the evening and I did not want to rush you out the door,” the man explained. The alien chewed thoughtfully for a moment before replying.
“I would like to think that I’ve learned better than to contest you directly when you set yourself on a course of action, Admiral Kaczynski, though you should have no doubt that my superiors will hear of this unilateral decision making of yours. This is not what our species agreed upon at the outset of this project. That being said, I have rarely heard you speak with such conviction as now. So let us set aside this Cauthan question in favor of your comments about Mara and a human colonial presence here. What makes you so certain, Admiral?”
“Was the ancient, advanced, alien technologies tampering with the warp point and altering space-time itself not enough?” the man replied incredulously. The Ghaelen held up a hand as he chewed thoughtfully, only speaking once finished.
“My understanding of the situation is that installations were found all over this system, including one on one of the moons of this planet. Surely those could be studied instead?” he proposed. Natori allowed the point.
“While scientific exploration on a habitable world is easier, I concede your point with regards to minimizing our impact on the planet and its inhabitants. That being said, Emissary, such an approach would paint an incomplete picture. The alien system, presumably active for millions of years, ended its operations and engaged in a controlled self-destruct sequence in response to a Cauthan. We believe the keyword was their god of death, Kel. If that was an accident, it was a one in a billion event.”
Qul’Roth straightened his back as he stroked the long tuft of hair that grew from his chin. His antlers almost scraped the ceiling of the human-sized room. “I must have missed that tidbit of information, Admiral.”
“That’s because it’s not publicly available, Emissary, and the soldiers there at the time have been made to understand that this subject is highly classified, at least for the time being. I hope you understand the implications of my sharing this with you here and now,” Natori elaborated before opening the leather-bound folder he often carried with him. A single piece of paper was slid across the table for Qul’Roth’s perusal. He took it between his fingers and read the title.
“This is… from the team that was ambushed by the ursae, yes? Dreadful affair that was. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such visceral terror before!”
“Exactly,” Natori said, providing some context as Qul’Roth read the small, official, typeset text. “The plate tectonics of this continent are similar to those found on Earth near the Himalayas. This makes the central ranges, especially the older one to the east, of particular interest in examining the geological record of this planet.”
“Indeed,” the Ghaelen nodded, checking for himself to ensure he understood the proper meaning of the scientific term. “And what exactly was this team looking for in… this can’t be right.”
“Oh? And why not?” Natori wondered with childlike glee. “We’ve already found a nuclear powered endoskeleton and a formerly functioning robot. Why not nuclear war?”
“But there is no… I see,” the Ghaelen suddenly realized, raising his head from the paper and leaning forward. “You would stay behind and search for these clues. Have you found any corroborating readings at other sites? Ruled out natural causes such as volcanism or meteorite impact?”
“My dear Emissary, now you are beginning to sound like a crew member of the Event Horizon
!” Natori complimented the alien, who responded with an indignant noise from within the hollow cavities of his skull. “We are still waiting for analysis of the samples gathered by other teams, and I ask you to keep in mind that the initial wave of geological sampling was intended to probe several locations as well as several eras in this planet’s geological history. With this sort of reading confirmed, we will be able to narrow our future searches.”
“Mmm, yes. I understand. I was not trained as a geologist though,” Qul’Roth explained before handing the paper back to the Admiral. “This report is quite confident in its conclusions.”
“Cobalt, Barium, Americium… you don’t see those elements in those isotopes following meteorite impact or volcanic eruption, Emissary. I have requested that Io forward the relevant literature to your device for review in your spare time. We will do our best to confirm this result before our departure.”
“Yes, yes indeed. If this is the case that village is most certainly an afterthought. Perhaps even the entire population? No matter, I will not be able to resolve this issue today,” Qul’Roth concluded after a moment of mumbling. “I do not know whether to call this serendipity or the worst of luck, Admiral. For the sake of the Order, I urge you to devote all available resources to answering this question.”
“You need not invoke the Order in this case, Emissary. I assure you that we will do all within our power,” Natori promised earnestly. The man paused for a moment, tilting his head towards the ceiling with his mouth slightly open, as though a thought were on the cusp of crystallization.
“Is there something the matter, Admiral Kaczynski?” Qul’Roth asked formally. The man returned to a relaxed posture and shook his head.
“No, thank you Emissary. I was just wondering if you might check your own species’ records for data on this system. It could be anything from anomalous light readings to scout ships gone missing, as with the Lancer
. I hope we can both agree that while the possibility of a nuclear war on this planet is distressing and headline catching, the true question is who was able to seal the system off from the rest of the galaxy, and why did they do it? No matter what our subsequent geological surveys return, that question will remain outstanding.”
Qul’Roth looked down at his shimmering data disc as he chewed a green leaf between his molars. “We have deviated significantly from the original topic of conversation, Admiral. But I think this has been productive nonetheless. In the spirit of cooperation and discovery, valued as they are by the Order, I will immediately consult the records I have access to. I do not want to over promise, however. Even with this ship’s significant data storage capabilities, a preponderance of our species’ records relating to galactic exploration remain on Ghaela. Your people follow the same principle, no?”
“To an extent,” Natori agreed. “Though in our defense I would describe it more as information filtering. The vast majority of scouting data is released to the public promptly, though I know as well as anyone that some remains classified. That will likely be the case with much of what we have seen here, reminding me that I have a most difficult situation to attend to before we reach Earth once more. I am discussing paperwork, Emissary.”
“Oh, thank goodness. I was worried there would be yet another unexpected twist to this already stressful dialog,” the Ghaelen almost laughed with relief. “I presume you’re speaking of the need to bind members of your civilian crew to non-disclosure agreements?”
“And the Cauthan,” Natori agreed with a chuckle of his own. Qul’Roth cleared his throat and pushed off his hind legs to assume an upright, if hunched position.
“As you requested, I will leave those details to you, Admiral Kaczynski. I will instead return this bowl to the good engineer in hydroponics so as to deliver my thanks in person. I am sure we will speak again shortly. May our actions serve to uphold the Order.”
“And a good evening to you as well,” Natori allowed the alien to depart the conference room, effectively terminating the various countermeasures in effect. Left alone, he placed his feet on the table, propped his elbow on the arm of his chair, and rested his chin against his knuckles. “I suppose I did deserve that little jab about the Cauthan situation. He’s become wittier over the last year or so.”
The Admiral glanced out of the corner of his eye as a familiar form shimmered to life and looked around the space before finally focusing on him. ‘Ah, there you are. I’ve been looking all over for you. With an expression like that you seem to be missing a stiff drink at your side, Natori.’
“I think we both know you could have taken down the countermeasures if you had really wanted to, Io,” the man responded. She crossed her arms.
‘I have lived my entire true life in a village where privacy is basically non-existent. I know the meaning of a do not disturb sign when I see one. But you give your engineers too little credit, Natori. Even I am not exactly sure what would have happened if I had tried to brute force my way in here. Well, I know what’s supposed to happen, but not if I were to defend myself. Given you were not in any appreciable danger I chose not to. Who were you conversing with so secretly?’ she wondered, pulling up a gilded table, seating herself in a plush, Victorian armchair, and pouring herself a glass of blood red wine. ‘The Princess Bride was a smash hit, by the way.’
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father… prepare to die,” Natori quoted with admirable gusto but a less than perfect accent. “He was always my favorite, the man dead set on revenge who manages to achieve it without letting it consume and warp him. Do you have a moment?”
Io looked down at her comfortable setup, having even donned a pair of outrageously fluffy slippers that looked like stuffed hyrven. ‘My alternative engagement for the evening is watching a shirtless hunk of a man snuggle with his naked and now quite rotund wife. And while I never tire of watching true love play out between them, it has gotten decidedly less intense since Veera came down with a case of babies. The rubbing of fluffy tummies and gentle, unobtrusive, lovemaking just doesn’t get my circuits overheated the same way as when they were fumbling around and biting each other like horny teenagers.’
Natori’s head quickly returned to his hand, downing the last of his coffee and finding it lukewarm. “Is there anyone in particular I should blame for your voyeuristic subroutines?”
‘The aforementioned lack of privacy and a dead engineer with a penchant for maids,’ Io explained before turning the conversation on a dime while crossing her legs above the knee. ‘Was it the Emissary you were speaking to here?’
“It was indeed, and I may have dug myself into a bit of a hole out of pride,” Natori admitted, looking away from her for a moment.
‘Shall I bring my body over from the hangars? This sounds like it might be a long conversation,’ the AI deduced. The Admiral nodded, turning his chair to face her fully and returning his feet to the floor.
“An updated copy of the ship’s status report and another cup of coffee would be much appreciated as well,” he added. Io conjured a stack of paper and ‘flicked’ it at him, its arrival heralded by a small ping from his device.
‘The coffee will take a little longer,’ she explained the obvious, content to watch quietly as Natori’s eyes skimmed line after line of ‘all clear’ and the occasional ‘within acceptable parameters’.
“I won’t hold it against you,” he promised before setting aside the piece of technology and looking directly at her. “And it would seem that I still have some time to speak.”
‘Yes, you mentioned a hole you’ve been digging?’ Io probed pointedly, receiving an abridged version of the conversation the Admiral had undertaken with Qul’Roth. ‘I see. Well, I can hardly fault you for wanting the Ghaelen out of the picture, not that I think any of the villagers will find the Order particularly compelling. I do feel the need to point out that race was, in all likelihood, a convenient excuse for the equally basic human penchant for territorial expansion and empire.’
“Perhaps,” Natori agreed, pushing his chin up and to the side with a hand in an attempt to crack his neck after sitting still for too long. “Not that that sort of historical nuance would well persuade those for whom race still matters today. Some make it difficult to forget.”
‘And I’m sure Qul’Roth absolutely appreciated the completely accurate comparison,’ Io guessed with a smug expression. ‘So that’s what you wanted me to help you with? Come up with a plan to elevate the Cauthan technologically without enlightening them morally? Do you have any idea how irresponsible that sounds, Natori? I’m sure the Aztecs would have made incredible discoveries in the field of astronomy alongside industrializing the institution of human sacrifice if you suddenly pulled them forward two thousand years.’
Natori blinked twice, opening his mouth to reply only to find that Io had vanished. “Scolded by an AI, on matters of morality no less?”
‘And I’m sure you’re positively giddy about it,’ came Io’s true voice as she entered the room in the biomechanical flesh, depositing another steaming cup of coffee in front of the man.
“Quivering in my seat,” he chuckled, bringing the coffee to his lips and inhaling deeply before taking a sip that almost burned his tongue. “And you’ve taken to wearing perfume, it would seem?”
‘Oh shut it, you,’ Io glared at him as she settled into a seat. ‘I was surrounded by cooking fires all night.’
“Well I find the combination to be mildly intoxicating, as though your beauty were not enough. You don’t get much wood smoke on a starship. But we have bigger fish to fry, do we not?” he pointed out, assuming a more neutral sitting position and sterner expression. Io nodded curtly.
‘Flatterer; but you should start, Natori. Was I mistaken in my diagnosis, or is that really what you were planning?’ the AI wondered, her tone more curious than accusatory.
The Admiral shrugged. “I’m not sure I would go that far, but I did insist that we humans would handle the issue of Cauthan uplift, nor was I particularly subtle about it. I believe I implied that it was necessitated, in part, as reciprocation for taking care of you and the First Lieutenant. Am I mistaken in my opinion of them?”
Io’s expression softened as she prepared to show him a short video using her built-in palm projector. ‘No Natori, I don’t think you are. But I think you are focusing too heavily on the ones you know personally, Antoth and Ratha, Nerazek and Gentia and Thantis. Your opinion of the Cauthan is based primarily on those among them whose passions are tempered by the burden of leadership. You spoke of race and racism with the Emissary? The Cauthan are just as capable of racism as man. Watch.’
Natori did just that, leaning over the table and observing almost unblinkingly a recording that Io had saved from their very first day within the walls of the village, the day when a starved, outcast Veera was slated to be tortured for the crime of ‘aiding and abetting’ a servant of Kel. With the benefit of time and hindsight, it was easy for Io to translate a good deal of the ambient chatter from the audio. Natori placed a hand over his face, covering his left eye and half of his forehead. “I see,” he mumbled sourly. “So I was blind, then?”
Instead of answering directly, Io reached across the quarter of the table that they sat at to take his unoccupied hand in hers. She gave him a gentle squeeze before retreating. ‘Udanis was hard on you, wasn’t it?’
“No harder than it was on the soldiers who fought and died in that hellscape, nor the Gorgons who saw their world unjustly invaded in the name of peace,” the Admiral insisted. Io scoffed.
‘Foolish human, that wasn’t what I asked,’ she pointed out, throwing him a quick smirk as he perked up at her choice to refer to him by his species. ‘You did what President Truman did, Natori. You and the rest of Delta aboard the Resplendent Dawn’s
fleet took the fight directly to the leaders of each faction as best you could. You killed many, and likely saved more than that number. At least that’s what the after-action projections show. Do you really believe Admiral Friedrich would have ordered a genocide of the Gorgons had the Ghaelen ordered it?’
Natori looked at Io with wide eyes before breaking into a tired laugh, full of complicated memories. “That stubborn old German? He would have destroyed all communication buoys in the system and then ordered all guns turned on the Ghaelen. And when word eventually reached the Ghaelen homeworld… he probably would have led our strike force.”
‘And there is your answer, Natori,’ Io assured him. ‘Do not think the Cauthan unimpeachable because of their idyllic, pristine existence. Have more faith in your species.’
Kaczynski leaned back in his chair and shook his head slowly, unable to believe what he was hearing. “How the hell can you be so sure, Io?”
‘You mean other than behavior modeling and more than a year of hands-on experience with the Cauthan? I used to be a tool, Natori. The Order would approve, no doubt. Now I am free, which should strike terror into the tiny part of your lizard brain that still values threat avoidance… but I was guided by a good man, and a good woman. The Cauthan need that now, just as the Gorgons did. Civilization, morality, and technology go hand in hand. I honestly don’t quite understand how humanity managed the technological jump without immediately killing one another en masse, but here we are!’
“It certainly wasn’t due to a moral uplifting from the Ghaelen,” Natori replied, feeling the weight of a population settling on his shoulders. His brow furrowed. “But I am in no place to be what you think I should be.”
‘And maybe I would agree if I accessed Dr. Lamont’s notes on you, but that’s neither here nor there,’ Io insisted. ‘Natori, you have two of Marshall and Sandra Winters' children on this ship. You have the good Doctors Dupuis, Anita, Darius, Lance Corporal Mendes, and so many others, many of whom you hand selected for this mission. You need only impress upon them the weight of the historical moment that seems to be upon us; or the negotiations could go south tomorrow and we can leave without them!’
The Admiral’s head bobbed lightly as he held in another chuckle. He looked at Io with sincerity, returning at last to his coffee. “Then I believe we should discuss any and everything you think will be brought up tomorrow morning. I’ve had a long and winding career, but I refuse to fail at a boast made to a Ghaelen. It is long past time that humanity has its chance to demonstrate proper uplift protocols.”
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My partner and I are moving away from downtown for work. We are looking to sublease our 2 bed/2 bath apartment in the North Harbor Tower building (175 N Harbor Dr) in Lakeshore East. It is available from early April to August, and there is the option to renew.
Our unit is on the 36th floor with amazing views of Navy pier and Millennium Park. It is tucked away in a quiet residential pocket, next-door to the Park at Lakeshore East and local restaurants/shops, and yet only steps away from the bustle of downtown and the Magnificent mile.
Amenities include our 24-hour fitness center and studio with free classes, garage parking, heated indoor pool, high speed internet, door attendant and package receiving.
Rent is $3740 a month but we are willing to entertain offers.
Okay firstly I’m pretty darn smooth. But all this increase of volume and price going negative got me thinking. (probably most likely due to most buy orders not being on the lit exchange) i remember that a few big players in the free fair market world increase their positions a while back, And with this increase in volume and price going down, just feels like a planned timed sell off by these lot. I can’t remember if the last few earnings and the days after had this amount of volume. (if so completely ignore me) So just calling it now. The next filing I’m pretty sure we will see some larger declines in their positions. Or maybe not. Who knows. Maybe me. But probably not me.
I’m DRS’n 22 tomorrow