April 19, 2014: 6:06 pm: Pilot X, writing

Pilto X left the Secretary’s chambers satisfied they had no idea what really happened with the Sensaurians and therfore would not carry out the reaction the Sensaurians planned, therefore not bring the universe into a secret time war hidden in the nooks and crannies of spacetime to eventually destroy it all.

The feeling of satisfaction lasted exactly 123 steps from the Secretary’s office when he was approached by a smartly-dressed woman in neutral business attire.

“Ambassador?” she asked

“Pilot,” he answered.

“Ah, I see, Pilot X?”

“You have the advantage,” he found himself being courtly.

“I come on behalf of the Alendan Core,” she said avoiding the prompt for her name. She handed him a business card.

The sturdy linen paper was expensive and the actual gold leaf tracery around the edges doubly so. Printed in a sharp black classic typeface were the words “Ancient and Respected order of the Alendan Core,” and an address.

“If you would do us the pleasure of meeting with us tonight, we would like your advice on something. Come at your leisure, but if you arrive hungry, you will be fed.”

Pilot X prepared another courtly response but the woman left before he could stammer it out.

The Alendan Core was the oldest continuous linear society in his civilization. It pre-dated the ability to travel through time. Alendans had confirmed its existence back into pre-industrial times, though it had been called different names in its history. Its members foreswore time travel in order to provide a unique linear perspective on society, which they preserved for the use of whomever might want it.

Otherwise their activities were shrouded in mystery. They rarely reached out to anyone outside their order, and when they did no one spoke about it later.

This was a childhood dream of every adventurous-minded Alendan, to be approached by the Core. Despite his age, Pilot X was a bit giddy. He decided to head straight to their headquarters.

Unlike the order’s activities, the building was no secret. It even had a nice wooden sign on the outside by the door, indicating it was the “Ancient and Respected order of the Alendan Core” that occupied the one story adobe hut. It really was a hut too Perhaps it had been the bulwark of modern architecture when it had been built, 500 years before, but now it looked like a hut.

Pilot X knocked.

The same woman who had brought him the card opened the door and held out her hand.

Pilot X moved to shake it, but she withdrew it quickly still without changing her expression.

“The card.” she stated.

“Oh, I thought I got to keep it.”

She had no reaction so he fished out he card and handed it to her. She took it and moved aside to let him in.

“Should have said I lost it.” He muttered.

“We would have retrieved it,” she said without emotion. “This way.”

March 30, 2014: 1:58 am: Pilot X, writing

Pilot X dropped put of transit on the day after he had left for Tiel as Ambassador and about a day’s travel through space. He knew his failure with the Progons was several months in the future and he wanted to prepare the Diplomatic Department for what was to come.

He was about to give Verity commands to take a medium speed and swing by the gas giants for some sightseeing on the way when proximity alarms blared out of every speaker and the ship shuddered in the grip of some outside force.

It sounded like rain.

“What is that?” he asked.

Verity displayed a visual of a fine mist of particulate matter. There were no known debris fields this far out of the systems. They were even outside Allenda’s home system’s Oort Cloud. So what was that.

He zoomed in and analyzed and a very disturbing result told him it was micro cellular sentient pods of life.

“Sensaurions,” he said aloud.

A Sensaurion battleship loomed into view off Verity’s starboard bow and hailed him.

“So damned dramatic,” muttered Pilot X. Then answered the hail. “This is the Allendra ship Verity on a return diplomatic mission. Kindly stop raining on me with pieces of yourself and let me go about my business.”

The ship answerd. “Ambassador X. I am aware of your business with the machine people. I have learnt it from the future. You cannot be allowed to continue. This path will lead to destruction for all. You must be killed for the greater good.”

This was standard patter for the Sensaurions. They were a unified mega organism that could split up into smaller bits down to the cells they used to send communications like they were now. They could also send thoughts back in time to themselves. Well to itself, strictly speaking there was only one mind.

“Yes, yes. If you didn’t threaten the destruction of any organism that wasn’t you for the greater good, I might be flattered. And I’m not an Ambassador anymore, so I guess future you garbled the message. Perhaps it’s best to leg me finish what’s left of my diplomatic mission while you get that sorted with your son.”

“I am not my son I am me forever,” the Sensaurion battleship said pompously. “You must be destroyed not because of your threat to my mind, but because of your threat to all.”

Well that did seem to be a new twist. Sensaurions generally didn’t care about anyone not Sensaurion. Also they didn’t work well with plurals, so “all” was a heady and unusual concept for them.

“What do you mean by all?” Pilot X tried, hoping to confuse the Sensaurion with its own words.

“I cannot be confused by this. All is everything. And you will destroy everything if let on this timeline. I have seen it happen.”

“You mean you will have seen it happen, ” he countered.

“Yes. Tenses are malleable. Destruction imminent.”

“Oh stop you’ll start a war.”

“No, you will. And this will stop it.”

The battleship was charging a massive forward burst of fire targeted at Verity.

“Verity skip–” but the ship had already anticipated this and skipped forward one hour. Moving through such a small amount of space time was tricky and difficult to do precisely. The hour turned out to be three days. And a half day closer to Allendra.

“Or that,” said Pilot X. “Where’s the battleship?”

Allendra showed it on course to Sensauria. It had believed Pilot X destroyed.

“The bigger the hive mind, the dumber they fall.” Pilot X chuckled. “Set course to–”

But Verity had already plotted a medium course to Allendra swinging by the gas giants on the way.

“Well done, Verity. Well done.”

March 1, 2014: 8:34 pm: Pilot X, writing

Ambassador X looked at the chessboard. The robot had played well and would likely checkmate him within a dozen moves or so. The Ambassador had learned a lot from the play. The progons had never played chess but learned it quickly. Neither one of those things was a surprise. The real reason X had asked to play was to determine who controlled the robot. The style of play shifted just enough, especially in the early moves, that he was fairly certain the robot was occasionally inhabited by a Progon, maybe two different ones.

That was not usual. Progons almost never inhabited machines in front of non-Progons, and when they did, they occupied massive ceremonial machines designed to intimidate and insure their security.

The idea that they would build a humanoid machine and then inhabit it to spy on X was extraordinary.

That’s why he was walking. At least that’s what he told himself. He acted like a typical diplomat going a little insane in the isolation the Progons enforced on all visiting ambassadors. It was their gambit and security. No diplomat could meet with another to exchange information. No diplomat was made to feel comfortable enough that they would want to stay, insuring frequent turnover.

Ambassador X was chosen for his resistance to this. He would stay until he discovered the truth of the Progons secret war. The Progons seemed to encourage this by providing himself more familiarity and entertainment than any other diplomat he had ever heard of. So he decided to push it. He would act like he was succumbing to the pressures of isolation anyway. He would wander off his allowed walk, and if confronted rant about needing to see something new. He told himsefl it wasn’t true. But the act seemed very easy to pull off.

The insanity was closer to the surface than Ambassador X would like to allow.

The surface of Tiel was an endless march of square metal buildings. His plan was to get lost. That was easy too. Enforcer drones would fly to intercept him but they would not harm him. The Progons respcted diplomatic immunity that much at least. They would only use force if he tried to do something damaging or threatening. Wandering off the prescribed path was against the rules but not cause for use of force. It was only grounds for immediate expulsion. So this better pay off.

Getting lost was just as easy as acting insane. He really was lost. He could bee two feet from his own metal box or several clicks from it. The drones followed at a polite distance repeating their broadcast to turn around and return to quarters. That implied that he was headed away from his quarters anyway. So he trudged on ranting.

“Sky! You know,” he screamed. “I need sky! You don’t understand my needs. This place is a deathlake A treason. Why did they put me here? Why did I agree?!?”

“Ambassador X. PLease calm down, turn around, and return to quarters. You are off the prescribed path and in violation of the terms of your acceptance.”

The humanoid robot appeared from behind and began a new tactic, interrupting the Ambassador’s ranting with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Please don’t do this. We don’t wish any ill towards you. We must do what is best.”

The chess game had not only taught him when a different mind controlled the machine, but how that machine’s communication changed. It was controlled by a Progon now. It was uncharacteristically pleading.

The Ambassador stumbled on. As he reached another intersection, a change in the pattern occurred. A metal building blocked his path out of the pattern. He began to walk around it. The robot blocked him. The drones stopped their announcements.

“No,” it said.

“Why?!?” the Ambassador screamed still in his ranting voice, but meaning it.

“We thought you would cooperate. We meant to bring some peace through you.”

The Ambassador stopped his rant. “Some?”

“The war must happen. Must stay happened. It cannot be subverted. It must not. But through you we can limit the damage. Prevent the total destruction your people would otherwise bring.”

The Ambassador walked around the building anyway.

Trees.

On the other side of the metal box were trees and a stream and green.

The Ambassador turned to look at the robot.

“What is this?”

“It would have been your home.”

“My home?”

“After your mission. To save the universe.”

“You presume so much.”

“Because we know it is you that will end this. And we know you will decide if the Progons continue We must continue.”

The robot engaged a weapon.

“If I’m your only chance of salvation, you’d best not eliminate me.”

“We cannot, but we must expel you. We will try again in an earlier time.”

“Good luck with that,’ Ambassador X said. The Verity hovered above and landed on automatic.

“You have disappointed us greatly. But remember, for you we may have mercy, for the Alendans none.”

“Worth remembering,” said the Ambassador. Then he climbed in his small box of a ship and took off.

He fed coordinates in spacetime to Verity. The ship informed him it was a conjunction point. A coordinate in which events were locked and could not be experienced in alternate threads or have mainlines diverted.

“I’m counting on it,” the Ambassador said. “Also tender my resignation with the Allendan council. I’m going back to being a simple PIlot for awhile.”

The Verity complied submitting the request from Pilot X.

February 15, 2014: 11:05 am: Pilot X, writing

The Verity descended towards a plain of identical looking, evenly-spaced one-story metal buildings. The Progons famously built down not up, so the buildings could be anything. His approved approach vector led him to one that began to slowly open to reveal a hangar. Besides the necessary landing equipment standard at all spaceports, the hangar was empty of any other ships. A solitary figure stood waiting.

The Verity touched down and before the Ambassador could finish a landing checklist a warning bell sounded. “External Lockdown Applied, All Systems Suspended,” the ship told him and displayed simultaneously. Not surprising, but disconcerting. Sort of the space travel equivalent of the spooky castle doors shutting behind you and locking.

The Progons had sent a bipedal robot to meet him. That was an unusual sign of deference. Progon machines were of all form factors, and few were bipedal. It wasn’t a necessary form for almost anything they did. The Progons generally didn’t care about making visitors feel at home either. It almost felt like they were trying to flatter him.

“Ambassador X, welcome to Tiel,” said the robot. It was likely an automata, not an inhabited machine but the Ambassador wondered. The Progons preferred to stay in large structures communing with each other in their electron-fast existence, rather than slowing themselves down into machines and the tedium of speaking aloud like an animal. Still, the Progons normally sent the equivalent of a rolling box to greet their visitors too.

“Thank you. What may I call you?” the Ambassador ventured.

“Assistant,” said the robot in a not unpleasant tone. Progons. They had names. They’r aerobats had names. But they just sucked at translation. “Assistant, er, 5.” The robot seemed to make it up on the spot. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your quarters.”

They ventured out of the hangar to a metal walkway that led directly to other square metal buildings. The Progons did like their right angles. Here and there distant movements betrayed other automata going about their business, but the Ambassador didn’t see another soul. Of course the Progons could inhabit any machine, and some inert structures if they wanted. They could have flitted into and out of the robot leading him without his knowledge.

And there were other Ambassadors on the planet as well. Some 453,000 of them. Each one kept apart from the other, equally spaced across the planet, so as not to ever come near composing a threat.

Some theorized it was a type of psychological warfare. Ambassadors on Tiel did not commune with their own kind and were left with unresponsive automata to speak with. It drove some mad. The previous Ambassador from Allendra had lasted a week. Of course he hadn’t gone mad, just requested an urgent transfer for ‘family reasons.’

The robot opened a sliding door at the end of one gangway and motioned the Ambassador to enter. Inside was what appeared to be a one story flat. If there were lower stories there was no obvious way of entering them. The quarters were sufficient. On the left was a circular mat that likely served for a bed. The Ambassador knew it was meant to serve a multitude of species hence the shape and the odd texture.

On the right was a small table that served as a desk and eating area with a chair and a few outlets for connectivity and such. Along the back wall was the kitchen. Large cabinets hung in the wall next to a mounted food preparation machine. A sink of sorts at least something that looked like it dispensed water. A lower wide bowl meant for bathing or possibly for excretion or knowing the Progons, both somehow.

The robot opened the cabinets to reveal stacks of identical bars wrapped in white paper. One side of the cabinet was refrigerated.

“We have provided a wide variety of Alenndran foods for your preparation. Stocks will be replenished automatically. Should you require other foods please make your request through the diplomatic channel you were assigned.”

In other words, you can fill out some paperwork, but don’t expect anything but these bars. The robot moved to the sliding door.

“These buttons here control the door. If you need to leave please alert us to your planned movements through the diplomatic channel you were assigned. You are expected out for exercise between the 4th and 6th hours.”

In other words, except for your daily jog, don’t leave unless we tell you to. There really wasn’t any need to. A diplomats life on Tiel consisted of relaxation, exercise, regular diplomatic meetings with a Progon representative (usually an automata) and wide stretches of boredom.

“May I be of assistance in any other matters, ambassador X?” the robot asked.

“No, thank you Assistant, er, 5,” the Ambassador mimicked the name. “You’ve been efficient.”

It was meant as flattery of its own but the robot showed no visible reaction.

“If you have further needs not previously covered by me,” submit them through the diplomatic channel you were assigned, the Ambassador finished for the robot in his head. But instead it said, “Use the communicator button on the provided device and call for Assistant 5. Have a pleasant day, Ambassador X.”

The robot left through the sliding door. What was that about? A last-minute parting shot of flattery? A communication device. Why hadn’t the robot pointed it out. The Ambassador looked around the spacious if sparse room. He saw no communication device. Was it a trick? A taunt? Then he saw it. Lying on the edge of the circular bed near the wall.

It was a small flat metal box with three buttons. Well that left him wondering which one was the communication button. Ah, it was written in Alendan. ‘Comm.’

The Ambassador had the impulse to call the robot back immediately just to see if it worked. But he didn’t. This was not standard procedure as far as he knew. The departing Alendan ambassador had briefed him and made it clear that he was left with no way of communicating directly to the Progons, probably to increase the isolation.

So what did the other buttons do? One white button was labeled Lights. He pressed it and the lights in the room dimmed. Another modern convenience. Other ambassadors reported the lights staying on at all times, messing with sleep patterns. The last green button was unlabeled. He pressed it but nothing happened. At least nothing he could tell. Maybe it blew up his ship in the hangar. Maybe it turned off the lights in some Progon room halfway across the planet.

He shrugged and tossed the device on the bed. Suddenly the door ripped open and two rolling boxes with surgical arms came rushing in and grabbed him.

“What is the nature of your emergency!” They shrieked.

“A green unlabeled button is your emergency button?” the Ambassador chuckled. “Bad design, Progons.”

February 4, 2014: 1:17 am: Pilot X, writing

Tiel appeared to be on fire. That was not unusual. Vegetation blended together on many planets to make land masses appear green. Individual fires on Tiel blended together to give the impression of a mass conflagration. It was more than appearance. The gas fields and generators that burned across much of Tiel were a conflagration. They powered the great machines in which the Progons lived.

Ambassador X knew this was but one of the reasons most Alendans worked very hard never to get assigned to a diplomatic mission on Tiel. There were few places on the planet that weren’t deadly to Alendans, and fewer people to spend your time with in the non-deadly sections.

Not to mention the Progons were deadly enemies with Alenda throughout most of time and space. Ambassador X had been assigned as a diplomat in a relatively calm stretch, thank goodness. He was the first Alendadn to serve as diplomat in more than a thousand years at this point. Well, if you didn’t count his immediate predecessor who lasted a week before having to be committed. The Ambassador was fairly certain it was a faked mental illness. And thoroughly understandable.

It was all the same to the Progons. The individual water sacks called Alendans barely registered as anything to a race of electricity. If an Alendan ever assaulted a Progon it would mean breaking their circuit and electrocuting the Alendan in the process. Also, Progons could communicate through time, so they knew what happned and would happen as much as the time-traveling Alendans. In fact they knew some things much quicker because they only had to ask their far flung machines what was going on. Alendans had to travel in space as well as time.

That didn’t mean there weren’t gaps. No race could be at all points in spacetime. So there were always mysteries. And this stretch of Progon time was a mystery to the Alendans. To be fair, this strecth of Alendan history was unknown to the Progons. They had carefully arranged to stay out of each other’s way for 1,000 years. So the Ambassador was not loving the idea of being plunked down in the middle of that quiet period and disturbing it. For one, the Progons would just call ahead to their future selves and find out what he did before he knew he would do it. HE hated that about them. For another it meant he was the one to break the fragile peace that led to the greatest war in history. A war that Alendan High Command was discovering raging in all manner of previously unknown stretches of history.

The Ambassador’s fate was start it. His mission was to mitigate it.

His only protection was his ship, The Verity. Within it, the Progons could not see him. He was protected from their prying eyes and they could not use their timecoms on him. The Verity encapsulated a singularity. This gave him a vast ship’s interior, lush with rooms, swimming pools, movie theaters, and anything else one could think of. It also gave him a time-shield that blocked attempts to read at least some of his future. The parts that existed within the influence of the singularity anyway.

It was the only way he could do this job.

He floated around Tiel for two more orbits before finally answering the relentless almost mindless request for identification and course by the Tiel Capital.

“Ambassador X de Alenda requesting diplomatic courtesies and permission to land in the capital.”

“permission granted,” the staticy voice spoke. It wasn’t a Progons. The Ambassador might never actually interact with a Progon his entire time on the planet. It was a machine the Progons had built that gave him his clearance. The machines were why the Progons were though of as a race of robots. The Progons themselves were much more insidious than robots. They had feelings and art and culture of a sort. But they were individuals made up of an electrical circuit. Their beliefs were so alien it was almost impossible for waterbag like the Ambassador to grasp them. That alone wouldn’t have been so bad if the Progons were not also convinced that they alone had the pure and dominant culture and all other beings deserved subservience, much like their machines.

“If only the robots really did rise up against their masters, ever,” mused the Ambassador. Then he took The Verity out of orbit and headed it down to the surface to begin his mission.

February 1, 2014: 2:15 am: Pilot X, writing

Encyclopedia Alendia

Progons – A race of pure electricity that houses itself in great machines.

Home planet: Tiel, which means “One”

Progons are often mistakenly thought of as a collective because of their basis in electricity. However Progons are individuals and do not and cannot merge into larger collective existence.

Unlike most biological entities, the Progons evolution was not driven by replication. While Alendans evolution centered on replication, electrical impulses did evolve in support of that. Progons early forms were driven by circuit completion with replication later supporting that.

The major step for Progon civilization was inhabiting Proroqs which allowed them mobility. Proroqs are a feature of Tiel that are natural formations that can move easily.

Primitive Progons were limited to inhabiting Proroqs but eventually learned to construct larger and more efficient machines. Eventually Progons created automata that could follow programming to build amazing cities and vehicles to leave the planet.

Actual protons exist in circuits in the great machines on Tiel. The protons most Alendans might encounter are simply robots or other automata controlled from Tiel.

Communication

Progons can send electrical signals instantaneously over long distances as well as through time. This capability has plowed them to explore the universe without leaving their home planet. Their automata expand and sometimes conquer while under homebound Progon control.

While Progon circuits can travel off planet the Progons themselves dislike travel greatly and it is an extreme rarity for an actual Progon to leave the planet.

Evolution causality controversy

Because Progons can communicate through time, some theories suggest they have caused their own evolution by sending instructions to the primitive Progons to guide them in creating machines outside the Proroqs. The Progons deny this saying it is impractical to communicate anything of significance to primitive Progons.

Most scientists believe the paradox could not be balanced and accept the Progons assurances. Alendans ave visited Progon history and have not found any evidence of interference from the future in their evolution.

Diplomacy

Critics of Progon society say the regime has eliminated all society in order to create a culture of soldiery. Progon automata are warlike and the Progons have expanded to rule over large mounts of space centered around Tiel and the other central worlds.

The Progons and Sensaurians have no diplomatic relations but keep an uneasy distance between their two cultures. Alendans have fought fierce wars with the Progons at times but also maintain large amounts of peacetime as well. In peaceful sections of time, diplomats are often placed on Tiel, though most do not stay for extended periods for various reasons.

Accusations of a secret time war have persisted against the Progons by many sectors of Alendan and other society but no evidence for such a war has yet been uncovered.

January 25, 2014: 1:54 pm: Pilot X, writing

It was a dirty planet. Young but unorganized. Its inhabitants would not be civilized for centuries and not respectable neighbors for centuries more after that. Eventually though they would become the most respected species in existence. The Ambassador knew this because he was one of them.

The Secretary made his office in this space-time point because of just this juxtaposition. Any arrival had to observe the planet in its ancient state. The Guardians of Alenda should never forget their heritage.

It didn’t hurt that it was an unfixed point in time. In fact, the Ambassador might have visited before on this very day and not remember it. The conditions were such that nothing future visitors could do would cause any permanent effect on any significant events. Butterflies flapped their wings in vain here. The outside winds were too strong.

The Ambassador landed his ship, ‘The Verity’ just outside the rough wooden shack the Secretary called an office. He went inside and once again saw the rough interior. The Secretary easily could have constructed a modern technological space that any natives would have been shielded from seeing. Instead, he lived, dressed, and the Ambassador was reminded pointedly, smelled, in period-appropriate conditions.

“Ah, Ambassador, please come in. Have a seat. Apologies as usual for the lack of comforts, but— well you know the reasons.”

The Ambassador had heard the reasons. The Secretary wanted as little pollution of the planet as possible. Not for worries of effecting the timeline, but just for the ecological sensitivities of it. He also liked to feel the discomfort of his visitors.

“I’ve asked you here because it’s time for you to take a very difficult journey, the end of which I can’t even see.”

This was not the usual opener.

“The Progons and the Sensaurians are on the move. Both in different eras, but the effects are spread out over a vast amount of space.”

“You think we would have noticed that before,” the Ambassador ventured.

The Secrteary nodded. “A few of us have. Certainly. But only in the corners. It’s like that old adage about our home planet. If an alien landed blindfolded in the Jerendran Desert and took off his blindfold, he’d think he landed on a desert planet. Ladn in a forest and think he’d landed on a forest planet etc. We travel all through space and time, but we still only see a corner of it.”

“So what’s this issue then?” the Ambassador felt a little impatient with the Secretary sometimes.

“A war. The greatest war we know ever existed. A secret war meant to end the Guardians protection of the universe and change every unfixed point. A war only you can prevent or end. I’m sorry.”

The Ambassador bowed his head. His annoyance and mirth all fled.

“What do I do?”

“You start with a mission of piece. First to the Progons. Then to the Sensaurians. There is a possibility you can rearrange their motivations in such a way to limit the war to a more conventional size and save the universe.”

“And if I fail? Do I fail?”

“Even I don’t know if you do. It’s that obscured. But if you do, you’ll have another option. You’ll learn it in time.”

The Ambassador got up to leave.

“Oh one more thing,” the Secretary said. “Two more actually. One, hold on to the Verity tightly. You’re a pilot at heart. Don’t forget that.”

The Ambassador nodded. “And the other?”

Don’t trust the Vice-Counsel’s plan. That’s all I can say. All I need say, I think. Good luck, Ambassador X.”

Luck. It was a word the Secretary never used. It was frightening that he did so now.

January 12, 2014: 2:46 am: Pilot X, writing

“Did you hear the Ambassador arrived?”

“Yes, he flies alone you know. So unusual. But then I’ve heard he carries a singularity in his cabin. So it’s a bit done for show I should think.”

“The Verity has a singularity on board?”

“So, I’m told anyway. A whole pocket universe if the stories are to be believed.”

“Seems dangerous, if You ask me.”

“Well perhaps that’s why they don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Ask you.”

“Fair point.”

“So is it true about the treaty?”

“If anyone can pull it off peace with the Progons and Sensaurians, it’s the Ambassador.”

“Only Bolger can go to Nollisar, eh?”

“Something like that. He’s not like the other diplomats. Wasn’t born into it.”

“He’s a Guardian though, no?”

“Oh yes, from the central planet and everything but not one of the favored houses if you catch my meaning. Not a house at all really. Worked his way up. He’s been at all sorts of jobs, Instructor, Secretary, even Pilot I hear.”

“Would explain the small ship I suppose.”

“Explains the peace possibility too. Takes an outside perspective like his. That’s what he’s been doing the whole war. Wracking that clever brain of his to find a solution. Apparently he’s hit on it, or that’s the buzz anyway.”

“Have you met him before?”

“Once. He’s a charmer that’s for sure. And a fast-talker. It’s no exaggeration that he can talk anyone into or out of doing pretty much anything. I knew he’d untie this not we’re in.”

“So what happens to the generators then? And uh, you know the uh, conscripts if you will?”

“I expect it will just be wound down now. Less said about all that the better. Ah here we are. Mr. Ambassador, a pleasure to meet you.”

The Ambassador who is just stepping down from his ship turns to greet the two men with a menacing smile.

“Ah gentleman, just in time for some pinball,” said the Ambassador. The two other men looked puzzled. “Be with you in an Instant.”

December 28, 2013: 9:34 am: Pilot X, writing

“Commander I’ve got something. ”

“What is it Specialist?” Commander Ngtyllik moved over to Scanning specialist 12′s station.

“It’s a match for a surveillance order. The Verity.”

“The Verity? Don’t know it. Who gave the order?”

The specialist hesitated. “Uh, it says here you did sir.”

“What? I have no memory of that. When?”

“I don’t know, sir. In fact I don’t remember entering it myself. It just popped up like its always been there.”

“Nonsense. Maybe it’s from upstairs. Damned odd to slap my name on ot of ot is. Don’t worry Specialist. Good work. Do try to pay more attention when you’re authorizing orders though. Could sound sloppy not to remember orders.”

The Specialist looked doubtful. “Yes sir. I’ve sent acknowledgement and provided approach for now.”

“Good good. What else do we have on it?”

The Specialist poked around on his interface for a minute.

“Not much sir. The order only calls for an alert if the vessel is matched. it’s called the Verity. No known origin. No known crew. One race. Alendan?”

“Never heard of it.”

“And that’s it other than, oh! My apologies sir. It’s a level one alert.”

“What?! That’s ridiculous.” Level one was an all hands emergency if spotted. The idea that a level one could be spotted but nobody be expecting it or even remember entering the order was the most disturbing thing the Commander could think of.

“Well– Capture it. I’ll head upstairs and try to get to the bottom of this.”

The Commander ran up to the Captain’s office but he had already headed off to the Admiral’s Ready Room as soon as the alarm sounded. the Commander raced down the corridors to catch up and came barreling into a room filled with top officers all staring at him.

“Ah, Ngtyllik, I assume you can explain this?”

Crap.

“Somewhat sir,” this brought a perturbed look to the Admirlas face. The rest if the officers look less than pleased. Nobody joked ant a Level 1 and they all seemed to know even less than he did.

“Specialist Ramsey spotted the target just now on a ship called. The Verity. Records show I gave the surveillance order at Level 1 signed off by you Admiral. Neither the specialist nor I recalled the order, which is damned odd in this case. The ships only details are a race of origin called the Alendans. I’m not familiar.”

A Captain from another part of the operation laughed. “You don’t read fairy tales then?”

“What’s that supposed to mean Fergranters?” The Admiral snapped.

“Sorry sir. The Alendans are characters from children’s stories. A once powerful race that could travel in time but reached too far and brought their entire people to destruction. Typical moral lessons and such,” the Admiral cut him off. Captain Fergranters was from the Cultural Relations arm. They could talk at length if allowed.

“And that’s all we have? Please tell me this isn’t some kind of joke Ngtyllik–”

An aide interrupted the Admiral. “Sir we ‘re getting a transmission from the ship.”

“Is it already locked on approach?”

“Yes sir. It’s been captured on my orders,” said the Commander.

“Ok, so they can’t pull much. At least we did that part right. Let’s hear it.”

A burst if static filled the room followed by a perfectly normal sounding voice speaking the dominant language of the Fringe. Cascade.

“This is Pilot X of The Verity to the command of the Fringe Cascade. I mean you no harm. Doubtless your records are in disarray or even missing about me. I can clear up the confusion. Please allow me to land peacefully.”

The message repeated.

“All right,” said the Admiral. “Peacefully. But make sure a well-armed battalion meets him to make sure it’s stays peaceful.”

December 27, 2013: 3:17 am: Pilot X, writing

His flight was timeless. The Verity was equipped with all manner of features to pass the time, entertain, research, educate and more but he made use of none of them.

Mostly he wept. Not so much for what he’d done but for the need of the doing of it. And for the fact of his survival. He could have thrown himself out of protection and disappeared like the rest of it. Often he wished he had.

But he hadn’t. It was his punishment and his reward. He must live with the guilt of surviving. And also, he must live. That was his reward. The purpose of living to tell the tale, to help the others, to see it was not all in vain.

Hence his flight to the Fringe Cascade, the most advanced civilization left. If anyone knew best how to continue afterwards it would them. Even if they didn’t know why, which they wouldn’t, to them, existence would always have been like that, but even so, they would be clever enough to know something had happened, and how to deal with it.

A light when on at the console. A very important light. A light that usually demanded immediate attention. Pilot X looked at the light and laughed. He had been detected. The Fringe Cascade were still expecting him. They had scanned him and a
Proved his approach, even though by all rights they should have no idea who he was anymore.

He reached to acknowledge the signal, and the Verity lurched and threw him away from the console. Another series of lights went on. These did not make hi laugh. These were bad. The Verity had been captured and was being pulled in. So he was expected but at the same time no longer welcome. Either they knew almost nothing or somehow they knew everything. Either way they weren’t pleased. He’d find out why soon enough.

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