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.