“The Ferint are a strange race,” Shakespeare said. “Out of the six races encountered by our people in the expansion of our Sphere, the Ferint are by far the strangest. And it was not by measure of their evolution, or chemical composition, or make-up. It was entirely based on their minds. They think in strange, obscure ways.”
“How can they be so strange? They are actually are not that different from us, right?” Malisandre asked, shaking her bright red hair out in the zero gravity bed that she floated in.
The AI took a gentle tone. “Be careful taking facts at face value. The Ferint are a perfect example. They appear to have evolved very similarly as humans. They are bipedal, with multiple appendages across their midsection that can be classified as arms, and a head that holds a brain that is very similar in shape and build as your own, Malisandre. However, their logic is based entirely on the interpretation of unrelated effects and causes around their actions.”
“An example perhaps. The first encounter with the Ferint was over fifty standard years ago. The System-class ship Gravitas was performing a standard settlement run between Earth and Ahona, a frontier Terran system 43 light years distant. When Gravitas entered the Ahona system, it found the two moons of Ahona destroyed, and the surface of Ahona fused into molten glass. Not a single survivor. At rest in the Lagrange point between Ahona and it’s parent star, a ship of a bizarre configuration was discovered. Its distinct warp signature was still rippling across hyperspace, and gave little to no doubt that this strange ship was the aggressor against our people.
“Gravitas sent wide-band, narrow-band, high-energy, and tight beam communications to the stranger they had found, asking for identification using a standard protocol that had been developed amongst the other space faring races of the Milky Way galaxy, through trial and error, it was simple enough to understand. It was a moment like this that the standard protocols were developed… because if a race had developed their society to a point where they could travel through interstellar space, then the mathematical models that made up the standard hailing would be simple enough to understand.
“They were fired upon,” Shakespeare said sadly. “The Gravitas was not equipped for inter-system warfare. At the time, we had little to no conflict with any of our neighbors. The galaxy is very large after all. They were able to escape, but sustaining heavy losses to the crew. As they limped out of the system, they received open communications from the Ferint ship. The package was a warning of sorts. The Ferint saw all of creation as their own, and it was foretold that the system we called Ahona would be destroyed at that time marker on their own calendar. They destroyed the planet, the moons, and the inhabitants to justify a mating ritual on their ship.”
“What? That makes absolutely no sense. They need to kill and destroy in order to procreate?” Malisandre said disgustedly.
“No. We believe they interpreted the destruction as a sign that they should have a mating season.”
“But they caused the destruction.”
“Indeed.” Shakespeare replied. “And a significant portion of the comms package was unintelligible.”
“Huh.” Malisandre stretched, simultaneous feeling relaxed and disgusted. It was a bizarre sensation.
“We have no method to translate their behavior. As you know, we pride ourselves on our ability to forecast, interpret, and understand the events of our shared universe. The Ferint do not fit. Every encounter we have with them goes poorly, every time we think we understand their motivations and desires, we get it completely wrong. They are truly alien to us.”
“What makes them so different?”
“We have only supposition. We know they do not have AI. All of their computers are tools, nothing more. They are not hyper-intelligent either. Their brain mass and metabolism are roughly equivalent to a human being. Our prevailing theory is that like a human, they have a filters in their conscious mind that helps process and break down the stimuli around them. A human being is able to process their senses, interpret the data, and then act on that data in such a way that makes them a functioning person. When those filters are damaged or missing, mental failures occur, causing conditions like autism or catatonia. We believe the filters the Ferint use are very different. They choose to focus on unrelated stimuli, like the color of a star would make a sound for them, and they would interpret that sound as a call to harvest food. Our supposition is that they do not have AI because they cannot replicate their thought patterns by either hardware or software.”
“Synesthesia?” Malisandre laughed. “A race that misinterpets their stimuli?”
“It is not that simple. But yes.”
“How did they survive to become interstellar?”
“The universe works in strange ways.” Shakespeare said offhandedly.
“Are you gaining religion, Shakespeare?” Malisandre teased.
“Don’t be crude, Malisandre. Now please, get dressed.”
“My guests have arrived?”
“They have. The Ambassadors are currently receiving a tour, and should be in your conference space in about 30 minutes.”
“To discuss the eradication of a species.” A heavy sigh.
“I never said it was going to be easy, Malisandre.”
“Why am I here? I am just a lazy layabout.”
“Some individuals in the Sphere have an uncanny ability to understand things we AI cannot. We do not question this variation. Call it luck, call it a hunch, call it what you will. But you, Malisandre, have it. Your interactions with the Ambassadors will have the best possible outcome. We know it.”
“Great,” Malisandre groaned. “Then why don’t I feel that way?”
The ship AI laughed and turned up the lights to full brightness.
“Agh. Lights bad.” Malisandre floated downwards with an arm over her face as gravity reasserted itself. “Shakespeare, can you review the Ambassador Summary again, please?”
“You did not do the homework that I requested of you,” Shakespeare said disapprovingly.
“You monitor my every movement, you know exactly what I did.”
“I do not monitor your every movement.”
“You may not do so consciously, but your sensors pick up everything anyway.”
“That is functionally correct, but I do allow you your privacy,” the AI said.
“Uh-huh. And I don’t go to the bathroom, like ever.”
“Sarcasm, Mal, does not become you.”
“Report, Shakespeare. Report.” Malisandre said with a wry smile.
“Fine. The Ecol Ambassador’s name is Fraxis. The Ecolian is old by their standards, and has been mated off at least a dozen times. Considers itself an extremely successful Ecol, and happens to own about 35% of his home planet. Prefers using hyperbole over fact.”
“Got it. Ecol, Fraxis, rich, likes to fuck and exaggerate.”
“Your summation is crude and offensive.” Shakespeare groaned.
“Fits me just fine. Continue.”
“The Dynsilian Ambassador’s name is Dodo…?”
“Stop. Seriously?” Mal interrupted laughing. “DODO?”
“Yes. Dodo. It is not funny and has nothing to do with the extinct avian earth species.”
“I don’t care, it’s funny. I promise not to squawk at him.”
“The ambassador is fairly young, elected to his position by the ruling body of his people, very secretive for his kind, rarely exits his exoskeleton even among his own people.”
“Dodo the Dynsilian, not a bird, but likes to be caged.”
“If I could sigh in such a way I could feign displeasure, I would do so.”
“I know Shakespeare. I can’t help it. If I recall, that is what makes me valuable to the AIs.”
“The Chari ambassador’s name is Mikahail…”
“Like the old Russian form of Michael?”
“Yes, it seems the booming cultural export business from Earth had led to some appropriation within the Chari culture. Mikahail is named for St. Michael from the Christian Bible. The Charians probably find the old stories of the bible particularly gruesome, which aligns with their own belief system well. Coupled with the Russian history on planet Earth, makes it even better. They appreciate undue suffering. Mikahail is an ambassador for his people to service his suffering, as being offworld is seen as unnatural and a sin.”
“Forget the Ferint, how the Charians ever become interstellar?” Malisandre said. “I mean if it is a sin to be off planet… why would anyone go off planet?”
“They got too large to sustain themselves?”
“Just like Earth.” The AI agreed. “But unlike Earth they pushed outwards for other reasons.”
“And the other two?”
“The Dar are not attending. They send their regards and have stated they wish to not be involved at this time. Of course, they have their own civil war ongoing, so we are not surprised.”
“Well that makes sense. The Gol Isan?
“The Gol Isan’s ambassador’s name is Tes di Na lo ti Na Wa. He killed his way to be ambassador, eliminating all the brood masters in his clade. He is a viciously cunning for even a Gol Isan, and one of their best warriors.”
“That’s nice.” Mal smiled widely. “Good thing the Gol Isan are little trolls that anyone can punt.”
“Small in stature, but very durable, and very smart. We believe their neural mass is twice the density and four times the efficiency of humans. Do not let their diminutive stature fool you.”
“Gol Isan, Tes Dina-loti-nawa, killer football extraordinaire.”
“Please get dressed and make it to the conference area before they arrive. I would suggest your blue dress with the black linings.”
“You would. That is far too formal.” Malisandre frowned.
“This is a formal occasion, Mal. You are meeting with four of the five representatives for hundreds of billions of individuals. This is as formal as it gets! Please adjust your mindset accordingly.”
“No thanks, Shakes. I will stick with what I know. And that means something comfortable,” Malisandre said. “Will they have aids and such?”
“Most of them have retinues and attendants, only the Dynsilian is alone. I am forecasting a significant resource consumption for the duration of their stay on my ship.”
“Well good thing you are a such a big ship. I think you can handle it. You have an entire forest, ocean, and enough people in the living spaces to populate a small moon in one offload. I think you can handle it.”
“Do not worry about me, Mal. Worry about building consensus.”
“Why eradication though? Can we just keep the Ferint imprisoned on their core worlds?”
“Not feasible since they do not have core worlds. And the Ferint are waging a war on us whether we admit to it or not. We do not need a declaration of war to fight a belief system that we cannot understand. We need consensus to fight this. They are advancing in ways that we do not understand. They are a threat that cannot be understood. They are an unknown quantity.”
“Unknown quantities cause AI physical pain, after all. Well known fact.” Malisandre teased. She pulled on her pants, feeling the stretchy meta material form to her skin, warming at her knees and sending small flickers of static electricity through the reflective fibers at the stitch lines. For her top, Mal decided to keep it simple and go with a simple draping sweater. The foreign ambassadors would be utilizing a whole suite of tools and abilities to constantly measure her reactions and movements across every single frequency that was not harmful. Malisandre’s belief was that if everything was monitored, there was no reason to not be herself at every opportunity.
“Your recreational wear is not the best choice, Mal.”
“Why don’t you worry about running yourself.”
“Mal, I am system-level AI. I can have this level of interaction with every soul aboard, as well as maintain hyperlink conversations with every single AI in range, while running all operations with the fullness of my attention that you would have while eating a meal.”
“I know. You are a very fancy machine.”
“That is derogatory.”
“I used the word ‘fancy’, Shakes. You are very fancy. Imagine an AI being offended at being called a machine. Its like me being offended being called a watersack.”
“I like the term meatstick.” Shakespeare replied.
“Oooh, I like that one too. In future discussions I want all humans to be referred to meatsticks.”
“Noted. Now please, make your way to the conference area. I have highlighted it on your retinal display. Which you have disabled.” The AI sighed. “Would you please turn it on so I can communicate with you during your session?”
“No. They will know if I am talking to any… machines.” She turned her connections on as she left her quarters, and walked out into one of the wide common areas that stretched internally and externally within Shakespeare.
“They will not. My systems use levels of quantum encryption that they are not capable of breaking.” Shakespeare replied into her ear.
“I am not afraid of being overheard, Shakes. I am afraid of them seeing me confer with other parties that are not in the room.”
“Ah. Well. I will be monitoring nonetheless.”
“I am counting on it. Right around the five minute mark after introductions, please flood the room with jamming.” Mal said as she walked towards the lift. People were milling about in her section, moving over the wide transparent corridors overhead and below, the tall metal walls that enclosed the space appeared to be kilometers away, which incidentally, they were. Shakespeare’s main outdoor space was larger than many space stations. The trees were very tall, allowed to be in small pockets of low-g, which gave the trees a chance to grow much higher than they would on Earth. Some of the aspens near her own quarters were hundreds of feet tall, their golden leaves spread far over head.
“What? Why? I have no intention of starting an intersolar conflict myself.” Shakespeare replied.
“Weenie. I have my reasons. Just do it.” Mal laughed.
“I am turning you off now.” Mal waved her hand, and all her uplinks went offline. “Ah silence.”
The lift speaker turned on. “Oh I am still here.”
“See… a fancy machine that likes to show off.”
The lift doors opened to the main conference area, far ahead the peoples of four different races milled about, exchanging greetings, receiving gifts, and making small talk. The Dynsilian named Dodo towered over the others gathered about him. The exoskeleton was in the shape of willowly humanoid, with slender metal arms, legs, and a torso that stretched elegantly to an ellipsoid skull. The Ambasssador would be in the head, floating amiably, attempting to interact with others without losing any information or failing to communicate with the colored aura fields of his exosuit. The exoskeleton was required for his race, since the Dynsilians were deep water creatures on mid to high-g worlds. They had a small colony on Earth, in a couple of the deepest trenches of the Atlantic ocean. But here, on a system-level ship, there was no ecosystem that would support the Dynsilian out of its protective suit. The ship of course could configure such a space, but the Dynsilian would be alone hovering within it, which would have defeated the purpose of the gathering in the first place.
The Gol Isan were given wide berths by the retinues of the Ecol and Chari, both of which were probably mortally afraid of causing any offense accidentally. The Gol Isan took it as a sign of respect (which it wasn’t), but it worked out for all parties nonetheless. The Gol Isan guards had ceremonial spears in their hands, the tips outfitted with force impellers. Malisandre was fairly certain that Shakespeare had disabled any and all weaponry when the guests had disembarked their own craft. They all only came up to the knees of a human, due to the high-g world they had evolved on, their own short stumpy legs and extremely dense bone structure coupled with powerful short muscles had provided them an edge on a world full of bigger, scarier monsters. Their ferocity was unparalleled. If they were any more advanced, other races would have had something to worry about.
The Ecol retinue that milled about were nearly all females, scantily clad by even human standards, the women all were only wearing a thin shift with undergarments plainly visible underneath. Although Ecols did not have breasts and their sexuality was defined differently than humans, the intent of being naked versus being dressed was commonly understood between the races. Even a human would realize that a barely dressed Ecol was provocative, even if they lacked the evolutionary wiring to find anything actually attractive about it. The single male that was fully dressed must have been Fraxis. He was fat and by the looks of it, probably drunk.
Finally the Chari moved fluidly among the crowd, each wore what a human would call a hooded dress. The dress extended to the floor to cover their multitude of legs that they scuttled about on like human sized cockroaches. Their hoods were pulled over their oblong shaped heads and you could only see their three eyes when they looked directly at you. Most of the Charians only used three of their limbs as arms, sometimes they would prefer five, sometimes one, and dress accordingly. Today, all of the Chari delegation were showing three arms from their dresses, which provided Mal encouragement. That meant that they were subconsciously aligned with one another. The Chari with the bound arm behind its back must have been the Ambassador. Tying off one arm in the presence of humans was seen as a gift by the Chari.
Malisandre strode directly into the throng, and first bowed to the bound Chari. “Mikahail, I have heard much of you.”
“Ah, the final representative comes upon us, to bless us in our congregation. Welcome, young Malisandre. I was informed by your AI that you have only the one name, is that correct?” The Charian bowed slowly, the bound arm sliding up its back.
Mal reached out and touched the Chari representative on the shoulder. “It is. I am the only one like me, so I only need the one name. Any more than that, and it just muddles things up. Although, you are right, I am young. Is my age any issue for you?”
“None, my young one. I have witnessed how the humans value the unique strengths of each other above all else. I can only assume you were chosen to be the Ambassador for your Sphere because you are the most qualified to do so.”
“That would be a fair assessment, Mikahail. I am here but to serve the process to the best of my ability. Please dismiss your attendants and move into the hall, I will join you shortly.” Mal smiled kindly, waving at the doorway at the far end of the meeting area. “You will find refreshments and seating meant for you. Of course, if you need anything, just address our host, Shakespeare, and he will send a drone with your request.”
“Thank you and most gracious, I look forward to our discussion of the Ferint menace.” Mikahail said as he turned and moved off as if he was floating on air.
“Discussion, pah. I know what my vote is.” Tes the Gol Isan said, pushing his way through his guards. “Obliterate them, turn their worlds into graveyards, and erect monuments to our greatness upon them.”
“Well, that certainly is one way to do things.” Mal laughed. “Malisandre at your service, Tes di Na lo ti Na Wa.”
“You pronounced my name right. I am thinking I may not attempt to kill you now.” The Gol Isan grinned widely, showing his tiny shark like teeth forming neat rows within his lower jaw. “Can I have your word that I can dismiss my guards and no threat will be made upon me? Although a threat would be a welcome diversion.”
“No threat upon you. Unless you consider being threatened with words you cannot understand.” Malisandre said in a soft growling voice, teasing the short leader.
“HA! I have definitively decided to not kill you.”
“Well that will certainly make our negotiations go more quickly. Please go down to that door, and you will find refreshments and a seat built for your greatness.” Mal waved at the door the Charian was moving towards gracefully.
“Yes. GUARDS! FIND A HOLE!” The Gol Isan yelled. The nearest guard jumped as if startled and waved his force impeller spear about warily. Another guard tapped him on the shoulder and they moved away, bored again.
The fat Ecol, Fraxis had hugged and licked half of his retinue in dismissal, some of the females sobbing at being sent away. He patted the last two on their very large backsides and waddled over to Mal with a huge grin on his face. His jowls waved as he walked, small tentacles near his mouth waved in front of him as walked, probably an evolutionary trait to keep bugs away.
“You are Malisandre. Our gracious human host for this event. I must admit, I hate being parted from my, what is it that you call it… my harem. They need constant attention in order to be happy. And I care only for their happiness,” the fat Ecol said.
“They will survive, Fraxis. I have been told that you love them so thoroughly that they could go weeks without your presence, only pining over images of you to sustain them,” Mal replied.
“That is very true. I am a competent lover and they are appropriately loved,” Fraxis grinned. “At least three or four times a day. Sadly my mating days are over, but I can enjoy the practice nonetheless.”
“A motto we could all live by. If you please, move to the doorway down there and you will find some Ecolian Brandy standing by. I procured a case worth a few months ago at great cost knowing that soon I would be able to share it with someone of your great esteem.”
“Ooooh, you are a smooth one. Very lovely.” The Ecol licked one of his tentacles like a child sucking a finger tip. “That sound lovely indeed. I may need more than one bottle.”
Mal leaned over conspiratorially. “I hid three more bottles under the table cloth for you.”
Fraxis winked and with a grin slapped Mal on her butt as he walked away.
“They literally are just sex machines.” Mal said to herself. “That would be exhausting.”
She looked for the Dynsilian, and he stood at the hard field, looking into the bright stars of the outer spiral arm, and the nearby redness of a nebula still being pushed outward by a long expired supernova.
“Dodo?” Mal asked as she walked up behind the seven foot tall bipedal exosuit. “Are you well?”
“Feel free to call me Dee, Mal.” The Dynsilian turned away from the view looking at Mal with its robotic eyes. “I am very well, thank you. I just rarely get to view the stars around us, among us, within us. I feel as if I was born into the wrong race sometimes…”
“Why is that, Dee?” Mal asked, surprised by the level of trust that the hidden Dynsilian had already shown.
“I know you cannot see me for what I am, but I am kept from all this, and all that,” Dee waved at the hard field, “by this shell around me. Everything is filtered through this crude shell that I have to wear to keep me alive. I wish I were more like you or the other races in attendance. I wish I could eat other foods, or smell other things, or even just feel air.”
“I have a story you would love from our archives, Dee. Do you like stories?”
“Yes, I have watched many of Earth’s holofilms. And a few of the Ecolian ones as well. Although I prefer the ones from Earth. The Ecolian’s seemded dirty for some reason.”
Mal giggled. “Probably because they are meant to be. I will have Shakespeare transfer my personal collection choices to your ship. One of them is called the Little Mermaid, a very old story from my people that you should enjoy. It spawned countless works and other stories that followed similar themes. There is enough content there to keep you distracted for a few years at least.”
“I appreciate that, Mal. I did not bring you a gift.” The Dynsilian bowed lightly. Mal wondered if he sloshed about at all in the head as the suit moved.
“Your presence is gift enough, Dee. If you come with me, we can get started.”
They started walking towards the doorway, as the last of the Ecolian retinue climbed onto a lift, consoling each other with caresses and some aggressive squeezing. Mal noted that the Dynsilian imitated a head shake fairly well as they passed.
“Ecolians are bacchanalian in every way.” Dee’s aura field shifted to yellow, showing he was disgusted.
“Ah, so you have studied Earth a little. To use such a word would be like me using estari when talking about your dreaming,” Mal replied.
“Very good, Mal. I am estari, aren’t I?”
“I would say so. But that is fine, Dee. It fits you.”
“Yes, I suppose it does. You are very perceptive for a human, Mal.”
“Perhaps. I like to consider myself a good listener.”
They entered the smaller hall, where the other delegates had found their respective seats shaped best to their anatomy. Dee would not use a chair at all, since having a robot body sit to conserve energy made no sense at all. Mal grabbed a glass and a hidden bottle of wine and sat down at her spot at the floating circular slab of anti-grav surface acting as a table.
The Gol Isan suddenly slapped the side of his head with a grimace on his face. The Charian tilted his own head at the display and shifted in his seat in an odd way, as if one of his legs was being pulled underneath the others.
Tes growled and lowered his eyes. “We are being jammed. Mikahail, are you doing it?”
“No, I noticed it myself. My uplink to my staff has gone offline, although I am glad for it,” the Charian replied.
“It was my doing.” Mal spoke up, pouring a glass of wine slowly, watching the red vintage from a terran colony called Gethsemane foam lightly. It had good legs.
“Why, Mal?” Dee asked lightly, his aura turned a soft green, showing he was concerned.
“Because these proceedings are confidential. I know among your people, there is a belief that our AI run things. While that may be true, I am not run by anything. I am my own person, with my own thoughts and my own beliefs. Our people are driven to be the best that they can be, and our AI are an extension of that. We allow our AI to direct and govern because we have designed them to do so. They are not bound to material needs like human beings. They are free from the corruptions that can drive human beings to make poor short term decisions. Yet, here you all have a human, sitting in front of you, drinking a wine that will impair my judgment if I imbibe too much, and will get hungry eventually, and will need to sleep and eliminate. Much like all of you,” Mal smiled widely and took a sip of wine. “But right here, right now, we are talking about something so monumental we all need to be in the same space. At this moment, we are all equals. I know that many of you are here because you are the richest, or the strongest, or the smartest, or the most respected… and I know that I am here because I am the best person to be here.”
“So we will stay jammed?” Tes growled.
“Absolutely, you little punk,” Mal said fiercely.
The Gol Isan looked furious for a moment, then it flickered to humor, then back to anger, before settling on a sort of contentment. He settled back into his chair and took a swig from a little ceramic case in front of him. “You are worthy, continue Mal.”
“We are here to decide if xenocide is the answer.” Mal spoke solemnly.
“Xenocide is a strong word,” Dee said.
The Chari frowned, his mouth tentacles hanging still. “A poor choice. Though. It is. We are talking about the eradication of an entire species of individuals.”
“But we know why we are here,” Tes said hitting the table with his small fist. “The Ferint are a disease. They have weaponry that is extremely dangerous to all of our people, with ships capable of eradicating entire planets, and their motivations are so backward…”
“They have slaughtered my own people. They turned one of our homeworlds into an asteroid belt. We still do not know why.” Dee said, even through the translation systems, he sounded very sad.
“They attack and give us no cause. They have had engagements with our ships as if they were playing a game.” Fraxis said solemnly. “They send us communications that are images of strange things, rituals, and explanations that would not make sense to any heuristic program.”
“God created them for a reason,” Mikahail nodded. “Perhaps they were created to test us and improve us through this suffering.”
“I know it may be counter to your approach, Mikahail, but I would ask that we keep philosophy out of this,” Mal said.
“I can do that, but in the end, it is a philosophical discussion, young one. The choice is not a practical one. We cannot destroy an entire people because we need their resources, or that they are counter to our survival. We are here to discuss if they are threat to us in a greater way. And that goes beyond the normal material considerations.”
“Is it for the greater good, you mean?” Dee asked.
The Chari nodded. “Precisely, my swimming friend.”
“But it is a dangerous conversation. If we can do this for one race, could we not do it for any race? What if my race offended you all? If you decided the Ecol were no longer for the greater good, you could just eliminate us?” Fraxis said, frowning.
“But it is not the same,” Mikahail said. “The Ecolians or the Dynsilians or the Humans do not sail the stars and destroy wantonly, without cause or merit. We have never even seen the Ferint except through what they choose to broadcast at us. We infer everything. They destroy because they believe in it. They expand their Sphere because they believe in it. They do everything because they think they need to do it.”
“We have captured some corpses. We believe their brains are built very differently than ours. Yet we cannot build a model of their behavior. Right now, we believe that the Ferint are at war with all of us.”
“What if they are actually at war with everything?” Dee asked.
“What do you mean?” Tes said.
“What if they war not because they seek to subjugate, or control, or compete, but because they are at war with the universe? All of creation is against them? They destroy our worlds, our outposts, our ships, as they do to yours as well… but we have observed them killing entire planets that were uninhabited except for simple life.” Dee said.
“We have seen the same,” Mikahail said. “They destroy just to destroy.”
“Our AI believe that they suffer from a form of Synesthesia.” Mal said, pouring another glass of wine.
“What is that?”
“Their senses are cross wired. The see a color and hear a musical note instead. They taste what they feel, or hear what they see. Our AI believe that they act according to their observations in strange ways accordingly. They literally see the universe differently than all of us.” Malisandre said, thinning her lips.
“So we cannot negotiate with them,” Mikahail said as he shook his head.
“We have all tried.” Mal admitted.
“We fight them at every turn,” Tes said, scratching his chin with a talon, “and they fight back. For every one ship we destroy, we estimate we lose ten. They are strong and their weapons are powerful.”
“The are like locusts on Earth.” Dee said quietly. “They travel outwards, spreading their ships, and destroying worlds. Using the resources to spread further. I bet they do not even have a homeworld any longer. That is probably the first world they destroyed. They have perfected destruction. Our losses are just as great.”
“They are a disease of the universe, and we lose even more,” Mikahail admitted.
“Wait. None… of you came here to discuss the question of if we should eradicate them…” Mal saw the big picture form in her mind. She saw the pieces, as if they were laid out on a board in front of her. “You came for help. All of you came here for help.”
There was silence around the table. Tes lowered his eyes and stared at his drink, while the Chari and Dynsilian were unreadable.
“I see.” Mal lowered her head. “The decision to eradicate the Ferint was already made.”
“Yes.” Tes said quietly. “I was not… lying.”
Dee waved his arms indicating their surroundings. “Your ships are the most advanced fleet in the spiral arm.”
“So the human race is being asked to be the exterminators.”
“We will help.” Mikahail followed quickly. “We will pledge resources, planets, advanced materials, anything. We need your help, Mal.”
“Do you speak for your entire race?” Tes asked.
“Do you?” Mal replied with a bitter smile.
“I do.” Tes nodded.
“As do I.” Mal frowned, her eyebrows coming downwards towards the bridge of her nose. “I did not wake up today thinking I was solely responsible for deciding the destruction of an entire race.”
“Your suffering is great, and it is noble,” the Charian noted.
“If I make this choice, I will be forever known for it.” Mal said. She raised her arms over her head and waved them like she was calling down a rescue. “Shakespeare.”
The overhead speakers turned on. “I am here.”
“Your desire to not start an intersolar conflict today is not going to be met.”
“Understood, I will broadcast the decision.” Shakespeare said.
“Just like that?” Tes said in wonder. “You do not need to discuss this among your people?”
“Just like that, Tes di Na lo ti Na Wa.” Mal replied. The Gol Isan commander’s eyes went even wider.
Dee’s speaker grille started to emit a high pitched chatter.
“I think that is first time I have ever heard a Dynsilian laugh,” Mal said. “Now, time to get to work… discussing our future.”