Journey To Orion, part 1
Contents/Warnings: Long story, boring diplomatic sessions, 'Human' POV
Disclaimer: <checks document map> Nope, Master of Orion is still the property of Infogrames, not me... <sigh>
Scribbler: kebzero, March 2001
Note: This fanfic was originially submitted as an entry in the MoO3 novelization contest held in February/March 2001 - at that point, info about the species/races of MoO3 was a bit sketchy. The story has been updated slightly ( removing some spelling/grammar errors, etc. ), but is by and large the same I sent in back then.
"Ambassador? It's time..." Fred Hobbes had opened the door narrowly, nearly without a sound, and looked into the dark, gray room through the narrow opening. The newly appointed ambassador stood with her back against him, looking out through the barred window. She turned slowly, and told him to enter. Her face was pale, and she looked troubled. Hobbes felt she had to be troubled - the appointment had been given quickly by the recently re-established democratic government, and it was a most important and difficult one. Few Humans still strove to become gifted in politics, government or diplomacy - the Antarans had made such desires mean the same as suicide during the occupation. All those who made such desires and opinions open, were quickly shipped to the place he was now in.
Ambassador Alexandrea Harlan sat down behind the only desk in the small and sparsely decorated office.
"It is hard to believe how things can change so rapidly, is it not?" she said, not in any way hiding the sadness in her voice.
"Ambassador, we really should be preparing to leave. The Antarans won't bother to wait long, not for us, anyway."
"Fred, I am perfectly aware of the time. I'm trying to prepare in my own way - you and Erdran only deal with physical necessities and practicalities, I have to be ready to represent humanity in the most important event in Human history for at least a thousand cycles!".
Her voice had gone from sad and weak to loud and angry, and Hobbes took a step back. He had rarely seen the ambassador this upset in the two months he had been in her service. This anger was justified, though. Few Humans could be under more pressure right now than the ambassador. The recently started rebuilding process was tough on them all, but usually in terms of physical labour, and not mental stress. The ambassador calmed down, her flared look gave away to a gentle one.
"I apologize," she said. "I shouldn't have burst out like that. It's just that all the changes seem so bizarre - just a decade ago, I, and most of our governing body, would be here to die, rather than rule. I'm still a bit shocked that the President felt this was the best place to establish a seat of government."
Hobbes agreed, and said so. This entire city, known simply as 'the Hub', had been a prison and graveyard to many, and a stepping stone to slave labour on distant worlds, and torture in secluded 'research labs' for even more during the Occupation. Even so, this was the only city on the planet with reasonably functioning infrastructure at the time of the Abandonment, and since the only spaceport was also located here, the President chose this place as the new capital. During the last few cycles, massive reconstruction projects had been completed in the Hub, but it would take centuries for all signs of Antaran architecture to disappear, and far longer for all other damage to the planet and humanity to be mended.
The Antaran shuttle on the launchpad was reasonably large compared to the few vessels currently composing Earth's entire surface-to-space capacity. In space somewhere far above them, an Antaran destroyer-class starship was waiting for them. Ambassador Harlan and her two aides composed the entire Human delegation to the Senate. The Antarans had given all attendees orders to bring only three representatives, of which only one would be allowed to address the Senate, and only once during this first assembly. Hobbes had heard the stories their elders had to tell, but for someone who had never seen other aliens than Antaran 'police units', they were hard to believe. Then again, the thought that the Occupation had ended so abruptly was no less incredible. As they approached the shuttle, the Antaran pilot greeted them casually. Although the pilot gave no signs of it, Hobbes was convinced he had to be slightly frightened. After all, whatever caused the Antaran Abandonment of Earth just a few cycles ago, it had left ve
ry few representatives of the former ruling class left, and those were attacked and slain by raging mobs shortly after. It had been a domino effect, as no repercussions had followed the first such murder. No Antaran had been on the surface ever since - until now.
None of the three had been in space before. Earth from space was a beautiful sight, Hobbes thought. He had seen images of this before. The small space station in orbit, another remnant of the Antarans, had supplied such splendid views ever since Humans had dared to re-enter space without Antaran permission following the Abandonment. The shuttle was rapidly approaching the destroyer-class vessel.
"Take a good look, gentlemen. We might not be back here for some time, and it is a good thing to remember one's origin."
The ambassador's tone of voice was sincere, but Hobbes couldn't help noticing the irony of the statement. No Human knew much of humanity's history. The Occupation had left most forms of information storage destroyed or severely damaged. During the Abandonment, the Antarans had destroyed nearly all information records stored in the Hub. Virtually nothing had been left. What little they had managed to piece together of Human history, was primarily based on stories passed down through generations. Besides, everyone knew the Antarans had conducted widespread genetic modification of Humans. They might have been changed in ways they were not even aware of.
A military officer greeted them as they exited the shuttle. His face looked grim. Hobbes was uncertain if an Antaran could smile, but found the idea of an Antaran laughing or displaying any form of emotion - other than rage - difficult. As the three were escorted to their assigned quarters during the journey to Orion, the officer went on and on through a translation device about what an honor had been given the Humans. Antaran speech sounded like stuttering screams to Hobbes, so the conversation was bothersome in more ways than one.
"Few other delegations are brought to Orion in such a large ship, scout class vessels make the bulk of the transportation service," the officer said.
Hobbes wondered how many different people there were 'out there'. The various stories, myths and legends told of many different ones, but many of the texts were contradictory, or simply too fantastic to be true. The legend of the people made out of living rock was probably one of the most difficult to believe.
They had been travelling for at least a twelfth of a cycle when Hobbes' disbelieves were shattered. The officer entered their quarters for the first time since he had escorted them there. He proceeded to give Harlan and her two aides a briefing on the other Senate attendees. Hobbes had difficulty believing there could be so many different aliens out there. The fragile, but brilliant Psilons, the small, but industrious Klackons, the cat-like Mrrshans, the aquatic Trilarians, the mineral-eating Silicoids - the list of races went on and on. He counted at least 15 represented races, and the officer claimed there were others, who had been refused a place in the Senate for now. Harlan appeared calm, but she was not unaffected. The prospect of being the first Human to talk to such a composed group of galactic neighbours for over a thousand cycles, was sinking in to her. Simeon Erdran, who had been transferred to Harlan's staff from the recently established Department of Planetary Security, was also disturbed. The ne
ws of the variety of aliens in their vicinity obviously scared him. With good reason, Hobbes thought. Even though the Antarans had left them independent - for a while, at least - humanity would have little means to defend themselves for quite some time. If any of these neighbours were hostile, their freedom might end as quickly as it had begun. This was probably what Erdran was thinking of as he asked;
"Are any of these races a threat to us?" The Antaran officer turned to him with a blank look.
"No more than you to them."
Orion's bright green surface appeared to rush up against them, though it was their shuttle that was descending. It was not the only one. Between the huge Antaran fleet assembled in orbit and the planet below, dozens of shuttles were busy re-supplying ships and transporting crew and others, probably including the other delegations. The fleet was pretty much what Hobbes had anticipated - in his mind, the Antaran fleet had to be grand and powerful. How else could they rule the entire sector, perhaps the galaxy? Some of the elder tales certainly indicated that. Erdran was pointing at one of the monitors in the ship. It showed a huge city, far larger than the Hub back on Earth. In the center of the sprawling metropolis was a huge structure: The Orion Senate.
While the three were watching the descent through the small porthole-like windows, the Antaran officer entered their compartment. He gave them all two devices each. One was a more complex and bulky version of the translator, designed for far more languages and other means of communication than the simple one used for Human-Antaran vocal translation. They were told their version had earplugs and a microphone, which was a common system, but some races used very different speech patterns and frequencies, and others used complex signing languages and light flashes to communicate instead of sound systems. The other device was a small gas container, attached to a small breathing apparatus designed to fit Humans. They were told the chambers of the Orion Senate was filled with an atmosphere and had a temperature designed to fit as many of the delegations as possible. While some envoys would still have to use environmental suits of some sorts, the Humans could withstand the somewhat chilly temperature unaided, but wou
ld need an occational 'fix' of the gas mixture in the container to breath easily.
Once on the surface, the three Humans were quickly transported from the shuttle to a small, dark room. With the exception of some old earth-style kerosene lamps and 4 battered wooden benches, no furniture was placed there. On the opposite wall, there were two other doors.
"You are to remain here until the social reunion commences," the officer said. "All your biological needs can be tended through there."
The officer pointed his manipulator at the opposing wall as he left, closing the door behind him. The sound of the door being locked from the other side made Hobbes restless. While he had been worried of Antaran deceit in this diplomatic venture, he had not expected to be locked up without even meeting the other delegates. Harlan managed to calm him down once again.
"If the Antarans simply wanted to harm us, surely they would have done so earlier, instead of bringing us halfway across the sector first.," she said in a most gentle voice.
Erdran and Hobbes unpacked their few possessions on the spare bed, and tried forming thin mattresses of their extra clothing. The ambassador, however, refused to use the makeshift mattress. She insisted on using the 'comforts' given to them by their hosts.
The next morning, the three were awakened by the clinging of the door being unlocked. In stepped a small and apparently anxious Antaran. His appearance made it clear he was not a warrior, but a clerk of some sort. His eyes were as lacking in emotion as any Antaran, but his manipulators were shivering slightly. This was something the three Humans had not seen before. The Antaran soldiers they had seen on Earth were usually quite rigid, not aimlessly moving their manipulators around.
"Greetings," the shaking creature said. "I am here to escort you to the reception."
The three rapidly made themselves ready, and followed the clerk through a maze of hallways. While they were walking, the clerk continued talking.
"You will be on your own once we enter the gathering chamber. We will not interfere while you meet the other representatives. However, we have limited time available for this, so the individual greetings must be brief."
Hobbes was feeling a bit noxious - the briefings they had received during the flight, simply wasn't enough to prepare him enough to contain his excitement and nervousness over the impending encounters. The small corridors were slowly widening, but still seemed endless. The clerk continued giving words of warning over conduct with the various races - what one might view as a gesture of friendship, might be viewed with hostility from others.
"Many of the races gathered here, fought each other for countless generations in the past. Their natural distaste for one another is still there, despite their long period of separation. We are urging all ambassadors and their aides, to be as tolerant as possible, we do not want to spark wars today."
The last sentence made Hobbes think. What did the Antarans want with this meeting?
It was indeed difficult to remain focused in the following hour. During this time, the three Humans exchanged greetings with just about all the other representatives. All of them had translation devices similar to their own, and most had some form of environment machinery to aid them. The Ichtytosians and Etherians had the most extensive machinery; full environment suits. The aquatic Ichtys probably required a suit to maintain high pressure and moistness, while the Etherians appeared to need a gaseous atmosphere and high pressure to ease their actions. It was hard to determine which of all the aliens that looked the most outrageous, or which had changed the least during the centuries of Antaran genetic experiments. Some of the races present, had never even been encountered in Human history until now. This occation was indeed momentous. Hobbes had the briefing they had gotten in transit to Orion constantly in mind during this hour. He had to, in order to understand who the representatives were. Luckily, no maj
or diplomatic blunders took place here. However, ambassador Harlan did make an unintentionally insulting remark to the Alkari representative, mentioning that their theories of descendance from the Orions was 'far-fetched'. Upon hearing this, the Alkari ambassador, apparently a very traditionalistic and conservative individual, trembled slightly, and gave a harsh scream of disapproval. He then turned and walked away rapidly. The translator proclaimed his cry approximately meant 'Heretic!' Harlan managed to briefly apologize before their assigned Antaran clerk intervened.
"It is time." he said. "The Senate will now assemble, you must take your seats."
The Orion Senate was an immense circular room with only one entrance, lighted only by flaming torches hung on the walls. In the roof was a transparent center, but little light came through there. Huge pneumatic systems placed along the walls indicated the roof could be opened up like a flower, the roof sectioning itself into flower petals. Why this would be desirable, Hobbes could not imagine. In the middle of the room, directly under the transparent roof section, was the Senate Well. In the well was a white podium of stone from which the ambassadors would speak. On the far side, opposite of the entrance, was the most coveted seat in the room; the Seat of the Senate President. A tall Antaran with a particularly angry and strict look stood before the seat. On the left and right sides there were booths stacked towards the walls in a stairway-formation. These were the sections dedicated to each member of the Senate. Some were encased in a glass-like substance and filled with various liquids and gases, no doubt t
o aid those delegations who found the atmosphere and/or temperature in the room difficult to cope with. The three Humans were escorted to a non-covered booth. Hobbes was slightly disappointed. He had hoped to be able to remove the Antaran breathing contraption. After more than an hour of use, it had become slightly painful, although it was virtually automatic in use.
As the various delegations were brought into their arranged
seating, the tall Antaran before the President's seat sat
down. A low mumbling in various languages and small manipulator
gestures went through the Senate chamber.
"This cannot be a good sign," Harlan whispered. "I thought
we had been brought here primarily to elect someone for that
seat, not see it get occupied before any vote."
Hobbes nodded in agreement. Whatever the Antarans wanted from
this arrangement, it could not be the order of old times.
The sounds died down rather quickly. The Antarans had placed
soldiers and clerks throughout the room, and the rather large
contingency sitting and standing around the President's seat
signified their strong presence even more. From this group,
a slender, quick and deviously-looking Antaran stepped down
into the well. He went up on the podium there, faced the President,
and bowed. He then faced to the left and right, acknowledging
the presence of the ambassadors, but with no more than a slight
"Greetings," he said. "You are all welcome here once again.
Today is a significant day indeed. It is now we begin working
for a common future in this sector. Of all the races in the
sector, you have been selected as the few worthy candidates
for seats in the Senate at this time. Be honoured of our concern
for you and your affairs. We understand you wish to address
one another, making short official greetings to one another
for the first time in centuries. We grant that wish, but the
President reserves the right to speak on our behalf last."
The low mumbling resurfaced as the title was mentioned; none
were apparently comfortable with this position already being
given. It took even less time for the whispers to die down
this time. The Antaran on the podium continued.
"Other than that, we have no particular order of speakers.
We suggest you request a number from your designated clerk.
The first speech, however, will be given to the Humans, signifying
their previous achievements in these halls."
The last remark bothered Hobbes. Was the Antaran implying
they would not have a chance to succeed here again? No, he
decided - If the Antarans would not tolerate the possibility
of growing Human power in the Senate, they would not have
invited them. While he was thinking of this, Harlan had already
gotten up, and marched out of the booth and down into the