What Comes Before
Part VIII: Web of Plots
"Come in please," said the Salrilian ambassador.
Admiral Mek Het entered the ambassador's private study, the first time he- Actually, the first time anyone has ever entered this part of the Salrilian Embassy on Cantharis.
Unlike most rooms in the embassy, the study is well-lit. The admiral was allowed a very dim light to find his way to the study. Therefore he was surprised that the study is so well-lit. Salrilian eyes have evolved in the darkness. To the Salrilians, day is night and night is day. To the admiral and most races, a well-lit room is a well-lit room. To a Salrilian, a well-lit room is pitch dark.
Upon entering the room, he blew out the candle. He finds the ambassador, curled up in a corner, as if about to fall asleep. His eyes are closed and something resembling a sleepy expression is shown on his face.
"I'm sorry if-"
"Listen," said the ambassador simply.
The admiral tried to listen for something, but other than the occassional cry of a faghati (A Cantharan bird that they called "ghost bird" because the animal sleeps at day and hunts at night.) outside the embassy, he could hear nothing else.
"This is the third act of 'Childaun Koes,'" explained the ambassador. Although the admiral still could not hear anything, he is aware that the "Childaun Koes" is a famous Salrilian tragic opera. He also realized why he could not hear anything. Salrilian sound receptors evolved differently than most races. They can perceive a much wider range of sounds. He remembered that the ambassador once told him that the best Salrilian music will remain Salrilian because all of them are composed using sounds that can only be heard by Salrilians.
As the admiral later testified to his colleagues, it is difficult to remain patient when someone is hearing beautiful music while all you can hear is silence. Nevertheless, once the admiral silently made his way to a chair (the only in the room, probably prepared just for him), he sat down and waited.
For what seemed like several eternities, the ambassador remained in his position while all the admiral could do was to sit in his chair and admire his surroundings. The problem being, there isn't much to admire. Other than the two people and the uncomfortable wooden chair and the bright lights on the ceiling, there was absolutely nothing in the room. No computer consoles, no books, no paintings, nothing. Actually, there are drapes on the side of the wall that faces the study's door, suggesting a window. The drapes are yellowish-brown with no patterns whatsoever.
The admiral knows that the uncomfortable wooden chair isn't the Salrilian idea of a joke. He was told that Salrilians usually do not sit in chairs. Therefore they have limited understanding of what most would regard as "comfortable" in a chair. He was told that when Salrilians are relaxed, they curl up on the floor, just like the ambassador is. Chances are, the ambassador is more comfortable than the admiral.
After a few more eons, the ambassador began to stand up.
"Dim lights," commanded the ambassador and the lights were dimmed, enough to both of them to see each other.
"Tell me admiral," by the tone of his voice, the admiral can tell that the ambassador had emerged from the trance of "Childaun Koes."
"When was the last time you enjoyed a silent moment?"
That was when the admiral realized that the ambassador deliberately kept him waiting.
But as the admiral reflected on the previous silent moment, he suddenly realized that seldom had he felt so content. The admiral spends most of his time in preparation for battle, attending social functions, filling out paperwork, or discussing strategy with his staff. The admiral is an important man and important people do not have the luxury of a silent moment.
The admiral reflected more on that silent moment and realized how content he was. No anxiety, no anticipation, no excitement, no happiness, no eagerness, no sadness, no despair, no triumph, nothing but contentment. It was as if bathing under warm water. For that silent moment, the admiral was at peace with himself and his surroundings.
The ambassador smiled.
"We take too little time listening to silence. We are far too busy for our own good. All of us spend our time thinking, allowing our brains no rest until sleep. But Salrilians have long discovered that one can be wise by listening to silence and its song. To not just enjoy the peace of silence but to understand it as well. To feel its texture, to perceive its pitch. If you experience it more often, you'll realize that silence has its own story to tell. It has its own magnificent colors. Then you will come to appreciate the silence of noise as well because even noise has its own story. Do you know what is its story?"
The admiral shook his head.
"It tells the story of its tragic life. Abandoned, and hated by most because of its perceived ugliness. We dwell on its surface, failing to recognize its inner beauty. It is like throwing away a rock that hids a gem. Every now and then, someone sees past that rock, and is enraptured by its inner beauty. One can't help but fall in love with its inner beauty."
That was when the admiral understood what the ambassador was saying.
"You're saying that Salrilians are in peace all the time."
"No, not all the time. We still have our corporeal existence to take care of. It occassionally troubles us. But most of the time, we live an ethereal existence. We eat, but only because we know when to eat, not because we perceive hunger. We drink, not because we experience thirst but because we know it is time to drink. We sleep, not because we are fatigued, but because it is time to rest. We seldom experience emotions, but always experience contentment. We do not spend a lot of time, like others do, looking for inner calm. Inner calm is usually with us."
The admiral is attempting to imagine how a people can achieve the state the ambassador described. Then the ambassador interrupted his thoughts:
"Tell me, admiral, what can I do for you today?"
The admiral took a little time to collect his thoughts before replying:
"You are aware of the Bazidanese outpost in Bokleo?"
"Are you also aware that the Gaitori Isolationists are acquiring arms through that channel?"
"What are you suggesting, admiral?"
"The Gaitori Union can't control the Isolationists. Their prime minister secretly informed us about his fears of a coup d'etat."
The ambassador was silent.
"He proposed that we, along with you, send a message to the Bazidanese to order them to close the outpost to all Gaitori."
The ambassador shook his head.
"That is impossible. The Bazidanese believe in free trade."
"That is exactly why we have to do this together. If they receive a message signed by both of our governments-"
"I'm sorry admiral. Even if we can succeed, we won't do it."
The ambassador let off a cryptic smile.
"You need not concern yourself with matters like this. We have the situation-" he paused for a while, before saying:
"under our control."
"They're late," murmured the captain.
"Apparently the Obish still hasn't learned the value of time," concurred the commander.
"There it comes," reported a lieutenant.
Sure enough, a transport ship appeared on the view screen. Although the transport vessel is apparently Bazidanese in design, it is engraved with the Obish emblem.
"How stupid can they be?" exclaimed the commander.
"You can't expect everyone to be as intelligent as ourselves, commander," responded the captain. Then he asked:
"Course and speed of the transport?"
"They're decelerating, sir."
"Very well. Disengage stealth mode. Move into position."
Once the two vessels are linked, the connecting bay doors on the Salrilian cruiser slid open although it took some time before the Obish managed to crank open their door. And for the first time in their lives, this Obish crew encountered a Salrilian crew.
While the crew began transfering the cargo, the Obish captain walked up to the Salrilian captain.
"I'm pleased to meet your people for the first time. I'm certain that we have begun a new chap-"
"There's no need for a speech, captain. We're just couriers ferrying cargo. We don't know what we're carrying nor do you know what you're about to transport. So let's cut short the speech and move right down to business. Why are you late?"
The Obish captain was puzzled.
"What?" he asked.
"You were 13.24 seconds late. Why is that?"
The Obish captain was stunned.
"You call 13.24 seconds 'late'?"
"We call 0.01 seconds late 'late.' Now answer the question. Was there any unforeseeable delays?"
"No, we just-"
"Yes, I know. Bought the ship from that old Bazidanese captain as we ordered. Then you shared a few drinks with him at the spaceport bar. Afterwards, you came here. What I don't know is exactly where along the way did you lose time?"
"Well, I wouldn't call-"
"You're mistaken. Don't make that mistake again."
The Obish captain, increasingly confused and annoyed by his Salrilian counterpart, asked:
"Well, how early were you?"
"We arrived yesterday."
"Why so early?"
"To make sure that nothing goes wrong."
"What can go wrong? We changed our identities 3 times along the way, just as you asked. We took 5 different transports, 1 of them the wrong way, just to get to the outpost. We-"
"You took six hours to wait till the metalsmith finish engraving that emblem."
The Obish captain realized what the conversation is all about.
"That is a symbol of Obain."
"And you were stupid to add it. See to it that it is removed."
"Never! This is a vessel of the Obish-"
"Captain, please!" The Salrilian captain has become more exasperated than he had ever known in his life. "We are on a delicate mission here. If you want it to remain, you might as well announce to all passing ships that you're meeting us here today."
The Obish captain stared into the eyes of his Salrilian counterpart.
"Nobody else will ever know about this mission. But the emblem stays." He said slowly.
The Salrilian captain sighed.
"When will be our next transport?" asked the Obish captain.
"3 days from now. Just like you, we will be picking up the cargo from another ship and ferry it to this position."
"Very well," seeing that the transfer of cargo is complete: "I'll meet you then."
The Salrilian captain nodded. As the two crews returned to their ships, the Salrilian captain suddenly called out:
"Captain, the woman you met at the bar..."
The Obish captain turned abruptly.
"If a person can sell herself, then she can certainly sell information. Don't talk to her again."
"How do you know all this? You got a member of my crew spying on me?"
"No. I'm just asking you not to do anything that you won't tell us beforehand. It may throw off our calculations."
With those parting words, the Salrilian doors slid shut. Once the Obish crew wrestled with their heavy metal door to close it, the vessels separated and went on their own ways.
As the Salrilian cruiser went to rendezvous to pick up a new cargo, the Salrilian captain stayed in his quarters, writing a report of his first mission, his impression of the Obish, and his evaluation.
"...Once we gain their trust, they can be a reliable ally. But there is still much they need to learn before becoming one. They're careless and imprecise and slightly overly hot-headed. If we can smooth these rough edges, they will become useful. Judging from this first mission, I would say that the operation, what I know of it, namely the cargo ferrying part, will be without any major accidents."
-htjyang: not the imposter
Just keeping them current.
Why do you call yourself htjang: not the imposter?
I do not suffer from insanity
I enjoy every minute of it
-Cantharan Admiral za'Grom
After the capture of Earth
If you read some of the notes I posted in Part II, you'll realize why.
Note to moderators: As I suspected, Part XII: In Conclusion has become so bloated that I was forced to divide it into 2. Part XII is now renamed "The Brutality of Truth." "In Conclusion" is now Part XIII.
Note to everyone: I suggest all of you to have a map of the stars in Ares at hand when you read the strategy planning session between the Salrilians and the Cantharans. It is only riveting if you actually know the places they're talking about.