It was only a few months after the annihilation and the retreat of the Vartekian Empire that the Imperium started to expand once again. Reaching out to the Galactic Community they stand to learn much about other cultures and maybe even themselves.
With the CAS
An Osteloan diplomat arrived at the main starport of Minos'Drakon. As she looked around in awe of the structure she entered a delegate arrived agreed to take her to the Imperial Palace across the city. As she looked down the spires down in the valley below bore some resemblence to the towers on Orbispira, even if they were only one kilometre high.
Upon arriving at the palace she was taken inside and was awestruck at the beauty of the interior. Gold, marble and velvet around every corner and wall, her jaw dropped in sheer amazement. In the central hall she was greeted by Uriel Ultanos who smiled at her as she approached. She greeted herself as Renedda of the Osteloan Kingdom. Uriel was very respectful to her and, demonstrated several aspects of Draconis society towards her. Every aspect of Draconid society appealed to her and after some discussion he agreed to show her the grand cathedral several kilometres south.
Dagonris was similar to Minos'Drakon, spires reached up into the sky and the streets were clean. In the centre of the city was a huge structure that citizens referred to as the grand cathedral. Equally as opulent as the Imperial Palace Renedda was awestruck by the construction, they passed down a hall filled with murals of the Imperium's previous leaders until eventually Renedda noticed a golden painting of Drakon, her jaw dropped and she asked Uriel about him. The paragon told her of how Drakon supposedly created and enlightened the Draconis and how they revered him as a father.
After the visit and knowing more of the Imperium Renedda pondered to herself. Drakon bore a striking resemblance to members of the thirteenth tribe, were these Draconis - who not only honoured many aspects of society similar to the Capricornians but venerated something that had a strange resemblence to the 13th Tribe - distant cousins or just a strange case of parralel evolution? The questions bothered her as she returned to Segmentum Vartek.
With the Kicath Empire
During a patrol of the northern rim of the empire, recon propes picked up signals coming from further north. A scouting unit was sent and discovered that the Kicath Empire. Coming from the Plazith Rim they had established several their presence in several thousand star systems. After a delegation by the senate it was agreed that they would send a delegation to the world in that sector.
After a week a small envoy fleet, one cruiser escorted by several frigates arrived above Inagraron-4. After a brief discussion the diplomat was sent planetside and was greeted by several armed Kicath soldiers. Everyone was uneasy at first but eventually the guards agreed to take the diplomat to the governor. He was informed that Kicath culture was highly militaristic and that for over 700,000 years there had been political infighting from the start.
As they traveled the diplomat was intrigued by Kicathi architecture, even if the spires were slightly dull and smooth he was intrigued by the rail links that ran across the buildings. As they approached the mian government building he sighed, muttering "Why is it always towers?" under his breath. The interior of the government building was a mix of cyan and silver. Upon arriving in the governor's office in the middle of the tower. The Kicath was unimpressed when shown artwork and music however when the diplomat presented example of technology the governor eventually became interested. After a lengthly discussion a mutual trade pact was created regarding certain items. As the diplomat returned he wondered to himself if they could be of use to the Imperium.
With the Salsetthe Republic
Beneath the Surface
Several days ago, the Draconid Imperium received a short transmission telling them how they could send an ambassador from their empire to visit a Salsetthe colony since they were curious about how individuals in the Republic live. The Draconis Imperium chose to send Torvos Ultanos due to his previous experiences with them.
As Torvos' shuttle approached Salsetthe space, he quietly pondered what the inside of the city on Excaretra would look like. In the back of the shuttle his four Blood Dragon guards were quietly discussing something of little importance. In the shuttle's front viewport a small speck of orange could be seen, which was the Draconid's first glimpse of the Excaretran Expanse, a dense nebulaic region not unlike the Orion Badlands. Several more hours elapse, then the shuttle is ordered to stop. Their shuttle stopped, and a Salsetthe shuttlecraft uncloaks. They are contacted again and ask if they can be beamed over, and they comply. While the Salsetthe shuttle is a bit small for the six of them, it's not cramped. Several more uneventful hours pass until they enter the Expanse, and the ride gets slightly less smooth, but it's barely noticeable as the shuttle slows down to avoid straining the ship's deflector. Six more hours pass, and then a faint point of light lighter than the nearby plasma storms can be seen. Within minutes, the point of light becomes a yellow star, Bersaris. They pass several small planets, but the largest one, Excaretra, is their destination. As they get closer to it, the planet engulfs what can be seen out of the front viewport. Torvos is puzzled as to why there aren't any obvious signs of civilization on the surface, but then remembers that they live underground. He thinks about what it must be like without the light of their sun, but is interrupted by the pilot. "Brace yourselves. You are not accustomed to this descent." Before Tovros could ask anything, the ship accelerated its descent towards the surface and what appeared to be a rather large sand dune. To their horror, the pilot didn't stop, and it looked like they were about to crash. Instead, they passed right through the ground and into an incredibly deep hole. After a few minutes, they reach the bottom and land in a hangar-like area containing a wide variety of SDF and civilian ships. Before they exited, the pilot pointed towards an exit and told them that they should go there if they want to go anywhere within the city. They thanked the pilot, who merely makes an odd gesture and exited with them, running ahead towards the exit he mentioned. Torvos and his Blood Dragon guards followed him, and before long they were in a hub for maglev carts. On a wall a large screen could be seen. Most of it was covered in pictures which had to do with the transportation system the planet, some parts showed things with the odd glyphs of the Excaretran language, but what caught their attention was a part of the screen which showed the Draconid seal and showed "Choose your destination" in Low Dracid. The options shown on the screen included a recreation center, a residential area, and a hololibrary. Torvos decided to visit the recreational area first, and five maglev carts floated over to them. Unlike the shuttle, they were able to hold each of the five Draconids comfortably.
A Silence of Three Parts
Fun and Games
After exiting the cart, Torvos noticed a change in the material of the walls. Instead of the metal, more industrial walls seen in the shuttlebay, the walls were made of a smooth stone not unlike sandstone. After a short walk, they enter a room the size of a small stadium. Despite the fact that there were about 200 individuals there, many Salsetthe, others of species none of them had seen before, the place was obviously meant to hold many more and it's eerily silent. This silence is occasionally punctuated by a scrap of speech as two or more individuals finish a sort of holographic puzzle game. If he had researched Vulcan culture, he would've compared it to kal-toh. One pair of individuals asks Torvos if he wishes to watch them, and he comes over and sits down in a holographic chair made for him. After ten minutes the game is completed and Torvos returns to the transportation hub of the city to go to his next destination, the residential area.
Tovros and his guards exited the maglev carts again and entered the residential area. Much like the recreational area, the first floor "lobby" was enormous, but almost completely empty for its size, save for a handful of individuals scattered about. Several groups of Salsetthe citizens were quietly engaged in conversation, and did not acknowledge the presence of Tovros and his guards. One individual, however, did notice them and approached Tovros. To one of Tovros' guards, who had some basic knowledge on how to read auras, this individual's aura conveyed a deep, almost overwhelming curiosity. The individual started to speak in Low Dracid, but despite that, his mouth did not move.
??? - We do not see many outsiders here. What do you call yourself?
Torvos - Torvos Ultanos. And you?
??? - I am called Than'ach. Please excuse me if I seem to speak strangely, we have not had much experience with this language.
Torvos - I was provided with a translator before I arrived. So do not worry.
Torvos - The Imperium has been in your galaxy for some time. But judging from your society, it is understandable if you are not fully-versed.
Than'ach - Yes, we rarely have to speak with those outside. What do you think of our city?
Torvos - It is impressive for an underground complex. Very defensible. I do not see any children however...
The lights on Than's ocular implants changed to a yellowish color before assuming their original reddish glow.
Than'ach - Children, as in young ones? There is no such thing in this society.
Torvos was unsettled for a moment after he saw Than's ocular implants blink yellow. He suddenly felt as if the person he was talking to was not as natural as he was comfortable with.
Torvos - No children? My apologies but how is such a thing removed from your society?
Than'ach - I do not know if it would be wise to disclose such information due to your society's feelings about cybernetics and related technologies.
Torvos - If I understand what you are implying, it is only my species that find cybernetic implants...unsettling. Other members of the Imperium have different opinions on the matter. After all, why replace a lost arm with a machine copy when it can be rebuilt cell-by-cell?
Than'ach - Understood. We are not made by the normal biological processes that constitute procreation, but rather...
Than'ach - We are made artificially. We mature in maturation pods until we reach our adult form.
Torvos - ...So...you are all artificially-bred?
Than'ach - Yes.
Than'ach - You are unnerved. That is understandable. To hold the truth from you might cause...complications later though.
Torvos - A difficult predicament. Yes. But I came here to understand your culture.
Than'ach - Yes, I understand that. What do the cities on your planet look like? We live below the surface because it is more hospitable than what's above.
Torvos - My people take opposing criteria to the worlds we colonise. We prefer worlds that are more hospitable. We like to breath a planet's own atmosphere. We like to see plants grown by a planet's parent sun.
The lights on Than'ach's ocular implants changed color again to a somewhat brighter red.
Than'ach - You must find the corridors of our city to be confining, considering you must be used to a city where you can see the sky and not a ceiling.
Torvos - Indeed I do. Where I come from our larger cities reach up as towers, climbing up as if to touch the sky. Monoliths of glass and gold, it looks beautiful in the morning or evening sun. It may appear more vulnerable but we have our own ways of defending our holdings such as planetary-scale shielding.
Torvos - We also pepper our cities with parklands. Oases of colour and nature amidst the bustling cities. It helps relieve the tension among citizens who live locally.
Than'ach - Interesting. We have never used plants for decoration, but we understand that many other civilizations that come from worlds like yours do. We have lived under the surface of this planet since the...dawn of our civilization.
Torvos - Now that can't be true. Are you certain?
Than'ach - Yes, but that is something I do not have time to explain currently. I have heard that your kind enjoys food. Would you wish to see what we eat?
Torvos - I would love to.
Than'ach opened up a pocket on his outfit and brings out a small, metallic container with a white, viscous liquid inside.
Than'ach - Now, do not try it. I imagine it does not have a pleasing taste.
Torvos looked into the container and a look of mild disgust crawled over his face. Screwing his features as if he had smelled or tasted something horrible. The lights on Than'ach's ocular implants turned to an even brighter red, and the guard nearby that could read auras felt an almost childlike amusement coming from the Salsetthe.
Torvos - Please tell me that is your society's form of soup.
Than'ach - Soup goes into one's mouth, does it not?
Torvos - Yes...as does all food.
Than'ach - Then this is not food.
Torvos - Then what exactly is it?
Than'ach - It is a mixture of nutrients and energy-supplying substances. In this form, it is not meant to be ingested like food. Instead, it is...inserted into our digestive system to be processed.
Than'ach - We do not care for the pleasure of the consumption nor preparation of food. We prefer to spend our time not focusing on such things.
Torvos - I see our ideas on the nature of food differ. Among my species, cuisine can be as much an art form as anything else. Preparation and display - especially for guests - are often as important as taste.
Than'ach - Now, may I have that back? I can feel that you are disgusted somewhat by it. We take no offense from these feelings, for we know of how different we are from many civilizations.
Torvos returned the lid to the container and handed it back. Turning his head away slightly and cringing. He was somewhat disgusted that these people considered that as a form of nutrition.
Than'ach - Now, what did you know about us before you came here?
Torvos - Only that your people were very reclusive, preferred hiding your colonies and had something of a penchant for augmenting your own bodies. And that you possess some surprisingly advanced technology.
Than'ach - All of these things are true. Now, do you know why we have opened up to your civilization while we are still estranged even from those we work with?
Torvos - It is something of a mystery. My instincts tell me your government would like to pursue a closer relationship. Although some enlightenment would be appreciated..
Than'ach - We are interested in your kind. You do not suffer from the egomania that so many other empires at your stage of development have. You do not fear those outside, and you treat your citizens fairly, and not as cannon fodder.
Than'ach - We wish to learn from you, and you to learn from us.
Torvos - The Imperium was built on the foundations of respect, tradition, security and merit. Utopia may be an impossible idea but it has been the dream of leaders for millennia to make Andromeda a place where life can prosper. We might not be able to create utopia, but surely those under the Paragon's guiding hand deserve to come close, yes?
Than'ach - Yes, society exists for the benefit of those under its influence.
Than'ach - I must leave, but if you wish to know our history, take this. It will help you, and your society understand us.
Than'ach handed a small tablet-like device to Torvos, who accepts it. He grasped it and nodded respectfully to Than'ach.
Torvos - The Imperium's scholars would greatly appreciate this gift. I think you on theri behalf.
Than'ach made a brief hand gesture before walking away.
After Than'ach left, another Salsetthe, dressed differently from the others he had seen approached Tovros and his guards. He informed Tovros that he is required back in Draconid Imperium space, and so must leave. He looked back at the residential area one last time before taking the maglev carts back to the shuttlebay.
While on the shuttle on the trip back to Draconid Imperium space, he thought about the visit. Among the things he experienced while he was in the Salsetthe colony, the silence was one of the most profound aspects of it. It more than the silence caused by the emptiness of the various areas of the colony he visited, and those in the colony seemed reluctant to break this perfect silence. However, these were only small facets of the silence Tovros experienced. He eventually realized that it had become a part of the Salsetthe, and the silence was as observant, watchful, and lonely.