Stuck in a Sphere[]

We have something you'll want to see.

The telepathic message burst into the principal investigator's head as he was eating his lunch of fish salad. The Pirakkei sighed, placed a half-eaten head onto his plate and opened up the video calling app on the screen in front of him. A few seconds later the image of another researcher, a Zuckhs, appeared. The Zuckhs had another screen on a shaft next to her and turned it around so that the Pirakkei could see it. She said nothing, and just watched and waited for his response to the images and data that he could now see. After taking a deep breath, he spoke.

  • Pirakkei: "That explains why we've not been able to get a lock with our wormholes."
  • Zuckhs: "That's what we thought. We wondered if you had any other ideas."
  • Pirakkei: "The hyperwaves are reflecting perfectly when they reach a sphere about four kiloparsecs from the core. Unless there's a giant bubble of monopolium there, the only thing that's going to have that reflectivity is if hyperspace simply doesn't exist outside Girdo."
  • Zuckhs: "It would also explain why we've never received any contact or visitors from other galaxies. Even from Plazith."

The Zuckhs swiveled on her chair and looked out of the window. It was night here, but there were no nearby stars to be seen, as this was at the very edge of the Girdo Galaxy's rim and facing outwards. Instead, the view was dominated by the disc of the Plazith Rim, the much larger spiral galaxy around which Girdo orbited, seen from its side. The bulge at its centre was just visible over the horizon.

  • Zuckhs: "Maybe this is the only place in the universe where faster-than-light travel is possible. Just think of all those civilisations over there, with nothing more than relativistic cruisers and generation ships. No hyperwaves, only radio."
  • Pirakkei: "Maybe. But you're forgetting two things. One, we're not too far away. They could still get here if they wanted to."

The Zuckhs laughed, turning back to face her screen.

  • Zuckhs: "Why would they want to? Three point two million stars! The Plazith Rim has a hundred thousand times as many as that, and is fifty times as wide. We're nothing! Most of the telescopes in that galaxy can't even see us."
  • Pirakkei: "Secondly, how did hyperspace appear here if it doesn't exist elsewhere? If it's natural, why is our part of the universe special? If it's artificial, how was it made? You can't just magic new degrees of freedom from nowhere."
  • Zuckhs: "You're the theorist; I'll leave that to you. Oh! Perhaps hyperspace exists in bubbles around galaxies, like in that paper you wrote back in... 93?"
  • Pirakkei: "That model was ruled out in 95. Besides, we're well within Plazith's dark matter halo. Our bubble would be the same as theirs."

The Zuckhs stared out of the window again.

  • Zuckhs: "We'll figure it out. It'd be the most depressing thing I could think of if all our hyperdrives didn't work any more than two kiloparsecs away."

It did not take long for a probe to be sent to the edge of the bubble. It relayed what it saw to the scientists of Girdo, and what it saw surprised them. There was no monopolium shell and no hyperwave-radiating boundary. There was also no Plazith Rim, which should have been floating majestically in front of it. What it saw was itself arriving from hyperspace, reflected by an incomprehensibly large mirror a few light-seconds away. Reflected also was an image of Girdo, as well as the more distant galaxies that were on Girdo's other side. The probe's sensors even picked up a few gravitons that had been emitted by its hyperdrive.

The scientists debated for hours about what this mirror could be. In light of all of the evidence that been built up over the previous months, at the end there was only one idea standing, and one way to test it. The probe fired a projectile at the wall, and watched how it broke and scattered when it hit the mirror. Calculations were made. It fit the theory. Nothing else would. Not when both light and gravity also bounced off.

Space simply did not exist beyond the bubble. It used to, at least up until a few thousand years ago when the light from outside galaxies arrived. If it hadn't, the images of those galaxies would not exist, and Girdo would have been eternally staring at its own reflection all around. But now the universe had a boundary, and it was almost too small to even fit a Magellanic Cloud inside.

  • Zuckhs: "You know what I said about the most depressing thing I could think of? I take it back."

Bursting a Bubble[]

Content (if far from happy) that their miniscule galaxy was all that remained of reality, Girdo's scientists moved on to other tasks, but it is hard to kill the hopes of an entire empire. The hyperwave telescope remained active, collecting data every day in case something changed, and new receivers were established around the rim to search for evidence of wormholes or other escape routes from the bubble. At the slightest hint of there being a hole in the shell, the authorities would be alerted.

The hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Girdo Empire was celebrated. One hundred local years since the people of Taukappa began their interstellar empire. Fueled by the ancient relics of long-gone races, and a millennium of deep thought after their original space program was cut short by the destructive sabotage of their satellite constellations, this one group-minded species had united the galaxy in a wave of manipulation and conquest. Evil had been purged and peace reigned, so the propaganda claimed. This was made even sweeter by the revelation that this victory had established Taukappan utopia over the entire universe, as small as this universe was.

As the anniversary year drew to a close, this sentiment became more certain every day. At the very end, as a symbolic gesture, it was decided that the old automated starfighter fleets that had once served a vital role in the Imperial Space Force would be dismantled and their parts recycled. It was mere weeks before this process was to begin that the Admiral and Commodores of the Space Force received the first real-time map of the Plazith Rim from the hyperwave telescopes. Girdo was no longer alone.

After the military leaders, one of the first individuals to be alerted to the sudden expansion of Girdo's universe was another Zuckhs, currently stationed on the planet Telemadros. She sat at a desk in a large, sterile room that was otherwise empty despite its size. A viewscreen on the wall behind her opened up and the face of the Leptliss Commodore Hlraka appeared.

  • Hlraka: "Atirieil. I'm afraid you're going to be assigned to a more important project. Duration indefinite."
  • Atirieil: "More important? You do know what I'm doing here, don't you?"
  • Hlraka: "Yes. Archaeology. As head of Girdo Intelligence, there are better tasks befitting you, just as there are better tasks befitting me than telling you about them."

Atirieil glanced out of the window, which occupied the entirety of its wall, in front of her desk. Her office provided a direct view from a hilltop over the excavations of a Duellator-class transport ship, a blocky vessel with a grey-brown hull some 350 metres long and maybe a third as much high, in the open savannah below.

  • Atirieil: "I don't question your authority, Commodore. I question your judgement. This is the most intact Duellator-class transport unearthed since the final defeat of the Grand Galactic Fleet. Its life support systems are still working after six and a half thousand years and there are life signs coming from its cargo bays. Its data banks show minimal signs of corruption and-"
  • Hlraka: "Atirieil."
  • Atirieil: "And there are at least another three buried under the valley."
  • Hlraka: "Atirieil. The hyperwave telescopes have received new data. Forget Telemadros. Forget Girdo. You have one hundred billion other galaxies to investigate."

The Zuckhs fell silent.

  • Hlraka: "I'm sure the archaeologists are more than capable of dealing with any Belatra or Cyberions or who-knows-what they'll find in those ships. But your aid is no longer required, or should I say sufficient. Your presence is to be replaced with a fully-equipped military engineering task force and a diplomatic team trained in Second Federation history. They will obtain knowledge from any survivors, incorporate them into the group mind, and upgrade their technology to modern standards. The Duellators are no longer subjects of study; they are military assets. If there are Conqrix on board, they will be destroyed. You are to join the Admiral on board the Imperium. They depart from Taukappa in five hours. Be there."

Allegiance to the Admiral[]

Having nothing to do for the first three weeks of the Plazith mission, Atirieil regularly visited a virtual reality feed of the excavation site on Telemadros. To her dismay, while the first ship had been completely unearthed, progress had since come to a halt as the military engineers were setting up turrets and pointing about a dozen at each window and exit they could find, and had also begun removing and dismantling all of the ship's weapons before they could be reactivated.

A series of knocks on her door convinced her to remove her helmet and return to the world on board the Imperium.

  • Atirieil: "Come on in. Who is it?"

The door opened, revealing a humanoid standing before her.

  • Karndifos: "Ambassador Karndifos."
  • Atirieil: "Ambassador? Are you... newly trained? I thought we got rid of all our diplomats when Girdo was alone in the universe."
  • Karndifos: "No, I was an ambassador to Fecton on Zkaniaz before Hlraka's invasion fleet showed up. He decided he wanted another species in his crew, so me and my wife have been serving under him since then. I was just a regular crewman until three weeks ago, when I was reassigned to here because of my particular skills. Just like you. And now the Admiral wants to see us both in person."

Karndifos starting walking away, leaving Atirieil to follow him through the ship's corridors.

  • Atirieil: "The Admiral? Has anyone ever seen the Admiral in person?"
  • Karndifos: "I don't think so. If it weren't for his famous history as a pioneering Taukappan captain, I wouldn't even know what species he is."
  • Atirieil: "That's Taukappan Tentekh for you. Always love being mysterious. It's like they get a weird kick out of it."

The pair stopped as they approached the entrance to the bridge, as their psychic senses afforded by the group mind became gripped by a sudden intensity.

  • Atirieil: "Feels like there's about a hundred Tentekh in there."

As the doors to the bridge slid silently open, the pair peered into the darkness that lay before them. The bridge was lit only dimly by the consoles that lay along the left and right edges of the room, perhaps in order to emphasise the viewscreen at the front, which displayed an image of one of the arms of the Plazith Rim, as viewed from deep within the galaxy itself. Momentarily entranced by the billions of stars that they could now see more clearly than they had ever seen before, it took several seconds before either of them spoke.

  • Karndifos: "Admiral, we are here as you requested."

Their eyes adjusting to the low light, they could see all of the consoles were manned by Tentekh, and as expected the Admiral himself was of the same species. Little of him could be seen as the captain's chair had its back to the entrance, but one of his muscular tentacles was draped over the right armrest, its three sucker-tipped fingers slowly writhing as if animated by their own accord.

When the Admiral spoke, it was a voice that they instantly recognised as that of Ghelax Dreyk.

  • Ghelax: "Greetings. You wonder why I summoned you here. Sometimes proximity helps to reinforce the group mind, and I believe empathy for each other's thoughts will help greatly when we must decide how to face the challenges that now lie before us."

Ghelax Dreyk was a rather high-ranking Tentekh outside of the military. As if by instinct, Atirieil and Karndifos dropped to one knee and lowered their heads.

  • Atirieil and Karndifos: "Emperor."
  • Ghelax: "Stand. I also intend to learn how to avoid producing that reflex in my alien subjects. Both of your species do the same thing and it is a poor leader who enjoys it."
  • Atirieil: "Lord?"
  • Karndifos: "It is out of respect that we do it. To show our loyalty."
  • Ghelax: "You are aware... the ancient Apalosian laws allow an Emperor to be removed from power if he does not succeed as a leader. I need to trust my people will do the same for me, not fall down in blind obedience."

The pair rose to their feet and then looked at each other in silence, unsure of what to say.

  • Ghelax: "Not that I believe I am unfit to rule. But these times will be hard, and the group mind is now at risk of failure. Remember: loyalty should reside within the brain, not the ganglia."
  • Atirieil: "Is there something you wish to tell us?"
  • Ghelax: "Our Droners have completed their initial reconnaissance. The full data will be given to Intelligence for full analysis soon, but there are a few vital points you both need to know that I am aware of, and you also need to understand their importance. Although this galaxy is as densely inhabited as Girdo, there are three major species-groups of interest, none of which is a group mind. The first primarily inhabits the Delpha Sector, on whose outskirts we currently sit. They are a single coalition and their presence is apparent, either as colonies or outposts, in nearly all of the three million systems within this sector. There is evidence that they have also begun colonising other regions of this galaxy. Comment."
  • Atirieil: "If they are truly alien, then we do not want to destroy them. But if they turn out to be a threat... we could industrialise every planet in Girdo, and begin colonising the Plazith Rim, and then I expect we could force them to stand down in a war."
  • Karndifos: "But diplomacy should be the first course of action, not paranoia. We must be prepared, but we should not be prepared to destroy truly alien species."
  • Ghelax: "Indeed. And hold that thought as we consider the second species-group. They are not a single civilisation, but a clade with a common ancestor. Here is a hologram of one specimen, found on a low-tech world where, it seems, its ancestors had been transplanted thousands of years before. Does it look familiar?"

The hologram that appeared was that of a biped with two arms, similar in body plan to both Atirieil and Karndifos. However, it resembled the latter much more closely. The only differences that Karndifos could see between the alien and himself were that it lacked his scaly skin and webs between its digits, and had a cartilaginous nose above the philtrum rather than a bony head crest extending to the back of its skull. As Girdo hologram technology presently only allowed for projections that were blue in colour, it was possible that the alien may also have had a different skin colour than Karndifos' green.

  • Ghelax: "We appear to have found the origin of your species, Tokzhalat. They must have left Plazith at least twelve thousand years ago and colonised Fecton, and Telemadros, and Celestia, explaining why there are no fossil reconds on those planets. We are godspawn. You are godspawn. And they, too - natives to this galaxy, I am sure - are godspawn."
  • Atirieil: "And what of other species in this galaxy? And the Delphans?"
  • Ghelax: "We are not sure. But that is what we fear."
  • Karndifos: "They possess at least six times as many planetary systems than there are in the whole of Girdo. They might be small compared to Plazith as a whole, but even if Xyanx technology gives us a technical advantage, we must expect their armed forces to dwarf our own. You cannot continue the path of war that proved so successful back home. They may be godspawn but for now we need to make peace."
  • Ghelax: "And that brings us to the third species-group. The Grox are another godspawn species that we now know arrived in Girdo from Plazith. The ones here seem to have allies, but they have still been weakened by a recent war against the Delphans who now have colonies in the galactic centre."
  • Atirieil: "Then I agree with Karndifos. For now, we must make peace with Delpha."

Contact with the Coalition[]

Mirenton: Capital of the Delpha Coalition of Planets

The homeworld of the Grimbolsaurian race bore all of the signs of advanced civilisation. Much of the surface was left to the wildlife, abandoned ever since nuclear warfare and alien invasion had scarred the surface several centuries in the past, with the dominant biome being savannahs of orange grasses and blue-leaved trees. But where the presence of technology could be seen, it was highly visible. Those cities that existed were vast megacities stretching from horizon to horizon, sitting under the protection of even larger arcologies. The ancient architecture that dominated the centre of each city was surrounded by a sprawl comprising modern shapeshifting structures of smart blocks and utility fog, and held under the shadow of a swarm of geodesic habitation spheres floating in the air above them.

Even more impressive, or perhaps ostentatious, was the orbital ring that surrounded the equator in low orbit, and from which clusters of space elevator tethers ran to the ground every thousand kilometres or so. Acting as counterweights for the elevators were circular industrial complexes that dwarfed the arcologies and even some of the planet's smaller continents, covered in weapons platforms and surrounded by millions of heavily-armed warships. Around the rest of the ring, shield generators produced a nigh-impenetrable barrier of transparent plasma, and sensors of every kind scanned the heavens to alert the omnipresent military to any and every threat and intruder.

It was against this backdrop that a three-kilometre vessel appeared in orbit without warning, with its black diamondoid-alloy hull shimmering in the early morning sunlight. It looked somewhat like a cone or a tapered pyramid pointing downwards, although at each point in transverse section it was shaped more like a cross, and it was topped by the form of a wide and thick disc, or perhaps wide two discs with a short cylinder of identical diameter between them. From the top emerged four missile launchers, one on each side of the pyramid, to slightly over half of the length of the structure; each launcher passed by, on either side, a row of three green circular bomb bays followed by a row of two green-rimmed beam turrets, with a third turret on each row being slightly beyond the guns' extent. Along the central axis of the ship was an even larger launcher, buried deep within the vessel and only emerging at the very tip between the triangular tips of the four sides.

The vessel's weapons were currently unpowered, and a single ship did not stand a chance against the full might of Mirenton, but the crew of the nearest military base were certainly anxious. Between 565 and 585 years before, the planet had been subjected to constant raiding by a fanatical tripartite alliance while the Grimbolsaurians were a fledgling interstellar empire. A little under 200 years before, the Delpha Coalition's war against the Grox had taken a bad turn and the Grox were able to begin a campaign of orbital bombardment against the capital before being driven back. The history of alien ships appearing uninvited above Mirenton's skies was not a good one.

Although many of the Coalition's species were represented in the control room, it was two Grimbolsaurians - spindly green-skinned reptilian insectoids - who led all operations. One was the base's commander, and the other was Admiral Kilnok, who had teleported over as soon as the unidentified spacecraft had been detected.

  • Commander: "Code: Blue Alert! Admiral, shall I fire?"
  • Kilnok: "No, stand down weapons!"
  • Commander: "Are you sure?"
  • Kilnok: "Do as I order commander!"
  • Commander: "Weapons down. We're receiving a transmission. Text only."
  • Kilnok: "On screen."

The text appeared on the control room's main viewscreen and, morpheme by morpheme, was translated from an unknown language and script into Klekkian Cuneiform and rearranged to make meaningful sentences. Obscure alien idioms were reinterpreted into Grimbolsaurian phrases, and after half a minute or so the universal translator software had finally produced a readable message.

Greetings! Do not worry; we are not planning to attack you. Judging by the defences around this planet, any attempt to do so with this ship alone would probably be suicidal anyway. We are the Empire of the Girdo Galaxy, and we have recently developed intergalactic travel and are beginning to explore the rest of the universe, beginning with this galaxy here. Our scouts have made an initial exploration of this galaxy, and our scans have determined your civilisation to be the most advanced one within. Of course, we could be wrong about that. Either way, we hope for a peaceful first contact between our civilisations.

Kilnok placed his hand on a touchpad and allowed the computer to telepathically transcribe a reply from his brain, which appeared on the viewscreen beneath the Girdo text.

Judging by the fact that this planet is heavily defended we will not fire on your ship. Please understand, this system is on high alert, as we have generally found that ships appearing in the heart of our space have hostile intentions. I am surprised your cloak got past our security net, since most forms of cloaking device are detected by monitoring gravitational waves and mass shadows in spacetime. You are very lucky I haven't decided to fire, but we will let you off on this one, because your weapons are not raised and you do not pose a threat.

  • Kilnok: "Send it."

Once the message was sent, the admiral stared at the screen for several seconds, his eyestalks twitching up and down as he scanned both his words and the alien's. "I am surprised your cloak got past our sensors". "Our sensors have determined your civilisation to be the most advanced one". "Most forms of cloaking device are detected". "We have recently developed intergalactic travel". Kilnok knew better than to trust the words spoken by aliens whose presence is unexpected and who do not even show their faces, but presuming ill intent rarely led to better outcomes. "Ships appearing in the heart of our space have hostile intentions". "We wish for a peaceful first contact". "You are very lucky I haven't decided to fire". "Probably be suicidal".

He rested his hand on the panel next to the touchpad.

your cloak got past our sensors
intergalactic travel
hostile intentions
most advanced
intergalactic travel

  • Kilnok: "Send this one too."

His hand went back on the touchpad and another, less cold, response came forth from his mind.

Yes indeed, we are one of the biggest superpowers in the Plazith Rim. We have heard of your Girdo Galaxy, as we once found special pink geodes treasured by the Xyanxes. Anyway, welcome to the Plazith Rim and next time we meet, it would probably be on a neutral planet, such as Lucara, which is nearby. We will send you the chart.

Another minute passed. Another transmission was received. The universal translator's work was finished much more quickly the second time around.

Thank you for welcoming us. We will now move our ship over to Lucara from where we will contact you again later.

  • Kilnok: "And one more from me."

First contact can be risky business. Enjoy visiting Lucara; it is great planet to learn about the DCP. Many ambassadors and scientists from other empires go to Lucara.

  • Kilnok: "Inform Lucara that they shall be expecting visitors."

Life on Lucara[]

Lucara: Major colony of the Yoburt Confederation

The Imperium arrived at Lucara a few minutes later, only to be immediately contacted by space traffic control who, in quite an annoyed tone of voice, asked them to move to a higher altitude, as their present orbit intersected several busy launch paths used by tourist shuttles and freighter craft. Shortly after complying, a message came through from one of the planet's major universities announcing that they were ready to receive their new visitors. A pair of transfer beams were launched from one of the Imperium's bomb bays, leaving rings of blue plasma in their wake as they streamed through the atmosphere before colliding with the surface. Atirieil and Karndifos materialised out of glowing white smoke where the beams hit the ground, and immediately started to examine their surroundings.

They had landed in a courtyard encircled by an ivory-white building, although the largest and brightest of Lucara's two suns cast a blue tint over the upper storeys on one side. A few aliens were walking around the courtyard; some of them only took a single glance at the new arrivals and hurried along to wherever they were going, but several stopped to look upon the pair with excitement.

Atirieil spoke quietly to Karndifos with some concern in her voice.

  • Atirieil: "Why have they brought us to a university? Do they want to... study us?"
  • Karndifos: "I don't know. Maybe their... local leader is currently visiting this academic institution and has decided that it is more convenient to convene with us here."
  • Atirieil: "I don't trust them. Maybe they want to dissect us. Maybe they want to vivisect us."
  • Karndifos: "There are plenty of species here, so it follows that they have gone through first contact situations before. They must surely be aware that treating official representatives of a sovereign nation in such a way is a diplomatic faux pas of the most severe magnitude."
  • Atirieil: "What if they don't want diplomacy? What if they want... I don't know, hostages?"
  • Karndifos: "They know little of our capabilities. They wouldn't-"

Karndifos was interrupted by the appearance of a small mammalian biped - a Yoburt - wearing a large hemispherical dome on its back.

  • Yoburt: "Greetings, intergalactic ambassadors. Come with me.

The creature scuttled towards a nearby door, followed first by Karndifos and then by Atirieil, who lowered her voice even further to mask the sound of her disbelief.

  • Atirieil: "How... that can't be a Yoburt. It doesn't have arms! How can it... do stuff? And it's less than half our height! How does it even fit a sapient brain into its skull?"
  • Karndifos: "I would appreciate it if you stopped making comments of that variety when I attempt to engage in diplomatic conversation. Also, have you never met a Gooplet?"
  • Atirieil: "No arms, sure. Tiny heads? No."

A short walk through the corridors later, the Yoburt led them into a large chamber, the walls adorned with ceiling-high paintings of other Yoburts.

  • Yoburt: "Professor Icnas will be here shortly. Feel free to take a seat while you are waiting. May I offer you a drink?"
  • Karndifos: "No, thank you. If you don't mind me asking, I was under the impression that this was going to be a diplomatic meeting?"
  • Yoburt: "Oh, it is. My apologies on behalf of the Confederation. You clearly weren't informed. We are a technocracy; Professor Icnas is the most senior researcher on this planet. He has over seven hundred years of scientific experience."

The ambassador felt that he needed to try to engage the creature in polite conversation.

  • Karndifos: "I see... what field?"
  • Yoburt: "Throughout his entire career? All of them. But his most recent magnum opus was an exhaustive analysis of the possible bionuclear pathways available in the different phases of degenerate stars; that took nearly seventy years to complete. Are either of you two... scientists?"
  • Karndifos: "Erm..."
  • Atirieil: "My training is in xenoarchaeology-"

Karndifos scoffed.

  • Atirieil: "What? But I never really took part in the science side of things-"
  • Karndifos: "That's more like it."

Atirieil stopped to glare at her companion for a couple of seconds.

  • Atirieil: "...while Karndifos here is an ambassador by trade. Then neither of us have even been around for half a century, let alone seven."
  • Yoburt: "No worries. The professor has experience in dealing with people like you. Now excuse me."

The Yoburt hopped out of the room, leaving Atirieil to face Karndifos open-mouthed in shock.

  • Karndifos: "I got this a lot on Zkaniaz. Universal translators don't always capture the... subtleties of alien vocabularies."

  • Ghelax: "Your mission was successful?"
  • Karndifos: "Yes, Emp- ... yes. In our report you will find information about a galactic alliance that the Delpha Coalition are part of, the "Seven Starr Alliance". Most of the other nations are found on the far side of the galaxy."
  • Ghelax: "Perhaps to make peace with Delpha, we will need to make peace with this alliance. Agent Atirieil, did you glean any useful information during your encounter?"
  • Atirieil: "A psychological analysis of the Yoburt species is included in the report, but it'll be of limited value. They aren't the dominant species of the Delpha Coalition, and said species was nowhere to be seen during our visit."
  • Ghelax: "Very well. You are free to go."
  • Atirieil: "There is one more thing."
  • Ghelax: "Yes?"
  • Atirieil: "The Yoburt are a technocracy. They're very interested in all of the sciences. After Karndifos had finished, I asked our contact if he could provide us with some information about the natural history of the Rim's native life, and he gladly obliged."

Atirieil pressed a button on her wrist and a blue transfer beam burst above the floor, leaving a pile of heavy tomes in its wake.

  • Atirieil: "We tried digital downloads, but our software had compatability issues."

Slowly, the captain's chair rotated, giving Atirieil and Karndifos a full view of the Emperor's face. At the bottom of his bulky, squid-like abdomen sat a fanged, lamprey-like mouth, and above it a pair of stalked eyes squinted with interest at the alien books.

  • Ghelax: "Codices...?"

Atirieil knelt down and began rummaging through the heap.

  • Atirieil: "The translator's yet to go over these, but one of them is of immediate interest... aha!"

She pulled one volume out from near the bottom and held its front over up to the Emperor. The universal translator worked to holographically project the Apalos meanings of the cuneiform written over it, but of far more concern was the main image: a green-skinned, broad-mouthed, tube-eared head atop two stubby thick-toed legs.

  • Ghelax: "A Gooplet? Of course. Aloiphet has no fossil record either. And Kollalettus, we assumed they'd just migrated from Aloiphet after the fall of the Second Federation."

Ghelax reached out to gently push the book down, and Atirieil obliged in putting it back on the floor. The Emperor stared at the Zuckhs as he seemed to engage in a little brainstorming.

  • Ghelax: "Which other homeworlds lack evidence of prehistoric habitation?"
  • Atirieil: "Erm... Artes, Bilzac?"
  • Ghelax: "Clearly the history of Girdo has been subject to outside interference. It stands to reason that the Xyanxes might have been responsible."
  • Atirieil: "...Waset."

Guided by psychic intuition, Ghelax picked up another book - "Precursors of the Orion Spur", according to the holographic overlay - and opened it on a page about half-way through. After glancing at the page to confirm that his intuitions had not failed him, he turned the book around so that Atirieil could see. On the right-hand side, with text running down the left, was an image of a flat-faced rodent-like humanoid, with large round eyes, fleshy frilled ears, and a tiny round nose just above its mouth. The universal translator had already revealed the title of the page: "Radeon".

The Radeons were a species well known to the Zuckhs. For three hundred years every Zuckhs child was taught about the connections between their history and that of the people of Waset. Seven thousand years ago, an alien species came to the ancient Zuckhs, and preached to them the worship of the god Spode. The Zuckhs let them settle on a nearby planet, Waset, and there was peace between them, at the cost of constant crusades against their neighbours. A millennium later, the destruction of the Zuckhs Empire at the hands of the Grox led to a crisis of faith, and those who survived chose to reject the religion that had weakened their empire with holy wars in the centuries before.

Four hundred years ago, the Radeons came to visit the Zuckhs again. And to drill the evils of zealotry into the head of every young Zuckhs who had been born since, all children born into Zxxon monastery were forced to see first-hand the destruction that the Radeons wrought. Upon coming of age, they were sent into a holodeck to gaze upon the beautiful gardens and ziggurats of Maekor, before a hologram in the form of a Radeon told them that their heresy would be punished and the worlds of their ancestors reclaimed. Alien vessels appeared in the simulated sky, then hellfire and brimstone rained down upon the temples. Children were burned alive. Limestone and gold melted and mixed into rivers of molten glass. The evils of the Radeons were brought to life in front of the acolytes' eyes, and image that none of them would ever forget.

Atirieil's vivid memories were sent to the back of her mind by Ghelax speaking once more, now reading the page rather than holding it up for the Zuckhs to view.

  • Ghelax: "Apparently, they aren't native to the Plazith Rim either. Arrived about fourty thousand years ago."

The Zuckhs took deep breaths and spoke softly.

  • Atirieil: "I am free to go?"
  • Ghelax: "Yes."

Without another moment's hesitation, she turned and marched out of the bridge. Karndifos knew just as well what the Radeons had done to the Zxxon temple-world, and glared at the Emperor for bringing it up.

  • Karndifos: "What was that about?!"

Ghelax had moved to flicking through another book, scanning the translated pages without looking up the ambassador.

  • Ghelax: "Nearly every species here... is godspawn. It's not the same type of godspawn as in Girdo. It's not all the result of Xyanx panspermia. But whatever created the biology of Girdo also dug its hands into Plazith, and elsewhere."

Karndifos knew that this implied an extra layer of plans had formed in the Emperor's mind. "We should not be prepared to destroy truly alien species", the ambassador had said in their previous meeting. Ghelax was going to prepare.

  • Karndifos: "Emperor."

He bowed and walked calmly out of the bridge, but the Emperor could sense his worries.

Further Reading[]

Ghelae's Collaborative-Universe Fiction
Stories and Collaborations