“We are not moral beings by the mere virtue of the existence of our moral beliefs and values. We are moral beings because we question and analyze these beliefs and values. We must always both look inward and outward to see how our decisions shape the world around us and how they shape ourselves. If you believe you can do no wrong then you will inevitably do terrible, horrible things and never realize it. A good man knows his own potential for evil and where he must not go to prevent that potential from becoming reality. You must gaze into your own abyss to know your heart is still beating and hasn't turned to stone.”
- - Domivere
The Waptorian scientists watched with sincere intrest as the Alderfly Black Operations Ship entered Votum's atmosphere. The planet was clean, they saw, admirably so. As they descended through the clouds, large forests came into view, though calling the terrain featureless would be a mistake. Ages of erosion had taken their toll, carving out the landscape into steep, rocky hills covered with trees. The almost mountainous hills were separated by valleys, roads and scenic rivers. In the flat spaces between, Talva tended to their fields, herded their cattle or went out fishing. Pounam'elo had to admit she quite liked the looks of it. As the spacecraft continued it's path above, hills rose to become a maze of sharp stone peaks, then further still into fog-shrouded pillars of dazzling height. Lastly, they morphed into a vertiable mountain range with only few passes, providing a natural defense against any ground invasion. Then, gradually, mountains of stone made place for mountains of steel, carved out in what once must have been the central valley, though now it was unrecognisable as such, filled as it was with towering architecture. The shape of the buildings was well-planned - wide at the base, tall at the top, so all levels received roughly the same amount of light. Again, as a Raptoranean, Pounam'elo could approve.
Roughly in the middle of the city stood the largest artificial mountain, dwarfing anything else. It was truly massive, skycars flowing in and out of it at a constant pace. This had to be it. Taking only a look at the biotics accompanying her, Pounam'elo left with her aides to the hangar of the transport, where a Lacewing stealth ship had already readied itself for takeoff. Let the scientists land in the main spaceport to carry out their official mission - the mapping of Votum's wildlife. Pounam'elo had a more important task at hand. The stealth craft activated it's cloaking, detached and took off to the to entrance of the cyclopean spire. As the craft detached, Pounam'elo could see dead corpses on display in the parts. These were sky burials, she realised, the bodies left in the open as an invitation to be devoured by the native wildlife and return to nature. It was by far the most common burial practice in the Waptoria, though they carried their dead into the wilderness rather than leaving them to decompose above the cloud banks of the cities. The Waptorian arrival had been signalled, and a small, truly unsuspicious gap had been opened in the upper flank of the spire. A hidden docking bay. Yet again, Pounam'elo could approve, this time as a Waptorian.
As she landed, she observed thirteen Talva standing in formation, all wearing similar armor with the exception of the central figure. The latter was dressed in a navy blue overcoat that merged into his mechanized helmet. From her briefing, she knew that this was High Councilor Balbus Marinus, the head of the Talven Empire. Though he was far shorter than Pounam'elo, Marinus maintained a dignified posture, awaiting her move. Her dress was typically Raptoranean - leaving little to the imagination, but not exactly skimpy. Like all Raptoranean diplomats, Pounam'elo had been genetically modified to be a shapeshifter to some degree, and had adjusted her normaly luxurious curves to Talva taste. She wore more universally diplomatic clothes too, including a pair of evening gloves and an long evening overcoat - just in case the Talva were puritans regarding nudity. The point of diplomacy, after all, was not to distract or offend, but to dazzle and charm. Pounam'elo took care to exit the extended labium of the ship herself instead of forcing Marinus to come to her. She was the guest, after all. As she walked to Marinus, she smiled, raising her long jade-green back-feathers in greeting. He bowed graciously, watching her with both of his vertically stacked eyes.
- Marinus - "Pounam'elo, I presume? Welcome to Votum."
- Pounam'elo - "Greetings." She briefly raised her feathers to the highest possible point to return the greeting, then slid them back under her voluminous bronze-brown curly hair. "I assume you are Balbus Marinus."
Her voice had a naturally soothing quality, which was why she was chosen for the job of diplomat. She could only hope it did it's work. If it did, Marinus hid it carefully as his expression remained blank. His upper eye had turned to examine the ship behind her.
- Marinus - "Indeed. The meeting room is this way."
He turned to face the oversized passageway at the opposite end of the hangar bay. Signaling to the other Talva, apparently his guards, Marinus began to stride purposefully forward while they flanked him in two lines. Pounam'elo followed him inside.
A bright crimson explosion of what looked to be flames erupted in the void of space over the planet as the Persan Envoy-class ship dropped into realspace and entered into geosycronised orbit. Domivere, dressed in a black, red, and white uniform with white gloves that had somewhat Victorian aesthetic to it, and a sword strapped to her side, stared out at the planet below, a slight frown played out across her face. A rumbling voice sounded behind her, causing the entire room to shake.
- Raging Storm - "Is their something troubling you?"
- Domivere - "Yes, the Talva called us here of a meeting, but about what...I wonder."
- Raging Storm - "They are a cunning people and have made significant headway in expanding their power in the intergalactic community. Whatever they have to say, it shall be intresting."
- Domivere - "Indeed, well shall we go then?"
- Raging Storm - "We shall."
Domivere jumped on the back of the massive red and black dragon as he made is way out to the launch bay. Strapping on a breathing mask Domivere nodded to Storm as he launched himself into space. An orange, crystalline cocoon formed around the dragon as they entered the atmosphere to prevent them from burning up on entry. Breaking through and nearing the ground, the cocoon vaporised into pure plasma which then harmlessly dissipated. Raging Storm then shot to the sky and headed for the city, weaving his way in between the monolithic structures as Domivere glanced around her. The architecture was certainly impressive, but not her style - there was too much natural light in the upper levels, though the rest was certainly more to her liking. She was used, after all, to the dark neon maze created by Persan gothic Metru Airships. Also, she could see several dead bodies displayed publicly. Nothing she wasn't used to, the Persan often hung up the mutilated bodies of their enemies, though these seemed to be the Talva's own dead. Strange to her, but then again, she and Raging Storm were strangers here after all.
Storm made a sharp turn towards the massive structure that Domivere could only guess was the location where the meeting would take place. Especially considering what was unmistakably a Waptorian organic ship. A hidden docking bay opened and Storm shot over and landed as Domivere jumped down and turned to look at several Talva were coming to greet her. Leading them was a smartly dressed individual of above average height. Most of the group came to a halt several paces away from Domivere while their leader stepped forward, offering a small bow.
- ??? - "Greetings. I am Admiral Drusa Lucilius of the Imperial Council. Please follow me."
Domivere's yellow eyes glowed as her head cocked to the side and eyes narrowed slightly before smiling slightly and giving a slight bow in return, but making sure she maintained eye contact.
- Domivere - "Indeed, lead the way then."
- Lucilius - "Of course"
Domivere and Raging Storm fallowed her. Storm had yet to say anything, in his experience the typical Precore way of greeting was not well received. Few races had any real appreciation for a fire ball to the face.
Barkka stood from his seat, as the transport gently touched down. He was both rather excited and rather worried about the coming meeting. Like all Mendel, he found the Xonexi dishonorable and all, but what worried him more where the Talva. Ambitious, for sure, but he wasn't sure such a young race could stand against them. He kept such doubts to himself, for any chance to break the stranglehold these Xonexi states held was a chance worth taking. The Talva had long impressed the Mendel with the connections they had managed to make with far greater and older powers. It was why the Mendel had chosen to hear them out. Barkka himself decided to keep an open mind, hoping these beings could help put his doubts to rest.
He smoothed his tunic and ceremonial armor. It was not what one would want to wear on a battlefield, but it provided protection on some level. It's smoothly curved surface covered his chest, shoulders and wrists, as well as provided him with wrist guards. A long cape with his Clan symbol behind it flowed behind him as the doors opened and he stepped out, followed by two small, disc-shaped escort drones.
Now was the time to see if his peoples' faith was well placed. With that, he walked out, stepping onto the landing zone, onto the dusty streets of the city, and to the meeting.
Bisarko walked off the transport, flanked by twin bodyguards. A rare smile was etched on his features. Like the Mendel, his people had a distaste for the Xonexi. Unlike the Mendel, he and the rest of Zarbania's Electorate Council had high hopes for the the Talva. They showed ambition and shrewdness, and many of the traits that were considered tantamount in Zarbania. Bisarko had spoken often of Zarbania not only rallying behind the Talva cause against the Xonexi, but trying to shape them in much the same way as Zarbania itself.
Of course, Bisarko had no aim of making the Talva mere servants and vassals to Zarbania. Such an ideal still touched many a nerve with a good number of Elector Counts and Senators. Better to avoid such controversy, as his aims where to make them equals to Zarbania. The loss of the Imperium of War worried many, for the balance may have very well been lost. He planned to have Talva fill that role.
Bisarko straightened his uniform and ceremonial Lancer helm, and set out, his bodyguards following in lock step. First things first. He would have to secure their trust, which wouldn't be hard, then work the careful details of crafting an alliance.
Pounam'elo entered the meeting room, quite at ease by what she had witnessed - even sky burials were a common practice for her people. The first thing she noticed was the 24 meter long, 12 meter high Precore Dragon trying to find a seat at the hollow oval table in the center of the room that was big enough for him to properly sit on and violently lashing his tail in the frustration of finding none. Domivere Des Sandis, a face she instantly recognised, seemed preoccupied with helping him for the moment, while another group of Talven escorts hurried out as she came in, probably to locate the biggest couch available and lift it all the way to the meeting room. Finally shaking his head and letting out an annoyed grumble that made the table and chairs tremble slightly, Raging Storm simply lay down behind Domivere's chair. He was used to his roost in the Alpha Cacus chamber, but it didn't matter where he sat - if he wished to be heard, he would be heard. Bisarko entered, taking his seat without problem. First, though, Barkka came over to Pounam'elo and rather shtrogly shook the hand of his acquaintance. Domivere looked over at Pounam'elo and gave a small nod, but did not come over to greet her, not intending to be rude. The Waptorian diplomat knew that the Persan just tended to get reserved when dealing with civilizations whose intentions weren't wholly certain about. Domivere took her seat and vanished into the shadow cast by Raging Storm and his partially unfolded wings so that only her four, glowing, yellow eyes could be properly seen.
The High Councilor sat down, glancing up at the tall cylindrical device hanging from the ceiling. Four lights emerged from its end, each a different colour. Spiralling upwards, they made their way to the ceiling, leaving misty trails behind them. Upon reaching the cylinder's highest point, the lights spread out to each of the room's four corners, before drifting down to the floor. Turning back to Marinus, Pounam'elo noted that he had chosen not to sit at the head of the table. Finishing a brief conversation with the Talva who had earlier been standing by Domivere, he turned back to the assembled ambassadors and begun.
- Marinus - "Thank you for coming. Though I expect we each have different reasons for being here, I would hope that everyone in this room agrees that our dilemma is one of great urgency. The members nations of the Xonexi Board of Six are steadily gaining power and influence. The sword shall guide the hand that wields it, and it is only a matter of time until their grip on Xonexi is too strong to break loose."
Marinus leaned forward, both his eyes watching the other dignitaries.
- Marinus - "Much of the that which we are about to discuss is extremely sensitive. I am willing to trust you, but I need to know now if your peoples are ready to commit themselves to the liberation of our galaxies."
Pounam'elo said nothing. Instead, she steepled her claws claws together, intensively listening to every world and every change in intonation. Aside from Domivere, her fellow dignitaries were not so silent.
- Bisarko - "Now we're getting down to business! Zarbania is quite ready to stand with you, and assist in anything you require."
- Barkka - "The Mendel have opened their ears. We will help if we like what we hear. This is a dangerous situation, after all."
Domivere blinked slowly before leaning forward so the others could get a better view of her face and spoke.
- Domivere - "The Persan people as a whole have never looked kindly upon the Xonexi, their incursion into Mirus, and their claim to galactic governance. We understand the need for some semblance of..."
She squinted slightly as if she was having a hard time with saying the word. Indeed she was struggling with the very concept.
- Domivere - "...order. However one ideology standing victorious, that is simply a recipe for disaster of the most subtle kind. Not only that, but the Xonexi are indirectly responsible for the rise in power of one the greatest threats our people have ever known. Furthermore France has continued research into the forces of Accel Space, violating our territory, our birthright, the legacy of our precursors, and messing with forces they couldn't possibly understand. Does that answer your question?"
- Pounam'elo - "I agree. As once spoken by Xza'ran, our god of chaos, and echoed through our generations, creating freedom of actions is not the same as kicking up absolute mayhem. Rash action will only end up reïnforcing the Xonexi Board of Six and the very framework we work against. As you can see, High Councilor, none of us are all that happy with mayor states dictating the workings of lesser ones that stand no chance to resist them. This is restricting and prevents any sort of natural growth."
- Marinus - "Indeed. In that spirit, I should warn you that I have no intentions of creating a new intergalactic power. If we are successful, the Talven Empire will end any alliances that it has created to fight the X6. My people do not wish to live among tyrannical superpowers."
- Pounam'elo - "Though the Waptoria would've been fine with a more permanent alliance between our peoples, that is no warning, High Councilor. It is a compliment."
- Barkka - "We, likewise, would enjoy further contact, so long as it benefits us both, and does not simply recreate the Xonexi in another form. Our High Kings do not wish to step in."
For the first time Raging Storm spoke, his voice shaking the room.
- Raging Storm - "Authority over oneself should be good enough for anyone, we need no authority over others. Everyone should be allowed to dictate the path of their own fate with the own choices and no others."
- Pounam'elo - "Indeed. And everything should be done voluntarily."
- Bisarko - "I stand with the Mendel and the others, but first things come first. How do you plan to resist the Xonexi? We are all mighty in one way or another, we have gathered here by your design, but we need some bigger guns to support our aims."
- Marinus - "We have already made contact with several other nations that may be willing to assist us against the X6. You may be aware that the Talven Empire has recently improved its diplomatic relations with both of the Cyrannian powers by a significant degree. Though they may not be willing to aid us in war if that becomes necessary, I should be able to negotiate tactical and material support. The Zagresi Cooperative has also promised to fight alongside us, in return for Talven assistance against the Stellar Union, a nation that bombarded their former homeworld with antimatter missiles. We will take control of the Union's fleet through Talven supercomputers that have been modified with hidden access codes."
- Pounam'elo - "A shrewd move. It should considerably limit casualties." She paused for a moment, and then her usually soft tone hardened. "That is, as long as you do nothing more but disable them."
- Marinus - "The Talven Empire has no allies nearby, and thus desperately needs all the military forces that it can acquire. We will let the crews go free, and take responsibility for the safety of the Union's citizens."
Pounam'elo nodded in agreement, satisfied. The High Councilor turned to Bisarko, seeing the other's cold expression, contrasted with the excited glint in his eyes.
- Marinus - "I will, of course, provide a report on the details of these modifications. They have not been used outside of the supercomputers provided to the Stellar Union."
- Barkka - "A well calculated strike. Your people certainly where blessed by the Laughing God with their ability to misdirect. A very high compliment, by the way."
Raging Storm shifted uncomfortably and gave a low rumble, but didn't say anything. Domivere raised an eyebrow.
- Domivere - "Devious, I might have to be wary if one of you decides to give me so much as a pocket watch."
She grinned slightly after this to show the comment was little more than a jest, if a somewhat sardonic one.
Pounam'elo's face turned sour.
- Pounam'elo - "Eldarisia? I will warn you, High Councillor, they attempted a genocide on the Waptoria at large and my species in particular, and so far, they have not apologized for it. We are willing to work with them, but only once that...highly...unpleasant...issue is out of the way."
She shuddered only slightly, but her expression gave away everything. It was clear the Raptoranean had been there when it had happened. She had seen innocents, perhaps her friends, her family, or even her mate, die.
- Pounam'elo - "Any other agreement will not stand."
The High Councilor tilted his head, and narrowed his eyes. Barkka nodded in understanding, but kept himself leveled. Domivere growled slightly and her claws flexed out from their sheaths, leaving gouges in the table.
- Marinus - "As much as I dislike conflict such as this, the war works to our advantage in that one side can be turned against the X6. I do not expect that side to be the one that the Talva are fighting on. If the Board of Six encourages a treaty that favors Eldarisia, which may be a strong possibility, it will undoubtedly be seen as biased."
- Barkka - "The Eldarisians threaten my people has well. A bitter cold war reigns unspoken over our two nations. If you can use either them, or their enemies as tools against the Xonexi, we support it."
- Bisarko - "They are animals, these Eldarisians. We do not like them or their aggression. Be careful in your dealings."
- Domivere - "As to what I said before of one dominant ideology. Eldarisia has no understanding of this and from what I seen will never understand. They are only able to see in black and white with no grey inbetween. Be careful, we already walk in the gloom of the grey and the Eldarisians will only see themselves bathed in the light of the white. They may cross boundaries that should not be stepped overn so convinced they are of their righteousness."
She stood up and stepped forward as Storm pulled back his wings to reveal her with full clarity.
- Domivere - "We are not moral beings by the mere virtue of the existence of our moral beliefs and values. We are moral beings because we question and analyze these beliefs and values. We must always both look inward and outward to see how our decisions shape the world around us and how they shape ourselves. If you believe you can do no wrong then you will inevitably do terrible, horrible things and never realize it. A good man knows his own potential for evil and where he must not go to prevent that potential from becoming reality. You must gaze into your own abyss to know your heart is still beating and hasn't turned to stone."
Marinus's upper eye had turned to join the other, watching her with great interest. She sat back down and Storm's wings folded forward again obscuring her in shadows once again.
- Marinus - "Do we have any other potential alles?"
- Domivere - "Hmmm, well now, I know of someone who I think we could convince to take our side."
She held out her hand and a three dimensional, holographic image of the Mirus Galaxy was project from the nano machine integrated into her eye and onto the table. Making a few, unnecessary, motions with her hand she manipulated the image to zero in on the east of Mirus where several colored lines showed the political boundaries of several powers located there. Domivere further zeroed in on the large territory with the bright emerald green border. Based on appearances it was an empire with a great degree of power and influence in the region.
- Domivere - "This is the Trahoxi Imperium. A hegemonic empire and one of the major powers to the east of this galaxy. We currently hold an alliance with them and they have been of great help in fending off the likes of the Scelus Purification and...other enemies."
She retracted the image and folded her hands indicating she was done for now.
- Pounam'elo - "We hoped to secure the aid of our -the Raptoranean's- proto-Mendel genetical ancestors who live in Eastern Mirus, but their code of strict neutrality in any sort of war disallows them from forming strong bonds except on the personal level."
Pounam'elo looked at Domivere and Barkka, who nodded in agreement, before continuing.
- Marinus - "I see. Nevertheless, we would be willing to assist you in your efforts. With enough support, we will be able to dominate any potential conflicts in Mirus."
- Pounam'elo - "That is true. Support that the Covenant currently lacks."
- Raging Storm - "Oh indeed? Well now this is excellent news. We have few privateers marauding around in the east helping out the Trahoxi. We can have them assist in the search."
- Pounam'elo - "...If you can find them."
- Barkka - "I concur. While peace is desirable, sooner or later, we must take back the balance of power. Be it through peaceful methods...or war."
- Pounam'elo - "That would be absolutely disastrous for you and us both. I urge you to reconsider. We cannot take the mantle that the Imperium of War mocked we would eventually take. If anything, it would vindicate them, not us. If any of you go to war with the Xonexi in the Mirus Galaxy, now or in the future of this age, then the scars of the Berserker Onslaught will never heal, and it is paramount that they do. We need peace in our time, or we else I fear we will truly have War Eternal, as the Imperium always intended us to have. Such is the legacy -the lasting impact- of the most bellicose nation Mirus has ever known, a legacy we cannot ignore, only acknowledge."
- Domivere - "*shrugs* We will have War Eternal regardless. War and peace come and go like the tide. One may be present for a time, but then it will recede and the other will take its place. They are opposed and at the same time linked and intertwined. You cannot not have one without the other and if you try to make it otherwise the universe will reassert balance. Be it the Imperium of War or another force."
- Pounam'elo - "Just like the Imperium always said it would be. So were they truly a fellow force of nature? Were they right all along? Is that what are you asserting? That we plunge Mirus into another war, which will only cause more death? I came here for answers, not for revenge. The rebellion you will launch shall definitely benefit my fellow Mirusians at this table, but how will it benefit us? You invited me to talk the Waptoria over, so now try it."
- Marinus - "I wish to reform Xonexi, not to destroy it. I am certainly not under the impression that war is the solution to our dispute with the Board of Six, and I will do all that I can to avoid it. However, I cannot ignore the possibility that the members of the X6 are already too attached to their power to listen to us. I do not intend to launch a 'rebellion', only to make the preparations necessary for any wars that they might begin. Such power in the hands of so few is far too vulnerable to corruption. I am sure that you are all well aware of the fate of the United Republic of Cyrannus."
- Pounam'elo - "I am. As well as of it's rebirth."
- Marinus - "The events leading to the formation of the New Cyrannian Republic were hardly peaceful. Are you content to let them unfold on an intergalactic scale? Perhaps we will find more success, and liberate the entirety of Xonexi. But if we act sooner, we can reduce the scale of this war, and potentially avoid it altogether."
- Pounam'elo - "That should be the goal of us all."
- Domivere - "The Imperium chased the tide and drowned in the ocean. Others flee the tide and expire from dehydration. Others still attempt to hold back the tide and are swept away by a tidal wave. We on the other hand swim when the tide comes in and walk when it goes out. If war comes we will fight, if not our blades will remain sheathed. We will act as the situation requires and adapt as events transpire. However preventing war or at the very least keeping it contained is something we are not opposed to, there are far worse things in the universe then each other."
- Bisarko - I am all for this measure. Zarbania wishes to see an alliance between all that will see all needs meet and all voices heard equally. And, if that measure can be peacfully, then all the better. For those who have looked into the eyes of a dead soldier, they will understand why we must be peaceful first, before considering war.
- Barkka - We must always prepare for whatever the future has for us. But the Pact will support peace so long as it is possible. The Xonexi see us as war-eager barbarians, a stereotype I am not comfortable in fulfilling. If they think a Mendel warrior is fierce, let them see what a Mendel diplomat can achieve!
- Marinus - "I am glad that you are all willing to put faith in this cause."
The High Councilor stood, smiling to the assembled dignitaries.
- Marinus - "It has been an honour."
- Domivere - "Indeed, regardless of how this turns out you will have our claws and fangs at your disposal."
With that she stood, bowed, and trotted out the door. Her shadow trailed unnaturally long and black behind her before Raging Storm's massive frame blotted it out. And like that the two where gone. Bisarko stood up after them, dusting off his uniform a bit, before beginning to head out.
- Bisarko - This has been wonderful, but I also must take my leave. If anything more needs to be discussed, you know where to contact me.
Without another word, he turned and left, saluting his compatriots before exiting.